It’s been a few months since my last # cookbook chat and my shelves are currently heaving with all the new additions I’ve purchased or received over the past few months (if my husband is reading this – they were mostly gifted, I swear!). I know I’m not the only one. Summer and Christmas are a killer combination when it comes to cookbook sales in Australia. In fact, in December the Australian Retailers Association predicted that Australian cookbook sales would rise 50% during the pre-Christmas period. When you think that in Australia we sell more than 3 million cookbooks annually, that’s a lot of cookbooks!
Here’s what I’m reading and cooking from at the moment:
// Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb
An admission: I have a huge girl crush on Annabel Crabb so I’m going to buy anything she writes, whether it’s a cookbook or a political treatise. The premise of her book is based on her TV show, Kitchen Cabinet, in which she takes a dessert to the home of the politician she’s interviewing. Every recipe in Special Delivery comes with tips for how to transport the food, as well as beautifully written headnotes in her distinctive witty, intelligent voice. In addition to a fabulous collection of recipes, there’s also a helpful section of what to take to every conceivable occasion from barbecues and parties to new parents, the bereaved and unwell. Try: spiced nuts, all the cakes!
// The best of Gretta Anna with Martin Teplitzky, by Gretta Anna
Growing up, my all-time favourite meal was my mum’s lamb roast with crispy lemon potatoes, which in truth was Gretta Anna’s lamb roast with crispy lemon potatoes. My mum had all the Gretta Anna books; I believe they were something of a publishing sensation when they were released in the ’70s and ’80s. Although the original books were text-heavy and contained few pictures, this didn’t stop them from selling more than 200,000 copies. It’s wonderful to see her son, chef Martin Teplitzky, rework her books to suit modern tastes, including new photography and a mix of Gretta Anna’s classic recipes plus some of his own. Try: racks of lamb with garlic, lemon and rosemary.
// My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl is one of my food heroes, so you can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to meet her at a cooking class at Eataly when I was in NYC back in September. Reichl was famously retrenched when Gourmet magazine folded back in 2009, and this book is part-memoir, part recipe journal of the dishes she cooked in the year of upheaval that followed. Reichl’s strong voice weaves a compelling narrative throughout the book; themes include grief, family, and identity. A cookbook you can pick up and read like a novel from cover to cover. Try: easy ‘Bolognese’.
// The Cook and Baker by Cherie Bevan and Tass Tauroa
Based on the Bondi bakery of the same name, this book is a gorgeous collection of baked goodies including biscuits, slices, cakes, pies and tarts – some familiar, some not so much. The owners of The Cook and Baker, Bevan and Tauroa, both hail from New Zealand, so there is strong a Kiwi influence throughout – think lolly cake (my kids would go crazy for this) and Louise cake (a slice with shortbread, raspberry jam and coconut meringue). Their shortcrust pastry recipe has become my new go-to recipe, and I’ve made every quiche recipe in this book. A must-buy for any home baker. Try: ginger oaty slice; bacon and egg quiche.
// Sepia by Martin Benn
Although in all honesty I will probably never make a recipe from this stunning cookbook, I love Sepia for its incredible production values and insights into the life of a restaurant and its chefs and owners. Martin Benn takes readers back to the start of his career in the UK, and we retrace his footsteps as he migrates to Australia, works with Tetsuya among others, and goes on to create one of Australia’s most acclaimed restaurants. Recipes are broken into menus, and anecdotes are weaved throughout the book – restaurants as theatre, the impact of a review, and hilarious guests all feature. With its high-impact photography and refined food, this is serious food porn. Try: if you dare.
// Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson
When I heard Nigella’s new book was about “feel-good food”, I was intrigued. Could Nigella be jumping on the healthy eating bandwagon? It didn’t seem her style. But in her introduction to Simply Nigella, Nigella is quick to point out that the idea of “clean eating” is anathema to her, and that she simply was at a point in her life where she wanted to eat food that made her feel strong. Read into that what you will. The recipes are collected into chapters such as “Quick and Calm”, “Breathe” and “Bowl food” and feature an abundance of vegetables, meat, seafood, and pickles (which Nigella describes as “the new love in my cooking life”). Dare I say it, but this is one of my favourite Nigella cookbooks yet. Try: chicken and fennel bake.
// The Kitchen Diaries III by Nigel Slater
I love everything Nigel Slater has ever written, so I couldn’t resist requesting his latest book, the third instalment in his Kitchen Diaries series. Like the others, he traces his home cooking throughout the year and across the seasons. The writing is the focus here – there are few photos, and every entry is more a story or a reflection, with a recipe attached. Although I wouldn’t describe this as family food, I found plenty of recipes that I could adapt for my kitchen. One for Slater fans and lovers of good food writing. Try: green olive and thyme focaccia.
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