Books editor Linda Herrick checks out what's cooking in the international market.
At Elizabeth David's Table compiled by Jill Norman
(Michael Joseph/Penguin $60)
If you're an Elizabeth David fan, you will already have many of the recipes featured in this substantial hardback - but in old, battered (and in my case, falling apart) paperback editions. On the other hand, if you're not familiar with the "genius of her food writing" (as Jamie Oliver says in the foreword) this could be the new cornerstone of your food book collection.
"It isn't only the expense, the monotony and the false tastes of the food inside most tins and jars and packages which turn me every day more against them," writes David in the introductory Fast and Fresh chapter, first printed in the Spectator in 1960.
David's taste, after living in the Mediterranean region before and during World War II, was for food that "always had some sort of life, colour, guts, stimulus; there had always been bite flavour and inviting smells".
The recipes, accompanied by inviting photos of the dishes and Mediterranean scenery (the older David books never had any pictures), immediately stimulate an urge to get cooking.
Some great anecdotes from her earlier books as well.
Recipes From An Italian Summer collected by The Silver Spoon Kitchen
Want to travel through Italy without leaving the kitchen? This will do it for you: a comprehensive encyclopedia of Italian cooking, via picnics, salads, barbecues, light lunches and suppers, summer entertaining, desserts, icecreams and drinks.
It is prefaced by a list of Italian food festivals in case you are actually going there and want to plan your visit around these vivacious events and the recipes offer infinite variety. Try fritters with rose petals, "hidden" soup or pear and fontina puffs. Divine.
French Kitchen by Serge Dansereau
(ABC Books $64.99)
French Canadian chef Dansereau, now based in Australia, owns the Bathers' Pavilion Cafe and Restaurant in Balmoral, Sydney, right on the beach. It's a heavenly spot and his earlier recipe book, named after the cafe, was very good indeed.
This one focuses on 230 classic French recipes to take you through breakfast, lunch (soup, salads, sandwiches, tarts, flans, terrines) dinner, baking and desserts, and cooking for kids. With photos good enough to lick, it's a comprehensive and inspirational introduction to French cooking via Canada and Australia.
Tender Volume II: A Cook's Guide To The Fruit Garden by Nigel Slater
(Fourth Estate $59.99)
A companion to the earlier Tender: A Cook And His Vegetable Patch, in which the lovely Slater recorded the adventures of transforming his long, thin London garden into veg heaven. Now he writes, "I always knew that if I ever found a space in which to grow a few knobbly vegetables of my own, some of it would be set aside for fruit ... 10 years on, permanently teetering on the edge of chaos, this garden creaks under the weight of my overenthusiastic planting." Yes, fruit is starting to take over Slater's garden, and kitchen. The bulk of the recipes here are for baking, cakes and desserts, but not exclusively. As crammed full of ideas as his garden.
Orchards In The Oasis by Josceline Dimbleby
Former Sunday Telegraph food columnist and BBC presenter Dimbleby, the child of a diplomat stepfather, spent her formative years living in exotic countries. In adulthood, she writes, "I became a compulsive traveller, letter and diary writer, photographer - and eater." The book is a charming amalgam of family memoir, photos from her childhood and from today and recipes from a diverse range of places - Damascus, Peru, the Canary Islands, Turkey, Morocco, Iran (when it was still Persia), Burma, India and ... Dartmouth, where she had a holiday home with her former husband, broadcaster David Dimbleby. A lovely, somewhat poignant read.