Food News

Favourite cookbooks of 2012

We've scoured the shelves, dog-eared the pages – now here is the Gourmet Traveller editorial team’s favourite cookbooks for 2012. Santa, please note.


***Todd Selby (Abrams, $45, hbk)

I’ve long been a fan of Todd Selby, a photographer who documents the lives of creative people in their homes and studios on his website, So as soon as I saw his new book, Edible Selby*, I knew it was for me. Featuring legendary and quirky eateries from St John and Noma to Mission Chinese Food and Violet Cakes, Selby’s candid photos, illustrations and interviews capture the passion, creativity and sheer obsessiveness of the people behind these establishments. They’ve even provided colourful handwritten recipes; the one from Brooklyn’s Mast Brothers on how to make chocolate at home seems like the perfect place for me to start. Anna Vu, art director


***Naomi Duguid (Artisan, $55, hbk)

I put an order in for this one sight unseen. The books Naomi Duguid wrote with her then-partner Jeffrey Alford about eating and travelling in Asia (Beyond the Great Wall, their exploration of the cuisines of outer China chief among them) have more than earned their place on my shelf alongside the works of Patience Gray and Paula Wolfert. They’re books that paint a picture of a culture through food, and enrich their description of dishes through context. Rivers of Flavor* is no exception. It’s also packed to the gunwales with recipes that cry out to be cooked straight away. The salad of pomelo dressed with fish sauce, raw and fried shallots, shrimp powder and toasted chickpea flour was first cab off the rank, closely followed by the Kachin-style pounded beef with herbs and the splendidly named “peas for many occasions”. A feast. Pat Nourse, deputy editor


***Christina Tosi (Absolute Press, $50, hbk)

The list of ingredients in the Momofuku Milk Bar* cookbook includes Graham crackers, Ovaltine and Fruity Pebbles. Throw in some PB & Js (or a PB & J pie in this case) and it’s a sweltering New York summer all over again – me and my brothers running off some excess energy in our nonnina’s backyard, sneaking mulberries off their bushes to keep us going until the inevitable crash. Reading Tosi’s recipes, including Fruity Pebble marshmallow cookies and chocolate malt layer cake, brings the memories back in a sugar-coated rush. Looks like it’s time to add some more requests to the next care-package list (for the kids, not me…) and get baking. Robert Maniaci, online producer


***Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press, $49.95, hbk)

Jerusalem* is the third book by the folks behind London’s Ottolenghi restaurants. A flick through the pages makes you feel as though you’ve stepped out of your kitchen and into the bustling streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, the hometown of both Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The pair not only share their families’ cuisines in Jerusalem, but explore the many cultures and religions that make this city so rich and diverse. I can’t wait to try the red pepper and baked egg galettes and the cardamom rice pudding with pistachios and rosewater. Carli Fainsinger, designer


***April Bloomfield with JJ Goode (Ecco, $45, hbk)

The cover’s a good indication of what’s to come in A Girl and her Pig*. After all, a chef dressed in her whites with a suckling pig draped over her shoulders isn’t going to be plating candied violets with tweezers. As the introduction says, these “are not deconstructed or creatively reimagined dishes. They’re exactly what they promise to be”. And they’re exactly what I like to eat: pancakes with bacon and chilli, duck-fat potatoes, lamb meatballs with yoghurt, eggs and mint, and banoffee pie. April Bloomfield, of New York’s cultishly adored Spotted Pig and The Breslin, appears throughout the book in a butcher’s apron and admits to being not much one for presentation. So the pretty illustrations are a bit of a surprise. But clearly Bloomfield loved them, and so do I. Who wouldn’t love a drawing of a pig in gumboots? Katie Stokes, subeditor


***Tess Mallos (Hardie Grant Books, $59.95, hbk)

Including chapters on Cyprus, Turkey and Greece in a book about Middle Eastern cooking may raise eyebrows, but if anyone could get away with it, it would be the late, great Greek-Australian culinary champion Tess Mallos. Four generations of my family have diligently cooked from her seminal books, namely 1976’s Greek Cookbook and 1979’s Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook*, which Mallos updated for republication just before she passed away in July. That’s four generations of us furtively claiming her impeccably prepared dishes as our own “authentic” family heirloom recipes, and, in doing so, ensuring that’s exactly what they’ve become. I’d like to think Mallos would be rather pleased about that. Bianca Tzatzagos, deputy chief subeditor


***Kylie Kwong (Penguin Lantern, $59.95, hbk)

Weeknight dinners need no longer be associated with meals of the average sort. Kylie Kwong’s latest cookbook puts the ease into Chinese. In an easy-to-follow yet beautiful format, Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking Class* demystifies basic stocks and sauces, noodles and dumplings. The only problem with it? Deciding which dish to cook first. I’ve got my eye on the crab omelette with pickled white radish and fresh herbs. Maya Kerthyasa, editorial coordinator


***Neil Perry (Murdoch Books, $49.99, hbk)

It’s especially at this time of year that I’m after inspiring entertaining ideas and while the recipes in Easy Weekends* might be Neil Perry’s, every one sounds achievable and delicious. Think char-grilled baby octopus with olives and hand-pounded pesto, Greek-style custard tart, and easy apple tart. Perry covers all kinds of entertaining, from a simple Friday dinner or Sunday breakfast to an Asian banquet designed to serve eight or more with ease. Brooke Donaldson, senior designer


***Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, $49.99, hbk)

It’s always a pleasure when Nigel Slater releases a new book. His quiet, self-deprecating voice is refreshing; his simple dishes equally so. This second volume of The Kitchen Diaries* is hefty, full of insight into Slater’s kitchen on an almost daily basis. I read Slater’s books from cover to cover before I even dream of cooking from them but, that said, I’ve earmarked many pages for a rainy (or sunny) day. Slater’s approach is entirely seasonal (we southern hemisphere dwellers need to switch seasons accordingly), so when the weather’s right I’ll be turning to the diary entry titled “Sour, hot, crisp, soft. A sandwich for the senses”, and the one that swiftly follows: “A piquant soup for a Finnish sky.” Emma Knowles, food and style director


***Jane Webster (Penguin Viking, $59.95, hbk)

*We all have dreams and Jane Webster’s story proves that sometimes they come true. Webster, a Melburnian, has written a charming story about her long-held ambition to own a château in France. Her ambition came to fruition when she bought a 70-room residence in Normandy with her husband and four children. The impossibly beautiful photographs of the home’s impossibly beautiful rooms (do people really live like this?) are complemented by recipes of simple French classics such as chicken liver pâté and Norman crème brûlée. Part travelogue, part cookbook, it’s the ultimate in château porn. Anthea Loucas, editor


***Matt Wilkinson (Murdoch Books, $49.99, hbk)

*This delightful book, by chef Matt Wilkinson of Melbourne’s Pope Joan, is an A to Z of vegetables. Wilkinson turns the humble cabbage into a luxe coleslaw with golden spiced quail Kiev. That’s right – the recipes here aren’t exclusively about vegetables, but they’re the highlight. The gorgeous illustrations along with the tips on gardening and different vegetable varieties will inspire your garden to grow this Christmas. Hopefully I’ve sown the seed for Santa. Alice Storey, food editor


***Andoni Luis Aduriz (Phaidon, $69.95, hbk)

*Will I ever attempt, let alone master, any of the recipes so beautifully detailed in Mugaritz? The likes of the “tomato centre impregnated with mastic resin and infused in its own stock”, “carrots cooked in clay, perfumed ashes and grains”, or “edible stones” are unquestionably beyond me. But that’s what makes leafing through these pages, recalling an incredible afternoon spent at Mugaritz, so special. I remember the namesake oak tree shading the courtyard and the scent of the kitchen garden. But my keenest memory is the inherent rigour of the experience, the intellectual challenge thrown down to us by the Mugaritz team. It’s Andoni Aduriz’s innovation, not my (lack of) culinary prowess, that’s the star of this show. Frances Hibbard, managing editor (travel)


***Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury, $55, hbk)

If you love Chinese – Sichuan in particular – food as much as I do, then Every Grain of Rice* has to sit on the top of your Christmas list. Fuchsia Dunlop applies her authoritative voice to traditional recipes with many layers of flavour and texture, such as General Tso’s chicken. I especially love that she’s assembled menu ideas at the front of the book to suit two, four or six people, so you’ll be all set for your Chinese New Year banquet. Lisa Featherby, senior food editor


***Fergus Henderson (Bloomsbury, $59.99, hbk)

*This new volume handily unites Fergus Henderson’s first two books, which made nose-to-tail eating part of the vernacular and saw him at the forefront of a resurgence in British cooking. He writes about food with warmth, wit and avuncular affection: “be firm but fair” he says of salads. This is an antidote to joyless, tricksy food, though Henderson can make a silky soup out of a pig’s ear. Toni Mason, chief subeditor


This article is from the December 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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