Less than a week to go before Christmas and I’m sure many of you still don’t have your shopping done. If your list still includes people who like to cook, I have a list of cookbook suggestions to fit almost any cuisine or skill level on this week’s edition of Food Matters.
I start getting some cookbooks sent to me in early fall, especially when Canadian authors start doing the rounds on publicity tours. But I also wanted to include some books that came out earlier in 2012 so I went to the world of social media and asked my Facebook foodie friends what their favourite cookbooks have been in 2012 and I got a long list of great suggestions, some of which were repeated a number of times so you know they have to be good.
Without doubt, the most recommendations were for Naomi Duguid’s book called ‘Burma, Rivers of Flavour’. She is one half of the team who wrote and beautifully photographed the Hot, Salty, Sour, Sweet Mangoes and Curry Leaves, and Seductions of Rice. Now she is out on her own and made several kind of surreptitious trips to Burma, or Myanmar, a country that up until a couple of years ago, was very closed and with a cuisine not well known to the rest of the world.
Another book that turned up high on the suggestions list this year was Jerusalem, a follow-up to the Ottolenghi cookbook of last year by London-based chefs and business partners Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They both grew up in Jerusalem, Ottolenghi is an Israeli Jew while Tamimi is a Palestinian Arab…and they share their stories of growing up in the city and all the wonderful foods that incorporate both cultures.
It’s easy enough to say the cuisine is Mediterranean in style…but the dish I brought in for Jo-Ann to taste has some very Canadian ingredients: Roasted cauliflower salad with toasted hazelnuts and maple syrup as a sweetener in the dressing!
There are also a few cookbooks that I’ve heard about but haven’t had a chance to go through, but this next one suggestion comes from CBC Vancouver producer Sheila Peacock who probably loves cookbooks just as much as I do! Her suggestion is the ‘Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’ by Deb Perelman, who has been writing the Smitten Kitchen blog for the past six years. Sheila posted a couple of photos from recipes from the book, and they looked so good I asked her about the book, here is her reply:
“It’s 5 wooden spoon stars! Like her blog the instructions are meticulous and the writing is warm, funny and lovely. Original recipes, but not weird. Stunning photos. It’s the best I’ve seen in a long time.”
Now a couple of books about food that aren’t necessarily cookbooks: ‘My Canada Includes Foie Gras’, by Jacob Richler, food journalist son of Mordecai Richler, who writes about his mother’s cooking, but also about the world of very fine dining he’s experienced in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Whistler. If you can eat his words, you’ll probably get fat on his descriptions. Then there is the ‘travel for food’ theme. A beautiful book from the people at Lonely Planet travel guides is called ‘Food Lovers Guide to the World’. Wonderful photos and advice on what you should eat wherever you happen to find yourself.
I picked up a book the other day which caught me by surprise. It’s called ‘Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy’. The greedy Italians are Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, both of whom are chefs in London, England and prolific cookbooks authors. Contaldo also happens to be the chef who taught a young Jamie Oliver everything about Italian cooking. The book is full of very simple recipes…not a lot of ingredients but I can tell just by looking at them, and the wonderful pictures, that they will be very tasty. The book is an offshoot of a BBC series of the two chefs wandering about Italy…greedily eating, no doubt! It’s a real steal, I think, at just 17.95.
I have two more TV-related cookbooks. One is called ‘The Little Paris Kitchen, 120 Simple but Classic French Recipes’. The author is Rachel Khoo, who is described in the jacket notes as a London fashion publicist turned Paris-based food creative, whatever that means. While she was testing the recipes for this book she opened a pop-up restaurant which had precisely two seats…oh, and they made a TV show out of it which has been airing on BBC Canada this month. The publicity for this book hails Rachel Khoo as ‘the new Nigella’, and there is no doubt she looks cute and sexy…the recipes are classic French for sure, but apparently a modern approach to Cordon Bleu cookery…so no lengthy pages of recipe like in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I have to admit they look pretty good.
Then there is the cookbook that doesn’t come from a cooking show! It’s the ‘True Blood’ cookbook. ‘Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps’, the town in Louisiana where all the action in True Blood takes place. While two real people came up with the recipes, they are written with headnotes from the characters on the show, with names like ‘Burning Love BLT’ and ‘Get You Some Wings and Fly Away’. Probably a cookbook for True Blood fans only, but also gives you some classic Cajun and Creole recipes at the same time.
Have a happy holiday season everyone, and if you want to listen to my chat with Jo-Ann, it should eventually turn up at this All Points West webpage. I’ll be back with another broadcast in the new year.