...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 –
7.MAZI; modern Greek food (Firefly, 2018, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-2281-0034-8 $35 USD hardbound) is by Christina Mouratoglu and Adrien Carre, co-founders of MAZI in London UK in 2012. They concentrated on sharing plates of small dishes (meze). The word "mazi" itself means a gathering, a combination, a mixture. The majority of the dishes here, as in the restaurant, are small family-style dishes for sharing. There is a lot of description about the restaurant, with memoir-like material and photos. The 115 recipes are mostly traditional with modern interpretations. Many dishes are GF or vegan. The food, while quick and easy to make, should be prepared in a lot of different dishes – no roast with two vegs here. There are chapters on breads and condiments, salads, raw foods, hot plates, desserts, and some signature dishes from the restaurant. There's some lobster pasta with Metaxa brandy, braised octopus, shiitake mushroom and potato dauphinoise moussaka, lamb shank, and imam bayildi eggplant with stilton. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.
8.TRULLO: the cookbook (Square Peg Vintage, 2017, 2018, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-910931134 $53.95 CAD hardbound) is by Tim Siadatan, owner of Trullo restaurant and Padella pasta bar in London. It comes with heavy-duty logrolling from Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater and Fergus Henderson. A trullo is a 19th century Apulian hut with a conical roof. Here's a fresh take on Italian cuisine as presented at Trullo, along with plenty of notes about the restaurant and how it handles food. Topics include antipasti, BBQ, pan and oven, garnishes, feasting and desserts. Little on wine. Some emphasis is on the whole approach: whole baked turbot with poached leeks, whole lamb shoulder (both BBQ and roast), whole lemon sole (both pan-fired and roasted), and whole beef shin with bone marrow. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89.
9.THE ULTIMATE GRAIN-FREE COOKBOOK (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018, 310 pages, ISBN 978-1-5107-2949-0 $24.99 USD hardcovers) is by Annabelle Lee, a former fashion model who has had auto-immune arthritis and lupus. By changing her diet, she could change her health and life. She has a line of Real Food Baking Mixes and a website californiacountrygal.com. This is a nifty collection of preps that are sugar-free and gluten-free. Her emphasis is to eat real without dieting – just give up sugars and gluten grains as a beginning. Later, dairy products can be scaled back as well as fats and oils. Eventually, you'll keep your gut healthy and maybe lose weight. Her sweet and savoury preps include sweet yam gnocchi with brown butter and sage, garlic cheese drop biscuits, spicy salsa wraps, and German chocolate cake. Her arrangement by type (basics, breads, buns, biscuits, breakfast, brunch, crackers, wraps, legumes, pizza, pasta, sweets) is complemented by a bibliography and metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 87
10.MASTERING PIZZA (Ten Speed Press, 2018, 262 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57922 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by Marc Vetri, owner of Philadelphia's Vetri Cucina, Osteria, Amis, and Pizzeria Vetri. He's a Bear Award winner, and he has written three other Italian cookbooks. (One is Mastering Pizza – can Mastering Pasta and Mastering Panini be far behind?). His collaborator is David Joachim who has worked on more than 40 other cookbooks plus magazine articles on food. The late Anthony Bourdain furnished a blurb: "Speaking as someone with a long-time fear of dough, this is the only book I'd rely on with confidence". Vetri's secret for making good dough: hydration levels. There are various levels for various styles (Naples dough, Roman dough, al taglio, et al) and various ovens. Also covered are flour types, pizza stones, baking steels, calzones, rotolos, and focaccia. If you want more, there is a sharp bibliography of writings. And kudos for the insertions of metric measurements right into the recipes themselves!
Quality/price rating: 89
11.CIDERHOUSE COOKBOOK (Story Publishing, 2018, 222 pages, ISBN 978-1-61212-940-2 $19.95 USD paperbound) is by Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum, cidermakers and owners of Carr's Ciderhouse in western Massachusetts. They make mainly ciders (hard and sweet, syrups, and vinegars. The collaborator is Andrea Blum, food writer, chef and culinary artist at Montalvo Arts Center (California). Here are 127 recipes for the sweet, tart, and tangy flavours of apple cider. It's all arranged by course, from salads, soups, through mains and desserts and drinks. There is a lot of illustrated and photographic material on how they make the diverse ciders, and how you can make your own ciders (both hard and sweet), followed by making vinegars and cider syrups and molasses. Fruit shrubs and fruit vinegars, switchel syrups, apple membrillo (similar to quince), baked apple butter, jellies, and jams complete the primers. What to do with them all? For starters, try candied nuts using apple cider syrup or cider vinegar pickles – and then move on through a range of pork dishes. Resources lists complete the work. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least it had metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 89.
12.KRICKET (Hardie Grant Books, 2018, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-78488-158-0 $35 USD hardbound) is by Will Bowlby, heads chef and co-owner of Kricket in London UK. He's got a collection of 80 Indian-inspired recipes which emphasizes seasonal availability of ingredients in the UK. There's smoked haddock kichri, keralan fried chicken, and elderflower and rhubarb kulfi. The full range of food here includes cocktails, breads, pickles, sides and snacks for the modern kitchen. For further excitement, there is cardamom kheerkheer with rhubarb puree and carom seed crumble, jersey royal aloo chaat, and burnt garlic tarka dal. At the back there are 20 menu plans, five for each of the seasons. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 87
13.BATCHED & BOTTLED (Quadrille, 2018, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-155-3 $24.99 USD hardbound) is by Max and Noel Venning, brother owners of Three Sheets cocktail bar in London. These are cocktails to be made ahead, after they have been blended or stirred or shaken. We've got two going at home in the fridge: Negroni and White Negroni. To both we may (or may not) add ice cubes or fizzy water. There are 50 preps here in this book, plus tips and advice for the make-aheads. The guide is a boon for those who entertain with cocktails but want to relax and converse without having to take the time to mix the drinks. So these cocktails can be batched a month ahead or an hour ahead – you will be completely free to laugh along with everybody else...Under "gin" in the index, there are a dozen preps that are doable and welcoming. But do watch out for the measurements: use only the metric OR the imperial. If you use both, you will screw up the ratios and might even have liquid left over (750 mL is NOT 30 oz). But kudos for listing both forms of measurement with the ingredients. Quality/price rating: 87
14.CHEFS EAT MELTS TOO (Hardie Grant Books, 2018, 166 pages, ISBN 978-1-74379459-3 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Chef Darren Purchese, a pastry chef-owner (Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio) in Melbourne Australia. Here he writes on melts made with cheese and toasted bread as he reinvents the hot sandwich game. You will need a variety of sauces: harissa, tamari, mayo, vinaigrette, mustard dressing, 1000 Island, yogurt, chimichurri, piccalilli, pear and walnut chutney, mango chutney, caramel cream, romesco, and more!! After that come the breads: pita, brioche, Turkish bread, baguettes, sourdough, ciabatta, wholemeal sandwich, bagels, and more!! After that come the fillings: BLT, chicken, pastrami, ham, bacon, pork belly, jamon, lamb shoulder, pork shoulder, beef, prosciutto, sardines, anchovies, chorizo, crayfish, turkey, and more!! In each sandwich, there is also some variation of a few cheeses (gorgonzola, swiss, cheddar) and/or a few egg styles (omelettes, fried). Add to any of the sauces and place between two slices of any of the breads …. and voila!! Maybe gout sufferers should avoid this book. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 89.