Cookbook reviews: Read well, eat well – live well

It’s all connected, and easier than it may seem, according to the books featured in this month’s Cooking the Books. Check out our delicious reads section for the how-to.

Egg Shop: The Cookbook

Author: Nick Korbee

Publisher: William Morrow

Price: RM154.90

cookbookBuilding on the success of Egg Shop the restaurant, Egg Shop: The Cookbook aims to share the popular New York eatery’s ovo-centric favourites with fans of the place, as well as a more global audience that simply likes eggs.

The restaurant’s chef, Nick Korbee, is responsible for this delightful offering, which has a litany of egg-cellent recipes incorporating the humble egg, from classic ones like poached eggs, scrambled eggs, and devilled eggs to more elaborate fare in which eggs are just a component, like the delectable-looking chorizo and eggs, shakshuka, huevos rancheros, and the sinfully hedonistic salted caramel bacon bread pudding.

The recipes seem easy enough to egg-secute (so many egg puns to choose from!) and the methods listed are detailed and provide lots of information so you don’t lose your way.

But it is the pictures that really tell the story – lots and lots of images that will make you feel so hungry, you’ll want to go straight to your kitchen and fry up an egg.

If you’d like to become an egg-ficianado (sorry, couldn’t resist!) or simply adore eggs in all their forms and permutations, make space on your bookshelves for this – trust me, you won’t regret it. – Abirami Durai

A Simple Table: Recipes And Rituals For A Life In Balance

Authors: Chi-San Wan & Natali Stajcic

Publisher: Yellow Kite

Price: RM174.90

cookbookThey say there are no coincidences.

Just as I was feeling extra harried, and reading Chris Chan’s Curious Cook column on the hidden additives in our food (with some horror – you’ll find it on page 10 of today’s Star2), A Simple Table found its way to me.

It must be some kind of serendipity – this book is all about calm and balance, achieved through wholesome food and ritual, an acknowledgement and reminder that food rituals can play a pivotal role in a mindful life.

Authors Chi-San Wan and Natali Stajcic are the founders of British handmade almond milk company The Pressery; in the candid, heartfelt introduction, they immediately come across as sensible and easy to relate to.

They aim for “mindful enjoyment”, via wholesome, unprocessed, and nutritious ingredients; recipes are made from just a few ingredients and generally don’t involve slaving.

As they write: “We enjoy everything about food. It is one of the things we have full control over.” That declaration of control is a luxury and only approaches truth if we take full responsibility for our food choices, for knowing where it comes from, and how it is made.

Wan and Stajcic don’t subscribe to food fads or extreme diets, and the recipes in the book are simple, easy to make, and versatile, ranging from mint and garlic chickpea soup for one and prawn burgers for a party to pantry/fridge staples like the almond milk they are famous for or anchovy spread or macadamia nut cheese.

The final chapter is dedicated to the everyday rituals that the authors use as “tools for life” – starting the day with warm water and lemon, oil pulling (which has its roots in Ayurvedic practice), and home-made face masks and face mists, among them.

A Simple Table presents delicious balance as being eminently achievable with a bit of effort. And it definitely deserves a place on your bookshelf and in your life. – Suzanne Lazaroo

Food52 Mighty Salads

Edited by: Editors of Food52

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Price: RM112.90

cookbookIf salad is something that you want to eat at lunch and dinner, look into this book for inspiration on how to toss up a new salad every day of the week.

While noting that you don’t really need a recipe to make a salad, the authors – the lettuce crunching team at online cooking site Food52 who ate through a mountain of salad for lunch for this book – thought you may want to follow someone else’s tried and tested ways, until you get the hang of it.

There’s no bad salad as far as I am concerned, but some are definitely better than others. The salads here are those that you won’t find in other cookbooks. You will soon create your own awesome bespoke numbers but by all means, base them on classics.

Learn how to develop a loose formula – rather than absolute recipes – that you can adapt to any kind of situation. You will not miss eating a steak, as this book is about how to “saladify” everything to get a meat, seafood, or pasta salad, blurring the line between main course and salad.

Working according to an adaptable formula also allows you to use up every scrap of leaf, bean, grain, ham, or nut lurking in the pantry or cool box.

One of the things people are jittery about when making a salad is the dressing, and this book has a long list of original dressing recipes, from curry yoghurt to sriracha miso mayo, and smoky tahini.

The book is also peppered with genius tips – like how to fix a less-than-brilliant dressing or making lettuce stay crisp forever in the fridge – and at the end of the read, your salad-making confidence will shoot up 200% or more.

Plus point: your cholesterol level will nosedive if salad is your new dinner, and fitting into that little black dress or slim-cut shirt will be less of a struggle. – Julie Wong

River Cottage Every Day

Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Price: RM149.90

cookbook“We all know that food can sometimes be wonderful. I think it should be wonderful every day.”

If you buy the hardcover, fabric-bound edition of River Cottage Every Day, that’s the quotable quote from author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall emblazoned on the cover. I really like Fearnley-Whittingstall’s approach in general, his refusal to compromise on seasonal and ethically-produced food.

“Good food prepared from fresh ingredients – ideally seasonal and locally sourced – can and should be at the heart of every happy, healthy family kitchen,” he writes. Since we live in a time when food scares and food scams – from fake eggs and rice to potentially deadly puffer fish sold under a pseudonym – are frighteningly commonplace, this message has never been more relevant.

So his take is to share his own everyday meals; since he lives in Britain, much of his local produce is obviously not going to be ours – rhubarb, apricots and blackcurrants obviously grow in the cooler parts of the world. But the lion’s share of recipes are made with ingredients that can be local and easily attainable in Malaysia, and the whole point of River Cottage Every Day is to be easily adaptable to what you have on hand. As well as being fairly quick and easy.

Golden cornbread; tartiflette toasties with bacon, cheese and potato; slow-roast beef brisket with potatoes and onions – they’re all easily made with local produce, packed with wholesome appeal.

There’s a lovely, extensive selection of vegetable recipes; veggies are too often relegated to being mere sides so it’s nice to see them get the attention and thought they deserve to become meals in their own right.

Photos provide ample inspiration. The roast pork belly with coriander and fennel crackling and two versions of cranachan – a whisky-laced pudding of toasted oats, honey, cream, and fruit – had me quite impatient to get into the kitchen. – SL

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