Food News

Favourite cookbooks of 2009

In another busy year for food publishing, there were some shining stars you’ll want under your tree – to give or receive. Here are the brightest, hand-picked by the GT editorial team.

Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart
George Calombaris, New Holland, hbk, $50.
George Calombaris brings the taverna into the home with his latest book, which captures all the energy and fun of his Melbourne eatery Hellenic Republic. The signature casual Greek dishes are all here - dips, moussaka, the famed lamb souvlaki with chips - but Calombaris presents them with a light, modern touch. The chapter featuring his mother's Greek-Cypriot recipes is a high point, shining a light on this lesser-known regional cuisine in dishes such as kolokotes (pumpkin pies fragrant with cinnamon and sultanas). Has this struck a chord with me because I have a vested interest? Probably. My family's from Cyprus so Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart has already had a good workout in our kitchen. Anthea Loucas, editor

*The Silver Spoon for Children
Phaidon Press, hbk, $29.95.
The kids probably won't be giving us the night off any time soon with a perfectly prepared Italian-style lamb roast. But the beauty of
The Silver Spoon for Children* is that it has distilled the best of the classic Italian cookbook and illustrated it in such a way that they can start small (with the prosciutto and melon) and work their way up to the big stuff… eventually. Robert Maniaci, web editor

Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking Companion
Paul Allam and David McGuinness, Murdoch Books, hbk, $69.95.
There's a statistic which notes that, on average, just a single recipe is cooked out of each cookbook. If that's true, then Bourke Street Bakery is rare in being a recipe book I could cook from cover-to-cover. It helps to be familiar with this Sydney institution's wares, but it's not strictly necessary. One look at the mouth-watering photographs of, say, the chocolate mousse tarts or the signature lamb and harissa sausage rolls, and you'll be reaching for the flour, butter and eggs. Emma Knowles, food director

Everything but the Squeal: A Year of Pigging Out in Northern Spain John Barlow, Wakefield Press, pbk, $24.95.
Hog-diggity. Who can resist an epic tale of gluttony? Not me. Barlow sets out to eat every piece of the humble pig - unmentionables excluded - in age-old dishes ranging from the delicious to the just plain disturbing. This personal ode to pork is also a love letter to the people and countryside of Galicia. Just don't read the slaughter chapter on a full stomach; it may turn you vegetarian. Tracey Laity, deputy chief subeditor

Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table
Amanda Hesser, WW Norton & Co, hbk, $37.95.
If there's one thing I enjoy more than a holiday spent eating, it's a holiday spent reading about eating. This collection of short food-related essays by US-based writers - Tom Perrotta, Kiran Desai and doyenne-of-the-moment Julia Child among them - originally featured in The New York Times Magazine and is ideal for even the most attention-deficient holiday-maker. Definitely one for the beach bag. Bianca Tzatzagos, subeditor

Foxeys Hangout Cathy Gowdie, Hardie Grant, hbk, $45.
Behind every glass of wine lurks a world of stories - about the country the grapes were grown in, the people who made the wine, the food that tastes best with it. Foxeys Hangout, a memoir (with recipes) of one family's experiences establishing a vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, captures this broader context beautifully in honest prose and evocative photographs. Max Allen, wine editor

MoVida Rustica Frank Camorra & Richard Cornish, Murdoch Books, hbk, $59.95.
Only Frank Camorra could make traditional Spanish cooking look this cool. MoVida Rustica is packed full of amazing photography and stories that transport you right into the heart of Spain where you meet the people and places that have inspired these dishes. Best of all, it's one good-looking book. From the typography to the patterns and photos throughout, it's a designer's cookbook. Anna Vu, senior designer

Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion Stephanie Alexander, Penguin Books, hbk, $125.
Strawberries have just appeared as tiny green nuggets on the plants I grew from seed - such joy. The Kitchen Garden Companion captures the pleasure that food gardeners experience with every successful harvest. In her down-to-earth (really) style, Alexander dispenses frank advice and even sex education - "...break off the male flower, bend back its petals and press it against a female flower," she writes of hand-pollinating kiwifruit. Recipes show off every root, leaf, flower and fruit, and each ingredient is photographed in the garden and on the plate. True to its name, this book has become my constant (and much-loved) gardening companion. Kerryn Burgess, chief subeditor

Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way Francis Mallmann, Artisan Publishing, hbk, $79.95.
Seven Fires has the look and feel of a classic. I love Mallmann's intimate description of his journey from haute cuisine back to a style of cooking that is not only part of his own heritage but instinctive to the human race. The title refers to the seven different styles of cooking with fire explored within; for me the pinnacle is the whole grilled beef carcass, raised and lowered over the fire via block and tackle. Not something you're likely to do yourself but inspiring nonetheless. Rodney Dunn, contributing food editor

*Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs
Phaidon Press, hbk, $75.
The premise: 10 chefs, including Australia's own Shannon Bennett alongside the likes of Ferran Adrià and René Redzepi, "curate" a collection of 100 contemporary chefs and their recipes. All these chefs are to cooking what haute couture is to fashion, and among the local talent are Martin Benn, Mark Best, Robert Marchetti, Andrew McConnell and Ben Shewry. With its "insider" photos and out-there recipes,
Coco* will have you utterly absorbed on Christmas Day while the rest of the family are still opening their presents. Monique Lane, junior writer

Snow Flakes and Schnapps
Jane Lawson, Murdoch Books, hbk, $69.95.
As delicious as these recipes look, I'm not planning on cooking from this book. Like the author, I'm a self-confessed Scandi fan, and I love this coffee table tome for its immaculate design, from the typography to the incredible eye for detail (look out for the "secret" snowflake on every spread). Before summer has even begun, I'm already dreaming of a white Christmas. Lou Fay, creative director

*Ad Hoc at Home
Thomas Keller, Artisan Publishers, hbk, $99.
This American chef's exactitude and unwillingness to compromise have made him one of the most lauded names in cooking.
Ad Hoc at Home presents the simpler, family-style food of his casual eatery of the same name with home cooks in mind, but it's not exactly Keller for Dummies* nonetheless. It's all about seeing this formidable technician apply the same armoury of skills to roast chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches as he does to the French Laundry's famously tricky cornets of salmon tartare with sweet red onion crème fraîche. (And it's a damned fine grilled cheese sandwich.) Pat Nourse, features editor

Tender Volume 1: A Cook and his Vegetable Patch Nigel Slater, Harper Collins, hbk, $59.99.
Nigel Slater has found the tender place in my heart with his first volume of the Tender duo. In a form a little like that of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, Slater pushes aside fussiness and froufrou to produce simple recipes for his ambrosial home-grown vegetables. My personal favourite is the Jerusalem artichokes fried in duck fat - Santa had better deliver. Alice Storey, assistant food editor

Eating with Emperors: 150 Years of Dining with Kings, Queens… and the Occasional Maharajah
Jake Smith, Melbourne University Publishing, hbk, $59.99.
Journeys have always captured me, whether real, imagined or taken through time via books and old photographs - as with this regally bound guide to the gustatory mores of world leaders past and present. Some of modern history's most significant events, and the mealtimes that accompanied them, are recounted in lively, sometimes gossipy style, from Queen Victoria's revolving breakfast table to the planting of the current White House vegie patch under the watchful eye of Michelle Obama. Accompanying each are paintings, photos, menu cards and recipes, bringing to life such crackpots as Ludwig II of Bavaria who invited imaginary friends to dinner before turning up inexplicably dead in a lake. Just spare a thought for the ortolan that was former French president François Mitterrand's last meal - the songbird caught alive in the traditional way, force fed in the dark and then drowned in Armagnac. What a way to go. Emma Ventura, deputy editor

Vefa's Kitchen Vefa Alexaidou, Phaidon Press, hbk, $84.95.
Its simplicity is what I find most inspiring about this Greek modern classic. Fabulously encyclopedic, it includes recipes for the icons of Greek cuisine, such as dolmades, pastitsio and moussaka, along with recipes for less well-known regional dishes such as an offal-filled traditional Easter soup from Corfu. Like Greek food itself, Vefa's Kitchen is honest, rustic and packed with salty and earthy flavour. Lisa Featherby, food editor


This article is from the December 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.