...is one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such proliferation. They are automatic best sellers, since the book can be flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But because most of these books are American, they use only US volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out. The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks". There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work at home, but how could that be? The books all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a lot of food photo shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other celebrities in magnificent cases of logrolling. If resources are cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –
13.NATURALLY NOURISHED (Appetite by Random House, 2017, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01646-6, $32.95 CAD hardcovers) is by Sarah Britton, who had previously written the My New Roots cookbook. She's a prominent holistic nutritionist and writer, born in Canada but now living In Copenhagen. These are easy to prepare vegetarian dishes, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. In addition to the text and preps, she also did the photography. It's arranged by course: soups, salads, mains, sides, small plates, savoury and sweet snacks – all along with a pantry and further ideas. There's harissa-dressed massaged kale, roasted sweet potato and butter beans, grilled eggplant and mushrooms, and baked feta with olives, peppers and tomatoes. Yummy stuff. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric (mostly) and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
14.RICK STEIN'S LONG WEEKENDS (BBC Books, 2016, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-78594092-7 $53.95 CAD hardbound) is by Rick Stein, owner of four restaurants in Cornwall and presenter for many BBC TV travel-cookery shows. This book is meant to accompany his latest, with the same title: Rick Stein's Long Weekends. It's a collection of 100 recipes from 10 European cities, for a weekend at home with food from the region. There is photography of food and the locations with travel tips for each city. You can replicate "the magic of a long weekend in your own home". While it is arranged by course, there is an index by city so you can pull out the relevant recipes. Apart from the obvious capitals, there is also Bordeaux, Cadiz, Bologna, and Palermo. And the book actually has a dust jacket!Good ideas. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
15.WHOLE NEW YOU (Ballantine Books, 2017, 303 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-96735-5, $20 USD paperbound) is by Tia Mowry, who has an eponymous show on The Cooking Channel. As an actor, she ate catering spreads and eventually was diagnosed with endometriosis. With two years in recovery she changed her diet by eliminating dairy, sugars and processed foods. Her book covers whole plant foods, inflammation and gut flora. She's got a 10-day menu plan with over 100 recipes (including lighter versions of fried chicken), some preps for your kids, how to eat on the go, and some relaxants such as acupuncture and yoga to help shape up the body. The first 100 pages deals with "her story" while the next 200 contain the recipes arranged by course, with a chapter on fermented foods and another on the pantry needed. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
16.THE GENIUS GLUTEN-FREE COOKBOOK (Vermilion, 2016, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-78504070-2 $31.99 CAD paperbound) is by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, chef and founder of Genius Gluten-Free. Her idea is to spice up all the foods – tarts, pies, soups, salads, pasta, pizzas, pancakes, toast, crepes, including tarte tatin, rosemary sable, and French toast. 120 preps in all. Very tasty with lots of gluten-free grains. Arrangement is by course.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
17.THIS IS GLUTEN-FREE (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-811-6, $21.95 USD hardbound) is by Victoria Hall, owner and founder of 2 Oxford Place, a gluten-free restaurant in Leeds. She also sells a range of GD kits. These are 70 or so preps for mainly baking: cakes, pastry, fillings, sauces, savoury bakes, and others. In her preps she uses purchased GF flour which is usually a blend of tapioca, potato, corn, rice, buckwheat and sorghum flours. Some American all-purpose GF flours have bean flours. She doesn't do breads, but there is a recipe for scones. The one bread recipe is for bread pudding, which uses scones (although the photo of this dish seems to show "bread" rather than scones). But all the preps are sure to please; we've tried out a few. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
18.FOOLPROOF COOKING (BBC Books, 2016, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-78594051-4 $53.95 CAD hardbound) is by the renowned Brit cookbook author and TV presenter, Mary Berry. It is meant to accompany her TV show: Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking. It has all the recipes, which stress simple weekday suppers, impressive dinner parties, comforting desserts, and more. Arrangement is by food, from apps to desserts, with fish, poultry, meats, pasta and rice, salads and veggies. And there are lots of tips as she explained on her TV show. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, but there are tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.LOW AND SLOW (Ebury Press, 2016, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-78503087-1 $53.95 CAD hardbound) is by Neil Rankin, owner-chef of UK's Smokehouse (2013 and a second in 2015) and Bad Egg (2014). It's a basic book on how to cook meat: "low and slow is the way to go". Here is a guide to cooking various meats at temperatures and times that get the best results. And without a lot of equipment too. Preliminary pages include notes on meat quality, colouring meat (saute), ovens, reheating, and fallacies about resting/standing. His first section is on steaks, followed by roasts, braises, and then BBQ/slowing-smoking. All manner of meats and cuts are covered (pig's head, lamb belly, chicken wings, etc.) There's a small section on accompaniments that smacks of guy food and a short glossary.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
20.ROOKIE COOKING (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-5107-1165-5, $17.99 USD paperbound) is by Jim Edwards, chief instructor at Chef Central, culinary superstore. It's a textbook type of work, with most of the pages dealing with with the primer of cooking: sanitation, equipment, tools, type of foods, pantries and larders, cooking techniques. This is followed by a selection of preps to build confidence and six complete menus. He then moves on to plating, preservation, table settings and service, again with menus for specified occasions (cocktail parties, winter menu, summer menu). The appendices cover herbs and spices, plus conversion tables. It is at the beginner's level because, as he says, "every great cook has to start somewhere". Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
21.BREDDOS TACOS; the cookbook (Quadrille, 2016, 166 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-799-2 $22.99 USD hardbound) is by Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney, owners of Breddos Tacos which produces Mexican street food in the UK. Here are more than 100 preps for tacos and condiments, from many parts of Mexico. Nud dos the recipes; Chris does the stories for such as Baja fish tacos, Yucatan chicken and mango habanero sauce, octopus al pastor, and beef cheeks. It's arranged by meat type, with a concluding chapter on veggies and sides, followed by drinks. Pork belly croquettes really worked well for me, as did cauliflower al pastor. Good stuff here. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. A fun book, very colourful in the graphics. Quality/price rating: 87.
22.GATHER (Quadrille, 2016, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-917-0 $35USD hardbound) is by Gill Meller, chef and food writer. He has been part of River Cottage for over a decade. Here he celebrates nature and the seasons. He's got 130 preps emphasizing the garden, the farm, the field, the seashore, the orchards, the harbour, and the woodland, made from seasonal foods. Log rolling is by four British food chefs-writers, including Nigella Lawson who states "Gather does for contemporary British food what Ottolenghi has done for contemporary Middle Eastern cooking". That's a fair, if somewhat hyperbolical, assessment. Each of the landscapes noted above covers about five types of typically British foods. For the Moor, there is rabbit, partridge, trout, wild boar, and venison. You can easily adapt these to domestic meats in your local kitchen. Closer to home is the Orchard with its apples, pears, quince, damsons and blackcurrants. It's also a well-photographed book. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly avoirdupois measurements with some metric equivalents, but there are no conversion tables. Quality/price rating: 87.