Cooking the Books: ‘Tis the season for festive cookbooks

  • Living
  • Sunday, 20 Dec 2020

One of the packed-full-of-flavourful recipe books on offer at a discount in this month's roundup of cookbooks. — Recopy

Get your copy of Sunday Star today, Dec 20, 2020, for a 25% discount on these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in StarLifestyle.

Complete Baking

Author: Caroline Bretherton

Publisher: DK

Price: RM145

This mammoth tome (it weighs a ton!) is devoted to the subject of baking in all its forms, from cakes and cookies to slices, baklava and savoury tarts. There is almost nothing in the baking world that isn’t covered in this massive repository.

So expect to discover recipes for old school favourites like pecan pie, strawberry shortcake, banoffee pie, gingerbread men, flapjacks and brownies as well as lesser known treats like ginger cake, stollen, wholemeal cottage loaf and challah.

The book is also host to a myriad of savoury bakes, running the gamut from parsnip and parmesan bread, four seasons pizza, and spiced lamb pies to pita crisps, to name a few.

The good thing about the more elaborate recipes in the book, like homemade apple pie, is that pictorial guides are provided, depicting exactly how to make the dish from start to finish, which gives you a precise indication of what it should look like at different stages, a great additional bonus if you’ve never made something like it before.

All in all, the book offers a very thorough introduction to baked goods in all their permutations, ensuring that both newbies as well as seasoned bakers have something to look forward to when they dig into this voluminous treasure.

Everyday Fresh Meals In Minutes

Author: Donna Hay

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Price: RM190.90

In the world of cookbooks, Donna Hay is as prolific as they come, often churning out a couple of books a year. The famed Australian food stylist and author is also known for producing recipes that are easy to execute and typically feature beautifully photographed dishes – two qualities that have become the hallmark of any Donna Hay publication.

In her latest endeavour, Everyday Fresh Meals In Minutes, both are in evidence once again. In fact, Hay doesn’t bother dithering over long prefaces with explanations of ingredients or preparations. Instead, she dives straight into the recipes, which all have a focus on freshness and, more pertinently, speed.

There is lots to try out here, from East to West and things that straddle the continental divide. Check out for, instance, recipes for zucchini three-cheese ravioli with baked tomato sauce, chickpea patties with miso mayonnaise and carrot slaw, spinach souffle omelette, minted lamb, eggplant and feta pie, black bean Bolognese, Asian spiced lemongrass pork, and baked chocolate tofu cheesecake.

There’s nothing overly complicated about any of these recipes – all are easy to put together and require few ingredients, which is why, as Hay promises in her title, they make for meals in minutes.

Ultimately, if you’re after easy-peasy, reasonably inventive meals with a focus on fresh ingredients for your family, this little book will be a great way to start off 2021.

Nadiya Bakes

Author: Nadiya Hussain

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Price: RM127.95

Television presenter and cookbook author Nadiya Hussain is a familiar face in Britain after winning the 2015 season of popular reality TV show The Great British Bake-Off. Since then, she has gone on to host a series of cooking shows including Nadiya’s British Food Adventure and Nadiya’s Family Favourites.

In this delightful cookbook, Hussain returns to her baking roots with over 100 recipes for breads, cakes, biscuits, mini cakes, tarts, pies and so much more. While most of the emphasis in the book is on sweet treats, there is also a chapter devoted to savoury bakes, so expect to see recipes for baked chilli churros, onion pretzels and spiced squash strudel alongside honey cake with salted hazelnuts, banana ice cream cheesecake with blueberry compote, and drenched rose cake.

The recipes are inventive and slightly off the beaten track – just enough to whet your appetite without putting you off totally with their foreignness. Ingredients and methods are simple and easy to digest and the introduction to each recipe is short and sweet, making this book ideal for people looking to whip up delicious baked concoctions without having to skim through a million rules and lists.

If you’re after a cookbook to add to your baking repertoire or to gift to a friend who likes to bake, this is a guaranteed winner.

Ottolenghi Flavour

Author: Yotam Ottolenghi

Publisher: Ebury Press

Price: RM157.25

Celebrated Israeli-English chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi is the owner of famed restaurants Ottolenghi, Nopi and Rovi in Britain and has made vegetables a bit of a cause celebre in his neck of the woods, frequently championing them in his recipes for The Guardian newspaper as well as at his eateries.

In Flavour, Ottolenghi’s skilled hand with vegetables is once again on show. The third book in his vegetable-centric series, the cookbook follows in the footsteps of Plenty (2011) and Plenty More (2014). The preface details exactly what sort of ingredients you should choose to extract the best flavour out of vegetables as well as the different processes and pairings involved in attaining maximum taste out of produce that quite often doesn’t have much to boast of on its own.

The recipes are truly beautiful to behold – each one is a riot of colours, with gorgeous contrasts and just so much visual appeal, you’ll want to head straight to your kitchen to make them.

Some highlights in the book include meals like herb and burnt aubergine soup; braised greens with yoghurt; olive oil flatbreads with three-garlic butter; butternut, orange and sage galette; and sweet and sour sprouts with chestnuts and grapes.

The recipes range from fairly simple to a tad more complicated, but thankfully, none are page-fillers that you would never attempt at all – and there’s a singular charm to each recipe that probably means you’ll bookmark it for later.

If you’re after a more vegetable-friendly diet in 2021, this is the perfect book to get you acquainted with the greener side of life.

The Hand And Flowers Cookbook

Author: Tom Kerridge

Publisher: Bloomsbury Absolute

Price: RM229

There are inspirational cookbooks and then there are aspirational cookbooks. This extensive collection of recipes from acclaimed celebrity chef and television presenter Tom Kerridge, who runs the two-Michelin starred gastropub The Hand and Flowers, definitely falls into the latter category.

The eponymous book covers a panoply of meals designed and curated by Kerridge in the 15 years that his pub – renowned for good, refined food – has been open.

The meals in this book are not for fearful cooks or neophytes just finding their footing in the kitchen. If you’re attempting the recipes in this book, courage (and perhaps a drink or two) are mandatory. Because these recipes are quite daunting, with each dish requiring no less than three different component parts, all of which need to be assembled together to create a complete meal. Recipes are broken down into these individual parts so that you can tackle each bit as you go along.

Highlights to look out for include cured belly of pork with cauliflower puree and pickled cockle dressing; pigeon and foie gras en croute with gem lettuce and pickled girolles; cod with artichoke puree, smoked cod’s roe, hazelnuts and golden raisins; and mango and strawberry lasagne with violet ice cream.

Truthfully, some of the ingredients – like pigeon, rabbit legs, bronze leaf gelatine, Lyonnaise onions and dandelion leaves, for instance – might be a little tricky to find in a Malaysian neighbourhood supermarket, so you might end up having to cheat or substitute with whatever’s more readily available. But then again, it isn’t every day you get the chance to cook meals that have earned their creator two coveted Michelin stars!

So if you’re looking to wow the socks off family, friends and dinner guests with meals designed to stun, you can be sure this book will not disappoint. Just be prepared for a lot of graft to get the pretty-as-a-picture end results.

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