Off the shelf: New books on food
Need inspiration in the kitchen? Here's what's new on the cookbook shelves.
PETER GORDON EVERYDAY
Peter Gordon's name is synonymous with fusion cuisine and fancy pants eateries here and in London, so it's somewhat shocking to find that you can make most of the dishes in his new book from ingredients found at your local supermarket.
Peter Gordon Everyday (HarperCollins, RRP$49.95) does what it says on the tin - it's full of delicious, family-friendly recipes that are short on complicated cooking methods and hard-to-find ingredients. Snooty foodies may be appalled by some inclusions - such as the spaghetti and cheese tartlets that look straight from a 1970s edition of the Edmonds' Cookbook - but there is plenty of showoff-style food here too if that's your thing. For the most part though, it's an inspiring way to extend your daily repertoire. If I could just get past cooking the ham, garlic and potato frittata...
NIGELLISSIMA: INSTANT ITALIAN INSPIRATION
Even as a longtime Nigella Lawson fan, news that she was working on a new book and TV series dedicated to Italian food filled me with horror.
While the TV series has yet to screen here, Nigellissima the book (Chatto & Windus, $64.99) isn't as bad as I'd feared. There are no shots of Nigella doing suggestive things with spaghetti or frolicking in the Trevi foundation. In fact, there are very few shots of her at all, which will crush a certain number of her most ardent fans.
Instead there are many full page spreads of her 'Italian-inspired' recipes, which owe debts to Italian cooking guru Anna del Conte and Nigella's own love of all things Italian. She waxes a little too lyrically about working as a chambermaid in Florence (cleaning hotel toilets is so much more glamorous in Italian, don't you think), but you can always skip those bits. You may also wish to skip, as I did, the 'meatzza' and the chocolate pasta in favour of the tagliata and Tuscan fries (otherwise known as steak 'n chips).
Sadly, much of the book feels like a reheat of some of her other works. It's not quite as bad as suggested in this wicked lampooning, but purists may feel the book is 'Italian' in the same way as a house with terracotta tiling is described as 'Tuscan'.
FRESH AND LIGHT
Just like Nigella, Australian chef Donna Hay inspires devotion and mockery in equal parts. I've never been a big fan, feeling her food and books are too over-styled, too concerned with the right sort of crockery and 'Donna Hay blue' backgrounds than how things actually taste.
But her latest book, Fresh and Light (Harper Collins, $49.99), might be the one to change that. Hay, who lost a significant amount of weight several years ago following major back surgery, claims she doesn't do diets and hates the thought of anyone depriving themselves. She says the book is about giving recipes a lighter touch, which means there's a lot of quinoa, green veg and salads.
She hasn't strayed too far from her core audience - there are more muffins than you can shake a stick at - but there are some genuinely intriguing ideas here for cooks with jaded palates who have become a little softer in the middle over winter. Or maybe I've just been sucked in by all the photos.
NZ RUGBY KITCHEN
If you've ever wondered what New Zealand's best rugby players - not to mention their coaches - do in their downtime, a new book may have the answer. If NZ Rugby Kitchen is to be believed, they spend their leisure hours in the kitchen.
The book, lavishly illustrated with photos of players old and new stirring, slicing and smiling, is a collection of favourite recipes from the likes of Richie McCaw, Piri Weepu, Colin Meads and Buck Shelford. Sir Graham Henry even contributes a recipe for an old-fashioned apple sponge pudding, though sadly there are no fiercesome shots of him waiting for it to cook.
While some recipes are 'inspired' by more famous cooks - Victor Vito's Beef Wellington is based on Gordon Ramsay's method and Jerome Kaino's Banana Cake is closely related to one made by Jo Seagar, there appear to be some genuine family favourites in there too.
Shameless trading on the rugby name aside, it's a solid collection of hearty recipes to serve your mates before watching a match. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which is the first line of support for those who lose their mobility due to injuries sustained on the field. Well-played.
WENDYL NISSEN'S SUPERMARKET COMPANION
It's not exactly a cookbook but this information-packed little number might help the confused shopper eat better.
Wendyl Nissen's Supermarket Companion ($29.95 at Whitcoulls) is an enlightening look at processed foods and how to wean yourself off them. If Nissen's research into what actually goes into Twisties, two-minute noodles and other convenience meals doesn't scare you, then perhaps her 'Nana-style' recipes for proper food will inspire you to put down the microwave popcorn.
The book also includes a very comprehensive guide to E-numbers and other food codes, which is essential reading for anyone concerned about avoiding additives.