Thursday, 6 December 2012

Food books 2012 - Six of the best

It's 5 December so time for me to acknowledge we are racing towards the year's end.  Here is my pick of the food books I've been reading in 2012.  This year I have six recommendations for you.  I don't feel constrained to only recommend books published in the last 12 months, but five of them were.  The sixth is from 2007 but rest assured you will be able to buy it in paperback as another print run is about to hit the bookshops.  These six books are all very different and cover a lot of ground.  I'm sure you will find something here you like.

Polpo - a Venetian Cookbook (of sorts)
by Russell Norman
This book was born out of a love affair.  Anyone who has visited Venice has special memories and for Russell Norman a one week stay in his youth kindled a love for the city, the food and the drink which has never dimmed.  Several years and many more visits and a plan began to form.  Inspiration did not come from the restaurants of Venice, which Norman points out in the tourists areas are".. about as authentic as the plastic golden gondolas for sale on the Ruga dei Orsi .." but the tiny Bàcari (wine bars) of the authentic Venice.  Here locals meet to chat, eat chichèti (Venetian tit-bits) and down a Prosecco or Spritz, or two......  For the full review, go to my Favourite Books page.

Awarded Waterstones Book of the Year 2012

Book courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi

Shakshuka cooked from 'Jerusalem'
It was the bold flavours of Levantine cuisine that brought together Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi when they found themselves working together in London.  Living only 2km apart but never meeting, they separately left Jewish West and Palestinian East Jerusalem for London, via Tel Aviv, in the 1990's. With Italian and German parentage Ottolenghi was used to eating both European food and the Arab food familiar to Tamimi when both were growing up.  This mix of cuisines has informed the cooking at their four cafe/shops and new restaurant, NOPI, in London.  Their signature is bright, fresh, spicy flavours; sometimes surprising and sometimes challenging...... For the full review, go to my Favourite Books page.

Book courtesy of Ebury Press

The Art of Cooking with Vegetables
by Alain Passard
Some time in the 1990's I was lucky enough to eat at L'Arpege in Paris.  Dish after sublime dish passed from kitchen to table.  I remember every plateful being simple but wonderful with, mercifully, none of the primping and tweaking one might have expected...... For the full review, go to my Favourite Books page.

Published by Frances Lincoln Limited

Salt Sugar Smoke
by Diane Henry
I've dabbled a little in preserving food over the years but until I got my hands on an allotment it was a spasmodic activity.  If you have a kitchen garden or allotment you'll know it's sometimes necessary to either give produce away or deal with a glut.  Diana Henry's latest book Salt Sugar Smoke is just what I need, but you don't have to grow your own food to find this book invaluable. It's perfect too for anyone who has just a small amount of food to preserve. Diana teaches the "know-how" of preserving nature's abundance, however small an amount you may have.  No backyard smokery, professional brining vat or other expensive equipment is required.  A kindly guiding hand takes you gently through enticing recipes that really work.  This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn about all aspects of preserving...... For the full review, go to my Favourite Books page.

Book Courtesy of Octopus Publishing Group

Kitchen Diaries II
by Nigel Slater
I fell completely in love with Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries when it was published in 2005.  Volume II continues the theme of cooking day by day but there is much more emphasis here on using up the food you have and wasting nothing.  A book which reflects our austerity times, you might say.  It's the most recently published of my recommendations.  So recent that I'm still working my way through it since it arrived as a birthday present.  I've yet to publish a proper review (coming soon) but I've seen enough to know it's another one to treasure.  Given the inventiveness of Nigel Slater, there's no reason why this series of books shouldn't run and run.  It's based on the way Nigel Slater lives, works and eats.  It's an enviable job, and someone's got to do it!  You can read my review of 'The Kitchen Diaries' on my Favourite Books page.

Published by Fourth Estate

Taste - The story of Britain through its Cooking
by Kate Colquhoun
First published in 2007, Kate Colquhoun's book Taste is as much a book of social history as cooking.  Her stated aim was to write the story of the people behind the food.  Given that the story starts in pre-history and Britain's printed cookbook tradition didn't begin to flourish until the 16th century, it's an extensively researched undertaking.  Colquhoun points out that "history is wrtitten by those who can write.  Social historians have to dig deeper".  She takes us from the finds discovered in a 3200 BC Orkney kitchen midden through the "conspicuous culinary consumption" of the Romans, the Elizabethan great halls and the effects of the Industrial Revolution.  She puts forward the view that the huge technological advances of the Victorian era came at a price.  That of divorcing households from the narrative of where our food comes from.  Only now, she believes, are we facing up to the true cost of our food.  We spend less on food now than at any point in history and we throw away 1/3 of it.  This book is packed with fascinating facts but it's also a fantastic read.  It's difficult to turn a page without feeling you need to mark a passage or scribble some little nugget of information down.  Full review coming just as soon as I can put this book down.

Published by Bloomsbury Cooks

Happy reading.