Nightingales & Roses
Maryam Sinaiee, Head of Zeus, H/B, $59.99
I urge you to read the introductions in this book and linger over the gorgeous photos before diving into the food. You’ll learn about the seasons and festivals that influence Persian food, the teb-be sonnati traditions around balance and the ceremony surrounding the serving of foods. I’d always assumed that Persian food would be daunting to prepare and require difficult-to-find ingredients. But with this collection of more than 100 recipes recreating the home cooking of her childhood, Maryam Sinaiee presents simple methods and familiar ingredients, even if they do sometimes turn up in unexpected combinations such as lamb and rhubarb stew or apricot and poached egg soup. Though things such as saffron, pomegranates and rosewater are almost pantry staples these days, some others such as dried limes or barberries might stretch the resources of your local supermarket. The book runs through the seasons, giving not only recipes but the stories and traditions that go with them, and a photo with every dish. And now I know how to create tahdīg – the crunchy crust that forms at the bottom of the rice pot – as well as scores of other rice dishes.
Josef Centeno & Betty Hallock, Chronicle Books, H/B, $67.99
Josef Centeno is the chef-owner of five acclaimed restaurants in downtown Los Angeles. He understands how to work flavours and combinations with a skill usually reserved for the high temples of fine dining. This pursuit of flavour is revealed in many dimensions in Bäco, a crazy quilt of recipes knitted together from immigrant experience, imagination and the melting pot of cuisine that is Los Angeles. And yet all of his clever flavour combinations sound as if they were always meant to be together, helped along with a little French technique. I LOVE THIS BOOK. There is a pow to Centeno’s cooking that comes from the way he deftly layers his citrus, herbs, vinegars and spices with contrasts of fat, acid, textures, temperatures, traditions and techniques. He takes us beyond our sense of taste to stimulate all of our senses.
Greg & Lucy Malouf, Hardie Grant, H/B, $60
As famed Lebanese chef Greg Malouf says, “…nothing makes people’s eyes light up the way desserts do. Make no mistake about it, sweet things are purely about pleasure! Desserts nourish the soul, if not the body.” Although Lebanese meals usually end with fruit, not pudding, here Malouf draws upon the sweets and sugary indulgences of his childhood as well as the pastry techniques of his French training. The result is more than 100 puddings and pastries, ice creams, cookies, cakes, confectionary, fruity desserts and drinks – inspired by the flavours of the Middle East. Scheherazade ice creammeringue cakes are a delight of pistachio meringue, delicately perfumed nectarine sorbet, yoghurt cream and a scattering of sugared rose petals – a special occasion show stopper if ever there was one. Malouf again, “…let’s be honest, life would be very bleak without a touch of sweetness from time to time.”
Tasting India – Heirloom Family Recipes
Christine Manfield, Simon & Schuster, P/B, $59.99
Vast in scope, this is as much a sage and sensory travel guide as an intricately researched recipe collection. Manfield takes us through the tapestry that is India by region and city, giving a useful insight into landmarks and culture in the chapter openers, a directory for accommodation and eating and a comprehensive ingredient glossary. Like the country itself, the recipes, whether photographed or not (and Anson Smart’s photography of dishes, people and place is suitably evocative), conjure up a riot of colour and texture and bring about instant cravings. We learn to stuff pumpkin flowers with a spicy cheese mix before coating in a chickpea flour batter and frying. Keralan cabbage thoran is a textural masterpiece and Gujarati vangecha bharit – smoked eggplant – looks the ticket. Portuguese influence on Goa gives rise to bebinca, a sublime-looking cooked coconut-milk custard. This is a fully revised version of the 2012 edition of Manfield’s book, including 30 new recipes and three new chapters on the Punjab, Gujarat and Hyderabad.
Anna King Shahab
The Food of Argentina – Asado, Empanadas, Dulce De Leche & More
Ross Dobson & Rachel Tolosa Paz, Smith Street Books, H/B, $59.99
Structured around the different ways Argentinians come together to eat, the book is divided into afuera (outside), en casa (at home) and la merienda (afternoon tea). The authors openly state that the book is not meant as an exhaustive overview of the cuisine of the entire country and that it leans more towards a focus on Buenos Aires and the Rio de la Plata area, but there are also recipes that reflect various regional specialties too. It’s a country built on immigration and the book does well to describe some of the diverse roots of the recipes (a Welsh-influenced Patagonian shepherd’s pie, for example). Argentine cooking is for the most part unfussy, and this book is chock-full of simple recipes that let the ingredients speak loud and clear: choripan, chorizo in a bun with salsa criolla and chimichurri, could easily become a summer staple, and a pizza with just onions and cheese looks utterly comforting. Delicious sweet treats include a lush peach cake and a more grandiose piece, the torta rogel – layers of pastry sandwiching dulce de leche, all topped with torched Italian meringue, best enjoyed between sips of bitter mate tea.
Gemma Walsh & Katie Kerr, Gloria Publishing, P/B, $35
This whimsical, simple little book grew from a series of brunches, lunches and dinners hosted by chef Gemma Walsh and book-maker Katie Kerr, at Walsh’s Grey Lynn home in the winter of 2018. At each meal was a writer, who responded to the experience in whatever way touched them. And so alongside Walsh’s plant-based recipes and her own thoughts on what the food means to her, we get a diverse spread of short essays, conversations and poems – texts that speak of memory, culture, immigration, nostalgia, a sense of place, a sense of belonging or not belonging. Some relate directly to the food, some to the experience of sharing food, recipes and conversation, some to food memories. Contributors include Courtney Sina Meredith, Lana Lopesi, Rosabel Tan, Dominic Huey, Vanessa Crofskey, Natasha Matila- Smith, Owen Connors, Liam Jacobson, Amy Weng, Reem Musa, Gabi Lardies and Sam Walsh. Illustrated with quirky photos and text layout, it is clearly a project made with love.
White + Wong’s
Al Spary & Russell Gray, New Holland, H/B, $49.95
Listed in our top 100 restaurants in the Cuisine Good Food Guide 2018, White & Wong’s in Auckland has had over half a million people dine within its iconic waterfront space in the heart of the Viaduct Basin. We never thought they would give away their precious recipes, but here they are all bound up in a terrific book that showcases everything you will need to create your own Asian food masterpieces including their delicious bites selection, dumplings, soups, barbecue, curries and their ever impressive sides, salads, vege dishes and sauces. Chefs Stuart Rogan and Ashish Bhat were the masterminds behind many of the recipes in this stellar cookbook and congratulations must also go to Good Group Hospitality chairman Al Spary and CEO Russell Gray; their passion and enthusiasm for the restaurant and bar scene has made them a leading player in the New Zealand hospitality industry.
Wine Reads: A Literary Anthology of Wine Writing
Jay Mcinerney, Grove Press UK, H/B, $39.99
Collected here are 27 diverse and highly enjoyable pieces of writing about wine, edited by novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney. Expecting a rather high-brow scholarly approach, I was delighted to spot the appearance of Aurelio Zen, one of my favourite, fictional Venetian wine-loving detectives (though it’s a hard-fought battle with Commissario Guido Brunetti) as well as Roald Dahl and a piece from Rex Pickett’s Sideways (on which the 2004 movie was based). Though wine is the common thread there’s not a tasting note in sight; pieces have been selected for being a good read. Jancis Robinson tells of the horrors and delights of blind tastings, there’s a true crime tale about the poisoning of the world’s greatest vineyard and a profile of Madame Clicquot who forged through Napoleon’s defeat to create one of today’s great Champagne houses. It’s always a treat to find a good writer you have never heard of, so I’ll be searching out AJ Liebling’s Between Meals, purely on McInerney’s recommendation that it is one of the best books about Paris ever written, ranking alongside Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.