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.
Books in the category: Skills/techniques
This book will help you make delicious, hearty meals— that usually take hours to make—in very little time. Instead of watching the pot all day to make your favorite stew or braise, you can enjoy an all-day activity while your pressure cooker does all the work.
Regarded amongst his peers as one of the world’s great culinary technicians, Phil Howard’s lifetime of dedication and creativity have gone into writing this monumental work of creativity and expertise. The Square Cookbook gives precise instructions on how to create food of top Michelin standard.
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.
Colman Andrews paints a sympathetic and informative picture of Ferran Arià, a chef who, through passion, obsession and creative focus, almost accidentally made the culinary earth move.
Reinventing Food is worth reading both for the interested and the unbelievers. Especially for the latter group, frequently sceptical of modernist cuisine because of the media depiction of it being laboratory food lacking soul but oozing “cleverness”, Reinventing Food might shed more light on what really is significant and fascinating and (perhaps) delicious about so many aspects of Adrià’s contribution to the culinary world.
Some people design couches. Others design cars. Stéphane Bureaux designs food. And what’s a food designer to do when he wants a collection of the best contemporary food design? Why, design a book to feature food design of course! Design Culinaire is a collection of notable design intended to document and inspire food artists.
If a book’s worth can be measured by the number of dog-eared pages, then Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work could turn around the international financial crisis. In fact, my copy has so many turned page corners that I’m expecting a ‘Cease and Desist” order to arrive at my home any day now. Well over 75 pages are marked as requiring my re-reading and note taking. And lest you think I’m a chronic book destroyer, a quick scan of my most favorite and used books show less than ten dog-eared pages in any one book. This is one worthy book for anyone who cares about the inner workings of their food or for anyone who wants someone to do the homework for them so they can simply follow instructions and put out great dishes.
In a period of enormous culinary innovation, often involving clever, insightful or entertaining combinations of ingredients, we bring you a feature about many of the books (and a few websites) that focus on pairing foods and flavours. Where many people have been familiar with the pairing of wine and food, these books instead look at flavour combinations in the kitchen.
Tartine Bread is both a tribute and a guidebook to the process of creating naturally leavened bread (no added yeast). Those with patience, dedication, and a knack for reorganizing a tremendous amount of information will be able to benefit the most from this book. The number of actual bread recipes is small but the book focuses more on the method and does not aim to give variety in terms of bread formulas. Fans of Tartine will also appreciate the various recipes in the final chapter that make use of day-old bread.
Heston Blumenthal’s “Fantastical Feats” is the companion book to the television series of the same name. In the book and series, Blumenthal creates six feasts, each based on a theme. His aim is to capture the spirit of each theme in the dishes he creates. As with his previous books, one of the principle joys of this book is reading about Blumenthal’s thought process as he turns abstract concepts into the form of food. He writes not only about the ideas that work, but the ones that don’t. The book is immensely entertaining. He writes with great humour, and he has a gift of finding experiences that allows him to connect with the reader and help them to see the food world as he does.
Belinda Jeffery is an Australian author who has published other collections of her recipes and contributes regularly to delicious magazine. She has had a long history working in various media and as a chef and teacher.
The Country Cookbook chronicles her move to the country, the hinterland behind Byron Bay in northern New South Wales and, in her words, is both a celebration of and a thank you for the kinder and simpler life she and her husband have found away from the city.
This book demonstrates what is best about cooking in Australia – access to an amazing range of fresh produce and flavour influences from all over the world.
Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi is the culinary equivalent of one of those books you find in a museum gift shop – impressive, beautiful, inspiring… but not likely to get opened much after its first reading. And yet, this book will fill you with hope in our culinary future, inspire you to expect more out of your local restaurants, and re-examine the food on your plate.
Reinventing Food charts Adrià’s transition from comparative obscurity to becoming the focus of massive media attention. Full of fresh insights, it will engage not just food-lovers of food, but anyone who enjoys the story of how one young chef changed the gastronomic world, and reinvented food.
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.
Microgreens is a practical guide to growing arugula and other popular mini-greens that offer a multitude of colors, textures and flavors, as well as concentrated active compounds. The book also includes 15 easy recipes that make the most of microgreens.
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.
Full of ingenious advice on styling in any media, Food Styling reveals every trick of the trade, from making a beverage appear to sweat to producing those perfect grill marks on meat. This is an ideal resource for both experienced foods styling pros and first-timers alike.
Part recipe book, part gardening guide and part primer for encouraging children to take an interest in the food they eat Australian food icon Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion is an ambitious undertaking. Covering seventy-three different food crops, the gardening section combines Alexander’s experiences in her own kitchen garden and her work with school children, with detailed cultivation notes. The recipes, some of which have appeared elsewhere, cover a variety of cuisines and dishes and in some cases have been modified to be suitable for children to prepare. This is an impressive publication, the information is well presented and there is much here that is interesting and useful, but the wide scope of this book makes it difficult to categorise and may in the end limit its appeal.
Peter Reinhart has produced another knockout bread book… but do we need it? Whereas the advanced baker may find this material redundant, those who are still rising to the occasion will find the consolidation of up-to-the-minute techniques in Artisan Breads Every Day easy to digest and incorporate.
The National Trust’s (UK) book on apples is probably everything a good British gardener would need to develop an orchard of delicious lesser-known apple varieties. One of a series of useful little books, this volume covers some history of the apple, culinary and cultural, the supposed health benefits, origins of various cultivars old and new, and horticultural tips for growing trees in various settings. This is a valuable and charming book for British readers and for curious fruit growers and apple lovers in other places.
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.
If you thought cake decorating was costly and difficult, this is the book that will change your mind forever. Fiona Cairns is bursting with new ideas for making delicious, visually stunning cakes and biscuits easy – even for the least experienced cook – and for far less money than you thought.
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.
Once upon a time, the marking point of a chef’s success was the awarding of a Michelin star or equivalent. The professional recognition and a dining room full of satisfied diners was all that was needed to make your mark on the culinary landscape. But chefs and restaurants have now evolved to a stage where global brand recognition has become a part of the game. Cookbooks featuring the flagship restaurant are a part of that marketing strategy.
Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road is the flagship of Ramsay’s empire, and “Three Star Chef” is his homage to it. As you’d expect, it is a beautiful book that will draw attention whether you keep it in the kitchen or on the coffee table.
The photography is of a high quality and the dishes presented are remarkable in terms of the skills behind them and their presentation. Given the time, skill, and ingredients, this is food that would impress at a dinner party. Ramsay’s words display his customary bluntness when discussing restaurant life in the first half of the book, but change to a more encouraging tone in the recipe section. Does this book, like the restaurant, stand alongside corresponding works by the likes of Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, and Michel Bras? While the Ramsay book matches these others in terms of recipe content and production values, it falls short in that you never truly get a sense of what drives him, his food, and his restaurant.
Over the past few years publishers Phaidon have been establishing a presence in the cookbook market. “The Silver Spoon For Children” is their first move into the area of cooking with children. Often, books in this area of cooking, like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”, are written for adults as a guide to teaching children how to cook. This book’s approach involves having a child read it, and then prepare the recipes with the aid of an adult. By simplifying the recipes to their essence, and using large pictures and bright colours to grab attention, this book is one that has a great chance of engaging young minds.
The book takes its recipes from “The Silver Spoon”, and is aimed at children aged at least nine years old. The recipes have been tested by children, so parents can be reasonably confident that the recipes will work. As someone who has not been impressed by Phaidon’s cookbooks, this one has been surprisingly good.
This contemporary introduction to cooking and food preparation focuses on information that is relevant to today’s aspiring chef. It emphasizes an understanding of cooking fundamentals, explores the preparation of fresh ingredients, and provides information on other relevant topics.
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!]
Food Presentation Secrets provides professional cooking school instruction, tips and recipes for more than 100 sweet and savory garnishing ideas. Using this comprehensive guide, any home chef can make professional-looking garnishes with delicious edible ingredients.
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.
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.
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.
Heiko Antoniewicz describes the fundamentals of molecular cuisine by way of 60 fantastic recipes. There are many step-by-step descriptions, the different texturizers are clearly explained and the recipes are given in detail so that success is guaranteed.
Big. Bold. Burning! Those words summarize this near flawless book from famed South American chef and restaurateur, Francis Mallmann, and author Peter Kaminsky. Seven Fires refers to the techniques that Mallmann uses when cooking: Chapa, Little Hell, Parilla, Horno de Barro, Rescoldo, Asador and Caldero. You ask, “Where are hibachi and sterno?” Not to be found in this book. Seven Fires is about serious grilling – the type that you dream of doing. The cover teases us with Mallman genteelly grilling over burning embers, but open the cover and whole hogs are split wide, splayed above massive infernos. But not to fear, this book is truly accessible to all.
Along with Heston Blumenthal’s “The Big Fat Duck Cookbook” and Ferran Adria’s “A Day at elBulli”, Grant Achatz’s “Alinea” was one of three highly anticipated books on molecular gastronomy released in 2008. The merits of molecular gastronomy have been argued in many forums and over countless dinners. While Blumenthal’s book provides a strong case that there is substance behind the hype, Achatz’s book may provide ammunition for those who don’t support the culinary revolutionaries. The recipes in the book are visually stunning and the techniques can leave you in wide eyed awe, but there is a gaping hole in that there are too few words from Achatz about his creations. It is also noticeable that the most satisfying writing in the book was by other contributors. It is these weaknesses that left me disappointed in the Alinea cookbook. Remove the essays, especially the one by Jeffrey Steingarten, and you may feel that the emperor has no clothes.
In Notes on Cooking, Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich provide us with 217 insights into what it takes to be a good cook – what they call a “concentration of the culinary craft.” Though each item is brief, most are immediately useful, insightful, and will have an impact on your kitchen habits. It makes an excellent gift for the starting and intermediate cook, but even experienced cooks will benefit from reflecting on the wisdom in it.
It’s 43cm long, 33cm wide, 8cm thick, weighs about five kilograms, has 534 pages, and was one of the most anticipated cookbooks in 2008. From the silver embossed slipcase to the photography and artwork, the writing and the feel of the paper, it would be hard not to notice and admire the Big Fat Duck Cookbook on the shelves of a bookstore.
On initial impressions, perhaps like the restaurant itself, the book appears to be an intimidating creature. Open it and you will be hit by Heston Blumenthal’s passion. Inside is the story of Blumenthal and his restaurant, the recipes and stories behind many of the dishes from the Fat Duck, and a series of essays explaining the science behind the food. Beyond the science, there are journeys into food history, philosophy, personal anecdotes, humour, and the sheer dumb luck that can trigger a great idea. It is a dizzying amount of information in one book. But for those who have read Blumenthal’s previous books, his newspaper columns, or seen his TV show will know that he has a gift for explaining complicated concepts in terms that the layman can understand.
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.
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.
An Edge in the Kitchen provides a focused, readable guide that begs to be re-read as your skills improve. Well worth the purchase, this book has allowed me to whittle through countless vegetables with precision and ease, and to make my knives razor sharp.
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.
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.
In the public imagination, the leading light of what has commonly been called the Molecular Gastronomy movement is the restaurant elBulli and its head chef, Ferran Adrià. For many years, elBulli has produced large, beautiful volumes of innovative dishes, techniques and the philosophy of their creation, first in Spanish and then, with some delay, in English. Unattainably expensive for many chefs and non-chefs alike, these books have provided one of the few clear insights into what Ferran Adrià and his restaurant is about, minus the breathless enthusiasm of food critics or hyped “weird-shit” descriptions of lesser food writers. At last there is a book that is aimed at the public, perhaps leading to better understanding of what this approach to cooking and eating is about. Sceptics might not make it through to the interesting bits, however, as this book is a vanity work of many pages and photos that only becomes interesting the further you look. In many ways this is little more than a coffee table book, yet fails in that form. It is simultaneously dull, unwieldy, informative and complex. The “potted guide” to elBulli, to use a slightly old fashioned term, just without the brevity!