Some more cookbooks for your shelves

We’ve had some lovely new cook books sent to us for perusal and these stood out the most, for content, design and brilliance of the recipes and writing. We hope you like them and order your copy from a local book seller. Where the book is yet to be published, we have indicated date of publication.

Home cooking by Laurie Colwin.

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Laurie Colwin died far too young in 1992, aged 48 and this re-packaged book, packed with recipes was the first of her food writing to be published in the USA where she is far better known, although her status among food writers and cooks is cemented- Nigella Lawson adores her. I first read it in my mid twenties when I had my own grown up kitchen and an American friend sent it to me as encouragement to cook. Suffused with love for her little daughter and a source of friendly advice with a familiar tone for the rest of us, this is, for me, the book to read when you feel in need of something other than a list of ingredients and what to do with them.

 “I love to eat out, but even more, I love to eat in.” said Colwin who published a few novels before beginning her (more) successful career in food writing that did not then have the status or respect it now does. Colwin excels in keeping the kitchen at the heart of the home whilst never slipping into a sub feminist subtext of ‘this is where you always belonged, you know’. An arch intelligence and wry, often self deprecating humour pervades her writing. You so want to be at her dinner parties whether they be plate on lap on a bed in a miniscule New York City apartment or something more formal. We can laugh at our culinary disasters because Colwin does at hers and lets us learn from them.

Never focused inwards, Colwin writes of the people she meets and the food they bring into her life- we meet her daughters babysitter from St Vincent who inducts her into the pleasures of Black Cake: “There was only a tiny scrap of the slice left and I was forced to share it with my child who said ‘More!’ in a loud voice” and also inducted me.  Her Black Cake has been our Christmas cake ever since. From dates and bosses to her husband and family, Colwin gives credit where credit is due and intersperses recipes and cooking tips with funny stories and winsome encounters against the backdrop of New York City.

Chapters are titled ‘How to fry Chicken’, ‘Bread Baking Without Agony’ and ‘Repulsive Dinners: a Memoir’. In the latter, Colwin talks of the triumph of a truly repellent meal and rejects her mothers advice that appalling cooks should live on filet mignon and have an excellent bakery on speed dial because “the rich complicated tapestry that is the human experience would be the poorer for it.” and she is right. She goes on to describe a casserole without fragrance as the lid is lifted to reveal partially cooked sausages, rice and pineapple rings in a sea of unidentifiable liquid. Beginner cooks are comforted by the fact that it is probably impossible to be that bad.

Yes the book is of its time and some of her advice shows that. We can now source good free range chickens and we don’t see the fondue as anything other than a retro delight. BUT the emotions that underpin her writing are timeless and universal. I love her.

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The Bloomsbury Cookbook

‘The Bloomsbury Cook Book- recipes for life, love and art’ by Jans Ondaatje Rolls

A book that is art, social history and cook book, feeding the mind alongside the body. With over 170 recipes from members of the Bloomsbury Group, including David and Angela Garnett, Helen Anrep and Frances Partridge and  illustrated with hundreds of paintings, sketches, quotations and photographs, it  is a window onto Bloomsbury via recipes, grocery lists, pantries, kitchens and, above all, its dining tables. We loved this book.

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The Bloomsbury Group fostered a fresh, creative and vital way of living that encouraged debate and communication (‘only connect’), as often as not across the dining table. Gathered at these tables were many of the most important figures in art, literature, politics and economics of the modern era: E. M. Forster, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, among many others.

The author, Jans Ondaatje Rolls invites us to dine with these enduringly fascinating individuals, taking us into the very centre of their world through the meals around which they argued, debated, laughed and loved. From the gastronomically prosaic- Leonard Woolf’s banana and fruit cake sent to him upon the occasion of his birthday by his mother, and his own recipe for haddock based fried fish and chips to the Glyndebourne ham roasted with orange juice, honey and carrots that they prepared for their pre opera feast in the grounds of this most august of British events, the recipes will both surprise and confirm our carefully held assumptions. There are intimate and astonishingly detailed portrait of the group, conjuring up the scents, colours and textures of breakfasts at Monk’s House, lunches at Charleston, tea in Tidmarsh, evening parties in Gordon Square and dinners in the south of France.

Beautifully illustrated, including original artwork by Cressida Bell, this is both a source of inspiration for the modern chef and a unique celebration of life, love and art at the heart of Bloomsbury.

‘Frites’ by Anna De La Forest

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The middle classes like to ‘slum it’, eating what they see as ‘working class foodstuffs’- chips, bacon sandwiches, cheese on toast and stews but cannot help meddling with them, ramping them up with high value ingredients, artisan this, foraged that until they are but a faint shadow of themselves. Is this book on chips (Frites) by Anna De La Forest yet another example of that?  We profess to a guilty love of fast food, the hot dogs and burgers, the chips and kebabs but wouldn’t want to to be caught at the roadside burger van unless it is parked under the arches at Waterloo serving haute dogs at ten quid a throw next to a sandwich board naming the farmer who supplied the pork. Unlike the Right Honourable John Gummer, we don’t feed mechanically recovered meat products to our children.

Chips are a universal indicator of Britishness despite their origins being most definitely not British one bit. Stories abound –  a 1781 family manuscript recounting the deep frying of potatoes prior to 1680 in what was then theSpanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium), in the Meuse valley or the enduring belief that french fries were invented by street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1789, just before the outbreak of the French revolution. What is clear is that  deep-fried fish was first introduced into Britain during the 16th century by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain and is derived from pescado frito. In 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin.

Still, we digress-  all manner of people enjoy frites/chips but where they start to distinguish themselves is in the manner of their preparation and source of ingredients. No longer happy to eat them from newspaper or trays, from cardboard boxes supplied with tongue drying wooden forks to hunt and peck, we are triple frying, thick and super skinny-ing them, experimenting with frying a myriad of other vegetables and fruits and even coating the frites in all manner of odd ingredients. Much of this is driven by the new breed of celebrity cooks and chefs, all driven by a desperate need to stand out from the herd and develop that one signature dish that will give them a fast track to a feature in David Chang’s gastro magazine ‘Lucky Peach‘ and queues of bearded hipsters out the door.

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Very posh and skinny frites

Anne de la Forest, a French cook and food journalist has written a book that heralds and celebrates a trend for frites of many colours. Her book is divided into sections and starts with a handy guide to potatoes (the best types), how to prepare them via peeling, soaking and even the ways in which one might cut them. Seguing into recipe sections which were beautifully illustrated- Trendy Frites, including skinny chips; Creative Frites: made with assorted veg such as sweet potato; and Sweet Frites: desserts made from apples, bananas and pears, sliced into oblongs and deep-fried, we ended up liking the black radish and oregano and caramel and honey glazed variations the best. We were intrigued by the fried feta frites that were thickly coated in breadcrumbs although we cannot imagine what the state of the oil would be afterwards.

‘Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding: Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker’ by Justin Gellatly

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We’re not clear who decided that Gellatly is Britain’s best baker.  After twelve years as Head Baker and Pastry Chef at London foodie institution St John- alma mater of every architect, hipster and would be’s of the same, he found his new home in Borough Market, as co-founder of the Bread Ahead bakery and cookery school. Food fiends go on pilgrimage to Bread Ahead for artisan bread, cakes and Justin’s doughnuts, which sell out as fast as he can make them.

Justin shares his doughnut recipe, along with over 100 others, in his brand new recipe book,Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding. A useful new guide for bakers, traditional recipes and techniques including madeleines, croquembouche and sourdough bread – and the inventive. including Justin’s signature salted caramel custard doughnuts and fennel blossom ice cream make harmonious bedfellows  all in one volume. Like all chefs, Justin cannot resist reinventing the wheel and his versions are not necessarily better; they are just different and add a modern edge that is intriguing and an alternative to the original recipes, not replacements. From the trad Poor Knights of Windsor to a even trad-er Syllabub made with the less usual Cider we found the instructions had clarity and the twists made sense- none of the ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ nonsense that has turned great chefs like Heston Blumnethal into parodies of themselves. We particularly liked the Apple and Calvados Cake with ‘Mist’, so named because before taking to table, Gellatly would spray it with Calvados. This version is a serve alongside sauce although there’s nothing to stop you spraying it too and we suspect bearded earnest hipster cooks will be doing just that in the hope that some of that Gellatly magic rubs off on them.

Blue Plate Special by Kate Christansen

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A literary memoir by novelist Kate Christensen in which food, (eating, cooking, thinking about it) is used as a vehicle to drive the story of her life. In the classic manner of a Laurie Colwin or M.F.K Fisher, the authors narrative becomes a way of re-examining and telling a life, starting with her unconventional childhood as the daughter of a Berkeley legal activist who ruled the house with “an iron fist” through diets, the world of men, travel and adult life writing books.

Beautifully designed with a hipster- in-mind cover, the writing is easy, intelligent and rammed with gastronomic jumping off points for readers- we were sent into reveries of our our foodie pasts on nearly every page.

Rosewater and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood

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Growing up a Lebanese-American means Maureen Abood gets to take the lush and exotic flavours of her Lebanese past and meld them with the stories of her adult life in Harbor Springs, Michigan in first a blog and now this book. The list of ingredients in her recipes alone will make your head swoon- pomegranates and sweetly scented sherberts, pistachios, flower waters, citrus sharp spices infusing meat, fish and vegetables. They are incorporated into mouthwatering meals:  thick yogurt in olive oil, lamb with spices and herbs, warm dates, pomegranate and rose sorbet…

Maureen takes us through the recipes and meals she was brought up with, paying tribute to the generations of her family through the retelling of their stories. That focus on ingredients means readers are gently encouraged to take a seasonal approach and to use what is local when possible. There is nothing provincial here though and Maureens culinary school training will ensure that you remain grounded in technique whilst your imagination and taste buds soar.

1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die by Mimi Sheraton

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Mimi Sheraton—award-winning cookbook author, grande dame of food journalism, and former restaurant critic for The New York Times jumps on the perennially popular theme of the book of lists and whilst this breaks no new ground, it is an amusing enough and swift read for those who like to aggregate themselves against other food lovers.

1,000 Foods selects some of the best cuisines around the world (French, Italian, Chinese, Senegalese, Lebanese, Mongolian, Peruvian) and from there homes in on rhe tastes, ingredients, dishes, and restaurants that every reader should experience and dream about, whether it’s dinner at Chicago’s Alinea or the perfect empanada. In more than 1,000 pages and over 550 full-color photographs, it celebrates haute and snack, comforting and exotic, hyper-local and the universally enjoyed: a Tuscan plate of Fritto Misto. Saffron Buns for breakfast in downtown Stockholm. Bird’s Nest Soup. A frozen Milky Way. Black truffles from Le Périgord.

Mimi Sheraton has an opinion and no fear of sharing it, reinforced by her 6 decade pedigree of professional gustatory critiquing and her book ranges from continent to continent identifying dishes, restaurants and experiences in each place- those considered by her to be seminal. She is no snob though.Bon Appetempts by Amelia Morris Take the Canadian and American section with their everywoman focus landing on frozen Milky Ways, southern Ambrosia and MoonPies (also from the Deep South), the former “an ecstatic rush of contrasts’ from the childhood memories of this New Yorker and the latter from trips away from the frozen north. Mimi does icons and nostalgia the best and they come together in a glorious paen to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station: “The famed oyster stew (oysters poached in cream and butter) is a thin, milky, slurp-worthy delight. The oyster pan roast is thicker, the aforementioned ingredients spiked with hot paprika and chile sauce and lovingly ladled, usually by a hassled yet generous waiter, over a slice of good toast. They’re dishes that work thanks to the juxtaposition of the oysters’ sharp sea saltiness with the milk’s neutrality.”

Bon Appetempts by Amelia Morris

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When Amelia Morris found a beautiful chocolate cake in Bon Appétit and took the recipe home to recreate it for a Christmas day brunch she was hosting, it collapsed into a terrible (but delicious) mess that had to be served in an oversized bowl. It also paralleled the interesting and never-quite-predictable, situations she’s gotten herself into throughout her life, from her one-day career as a six-year-old lady wrestler to her ill-fated job at the School of Rock in Los Angeles. As she gets older, the kitchen is where she finds that even if some of her attempts fall short of the standard set by a food magazine, they can still bring satisfaction to her and her family and friends. Full of witty and snarky observations about food, family, unemployment, romance, and the excesses of modern L.A., and incorporating recipes as basic as Toasted Cheerios and as advanced as gâteau de crêpe, Amelia’s book is sure to ring bells with those of us who try really hard and do not always succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Oliver, our local cook book writer!

Oliver’s Kitchen’ and ‘Oliver’s Kitchen -Seconds’

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Both of these lovely books feature the cooking adventures of Oliver and his sister Mia and in doing so, raise vital funds for the Neonatal Unit at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and the Stroke Association.

Oliver experienced a neonatal stroke and the first book tells the story of his progress alongside recipes and photographs. Oliver’s Kitchen-Seconds is 150 pages of recipes and cooking fun. Simple, child and family friendly meals that you will all enjoy. 

There is also a website packed with more features. 

www.olivers-kitchen.co.uk/

 

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Cook Books- World Cuisines

 

‘Essential Cuisines of Mexico’ by Diana Kennedy

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Three classic books about Mexican cooking in one volume, you will find the purest distillation of regional and national cuisine in here with an updated ingredient, technique and terminology glossary. Diana Kennedy is an American who went to live in Mexico and like Julia Childs, sought to understand her adopted country through its food. Don’t expect Tex-Mex (as delicious as this is) but instead, an authentic journey through the complex regional specialities to be found in this much misunderstood land. 

There is a glorious Pico De Gallo made with peaches that justifies the purchase price alone and by home cooking, you can eliminate the more fattening oils that characterise some of the dishes. Drinks are covered too but there are no glossy food porn photos- this is a cooks book.

‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ by Rachel Khoo

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Written by a ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ trained chef (with all the guarantees this offers regarding recipe construction and accuracy), this is a beautifully designed book backed up by a TV show. It was one recipe from this show – Croque Madam Muffins- that sent us out to buy this. Money well spent. Giving lie to the idea that you need a dramatically large kitchen and John Lewis stock levels of equipment, Khoo cooks up a storm in a kitchen the size of an under stair cupboard and her recipes reflect this economy of space in their simplicity married with classical French underpinnings. 

Fig & chicken liver salad uses an inexpensive meat with fruit that isn’t expensive when in season. The sweet tart of figs cuts the soft fattiness of the liver. Balanced and elegant. Warm potato and apple salad with black pudding crumbs is similarly rustic, inexpensive (Black Puddings are 99p each our my local butchers) and has that same sweet/salty motif. 

We have made the Shepherd Pie with three colour mash countless times. The pumpkin, parsley and potato topping is an excellent method of getting vegetables into yourself (and kids) and it is fun too. Recipes such as this help less confident cooks to experiment too with different toppings and Khoo doesn’t leave you stranded should you not have access to every ingredient. 

We’d definitely buy this for beginners. And for those Croque Madam Muffins which are the bomb.

‘Curry Easy’ by Madhur Jaffrey

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Everything that some cooks find intimidating about Indian cookery- long lists of ingredients, unfamiliar ingredients- is ironed out in this easy to follow and accessible book by an undeniably great cook and food writer. Over 175 recipes, regional specialities both lesser and well known make this THE book to buy as an introduction and fundamental guide to this eclectic cuisine. 

How can anybody resist the romance of a recipe called Perfumed Almonds? Just three ingredients- Cardomom, Sugar and Almonds. Love it.

‘Creole’ by Babette De Rozieres (Translated by Nicola Young)

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Creole is a lively cookbook featuring food from the Caribbean, where influences from Asia, Africa, India, France and Spain blend in a refined and colourful cuisine. It includes 163 recipes by Babette De Rozieres who learned the complexities of Creole cooking from her Grandmother and from there began her love affair with West Indian cuisine. Now a celebrity TV chef in France, she is the owner of the famous restaurant Le Table de Babette in Paris, where she offers her customers the delights of Creole cooking.

The recipes look complicated but they are not and are characterised by the big flavours, bright colours and seasonality of Caribbean food. However many of the ingredients are not easily found outside of large towns and cities with groceries that cater to Caribbean cooks. So it might require a cook with some understanding s to how best to substitute the more obscure ingredients.

Books for Cooks from the USA

I am a particular fan of American food writing and here are some of my favourite books by authors from the U.S, some well-known, some less so.

 But Mama Always Put Vodka In The Sangria by Julia Reed

 

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Mississippi born, New Orleans resident and often writer for US Vogue, Julia Reed has written several books all soaked in Southern charm yet cognizant of its underbelly of oft-unpleasant history and torpid heat soaked Summers that can make people act a little crazy. 

Julia Reed takes the reader on culinary adventures in places as far flung as Kabul, Afghanistan alongside her native Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast. Along the way, Reed discovers the perfect Pimm’s Royale at the Paris Ritz, devours delicious chuletons in Madrid, and picks up tips from accomplished hostesses ranging from Pat Buckley to Pearl Bailey and, of course, her own mother. Reed writes about the bounty – and the burden – of a Southern garden in high summer, tosses salads in the English countryside, and shares C.Z. Guest’s recipe for an especially zingy bullshot. She understands the necessity of a potent holiday punch and serves it up by the silver bowl full, but she is not immune to the slightly less refined charms of a blender full of frozen peach daiquiris or a garbage can full of Yucca Flats. And then there are the parties: shindigs ranging from sultry summer suppers and raucous dinners at home to a Plymouth-like Thanksgiving feast and an upscale St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

LA Son- My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

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From twice cooked duck fat fries and Chile Spaghetti in Koreatown; Horchata in Grove St through to Carne Asada and fried ribs in South Central and the Borrego Springs Desert, Roy Choi takes us on an autobiographical wild trip on the food side through culinary Los Angeles. 

This is the story of Choi’s love of food and his evolution from LA Low Rider to chef. Choi returns to his childhood afternoons at his parents’ Korean restaurant, his nights in L.A.’s illegal gambling halls, and his pizza-fueled studying at the Culinary Institute of America before making his way into some of the best restaurants in America. These recipes punctuate his life story and symbolise the great cultural melting pot that is modern USA at its best.

The Glory Of Southern Cooking by James Villas

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One of our favourite ever Southern food writers is James Villas who has had a long and esteemed career ranked equivalent to his peers- James Beard, Craig Clairborne and MFK Fisher (who were all his friends). This is THE definitive guide to Southern cooking by a Tarheel (Northern Carolinian) who is bursting with pride over his roots and heritage and whose writings teem with Southern vernacular, history and traditions. It includes traditional favorites, delicious regional specialties, and new recipes from some of the South′s most famous and innovative chefs, like Louis Osteen and Paul Prudhomme. Comprehensive and authoritative, the book features favorites like buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken, grits, cornbread, and pecan pie. Carolinian Low Country seafood are strengths as are his knowledge of Kentucky Burgoos and the regional ‘debates’ surrounding what a true Brunswick Stew is comprised of. And like all good Southern boys, James loves his Mama whose culinary legacy grounds his often amazing life experiences (crossing the Atlantic with Dali and his pet Ocelot on the Queen Mary) with a dose of down home. 

‘Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi and David Chang and Momofuku by David Chang

The phenomenon that is Momofuku and the Milk Bar in New York City comes to your home in the form of these two amazing books. In Momofuku, David Chang (who is behind the steamed pork bun resurrection) makes sexy recipes out of much berated and neglected ingredients. Roasted Brussel Sprouts? David Chang. New wave Korean quick dishes? David Chang. You will need to have access to some Korean ingredients so unless you either live near a city or are happy to shop for them online, some of the recipes may not be for you. But confident cooks can use his techniques and adapt his recipes or substitute other ingredients.

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The Milk Bar features Tossi’s insanely good and mindblowing sweet confections- cakes and patisserie, drinks and ice creams. Tosi is at the vanguard of new Wave Patissieres resurrecting what was considered to be an expensive and Cinderella speciality and combining low brow with high end turning out fresh interpretations of old diner favourites. 

Recipes combine Pretzels, potato crisps, cereal flavoured milk, marshmallows, apple crumble- you name it, in towering Southern style layer cakes, plate pies and giant cookies. Ice creams made from cereal milk are both nostalgic and fresh. Sweetcorn or crack pie anyone?

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor 

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We bought this book quite a few years ago and it is quite the most indulgent orgy of chocolate, sweet and unctuous you will ever read. When the most minimal recipe you can find is called Giant Coconut Cream Puffs you know you are in for a blood sugar Roller Coaster ride. The author is a skilled Patissiere and cook (although her assertion that us Brits traditionally eat Sticky Toffee Pudding on Christmas Day is a bit way off the mark) meaning the text is sprinkled with how-to’s on classic techniques such as Ganache making. Your Chocolate Caramel-Pecan Souffle Cake should turn out perfectly under her guidance. Just make sure you have a good dentist. 

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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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.