These are not your ordinary recipe books, mind you. In fact, you’ll probably want to get yourself a copy too...
A Year Of Good Eating; The Kitchen Diaries III
Author: Nigel Slater
Publisher: Fourth Estate; 560 pages; RM118.90
Does the world need more recipes? Well, Slater asked himself that question and presents the answer with the third volume of his kitchen diaries series. The book flows like a beautiful novel that is a collection of all the good things that Slater has eaten over the last few years; added to that is a trove of recipes and moments he wants to share with his readers.
In this book, he bakes, he stews, he stir-fries, he roasts, and even surprises himself with new methods and ingredients. He writes that the book has a plethora of vegetables, grains, and fish dishes that his parent’s generation wouldn’t have known. And he seems obsessed with spelt, miso, and freekeh, all of which he uses generously in his recipes.
If you want to enjoy Slater’s latest work, you musn’t be afraid of words because this non-pictorial, text-heavy book can seem daunting. Yes, there are gorgeous photographs of food in the book, but not all recipes are visually represented. So you have to try the recipes with the hope that they will tastes as good as how Slater describes them. .
He chronicles every day of the year with a recipe – from New Year to New Year’s Eve, and 365 days in between – so you can attempt to re-create A Year Of Good Eating yourself at the beginning of 2016. Good luck! – Sharmila Nair
Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes
Authors: Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns
Publisher: Chronicle Books; 366 pages; RM152.90
Balla and Burns are fiercely loyal to making anything and everything by hand. The book is a snapshot of the menu at Bar Tartine, their San Francisco restaurant where collective creativity thrives and authenticity is seen as a slippery concept that exists to be evolved and interpreted.
Their kitchen is a project kitchen where something new is always brewing and the technique section of the book records all of this. Their ammunition is an arsenal of powders – green onion powder, black garlic powder, yoghurt powder, burnt bread powder, etc – and dried, fermented or sprouted foods, all made in the kitchen to be used to layer flavours into their food.
Want to make your own bottarga? Feta cheese? Vinegars? Infused oils? The other half of the book elaborates on the recipes using the homemade products in Techniques so you can’t begin to cook anything until you have made the basic ingredients but the food looks really interesting and wholesome. So get cracking. Now I just need Santa to leave a dehydrator under the tree. – Julie Wong
Bistronomy: Recipes from the Best New Paris Bistros
Author: Jane Sigal
Publisher: Rizzoli; 237 pages; RM181.77
Brush up on bistronomy (bistro + gastronomy), that movement that began in 1992 and is still making waves in France. Sigal defines it as French casual fine dining characterised by refined and inventive food, a relaxed attitude, and scaled down prices. Her story traces the journey of bistronomy superhero Yves Camdeborde and his influences, to the second wave brought on by Basque-French chef Inaki Aizpitarte.
While Camdeborde’s food was still classic French cooking, Aizpitarte combined unlikely partners on one plate. His neo-bistro Le Chateaubriand was the ideas factory pushing this cultural shift. The spirit of bistronomy is perhaps best summed up by Daniel Rose of Spring: “It’s 20% about the cooking and 50% about the buying; the rest is about cleaning and organising.” Buying refers to the obsession with products, super high quality and preferably sustainable and local. This means new ways of sourcing through small producers, directly or through slow food purveyors. And it’s not just about caviar and truffles but the ordinary onion and radish.
The 100-odd recipes in this book are selected for the home cook. That means only recipes that do not require technical equipment or exotic ingredients. “These recipes are proof that French cooking is alive and well and living in Paris,” sums up Sigal in this definitive book. – JW
Everyday Super Food
Author: Jamie Oliver
Publisher: Michael Joseph/Penguin Books; 312 pages; RM142.95
Oliver has already published 16 cookbooks and yet he claims that his latest work, Everyday Super Food, is the most personal book he has ever written. He reveals that he personally underwent a complete journey through the world of health and nutrition in order to write the book. I have to say he does look healthier in his latest TV appearances.
One quick flip through the book and, yes, you can tell that Oliver has gone to the “light” side. There are no recipes of anything drenched in oil or thick slabs of meat cooked in piggishness. The food in the book looks clean, minimalistic, and healthy. But instead of feeling turned off by his new approach, I felt inspired and, heck, even excited to try out some if not all of the recipes.
There is a photograph – taken by Oliver himself – to accompany every dish, and if the colours and the styling of the food don’t attract you, the simplicity of the recipe will. There are about 30 breakfast, 30 lunch, and 30 dinner recipes, all of which Oliver believes will fit within a daily structure of calories.
And the book does not just contain recipes for food prepared the healthier way, but also acts as Oliver’s medium to spread his gospel on eating right. – SN
Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change The Way You Cook
Author: Kristen Miglore
Publisher: Ten Speed Press; 271 pages; RM122.90
Food52.com is a regular stop on my daily online food crawl. The site – which was started as a community for cooks – has interesting articles, it’s pretty to look at, and its database has enough not-your-ordinary recipes to make it appealing.
Many of them appear in the Genius Recipes column, which features recipes from both established and lesser-known authors and chefs. But what you get is more than a list of ingredients and instructions for what to do with them. Kristen Miglore, who writes the column and researches the recipes, also includes an assessment of what makes each one outstanding – in other words, genius.
The column is always a delightful and educational read – little wonder then that it was nominated for a James Beard award, the highest honour for food and beverage professionals in the United States.
Now, 100 of the column’s greatest hits have been compiled into a book. Each one comes with tips, shortcuts, and mini recipes. You’ll find unexpected ways of using an ingredient (some recipes only have one ingredient!) or a really unusual cooking technique that will make you rethink that recipe you always thought was perfect.
Miglore once wrote that a recipe is genius if it will change the way you cook. The ones in this book will definitely make you consider it. – Jane F. Ragavan
Authors: Yotam Ottelenghi & Ramael Scully
Publisher: Ebury Press; 352 pages; RM129.90
If you follow Ottelenghi’s recipes in British daily The Guardian, you’ll know they’re vibrant, photogenic, and actually not all that hard to make. In Nopi – which Ottelenghi worked on with Malaysia-born Ramael Scully, the head chef of his restaurant Nopi – this isn’t necessarily the case.
In his introduction, Ottelenghi himself acknowledges that many of the recipes from the book will be challenging for home cooks. And while not all of them are daunting – the butter bean mash with rosemary and garlic seems promisingly easy – others can seem overwhelming. Like the tuna skewers with coconut mochi cakes and carrot and yuzu salad, which serves six but probably takes about four hours to cook and assemble!
What’s great about the book is that every single recipe has a gorgeous full-page photograph, which makes for easy reference. The recipes are thought-provoking and offer interesting East-West interplays that speak volumes about the chefs’ backgrounds, like the spiced buttermilk cod with urid dhal. The anecdotes and useful tips before each recipe also help reel readers in, especially when Ottolenghi throws in lines like “Customers come to Nopi for this dish alone”, which obviously means you oh-so have to make it!
The chapters cover the gamut from starters, salads, fish, meat, vegetables and brunch recipes. An added bonus? There’s even a chapter on cocktails! – Abirami Durai
Author: Gaston Acurio
Publisher: Phaidon Press; 432 pages; RM186
In Peru, international restaurateur and celebrity chef Gaston Acurio gives us a behind-the-scenes look into what makes the country tick, gastronomically. It certainly helps connect the dots, because Peruvians and Latin Americans as a whole always seem so full of life. And this begs the question: What are they eating over there? Well, you’re about to find out.
There are things you would never think of, like Caldo De Cabeza, or lamb head broth, which calls for an entire lamb or sheep head and is considered a hangover remedy! Or the Sangrecita, or cooked chicken blood, which is apparently creamy. Other interesting recipes include one for a fried fish roe sandwich, which sounds absolutely delicious, and Parihueala, a seafood soup popular in Peru.
As most of the recipes don’t ring a bell, it would have been nice if there were more photographs in the book to help navigate the unfamiliar territory, but that’s understandably a tall order as it is already over 400 pages long!
A firm believer in his native cuisine, Acurio has been credited with putting Peruvian food on the map. And with this book, he’s certainly done a good job of introducing it on the global stage. – AD
Phoenix Claws And Jade Trees
Author: Kian Lam Kho
Publisher: Potter; 368 pages; RM104.93
Kian learnt how to cook as a defense against bad Chinese food when he left Singapore to live in Boston. He wrote this book after travelling through China to explain fundamental Chinese cooking techniques to Western cooks. But even Chinese cooks will find it hugely illuminating.
Kian dissects the techniques with the eyes of an aerospace engineer. The popular flogger (redcook.net) maintains there are at least eight stir-frying methods in Chinese cooking: dry stir-fry and moist stir-fry as opposed to dry-fry, flash fry and scramble stir-fry, etc. For the first time, someone is giving us the right vocabulary to explain Chinese cooking methods and cuts that makes perfect sense: velveting and pass-through techniques; oil and water steeping; ying-yang frying; pan-frying; liu and peng; red cooking; men, dun, and wei braising; salt baking and smoking, and the list goes on.
One of the best Chinese cookbooks of recent years and a must for all non-Chinese speaking Chinese cooks. – JW
River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers
Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 336 pages; RM120
TV celebrity chef Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book is a timely reminder of one of the biggest problems in the developed (and developing) world: food wastage. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally every year. Although Fearnley’s book isn’t the immediate solution to a larger problem, it offers alternatives. “Take a more leftovers-centric approach because each meal can beget another,” he says. Which makes total sense, actually.
Love Your Leftovers begins with useful advice on storing different ingredients and creating “planned-overs”, which are essentially meals you make while making other meals. Then it delves into easy tips, tricks and recipes for curry, stock, and other essentials and how to store them for the long haul.
The book also has original recipes where leftover ingredients are the hero, including inventive offerings like the crispy fish skin sandwich, where fish skin is used to replicate the texture of bacon; and potato peel soup, which Fearnley describes as “miraculous”. The “Storecupboard Leftovers” chapter is particularly useful, as it gives you multiple ideas on how to use up random edibles in your pantry.
If you – like many of us – are guilty of overbuying, hoarding, and ultimately wasting food, get this book and start chomping down on guilt-free leftover meals. – AD
Author: Nigella Lawson
Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 402 pages; RM124.90
At a quick glance, the recipes seem too wordy and made up of just paragraph after thick paragraph of instructions for dishes seemingly as simple as a bowl of salad. But when you read the recipes (in Lawson’s deep voice, of course), it feels like a segment of her television show in which she explains the ingredients and her dishes. Seasoned cooks may find all that explanation unnecessary, but kitchen newbies can certainly benefit from the pro tips she shares.
If you have seen recent photographs of Lawson, you can tell that she looks healthier, and she credits the food she has been consuming for this – and she has diligently noted it all down in Simply Nigella. This book, she said, is her way of practising mindful cooking, whatever that means to you.
You will find a slew of made up terms like “brocollified” guacamole in the book, but they won’t distract you from creating wholesome, healthy and uncomplicated dishes.
The photographs are simple and feature the dishes in a very minimalistic set-up. That is good and pretty encouraging for those who want to imitate her style of plating and food styling. – SN
Tacos: Recipes And Provocations
Author: Alex Stupak & Jordana Rothman
Publisher: Potter; 239 pages; RM139.90
There's Old El Paso taco and then there’s push taco – taco with soul and character. Coming from a pastry chef who cut off an arm “to force myself to learn to use the other” you know there will be pushing of limits. It would have been too easy for Stupak to go the modernist ways of his mentors – Grant Achatz, Wylie Dufresnes – so he chose to provoke with a professional reversal from sweet to savoury and modernist to traditional Mexican.
Stupak’s Empellon (“push”) Taqueria is pushing through stale ideas about what Mexican food is or needs to be. From this white boy from suburban Massachusetts comes tacos on steroids: handmade tacos with kickass toppings. First, you grind field corn to make your own masa flour for the tacos. The topping recipes can go deep into tradition or be wildly inventive.
To make Cochinita Pibil tacos, a fire pit is dug in the backyard and lined with stone or brick, and a whole pig is buried. At this point, Stupak sniffs and talks about the emotional ownership that develops when you take time to do things the ancient way. While his tacos are inspired by street vendors, they take the dish to a whole new level. – JW
The Art Of Fermentation
Author: Sandor Ellix Katz
Publisher: Rizzoli; 498 pages; RM214.90
This is the book driving much of the recent interest in fermented food in the chefy world. Jane Sigal in her bistronomy timeline enters the publication of the book as the significant event of 2012: “Sandor Ellix Katz writes The Art Of Fermentation and every cook on the planet buys it.”
More praise comes from Michael Pollan: “Since falling under the spell of Katz’s fermentation evangelism, I have launched big crocks of sauerkraut and kimchi, mason jars of pickled cucumbers, carrots, beets ... jelly jars of yoghurt and kefir....” Pollan calls Katz a “post-Pasteurian” having us renegotiate the terms of our relationship with the microcosmos, as fermenting is a way to engage with the fungi and bacteria world. “To ferment your own food is to lodge an eloquent protest – of the senses – against the homogenization of flavours and food experiences.”
Katz sees fermentation as a co-evolutionary force, his knowledge mostly based on DIY experiential learning. Whether it is yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, vinegar, beer, or even soy sauce, miso and tempeh that you wish to learn to make to improve your health or live longer, it starts with this influential book, a bible of fermentation no less, which has demystified fermentation for thousands. – JW
The Broad Fork: Recipes For The Wide World Of Vegetables And Fruits
Author: Hugh Acheson
Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 336 pages; RM122.90
While the book design is beautiful, I probably wouldn’t have given it more than a passing glance, largely because a vegetarian/fruitarian diet doesn’t appeal to me, and the title alone seems to dictate that this is what you should expect from the book. Thankfully, what you see is not what you get in this instance.
Top Chef judge Acheson has stitched together a panoramic picture of just how vegetables and fruits can be star players, part of his “becoming a better food citizen” plan. The chapters are divided into spring, summer, autumn and winter based on what’s available each season, with at least four recipes devoted to each vegetable. The vegetables and fruits featured include common ones like apples, broccoli and okra and lesser known ones (in Asia, at least) like sunchokes, endives and morel mushrooms.
The recipes look delightful and Acheson has clearly given a lot of thought to how fruits and vegetables can be advanced to new degrees. You only need to look at his enoki custard or the snapper ceviche with apple and lime to get an idea of how his mind works.
This is a wonderfully entertaining book, one that features enticing recipes designed to let vegetables and fruits worm their way into your stomachs, palates, and eventually, everyday meals. – AD
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
Author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd; 960 pages, RM222.90
Almost 1,000 pages? We wouldn’t blame you for thinking Lopez-Alt must have been a little bit mad to think anyone would have the time or inclination to leaf through this vertiginous encyclopaedia. But you must! Because it is definitely a rewarding read. Lopez, the managing culinary director of popular website Serious Eats, knows exactly what he’s talking about and it shows in this hardcover version of his James Beard-nominated column of the same name.
The book provides the ABCs of cooking, not once assuming you have prior knowledge of any subject. This gives readers the fundamental knowledge required to think like chefs and produce chef-worthy food without going through the rigours of cooking school.
There are plenty of recipes, from simple fare like scrambled eggs to a delicious-looking roasted pumpkin soup, but – and here’s what makes this book different from most – each one is prefaced by useful information and scientific facts. You’ll learn why steaks need to be rested after cooking, how to taste olive oil and just why egg yolks, Dijon mustard and oil transform into mayonnaise. If you love food and really want to know how things work in the kitchen, this is a culinary bible you’ll need. – AD
The Hot Bread Kitchen
Authors: Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez
Publisher: Potter; 301 pages; RM149.90
This book rollercoasters through the world, sweeping up some of its most exciting breads. It makes you realise there are more flatbreads in the world than you think, from spongy Ethiopian injera made with teff flour to Jewish matzo and Moroccan m’smen.
Find ancient bread making techniques that aren’t seen much anymore, like the Persian crispy barbari flatbread (on the book’s cover) which allows a great crust without having to introduce steam in the oven.
Hot Bread Kitchen is a social enterprise in Chicago that provides a life-changing education and opens doors for low-income minority women. The bread sold pays for the training.
The breads are inspired by the very women the mission trains. The idea was to bake regional specialities you can’t find everywhere, using recipes passed down by generations of women.
There are recipes from 20 different countries for ethnic breads and toppings that go with them, and also tips on running a social enterprise. You’d be biting into the human spirit and what makes us rise with this book. – JW
Reviews are by Star2’s food editor Julie Wong and food desk writers Sharmila Nair and Abirami Durai, and Star2.com’s food channel curator, Jane F. Ragavan. All titles courtesy of – and available at – Kinokuniya Bookstores, Suria KLCC.
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