COOK­ING THE BOOKS

Ju­dith Elen pores over the latest food publi­ca­tions, from great hol­i­day reads to prac­ti­cal kitchen guides and mouth-wa­ter­ing recipes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

MMoro East by Sam and Sam Clark (Ebury Press/Ran­dom House, $69.95) is prac­ti­cal, ex­otic and in­spi­ra­tional. Moro is a Lon­don restau­rant that opened in 1997, when the Ara­bic tastes of the east­ern Mediter­ranean were lit­tle known in Bri­tain, and has since be­come an in­sti­tu­tion. There have been two ear­lier books, and this one fea­tures recipes linked to a year in the life of the gar­den al­lot­ment the two Sams set up amid the bro­ken glass and rusty metal of Lon­don’s East End. Be­hind the gar­den gate is a com­mu­nity of Cypriot, Kur­dish and Turk­ish home gar­den­ers. The recipes are ro­bust, flavour­ful Mid­dle East­ern, such as pi­geon salad with figs and pomegranates, rhubarb and rose­wa­ter fool. The al­lot­ment is to be razed be­fore the 2012 Olympics in Lon­don. Y French Vue: Bistro Cook­ing at Home by Shan­non Ben­nett (Si­mon & Schus­ter, $49.95) is the sec­ond cook­book by the cel­e­brated chef of Melbourne’s Vue de Monde. There’s a food and wine-match­ing guide and an ex­cel­lent run-through of ba­sic (mod­ern) in­gre­di­ents. Recipes are straight­for­ward and suc­cu­lent (cold duck sausage is com­pletely achiev­able, with no weird ma­chines or pig’s in­testines). Dishes are sat­is­fy­ingly bistro with a touch of ge­nius (rab­bit with mus­tard and laven­der, fish with car­rot vi­nai­grette and broc­coli cous­cous or ginger jus, bouil­l­abaisse risotto). Sump­tu­ous desserts range from french toast with ber­ries to choco­late orange cus­tards. Si­mon Grif­fiths’s pho­tog­ra­phy is gor­geous. Kitchen Sea­sons by Ross Dob­son (Hardie Grant Books, $45) con­tains recipes cel­e­brat­ing sea­sonal or­ganic food. In Bri­tain the sea­sons are usu­ally more fo­cused than ours (al­though there are ex­cep­tions), which adds to the plea­sure of the book, and there is noth­ing that can’t be trans­lated. There are nice spring dishes (in­clud­ing spiced lamb cut­lets with tomato and feta gratin), but they don’t do hot weather as well as we do and the win­ter dishes are the stars. Ro­bust and rus­tic rather than sur­pris­ing (tagines and soups of root veg­eta­bles, fig and honey crois­sant pud­ding), they sing of cold weather walks and open fires. De­li­cious: 5 Nights a Week by Valli Lit­tle ( ABC Books, $39.95) is packed with lovely home recipes, as Lit­tle’s fans and read­ers of De­li­cious mag­a­zine would ex­pect. At 250-odd pages, this is a sub­stan­tial book of imag­i­na­tive (yet prac­ti­cal) dishes, such as fig and three-cheese tart, Thai-style bouil­l­abaisse, cher­moula fish with pis­ta­chio cous­cous, lemon and oregano lamb. Christ­mas plough­man’s is a very sim­ply made pate of leftover turkey, ham or chicken that comes out look­ing like ex­pen­sive, time-con­sum­ing ril­lettes. Large for­mat, with full-page colour images. The Week­end Cook by Matthew Evans (Ran­dom House, $34.95) is a book of man­age­able size in the kitchen and a good browse. Evans, a food jour­nal­ist and critic who has worked as a chef, aims to cap­ture the spirit of week­end food. Recipes are di­vided ac­cord­ing to the kind of week­end you’re plan­ning: slow, busy, ro­man­tic, so­cial, lost. Busy ef­forts speak for them­selves and in­clude a Si­cil­ian one-pot pasta, cheesy crunch, spiced or­anges with hon­eyed ri­cotta; all lus­cious and de­li­ciously man­age­able. The Lost list in­cludes cock­tails, cod­dled eggs, bis­cuits, short­cake, crum­bles: in­dul­gent rather than crip­plingly dif­fi­cult. Pho­to­graphs are straight­for­ward and al­lur­ing. Bar­be­cue Seafood by Peter Howard (New Hol­land, $35) is a gem for the bored bar­be­cue buff. Af­ter all that meat, the many afi­ciona­dos of the out­door fire and grill need to know the fine points of cook­ing fish. Howard says in his fore­word he’d be a rich man if he had a dol­lar for ev­ery time he’s been asked such ad­vice. Recipes in­volve lob­ster medal­lions, prawns and skew­ered tuna in­cor­po­rated with fresh sal­ads such as Asian greens or blood orange and beet­root, or mixed treats such as Thai fish pat­ties. A wide range of sauce recipes are for mar­i­nat­ing or gar­nish­ing.

Robert Muir of Syn­dey Fish Mar­ket’s Seafood School has com­piled cru­cial guide­lines for buy­ing and stor­ing. Howard also has used fish and seafood not on the list of en­dan­gered species, a vi­tal point. Hol­i­day by Bill Granger (Mur­doch Books, $49.95) sets out with pic­tures of cush­ion, bas­ket and vac­uum flask, seashells and a frangi­pani hang­ing over a beach fence. Pic­nic and bar­be­cue recipes fea­ture, and images of bare­foot Bill, but the usual kids’ treats are not here and that’s a re­lief.

Hol­i­days are some­times most al­lur­ing sans the kids; in­deed, not ev­ery­one has them. So there are recipes for in­ti­mate break­fasts and din­ner dates and for en­ter­tain­ing.

Recipes are still sim­ple (souf­fles, bli­nis, pan­na­cot­tas and choco­late pud­dings are not new) but sim­ple can also be good: semolina-fried prawns with aioli, for ex­am­ple (what could speak more of a beach­side hol­i­day?), puffed ap­ple pan­cake and duck, radic­chio and fig salad. Pier by Greg Doyle, Grant King and Ka­t­rina Kane­tani (Mur­doch Books, $85) is the weighty book from award­win­ning Syd­ney restau­rant Pier at Rose Bay. You’ll show off by giv­ing it or own­ing it, and the recipes are show­pieces as well. Th­ese supremely el­e­gant dishes are not for knock­ing up on the week­end but they are painstak­ingly ex­plained and make en­light­en­ing read­ing for all in­ter­ested in how ex­quis­ite restau­rant food is pre­pared. They also seem pos­si­ble, given pa­tience and close at­ten­tion to the in­struc­tions, which in­clude prac­ti­cal points such as stor­ing el­e­ments of the dish dur­ing prepa­ra­tion, as would be done in the restau­rant.

Pho­to­graphs are gor­geous and make you want to have a go, or at least yearn to eat them. Sof­fritto by Lu­cio Gal­letto and David Dale (Allen & Un­win, $49.95) has been named Aus­tralian win­ner of the best book on Ital­ian food at the Gour­mand World Cook­book Awards (see Food De­tec­tive). It re­lates the food-fix­ated trav­els em­barked on by Syd­ney chef Gal­letto (of Lu­cio’s restau­rant in Padding­ton) with David Dale to Lig­uria in north­ern Italy. Dale talks to peo­ple and records their con­ver­sa­tions about food, its prepa­ra­tion, their mem­o­ries; about his­tory and fam­ily. The won­der­ful pho­to­graphs by Paul Green em­brace the time (past and present) and place, restau­rants and streets, and food, food, food: be­ing pre­pared, on the plate or in the mar­ket. Eat­ing for Eng­land by Nigel Slater (Fourth Es­tate/HarperCollins, $35) isn’t a cook­book. ‘‘ To my knowl­edge,’’ the Bri­tish au­thor writes, ‘‘ we are the only coun­try in the world that takes de­light in eat­ing boiled and crushed swede. Com­pared (with) a bunch of as­para­gus in June, the swede is hardly the most painterly of veg­eta­bles.’’ Slater has an en­cy­clo­pe­dic grasp of food and this is a chunky lit­tle hard­cover book to delve into, a cruise around Bri­tish eat­ing past and present, from weirdly named tra­di­tional dishes to com­mer­cial food, farm­ers mar­kets and eat­ing rit­u­als. ‘‘ Our food cul­ture is about the gen­tle, but­ter­cup-scented cheese made in a vil­lage barn the colour of honey, and the child­ish de­light of un­wrap­ping a foil tri­an­gle of Dairylea,’’ Slater writes. Ta­ble Talk by A. A. Gill (Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son, $55) is the ar­che­typal Christ­mas hol­i­day book: en­ter­tain­ing and idio­syn­cratic. It’s a se­lec­tion of Gill’s col­umns in Bri­tain’s TheSun­day Times and The Tatler on food and din­ing, with sec­tions on travel food, home and away, ap­petite (veg­e­tar­i­ans, or­ganic, Ra­madan) and in­gre­di­ents (durian, blood and bel­uga, roses, pomegranate). The pages of short quo­ta­tions be­fore each sec­tion are alone worth buy­ing the book for: ‘‘ Main cour­ses would have got a Third World air­line grounded. My lamb would only have been of gas­tro­nomic in­ter­est to a man who had never eaten a sheep. The mush­rooms wouldn’t have tasted wild if you’d soaked them in ec­stasy and given them guns.’’ The Ba­sics by Filip Ver­hey­den and Tony Le Duc (Hardie Grant, $45), with its Bi­ble-black cover and gilt-edged pages, looks like a slim ver­sion of the holy book, deeply sat­is­fy­ing in the hand and beau­ti­fully bound. Rather than Ten Com­mand­ments, it con­tains more than 150 de­scrip­tive guide­lines on the skills and tech­niques that can make a cook. Caramelis­ing, cut­ting, cre­at­ing a chif­fon­nade, cold sauces, cook­ing in a salt crust: th­ese are just some of the en­tries un­der C. Kitchen lovers will covet this gem of a stock­ing filler, which won the sil­ver medal in the 2007 Gourmet Voice Awards. Cook­ing by James Peter­son (Ten Speed Press/Si­mon & Schus­ter, $65), the other ex­treme from The Ba­sics (above), has more than 540 pages with ev­ery de­tail you could think of. In­struc­tions are matched with prac­ti­cal pho­to­graphs. Hand-mak­ing pasta dough, for ex­am­ple, knead­ing it and rolling it with a ma­chine or cut­ting it by hand is fol­lowed by mak­ing ravi­oli and twist­ing tortellini, sauces and fill­ings. There are in­struc­tions for bon­ing and slic­ing duck, chicken and meats of all kinds, and de­tails of soups, sauces, cakes, pas­try and cook­ies. This is an Amer­i­can book, with typ­i­cally Amer­i­can se­ri­ous­ness about cui­sine sans the vul­gar ex­cess. For more fab­u­lous food books, see From the Shelves ( Travel & In­dul­gence, Oc­to­ber 13-14) or visit www.theaus­tralian.com.au/ travel/alfr.

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