* MORE FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS
3.A GOOD MEAL IS HARD TO FIND; storied recipes from the deep South (Chronicle Books, 2020, 160 pages, $23 CAD hard covers) is by the team of Martha Hall Foose (recipes) and Amy C. Evans (illustrations). Both are also storytellers. Each of the 60 preps here are preceded by vignettes about Southern living, such as Francine's doughnut, Edna's blind date at a BBQ, or Camille's egg salad at a bridge club. Dee-lightful eccentricities, arranged by course (morning glories through lingering lunches through afternoon pick-me-ups, dinner dates and late-night takes...plus, of course, "anytime sweets". Great recipes and paintings (acrylics on wood panels) merge into whimsical stories based on whimsical characters. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: 88.
4.ZERO PROOF DRINKS & MORE; 100 recipes for mocktails & low-alcohol cocktails (Robert Rose, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0675-2, $29.95 soft covers) is by Maureen Petrosky, an entertainment and lifestyle writer currently living in Pennsylvania. These are mindful concoctions devoted to socially-distanced happy hours at home. While Spring is the official season of the mocktail, it reminds us of better times. Lo-al (low-ABV) drinks are the obvious choices for the hotter climate of summer and the harshness of winter. She's got basic preps for syrups, shrubs, aperitifs, and spritzers. Mocktails are best as a day drink followed by lo-al happy hours. She's also got thirty pages of punches and pitcher drinks for that high volume party. Anything that reduces our alcohol consumption is a good necessity, such as the Michelada from Mexico. Most drinks can be tweaked upwards or downwards in quantities of add-ons. And every mocktail can have as much alcohol (if you need it) as you can pour into it – simply by topping up with a bland white wine. This is an infinitely expandable book once you have assimilated the basics. She's got easy ways to mix up flavours. Trendy titles include Bloody M, Rosemary Pear Bellini, Grilled Pineapple Mint Mojito, Lemongrass Cilantro Highball, and Grapefruit Radler. Certainly much better than a premixed non-al pretender bottle such as a gin clone, a bourbon clone, a tequila clone, which retail for $40 or more. Just use stuff like juniper berries and rum flavouring at home. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Apart from the punches and pitchers, drinks are for one person. Quality/price rating: 88.
5.FOOLPROOF BBQ; 60 simple recipes to make the most of your barbecue (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Genevieve Taylor. It's a manual to home BBQ, with an emphasis on year-round fail-safe grilling. Material embraces equipment and techniques. The whole range of meats is covered: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, fish/seafood, veggies, even desserts. Well-worth a look, and a pretty good book in the "Foolproof" series. Quality/price rating: 87
6.FOOLPROOF ONE POT; 60 simple and satisfying recipes (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Alan Rosenthal. It's another entry in the publisher's "Foolproof" series. It's open and shut: throw a lot on ingredients into a single pot or pan. These are the "acoustic" versions of the "electric" pots: no slow cookers or instant pots here, although the preps can be adapted to that equipment, Most recipes here are "low and slow" on top of the stove; some are pot bakes for the oven. There are both savoury and sweet preps. Vegan and vegetarian recipes are marked as such. There are two types of pot needed – deep and wide-shallow. Browning meats is a plus, as are side dishes which are mainly potatoes, rice, whole grains and pasta. Easy-peasy. Quality/price rating: 87.
7.DUMPLINGS AND NOODLES; bao, gyoza, biang biang, ramen, and everything in between (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2020, 192 pages, $35 hard covers) is by the indefatigable Pippa Middlehurst (winner in 2018 as Britain's Best Home Cook) who actually makes all her own noodles and dumpling pastas. Her book is divided into three parts: dumplings, noodles, sauces plus sides and snacks. Great photographs of Pippa at work, a section on how to use this book, a pantry one can live with (variety of sauces, oils, pastes and vinegars) , types of equipment needed, and cooking from frozen. Dumpling wrappers and noodles are easily bought. She's got six meal planners for course suggestions, ranging from a Friday night in to a Vegan dinner to something for the kids. There are only two recipes for dumpling dough (these are all that you will need): fa mian and jiaozi-- both richly illustrated with photos and texts on technique. There are plenty of sauce recipes, such as dan dan, spicy sesame, crunchy topping, XO sauce, chilli sauce, and others. Typical preps include okonomiyaki (my fave), spring onion pancakes, rainbow soba salad, ramen eggs, and yakisoba. Not only for the adventurous cook – but also for the armchair chef. Highly recommended, especially as a chef's reference book. Quality/price rating: 92.
8.BOWLS & BROTHS; build a bowl of flavour from scratch, with dumplings, noodles and more (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 176 pages, $35 hard covers) is the follow-up book by the indefatigable Pippa Middlehurst. These are broth-based preps with layering, seasoning (sauces, crunchy bits, aromatics), and ultimate versatility: constructing a bowl from the bottom up for max texture and flavour. She continues along the lines of her "Dumplings and Noodles" book, from ramen to rice bowls. The layout and illustrations continue on from her first book, with separate chapters on noodles, hotpot, dumplings, rice and sweets. A lot of what she covers comes from foraging in her freezer and refrigerator plus a quick look at her shelf pantry for extras. The principles are exceptionally useful and have a wide application to what you can find at home. Not only for the adventurous cook – but also for the armchair chef. Highly recommended, especially as a chef's reference book. Yum-yum to both books. Quality/price rating: 92.
9.CHINESE TAKEOUT IN 5; 80 of your favorite dishes using only five ingredients (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-653-3 $30 hard covers) is by Kwoklyn Wan, a UK chef who now teaches and demos Chinese cooking. Here here tells all, how to replicate Chinese takeout food at home in minutes. Alongside a basic pantry of five essentials (salt, pepper, soy sauce, sugar and oil), one can make a feast of easy dishes using the bare minimum. All major favorites are here, from Tom Yum Soup to Prawn Toast, Sweet Chilli Salmon and Lemon Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork Balls or Beef in Oyster Sauce, Eggplant Fritters and Chilli Ginger Crispy Tofu. All use only five key ingredients, all of which are readily available in local supermarkets. Wan has step-by-step instructions expert tips, and classically good photography. It's all arranged by major ingredient or course, from soups through apps, seafood, poultry, meats, veggies, and desserts. The condiments section has those notorious sauces such as wasabi mayo, five spice wedges, and lucky seven seasoning salt. Do it yourself, stay home, cook at home, and have fun with such as Chinese-style BBQ wings: 10 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook. The book could have been improved if it had also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.