Size is the theme of this year’s cookery books, several of which outweigh the Bible. This is fine for quantity of recipes and photos, but you’ll need a lectern to use them, says Leslie Geddes-Brown.
Fortnum & Mason: The Cook Book
Tom Parker Bowles(4th Estate, £30)
At last, an English cookbook of which to be proud. No mention of kale or quinoa, but steak-and-kidney pudding, potted shrimps and boiled egg and soldiers. Tom Parker Bowles is a breezy writer with no pretensions, which makes this a most enjoyable read. An excellent present for a chap.
Harry Eastwood (Bantam Press, £25)
Despite the confusion— carneval means ‘goodbye meat’ and Harry is a lass— this meat book is highly informative. It tells me, for instance, exactly what ‘onglet’ steak is and how to make po’boys with shoestring fries. I’ll certainly keep this on my ‘to use’ shelf.
Antonio Carluccio (Quadrille, £25)
The well-known Italian chef says his motto is MOF MOF: minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour. The book is full of Italian classics, but there are plenty of new ideas, too. Try frittedda, a Sicilian stew for which baby artichokes, onions, peas and beans are put in a pan with parsley for 20 minutes— that’s all.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Taste of France
Carol Hilker (Cico Books, £16.99)
An unlikely book, but who could miss James Joyce’s beef tea, T. S. Eliot’s duck à l’orange or even Scott’s tomato soup with added wristwatches? As you might expect, it’s good on cocktails, such as Dorothy Parker’s Champagne Punch.
Recipes from the Woods
Jean-Francois Mallet (Phaidon/Larousse, £29.95)
I thought foraging for food was just a passing fad until I read this. It includes venison, pheasant and partridge, all available from my supermarket. Blackberries and herbs are not a problem, although wild mushrooms are (why, when Italian greengrocers have baskets-full?). The recipes are so beguiling and the beauties of autumn in the photographs so evocative that I’m converted. And I love the tartan cover—I have a jacket to match.
Gill Meller (Quadrille, £25)
Gill is a chap, chef at the River Cottage. His book is a bit pretentious and goody-goody, but the dishes are inspiring. However, you need loads of cheek to forage other people’s wild garlic and finding squirrel to roast isn’t easy. Andrew Montgomery’s photographs make it all worthwhile.
Food for All Seasons
Oliver Rowe (Faber & Faber, £20)
The author worked at Moro with experience at Chez Panisse in California. His book also relies on fashionable foraging for rosehips, medlars and, again, wild garlic. Like other chefs, he just assumes we can buy fresh wild mushrooms. However, the dishes are seductive: how about parsnip-and-apple soup with gin?
Brindisa: The True Food of Spain
Monika Linton (4th Estate, £29.95)
Everything you need to know about Spanish food from a writer who has spent 28 years finding out. Jamón, olive oil and cheese are all exhaustively explained. Good recipes, too, such as apple gazpacho, braised chard stalks and anchovies served in their colourful tins. It’s a big book and requires a good tapas for energy before lifting.
George Calombaris (Penguin/Lantern, £25)
The designers should be shot before lunch. Greek cooking by an Australian is a difficult enough concept without unreadable recipe titles and sploshy primary colours. I guess the actual dishes are bonza, but it’s hard work getting there.
Cooking with Loula
Alexandra Stratou (Artisan, £20)
Rather more helpful is this guide to Greek cookery by a Greek/American who works as a private chef. The recipes are friendly (although why her taramasalata isn’t of smoked roe I don’t know) and have a Greek touch that isn’t too disturbing. The photographs are charming.
Provence to Pondicherry
Tessa Kiros (Quadrille, £25)
Tessa Kiros, a much-travelled cookery writer, had the brilliant idea of visiting the old French colonies and provinces to see how they had been influenced by Gallic cuisine. She gets around. Not just the Provence and Pondicherry of the title, but Vietnam, Guadeloupe and La Réunion. In a single book, we have Indian, Eastern, Caribbean and, rather surprisingly, Norman dishes. The designers have made the most of the variation with atmospheric pictures.
Land of Fish and Rice
Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury, £26)
The writer specialises in authentic Chinese dishes that the beginner can contemplate without panic. She includes appendices on ingredients and equipment, adding that most are available in Chinese supermarkets. As many towns can summon such a shop, we can now find lotus roots, lily bulbs and silver-ear fungus. Go on, give Buddhist roast goose (without a goose) a try.
River Cottage A to Z
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cottage team (Bloomsbury, £40)
You need a lectern to cope with this monster, whose ‘team’ includes writers Mark Diacono and Gill Meller (see above). It’s not exhaustive—I keep hoping someone will write about Urfa and Aleppo chillies—but has lots of new ways with old favourites—as it should at more than 700 pages.
Mark Greenaway (Relish Publications, £30)
Have chefs got above themselves? At Restaurant Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh, your prawn cocktail comes in a bowl made of ice and a duck dish involves eight separately cooked essentials from purple carrots to fig purée. In his introduction, Ian Rankin says ‘great thought has gone into every dish’, but perhaps it would have been better with less.