As a self-taught chef, I am constantly on the lookout for books that will expand my training. Traditionally, books published by culinary schools have been written to accompany classroom instruction making them poor tools for independent learners. Francisco Migoya of the Culinary Institute of America takes a different approach to his books and his latest is certainly a winner for serious students of pastry.
Books in the category: mostly recipes
Food author and world traveler Naomi Duguid explores the cuisine of Burma in her sixth book. Lovers of Southeast Asian food will enjoy cooking through this book of authentic home-style Burmese cooking, with recipes obtained from the author’s travels and interacting with cooks in the country. Various essays, brief histories, and beautiful snapshots of Burmese culture complete the portrait of this cuisine.
Britain has long been known as a mecca for Indian food, especially London which boasts over 1000 Indian restaurants ranging from street fare to Michelin-starred venues. As a natural extension there are an increasing number of cookbooks being published highlighting British Indian food – food that incorporates local produce, fish and meats. Capital Spice is the latest to show the best that London has to offer.
Fuchsia Dunlop, one of the best contemporary writers about Chinese cookery, has delivered an outstanding work of “simple Chinese home cooking”. Accompanied by delicious photography by Chris Terry, it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to leave this book unused in the kitchen.
Eat With Your Hands is the first book by Zakary Pellacio of New York’s celebrated restaurants Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue. In this book he takes Southeast Asian classics and reinvents them with his Italian heritage and French training, or conjures new dishes with a distinct flavor profile which would not look out of place on a Malaysian table. The dishes are time-consuming, challenging, and require good sourcing of exotic ingredients, but always rewarding.
In Pastries, Hermé takes on 50 monuments of the pastry world from ancient to modern times, and reimagines them in unique and inventive ways. At times the metamorphosis can be a head-scratcher, and the book doesn’t include details about the creative process behind the transformation. However, any fan of food history and pastry will appreciate up to 50 new recipes from one of Paris’s finest.
As boutique chocolatiers continue to release cookbooks for their adoring fans, a clear voice must be found to have these books stand the test of time. Melt, while offering beautiful photography and ample recipes, struggles to achieve the level of accuracy desired by experienced chocolatiers, but may suit beginners just starting their chocolate adventure.
Probably the most impressive British post-war cookery compendium is The Constance Spry Cookery Book, first published in 1956. It was reprinted a number of times, and now the publishers Grub Street have produced a handsome metricated version. Nostalgia is fun, but utility is a worthy cause too – this reviewer found the layout difficult and was disappointed that the editors made no effort to lend context to the book and its recipes for a modern audience.
Alain Ducasse is a phenomenon, more than just a chef and a restaurateur, he is a force to be reckoned with in French cuisine. This latest book to be published in English is his attempt to ‘come back to the bare essentials and regain the pleasure of cooking simple vegetables, cereals and fruit that are so key to a healthy and balanced diet’. A laudable aim but not entirely successful. Although there are some good ideas here ‘Nature’ seems to have lost something in translation.
In Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food, well-loved chef Greg Malouf has kicked off his travelling shoes and returned to his home kitchen to offer fans a breathtakingly beautiful, glossy and very, very generous tome of recipes that are rooted in the traditions of his beloved Middle East, but presented in a fresh, modern way. The food is seductive and truly inspired, but despite being a stunning piece of design, the book is not without its flaws.
Packed with more than 250 imaginative recipes, Short and Sweet encourages bakers of every skill level to explore new ways of approaching baking without spending a lot of time, effort, or special equipment. The instructions are simple but never lacking in necessary detail, and Lepard leaves just enough room in the instructions for your own innovations and variations.
Chef Andrew McConnell, one of Australia’s most prominent representatives of high-end relaxed cuisine, has written his first cookbook. It’s attractive, broad in its flavours, and likely to stimulate and puzzle those who aren’t familiar with this type of dining. The book has a strong local feel and will be appreciated by McConnell’s devotees, despite (or because of) the rather demanding shopping list the cookbook requires.
Recipes that are timeless. Recipes that have endured. Recipes that hold enough cultural significance that they’ve adorned the pages of Art of Eating magazine. The Art of Eating Cookbook is a no fuss, no frills anthology of recipes that work, taste great, and are doable by any level of cook.
Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is the American reader’s chance to jump back to his or her youth with memories of being raised on Cap’n Crunch and Corn Flakes. In a follow-up to David Chang’s best-selling Momofuku Cookbook, his pastry chef, Christina Tosi, presents her most popular recipes including the famed Compost Cookies and Crack Pie. But beware of her overly sweet recipes if you prefer your desserts a bit more subtle and understated.
Bold design, sumptuous photography, genuinely inventive recipes; all have become the hallmarks of any new book by Australian chef Christine Manfield. Exciting stuff for book lovers, especially lovers of cook books, her stunning new Tasting India is no exception.
Infiniment is a wonderful addition to Pierre Hermé’s growing bibliography, with more than 100 never-before-published recipes of breakfast treats, appetizers, tarts, cakes, sundaes, and plated desserts. However, the art direction takes an approach different from his previous works, with photographs of abstract representations of the desserts instead of helpful images of the desserts themselves. Nevertheless, the sheer breadth and imagination of the recipes is sure to please any fan of modern pastry.
In a review with a clear personal perspective, our reviewer explores the usefulness of a book on wild foraging for his role as a chef and restaurateur. Connie Green and Sarah Scott’s The Wild Table: Seasonal foraged food and recipes is the latest in a string of books capitalizing on the foraged (also called wild crafted) food movement. Just as the movement has evolved and matured, Green & Scott’s book is a step above all others.
Publishers Quadrille have produced a version of Eliza Acton’s famous Modern Cookery for Private Families, first published in 1845. Essential reading for anyone interested in food and history, so much of what Eliza Acton had to say is as true today as it was more than 150 years ago. Acton gives valuable insight into the Victorian kitchen, and her prose is a pleasure to read.
A glaring pink book seeking the spotlight, giving us the whirlwind European tour from Michelin restaurants to back alley holiday fairs, Pastry in Europe 2011 provides a snapshot of the state of pastry across the diverse continent. You’ll be delighted with the cutting edge ingredients, old-school techniques, and the slew of chefs sharing what they’re doing right now. While the 2011 book has made greater strides than its two predecessors, it has yet to take center stage.
Ladurée: Sucré is a highly-anticipated collection of more than 100 of the famous patisserie’s desserts under the leadership of Phillipe Andrieu. The variety of recipes ranges from several simple, classic pastries to a few complex signature entremets. The size and format of the book unfortunately limit the content and depth of instruction which might interest more hardcore pastry chefs, but fans of Ladurée and pastry in general will appreciate this first volume from one of the most renowned establishments in Paris.
Chris Badenoch’s cookbook “The Entire Beast” is built around his passion for nose-to-tail eating and beer. Most of his recipes are European, but there are a couple of excursions into Chinese and Mexican food. While there is plenty to keep fans of nose to tail eating happy, there are enough other recipes to keep non-offal fans interested. His passion for beer is reflected in both his preference for using beer instead of wine in his recipes, and his beer recommendations for each dish. For those who don’t know very much about beer, he provides a glossary at the end. Badenoch’s passion, whilst sometimes going over the top, encourages readers to follow his cooking and drinking philosophy. Even without this enthusiasm, the recipes are still very tempting. For a first book, this is a very good effort.
Nina Kéhayan’s classic work on aubergines (eggplants) was reprinted in English this year. It’s a very broad collection of recipes, covering a multitude of aubergine preparations and is likely to make any aubergine lover happy. The book is, however, not particularly attractive or informative, beyond what can be gleaned from the many techniques in the recipes.
Nigella Lawson, queen of the celebrity chefs, is back. Kitchen is the culmination of Nigella’s life-long love affair with the kitchen. Comprising 190 recipes over 488 pages, Kitchen is a compendious tome, combining Nigella’s conversational writing style with lovely colour photographs by Lis Parsons. Its practical, delicious recipes and engaging writing make it destined to become sauce-splattered and well used in the kitchen, but also well-read and loved outside of it too.
As I’m typing this, a crock of briny cucumbers is sitting in my basement. In a couple of weeks, in theory, the cukes will (in theory) be big, crunchy dill pickles. I’d been meaning to try this for a couple of years. I knew vaguely that it’s not a complicated process, just pickles in salty water, with a splash of vinegar for safety. But The Lost Art of Real Cooking, a book that’s both accessible and bursting with personality, was the book that finally inspired me to stand up and do it. So I give it full credit.
Lebanese Australian chef Abla Amad, renowned in Melbourne for her delicious homestyle cooking, this year updated her 2001 book The Lebanese Kitchen. The new edition, renamed to Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen comes on top of the peak of interest in Eastern Mediterranean cuisines. Unlike the first edition, the 2010 version is an attractive hardcover book with numerous photographs to entice the reader, but beyond that there’s barely anything new. The lack of new content is not necessarily a drawback, however, as Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen retains the original simple, personal focus on some delicious food.
In Ottolenghi The Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini share recipes for the sort of dishes which have made their London Ottolenghi food stores popular. Their food is based on the generous use of fresh ingredients and bold flavour combinations, drawing heavily on a wide range of culinary traditions not least those of their homeland, Israel. The recipes here cover a range of ideas for vegetables, through meat and fish to cakes and meringues and offer a modern and imaginative approach which will appeal to the adventurous and curious home cook.
Iron Chef Chen’s Knockout Chinese is a charming, lightweight book from a Japanese master of Sichuan cooking, and one of the original Iron Chefs. For better or for worse, this first translated work skips the traditional, authentic fare and goes straight for the innovative and personal recipes (with a few classics thrown in). The organization is strange and some things are lost in translation, but the recipes are often simple and inviting enough for most people to pick up immediately.
Patterned after Mario Batali’s New York pizzeria Otto, Molto Gusto takes the focus away from complicated “meat-and-potatoes” Italian dishes and towards simple, easy-to-prepare everyday fare (or as limited by your budget for the deli). The recipes are all approachable and the photographs are inviting, but some readers might be turned off by some extremely simple recipes and the dependence on a specific brand of tomato product.
For those readers old enough to remember when parental warnings were placed on certain music, you might remember how that music became the ‘must have’ CDs and records for your collection. Vineet Bhatia opens his recently released Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen with “This book is probably not for the novice cook.” Such sweet warnings are rarely uttered in culinary books. In this very attractive volume, Bhatia presents a wide range of impressive, at times labour-intensive (though rarely too complex) dishes that are a pleasure to eat. Along the way you learn about new ingredients, and realise that the common cliché of Indian dishes can easily be surpassed.
Aimed squarely at the teenage market, The New Students’ Veggie Cookbook addresses not just what a young vegetarian should eat, but also how to keep fit and healthy while doing so. The book covers the basics of setting up a kitchen, stocking a pantry, offering helpful and very clear instructions on how best to chop an onion, boil an egg and, interestingly, how to store food.
Nigel Slater tells the story of his vegetable patch and provides over 400 recipe ideas for using the vegetables he grows. Already well known for seven previous recipe books, his much admired autobiography Toast and his regular columns in The Observer, Slater’s enthusiasm will no doubt tempt some readers to start a vegetable garden of their own, although this is predominantly a book about cooking. As in his previous books, Slater’s recipes are straightforward and unfussy and his approach to using fresh produce should appeal to many home cooks.
Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking aims to inspire the home baker to try new variations of homely desserts and sweets, and is successful at encouraging creativity to some degree. There is a wide range of recipes and some modest but interesting suggestions. However, it is lacking in helpful explanations and is too narrow in its selection of ingredients and special brands, and the use of US-centric measures and terminology may be frustrating to international readers.
I come from the school of thought that says rock bands shouldn’t release their Greatest Hits album until their career is complete. Likewise, chefs should restrain themselves from re-releasing their favorite recipes until their career enters a culminating phase. That said, David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes will be excused since some of his previous books are no longer in print, and his greatest hits truly are classics worth reprinting.
Katie Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course (published as Cook Italy in the USA) is in equal measure an exceedingly attractive and enjoyable exploration of Italian cooking, and a mild disappointment as a “cookery course”. Caldesi, co-owner of the UK restaurants Caffè Caldesi, Caldesi in Campagna, and an Italian cooking school, seemed to embark on a voyage of discovery in order to find the knowledge to write this book. The result is an enormous range of recipes with many personal preferences, sometimes deviating from what a reader might expect of recipes in a course in Italian cooking. In the end, the book could have been titled “Katie goes to Italy”. Many people will enjoy this attractive, well written book, forgiving or overlooking the weakness of many of the “masterclasses” and occasional gaps in information.
Alison Thompson’s Macaron is a nicely presented book that offers 35 flavors ranging from classic to creative. However, for such a notoriously difficult petit four to make, the recipe presented is too temperamental and the information too lightweight, with little to offer in terms of troubleshooting and technique.
Ad Hoc at Home is the latest cookbook from award-winning chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se, featuring casual family-style dishes. Compared to his previous works, the book is charmingly earnest and the recipes approachable, consisting of mostly American dishes with a touch of French influence, and plenty of helpful hints from Keller. However, Keller’s meticulous nature still comes through, elevating the dishes in terms of flavor and presentation, but at the same time making them time-intensive and at times expensive and unfamiliar. Even with its lavish production, the book still has relatively few illustrations.
Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table is perfect for the aspiring foodie with its vast array of cuisines. Although you’ll find nothing ground-breaking or especially innovative, adventurous cooks will enjoy the challenge of cooking across the globe and, ultimately, a modern definition of American Cuisine will appear right on their own dinner table.
At first glance, you may wonder what the fuss over Okashi is all about. A fairly simple book with attractive photographs, it presents appealing recipes that showcase author Ishida’s particular style, incorporating numerous Japanese flavours into many familiar baked goods and dessert items. Creative and suitable for a broad audience, this book should delight many bakers.
Field Guide to Candy packs a lot of recipes for homemade candy from around the world in a compact volume. It manages to include several lesser-known recipes from outside the US, UK and France, even though there are a few glaring omissions and curious inclusions. However, the lack of detail in the recipes make this more suitable as a reference book for more experienced candy-makers.
What if Mozart or Einstein handed you their notebook and said, “Here, go have fun.” Such a gift would be overwhelming in generosity as well as challenge. When Paco Torreblanca offers this gift in Paco Torreblanca 2, he adds, “Now let’s see what we can do together.” A serious, no-nonsense book for people who take pastry seriously, Paco Torreblanca 2 focuses on integrating natural ingredients into microcosmic eye candy.
The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide is one of the first books to collect dumpling recipes from around the world into a single volume. There is an excellent variety of dumpling types and flavors, the recipes are clear and there are plenty of tips for beginners. Unfortunately, a forced definition of the word dumpling as a category limits the book unnecessarily and may disappoint people who are looking for a dish they recognize as a dumpling but has been excluded.
The Modern Café is an excellent guide and inspiration for culinary professionals and those aspiring to have a great café. Beautiful photographs and informative side boxes generously fill the pages. The knowledge is invaluable, the recipes are fresh and exciting, and the business acumen could move you from failed restaurant to the star of your community.
David Chang, owner of the famed New York restaurants Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ssäm Bar and Ko, chronicles his journey from noodle-eater to noodle-maker and guides us through more than 50 of his most popular recipes that showcase the fusion of modern technique and classic Asian comfort food. Throughout the book he gives us a peek into the creative process and the story behind each dish, citing his influences, failures, and inspirations. The recipes can be daunting and the flavors sometimes need tweaking, but ambitious home cooks should have little problem replicating or improving on the dishes, though the weak instructions and badly converted measurements might lead them astray. While there has been plenty of media focus on Chang’s “bad-boy” image, he still comes across as approachable and self-deprecating at best, and at worst annoying and trying too hard, but never offensive. Fans of modern Asian cuisine and the Momofuku empire will find the book both entertaining and fascinating. [Editor's note: Don't miss our book giveaway too!]
The Healthy College Cookbook is intended for American college students with no knowledge of cooking and perhaps little time. The 300 recipes range from simple healthy breakfast dishes to desserts, with a good range of savoury dishes between. The range of recipes feels modern (though maybe underseasoned) and the advice is very helpful, making this a useful and tasty book, though perhaps a little dry for some students. A good gift for many students or young people living alone.
Food historian Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra takes us on a gastronomic journey to more than twenty countries with the recipes she’s collected from her friends and artisan bakers around the world during her colorful life. For many of the recipes, she provides the history and shares the experience of tasting the authentic article. With plenty of beautiful photographs, the book will transport you out of the rut of your usual French and American breads and pastries and take you to less familiar locales.
Tartine is a remarkable book that allows the home baker to recreate breakfast pastries, tarts, cakes, and puddings from the renowned California bakery. The authors didn’t hold back anything in making the book, taking from most of their entire menu, yet the recipes are mostly accessible and the skill level required ranges from beginner to intermediate. Most importantly, many of the desserts from the book have a rustic charm but are still delicious and beautiful enough to be showstoppers. The photography of the book, taken behind the scenes at the Tartine Bakery, captures the dream-like quality of the desserts and the remarkable skill of the artisans who make them.
Students seem to have been a new target for publishers in 2009, with at least four student-oriented cookbooks appearing. I guess publishers anticipated that students wouldn’t be able to afford the stereotypical diet of burgers, chips, pizzas, noodles and beer. An entertaining and attractive book, From Pasta to Pancakes, the Ultimate Student Cookbook is the work of young British food personality Tiffany Goodall. Unfortunately, despite the innovative presentation and the worthy intention of teaching food-illiterate students how to cook, the book is disappointing.
Rose’s Heavenly Cakes is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s follow-up to the acclaimed The Cake Bible, with almost 100 cakes that aim to please a wide variety of tastes. Beranbaum’s meticulous style may please some well-equipped home bakers in a temperate climate, but others might find them too fastidious, controlling, limiting, and overly complicated for what are really supposed to be simple cakes. Frustratingly, even following the recipe to the letter can give results that still leave something to be desired.
Life is Sweet is about making various types of confectionery at home, traditional and modern. The authors are the owners of the Hope and Greenwood confectionery shops in London and are experienced sweet makers. The recipes include a wide range of cooked and uncooked sweets, from rich dark truffles and chocolate with chilli and lime to marshmallows, nougat, toffee apples, old fashioned ‘pulled’ toffees and salt licorice. If you enjoy astonishing your friends with new home cooked goodies, this is a book to add to your bookshelf.
Cake Love: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch, provides a wide range of recipes from Warren Brown’s famous Cake Love bakery. Brown takes a scientific approach to cake baking, being a self-taught baker who learned through trial and error. The recipes range from basics to unusual. For beginners, all the standard recipes are included, from frostings to pound cakes to fillings, as well as comprehensive instructions and information on basic baking techniques and equipment. The level of detail in his instructions tends to be excessive in parts, which is useful for beginners, but can be convoluted and distracting for experienced bakers. However, more advanced bakers will appreciate his original creations, such as Triple Lime-Chocolate Crunchy Feet, Cranberry-Lemon Pound Cake Loaded with Chocolate or Hazelnut Sponge Cake.
A meal isn’t complete without a sauce – and this is just the book to help any aspiring cook with the preparation of a huge variety of sauces, including all the classics. Michel Roux makes it as simple as possible with clear, step-by-step instructions which are illustrated throughout with beautiful photographs. With this book to hand, you’ll be able to transform your meals into something altogether more magical, whether you’ve made sauces before or whether you’re a complete beginner.
The Dessert Architect gives plenty of inspiration for a student of pastry arts to create his or her own impressive creations through 50 creative recipes. It also provides a few guidelines in creating your own plated desserts and what factors must be put into consideration in a professional kitchen. However, the photography needs some improvement in showing off the desserts. Also, the lack of instructions for specific plating techniques and the exclusion of newer methods in plating and construction keep the book from becoming an authority on plating in the modern pastry chef’s bookshelf.
Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans are the creators of the popular gastrokid.com website. The book, like the website, is focussed on cooking for families. While there is an emphasis on simplicity and the use of fresh ingredients, the authors strongly encourage their readers to try new foods. They believe that parents should not prejudge what their children will or will not eat, and that finicky tastes are something to be expected. As a parent of two children, it is an attitude that I agree with. The book’s recipes cover the day’s three main meals, snacks, and picnic food. Many of the recipes are designed to allow children to be involved in the preparation, with the pleasing consequence that techniques are often simple and quick. The book is littered with bits of trivia and tips, and overall, it is a package that many families will find very useful.
In an era when pastry chefs are whisking unpronounceable ingredients into batters, creating neon floating effervescent micro cookie espumas, this collection of Alain Ducasse recipes anchors pastry artists with solid and glorious fundamentals. With little fuss or fanfare Ducasse Pastry Chef, Frédéric Robert, offers 250 fine-tuned dessert and pastry recipes that are a sure success. But this volume is not for everyone. A solid foundation in pastry arts is necessary. And that sparse, focused writing style is what I find most appealing. Reading three page recipes for cookies wears on my patience, and here, we find recipes that take lines, not pages, but they assume you know your basics.
Japanese Kitchen Knives is a beautifully photographed guide to the three main knives (Usuba, Deba, Yanagiba) and the various cutting and filleting techniques specific to each knife. Aimed towards those interested in advanced Japanese cuisine and admirers of a traditional Japanese art, the book is one-of-a-kind. However, some steps of the techniques may be too difficult to be constrained within the smallish photographs and even with the flawless photography, diagrams are still needed for clarity.
Basic ice-cream books are fairly common, but informative or innovative ones are few. Lola’s Ice Creams & Sundaes has been hailed as a welcome addition to the innovative side of things and I’m happy to agree. This attractive book by Morfudd Richards, owner of the UK’s high-class ice-cream van Lola on Ice, presents a very good range of delicious and inspiring recipes and some flawed explanation of the knowledge needed to become a confident and creative ice-cream maker.
The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook takes you on the journey of a restaurant one month at a time with ambitious menus that capture the flavors of the season. Though some recipes might sometimes be long and involve too many steps, they are not usually out of reach of the home cook and patience will be rewarded with an impressive feast. Each month also features the profile of a person close to the restaurant and a story about the area, giving the reader a vivid portrait of a hidden culinary gem.
In Cake Chic, London’s queen of couture cakes, Peggy Porschen, shares the secrets of her celebrated sugar designs. From cookies to miniature cakes, to stunning tiered creations, Porschen’s style is unrestrainedly chic and girly. Her unique style and enthusiasm are inspiring and will motivate home bakers to get busy in the kitchen, rolling fondant and piping royal icing. However, despite its casual, accessible tone, this book is aimed squarely at advanced bakers, with some discrepancies between the base recipes and decorating guides requiring careful and skilled adjustment and planning.
The front cover of “Snowflakes and Schnapps” shows a dinner table with a white painted antler in the middle of it. On first impressions it looks very stylish. But then you ask yourself, “Why is it there? Is there a purpose to it? Won’t it get in the way?” Look at the photo a bit longer, and the realisation hits that there is no food on the table. This book is like the photograph. There’s lots of style, with food almost as a secondary consideration.
Despite the glossy magazine feel of the book, and the expectation that it’s destined for the coffee table rather than the kitchen bench, it does contain recipes that would tempt even the most experienced of home cooks. A very impressive winter dinner could be built upon the offerings in this book.
“Snowflakes and Schnapps” will certainly satisfy those looking for a gift and many who are looking for a good cookbook. However, anyone who wants a more detailed and authentic look at the winter foods of Europe would be best advised to look elsewhere.
Chef Gerald Hirigoyen and writer Lisa Weiss have produced an enjoyable, tasty book of Basque tapas — Pintxos. Every time a cuisine becomes popular, booklovers see too many poorly done chefs’ books land on the shelves. Pintxos shows how a book can capture a chef’s style and cuisine traditions without feeling forced, pretentious or too much like a self-promotional device. Pintxos is an enjoyable book to cook, eat and entertain from.
Jennifer McLagan’s book of bones attracted rightful acclaim for its presentation of recipes, knowledge and tips about cooking and eating meat on the bone, eating marrow from the bone, and using disfavoured cuts of meat to produce delicious dishes. Each section gives refreshingly clear, concise descriptions of where cuts of meat come from on each animal’s carcass and how best to cook them, tips about buying good meat, and a number of tasty recipes. McLagan’s clarity of explanation and evident passion makes Cooking on the Bone stand out.
From the national Country Women’s Association branches around Australia comes a collection of cake recipes, published by Penguin. This is one of a few CWA books to be released in 2009. The photos are attractive, despite the range of cakes being far from fancy, and there are many familiar classics alongside some novel twists. The personal touch saves the book from being just an idiosyncratic catalogue of recipes (not least fruitcakes!) and with a little care most readers would enjoy baking from it, despite a few recipe problems.
This comprehensive book of Greek food offers an assortment of delicious dishes, from salads and soups to mezedes (appetizers) for the summer to slow-cooked Greek dishes we grew up with as Greeks. Vefa’s Kitchen also showcases a huge array of regional desserts and pastries, breads and other baked delights. At more than 650 recipes, the scope of this book is nearly unparalleled.
Food served in small glasses — verrines — has been popular in France for at least four years. José Maréchal’s book Verrines, published by Murdoch Books, is only the second book in English to focus strongly on this type of dish. Two of Maréchal’s French books on verrines (published by Marabout: Verrines, Verrines toutes fraîches) have been combined to produce this compact 128 page volume in English which gives an excellent introduction and provides lots of inspiration. This is a title that deserves five stars because it achieves what it needs to so well, combining a feel for the dishes with tips and inspirations. The book suits cooks who enjoy food presentation and bright flavours and who have at least basic technical confidence.
Planet Cake is the book from the famous Sydney boutique cake shop of the same name, renowned for its elaborate sugarcraft creations and celebrity customers. The book promises beautifully decorated cakes that are “fabulous, professional, and easy”, and it seems to deliver in most respects, combining Planet Cake’s distinctive decorative style with good base recipes. The chapters of this book are very well structured, making it easy for beginners or more advanced decorators to find their way around. Whilst no-one would pretend that becoming a cake decorator is a simple feat, for the motivated home cook, Planet Cake can give you the tools to get there.
Feed Me Now!, Australian chef Bill Granger’s latest book, promises a “joyful, practical collection of recipes that cater to the day-to-day food dilemmas of busy modern families” that use few ingredients and require minimum fuss. While the recipe difficulty varies, they are easy to follow. However, the book still contains quite a few not-so-instant recipes, and the photography, while beautiful, appears at odds with Granger’s laid-back style.
In Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts, Claire Clark, head pastry chef of The French Laundry, shares 100 memorable desserts from her 25 years of experience as a pastry chef. The range is wide, from her mother’s recipe for shortbread, to complex multilayered desserts worthy of a four-star hotel. As a result, the skill level required of this book ranges from novice to intermediate as well. Her skill as a pastry chef and as a teacher shines through in the text, and the result is a solid volume of desserts that have spot-on flavors.
Occasionally I have friends or acquaintances who ask me for pastry book recommendations. I cook for a living, but am also a home baker at heart. Even though I have many far more impressive looking books relating to pastry and baking, a particular one stands out amongst the rest. I turn to it when I want to whip up something comforting and it’s the book I’m confident will yield me a very pleasing result, even if it’s a previously unattempted recipe. It is also the one with batter-stained pages and the odd chocolate smudge – surely the good sign of a well loved book (or a careless cook). The book? Belinda Jeffery’s Mix & Bake.
Walk into any chef’s kitchen, and dig around long enough, and you’ll find a buried treasure of recipes. Mine is a humble stack of tattered, splattered papers sitting on a shelf in unruly fashion. A more experienced chef will have a file cabinet, a binder with sheets neatly tucked into plastic protectors, or laminated sheets clipped on a wall. The Complete Robuchon is that treasure chest for Joel Robuchon and his army of cooks. “French home cooking for the way we live now” is the apt subtitle and this book, and deserves its place next to the other fat books in your kitchen. In fact, I suggest placing it right next to Bittman and between the two you really could cook anything.
Anjum’s New Indian offers inviting recipes, useful background information and a warm but not over-the-top enthusiasm for food. The book features recipes from a BBC television series, Indian Food Made Easy, focusing on regional dishes of India.
The book could easily have been yet another one of those “inspired by the flavours of …” titles, leaving the user none the wiser about what really makes a cuisine, but thankfully the author not only tells the reader how many dishes are traditionally prepared, but is also open about what changes she has made and why. It makes this book doubly valuable: helping you understand traditional methods and flavours while giving you at times lighter, simpler or just personally preferred alternatives. The results are delicious and attractive for omnivores and vegetarians alike.
Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio promises a lot. He seeks to teach home cooks about the basic relationships between ingredients that form the basis of so many preparations – from custard to bread to sausages to mayonnaise. Bread, for instance, is 5 parts flour to 3 parts water. These relationships, ratios or “codes” for combining ingredients, are more fundamental than the specific weights and volumes of today’s flood of “new” recipes.
I was excited in anticipation of this book, but was greatly disappointed with the outcome from this otherwise good author. Ratios are a great approach to reviving cooking “sense”, but they require skill in definition and explanation. Somehow Ruhlman’s sense for communicating about cookery didn’t conquer the demands of explaining a mathematical relationship clearly to a range of possible readers. It was never going to be an easy task, especially when trying to apply chef sense to something which domestic cooks have largely forgotten. Nonetheless, despite its failings, the existence of this book is truly valuable and can be of utility to certain readers – those who are already familiar with ratios in cooking, perceptive novices who need no visual material, and perhaps some others who might want to explore their own understanding of cooking fundamentals.
If you’re a bloke with barely a pinch of kitchen knowledge (or with an overdose of indolence), Beat Heat Eat might be your cup of tea. Dean Lahn has created a slim, very visual cookbook for the unreconstructed male. The recipes are short and quite novel in their low-effort approach, presented with fine engineer-like graphics that are mostly useful. Textual instructions are clear and the introductions and asides for each recipe could make you laugh or cringe, depending on your temperament. It’s fun. At times it’s brilliant. It will irritate many experienced cooks. And women.
Everyone who has ever tried to make macarons will know that it is not as simple as it might look. Like Pierre Hermé’s famous macarons, it would be difficult for any macaron book to surpass this one. There are 57 macaron recipes, each one very detailed. Something which is extremely helpful for both macaron newcomers and veterans: photo-illustrated step-by-step instructions for making shells and fillings. Although this book is in French, the recipes and instructions are clear enough that most macaron lovers would find a solution to the language barrier.
Si vous avez déjà essayé de faire des macarons, vous savez sans doute que la tâche est bien plus difficile qu’elle n’en a l’air. Tout comme les macarons célèbres de Pierre Hermé, son livre sur ces petits délices est sans égal. Cette œuvre contient pas moins de 57 recettes pour macarons, chacune bien détaillée pour aider tant ceux qui savent déjà en faire, que ceux sans aucune expérience. Les photos illustrent chaque étape dans la préparation des coquilles et des garnitures. Bien que ce livre soit rédigé en langue française, les recettes sont suffisamment claires d’ailleurs, même les amateurs de macarons non-francophones pourraient surmonter la barrière de la langue.
This enormous volume inspires awe and some moments of disappointment. James Peterson presents an amazingly rich collection of recipes (600) and information about techniques in his book titled very simply “Cooking”. Just opening to the table of contents, spanning six pages, is enough to convince you that this could be the one, the book that covers all the bases you might need for a strong standard repertoire of dishes. The table of contents lists every major recipe in the book. Wonderful. Not only a wealth of classics, but a long list of technical explanations with photographs (1500), tips and recommendations turn this into a book which many owners would be satisfied with. It’s aimed at a USAmerican audience and is probably of most use to cooks with some confidence in approaching cooking, even if they aren’t experienced cooks.
With more than 250 easy-to-follow recipes, My Love for Naples packs a lot of punch into a light volume. Callen makes no compromises in authenticity, but neither are any of the recipes unachievable for the home cook. However, with only a few pictures of select recipes, the book may not appeal to those who need them for inspiration and direction.
The 2008-2009 class of modernist cookbooks was stellar. It seems that chefs and authors have recognized that a growing class of home cooks has filled their pantry with calcium lactate, agar agar, gelatin sheets and lecithin. The days of flashy coffee table books filled with out-of-reach food porn have been pushed aside for star studded cook books filled with National Geographic worthy photos and accessible (albeit challenging) recipes. Among this class we can find Johnny Iuzinni, Grant Achatz, Joel Robuchon and Thomas Keller. The latter leads the class in its yawp to cooks and chefs across the globe that its time to look forward while keeping your roots solid and well honed.
At just shy of 300 pages with high quality color pictures on half of the pages, and more recipes than my vacuum packer can handle, this cookbook packs a wallop. Consider sous vide’s espoused virtues – “Fruits, which are especially susceptible to rapid oxidation and discoloration, remain bright when cooked sous vide rather than becoming dull and brown,” or “Fish, perhaps more than any protein, has such a small window of doneness that it requires the most finesse on the part of the cook. Sous vide makes cooking fish easier and more consistent, especially in a busy kitchen.” These are tidbits that welcome the home cook into the industrial kitchen with open arms.
If you’re interested in rolling up your sleeves, plugging in the circulator, and cranking out some amazing foods, then this is a great option for you.
The recipes contained within this unassuming, un-illustrated reissue glow. They openly embrace the full spectrum of ethical eating. The vast majority, in fact, are vegan. None of the ingredients (bitter almonds excepted) are difficult for a home cook to locate but, most importantly, this is a book of delicious, exquisite food; simple to make, exotic enough to tempt jaded palates and written in an elegant, spare style. Instruction is straightforward and, where appropriate, Haroutunian’s introductions, themselves short and sweet, are peppered with wisdom from classic Arabian literature. I only wish the word Vegetarian could be replaced with the word Vegetable in the title. It deserves a wider audience.
It seems like we’re forever being told to eat healthier, lighter food yet at the same time there aren’t exactly a mountain of attractive food books that really focus on interesting healthy options. Too many healthy-eating books make food much less fun than it needs to be. To my surprise, Jill Dupleix successfully combines the ideas of lighter eating without making you feel like you’re launching into a 100% fat-free nightmare. Lighten Up offers a welcome diversity of good, appetising recipes in an attractive package. The tone won’t suit everyone, and the trendy ingredients might put some people off at first, but this is a book well worth looking at. I was surprised at how interesting I found the range of recipes.
Tessa Kiros’ latest offering, Venezia, will no doubt have turned up in many food lovers’ Christmas stockings. From the gilt-edged pages, to the stunning photographs of Venice, to the ornate food styling, it is a truly beautiful book, enhanced by Tessa’s romantic prose.
Marketed as “Tessa’s diary jottings on the life & food of Venezia”, one can’t help but wonder, why Venice? Apart from a brief mention of her “half Venetian sister-in-law”, Kiros doesn’t seem to have a personal connection with the city, nor does it seem that she has spent an extended period of time there – all the pictures seem to be from the same, distinctly wintry period. A strength of her previous books was the impressive authenticity of her international recipes – from Finnish meatballs to South African babka – no doubt testament to Kiros’ famously global upbringing. So whilst I wouldn’t count her recipes as authentically Venetian, her status as a veteran traveller makes her an excellent guide for us outsiders to Venice.
The Barefoot Contessa’s new cookbook retains the same qualities of reliability, versatility, and simplicity consistent throughout the Barefoot Contessa series, but it has enough flaws (expense, a few obviously throwaway recipes and sections, over-the-top richness) and references earlier books in the series too much to be truly friendly to new readers of Ina Garten.
Cook With Jamie, released by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in 2007, is a bestseller and was awarded the 2007 IACP award for best cookbook under the General category. While the photographs are breathtaking and Oliver works his magic and makes simple food beautiful and inspired, it still has it flaws—but it may very well still be one of the best Jamie Oliver cookbooks around, and worthy of an award even.
François Payard’s chocolate-flavored follow-up to his award-winning Simply Sensational Desserts is also a winner, packed with 99 new recipes that explore the massive potential of chocolate in an amazing variety of desserts. Payard’s French roots are definitely evident in this book, though there are a few American, Italian, and Spanish influences. Chocolate Epiphany is the perfect book for the adventurous home baker with a love for all things chocolate.