Need new kitchen skills. Time Out suggests 5 of the best new cookery books
Time Out staff
Time Out has rounded up a list of the best new food books to give you culinary inspiration.
So, whether you are into fancy cheese or celebrity-inspired cookery we’ve got some of 20100’s finest tomes to try.
Scroll down for more details.
Cheese by Patricia Michelson
‘The World’s Best Artisan Cheeses’ is the subtitle of this beautifully photographed coffee table and reference book, and that sums it up. Choice cheeses are looked at by country and region in the manner of a big hardback on wine and wine regions, after a brief discussion of styles of cheese – such as what ‘bloomy’, ‘washed rind’ and other such terms actually mean.
What you will not find is discussion of the high volume British cheeses that are processed on an industrial scale by creameries for the supermarkets.
This books deals strictly with the gastronomic joys of the world’s best cheeses, as selected by the owner of one of London’s best cheese shops, Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie.
The strengths of the book include its global coverage – the new Aussie and US artisan cheeses are covered in sufficient depth to prime a food-loving traveller, for instance. It’s also as up-to-date as books get in this fast-changing area. And, of course, Michelson is one of England’s leading cheese experts, particularly on French cheeses, so her notes are well-informed.
A section towards the end of the book includes some of Michelson’s preferred cheese recipes, from fondue to cauliflower cheese. Portraits of highlighted producers focus on the facts, rather than being evocative of the place or the producers concerned.
One weakness of the book, only apparent when you start using it a lot, is that it could have been better edited. But this is primarily a book you use for information, not for the prose; and the beautiful photography and clear design make this a book that any cheese-lover will treasure.
Gourmet Food for a Fiver by Jason Atherton
With some notable exceptions, cookery books written by restaurant chefs – rather than cooks or food writers – have a tendency to be poncey. They can be full of costly and esoteric ingredients, or over-reliant on fiddly, time-consuming techniques (such as multiple sieving of sauces) that are a turn-off for home cooks. This new book from the acclaimed chef of Maze restaurant is, thankfully, an honourable exception, and is one that the home cook can enjoy.
Since the financial crash, publishers have been rushing out budget cookery books galore – many harking back to war-time frugality. This book is different, as a quick leaf through the very appealing recipes show. The dishes are elegant rather than spare, and even humble-sounding dishes such as grilled sardines on toast, chilled cucumber soup, and rice pudding look rather indulgent. Nor is the book overtly British, as is the current trend. There are flavours from the Middle and Far East, and from throughout Europe – and there’s not a single pie in sight.
According to the foreword, the fiver (five pounds is approximately Dhs30) in the title is based on a two-course meal for four people, but assumes an already-stocked larder of spices, condiments and store-cupboard staples. Some of these recipes actually cost more than a fiver, even if the main ingredients are bought in season. Most, however, are based on inexpensive types of fish, such as mackerel, pollack or squid; or less-expensive cuts of meat, such as chicken thighs or lamb leg steaks.
What this book does exceptionally well is to suggest flavours that work well together, and give detailed advice on how to present and plate each dish so that it looks fabulous. The recipes themselves are fairly concise and clearly written - although some less experienced cooks might struggle a bit with the foamy sauces and quenelles. Glamour on a shoestring budget is the aim here, and that’s something all keen cooks will appreciate.
Meals in Heels by Jennifer Joyce
When throwing a dinner party for friends, it’s never a good look to be panicking over boiling pots as your guests arrive, and be too harassed to do anything but point them towards a drinks cupboard.
London-based food writer and stylist Jennifer Joyce aims to provide inspiration for all busy ladies who like to cook – the book’s subtitled ‘do-ahead dishes for the dinner party diva’. Yes, it’s an excruciating name, but this is still a great little cookbook.
Following a genuinely helpful tips section (garnishes, pacing, portions) and some menu suggestions, recipes are filed under canapés, starters, mains, stews and roasts, barbecue, sides, sweets and basics.
Everything is geared, of course, to making dishes well ahead on the day – or even days before, and is presented with serving or other recipe suggestions. Recipes are clear and easy to follow – and they work.
Skewered chicken yakitori was delicious, while the West Indies chicken with mango salsa was outstanding and has been made several times since. A Goan curry was made, as suggested, two days in advance, and absolutely delicious when assembled after a rushed day at work.
It’s a shame then, that the premise and illustrations are so silly. While there are very few illustrations of the actual food, there are plenty of a long-limbed cartoon woman posing in perfect apartments or in front of ordered fridges, deciding on which frock to wear or enjoying alfresco summer drinks.
It’s a cookbook to use, and to keep. Just stash it behind the ones you’d admit to having until the redesigned reprint comes out. And if you’d like a taste of her food, you can find it at the Meals in Heels blog.
Fusion: A Culinary Journey by Peter Gordon
‘Fusion food’ had its heyday in the 1990s, and few were sad to see it go. It’s easy to retrospectively mock the fad with its mix-up of culinary styles, but when done well, fusion cooking is imaginative, creative and exciting.
Few have championed fusion cooking as ably as Peter Gordon, the New Zealand-born chef who launched London’s era-defining Sugar Club in 1996, and who is now co-owner and consultant chef at Providores. For Gordon, fusion cooking was never just a trend, but a creative approach to cooking that he’s still putting into practice. Nor is the cross-pollination of ingredients and cooking techniques particularly new, as Gordon points out.
The book is more than just a collection of recipes – there’s a great deal of autobiographical material from the well-travelled Gordon. Turkey, Japan, Spain and Malaysia/Singapore are covered in most detail. The recipes are as cunningly conceived as ever. Gordon’s a master at pulling together strands from various cuisines and weaving them into something that tastes and looks marvellous, but which never lapses into outlandishness.
Recipes such as coffee, and liquorice-braised white meat with quince and mushrooms; or roast butternut squash with Turkish-style poached eggs with yoghurt-and-chilli butter demonstrate a keen understanding of how and why certain ingredients work well together. The recipes really work too, although you may have to spend some time tracking down the ingredients in the Middle East.
Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape by Gordon Ramsay
Ramsay’s latest book, a spin-off from a television series, is inspired by regional Indian home cooking, street food stalls and regal feasting.
The 100 recipes are for curious entry-level cooks as well as experienced hands on the look-out for unusual spice combos, as Ramsay’s gone beyond the curry house in his search for authentic recipes.
There’s a decent spread of coastal specialities, teatime snacks and sweetmeats, relishes, vegetarian staples, meaty masalas, breads and grains. Evocative photography capturing memorable street scenes is interspersed with striking food shots. Mark Sargeant and Emily Quah have worked wonders in standardising recipes, substituting hard-to find ingredients and adapting methods for modern kitchens without detracting from base flavours.
Fish specialities are star players; favourites include Bengali-style mustardy prawn and tomato curry, or garlicky crab claws cloaked in sticky, golden-hued spiced onions.
Although recipes are mainly traditional, modern interpretations are carefully integrated. If you cook just one fish dish, make it sautéed john dory fillets with red curry sauce – I found it simple to make, but saucily complex in flavour, and notable for its toasted fenugreek flavour cut with tart tamarind and coconut.
There are a few hiccups – the inclusion of coconut-stuffed Peshawari naan (a British invention) is tough to justify.
This is a book for aficionados of all things spice: the recipes are properly tested, the instructions clear and the photography is a visual feast. My copy is already smudged with turmeric – a good omen.