If in doubt about what to buy me for Christmas, a cooking-related book is ALWAYS welcomed with open arms. They are piled up around the flat, in the kitchen, next to the bed, by the loo. As well as using them to actually cook from, I tend to dip in when in need of inspiration, to brush up on some long forgotten theory, or good old escapism. Can't get to a beach in Thailand, a quick leaf through a Thai cookery book is an interim quick fix.
I thought a quick round up of the books that arrived in my stocking this Christmas would be in order.
"Made in India" - Meera Sodha
2015 is the year of dal. I am addicted to the stuff. Having recently become hooked to dal makhani courtesy of Jai Krishna in Stroud Green, I am keen to whip up a batch myself using the recipe in this book,alongside a batch of chapattis, and some rather wonderful sounding lime pickled onions.
"Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management" - Mrs Beeton
This was in fact a present from me to Symonds (and in no way a comment on her already spectacular household management skills). It is an oldie but a goodie. Don't let the opening, and rather curious, section on "the mistress of the house" and what she should wear at breakfast put you off. Obviously there are quite few idiosyncrasies and a lot of the information seems outdated. That said, there are quite a few gems between the covers. Gooseberry trifle or mutton pudding? I might however leave the recipe for "hodge podge", cheap blancmange, boiled calf's head or their tips on dressing tripe.
"Umami. The fifth taste"
Firstly, I'd be shocked if I ever cook anything from this book. Having said that, everyone should own it. You can't read recipe titles like "Fire roasted eggplant and squid caramel" or "Paiche 'aji negro' and Amazonian roots" and fail to get excited. The ingredients may be seriously obscure (unless you regularly forage in the Amazon) but the photography is stunning. In an El Bulli-style, the recipes are phenomenally complicated but, if you read between the lines, there are definitely techniques and flavour combinations that can be taken and used in a simplified form.
"Duck and waffle" - Daniel Doherty
From the books in my stocking this Christmas, this is likely to be the one that I turn too most regularly. It is a good mix of ideas that I haven't heard of and reinventions of more familiar dishes. Top on the hit list is the title recipe of duck and waffles, closely followed by piggy fritto misto and ox cheek and apricot jam doughnuts. Neither very vegetarian nor January detox-compliant but likely to be total yummers.
"Persiana" - Sabrina Ghayour
Think Ottolenghi but with more meat. This is a fantastic cook book, giving you flavour combinations that are alien to a European palette. I have started dreaming about the rice dishes where the cooking technique involves generous amounts of butter to create a crunchy layer of crisped rice. Again, hardly in keeping with a restrained January!