IoS Books of the Year 2012: Food
The recipes for seasonal joy – and scallop curry
Lisa Markwell is the editor of The Independent on Sunday. She was previously executive editor of The Independent, i and The Independent on Sunday and has edited the features pages, and both the Saturday and Sunday supplements. She writes comment pieces for the papers and restaurant reviews for the New Review. Lisa has worked across a variety of newspapers and magazines and can now tick off every publication cycle from daily to quarterly. She is an enthusiastic foodie, mother of two teenagers and drives an electric car. She is writing a book about adoption.
Sunday 16 December 2012
I've got more cookbooks than I know what to do with; probably with more recipes in them – combined – than I have meals left on earth. (OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.) So why do I, like many food fans (such as restaurateur Mark Hix, who has a roomful), keep putting them on our wish lists?
This year's best books proved that it's about much more than the recipes. Sure, you can buy the latest Nigella/Jamie/Lorraine/Mary TV tie-in title, but how many pesto or roulade variations do you need? Much more involving, and entertaining, were the highly personal food books, of which this year saw a bumper crop. How to Eat Out by Giles Coren (Hodder & Stoughton, £13.99), a kind of critic's memoir, was an unexpected joy. I found myself wiping away a tear as he describes a meal out with mum and dad, and hooting with laughter over the bile-flecked airline food chapter.
Eating out was also the theme of the exacting The Art of the Restaurateur by Nicholas Lander (Phaidon, £24.95). Those who want the inside track, rather than the critic's, will enjoy Lander's interviews with, and analysis of, some of the world's most interesting restaurant owners. It is a thought-provoking read, not least if you ever considered opening a place yourself. (Spoiler alert: it's bloody hard.)
One who knows this is two-Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains. His Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian (Face Publishing, £75) was nearly four years in the making and it shows. A lavish, microscopically detailed view of his work may not have you rushing to the oven (his scallop curry has more than 50 ingredients) but it is a thrilling visual food odyssey from one of our most creative, characterful chefs.
Even Bains, master of intricacy, uses a wooden spoon. He, like the rest of us, should Consider the Fork, which is the title of the new book by Bee Wilson (Particular, £20). Wilson gives a witty, well-informed history of kitchen implements and is a delight for anyone who's ever been in a kitchen.
Tears, again, arrived on reading Home Cooking by Laurie Colvin (Fig Tree, £12.99). Funny, clever and utterly unaffected, this is a joy for we harried, yet hopeful home cooks. She talks of "retaliating" to a dinner-party invitation, rather than "replying". Love it.
For those who feel they must add to their cooking repertoire, Polpo, by Russell Norman (Bloomsbury, £25), is a delight for its goodies from Venice and beyond, beautifully presented in a book that (hallelujah) lies flat on the kitchen surface. The easy-peasy meatballs are already a regular fixture in the Markwell household.
Cakes and baking are hardly under-represented in food books, but the imagination on display and ease of recipes in Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth, by Lily Jones (Canongate, £20) makes it an instant favourite of the genre. Stained-glass cake, anyone?
My two top books for snuggling up with, then cooking from (in my view, the perfect combination) are A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield (Canongate, £25) and You're All Invited by Margot Henderson (Fig Tree, £25). Bloomfield, the Brit chef doing brilliantly in New York, has a knack for friendly yet precise instruction – which not everyone does. It's lovely. Henderson's book is one I have already bought for food-loving friends because, well, I want them to cook for me from it! From fun canapés to indulgent suppers to glamorous puds, this personality-packed book has them all.
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