What do you read while travelling in France? A stack of novels, a French phrase book – and Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. My holidays normally involve dragging at least one cookbook of the country about with me, often with a relevant Lonely Planet World Food guide. World Food France is out of print, unfortunately, but I grabbed the last copy of the ED book at work as I ran out the door on the last day.
Category: Cookery Books
Open any page in A Table in the Tarn and you’re likely to be seduced. I got stuck in the Deserts, Petits Four and Chocolates chapter, with recipes for Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet, Home-Made Vanilla Marshmallows and Cocoa-Nib Florentines but, once I tore myself away from the sweet things, there was much more to recommend this memoir-style cookbook.
It was only a matter of time before Kieran Murphy’s entertaining Ice Cream Ireland made it to the printed page. The Book of Sweet Things, written by Kieran and his brother/business partner Seán, tells the story of how two Americans got into the ice cream business in Dingle a few years ago. Now Murphys’ Ice Cream is sold from two shops – one in Dingle and the other in Killarney – and their distinctive blue and white containers are stocked in delis and foodstores throughout Ireland. I got my first taste of their wares by picking up a tub of vanilla (or fanaile) in Morton’s of Ranelagh; now, fortunately, I’m never too far from a freezer-full of varieties at work in Urru.
Could Portugal be the new Spain? Reading Tessa Kiros’ Piri Piri Starfish and its references to petisco (tapas, Portuguese-style), chourico (substitute chorizo), port instead of sherry and salt cod (in Portugal – bacalhau, in Spain – bacalao) you could be forgiven for thinking things are moving that direction. This, the follow up to Kiros’ acclaimed parent-and-child-orientated Apples for Jam, is a more straightforward cookbook. As with Apples…, colour is very important, although the chapters are laid out in a more clear-cut way – Essential Recipes, Petisco Plates, Starters and Soups, Mains and Side Plates, Deserts and Cakes – than that book’s rainbow bright colour-coded sections. Here the tone is more grown up, with lots of muted blues and greys, beautifully designed page titles and a thick white and blue ribbon for marking your way through the book.
I love experimenting with and learning different cooking techniques, especially if they involve playing with yeast. No Knead Bread? Yes please! Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Made that. Sourdough from my own starter? Still bubbling quietly away in the fridge. But grilled or barbequed pizza? Not yet – that was until I got my hands on a copy of Craig Priebe’s Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas. Craig developed his grilling technique, using a barbeque, when he ran his own pizza restaurant in Atlanta and this book explains it in detail. When we did the pizza day in Ballymaloe, Darina cooked one of her creations on the barbeque outside the demo theatre door but, more fascinated by the wood-fired oven, I didn’t hang around in the rain, instead directing my attentions indoors so I never got to investigate the barbequed pizza properly.
Although I’ve been immersed in study, there is (somehow!) always time for reading cookbooks. Here are a few recommendations for Christmas.Cook Simple by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)I’m a fan of Diana’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons and last year’s Roast Figs, Sugar Snow so I was looking forward to reading Cook Simple and it’s remained on top of the pile ever since. Here you’ll find brilliant ideas for dinners, and plenty of them, with influences from Sweden, Sicily, Turkey and Georgia. Divided into chapters based around easily available core ingredients – pasta, fish, sausages, leg of lamb – with seasonal vegetables and fruit in their own sections, Diana gives lots of recipes and ideas to make mealtimes easier. Must Make: Roast Squash, Feta and Black Olive Salad.
Dishes that we cooked or were cooked for us as children always hold a special luster. I had a set of kids’ cookery cards from Irish sugar company Siúcra which had great recipes like The Last of the Mohicans Baked Beans (think the recipes were based on classic books!) and a desert of bananas warmed in a sauce made of orange juice (Swiss Family Robinson Bananas, perhaps?).
This is the book for anyone who has ever gone to Paris seeking French food and been completely waylaid from their Coq au Vin by the rich variety of ethnic restaurants in the city. With a far-flung variety of former colonies and protectorates, Paris is a melting pot for people and cuisines from all over North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. When we were there last year we spent a lot of time exploring the food available at places like the café at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, grabbing pastries from a spectacular Algerian bakery called La Bague de Kenza (subsequently written up in the New York Times, with recipes, and there’s also some great photos on Lulu Loves London) and trying to find a much-recommended restaurant called l’Afghanistan in the 11th arrondissement.