You would think that in the current climate (and that's all I am going to say about it, we are reading enough about how we've got to tighten our belts and cut spending, blahdiblahdiblah), buying new cookbooks is the last thing on my mind... but you know what, you couldn't be further from the truth.
Here's how I see it: the more I indulge in reading cookery books, the more I want to cook at home. The more hours I spend drooling over recipes and glorious photography, the less I am going to need trips to restaurants where nine times out of ten, I'll be disappointed anyway (or find the value-for-money unappetising). Unless I go to those really expensive places that I can only afford once in a blue moon in the best of circumstances and, by the looks of it, not in some months to come. So the money put in cookbook purchases is not just an expense, it's an investment - because I'll be dying to re-create a myriad of dishes at home rather than spending hours hitting the re-dial button to get a table at The Fat Duck. Although I have a feeling that getting through there is going to be an awful lot easier this year. (Have you noticed how half a year ago you wouldn't even have thought of just showing up at a London restaurant and phoning for a table on a Friday or Saturday less than a week in advance was futile, yet these days, even the most sought after restaurants seem to always have availability? It's when The Ivy starts introducing a Happy Hour that I might be convinced to finally give it a try ;-))
Back to cookery books though, which will become even better friends when we take more time to DIY again.
Anthony Demetre has just come out with his first book, called "today's special. a new take on bistro food". No capitals. Although this seems to be a signature of Quadrille Publishing, it also very much reflects the whole attitude of the book and the essence of Demetre's London restaurants, Arbutus and Wild Honey (read Cook Sister's account of her visit to the latter here, we also went to Arbutus a while ago now). No pompuous nouvelle cuisine, no starch-laden table-cloths and heavy chandeliers, no £4000 bottles of wine... he's all about honest, down-to-earth bistro food, celebrating excellent produce and reviving and modernising classics of French cuisine. If the mmmhing and aahing coming from my husband as I leafed through the book is anything to go by, I will be cooking quite a lot from it. Alongside bistro staples with a twist, there's plenty of hearty vegetarian fare like potato gnocci with fricassée of wild mushrooms, radicchio risotto with taleggio and red wine or gratin of cavolo nero. Where the book stands out from the crowd in my opinion, though, is the more unusual meat and game choices, like pig's cheek, ear and trotter salad, plenty of terrines and patés, oxtail ravioli or jugged hare with soft polenta. Not that this is necessarily something I am rushing to cook, but I like that there's the option. I will be making braised ribs of beef soon and a warm chocolate soup, and my husband is still compiling his wish list (he's already filled an A4 page, so I'll be busy for a while, I guess!)!* Did I mention that the photography and food styling have a certain panache that is to die for?
Next on your list of books to buy should be Michel Roux's "pastry". "Who needs another book on pastry?", you might ask. You do, that's who. I'd never have thought I'd say that because for most of my short life I have been a reluctant baker, but if you have any aspirations of ever making anything with pastry, this books has it all. It covers all the main types (brisee, shortcrust, puff, choux, filo...), comes with handy techniques and glorious step-by-step photography to illustrate how to decorate your pie crusts and make the perfect pastry-baked patés (aka paté en croûte). It also contains the most popular and well-known recipes involving pastry, both sweet and savoury, and will leave no question in this department unanswered. And if the book falls open on that sinfully tantalising chocolate and raspberry tart one more time as I leaf through the book, I will have to abandon this post and get busy in the kitchen, no matter what time of the day it is!
Last but not least, a book that is way more than just a cookbook. Written by the seriously talented Greg and Lucy Malouf, this book is not just a stunner on your lounge table, it will keep you occupied for hours with wonderful stories, present and past, of real-life Turkey. If you are mourning the fact that you might not be going travelling anytime soon, "turquoise" will answer all your prayers - short of buying your a plane ticket. The photography is so amazing, so inviting and so real that you're transported right into the beautiful landscape, architecture and culture of Turkey. So even if you're not that into Turkish cuisine (I never thought I was, but have earmarked at least twenty pages already), you will enjoy your virtual trip through Turkey with Greg and Lucy. Pick any afternoon, get comfy on the sofa with a cup of freshly brewed coffee or the very tempting pomegranate caprioska in the book and let yourself be transported to a world which is both deeply steeped in culture, yet surpringly European at the same time. And you won't get DVT from your flight on yet another budget airline.
All the books are available from Quadrille publishing, in every decent bookshop and on amazon, of course.
* If I am allowed to criticise one thing, it'd be that like so many cookbooks in this country, this book contains a recipe for "gratin dauphinoise". Take note: "gratin" is MASCULINE and the accompanying adjective is therefore also masculine, so it is gratin dauphinois... not an "e" in sight. I almost fell out with Gordon Ramsay over the same thing, but then he's much better at swearing than I am, so I retreated.