|Five books for food lovers 2018|
Halfway through December, it's time to remember the food books that have proved deserving of their shelf space in 2018. From this year's publications, there's a book of no-nonsense do-able food that banished my preconceptions of German cuisine. Summing-up traditional home-cooked German food as “gently spiced, smoky, buttery, yet sweet and sour”, and as “warm and hearty and vinegar-laced”, the author celebrates the positive influences migration and trade has had on German food over the past seven decades. For dessert, there's a highly seasonal book on ice cream that will have you measuring your year in ice cream scoops, longing to pick your own blood oranges in Sicily and closely guarding your source of Loganberries. There's a 2017 publication that slipped my net last year and I'm so glad I finally scooped it up for its attention to seasonality and ingredients, and, not least, for its chapter on pasta. I've included a re-print of a book which was out of print for some 70 years. And there's a memoir of a true food hero to round things off.
|Caraway Dumplings with spiced carrot|
from Strudel, Noodles & Dumplings
|Damson and Grappa ice cream|
from La Grotta Ices
Before I say a word about this book - La Grotta Ices which was published in June - I have to declare I know the author. Given the trajectory of her career, I'm sure I ate Kitty Travers's food at a couple of favourite London restaurants before we met. I love a good pudding, and ice creams in particular, so a good pastry chef is to be treasured. Then I spotted a little Piaggio Ape van whizzing across south east London. It was driven by a willowy tall, rosy-cheeked woman who seemed to have found the secret to happiness. And she had..... Read more .....
|Braised fennel and purple olive dressing|
from Trullo: The Cookbook
I'm late to Tim Siadatan's book and there are so many recipes I still want to try that I feel I've barely mopped a plate, yet here I am recommending it. Normally I like to really get to know a recipe book before I list it but I have been several times to the Highbury Corner neighbourhood restaurant - Trullo - where most of the recipes were created - so I know what we have here is straightforward "serious cooking" ... "without the seriousness", as the author puts it. The book is based on the author's initial focus on classic regional Italian food married with the creative freedom which comes from having his own restaurant. Previously he worked at restaurants like Fifteen, St John and Moro. There's good practical advice on equipping your kitchen: buy quality pans and learn to keep a knife sharp rather than spend money on an expensive one; what to stock in your fridge and dry store; and how to be thoughtful about your ingredient choices. I've cooked the last of my allotment-grown pumpkins in a dish of Gnudi and pumpkin ricotta that were as fluffy and light as promised. I've served-up Braised fennel and purple olive dressing which was as fresh and zingy as I was led to believe it would be. I want very much to eat a bowl of Cannellini beans, King cabbage and pancetta. A Whole baked turbot with poached leeks and aioli is also on my mind along with a Chocolate tart which the author learned to make during his time in the kitchen at Moro (enough said). And then there's the pasta which is treated with immense respect both in the restaurant and in this book.
My copy of The Anatomy of Dessert, out of print for some 70 years, is a Modern Library Food re-print, edited by Ruth Reichl. Edward Ashdown Bunyard was a Kent-born nurseryman who was devoted to pomology (the study and cultivation of fruit) and shared his knowledge in books such as The Anatomy of Dessert. First published in 1929, Bunyard's reference to 'Dessert' in the title refers to the meaning of the word in England at the time, namely the fruit course. Pudding came after, so, don't expect this book to be filled with any sugars except those of the natural fruit kind. And what of the few notes on wine? Well, his love included grapes, of course. Such was Bunyard's love of his subject that his sensuous writing is full of, as Michael Pollen's introduction to this re-print puts it, ".... barely sublimated fruit lust ...". His epicurean passions found release in his book The Epicure's Companion as well as writing hundreds of articles.
From Apples through to Strawberries, each chapter lyrically describes the merits of each fruit, its varieties, and when each are at their best. Many of these varieties are, sadly, no longer grown except, hopefully, in some domestic gardens. Reading Bunyard makes you long to taste an Old Transparent Gage plum and realise how impoverished our fruit year is today.
As every year, there could have been more than 5 books in my selection, but it's a good discipline to stick to, I think. I rarely accept a book for free, so, the books I choose are not based on any feeling of obligation. I hope you enjoy reading about my 2018 personal choices.