Like the boy scouts, I’m always prepared – especially when it comes to my desired book list – and these three new food books deserve a place on every food lover’s list.
There’s been a bit of a flurry of book action here of late, with some gorgeous new food books finding their way into my mail box.
A Basket by the Door, by Australian journo and writer Sophie Hansen (Murdoch Books $39.99 RRP), has been around for only a few months, but has proved so successful that it’s already been reprinted. Sophie has enjoyed a long career as a features writer, is the creator of the popular My Open Kitchen podcast and was named Australian Rural Woman of the Year in 2016.
This heartwarming cookbook is a tribute to caring, friendship and the value of forging connections within our communities. From a death in the family, to bringing home a new baby, everyone has days, or weeks, in life when the job of nourishing ourselves and our family seems overwhelmingly impossible. In these times the gift of a goodie-filled basket left by the door can make all the difference. Simple tokens of caring and thoughtfulness in the form of a quietly deposited prepared meal or some home-made treats offer support and comfort at a time when the recipient may not have the emotional or physical resources to be sociable.
The book is divided into seasons, with each section holding a selection of simple and more complicated recipes to cover any of life’s eventualities, and includes group cooking missions, picnic ideas and preserving projects.
As Sophie writes, ‘sometimes tragedy just sneaks up on you’ and, of course, food isn’t the answer. But we all still need to eat and food not only nourishes, but can also fortify, renew and cheer. From a simple jar of home spiced nuts, to a comforting family meal – a stealthy gift of love never goes unappreciated.
From once being seen as an arcane art, with products only available at specialist artisan bakeries, the skill of sourdough baking has enjoyed an astonishing renaissance. Major supermarkets now offer their own range of sourdough products (although it’s worth quizzing the staff about these, as they often contain added commercial yeast) and increasing numbers of home bakers are discovering that the more complex flavours of proper bread are easily within their reach. Books like Michelle Eshkeri’s new Modern Sourdough (Murdoch Books $45.00 RRP) show us how to create these breads at home.
Eshkeri is the force behind the North London Bakery called Margot – an instant hit when opened in 2016 and now a popular community centre. She draws on her Jewish and Australian heritage in this collection of over 100 recipes to expand the home cook’s knowledge and understanding of sourdough for a new generation of bakers.
Modern Sourdough kicks off with detailed instructions for creating your own sourdough starter and getting comfortable with basic bread baking techniques such as folding, shaping and baking, before launching into the recipes. Covering basic and flavoured breads, pastries – including indulgently buttery croissants, Danishes and rich babkas, savoury bakes and a selection of non-sourdough favourites from the bakery, this book offers simple home-style recipes as well as the more complex baking challenges that will satisfy those who already have the basics under their belts.
I already have a vigorous starter, so leapt right into this book, keen to get even more carbs into my face. I found Michelle’s instructions to be clear and precise. They will have any aspiring baker churning out brilliant, full flavoured breads in no time.
Taste the Wild, by Lisa Nieschlag and Lars Wentrup (Murdoch Books $49.95 RRP) is a book of recipes, stories and glorious images from Canada. Longtime readers of this blog will know of my deeply held passion for this beautiful and friendly country (like this post, one of many on this fabulous place), so it will come as no surprise to find that I’m in love with this book.
Full of fabulous images of the truly stunning landscapes, forests, mountains and lakes in the National Parks of Vancouver and Banff, all I wanted to do after simply flicking through it was to head straight back there.
I almost didn’t care if it actually had recipes – but it does, and they are delicious.
Evoking the bounty of this extraordinary environment, and the freshness of it’s produce, the dishes in this book are simple in their construction, but generous in flavour. Interspersed with literary extracts, the recipes include traditional dishes such as cedar plank salmon, tourtière, butter tarts and Nanaimo bars, alongside of campfire favourites like pulled pork burgers and one-pot mac and cheese – and, of course, maple syrup flavoured treats.
But what draws me to these pages – over and over again – is the photography. Canada is renowned for it’s breathtaking beauty and this is displayed on every page. I can feel it, see it and almost smell it. If you can’t get there – and you really should try to – this is totally the next best thing.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s never too early to start a list of must-have cookbooks and each of these new food books is deserving of a place on any list.