Book report : Frozen assets

Sybil Kapoor's pick of summer cook books

The summer months are a good time to find books that publishers find hard to categorise, whether it be the perfect wedding tome for debutantes, the rip-roraing life of an Australian foodie, or a limited edition facsimile of the 113-year-old Book of Ices.

Mrs Marshall, The Greatest Victorian Ice Cream Maker Smith Settle, pounds 19.50

"We wanted to produce a book that would increase in value," says Robin Weir, one of the publishers of this exquisite book. "So we only printed 250 hardback copies and 1,000 paperbacks." The slim blue hardback has silky thick cream paper and is chock-a-block with reproductions of her early advertisements. The first four chapters are impossible to put down, describing Mrs Marshall's fascinating life as a cook, beauty, teacher, writer and inventor extrordinaire. The facsimile of her first book on ice cream follows. Wonderfully clear, it gives plenty of practical advice before listing 117 tempting recipes, including pistachio ice cream, damson water ice, and rum sorbet. All are simple to make. I tested a raspberry ice cream and found it delicious, although I used a food processor and a modern ice cream machine in place of the equally speedy Marshall's Patent Freezer.

Le Cordon Bleu Quick Classics by Jeni Wright & Le Cordon Bleu chefs Cassell, pounds 17.99

Just as Mrs Marshall wrote to educate the nouveau riche of her age, so Le Cordon Bleu has been synonymous with the cooking of the aspiring debutante. What prospective husband could resist her devilled grilled poussins with Simla rice or profiteroles au chocolat? This is the perfect book for anyone new to cooking who is keen to serve simple, stylish food. A resilient hardback with glossy pages, it is easy to use and packed with sound advice. The recipes are mainly modern: prawn and ginger soup, mixed greens with goat's cheese toast, a grilled fish with mustard beurre blanc, but you can also find coq au vin and crepe Suzette, and their cooking times look realistic. The more you look, the more you will find.

Moroccan Cuisine by Paula Wolfert Grub Street, pounds 16.99

I have never been fond of couscous or tagines, but within minutes of reading Paula Wolfert's evocative prose, I had blamed my distaste on inexperience and was ready to try her tantalising recipes for meatball tagine with spices and lemon and Berber couscous - made with one freshly killed chicken and lots of spring vegetables. She draws you into her enchanted Morocco, placing the food and ingredients in context before dealing with the recipes in a logical and approachable way. She covers everything from harissa sauce and kif (cannabis) candy to cucumber salad and chicken stuffed with mint. However, Moroccan food fans should be aware that this book was originally published in 1973 in America as Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, before appearing here in 1987 as Good Food from Morocco.

The Rice Book by Sri Owen Frances Lincoln, pounds 14.99

Divided into two parts - the first section covers every imaginable aspect of rice from identification to myth, the second, recipes - this is a beautifully written account of the journey and thoughts of Sri and Roger Owen, who travelled the world to research this book. Roger Owen (who wrote the first section) allows the reader to absorb effortlessly the science, politics and culture of the grain, while Sri reveals a diverse culinary world with her recipes for every conceivable type of rice. These span pumpkin risotto to qabili pilaf (an Afghan pilau). Some of the recipes require ethnic ingredients, such as white miso (Miso Soup with Bean Curd and Rice Cake), or dried shrimps (grilled sticky rice rolls), but are worth the extra effort. This is a book that improves with familiarity and constant use.

Bloody Delicious by Joan Campbell Allen & Unwin, pounds 24.99

As food editor of Australian Vogue since 1979, Campbell is considered by many to be the Grande Dame of Australian food. I suspect, though, that British readers may be more intrigued by her rip-roaring picture of Australian life rather than by the recipes, many of which are unashamedly old-fashioned and of dubious deliciousness. I tested the pineapple flummery from her childhood in the 1920s. It had an interesting flavour, omitted certain fundamental steps to ensure a lump-free pudding and, although listed as enough for six, was sufficient for two. In other words, follow your instincts if cooking from the book and don't use the recipes to impress your friends.

The New Cook by Donna Hay Murdoch Books, pounds 14.99

This large elegant paperback is filled with inspiring photographs and tempting modish recipes: salmon and wasabi ravioli with kaffir lime sauce; egg plant and chickpea salad or almond peach galette, to name but a few. The chapter headings have been chosen intelligently, with modern taste in mind, so that they include everything from Eggs to Noodles and Vegetables to Milk & Cream. Each begin with "the basics", namely storage, preparation and selection along with anything else that might be useful to the cook. The recipes are short and to the point, but do assume some culinary knowledge. The only problem is that you occasionally need the ubiquitous measuring cup and must remember that an Australian tablespoon is 20 not 15ml - but it's all in the back, including a practical glossary

"Mrs Marshall, The Greatest Victorian Ice Cream Maker" can be ordered from Smith Settle, Ilkley Road, Otley, West Yorkshire S21 3JP. Including p&p, the hardback costs pounds 21.50, the paperback pounds 12.

Alternatively, buy it at Books For Cooks, 5 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 (0171-221 1992) for pounds 19.50 and pounds 10 respectively.

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