Cooking is one of the pleasures of wintertime and here are three books that inspire you to take the time to learn to prepare delicious fare from stews and roasts to Catalan dishes and Middle Eastern desserts. As Christmas approaches, our thoughts, for some strange reason, have turned to food, drink and partying. We wanted to celebrate the season as well as finding out how the season could be celebrated in different parts of the world. As Louise Franc explains in her new compilation Winter, the season is all about comfort foods – “slow-cooked meats, rich soups and stews, hearty roasts and fiery curries”. Her book features plenty of slow cooking recipes, which add a great depth of flavour and tenderness to dishes. As she explains, the beauty of these dishes is once you’ve started the cooking process, there’s not much more you’ll need to do – except relax and let time do all the work for you. For poultry lovers, try the baked tarragon chicken or creamy calvados chicken. For something a little spicier, experiment with Moroccan style roast chicken with preserved lemon or push the boat out with Hungarian pork and beef goulash.
If all these dishes seem a little too heavy, then we suggest learning to cook in The Catalan Kitchen, which is Emma Warren’s verbal shrine to Catalunya, the culinary heart of Spain. You should commence your gastronomic travels with Pica Pica (from the verb ‘to pick’) which are a selection of small dishes – they can be as simple as almonds in rosemary and garlic (100 types of almonds are grown in Spain!), bread with tomato or olives with orange peel. Try the Catalan artichokes, a favourite in the Barceloneta
neighbourhood, or the Catalan pizza slice, which has no cheese! Of course, Catalunya is blessed with some of the best fish and shellfish in the world, and so there are many tasty seafood recipes with clams, sardines, calamari and mussels.
A Catalan fish stew is a great way to use up any leftovers.
Whichever cuisine you choose, you are going to need to end your meal with something sugary and there is nothing better than relying on the sweet tooth of the Middle East. Greg and Lucy Malouf’s book Suqar sets out what is possible, tempting you with flaky, nut-stuffed pastries and delicate milk puddings, exotic fruit salads, silken sorbets, syrupsoaked fritters and a delectable range of spiced cakes and cookies. Many of the recipes they provide reflect the fact that sugar has been around for much longer in the Arab world than in Europe. In many Middle Eastern households, biscuits and cookies hold a deep significance and making them is frequently a family or community activity during religious holidays, so try the sesame and pistachio– studded bazarek biscuits and shortbreads or the chocolate arabesque wafers.
These three books guarantee that you will have a truly international holiday season, and we hope you enjoy the creations – wherever you are in the world! Louise Franc’s Winter and Emma Warren’s The Catalan Kitchen are published by Smith Street Books. Greg and Lucy Malouf’s Suqar is published by Hardie Grant Books.