July Cookbook Heaven

Now that July and my pre-occupation with mushrooms has run its course, I’ve had time to turn my attention to two promising tomes which have been sitting patiently upon my desk, awaiting my attention.  The first is another gem from Adelaide’s own Wakefield Press.  Just in case you need reminding, Wakefield Press is one of Australia’s leading independent publishers -they publish between 40-50 titles per year and regularly win literary, design and production awards, both nationally and internationally.  They are South Australian based and we are just a little bit proud of them in this neck of the woods.

Launched last month, “Making a Meal of It” by Jane Willcox and Rosemary Cadden, is a member of one of the relatively rare categories of cook books that makes it a very useful and practical addition to just about any kitchen bookshelf.  From an idea sparked by the authors nagging sense of guilt over their own kitchen waste, this book will have you looking at the sad remains in the bottom of your fridge in a new and more productive manner.  While it is all very well for television chefs to bang on about the importance of using the very best and freshest produce, we all know only too well what can happen to that same produce when real life gets in the way of enthusiasm, good intentions and meal plans.  Food wastage is a major issue in modern society (see here and here) and this book will help you take a big step towards reducing your own.

Set out alphabetically and covering most of the major fresh food items we would all deal with on a regular basis, each chapter offers recipes and  tips on buying, storing and using fresh produce and, most importantly, using up the left-over bits of the same foods.  From how to put over-ripe avocado to good use, to what to do with a bunch of bendy carrots, the seeds from your pumpkin or a handful of parsley stems, these ideas are practical, accessible and tasty.  This is a brilliant gift for the budget conscious novice, but even if you’ve been cooking for years, I guarantee you will find at least one or two ideas in this book that you hadn’t thought of before and that you are going to want to try.

As a great Aussie icon used to say, do yourself (and the planet) a favour and check this book out!

The second book which has been winking at me for the last week or two from the corner of my desk, “The Good Life” (Pan Macmillan), is actually written by one of the afore-mentioned televison chefs – Adrian Richardson.  Richardson, who began his cooking career at the age of 14,  has appeared on several Australian  food shows, including MasterChef and Ready, Steady, Cook and is also well known as the owner of the Carlton (Melbourne) restaurant La Luna Bistro, popular for its fresh and modern Mediterranean cuisine.

Keen to pass on his personal philosophy – that things taste better if they’re homemade – Adrian presents us with a handsomely bound book brimming with photos of achievable, delicious family foods.  Divided into sections for each of the four seasons, this book will take you back to the more interesting basics of modern family food with recipes for things like “Cauliflower, Currants & Pine Nuts in Brown Butter”, “Pissaladiere (a personal favourite) and “Braised Lamb with Moroccan Spices”, all of them presented with colour photographs and simple, non-threatening instructions.   For those of us who like a bit of a challenge in the kitchen, there are also nine master-classes on skills such as bread making, salami, sausage and pasta making and fish curing – each set out in an easy to follow, step-by-step fashion and accompanied by photographs numbered for each step.

I really like the approachable feel of this book.  The food is not tricky, pretentious, grand-standing cuisine, but interesting, honest, flavourful dishes that anyone could quite happily put in front of either their family or guests with a sense of pride.  It will appeal to cooks of all skill levels and contains the broad range of cuisines that many of us have become familiar with in modern Australian kitchens – quite the keeper, in fact.

Amanda McInerney