Books are such a pleasure. The best grab your attention and transport you away, whisking you to a kitchen or urging you to go to yours in the case of a cookbook. Food travel books should take you to distant lands and foreign tables and make you run to find unusual ingredients and recipes. Memoirs allow you a generous peek into the life of the author. Food memoirs share with you the authors own story, their earliest food memories and often recipes.
As much as I love books, this year things are different as I am also now a published author. This changes my perspective as I now know how difficult it is to write a book, no matter how much you have to say or how much you love writing and cooking. It’s a very introspective, isolating process and the course of delivering a manuscript is a journey from agonizing to joyful, and over and back again. It is worth every moment and every tortuous pang though, and I hope to be delivering another manuscript in 2012.
In a way it is like working in a kitchen or a restaurant and understanding how difficult it is to run one, and especially to run it well. I feel the same about books now. I understand the graft and the birthing pains. It has left me with an even greater respect for the authors whose books charm my days and grace my kitchen counters.
These are some of my favourites from 2011 and others that I love and would heartily recommend you look up too. This list isn’t definitive, there are more that I will mention soon so that you can buy them or add to your wish list. It was getting really lengthy too so I have split it, and will publish the next part soon.
I have to start with this book. I read it when I first moved to London and fell down a culinary rabbit hole. I had discovered foul moudammes a few years previously and was obsessed with it. I found this book and rejoiced in Colette’s childhood stories of watching it being made in Egypt as a small child, and she shared the recipe. Her first book, and the following two, are gorgeously immersive stories of her transition from early childhood in Cairo, to Paris and finally to New York peppered with recipes en route. I recommend these all the time in person, and it really is about time I did here too.
Like most, I have long been a fan of Fuschia Dunlop’s cookbooks, particularly her book on Sichuan Cookery. Her story is wonderful, she went to Chengdu to study and instead became the first westerner to train as a chef in the Sichuan Culinary Institute. She spent many years traveling China, gathering recipes and absorbing the culture and details it in this wonderful book, Shark Fin & Sichuan Pepper. It really is absorbing and startling. For the first time I felt I really started to understand Chinese food culture (in a way I didn’t even know I needed to), how they value texture and also how they prepare food, it was quite a shock to read about a rabbit being skinned for the pot while it was still living and breathing. Fantastic book, while not for the squeamish, and heartily recommended
Weirdly, I have yet to eat at Bocca di Lupo, but I am an enormous fan of Gelupo, their Gelateria and deli across the road. I go every week at least when in town. Their cookbook, Bocca Cookbook, from first inspection became a firm favourite. It is detailed, comprehensive and peppered with charming detail. There is a whole section on charcuterie ( I will definitely be making the n’duja and guanciale) and another whole chapter on their gelato including gelato cakes (swoon!). Added to that there is a generous selection of recipes, I am keen to cook duck cooked like a pig.
I can’t claim the same about Hawksmoor, I have eaten there several times and am a big fan of their breakfast, burgers, steaks and cocktails. The charming Hawksmoor cookbook was published earlier this year with recipes for all of these and others. I will be cooking their sensational Tamworth Belly Ribs and I am desperately in need of some Anti-Fogmatics right now (cocktails to clear the mind they say).
Signe, the author of Scandilicious, is a treasured friend of mine that I met through blogging. Earlier this year she published this beautiful tome, full of charming Scandinavian recipes. Everyone loves it, and deservedly so. I need to make the Daim Cake soon and power my way through lots of her wonderful healthy recipes. A job for January when I need the cleansing wonder of Scandinavian cooking. Her second book on Scandinavian Baking is out in 2012 so watch out for that one too.
Come back soon for the rest of my list featuring Philip Dundas, Jake Tilson, Edd Kimber (The Boy Who Bakes) and Kerstin Rodgers (Ms Marmite Lover) among many lovely others.