Cookbooks we love (and actually use)
Our staff share stories about their favourite cookbooks!
Pork and Sons is the archetypal pork cookbook. This book provides handy information into the history of the pig, the farmers and, of course, how to transform pork into meals suitable for any occasion.
In the book are 150 recipes presented by a three-generation-old family of pig butchers and farmers in rural France. Honestly, if my bloke didn’t work in data management, and didn’t reside in urban Melbourne, he would be out in some paddock wearing boots talking to pigs. He loves pigs and all that they give him: the roasts, the terrines and, in particular, the salamis. My little one gave him this cookbook for Christmas one year and it has remained a well-used reference item. My bloke has created sausages (yes he has his own sausage machine), ragus and pates. To this day, he will still laugh out loud as he reads a recipe. ‘Ah’, he’ll say appreciatively, ‘through this recipe they drink cognac.’
If you are after history, humour and delicious smells wafting throughout the neighbourhood (and have no aversion to small goods), this book is simply a must-have.
Reynaud has penned many other cookbooks as well and really, they are all brilliant. Here is a chef that understands his audiences. He celebrates food traditions illustrating enormous respect for the past and the future of modern French cooking. I do wish he would visit Melbourne. We would cook a feast for him.
In contrast to Chris’s above recommendation - I’ve been a vegetarian for several years now and so most of my cookbooks are meat-free. My two most-oft-referenced titles are Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.
Swanson’s recipes are simple, mostly healthy (there’s a particularly delicious recipe for pita bread chips which would call such a description into question) and helpfully sorted by ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, ‘Snacks’ etc. One of my favourite recipes from the book is for granola (and I don’t even like granola). In contrast, Ottolenghi’s recipes - even the ‘simple’ ones - are time-consuming. As someone commented to me recently, anything that requires you pluck the leaves of coriander is not exactly quick. Luckily, the dishes are worth the time and effort. A recent favourite is ‘Black Pepper Tofu’ which is very rich and delicious.
The second is Hetty McKinnon’s Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen which is inspired by the author’s community kitchen. The latter was put to good use recently when I had soften bring together a group of ingredients I wouldn’t have thought of by myself. Think ‘Cinnamon Pumpkin with Chickpeas, Tahini and Candied Pumpkin Seeds’ or ‘Ginger Peanut Kale with Tofu and Quinoa’. The Design Files recently featured a recipe from the book on their blog and you can find it here.
Like Bronte, I also adore Plenty. All of the cookbooks from team Ottolenghi deserve a mention – they are so nicely designed and Yotam himself is a generous cookery writer. The first book Ottolenghi: The Cookbook has the best recipe for baked eggplant with saffron yoghurt, and Jerusalem has very good meatballs with broad beans, a dish that, once you have sourced the rather long list of ingredients, is not too tricky to prepare, and is good to make when friends are coming for dinner – it is warming and homey, but still a bit special.
On Middle Eastern cooking, I was recently given Yallateef! by Marwa Makool.
Marwa is the head chef and owner of Oasis Bakery, a family-run cafe, bakery and grocer in Melbourne’s south-east. It is possibly my favourite food store in Melbourne – shop for specialty Middle-Eastern groceries before buying a Lebanese pizza or semolina slice from the bakery.