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: general audience
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 Me is the latest compilation of food design intended by and for designers but a joy for chefs, food lovers and art appreciators. In 2010 I reviewed Design Culinaire which had similar goals, but fell short because if its lack of breadth of contributors. Not so with Eat Me. Over 250 pages representing some 87 different designers and artists with works ranging from whimsical to oblique to functional. Eat Me will surely inspire you to find your own creativity and appreciate the role of designers in our daily gastronomic lives.
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.
In Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, Professor Barbara Santich sets out to provide “justification and legitimacy” for those foods and ways of cooking and eating that are recognised as “distinctively Australian”. Santich draws on a wide range of sources including newspapers, diaries and memoirs, recipe books, and the work of other academics to present a thorough and approachable survey of Australia’s gastronomic heritage. Well-illustrated and with valuable and informative primary source material (newspaper articles, letters, advertising etc.) reproduced on almost every page, this book is a welcome reference for anyone interested in the historical background to the Australian diet.
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.
Mediterranean Street Food is a celebration of both the food and the culture of the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Street food has been part of the way of life in this region for centuries and the history of all these countries, from Spain and Morocco in the west to Turkey and Lebanon in the east, is written in the food the people eat. Anissa Helou brings her natural curiosity and her innate cultural understanding to this collection of recipes gleaned from the street vendors themselves. Covering a broad range, this book is a very good introduction to both the similarities and subtle differences between the cuisines of the Mediterranean with an appealing range of recipes easily achievable at home.
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.
Charmaine Solomon, well known to Australians from her books and newspaper and magazine columns, became an international success with the original publication of ‘The Complete Asian Cookbook’ in 1976. Since then her name has been synonymous with the flavours of the East. The revised version of this ground breaking book is a must for anyone interested in the food of this region – either to cook from or simply to refer to – that is of course if they don’t already have the original.
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.
Giorgio Locatelli is often referred to as one of the world’s best Italian chefs (or words to that effect) so it goes without saying that he knows a thing or two about Italian food. In this book he takes the reader on a most enjoyable journey around Sicily as he explores and explains the traditions and history of Sicilian food, meeting growers, producers and restaurateurs along the way. Locatelli’s enthusiasm and personality and the collection of recipes which admirably demonstrates the simplicity and strong flavours of Sicilian food make Made in Sicily both a good read and a good resource for anyone wanting to capture a little bit of Sicily for themselves.
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.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentices is the only reasonably unvarnished account of what it was like to work at el Bulli. Alongside occasional descriptions of the creative process involving Adrià and his key chefs, the book’s main focus is on the life of the unpaid apprentices lucky enough to have been selected to spend a season at the restaurant. The book provides interesting insights into the workings of this very special restaurant and the experiences of the people involved, but I found it long and heavy reading. Opinions of this book are likely to vary greatly.
Jennifer McLagan’s final stage of her trilogy, including the much lauded Bones (2005) and Fat (2007), is a comprehensive exploration of those animal parts that are ignored or tossed in the bin, and the word fascinating would be the ultimate understatement in describing this book. Odd Bits is her final manifesto to the world of daring or squeamish cooks to take a new look at less common parts of the animals, and is one of the best cookbooks of 2011.
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.
At a certain point many foragers grow hungry for bounty beyond mushrooms and cattails. They seek meat – raw and wild – yet making the leap from acorn gatherer to elk killer is a daunting one that seems beyond grasp. Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast narrows that gap with an entertaining, informative and approachable perspective on all forms of wild dining.
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.
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.
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.
Audrey Gordon is a respected and prolific cookery writer. She has also been a long-time contributor to BBC radio, presented numerous television series and been voted ‘Britain’s Sternest Cook’ three times. She and husband Phillip recently closed their restaurant, audrey’s, and headed to Tuscany for a chance to take a break and of course write a book about it. The result is ‘Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer’, a ’sumptuously photographed and lavishly over-designed book’ written for ‘the ordinary cook, stuck at home with insufficient bench space and a set of chipped mixing bowls’.
Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer looks like a regular cookbook and the recipes are certainly workable if not necessarily authentic, but Audrey is not all she seems…
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.
An impressive, compendious work about ice cream and other frozen sweets for home cooks. The much-awaited revision of an earlier book by the authors has yielded a greatly expanded range of delicious recipes, plus some additional history and trivia. The authors’ insistence on precision and recommended formulae for making ices is undermined by their own mistakes and inconsistencies, but despite this, Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide is a work worth considering for any avid home ice cream maker.
How the British Fell in Love with Food is the sort of book you could either read from cover to cover, or simply pick up casually from time to time to read a chapter or two. The articles from members of the Guild of Food Writers, many award-winners, provide an interesting historical perspective on modern food history in Britain, combined with a fair range of recipes. The book is not without a few quirks, not least of which the choice of period (mid-70s to 2010). The book only includes works by the Guild’s writers, as it was published to celebrate the Guild’s 25th anniversary.
“Thai Street Food” is David Thompson’s homage to the markets, food stands and mobile vendors of Thailand. As with his groundbreaking previous book, “Thai Food”, Thompson explains the evolution of the food, and the systems and culture that sustains it. However, readers should not think of this book as being a street food version of his first book – to do so would only lead to disappointment. Thompson’s aim here is to give the reader an insight into what Thais eat every day and how it fits into their lives. The hour-by-hour changes in the food available to Thais in the street markets is constantly emphasised in the book. The combination of his writing and Earl Carter’s photographs is so seductive that it’s hard to resist the urge to catch the next flight to Bangkok to experience the culture Thompson has adopted as his own.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re old enough to know that a Prawn Cocktail is not some new alcoholic beverage, then perhaps you also remember a time when the Prawn Cocktail was an exotic dish, and dining in a restaurant was a rare and exciting experience. What Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham set out to do in this book is rehabilitate some of those once novel, subsequently much abused, and now almost forgotten dishes which were the mainstay of restaurant menus in the 1960s and 1970s.
The recipes here are a reminder that good food results from cooking with care and attention rather than just following the latest fashion.
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.
Recently released in paperback version, Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions, brings renewed life to this James Beard Foundation book award winner of 2005 (originally published in 2004). Numerous books have been written about native or indigenous cooking in the Americas, but most focus on a small subset of people, and are rarely written by accomplished chefs. Fernando and Marlene Divina, in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, have created a book that documents important cultural history, and thankfully convert it into a useful culinary tool.
In the introductory chapter of his new book, “Medium Raw”, Anthony Bourdain asks “What the fuck am I doing here?” While that statement is made in the context of a dinner with chefs that he admits are countless levels above his own abilities, he also intends as a question about how he has ended up as a fulltime writer and television presenter. While he puts it down to a series of lucky breaks, the other factors he doesn’t mention are a combination of keen observation and very good writing skills.
“Medium Raw” is promoted as a sequel to “Kitchen Confidential”, and in one sense it fulfils that with chapters that update us on the lives of the people in that breakthrough book. But the book also offers writing about his own life, the food world as he sees it and, to his credit, saying how some of his views have changed over time. The usual Bourdain elements are there: the gonzo style of writing, his refusal to sugar coat his opinion, and a healthy splash of swearing. But with marriage and parenthood, a gentler and more sentimental Bourdain emerges too.
In Roast Chicken and Other Stories Simon Hopkinson presents a collection of some of his favourite recipes for a diverse and very personal selection of his favourite ingredients. Much lauded when it first appeared in print in 1995 Roast Chicken was subsequently labelled ‘the most useful cookbook of all time’. Whilst this is a hard claim to justify the book is informative and interesting, with straightforward recipes for timeless dishes, its usefulness limited only by its narrow range.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An enjoyable book containing an impressive range of information about common and exotic ingredients, including many pictures and nutritional information. It’s suitable for people who already know a bit about ingredients, although the organisation of the book can be quite frustrating. For beginners, this would only be suitable for US readers, with some reservations.
In the world of the celebrity chef, where books are churned out every year along with the television show and the newly endorsed kitchen products, it can be easy to forget that at some point there was a reason why these people became famous in the first place. Nigella Lawson is a case in point – the same flirtatious looks to the television camera, the coquettishness of her manner, and the double entendre laden words. The constant mining of a new angle – quick food, summer food, baking, this fashion, that trend – a battle to keep the personality fresh and the profits flowing.
Lawson started her career in food as a columnist, and the quality of her work led to her writing a book. “How To Eat” was first published in 1998 and it became a bestseller. The two keys to its success were the high quality of Lawson’s writing and the common sense she offers about cooking. The first sign of a practical mind is the way she arranged this book. Chapters devoted to cooking for one or two, weekend lunches, and feeding babies and small children, shows someone who understands modern life. The recipes she provides use ingredients that are easy to find and use reasonably straightforward techniques. Ten years down the track and “How To Eat” is as joyful a read as ever. I suspect that in fifty years’ time, people will still be reading it.
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.
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.
Based on the food served at Edinburgh’s best-known Italian deli-cafe, Valvona and Crolla, this new recipe book makes for an evocative and mouth-watering read. Organised around the four seasons, there are recipes, personal stories and mini-travelogues, hints and tips, and detailed ingredient information specific to each time of year. Inspiration abounds throughout, supported by recipes which are as reliable as they are tempting. All in all, ‘Valvona and Crolla: A Year at an Italian Table’ is a veritable feast for foodlovers.
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.
Heston Blumenthal is known as a gastro-wizard. Not only does he helm the Fat Duck, once considered the top restaurant in the world, but he also has popular notoriety through his In Search of Perfection television series on the BBC. In Search of Total Perfection is the culmination of the TV series put in print (combining his two previous books from the series into one volume), and offers not only the recipes and exploratory work leading to the recipes, but also the behind-the-scenes tales from the studio. And whereas a movie can drop a book’s plot, story lines and even characters to help the story fit into a two-hour reel, this book flips a page and gathers all of the information presented in the series and expands on the shows with useful and fun details. The reader is left as plump and saturated as Blumenthal’s roast chicken. And that’s where we’ll peck away at this book – roast chicken.
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 culinary literature in English about Portugal is a bit patchy, often the work of emigrés reproducing the recipes of family and friends. The latest contribution about Portuguese cuisine is David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table. Unlike all previous books, this one sets out to innovate and modernise. Why this is the goal isn’t entirely clear, but it’s an interesting work containing tasty recipes and useful additional information from this Portuguese-American food writer.
The most renowned encyclopedia of food, the Larousse Gastronomique, has just appeared in its fourth English edition. Attractively presented with a bronze cover and black slipcase, it’s the latest in a series of impressive, fascinating and somewhat quirky editions in both French and English. Each edition is a translation and adaptation of a preceding French edition, and the fifth French edition was published almost exactly two years ago, in mid-October 2007. This feature provides an overview of the various editions and some of the interesting issues and changes over the years.
Spring in Sicily, the fourth book in Manuela Darling-Gansser’s series of seasonal recipe books, is a medium-sized hardback book of 260 pages filled with recipes, photographs, commentary, brief chats with chefs, market stall holders, bakers and café owners, fishermen, artisan makers of cheese and wine, and a brief overview of the rich history of Sicily and some of the nearby islands.
The text is brief, informative and a pleasure to read, while the recipes are simple but different enough from the more usual regional Southern/Northern Italian cooking of mainland Italy to be interesting.
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.
Lobel’s Meat Bible from the eponymous butchery in New York promises “All you need to know about meat and poultry”. It’s a bold promise and the book doesn’t deliver. This visually attractive “bible” is both very informative and incredibly disappointing.
A buzz of joy courses through some readers when they discover certain books of special note. Sicilian Food by Mary Taylor Simeti had this effect on me. The author’s prose has that rather stiff, knowledgeable and cheekily irreverent prose familiar in parts from writers like Elizabeth David or MFK Fisher. From discussion of the probable diets of different classes of people in classical times to descriptions of contemporary foodsellers to notes about making your own tomato extract, Simeti captures the culinary atmosphere, context, attitudes and flavours of deepest, hottest Sicily.
“(T)he book vividly evokes the country households of two generations ago. It includes personal opinion, trucs and tours de main (personal tricks), even alternative versions of the same dish, all offered in a warm, practical and personal voice.”
That was Australian chef and food icon Stephanie Alexander on La Mazille’s La Bonne Cuisine du Périgord, but I would say much the same of Alexander’s own work, Cooking & Travelling in South-West France, published in 2002. A record of Alexander’s visits to the region between July 1999 and November 2000, this is part travel diary, part cookbook and 100% addictive.
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.
4 Ingredients is supposed to inspire people with “quick, easy & delicious recipes”. Quick and easy? Certainly. But in most cases the recipes compromise on both taste and health. The authors, Kim McCosker and Rachael Birmigham, rely on their status as mothers of young children to convince people that they know how to cook. Frankly, I’m not convinced at all.
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.
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.
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.
The author of the massively popular blog Chez Pim attempts to guide us to appreciating food, dining, and cooking (again) with her unique brand of sass and humor. While the dining tips are useful and the recipes look delicious, some of the material appears simply a supplement to (or derivative of) the blog. Her guide is a mixed bag of earnest, well-thought-out advice and odd name- and place-dropping that somehow makes being a foodie synonymous with being well-traveled and well-connected (or synonymous with Pim’s life), contrary to her stated objectives.
Hilary McNevin’s Guide to Fish is a handy, modern reference for Australian consumers. Not only does it provide helpful information about sustainable species, buying and cooking tips, but also a great range of interesting, tasty recipes for each of the fish presented. Although you could always wish for more detail, this book achieves what it needs to within its clean, compact format.
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a collection skillfully pieced together by Elizabeth David herself, is the perfect introduction to the breadth and depth of her writing. First published in 1984, this collection of articles spanning many decades was inexplicably out of print in Britain for some years (but still available in the US). Here you will find remarkably candid – often hilarious – reviews of books and restaurants; historical essays sit comfortably with the well-loved romance of markets in rural France. Culinary gems are peppered throughout.
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.
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.
In Kim Sunée’s coming-of-age-memoir, she travels the world and uses food to find herself and the home she never felt she had. Sunée’s narrative is an intensely honest, earnest telling of her story, with a poetic, yet unfussy writing style. Trail of Crumbs details Kim’s life, from early memories of her childhood abandonment in Korea, to her adoption and upbringing in New Orleans, to her travels around the world. Most chapters conclude with a few recipes, appropriate to the setting. The recipes don’t necessarily inspire the reader to jump into the kitchen, but they are a nice touch and complement Kim’s journey in this heart-warming story without a classic happy ending.
Any comprehensively stocked kitchen will have many scented ingredients in the spice rack, drawer or cupboard, ranging from pungent to aromatic, depending on the types of dishes prepared and enjoyed in each household. This book is not concerned with any of them.
The subject matter of The Scented Kitchen is perfumed flowers from the flower garden, using them in various ways to impart flavour and aroma, and in some instance, colour also.
Had I come across this title on a shelf, I might well have passed it by, thereby missing an interesting read.
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.
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.
In “The Clatter of Forks and Spoons”, Irish chef Richard Corrigan covers the food that he grew up with as the child of a farmer in Ireland, traditional recipes, and the dishes he serves at his restaurant. Many of the dishes are simple and comforting, and will rarely require any searches for exotic ingredients or specialist equipment. Corrigan is also a storyteller, so you will find essays, anecdotes, and observations throughout the book. He presents his views with a great passion, but it’s done in a similar manner to what you would get from having a feisty debate with a good friend over a beer. He is also a champion of artisanal producers and allows many of these producers their own voice in his essays.
This is an outstanding book from three viewpoints. Firstly, in Corrigan’s writing, no words are wasted and his essays could be a book in their own right. The second are the recipes. It is food for the soul, the ingredients are listed in a clear manner, and the instructions are presented in a conversational tone. Finally, it’s a beautiful book. The photography suits the book in that it has a feel more like a family photo album than food porn. Many people will find this book a worthwhile purchase, including those who want to rediscover their Irish and British roots, those who simply enjoy good food writing, and anyone who simply wants to cook a delicious meal.
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.
The “Blue Ribbon” of this title is the traditional blue ribbon awarded to winning entries in country shows and specifically the various cookery sections (Classes) of the Horticultural and Agricultural Shows throughout South Australia. From cover to cover this is an attractive book, with well laid out pages, clear and easy to read text and nice sharp images to delight the eye and stimulate the taste buds. The prize winning cooks are women, men and children of all ages and mostly from towns and farming communities close to particular show venues. The recipes range from the humble tomato sauce, various preserves, jams and jellies, through baked goods from biscuits to sponge cakes and a State Competition winning entry of a rich dark fruit cake.
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.
Daisy Garnett roasted her first chicken at thirty. It was the first meal she had ever actually cooked, something repeated – and often – throughout the pages of Cooking Lessons. A memoir by a young, emerging cook, Garnett’s recently formed kitchen wisdom is imparted with a refreshing, conversational ease. Her recipes ooze charm and wit. Unleashing this passion during a life-affirming yacht trip across the Atlantic with friends, Garnett is something of a poster girl for the still-growing movement toward reconnection with the simple pleasures of cooking. Here is someone, with the zeal of the newly converted, clearly in love with her subject.