As I’ve said, before, cookbooks tend to provide inspiration rather than recipes I’m likely to actually follow. The urge to cook comes upon me swiftly; often when the pantry is bare so it’s usually very unlikely for me to have much in the long, exotic list of ingredients in cookbooks.
Doesn’t mean I don’t like to look though. Or to find recipes that I can adapt to my meagre pantry supplies. Some in my collection are pure food porn (Alinea, Quay and Noma spring to mind), others are more batter-spattered, testifying to their use as at least a springboard for something that is just as likely to end in disaster as success. (through my own fault, not the recipes.)
So, here are some books I like, in no particular order. Would love to know your faves…
Culinaria Russia (H Fullman publishers $24.95)
-I’ve not seen this sold anywhere else but Ruski Way Eastern European deli in Buranda, Brisbane. Love it-Eccentric but informative and I adore the pics. So different from our food styling. However, the index in the back is complete nonsense; it’s quicker to flick through the book to find what you want than use it.
La Cucina -The Regional Cooking of Italy (NFI of price as slipcover has disappeared but think it was pretty exxy).
This is also a bit of a maze but so worth it. I lived in Italy and spent a lot of time there holidaying there even after I left, but am constantly amazed by the rich variety of Italian food I knew nothing about. The Accademia della Cucina Italia (The Italian Food Academy) created this brick-sized book by sending around dozens of members- to create a food ‘census’ in every city and tiny Italian village; to preserve forever cooking traditions that may have only ever been passed down orally. Here’s a few examples: pizza w crackling and raisins (Calabria) Gnocchi w goose sauce (Umbria) and potato and meat pie from Alto Adige. I love this book fiercely.
Jamie’s 30 minute meals, Penguin Books
The journalist and marketeer in me loves this as much as the cook. Bloody brilliant idea. Write a recipe like you’re talking to the punter; standing there saying ‘first put on your water to boil’. Makes readers feel secure and hell, they can cook a three course meal they can be proud of. I know it’s gimmicky, but I love Jamie’s ‘lug of olive oil’ type cooking and the results look achievable and delicious. Simple, no faffing about food.
Revolutionary Food-Fuschia Dunlop
Both a blessing and a curse this one. The former, because it opened my eyes to Chinese cuisine beyond the Cantonese and westernised regional Chinese that is so ubiquitous here.
She has a beautifully lyrical voice that expresses a genuine love, and deep understanding on Chinese food. On the downside-it’s like having good sex for the first time. I’ve been looking for that elusive Chinese tastegasmicness ever since. Usually with disappointingly flaccid results.
Women’s Weekly Bake
I always start off referring to this when I want to bake, cos I’m rubbish at it. Then I realise I have no baking powder or plain flour or whatever it is that is required and substitute and it doesn’t turn out. The times I’ve actually followed recipes to the letter have worked perfectly. Seriously, you can’t beat the WW.
Greg& Lucy Malouf
All their books are just stunning, -Saha, Turquoise, Saraban and their newbie, New Middle Eastern Food. Lickable. I am actually going to cook a middle eastern feast soonest.