This Is Summer: Books
Keen cooks will want to add these kitchen classics and new titles to their collection – summer inspirations that can last beyond the end of August.
Monday 30 June 2008
The Fish Store, by Lindsey Bareham
(Michael Joseph, £20)
A masterwork from one of our finest food writers, this wonderfully informative cookbook was inspired by the Cornish fishing village of Mousehole, where Bareham's sons inherited a home in a former pilchard plant. Unsurprisingly, 150 pages of this richly rewarding work are devoted to fish recipes. Almost all are fine summer food but Star Gazy Pie, the most famous local dish, is traditionally eaten on 23 December.
Amaretto, Apple Cake & Artichokes, by Anna Del Conte
Adored by Delia and Nigella, Anna Del Conte has done more than anyone else to bring the true taste of Italian cuisine to the British kitchen. Ranging from a 15th century recipe for roast leg of lamb in saffron and balsamic vinegar sauce to spaghetti with squid stew, this collection of her crème de la crème should inspire an endless banquet of the warm south whether you're summering in San Gimigiano or Solihull.
Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East, by Arto Der Haroutunian
(Grub Street, £14.99)
White bean salad, stuffed vine leaves, walnut and chickpea soup, spicy aubergine with cheese, rice and courgette pilav, pumpkin with apricot and rice... I found myself wanting to eat everything in this collection of tasty veggie dishes. First published in 1983, this book is a reminder that the late Arto Der Haroutunian, who was born in Aleppo but lived in Manchester, banged the drum for Levantine cuisine years before it became fashionable.
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
For those of us who do not live adjacent to branches of this fashionable eatery (Notting Hill, Islington, Kensington, Belgravia), this ultra-stylish cookbook shows what we're missing. Aiming to create "a feast of bold colours and generous gestures", the authors Ottolenghi (Jewish) and Tamini (Palestinian) specialise in intensive Mediterranean flavours. Lamb cutlets with walnut, fig and goat's cheese salad are typical.
Reggae Reggae Cookbook, by Levi Roots
Though the peripheries of this Jamaican feast, from Caribbean chicken soup ("put the chicken in a duchy") to sweet potato pudding ("no one will ever guess this has any vegetables in it"), will suit the pallid European palate, the main courses are made of sterner stuff. Licha fish requires two red snapper and two Scotch bonnet chillies. Roots' "juice jerk seasoning" demands four of these phosphoric blighters. Still, if you can't stand the heat...
Delizia, by John Dickie
Packed with nutritious nuggets, this history of the Italian passion for food ranges from the obscure, such as the Florentine lampredotto, to dishes that have become worldwide staples. Sicilians were eating pasta a century before Marco Polo's trip to the Orient, though fondness for pizza was long delayed by fear of cholera germs. This book may be enjoyed everywhere but, like spaghettini alla puttanesca, it will be best consumed in Italy.
A Late Dinner, by Paul Richardson
Though not a cookbook, this culinary ramble is essential reading for anyone heading for Spain this summer. From the introductory account of Madrid ("tin platters of prawns alla plancha, juicy steamed mussels..."), via the seafront at Benidorm ("The snails... were so good that I decided to stay put"), to the supernatural titbits offered at the legendary El Bulli near Barcelona, Richardson's eloquent descriptions are graphic to the point of pain.
The New English Table, by Rose Prince
(Fourth Estate, £25)
A beacon of talent and intelligence, Prince has generated a devoted and appreciative following without benefit of a TV series. Writing in a tone that is all her own, her recipes are moral, healthy, economical and (in case this sounds too uplifting for words) extremely tasty. Summer treats in this year-round treasure trove include green celery, crayfish and potato salad and the irresistible "melted cheese with ale to eat with bread".
How to Cook without Recipes, by Glynn Christian
For poolside reading, food-lovers should grab this profoundly well-informed work of culinary theory. Christian explains how our perception of five primary tastes can be used in revelatory combinations that he calls "flavour trails". His suggestions include a few drops of Tabasco in chocolate ice cream ("a restrained and elegant sensation") and white fish in a sauce of white wine, dried mushrooms and chocolate: "seems so perfect to me".
The Big Oyster, by Mark Kurlansky
The story of oysters in New York may not sound a compelling holiday read, but if you are heading there, this is the book to take. It has been estimated that the harbour once "contained half the world's oysters". Kurlansky's account of both consumers (native Americans left small mountains of shells) and consumed is utterly fascinating: "If the oyster is opened carefully, the diner is eating an animal with a working brain and a still-beating heart."
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