OATS IN THE NORTH, WHEAT FROM THE SOUTH

REGULA YSEWIJN, MURDOCH BOOKS, H/B, $55

Regula Ysewijn is a Belgian Anglophile, though one can’t help thinking that the Britain she loves is that of the past, the quaint villages and bucolic countryside where everyone stops at 3.30pm for afternoon tea. I hate to break it to her that the pie of choice today is more likely to be filled with chicken tikka than steak and ale and an M&S prawn sandwich is probably more popular for lunch than the pie and mash with jellied eels on the side that she is so keen on. Still she has done a comprehensive job of celebrating the sheer variety of regional British baking, finding recipes for cakes, biscuits, buns, griddle cakes, bread and pies that in some cases are particular to a single town or village, such as Goosnargh cakes or Eccles cakes. As well as the recipes are detailed histories of their origins and variations, so next time you’re dipping your bikkie in your tea you can reflect that the caraway seeds in digestives were to ease flatulence. Up until now I’d never imagined that digestive biscuits could come from anywhere but the McVitie’s packet, but at least now if I take the notion to bake my own I know where the recipe is. Tracy Whitmey

GROW FRUIT & VEGETABLES IN POTS

AARON BERTELSEN, PHAIDON, H/B, $70

New Zealander Aaron Bertelsen is the vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter in Sussex. In this book he demonstrates that lack of space is no barrier to being able to enjoy the pleasures of growing – and eating – your own. The book splits equally between growing advice and recipes, though being a British-based gardener I’m not sure how the advice on pests and planting seasons will translate to our conditions. Start small if you are a novice, with some salad greens or herbs – got to be worth a try just to make the vibrant lettuce soup or basil jelly. His key piece of advice is ‘grow what you want to eat’ so based on that I’ll be hanging out until spring to plant blueberries for the baked custard with blueberries, and potatoes and parsnips for farls (apparently I’ll need some long Tom pots). So curl up over winter with this book while you plan, then roll on springtime, we’ll be ready for you. Tracy Whitmey

FEED ME FEED ME

FRAN MAZZA, PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, H/B, $50

Fran Mazza, together with her husband, is the force behind a string of cool cafés across Auckland – think Winona Forever and Just Like Martha for starters – that have lines of enthusiastic punters out the door. While each café bears its own distinct personality, what they share is plates of highly Instagrammable popular dishes and more than 100 of these recipes appear here. Whether anyone will be taking pics of your version of the soft-shell crab Benedict or lamingtons depends on your dabness of hand with the tweezers, edible flowers and piping bag. Presentation aside, these are dependable café recipes with flair, lusciously photographed and interspersed with the story of each café. Lots of sweet cakes, slices and tarts, but also I was pleased to see a good number of my brunch/lunch savoury favourites such as pea and mint risotto cakes, Benedict three ways and what self-respecting café these days doesn’t do fried chicken. Tracy Whitmey

FALASTIN

SAMI TAMIMI & TARA WIGLEY, EBURY PRESS, H/B, $60

It’s hard to talk about Palestine, even about its food, without talking about politics, a fact that the authors ruefully acknowledge. However they steer a careful course, joyfully letting the food be foremost while telling the stories of cooks, restaurateurs and producers to see deeper. The authors hail from the Ottolenghi camp and the influence is plain – but you’ll get no complaints from me there. I was leafing through this book while trying to pull together a lockdown Easter feast for two, calling out, “Oooh, this one sounds good,” and “Mmmm, let’s try…” With aubergines, chickpeas, tahini, lemons and mint on hand we were all set. A lack of ingredients means the splendour of maqlubet el foul el akdhar (upside-down rice with lamb and broad beans) will have to wait, but I’m raring to go. Fortunately for these times when substitutions are necessary, each recipe is headed by handy ‘playing around’ ideas, of ways to change up the ingredients for something a little different. Tracy Whitmey

X