On the shelf: this season’s book reviews

Published 15 October 2020

by Lisa Markwell

This season, more than ever, reading has been a welcome distraction from life’s limitations. It’s been a bumper time for books by chefs and food experts – from those that are concise and packed with recipes to more discursive reads. Lisa Markwell assesses the new titles 

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

There can scarcely be a food fan in Britain that hasn’t heard of Calum Franklin – the “pastry deviant” has infectious enthusiasm for and artistic mastery of pies, which has made him famous. After sending out now-fabled beef wellingtons and other goodies from the Holborn Dining Room restaurant, he then created the “pie room”, a beautiful wooden space decorated with vintage copper moulds and other pastry-making ephemera, where passers-by can watch Franklin and team create everything from individual pork pies to vast, glossy potato and comte structures. Franklin’s first book has recipes for these and many more highly desirable dishes and clear, confident instructions for the amateur pie-maker. And, importantly, the chef gives proper credit to his brilliant team.
£26, Bloomsbury

The Rangoon Sisters Cookbook, Amy Chung & Emily Chung

Any bowl which combines soup and salad, topped with samosas, has my attention… This glorious collection of Burmese recipes by the Chung sisters “from our family kitchen” is packed with colourful, delicious ideas that just beg to be cooked. Baked coconut sago, and two versions of mohinga (aromatic fish noodle soup) leap off the page. Amy and Emily are both trained doctors who started a side hustle in supper clubs and are rightly celebrated for their championing of Burma’s cuisine. At the end of the book’s introduction they moot the idea of opening a restaurant in the future – I for one can’t wait.
£20, Erbury

Ekstedt: The Nordic art of analogue cooking, by Niklas Ekstedt

Cooking over fire is now an established part of the restaurant scene across many styles and cuisines but there is something rather charming about Niklas Ekstedt writing in depth about it – what he calls ‘analogue cooking’ – in his new book. Named for his eponymous restaurant, Ekstedt is a visual feast which will create even more interest in the Nordic landscape as well as its ingredients and dishes. There is the small matter of not all of us having access to Swedish wood or expansive smokers and open fires to deal with, but the recipes within the book are really both a document on Ekstedt’s Michelin-starred place and a jumping-off point for the rest of us cooks.
£40, Bloomsbury

The Food Almanac: Recipes and stories for a year at the table, by Miranda York 

One for the bedside table as well as the kitchen counter, this anthology of food writing is designed for a calendar year but, like some of the delicious food described inside, it’s hard not to binge. Somewhat inspired by Jane Grigson’s seminal ‘Good Things’, the book has been brought together by Miranda York, who also co-curates At the Table talks and magazine. Contributors include Itamar Srulovich, Marina O’Loughlin, Nik Sharma, Zoe Adjonyoh and many more. Each chapter has thoughts on the month, a few musings, a menu and a reading list. A book to keep close by for welcome distraction.
£16.00, Pavilion

Flavour, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

Just when you think there can’t be more that can be done to an onion, along comes a new book by Ottolenghi to prove otherwise – as the introduction says, it’s all about “process, pairing, produce”. His secret weapon for this glorious vegetable-focused collection of recipes is Ixta Belfrage, his development chef. Her frame of reference is slightly different to Yotam’s middle-eastern roots and it shows in the coconut and turmeric omelette feast and *those” miso butter onions. You can read more about Ixta Belfrage in this feature from CODE Quarterly
£27, Erbury

Fäviken: 4015 Days, beginning to end, by Magnus Nilsson

Hospitality folk wailed with frustration when Magnus Nilsson announced the closure of his restaurant in the wilds of Sweden – the chef’s creativity has been much admired and has influenced many. Now he has written a book about Fäviken, as idiosyncratic as the restaurant itself. Nilsson is witty and thoughtful, and there are insights throughout on the life of a chef and much, much more. The photography, too, is stunning and for those who are ambitious enough to attempt it, many of Fäviken’s dishes appear as recipes.
£45, Phaidon

Australian Food, by Bill Granger 

Did Bill Granger invent avocado toast? He demurs but it’s certainly correct that the Australian chef brought bright, breezy brunches to the masses in the UK via his Granger & Co restaurants (I’ve been known to line up for his ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and banana). Now with more than 20 years’ experience under his apron, Granger returns in his latest book to where it all started with, yes, a whole bunch of brunch recipes but also some hearty dishes too, which embrace the aussie grab-bag of influences and flavours such as grilled pork chops and cashew satay with pineapple and cucumber relish.
£20, Murdoch Books

Home Style Cookery, by Matty Matheson

I first came across the Canadian chef and restaurateur Matheson when he came over for a collaboration with Black Axe Mangal’s Lee Tiernan. The pair have more in common than tattoos and a flash of profanity – a brilliant skill in elevating what some might see as “junk food” with deft technique and deep understanding of flavours. Matheson’s second book is more relaxed than his first but whether it’s something simple like fish sticks with Kewpie tartare sauce or more involved, like pickled hot pepper queso and braised beef ribs, you’ll be desperate to get cooking.
£25, Abrams

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