Much as it would be lovely to dine in wonderful restaurants night after night, the brutal truth is that most of us can’t afford it and don’t have the time. So enter Option B – the restaurant cookbook. In the last few years some truly excellent ones have hit the shelves, making it possible to enjoy an approximation of professional plates for your tea, or wow some dinner party guests with your sudden upsurge in culinary creativity. Here are ten of the best recently published options.
1. Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich: £25, Saltyard Books
Once schooled under the tutelage of the great Yotam Ottolenghi, it’s no wonder that Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, the brains behind this small restaurant in Warren Street in London, are so inventive and masterful in their cookery. This reads like a love story set to food, with Middle Eastern recipes that you can actually make yourself without too much bother. Have a go at their notorious feta and honey cheesecake.
2. Pitt Cue Co. by Tom Admas, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard H. Turner: £25, Mitchell Beazley
Once notorious for housing legions of hipsters in a tiny space just off Carnaby Street in London – all salivating into their beards at the thought of ribs and pulled pork – now you can do it all at home. You’ll find secret recipes for rubs, pickles, sauces, and how to perfectly cook Flintstone-sized lumps of meat, but – as with the restaurant – the real surprise winner is the bone marrow mash.
3. Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns: £25, Chronicle Books
Bar Tartine is a popular San Francisco hangout, the sister restaurant to the legendary Tartine Bakery. This book is foodie-focused, with great details on what you should have in your larder, pinpoint instructions on relatively complex techniques, and scientific descriptions of performing near-alchemy on vegetables to turn them into powder. For keen cooks it’s a wonderful addition.
4. Mildreds: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Daniel Acevedo and Sarah Wasserman: £25, Mitchell Beazley
The popular Soho restaurant has been churning out shriekingly good vegetarian food for 25 years, repeatedly proving that eating veggie can be a near-religious experience. This book is a real treat, crammed with soups and dips and sauces, and simple salads that will have your taste buds standing back and applauding. Proof that you don’t always need meat to have a good time.
5. Spuntino: Comfort Food (New York Style) by Russell Norman: £25, Bloomsbury Publishing
Russell Norman (of POLPO fame) seems to have spent a lifetime wandering the planet identifying the next wave of food trends, and his Spuntino restaurant in Soho serves the best of the Big Apple: two-bite burgers called sliders, prohibition-era cocktails, pizzettas and more. There are 120 recipes accompanied by notes on his travels around different eateries in New York. Feeling like you’re brunching in Brooklyn is a particular treat.
6. Morito by Samantha Clark: £26, Ebury Press
The good people of Morito have been bringing fine tapas and mezze to London’s Exmouth Market for the last few years, and their “small plates” would make a wonderful addition to any sophisticated dinner party. There are more than 150 recipes to choose from, with a detailed supplier list to help you find the more unusual ingredients. If you really want to push the boat out, have a go at slow cooking a rabbit, or one of their more curious specialties – such as fish heads with dates and sherry vinegar.
7. Rosa’s Thai Café by Saiphin Moore: £20, Mitchell Beazley
For decades gap year students have been returning from South East Asia raving about the food, but now they can skip the bit where they tell you about it and just cook it for you instead. Starting in London with a modest stall on Brick Lane, Saiphin Moore now has cafés across London, as well as this cookbook, full of excellent Thai recipes for popular favourites like beef massaman curry, or the unrivalled amazingness that is the papaya salad.
8. Nopi by Yottam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully: £28, Ebury Press
Unless you’re the kind of person who regularly throws together a wild rocket and parsley vichyssoise for lunch, some of the recipes in this exquisite cookbook might fly a little bit above your station. But don’t let that put you off, as these 120 recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s excellent Soho restaurant are fantastic, and all of them are designed so that you can recreate them yourself at home, with relative ease. Try the roasted aubergine and black garlic to get you going.
9. Gjelina Cooks: California Cooking from Venice Beach by Travis Lett: £21.99, Chronicle Books
If you ever find yourself on Highway One in America, take a pit stop at Venice Beach and pay Gjelina a visit, it’s a great restaurant. Alternatively, you could always bring some Cal-Med to the kitchen via this eclectic selection of fine recipes, accompanied by over 150 mouth-watering photographs. Featured within are instructions for condiments and pickles, all the way to mind-blowing fish stews and even making your own sausages.
10. Zahav: £25, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Zahav is a popular Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, specialising in traditional recipes, with a nudge towards the Middle East, North Africa and parts of the Mediterranean. You can learn to make your own award-winning hummus, or any number of rice and couscous dishes. Plus, best of all, there’s the chance to finally master your very own take on matzo ball soup.
There’s something for everyone’s palate, from the excellent barbecue of Pitt Cue Co. to the delicate sophistication of Nopi or Gjelina, but for a top-quality cookbook that you can return to night after night, try Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East.
All prices listed are RRP
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