Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More from NPR’s the Kitchen Sisters by Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson

 

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Now for something a little more offbeat for those of you who enjoy pure food writing. NPR (American radio) broadcast an appeal for stories about kitchens in unusual places and this book is an anthology of the many startling and sometimes heartbreaking stories that flooded in. What makes a hidden kitchen? For George Foreman (of the grill fame) it can be found through memories of childhood deprivation, of  hiding below the windowsill of a friends house, watching them eat. For a homeless man turned cooking equipment guru, the knowledge that homeless people use his grills by connecting them to street side power supplies is almost unbearably poignant. A hidden kitchen might be the San Fransciscan Cioppino cooked in a bay side hut for members of the local open water swimming club. Or it could be secret civil rights kitchens or the famous Chile Queens of San Antonio who sold their bowls of red in large tents catering to locals. If this book leaves you hungry for more, check out the original recorded oral testimonies on NPR’s archives. 

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More Cook Books Reviewed

Sweet Eats for All: 250 Decadent Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes–from Candy to Cookies, Puff Pastries to Petits Fours by Allyson Kramer

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If you have food allergies or have to cook for somebody with them, it is extra useful to be able to make classic recipes as opposed to some esoteric concoction that sets the allergic person even farther apart by dint of weird and spooky ingredients.

In ‘Sweet Eats for All’ Allyson Kramer keeps the promise of the title by offering safe alternatives to classic recipes such as Key Lime Pie, German chocolate cake and puddings such as pots de creme, albeit made with fashionable chocolate butternut. The person with allergies can once more enjoy the cakes, candies and puddings they always saw as denied them.

No food lover likes to be out of gastro-fashion and Kramer nods to the current ur ingredients such as Matcha and the canny use of vegetables to add moisture and texture. Clever techniques and substitutions, cool ingredients (smoked salt topping!) plus childhood nostalgic favourites such as lollipops and ice creams are included and all are underpinned by Kramers fifteen years of experience in cooking and recipe development.

A great book that belongs on the shelf of anybody with a food allergy or those seeking a new way of eating.

Juniors Cookbook by Marvin & Walter Rosen

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Famous for its classic American Diner food and bakery, Juniors is one of NYC’s most famous and iconic restaurants. The cheesecake recipes alone make the cover price worth it; we have baked probably hundreds of these over the years and the Juniors cheesecake has been voted NYC’s best. Baked on a classic sponge base, flavoured with a little lemon peel and a whole lot of vanilla, we have never eaten better. The recipes are interspersed with the history of the restaurant and Brooklyn with downhome Jewish cooking well represented. Recipes for cheese blintzes, the classic Black n White cookies, Macaroni Cheese, all manner of cookies and mains are all easy to follow but you will need to buy USA style measuring cups.

The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes From the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman

 

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One of our favourite ever chefs, recipe creators and cookbook writers, Rebecca Rather is a distinguished pastry chef and restaurateur in the Texan Hill Country town of Frederiksburg. Rebecca was proprietor of ‘The Rather Sweet Bakery’ and ‘The Pink Pig’ and her books are packed with stories and photographic essays that act as testimonies to just how good and reliable her recipes are. Who would have thought that adding fresh mashed potato to Jailhouse Cinnamon Rolls would make them light and airy?

Her Tuxedo Cake has been requested for every child’ birthday we know- three layers of luscious chocolate sponge drenched in chocolate and frosted with Creme Chantilly. The giant PB&J cookies are the size of dinner plates (everything is bigger in Texas) and chicken pot pies made and baked in pastry topped dishes look and taste superb. We have made nearly all her recipes and they range from super indulgent cakes ‘Mexican Tres Leches Cake, to yeast baking such as Kolaches- pillowy sweet yeast buns stuffed with either savoury or sweet fillings. Main courses and snacks are well provided for too with King Ranch Casseroles and vividly coloured bowls of soup packed with Tex Mex flavour.

The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman 

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One of THE best and original Christmas baking and cooking books, jam packed with table dressing and serving ideas, this book is undoubtedly what gave Nigella some of her ideas regarding her own Christmas book. Rebecca Rather is a trained pastry chef, caterer and restaurateur and her recipes always, always work without being faffy and cheffy. She is fond of family style meals, eschewing individual portions and you will find wonderful tall layer cakes spiked with alcohol, fruit and inventive flavourings. Cocktails and party drinks are a strength too. 

Our favourites? Whiskey Glazed Eggnog Cakes, In-the-bag Chile Frito Pie, Cranberry Margaritas, Cowboy Coffee and Olive Beef Tenderloin. Oh and don’t forget to try the Warm Pear Ginger Upside Down Cake with Amaretto Whipped cream.

Classic Spanish Cooking: Recipes for Mastering the Spanish Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard 

 

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Elisabeth Luard is an ‘insiders’ choice. Not backed by a mega bucks publicity campaign, her books sell steadily to people who appreciate beautifully understated, knowledgeable food writing underpinned by accurate recipes that work. This is a trans-regional ‘Greatest Hits’ of Spain with foolproof recipes for Gazpacho, Tortilla, Albondigas and Paella. Luard once lived in Andalusia and knows of what she writes, speaks and eats.

Best Food Writing edited by Holly Hughes (2000-2013)

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One of my favourite food writing anthologies, Hughes collates and edits the best food writers from around the World in each yearly collection. The latest edition features NYC chef and restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton (Guess who’s coming to dinner), Jonathon Gold on Hawaiian food trucks, Carole Penn-Romine on ‘Coke and Peanuts’ and a very moving meditation on feeding ice cream to her dying Mother by Sarah DiGregorio. Previous editions feature well known British food writers too but the stories told are of events and emotions common to all nationalities. Everybody eats!

Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater

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Returning to the format of his first books and updating it for the Twitter generation, Slater has produced reams (over 600) of user friendly non faffy recipes that I think parent and other time pressed cooks will find both invaluable and intelligent. The book alone is a joy to possess being chunky and beautifully designed with its cloth covers and text-economical recipe descriptions. Yes it presupposes that you have some cooking experience; I wouldn’t buy it for a teenager who did not know what ‘braise’ means for example. But for those cognizant of the basics and keen to experiment, this book would make a great gift or leaving home present.

A Tale of Twelve Kitchens by Jake Tilson

 

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Infused with the artists sensibility of its author, this is a book about living, travelling and cooking as you go. An inveterate collector, Jake Tilson’s book has something of the scrapbook about it but it is not scrappy. Moving in a linear fashion from his English countryside youth through London and marriage which led him to Scotland and then kitchens and cooking in far flung places – Santa Fe, Tuscany and LA, this book is filled with achievable recipes with a sense of place. Try Dominican Black beans, Secret Garden Mulberry Sauce and Butteries. 

The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill

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Across the UK and beyond, thousands of home bakers have been meeting covertly in hidden locations with the same simple mission: bake, eat and gossip about cake. These are the members of the phenomenally popular Clandestine Cake Club and here are their recipes. From Smoked Chile Chocolate Cake to the lovely Citrus section, these cakes are reliable. They work, they look good but do not require Peggy Porschen levels of expertise in the decorating department and they taste superb.

The Clatter Of Forks And Spoons by Richard Corrigan

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Based on the dictum that ‘everything should taste of itself’ Corrigan creates recipes that are hearty, earthy yet simple in he does not expect you to use thirty ingredients from far flung corners of the globe. This is a big read of a book full of memoir and stories of his youth reflected in reinterpretations of meals from those times. We love the Bentley’s Fish Pie, the Eight Hour Lamb and wonderful crab dishes.

Made In Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli

 

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Companion volume to his ‘Made In Italy’ and both books are huge, all encompassing tomes. This volume focuses on the regional cooking of Sicily, an Italian island with a cuisine bearing the imprint of its many invaders. Locatelli intersperses memoir and food writing with intelligently compiled recipes base upon a love for the island kindled in him aged ten. Simpler in ingredient and preparation than his previous book ‘Made In Italy’ which is reflective of the Sicilian way, this book should be used in tandem with seasonal produce where possible. Broccoli, Chile and Almond Salad, Lamb with Broad Beans and Cassatta (Ricotta Cake) are all favourites of ours. 

 A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

images (20)Molly’s blog ‘Orangette’ was one of the earliest and exists to this day. This book is both food memoir, an account of life and family and full of excellent modern recipes. Her writing is poignant, sharp and never strays into food hyperbole. Favourites? Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Creme Fraiche and Doron’s Meatballs with PineNuts, Coriander and Golden Raisins. The titles alone make us swoon. Molly now has her own restaurant in Seattle called ‘Delaunay’ and a new cookbook due out this May 2014. We await this eagerly and encourage you all to follow her wonderful blog http://orangette.blogspot.co.uk/

How To Eat by Nigella Lawson

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Is it hyperbolic to describe this as a seminal food and cooking text? We don’t think so and are proud to declare ourselves as very early Nigella adopters, being fans of her early ‘Vogue’ food columns that went onto become this book. Nigella’s first book is written with such love, warmth and longing for memories of past meals that it will resonate forever. This is the kind of food book to hunker down with and read as you would a work of fiction. You will be guaranteed to want to cook from it too as it is jampacked with useful achievable advice for everyone. Personally we found the weaning and infant feeding chapters full of useful advice- like having a Health Visitor, Mother, friend and champion cook rolled into one and standing by my side whilst we agonised over what to feed our children. For us the cover price alone is justified by Nigella’s tip on how to prep large amounts of kids party Marmite sandwiches. Simply beat butter and Marmite together in a bowl until soft and incorporated and then spread the bread with it. Amazing. Simple.

A Girl Called Jack- 100 delicious budget recipes by Jack Monroe.

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Her writing is superb, she is socially and politically moral and her recipes are not runners up in taste and style. Jack is a cash-strapped single mum living in Southend. When she found herself with a shopping budget of just £10 a week to feed herself and her young son, she addressed the situation with immense resourcefulness, creativity and by embracing her local supermarket’s ‘basics’ range. She created recipe after recipe of delicious, simple and upbeat meals that were outrageously cheap. Learn with Jack Monroe’s A Girl Called Jack how to save money on your weekly shop whilst being less wasteful and creating inexpensive, tasty food. Recipes include Vegetable Masala Curry for 30p a portion, Pasta alla Genovese for 19p a portion, Fig, Rosemary and Lemon Bread for 26p and a Jam Sponge reminiscent of school days for 23p a portion. We loved the Gigantes Plaki- tomato-ey Greek style large Butter Beans scooped up with whatever bread you have or versatile accompaniment to grains, rice or pasta.

Xanthe Clay calls her sassy and was an early champion of Jack Monroe’s blog. Xanthe Clay knows her stuff.

Go forth and buy this book. Unlike Jamie, she hasn’t priced her ‘budget meal’ book at a ridiculous price (Jamie ended up being shamed into donating large quantities of his book to libraries) nor does Jack Monroe make rude, disparaging remarks about poorer people in order to generate publicity.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen 

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In 1974, when Anya was ten, she and her mother fled to the USA, with no winter coats and no right of return. These days, Anya is the doyenne of high-end food writing. And yet, the flavour of Soviet kolbasa, like Proust’s madeleines, transports her back to that vanished Atlantis known as the USSR in this book with its wide ranging writings covering seven decades of Soviet Russia seen through a prism of one families meals.

A Slice Of Cherry Pie by Julia Parsons.

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The first book by a well regarded food blogger, ‘A Slice Of Cherry Pie’ melds food with beautifully compositions of the places, people and memories underpinning her recipe creations: a mix of modern rustic dishes inspired and inflected by a love of eating and sharing. The stylish scrapbook effect, mixing text, photographs, family memorabilia and montages makes this book a visual and tactile pleasure. From chocolate cakes to more unusual risotti, the recipes work.

How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

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Rarely has a book title been more (wilfully) misinterpreted. The original tongue in cheek intentions of Lawson when she named the book have been distorted into an anti Feminist ‘Get back in the kitchen’ edict far from the original intention. Indeed what this book suggests (as do all of Lawson’s) is that the kitchen can be another source of pleasure and comfort in the multi faceted like that many women today lead. 

This is one of our favourites of Lawson’s books being published just after ‘How To Eat’ when she still felt like a relatively undiscovered treasure. Her narrative is impregnated with all five senses, evoking your own memories through the recounting of her own. Lawson sets the scene before each recipe often crediting others for their creation. Rosebud Madeleines, Granny Boy’s Biscuits, Schnecken, Boston Cream Pie, Cheese Blintzes and Joe Dolce’s Cheesecake- Lawson journeys through France, Ireland, North American and her beloved Italy bringing a combination of faithful adherence and culinary reinterpretation. One of our favourite ever baking recipes is found in this book – Mini Lime Syrup Sponges. They are super cute and tiny mouthfuls of sharp sweet heaven.

The Hairy Dieters Eat for Life: How to Love Food, Lose Weight and Keep it Off for Good! – Dave Myers & Si King

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These guys came into Mumsnet Towers for a webchat in January and gave great chat about this book and their escapades of late.

The feedback was positive from the many Mumsnetters who have cooked from this book with comments along the lines of ‘tasting not like diet food’, ‘easy’, ‘family friendly’. Their motto is ‘Flavour has no calories’ and these recipes certainly pack the former in full of fruit, vegetables and lean meat and fish. Traditionally high fat and sugar foods such as Cornish Pasties, pancakes, Pork Schnitzel and chicken Bhuna are reformatted as low fat versions sacrificing none of the pleasure. Warm Nectarine Tart got our attention.

Roast by Marcus Verbene

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From the award winning restaurant in London’s Borough Market comes this sumptuously designed but down to earth book. Making full use of QR technology with its embedded film clips of culinary techniques and step by step photo guides, this book will guide you through each meal of the day using British and local ingredients and time honoured techniques brought up to date. From Anchovy rubbed roast mutton to wonderful fish and shellfish recipes as befits a former chef at J Sheekeys (the famous seafood and fish restaurant), this book captures the best of modern British cookery. 

One of the great recommendations by Harris & Harris books in Clare- http://www.harrisharris.co.uk/

Low Carb Revolution by Annie Bell

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Reducing your carbohydrate intake is proven as not only the fastest way of shedding those unwanted pounds, but keeping them off in the long-term. Here is a book that shows you how to achieve that without giving up any of your favourite dishes. Award-winning food writer Annie Bell approaches the Low Carb diet as a food lover and passionate cook, which is reflected in her approach to this way of life throughout the book. 

Annie Bell is a favourite of ours and probably bears some responsibility for a few extra poundage because of her amazing and seductive looking baking. This book is packed with creative savoury recipes such as salt and pepper duck (not something that tends to be seen as ‘diet’ food) that won’t make us feel deprived plus some puddings- a crustless mango cheesecake has been earmarked for making sooner rather than later!

Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater

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Includes over 250 recipes, many from his BBC TV series Dish of the Day, Simple Suppers and Simple Cooking. From Nigel Slater,  one of our best-loved food writers, a beautiful and inspiring companion volume to his bestselling Kitchen Diaries. Slater has maintained an eating & food diary for years and this is the second anthology of entries- a composite of a year of eating. From grilled things in juice and cooking fat smeared rolls to pork rib ragu (worth the cover price alone) this book is rammed with simple and delectable ways to eat.

Sugared Orange: Recipes and Stories from a Winter in Poland by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target – Review

The sequel to the award winning culinary memoir “Rose Petal Jam ” and as its predecessor, sumptuous in its design, this could be seen initially as one of those ‘Gastro Porn’ books destined only for the coffee or bedside table to be read in greedy furtive spurts and never to be cooked from. Sugared Orange continues Beatas touching story of a childhood in rural Poland, with 50 new recipes and treats, plus a winter journey that takes in the cities of Lublin, Warsaw, Kraków and ód, as well as some of the oldest forest in Europe and the frozen Mazury Lakes.

However the recipes beg to be made. Like much of Mittel to Northern European cookery, the flavours, techniques and ingredients are warm, comforting and designed to keep the body and soul working. From St. Nicholas’ Day to the vigil of Christmas Eve and the mid-winter revelry of a Sylwester New Year’s Eve Ball, the major festivals and timetable of Christian Human life is set out alongside the more everyday task of feeding a family in a memoir format that tells me so much about a country, relatively unfamiliar.

My favourite recipes? Gingerbread cake made with chocolate; dark, dark chocolate and honey. Ebony deep, sticky and Wintery this is grown up Gingerbread. Usefully another pleasing meal can be made in the main from leftovers and is not costly- Beef Rissoles with chili and breadcrumbs: the chili cuts across any tendency to denseness.

The Food Of Morocco by Paula Wolfert – review

 

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This scholarly book exploring the cuisine and culinary traditions of Morocco is the result of more than forty years of experience of world travel and gustatory exploration. Interspersed with glossaries of ingredients and techniques are essays about Morocco, its history and people.  The recipes are comprehensive and even easier to achieve now because of the wider availability of the ingredients; when we first bought this book, living in a large city with an expat population was a must. Wide margins make it a book for scribbling in, adding thoughts and comments – it invites this and is definitely a book to hand down as it deliberately ignores culinary fashions for hard core exploration and is the perfect companion to Wolfert’s classic, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.

PAULA WOLFERT, a resident of Sonoma in California, is the author of eight previously published cookbooks, all considered classics. Among them: Couscous and Other Good Food From MoroccoThe Cooking of Southwest France, and five books on Mediterranean cuisine including the much praised Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. She has won the Julia Child Award three times, The James Beard Award five times, The M. F. K. Fisher AwardThe Tastemaker Award and been a finalist for the British Andre Simon Award. She is the creator of the open Facebook Moroccan Cooking Group, an invaluable source of support, enquiry and information.

Some of our favourite recipes in this book are the blood orange and almond lettuce salad which is redolent with the colours, tastes and scents of this magical country. The Berber Couscous for Spring is a perfect distillation of the early season bounty- Broad beans, Courgettes, Spring Chicken meat, Cinnamon, early Tomatoes and the first of the years cream as cows start giving milk again. Wolfert ensures we understand why certain ingredients are the herald of their season meaning these recipes earn a place in the home of the local and seasonal food lover.

‘Manly Food’ by Simon Cave- Review

 

 

Being an unmanly Female means that using this book makes me feel like a fraud. The themes are ‘blokey’, ‘hearty’ and ‘flavour first’. Clearly as a Female I prefer my food to be somewhat less flavoured and preferably pink. And not rare meat pink either. 

Designed to appeal to the Man who becomes truculent if not given free rein with the barbecue and the knife steel, the book is divided into sections – ‘Pure Meat’; ‘Wild & Foraged’; ‘Chilli & Spice’, all accompanied by clear instructions and photographs. Should you lack those manly skills of Butchery it even teaches you how to prep carcasses and cure bacon. Should you be ashamed of having a sweet tooth then fear not- the desserts in here fall into the ‘Manly Desserts’. No worries about being mistaken for a girl here,  mate.

Recipes are actually very good and appeal to the Wo (man) in me which is rather worrying me that I am in fact turning into a man. ‘Hearty’ beef rib roasts (man food), curries that swipe chili heat viciously across the tongue (man food), Griled Corn, Chile & lime (man food)- all particular favourites and clearly meals that will put feathers upon the chest of any woman. 

Paella with Rabbit looks interesting and something that worked out well when we followed the recipe, having a delicacy that belied the subtext of the book. I am assuming this is ‘manly food’ because Real Men eat rabbits whilst real Women merely want to cuddle with them. Same with Gravlax. Is this a Manly recipe because of the use of heavy weights to press down on the curing fish? Maybe.

Eggs Benendict I assume is in here for when Caveman drags a fresh Cavewoman back to his cave and still feels the need to impress her the morning after. The Sorrel soup was epic. I love Sorrel with all its lemony ferrous glory. This was worth the price of the book alone and would impress me enough to stay the night in that cave if served the night before. 

We hope this book is tongue in cheek. If not, it’ll look lovely cuddled up to my pink cupcake books. They’ll have a long, happy and traditional marriage for sure.

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‘The Edible Atlas’ by Mina Holland – Review

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Any food book citing our heroine- the American food writer Laurie Colwin (who died tragically young) as an influence has an automatic advantage conferred upon it in our eyes. Referencing Colwin’s Lo-Fi Batterie De Cuisine as aspirational in its pared back aesthetic and cut to the chase necessity, Holland’s own book is paying its literary and culinary dues.

Holland’s gentle and scholarly approach starts with a wander through the subject of the Grape and particularly the European Grape before settling in for a chat about France, focusing upon selected departements and acknowledging their collective status as gastronomic High Priestess. Both rural, home cooking and the more esoteric Michelin starry eyed high jinks are given the nod and in one short passage we have Escoffier, Bourdain and El Bulli name checked. Holland knows her onions. Or should that be oignons?

We roam the highways and byways of the great cuisines of the World charmed and distracted by all manner of tables, graphs and statistical fancies, charting their cross pollination and Darwinian fight for supremacy. Europe to the Middle East, Asia to Africa and onto the Americas, we have breadth but not deep meta analysis. Some regions are skated over- we get a reduction of China into two of its ‘ingredients’ Szechuanese and Cantonese cooking suggesting that Holland felt less assured of her ability to do China justice. To be fair to her, China really is too large for any section in a wider ranging book to do it justice.

Spiked with autobiographical detail and quirky word play- Chile names depicted as swaggering and sinister members of a Barrio Gang- Ancho, Piquin, Cascabel and Habanero delighted us. Recipes are offered at the end of each section; chosen by the author to best represent a region and accompanied by ingredient glossaries that are in themselves, masterpieces of time, place and description.

‘Ceviche – Peruvian Kitchen’ by Martin Morales – Review

 

 

 

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Last years Foodie fashion and undeserving of the moving on of fickle gastro-tourists, the Peruvian cuisine is healthy and vibrant albeit challenging at times- you may not find all the ingredients in your local stores. Martin Morales, the chef-patron of Ceviche restaurant has written a book which will go some way towards satisfying the cravings of those unable to visit his establishment. An ingredient glossary and sourcing guides are included and mail order is available.

Reading like a user friendly History lesson, our favourite recipes are laced with Inca staples – Quinoa, potatoes and chiles married with ingredients brought over by the Spanish Conquistadors – pig, chicken and citrus prepared in ways evocative of the Moors who, in their time, also left their mark upon many European cultures. Slaves from Angola and the Congo brought over sugar cane and pumpkin and concocted delicious rib sticking stews and broths with them. Throw in Japanese sushi and sashimi techniques riffing off deep water South American fish stocks and you get Peruvian Ceviche. Raw fish is marinaded in palm sugar or sugar cane, lime and chile; this sharply opaque ‘Tigers Milk’ swipes the palate.

Two oft- prepared recipes in our home are the Pepian Des Pallares, a butterbean puree and Pastel De Choclo. The latter are little fried corn cakes inbued with Queso Fresco- fresh farmers cheese. Simple, inexpensive and great for kids too.