This summer’s harvest of cookery books is satisfyingly unpredictable, but all the better for that, says Leslie Geddes-Brown.
The Magic Fridge
Alex Mackay (Bloomsbury, £26)
I like Alex Mackay’s unexpected take on recipes, probably because I’m an ingredient-based cook. His method in The Magic Fridge is to take one basic food – cheese sauce, ratatouille, baked beans or soy-and-honey glaze, for example – and suggest ways of using it, either with brief suggestions or full-length recipes. Croque Madame for cheese, cassoulet for baked beans and so on. I’ll certainly put this on my shelf.
Thomasina Miers (Guardian Faber, £25)
With her background as chef-owner at Wahaca, a Mexican chain in London, Thomasina Miers is hardly a meat-and-two-veg cook. Readers of her new Home Cook need to be near a multi-cultural street market to find ingredients, as she’s inspired by Vietnam, the Middle East, Japan and, of course, Mexico. Once sourced, however, her mixed ingredients are used fairly simply and very spicily.
The Great Dixter Cookbook
Aaron Bertelsen (Phaidon, £24.95)
To make the best of The Great Dixter Cookbook, you will need a vegetable garden as the first 50 pages are a guide to growing the ingredients. Aaron Bertelsen has been at the famous Great Dixter garden for 10 years and, usefully, he lists varieties and problems (pigeons love borlotti beans, for example). His recipes are simple and make the best of ultra-fresh produce.
Modern British Food
Jesse Dunford Wood (Absolute Press, £20)
I’m not sure what Jesse Dunford Wood set out to do with Modern British Food. He says taking British classics ‘and reinventing them’, which sounds a mite arrogant. However, he brines his pork chops, adds cream to his scrambled eggs and citrus fruits to halibut (a delicious idea) and creates ‘black pudding’ made of chocolate. The result is an inspiring series of recipes that might encourage you to experiment with your own reinventions.
Traditional Cooking of Ireland
Biddy White Lennon and Georgina Campbell (Lorenz Books, £14.99)
Traditional Cooking of Ireland makes no claims about reinventing dishes. Instead, we get a history of the country from its first settlers 9,000 years ago, who found plenty of shellfish and game birds, hares and wild pigs. The book includes an up-to-date guide to Irish cheeses – a surprisingly large number from Ardrahan to Knockalara – and to Irish whiskey. Congratulations on this overall survey. I can’t wait to try the lobster dish Dublin Lawyer, so called because lawyers can afford the crustacean.
Nieves Barragán Mohacho (Penguin, £25)
Sabor is the name of the Spanish chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s new restaurant (she was the chef at Barrafina before). This is a lush, but accessible, selection of her Spanish dishes, from Catalan cod salad to Arroz con Leche. Excellent, both for those who already love Spanish cooking (especially Basque) and for those who want to try it out.
Carla Capalbo (Pallas Athene, £29.99)
Carla Capalbo is better known for her Italian food books, but in Tasting Georgia, she travels to Georgia. She describes the country’s (violent) history, wines and cuisine. Herbs such as basil and dill abound, but there are also eccentricities, such as jon-joli, the fermented buds of the Georgian bladdernut tree and ground petals of French marigolds. The Georgians are great foragers for wild mushrooms, nettles, smilax and other greens and their recipes are beguiling: simple, with exotic notes.
Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards
Mimi Thorisson (Hardie Grant, £25)
It’s a bit of a relief to come back to French country cooking with Mimi Thorisson’s Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards (Hardie Grant, £25). The author and her husband started a restaurant in
a remote village and these are its recipes.
Like many of this crop of cookbooks, the photos (by her husband Oddur) centre on local life – even the Thorissons’ dogs feature. I sigh with relief that the recipes are for quiche not quinoa and souffles not spelt. French cooking at its most charmingly typical.
The Oxford Companion to Cheese
Mateo Kehler (OUP, £40)
The Oxford Companion to Cheese is edited by Catherine Donnelly, a professor of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Vermont in the USA. It covers unlikely subjects, such as the sexual imagery of cheese, cave maintenance and addiction to cheese, so it has a wide sweep, but what it doesn’t do in its 849 pages is give any recipes. Useful to cheesemakers, but not to cooks.
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