FROM THE SHELVES
Judith Elen pores over the latest cookbooks celebrating gardens, samurai lore and food
SECRETS OF THE RED LANTERN: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart by Pauline Nguyen, with recipes by Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen (Murdoch Books, $59.95). WITH chapter titles such as Skin, bones and the basics and Red is for survival, this is two books in one: the heartbreaking, inspiring story of the Nguyen family, their flight from Vietnam and gradual assimilation into Sydney’s Cabramatta via a year in a Thai refugee camp, and a food book full of family recipes from one of the country’s best Vietnamese restaurants, The Red Lantern in Sydney’s Surry Hills. Woven through it all, just as the photographs of food and family are woven through the pages of the book, is the food that held the family together. Pho is a dish of tolerance and freedom of expression, Nguyen writes. It has been described as ‘‘ a dish that has travelled across the oceans and continents, transforming itself to survive’’. All the fragrant soups and mint-fresh shredded salads are here, with the seafoods, sauces and more that the Red Lantern’s loyal diners queue for. FRENCH LESSONS by Justin North (Hardie Grant, $59.95). A VERY different book from Justin North’s earlier Becasse, which focused on a selection of produce, this one is indeed a culinary course. North is the celebrated chef of Becasse restaurant in Sydney. Here he covers stocks, consommes and nages, describing what and how. There are veloutes, bisques and bouillabaisse. Difficult dishes such as slow-roasted pork or lobster tail are explained and pictured carefully. The photography, by Steve Brown, is so good it sometimes constitutes a lesson in itself, and makes this reader want to rush into the kitchen tout de suite. Charcuterie, for example, central to any Francophile’s food fetishes, contains recipes for pate de campagne, with a half-dozen descriptive photographs, venison sausages and cured duck ham. The design is clean and fresh, perfect for ease of use and indulgent reading in bed. 1080 RECIPES by Simone and Ines Ortega (Phaidon, $69.95). THIS encyclopedic book of Spanish cooking was first published in that country in 1972 and is in its 48th edition. This is its first English edition. Its 975 pages are full of recipes, with coloured chalk drawings interspersed with colour photographs. This is a book to cook with: stuffed breast of veal, salt cod, braised quail. The vegetables are wonderful: there is origin, selection, nutrition and preparation of asparagus, tricks, and recipes such as scrambled eggs with asparagus and potatoes. There are tapasstyle canapes, rolls and tartlets. Desserts include light orange sponge and churros, orange flan, marzipan cake, melon and fig aspic, and grilled oranges with zabaglione. Indeed, what is not here? Famed El Bulli chef Ferran Adria has written a short preface in which he refers to the Ortegas’ culinary intuition: they are both traditional and evolutionary, he says. MORIMOTO: The New Art of Japanese Cooking by Masaharu Morimoto (DK, $59.95). MASAHARU Morimoto is the star of television’s Iron Chef and his book has all the bold colour and style of the series; there is even a page of photographs showing how to tie a kimono in traditional samurai fashion. The chef thinks one needs a samurai spirit to succeed in a tough town such as New York City, the text tells us, and the opening page photographs are wonderfully dramatic details of his ponytail, feet and shoulders. And there is food. One chapter is on recipes to contemplate: geometric sashimi, toro tartare. There are blowfish (fugu) recipes that may just be for reading. But other recipes entice, such as teapot soup with matsutake mushrooms and fragrant, clean ricestuffed baby chicken simmering with ginseng root and Chinese dates. And there’s a series of photographs demonstrating serving crispy duck. JAMIEATHOME:CookYourWayto theGoodLife by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, $65). IT’S no kitchen party without Jamie and here he is in serious mood. This is a down-home book in design. It sometimes looks like a plant nursery catalogue, with tips on how to grow climbing beans and a series of photographs of their progress. The recipes are enthusiastic and mouth-watering, such as the English hotpot of summer greens and flaked gammon (ham); I’ve left the word amazing out of the name of this recipe. The book is seasonal and produce-based. Just what I love. There are rhubarb crumbles and cocktails (with vodka), grilled peach salad with bresaola, smoked beets with grilled steak and cottage cheese. There are sections on game and orchard fruits, how to grow potatoes and prepare proper chicken caesar salad. The recipes are wonderful. I just wish the book lay flat when open. Jamie has dedicated it to Steve Irwin for his verve for life and respect for the planet. STICKS, SEEDS,PODS &LEAVES: A Cook’s Guide to Culinary Spices and Herbs by Ian and Elizabeth Hemphill (Hardie Grant Books, $39.95). THIS book from herb and spice experts the Hemphills (Ian is the son of John and Rosemary Hemphill, who set up their family herb-growing business in the 1950s) has a clean, fresh design in green, white and lemon that sits well with the subject. It is a new edition of their earlier books Spicery and Herbaceous , now bound in a gift format. The contents lists 35 spices and 45 herbs and each has its own section of four or five pages explaining the item and its history, how to choose and use it and a few recipes. Grains of paradise is one of my favourites. They are the precious and elusive spice used in ras el hanout blends. There are clues about where they may be found, what they should be like and a simple substitute if they are unobtainable. There are growing and drying notes for other, more common herbs. Recipes are varied and pictured in full-colour pages. There are useful mixes, such as herbes de provence, and unusual finds such as pandan leaf and mitsuba. GORDON RAMSAY’S FAST FOOD: Recipes from The F Word by Gordon Ramsay (Quadrille, distributed by Hardie Grant, $45). THIS one’s for long summer days when you want to whip up something simple but luscious. These recipes for grills, salads, curries and gratins are never boring but they’re uncomplicated.
Crunchy gooseberry crumble has two ingredients (gooseberries and sugar) and three for the topping (oat cereal, sugar, butter). There’s a quick quote, a tip (out of season substitutes) and instructions under four clear headings: Heat the oven; Tip the gooseberries; For the topping; Sprinkle evenly over. What takes most time in the kitchen is reading and re-reading the instructions. This one would be ready within a half hour, including cooking time. The layout is one to give confidence (unlike GR’s workplace presence) and gourmet treats are included, such as berry cheesecake and bacon, pea and goat’s cheese omelet, among the reminders of how to use good ingredients simply. LIGHTEN UP: A Healthy New Way to Cook by Jill Dupleix (Hardie Grant, $34.95). ONE for beginner cooks, these recipes are nice, simple and basic. There are some mildly surprising dishes, such as Thai mussels with sweet potato and fish saltimbocca. But the usual suspects are all here: spaghetti alla puttanesca, Spanish eggs with prawns, grilled chicken with salsa verde, soft polenta with mushrooms, Singapore chilli prawns. They’re all nicely photographed and the recipes clearly set out. Great for a quick idea fix. Pick up haloumi, tomatoes and prawns on the way home and here’s a healthy, quickly prepared meal for after work. The occasional pages of uniform text do not inspire and the person who wants a quick fix meal may well be impatient with the contents page. There are pages with recipes ‘‘ x 4’’ (tofu, bananas, umami), where the bank of four photographs looks nice, and the run-on recipes are quick. EXPLORING TASTE & FLAVOUR: The Art of Combining Hot, Sour, Salty and Sweet by Tom Kime (Simon & Schuster, $34.95). ABOUT combinations of food, ingredients and the surprising, this book is a manual on tasting. Tom Kime, originally from the River Cafe in London, trained under Rick Stein and David Thompson and is influenced by both. He now lives in London and Sydney. He writes here about the principles of taste, how taste is experienced and about balance, a subject he teaches. A perfect taste combination, he writes, is a starter of crostini with crushed broad beans, then harissa-spiced lamb with jewelled couscous and a dessert of hot chocolate pudding with creme fraiche (the recipes are here). He deals with the principles of wine tasting and there is a useful taste directory that lists myriad ingredients and flavourings under sour, sweet, hot and peppery and bitter. More than 200 pages of recipes include Thai tastes, Indian rubs, salsas, stuffings (with lamb, in sushi), seasonal produce and lovely desserts. CHEESE SLICES by Will Studd (Hardie Grant Books, $79.95). WILL Studd is a frontier crosser; his campaigning for the importation of unpasteurised cheeses into Australia has won us the first instalments of a great gift. It’s a watershed for the country that we can buy them and soon we will be able to produce them. If some people don’t care or disagree, fine; now we can try them and will know what the difference is. This book is a serious, encyclopedic hymn to cheese: the origins, the seasonality, the animals that produce it, making it (the myriad kinds), appreciating it, cooking with it. There are some margin recipes — so particular, they must be tried — but this is not a recipe book, it’s everything we need to know about cheese.