Cookbook reviews

Last updated 05:00 11/09/2012

Reviewer Mark Hotton checks out a couple of New Zealand cookbooks.

Pipi: The Cookbook
By Alexandra Tylee (Random House $65)

For some time, I have had a theory about cafes. Of course, Ihave no actual experience in the hospitality industry, nor any professional cooking skills so I could be wrong, but I maintain creating a good cafe cannot be that hard.

Surely it is all about producing consistently good food, served by good people, in a cool environment, with great coffee? It cannot be that difficult - although too many businesses do get it wrong.

I will probably never be able to prove my theory personally, but it appears Alexandra Tylee has done it for me.

She has set up three cafes - her latest incarnation is in Havelock North - and they have all been spectacularly successful. Even if she describes the process in Pipi as being about “grief, friends family and food”.

The introduction explains what impact the death of her son had, both on her and a relationship, and what that did to her life.

The book and the collection of recipes give an insight into how she dealt with that grief and was able to not necessarily move on, but live with the loss.

Tylee has had no formal cooking training but the recipes sound fantastic. The food photographs are beautiful and if they do not get your mouth watering, then just a quick glance at some of the recipes will.

The book has a traditional layout starting with good hearty soup, risotto and pasta dishes; moving into filling feeds such as parmesan-crumbed lamb chops and pizzas; winding into solid cafe fare such as strawberry shortcake, baked cheesecake, bad-for-you fudge (more popular than the good-for-you fudge, apparently) before finishing with some photos of patrons enjoying candlelit meals.

There are sections on fish, Sunday lunches, children's birthday parties and "extras" that includes essentials such as basil pesto, mayonnaise, herb butters and garlic confit.

If you thumb through it and cannot find something you want to eat straight away, you may as well go and chew on some cardboard.

Nadia’s Kitchen
By Nadia Lim (Random House $55)

The promotional blurb describes MasterChef New Zealand winner Nadia Lim's cook book as 'long-awaited' and 'luscious'. Not sure if it hits that level of expectation but it's not a bad read.

Training as a dietician and nutritionist means Lim is big on eating well through balance and moderation and that's clear throughout the various recipes.

She has a section at the start on her food philosophy, which emphasises the importance of eating for health - with others. After all, food is for sharing, she points out.

Initially, the recipes - heavily influenced by her Malaysia/Kiwi heritage - appear as though they are beyond the average family cook but they're clearly thought out and simple enough. The red lentil, ginger and pumpkin soup with minted yoghurt - seems a bit of a stretch to make for the average family but Lim points out it's ideal for a winter warming meal and it all makes more sense.

There's a level of airiness and life in her recipes but there's no reason why anyone couldn't cook anything in her book.

And while she might be all about health and nutrition, Lim still has a place for desserts. In moderation, of course.

You might not remember who won MasterChef last year but you're likely to keep heading back to Nadia's Kitchen if you're willing to step out of your comfort zone in the kitchen.

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