Eat the world

Who needs an aero­plane when you’ve got a stack of cook­books? Cook’s Dave Hall picks six of the best new tomes with which to travel in your kitchen

The Guardian - Cook - - Books -

Dal­ma­tia: recipes from Croa­tia’s Mediter­ranean Coast Ino Ku­vacic (Hardie Grant)

Dal­ma­tia sits on a thin strip in the mid­sec­tion of Croa­tia’s glit­ter­ing Adri­atic coast. The cui­sine of this hos­pitable coun­try – where the def­i­ni­tion of catas­tro­phe is not hav­ing enough food to serve to guests – is largely undis­cov­ered. Yet it is likely to feel fa­mil­iar: you’ll find all the hall­marks of the Med – fish and seafood, toma­toes and olives – but with some twists: the many cul­tures that have passed through have left an in­deli­ble culi­nary hand­print. So in the north you’ve dairy, dumplings, meaty stews and strudels from cen­tral Europe and risot­tos from Italy, while the south has all the leaner, fish and veg­etable dishes. The coun­try also ben­e­fits from the viti­cul­ture the an­cient Greeks and Ro­mans left be­hind, and the likely in­flu­ence of Tur­key and Greece in its sausages and desserts.

You’ll want to try the ir­re­sistible stuffed ar­ti­chokes, koz­ice pršu­tom (prawns wrapped in pro­sciutto with goat’s cheese), the roast duck in sauer­kraut and the in­trigu­ing Croa­t­ian take on crème caramel.

Ja­pan Easy Tim An­der­sen (Hardie Grant)

“Clas­sic and mod­ern Ja­pa­nese recipes to (ac­tu­ally) cook at home” prom­ises this tome by Masterchef cham­pion Tim An­der­son, a quest to show that Ja­pa­nese cook­ing, for all its re­puted pre­ci­sion and com­plex­ity, is ac­tu­ally easy-peasy. An­der­son ex­plains that it doesn’t in­volve spe­cial equip­ment or skills, just seven ba­sic in­gre­di­ents you can buy at the su­per­mar­ket or, fail­ing that, on­line – mirin, rice vine­gar, dashi (stock), sake, miso, soy and rice. He starts with some ba­sics: mari­nades, sauces, and how to cook Ja­pa­nese rice. He then iden­ti­fies three es­sen­tial types of Ja­pa­nese meal: “One big thing, one big thing with a few lit­tle things around it, and lots of lit­tle things.” And the rest of the book is struc­tured in kind: start­ing at diminu­tive ap­pe­tis­ers – gy­oza, miso aubergine, fried chicken – and work­ing up to gen­er­ous rice and noodle dishes, such as curry udon, “Ja­pa­nese car­bonara” and rice bowls – all done with hu­mour and en­ergy.

China: the Cook­book Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan (Phaidon)

This is the lat­est of­fer­ing from Phaidon in an am­bi­tious se­ries of books about the cuisines of in­di­vid­ual coun­tries. An au­thor­i­ta­tive, not to men­tion ex­haus­tive, al­manac of the his­tory, tra­di­tion and recipes of one of the world’s old­est and most di­verse cuisines. If you can’t find the dish you want to make here, there’s prob­a­bly a good rea­son. The au­thors – a hus­band and wife team – show­case the eight great cuisines of the 34 prov­inces of China, all dif­fer­ent in their ter­rain, cli­mate and flavours. And so the steamed dishes of the eastern An­hui jos­tle with Shan­dong’s ex­quis­ite seafood, and the dim sum tra­di­tions of Ghang­dong. Chi­nese food is about shar­ing, and these 700 pages and 650 recipes of­fer many op­por­tu­ni­ties to do so. If you’ve ever won­dered how to get that au­then­tic fra­grance to your noodle soup or how they re­ally flavour spare ribs, this is just the be­gin­ning of the ad­ven­ture. The new Chi­nese cook­ery bi­ble.

Sri Lanka: the Cook­book Prakash K Si­vanathan and Ni­ran­jala M Ellawala (Frances Lin­coln)

Now that the world is re­dis­cov­er­ing Sri Lanka as a travel des­ti­na­tion, its cui­sine is also en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance. It has myr­iad in­flu­ences – its na­tive Sin­halese and Tamil and south In­dian tra­di­tions mix­ing with those from the Mid­dle East, east Asia and even colo­nial Europe. Spicy sam­bol condi­ments, sub­tly flavoured roti, vada (fried snacks), a huge col­lec­tion of mouth­wa­ter­ing co­conut and fish­based cur­ries and, of course, clas­sic bowl-shaped pan­cakes, hop­pers, all fea­ture.

The book might have ben­e­fited from a bet­ter ar­range­ment – into chap­ters split into clearer cat­e­gories – rather than the con­fus­ing semi­otic “key” that runs through­out, but the en­tic­ing pho­tog­ra­phy com­pen­sates fully.

Supra: A Feast of Ge­or­gian Cook­ing Tiko Tuskadze (Pavil­ion)

What au­thor and restau­ra­teur Tiko Tuskadze misses most about her Ge­or­gian home­land are the im­promptu feasts. Grow­ing up, her bon viveur Gran­dad Vano would rou­tinely ring home and an­nounce: “Twenty for din­ner tonight,” and Nana would knock up some­thing at once spec­tac­u­lar and fru­gal. So Supra (a typ­i­cally Ge­or­gian feast of food, wine, mu­sic and con­ver­sa­tion, led by a tamada or toast­mas­ter) is a fit­ting ti­tle for a book that cap­tures much of this spon­tane­ity, and even fol­lows the for­mat of a supra it­self.

It starts with sal­ads, sim­ple en­trees of bread, radishes, salty cheeses and toma­toes; fol­lowed by khacha­puri (deeply flavoured, fill­ing breads) and smaller hot plates like spicy bor­sht, or beef and rice soup-stews; then by a fish, veg and meat course. Wal­nuts, veg and chilli fea­ture heav­ily – es­pe­cially wal­nuts (there’s a dish in here specif­i­cally called “chicken with­out wal­nuts”). All the while the ta­ble is stocked with veg­gie patés, sauces such as tke­mali plum sauce and ajika (chilli pastes). The meal (and book) fin­ishes with sim­ple puds, like pela­mushi grape jelly and a range of cakes. The sage ad­vice is to al­low (even hope) for left­overs.

Sa­bor: Flavours from a Span­ish Kitchen Nieves Bar­ra­gan Mo­ha­cho (Fig Tree)

Sa­bor sim­ply means flavour, and in the many recipes in this first book by a renowned Basque Miche­lin-starred chef, there is much of it to be found. Hav­ing just opened a res­tau­rant of the same name, Nieves is keen to high­light the qual­ity of what goes into her food – no­tably, the all-im­por­tance of find­ing good pro­duce.

Nieves’ favourite in­gre­di­ents – gar­lic, pars­ley, wine, fish, pep­pers and of course olive oil, nat­u­rally fea­ture heav­ily in a book lib­er­ally laced with both Basque (try the chis­torra with cider) and Span­ish dishes. Pin­txos

(a spe­cial men­tion for the stuffed pi­men­ton and pan-fried ar­ti­chokes), eggs (a Span­ish ob­ses­sion), in­spir­ing pi­quant sal­ads, and then a whole host of mains... There’s a lot of fry­ing go­ing on, but the au­thor in­sists we should not be afraid of it – the idea is to keep it light. Lots to choose from, but truth be told, we’d buy this book just to look at the pork belly in mojo verde.

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