In these Covid days, isolation cooking has become a hugely popular way to nourish our families and seek comfort – here’s two wonderful cookbooks to help inspire your efforts.
During the last couple of months it’s become clear that isolation cooking is one of the ways we are all coping with the anxiety and uncertainty of these current plague times. I know my kitchen hasn’t seen quite this much action since the kids were all small, and I’m always searching for the next meal/baking project inspiration. That extra bit of incentive I’m constantly grasping for has recently come from two cookbooks which have fallen into my hands in a very timely fashion.
The first, ‘Ostro‘ by Julia Busuttil Nishimura (Pan Macmillan Australia, $44.99 RRP) is not a new book, but might have been written with these times in mind. Busuttil Nishimura is a Melbourne-based Italian teacher and food writer who immediately appealed to me with her first sentence in the intro – ‘ my cooking isn’t terribly fancy’. From those words on, I knew we were going to get along famously.
She favours a slow approach to cooking, one that celebrates the tastes of the seasons and nurtures both cook and consumer, and one that particularly resonates for those of us using isolation cooking to pass the time. She prefers to forego the convenience of fancy appliances (so here we differ, because I cannot resist a gadget), for the satisfaction of working with her hands – a currently popular state of affairs, if the recent fad for sourdough baking is anything to go by. Her focus is on intuitively using good quality, fresh ingredients, celebrating the simple joys of turning them into something comforting and deeply flavoursome.
Julia spent her twenties living and working in Italy, and that is reflected in many of the recipes. In this cookbook you’ll find deeply comforting grain and pasta dishes, warming soups and simple, but hearty, mains. Deliciously tasty and nourishing dishes like orecchiette with peas and ricotta, chicken broth with wheat and spring vegetables, and lentils with cavolo nero and sausage are destined to become family favourites, due to their simplicity and ease of preparation. Especially appealing to me, is the utterly beguiling section on biscuits, pastries and cakes – a chapter that is always my first go-to in any cookbook.
She already has many fans, both of this book and her online space and they, and I, are eagerly awaiting her next book, ‘A Year of Simple Family Food’, due out in August this year.
As Julia says, now is a time to ‘slow down, take your time, savour the details’. To which I’d add, unsurprisingly – eat more cake.
The other cookbook I’ve been looking to for inspiration is by Adelaide baker Matthew Thorpe, of Baker’s Treat Baking School, and is called ‘Seedy Sourdough‘ ($5.99). Since 2013 Matthew has been sharing his skills and passion with home bakers and cooks through accessible, fully-guided, hands-on cooking classes in his home. Guests begin with a pile of flour and, a few hours later, leave with a self-made, artisan sourdough loaf in their hands and a look of mild, but gratified, surprise on their faces.
A self-published ebook, ‘Seedy Sourdough’ has no bread recipes, but is full of techniques and tips to help you up your bread game at home. Offering inspiring suggestions for the use of all kinds of seeds and grain, with Matthew’s guidance you will be turning out creatively decorated loaves and rolls that will rival anything you can buy. Bread-making in all it’s guises is outrageously popular right now and, as Matthew says, bread recipes are plentiful, but these techniques are stepping-stones and will give you the confidence to create your own professionally finished artisan bread.
Learn how to select which seeds to use with which dough and blend them, how to make them stick when using them to coat, how to avoid burning them, the difference between using raw or toasted seeds, and how to incorporate them successfully into your dough.
At this price you can afford to download this one onto your tablet and keep it handy when next you are baking to wow yourself, your family and friends with your new-found isolation cooking and baking creativity.
Review copies of both of these cookbooks were supplied to Lambs’ Ears.