Cookbooks for Christmas
Dec 17 2010 By Richard McComb
Don’t be put off by the quote on the cover of Stevie Parle’s My Kitchen: Real Food From Near And Far (Quadrille, £14.99). It’s not the inoffensive quote itself (“Stevie Parle is a fresh and fabulous new talent”) but the person it’s attributed to (Nigella “Bonkers” Lawson). Worse still, we learn Lawson hosted Parle’s “word-of-mouth” (but probably only if you’re impossibly posh) supper clubs.
My Kitchen is part of Quadrille’s New Voices in Food cookery list and is designed to be stylish, cool and unhesitatingly aimed at a younger audience. Think the This Life generation for 2010 and beyond. I found some of the lifestyle advice a bit trite (but I am over 40), such as the Christmas tip: “I think it is nice to give someone something you have made. Quince paste and preserved lemons make nice presents ...” I’d rather have socks, please.
But the boy (he’s 24 now) clearly knows his stuff: info on morels, wild tempura, game and Vietnamese sandwiches picked up from his far-flung travels and cooking at The River Cafe and Moro. Ignore me, I’m just bitter – My Kitchen is actually a relaxed, informative read with some lovely drawings.
In a similar informal, chatty vein is food blogger Julia Parsons’ A Slice Of Cherry Pie, Food, Friends, Life (Absolute Press, £16.99). It’s a beautifully presented book, in a girlie kind of way, and is a great gift for a youngish social media type. Parsons has worked together some of her favourite recipes, including, naturally, cherry pie. (“Eat a slice of it warm with cold vanilla ice cream and tell me the world isn’t a better place.”). There’s good advice for making proper gravy. Your roast will be transformed.
Two big-hitting native chefs, Michel Roux Jr and Jason Atherton, tap into the drive for affordable homespun gastronomy.
Roux’s Cooking With The Master Chef (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25) is a self-help manual for flashy food for your family and friends. The two-star Michelin chef has reworked some of his signature dishes and French classics so they can be delivered in a domestic kitchen without the need for three sous chefs. There are breads, delightful starters and salads (chicken liver parfait, rabbit rillettes, spicy crab and glass noodle salad), tasty meat dishes such as seven-hour leg of lamb (plenty of red wine, brandy, port and veal stock) and some stunning desserts.
But I love the fish section. Turn to page 121 for a simply fried pollack fillet. It’s so easy I could cook it – and the page looks edible.
Ex-Maze maestro Atherton, who is launching his first solo venture in Mayfair in the new year, says his Gourmet Food For A Fiver (Quadrille, £14.99) can deliver just that – two courses for a glamorous night in for less than a £5 a head. You can go the whole hog with three courses which, in the chef’s words, “won’t exactly leave you feeling strapped for cash.”
Atherton hopes to make entertaining chez vous even easier by providing menu suggestions based on the 80 recipes in Gourmet Food. Looking for a two-course winter menu to impress the bank manager? Try confit duck legs with orange, ginger and watercress followed by crème brûlée with prunes in Armagnac.
Dorling Kindersley can be replied on for clear step-by-step instruction and Cook Step By Step (£25) does just that. The book sets out to fill the domestic void left by The Generation That Forgot to Cook. It’s unfussy and is similar to Hornby’s What To Cook in approach. It’s compendium publication is The Cook’s Book of Ingredients (DK, £30), which offers a useful insight into produce, and what to look out for/avoid.
There are 2,500 ingredients picked from world cuisines to ensure you know your gizzards from your goose barnacles. With the interest in Asian cookery showing no signs of tailing off, the sections on herbs and vegetables are particularly useful, with four pages alone devoted to chillies.
This year’s turkey? It’s got to be Gordon Ramsay. A thoroughly miserable 12 months for the ubiquituous chef dredges new depths with Ramsay’s Best Menus (Quadrille). The book comprises 156 of Gordo’s favourite recipes for starters, mains and desserts, displayed on bizarre sliced pages, the idea being that you mix and match sections to come up with 140,000 different menus. It’s a presentational nightmare. Best Menus is priced £20 but will be discounted everywhere. In fact, you can have mine.