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POR­TUGUESE food books are not seen ev­ery day, and this one, PiriPiri Starfish:Por­tu­galFound by Tessa Kiros (Mur­doch Books, $59.95), ar­riv­ing in book­shops on March 3, is a rare gem.

With a Greek-Cypriot fa­ther, Fin­nish mother, South African girl­hood, Ital­ian hus­band and trav­el­ling his­tory, Kiros is well qual­i­fied to ex­plore for­eign cul­tures, and this is what she does in her fourth book.

She trav­elled and lived with her fam­ily in Por­tu­gal and her deep love of the coun­try is ev­i­dent on ev­ery page. Pir­iPir­iS­tarfish is a book about place as well as food. The pho­tog­ra­phy and de­sign of the pages are evoca­tive and beau­ti­ful: sar­dines, madon­nas, faded fres­coed walls. And where did she find so many col­lec­tors’ plates? In Por­tu­gal, pre­sum­ably. It is clearly a trove less vis­ited.

Piri piri is a hot chilli, orig­i­nally from An­gola, and much loved by the Por­tuguese, who lace their dishes with piri piri oil. Kiros’s first chap­ter of­fers a recipe. Then come petisco plates (small bites) and dishes of salt cod, oc­to­pus, chicken, clams . . . many in fra­grant-look­ing broths, with broad beans, chourico sausage and piri piri.

Seafood pre­dom­i­nates. There’s a won­der­ful-sound­ing baby fish pan­fried with gar­lic, rose­mary and white wine vine­gar. But there are also pork, rab­bit, chicken, par­tridge, lamb and steak dishes (in­clud­ing a Lis­bon favourite of fil­let steak with gar­lic, bay leaves and es­presso cof­fee).

Desserts in­clude a rose cake and sighs ( sus­piros ) — which turn out to be meringues — served with al­monds and a sauce of dates, figs and brown sugar. And there are recipes for those old favourites, por­tuguese tarts, chur­ros and quince mar­malade. If you can’t go there, at least have a taste.

PiriPiri is a very dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish from Stephane Rey­naud’s new book, Ter­rine (Phaidon Press, $45), also out in early March. Rey­naud is the grand­son of a vil­lage butcher in re­gional France, chef and owner of a restau­rant in Mon­treuil near Paris and au­thor of last year’s favourite book, Pork&Sons .

Ter­rine is his sec­ond book and though pork is his thing, his ter­rine recipes cover veg­etable dishes — in­clud­ing sea­sonal ter­rines for sum­mer, with zuc­chi­nis, aniseed and basil; spring (petit pois, cel­ery hearts) and win­ter (root veg­eta­bles) — as well as a large seafood chap­ter (salmon ril­lettes, bouil­l­abaisse ter­rine, scal­lops with veg­eta­bles wrapped in spinach).

There’s lob­ster and pro­sciutto, lentil and snail, rab­bit, fab­u­lous cheese and dessert ter­rines.

Each sec­tion ends with sauce recipes; those for the cheese dishes in­clude pre­serves (black cherry, bit­ter orange) and recipes for wal­nut oil with shal­lots for mild cheeses, wal­nut and cel­ery cream for pars­leyflavoured pates, and honey and nut sauces for cheeses such as camem­bert and brie.

This is not a travel book, it is solidly about its dishes, each page with an en­tic­ing im­age of its sub­ject: in a pot or a rus­tic ter­rine, on a board, with a hefty knife, un­adorned. Ju­dith Elen

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