Ju­dith Elen pores over the latest cook­books cel­e­brat­ing gar­dens, samu­rai lore and food

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence -

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.

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