Surveying the top cookbooks of 2016, Pat Nourse finds much to like. Here's a selection offering plenty of grunt along with the gloss.
1*Land of Fish and Rice*
Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury, $49.99)
After painting captivating portraits of Sichuan and Hunan, Fuchsia Dunlop, the author of easily the most compelling writing on Chinese food in English today, turns her attention to the bounty of Shanghai and the Lower Yangtze region. The mix of recipes balances fare perfect for weeknight eating (steamed eggplant with garlic dressing) with recipes for the lesser-seen likes of wild rice stems and the "extremely complicated" squirrel fish.
Must cook: Hangzhou breakfast tofu.
Gill Meller (Quadrille, $49.99)
British River Cottage alumnus Gill Meller has managed that rare trick: the cookbook that offers something interesting and cookable on every page. Open it at random and the eye falls on such gentle twists as oat biscuits with sheep's cheese and rosemary or bacon braised with cuttlefish and bay.
Must cook: blackberry, saffron and honey drop scones.
Virgilio Martínez (Phaidon, $85)
This one is more for the reading as a brilliant travelogue than the cooking, unless you have a reliable local source for queñual bark, Bahuaja nut oil or ichu grass (excellent, we're told, with tunta). Given that this is a document of the cuisine of Central, the Lima eatery leading South America's charge into global gastronomy, though, it's entirely fitting.
Best sentence: "Here we freeze ingredients that are often part of shamanic rituals..."
4*The Truffle Cookbook*
Rodney Dunn (Penguin, $59.99)
The brilliance of GT contributor and Agrarian Kitchen founder Rodney Dunn's work here is that even though it's the book on black truffles, dishes such as corned beef with lentils and the salad of soft-boiled eggs, fennel and radishes work perfectly even without the addition of the black gold.
Must cook: steamed treacle, date and ginger pudding with truffle custard.
5*Best Kitchen Basics*
Mark Best (Hardie Grant, $59.95)
Mark Best routinely blew minds and won hearts with his edgy cooking at Sydney fine-diner Marque. Here, though, it's all about turning everyday meals into something special, whether it's chocolate jelly, roast lamb with chamomile or ricotta dumplings.
Must cook: Sauternes custard.
6*A Spot at the Bar*
Michael Madrusan & Zara Young (Hardie Grant, $45)
Easily the best Australian cocktail book published to date, A Spot at the Bar documents the refreshments served at The Everleigh in Melbourne in rare style and with superb design. It's all the richer for digressions into women's footwear, social etiquette and buttered radishes.
Must shake: Gin Gin Mule.
7*Australian Fish & Seafood Cookbook*
John Susman, Anthony Huckstep, Sarah Swan & Stephen Hodges (Murdoch Books, $79.99)
With GT fish-whisperer John Susman and former Fish Face chef Steve Hodges on board, this chewy volume was always going to have authority; its flair is a welcome surprise. It's dense with detail, but is (fittingly) never dry, and fresh flavours leap from every page.
Must cook: pot-roasted whole John Dory with wild garlic.
8*A Recipe for Art*
John Olsen (Thames & Hudson, $39.99)
It's a bit unfair, really, that a man this talented with a brush should also be so handy with a kitchen knife. The great Australian painter's travels and life in the kitchen are traced here with equal vigour in recipes and art.
Must cook: "A golden paella twisted with raspberry-coloured langouste cooked in an abandoned farmhouse by the beach."
Our first-ever hardcover cookbook showcases our favourite menus for celebration. Join the party!
Must cook: fried mortadella sandwiches! Beetroot soup with burrata! White-cut chicken with chilli oil and peanuts!