I possess a fondness for the annual tradition of the gift guide.
Not because I find these useful tools in purchasing gifts for those I love (or at least, in the case of the obligatory work Secret Santa, tolerate) but because I am interested in the act of curation, of what is suggested and what is abandoned.
In that spirit, please allow me to offer a scrupulous selection of items to assist in creating, if not joy, than at least quiet satisfaction for both you and the object of your generosity.
A recommendation for all
Small Victories by Julia Turshen. This remains one of my most fondly regarded cookbooks. I continue to cook from it. I continue to think it is one of the finest cookbooks I have come across. I have not yet had the opportunity to form a relationship with Ms Turshen’s new book, Feed the Resistance, but I have heard wonderful things.
A duo of recommendations for harried souls
A New Way to Dinner. This book was the thing that finally convinced me to start our meal preparations on the weekend, thus freeing up a lot of time during the week. The recipes are solid, but the real point of this book is getting you into the habit of making hay while the sun shines.
Simple by Diana Henry. This elegant, thoughtful book contains strong and rewarding recipes that reference global flavours and clever techniques. Even more pleasingly, the recipes in the book are accessible and practical, even in the context of the clutter of the midweek. Ms Henry is an excellent author, and passionate lover of food.
Resources for the vegetable focused
Power Vegetables by Peter Meehan. This book, from the now sadly extinct Lucky Peach brand, is a smart and playful way of looking at vegetable based food. It does an appealing job of recontextualizing familiar recipes. It is also quite fun, in both writing and design, and would lead to some happy gift-giving day conversations.
On the Side by Ed Smith. Ignore the suggestion to just view this book as a book of sides. Instead, treat this book as an impressive collection of vegetable focussed recipes that work as well as the star of your meal as they do in concert with something else from the book. The design of this book is exceptional.
Final areas to investigate
As much as I would like to, the barriers of reality prevent me from reviewing every cookbook I come across. There are always a few titles that I am keen to see receive some attention and support.
Allow me to highlight a few titles that while not reviewed here, are promising and worthy of further investigation.
Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh
This beautiful cookbook is completely impractical to review: we would die from sugar induced madness long before we had cooked even a fraction of recipes. The recipe we have made, and the feedback from trusted friends, allow me comfortably suggest this as an excellent addition to the library of anyone interested in baking or sweet things more generally.
Dining In by Alison Roman
Disclaimer: I have not cooked a single recipe from this book. Yet. I have, however, mentally marked almost every recipe as being worth of cooking. Were it not for this and the general vibe of the book I would not have the audacity to suggest this title to you.
But I feel very excited about this book. It excites me in the same way Small Victories excites me: it is one of those rare books which perfectly intersects a lot of modern thinking and approaches to food, and does so with style and confidence. I cannot wait to cook extensively from this book.
River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers et al
I rarely buy books on the sole basis of how beautiful they are. And yet I fell utterly in love with the celebratory reissue of the iconic River Cafe cookbook and could not resist. This book is an utter riot of colour, playfulness, and joy.
Imagine my delight, then, when in concordance with the impressive reputation River Cafe posses, the recipes turned out to be some of the most thoughtful, considered Italian food you are likely to come across. We cooked the baked ricotta recently and I am still, tuning fork like, vibrating with delight.
The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater
December is, despite the reality of an Australian summer, the best time of year. It is a time of celebration, of reflection, of hope and of love. Since I was a child—and one with a very serious desire to receive a briefcase as a Christmas present—it has always been my favourite time of year.
The inimitable Mr Slater agrees: The Christmas Chronicles is a resolute love letter to what is, for many, the pinnacle day of the year. I am excited to return to this book in the middle of the year for a reminder that joy is always at hand.
As a final service, I am delighted to provide bespoke recommendations. Simply contact me via the form here and I will provide some thoughts on an ideal title.
This will be the last post for 2017. I look forward to returning in 2018 with more reviews.
Until then, sincere thanks for your support and company over the past year. May you be ensconced in a sea of mince pies and champagne over the next few weeks.