THE CURRY GUY (Quadrille, 2017, 161 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-143-9 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Dan Toombs, who runs a website www.greatcurryrecipes.net which draws about 130,000 visit a month. His book concentrates on "Indian restaurant cooking" in the UK, that is, foods you are most likely to encounter in a restaurant setting. Many people are happy enough with ethnic food to merely replicate a fave dish or two at home. Here are 100 such recipes, headed by butter chicken. It is arranged by base recipes, appetizers, classic curries, grilling and BBQ, popular side dishes, and accompaniments and breads. Preparations have their ingredients listed a bit haphazardly in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those who eat out in Indian restaurants.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: butter chicken is derived from leftover tandoori marinades in a curry, ostensibly created by the first tandoori restaurant in India (1947).
The downside to this book: a bit short, I wanted more
The upside to this book: good idea for sticking to basics that people are familiar with.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
4.DOCTOR'S ORDERS (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-78488-137-5 $14.99 USD hardcovers) is by the team of Chris Edwards and Dave Tregenza who are both deep into UK bar consultancies. It's a collection of 50 preps of classic cocktails, medicinal tonics, and contemporary concoctions to cure whatever ails you. Typical ailments are broken hearts, hangovers, and lack of energy. There is the usual primer for a home bar (glasses, base recipes, equipment, bottles) and then the preps are arranged by remedies, comforters, revivers, and restorations. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, with no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those looking for a basic catch-all book of cocktails.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Beets by Wray (root-based daiquiri), apple a day, watermelon G & T, citizen cane, last word.
The downside to this book: a bit short
The upside to this book: good value for the price.
Quality/Price Rating: 86
5.LAGOM (Quadrille, 2017, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-037-1 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by Swedish food stylist and writer Steffi Knowles-Dellner. She develops recipes for several Scandinavian brands and teaches Nordic cooking classes. This is the Swedish art of eating harmoniously; "lagom" means just the right amount, as in moderation or balance. In cookbook-land it is related to the Danish "hygge" (comforting, cozy food). Her book is arranged by course (breakfast, lunch, light bites, mains, desserts, baking) with Swedish titles. There are about 100 preps here, emphasizing moderation (as developed in her opening comments and introductions). Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those looking for a new twist in food preps.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: buckwheat, chive and lemon pancakes with smoked salmon; wholemeal scone muffins; autumn salad; almond milk=braised pork belly; pearl barley risotto; spelt pizza; rye crispbreads; salmon burgers with corn salsa; coconut semolina cake.
The downside to this book: to complete the balance theme I think I would have appreciated menus and menu ideas for a whole meal, not just the one dish.
The upside to this book: the cuisine is global.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
6.POSH PANCAKES (Quadrille Books, 2018, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-803-6 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Sue Quinn, a UK recipe writer and food stylist. This book is one of a series – first word titled POSH – and dealing with TOAST, EGGS, KEBABS, and RICE (they have been reviewed here before). PANCAKES is new. Here are 70 easy recipes for everything from hoppers to hotcakes. The main intent is rise about the mundane and show some pancakes with pizzaz. It's arranged by course, from breakfast through to dinner (no reason why you cannot have pork-fennel-chili baked pancakes, cheesy pancakes with creamed greens, or chicken and sweetcorn pancakes). Just a modest amount of prep work, and many basic forms can be cooked up in advanced and reheated with added sauces, etc.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: millennials
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: rye crepes with lardons and goat cheese; oatmeal pancakes with fruit salad and lime syrup; ham hock and rose harissa crepes; pears and walnuts, salted caramel crepes.
Quality/Price Rating: 88
7.ON THE SIDE; a sourcebook of inspiring side dishes (Bloomsbury, 2017, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-4088-7315-1, $28 USD) is by Ed Smith, a UK food writer with articles in the Independent and the Guardian, plus his own award-winning website "Rocket & Squash". This is his first book, and it comes loaded with A-list logrollers such as Nigel Slater and Yotam Ottolenghi. It is a collection of side dishes (which can easily be expanded to mains or for sharing platters), arranged by type: green leaves and herbs; veggies plus fruits, flowers and bulbs; roots, squash and potatoes; grains, pulses, pasta and rice. At the end there is a great recipe directory with suggested accompaniments (and page references) for mains such as roast beef, stews and casseroles, BBQ, cheeses, souffle, cold cuts, duck , seafood, lobster, etc. This is followed by two other handy indexes (with page references) to WHERE the food is prepared (counter, oven) and HOW LONG it will take (less than 15 minutes, 15 – 30, 30 to an hour, etc.). And of course, the main index itself. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric and avoirdupois measurements, which can be confusing since it is one or the other, and not both. But there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those looking for a different kind of cookbook.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: bulgur wheat salad; quick romesco; lemon and olive oil fregola; runner beans with bacon and walnuts; bread sauce and parsnip crisps; butter-braised chicory; nutmeg neeps; steamed marinated fennel; white wine and dill carrots.
The downside to this book: ingredient quantities mixed units of measurement.
The upside to this book: the indexes.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
8.150 BEST WAFFLE MAKER RECIPES (Robert Rose, 2018, 192 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0589-2, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is by cookbook author Marilyn Haugen and home economist Jennifer MacKenzie (who also writes cookbooks). At home, we don't have many single purpose pieces of equipment. Just a blender, a food processor, and a Kitchen Aid – which do many of the things we need to do in the kitchen. However, we do have a waffle maker because my wife does love waffles, and they are very hard to cook in a Kitchen Aid. Waffles are the kind of food you tend to eat out, much like french fries: they're a lot of work and need specialized equipment. Here the team expands on the usefulness of the waffle maker beyond the traditional waffles. The classics are here, but there are also preps for vegan and gluten-free waffles, plus sandwiches, pizzas, mains, and snacks. And it's a very useful book to have the kids cook from. There are resourceful sections here on how to buy a waffle maker (we have both stovetop and electric at home); the grids are useful for grilling, like a panini maker. The layout is typical Robert Rose with both metric and avoirdupois measurements in each recipe, plus tips and service and variations.
Audience and level of use: families
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Club Wafflewich, crispy crab cakes with chipotle aioli, pico de gallo chicken quesadillas, stuffed pepperoni and olive pizza pies.
The downside to this book: I wanted more
The upside to this book: a good book for family.
Quality/Price Rating: 86,
9.SERIOUSLY GOOD FREEZER MEALS (Robert Rose, 2018, 368 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0591-5 $24.95 USD paperbound) is by Karrie Truman, a blogger (happymoneysaver.com} who can actually make 50 freezer meals in a day. Her blog appeals to those on a budget who cook from scratch. And of course, storage in a freezer is the best thing. We've had a freezer at home for over 40 years now (actually, the first one lasted 25 years and we are now on to another one) and it is full of single items and prepared meals such as ragu or pot pies. So this is another Robert Rose single equipment book, chock full (150 preps) of freezer meals. She's got preps for the whole family: dietary needs, small and large families, time constraints. Freezer bags are the main containers: they can be reused. Of course, all freezer meals will lose their taste after awhile, so they need to be used up by rotation. There's a lot of primer material here on the hows and whys of freezing, followed by the preps. Most recipes have a bulk batch guide so you can increase or decrease the serving size (the servings are mainly for 6). Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: families
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: smoky pulled pork sandwiches; pad thai; tikka masala; sun-dried tomato and bacon chicken; chili; coconut cashew basil curry soup.
The downside to this book: the book is over-sized and heavy, but I guess if you can prep many dishes a day for the freezer, then you can lug around the book.
The upside to this book: a useful freezer book with an international scope.
Quality/Price Rating: 88
10.THE COMPLETE PLATE (Figure 1, 2018, 307 pages, ISBN 978-1-77327-015-9 $29.95 CAD paperbound) is by Lauren Klukas, a certified personal trainer with a heart problem. This led her to establish a website – The Complete Plate – dealing with nutrition and cooking. She's been endorsed/logrolled by three RDs, and her contributing authors include Janine Elenko RD, and Ashlee Gillespie, a pastry chef specializing in gluten-free cooking. It's a massive book well-worth your attention, with 120 recipes and 30 meal plans. Her tome concentrates on weight maintenance and weight loss through a balanced diet of ingredients that meet both nutritional and calorie demands. The meal plans are for 1500, 2000 and 2500 calories. The recipes tend to be on the appetizing side, which is a good thing. The opening 30 pages give the primer basics, which is followed by the menus and then the recipes, all with nutrient analyses. Attention is given to gluten-free and special dietary matters. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there are also tables of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: families, those wishing a healthier lifestyle.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: green bean, feta, walnut, and pomegranate salad; grilled squash salad; roast chicken with veggies; Arctic char and wild rice; tuna quinoa bake; yellow bell pepper and chicken fajitas.
The downside to this book: small print, especially for the ingredients, and a grey (not black) ink tone – hard to read!
The upside to this book: the conversion charts are listed in the table of contents!
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
11.PLATTERS AND BOARDS (Chronicle Books, 2018, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-6415-1 $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Shelly Westerhausen, a vegetarian food blogger, and Wyatt Worcel who was responsible for the meat platters. It is a great book for grazers and snackers, and for parties, and the like. I find it also works for groups of two people sharing a bottle of sparkling wine. Here are all the essentials for creating a small smorgasbord or spread – all on a platter. The chapters are arranged by time: morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and "anytime". In the beginning the primer directs you to the types of boards and assembly points. There are serving forks and spoons. There are condiments. And, of course, there is the arrangement. They've got layouts for you, as well as drinking tips. Near the preps there is "A Board for Every Occasion" with listings of appropriate boards for baby showers (with page references), girls night, weekend dinner, and dinner party starters (i.e., apps). At the end there are recipes for the essentials, such as crostini, smokey sweet mixed nuts, cheese straws, cheddar crackers, lager whole-grain mustard, compound butters and pestos. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no conversion tables of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: millennial, party goers and party givers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: lazy Sunday brunch board; park picnic spread; teatime spread; movie night board; grill out platter; mainly meat charcuterie board; pickle platter; Southern-style board.
The downside to this book: not enough of it!!
The upside to this book: a great idea whose time has come.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK...
...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...
12.PASTA REINVENTED (DK Books, 2018, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-6994-6 $19.95 USD paperbound) is by Caroline Bretherton, who has worked in the food industry for two decades. She has authored or co-authored a dozen books. She's had a successful restaurant and a career with the Food Network in presentation and hosting. Here she delves into alternative noodles that are gluten-free, through 80 recipes. The range includes GF grains, legume pastas, nut pastas, veggie noddles, and others. Her primer explains all, including how to create your own vegetable noodles. She has specific preps for beet and rice flour dough, spinach and millet flour dough, sorghum and squid ink flour dough, almond and tapioca, spelt and chestnut, chickpea, buckwheat, and corn. There are many notes on shaping hand cut doughs, then she moves on to pasta soups, pasta salads, pasta bowls, and pasta bakes. Typical are sweet potato and rosemary noodle kugel, lamb and feta pastitsio, almond fettuccine with crab and lemon sauce, and then black sesame and coconut curry bowl. At the back there are pages on substitutions and swapping. Truly an innovative book with many new ideas for the jaded cook or chef. The book could have been improved if it also used volume metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89.
* THE REISSUES, THE REPRINTS, AND THE NEWER EDITIONS...
...all reflect a boom in the cookbook publishing business. A paperback reprint will lower the cost to the purchaser, and also give a publisher a chance to correct egregious errors or add a postscript. Some will reissue a book in paper covers with a new layout or photos. Others will rearrange existing material to present it as more informative text while keeping the focus tight. Some magazines will reissue popular or classic recipes in an "easy" format. Here are some recent "re-editions"...
13.GOOD FISH (Sasquatch Books, 2011, 2018, 326 pages, ISBN 978-1-63217-107-8 $29.95 USD paperbound) is by Becky Selengut, a Seattle-based cooking teacher and private chef. It was originally published in 2011; this edition has been updated and expanded. Much has changed in the previous 8 years regarding Pacific fish: limits to overfishing has brought back stock and acquaculture has much improved. The 15 species covered in the first edition are still "good fish". The new varieties include mahi-mahi and wahoo (Hawaii), herring, razor clams, pacific cod, and lingcod. Some of the originals got expanded and re-organized, such as wild salmon (moist-heat and dry-heat) and halibut. Her basic "good fish" rules are F (farmed is OK with verification), I (investigate provenance), S (smaller is best fish), and H (home domestic fish are best for the economy). She's got 100 recipes, and in addition to techniques, she has a bunch of URL links for her free videos which show you "how to" – fillet a fish, wok-smoke fish, clean a geoduck, sear a scallop, and more. This is a good assortment of sustainable seafood recipes from the Pacific coast. Now, time for something from the Atlantic. 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