A short and sweet round-up of recipe books that feed our creative impulses in the kitchen.
As much as we’d like to spend every night of the week rotating through the menus at Britomart’s eateries, it’s a practice our bank managers frown on. So we’ve rounded up a few cookbooks that we keep coming back to when we’re in need of creative inspiration for a weeknight meal, a dinner party or a special occasion.
Ostro’s Josh Emett is a superstar chef in his own right, but in his recently released cooking compendium The Recipe, he brings together the expertise of more than 150 of the world’s top chefs. The book undertakes the ambitious project of compiling the world’s most important classic recipes, from prawn cocktails and risotto to Caesar salad and tiramisu to give the home chef a one-stop guide to gastronomic success.
Although many of the recipes sound reassuringly recognisable and don’t call for high levels of technical expertise, what many of them do demand is time - sometimes hours or days of advance prep. These aren’t meals you want to embark on at 6pm on a weeknight while trying to answer neglected work emails or get the kids to do their homework, but they are fabulous for a lazy Sunday afternoon or a well-planned dinner party. That said, the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara from Giorgio Locatelli is a seven-ingredient bowl of unctuous deliciousness that can legitimately be whipped up in less than 30 minutes.
How to Eat A Peach
Diana Henry is probably the best-loved British chef that you’ve never heard. She’s never had a TV presence like Jamie, Gordon or Hugh, or a Guardian column like Yotam, Anna and Nigel. But her recipes are wonderful – simple to make, robustly flavoured and – a surprising rarity in many cookbooks – usually function as full meals in themselves (ie they don’t require you to make two accompanying side-dishes). If you spent hours composing multi-course menus as a child, you will love the concept of this book, which pulls together multiple complementary dishes and beverages into elegant multi-course menus, accompanied by stories of the special moments or meals that inspired each one. It’s a book worth buying for Laura Edwards’ gorgeous photos alone, or even just the cover, which has the texture of peach fuzz.
The Modern Cook’s Year
With interest in vegan and vegetarian diets growing by the week, Anna Jones has become the plant-based go-to guru for thousands of hipster home chefs. Her 2014 and 2015 cookbooks A Modern Way To Eat and A Modern Way To Cook are brilliant starter guides for anyone wanting simple, fresh, weeknight-friendly recipes, and The Modern Cook’s Year, released in New Zealand in 2018, steps up the offering for anyone who’s keen to eat seasonally as well. Nourishing breakfast recipes are one of Anna’s specialties, and she also does a fine line in hearty vegetarian pies and sweet treats.
“Ottolenghi” has become a byword for inventive and fashionable modern Middle Eastern food, but as incredible as the recipes in the London-based chef’s previous books were, their often-extraordinary prep times made them more enjoyable to leaf through than actually cook from. That’s a minus for any cookbook, but particularly so here, given that this style of food works best as a communal meal, and you usually find yourself wanting to put three, four or more recipes together in an extravagant spread.
Simple fixes that problem, with recipes that retained Ottolenghi’s signature bold colours and punchy flavours while offering much more manageable time frames (and more accessible ingredients). You might even become so confident that you find yourself improvising on the recipes.
A one-time private chef to everyone’s favourite actress-slash-wellness-weirdo Gwyneth Paltrow, Kaiwaka-born chef Amber Rose’s latest cookbook focuses on using homegrown, gathered, foraged and fermented ingredients to create wholesome and flavoursome meals. The range of the recipes is the great strength of the book, with easy instructions for making everything from cultured butter, seed crackers, “cloud cheese” (a kind of paneer) and fruit kvass (a light, fermented drink) to fire-roasted pork chops and grapes with herb butter and buckwheat, radish and pomegranate salad. When we’re on a serious health kick but don’t want to feel like we’re on a serious health kick, this is the book we turn to.