...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 –
11.AMAZING MALAYSIAN (Square Peg Penguin Random House, 2016, 253 pages, ISBN 978-0-224-10154-7 $42.95 CAD hardbound) is by Norman Musa, owner of Ning in Manchester UK. He serves Malaysian food at his place, such as the classics Roti Canai, Rendang, Spicy Baked Haddock, Char Kuey Teow fried noodles (all recipes found in this book). He opens quite rightly with street food and snacks – which Malaysia is well-known for – that can also serve as apps before the main dishes. He's got chapters for seafood, meat, veggies, rice/noodles, desserts, and drinks. There are also chapters on the pantry and condiments used. Eating in Malaysia is 24/7. Try steamed wild sea bass with lemongrass and ginger or nyonya kapitan chicken curry, or even eggs in chilli sambal. Preparations have their ingredients listed with both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
12.JACK'S WIFE FREDA (Blue Rider Press Penguin Random House, 2017, 248 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57486-3, $30 USD hardbound) is by Maya and Dean Jankelowitz, co-owners of the two restaurants named Jack's Wife Freda in New York City's West Village. The recipes are by Julia Jaksic, She's a chef and restaurant consultant who has done work with this restaurant among others in NYC. It's all Jewish comfort food with a mix of South African and Israeli flavours. The book is a collection of faves from the restaurant with some other versatile preps for breakfast/dinner and drinks. There are a lot of stories here, some memoirish details, and archival photos. A good book for their patrons and for anyone else interested in the cuisine. Try the veggie curry with apple-raisin chutney or the sweetbreads with peri-peri sauce or the green shakshuka. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. A fun book, particularly with the line drawings. Quality/price rating: 87.
13.THE NUT BUTTER COOKBOOK (Quadrille, 2016, 160 pages, ISBN 978-184949-901-9 $32.99 CAD hardbound) is by Pippa Murray, founder of Pip & Nut in the UK. They make nut butters strictly from just the nuts, no other added ingredients. So here are over 70 recipes that, according to Pipp and the publishers, "puts the 'nut' in nutrition". The range is from almonds through brazils through peanuts, macadamias, walnuts – 10 in all, followed by the seeds sesame, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, etc. Nut butters are useful for breakfasts, snacks, smoothies, savoury dishes, desserts, and anything baked. Try cacao protein balls, almond butter smoothie, and peanut cheesecake. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
14.TARTINE ALL DAY (Lorena Jones Ten Speed Press, 2017, 374 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57882-3 $40 USD hardbound) is by Elisabeth Prueitt, co-founder of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and a Beard Award winner. She also wrote the original Tartine cookbook. Here, backed by log rollers Ottolenghi and David Lebovitz (among others), she's got some 200 modern recipes for the home cook to prepare all day long. Included are some 30 gluten-free desserts and six menus for celebrations (picnic, vegetarian, taco night, porchetta, Thanksgiving). After a primer, it is arranged by course or major ingredient, ending with desserts. There's pan bagnat, sticky date pudding with hot toffee sauce, Catalonian rice pudding, pissaladiere, kale and cucumber salad, and eggplant parmesan gratin. Preparations have their ingredients listed mostly in avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87
15.THE MALAYSIAN KITCHEN (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, 340 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-80999-4 $35 USD hardbound) is by Christina Arokiasamy, an expert in Malaysian cooking who cooked in various Four Seasons resorts throughout Southeast Asia. This is all simple home cooking, with cultural and food roots through China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, and Portugal. There are also many other European influences since Malaysia was on the spice routes. Types of food here include stir-fries, fried rice, tandoori, fresh seafood, noodle bowls, satay, and curries. Coconut milk is used a lot. The 150 preps are arranged by course, with an opening chapter on all the condiments (sambals, pastes, chutney, dressings). Soups come first, then salads, veggies, rice/noodles, seafood, meats, and desserts. There is even what is now an obligatory chapter on "street food" (here, for home use). An extremely colourful book, with penang oyster omelette ("or chien"), Portuguese debal prawns, tamarind fish curry, five-spiced barbecue-roasted pork, chicken and lentil dalcha. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
16.BURMA SUPERSTAR (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 258 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-950-9 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy. Kate is a multiple award-winning food writer; Desmond is co-owner of the three Burma Superstar restaurants. He's also launched a company which imports Burmese ingredients such as "laphet" (fermented tea leaves). There's a recipe here for a tea leaf salad. The subtitle says it all: "addictive recipes from the crossroads of Southeast Asia". All of the food is nicely layered and textured for flavours. It's arranged by course, including curries, stir-fries, veggies, noodles, soups, salads, snacks/sweets, and rice dishes. There's a section on the pantry and various tools and techniques. You could try kebat, chili lamb, rakhine mohinga or nan gyi thoke. Everything has been scaled to the home since these are preps from the restaurant. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.