Linda Herrick finds plenty of food for thought in new British, Australian and French additions to cooks' bookshelves
Jamie's Great Britain
by Jamie Oliver
(Michael Joseph $65)
Another self-taught cook, Oliver dedicates his 13th book to his River Cafe mentor, Rose Gray, who died in 2010. He sees British food as the product of a "magpie nation" so while he includes recipes for a breakfast butty and mini-Yorkshire puds, Britain's diverse population means that Yemeni pancakes and sizzling lamb lollipops are also "normal". Oliver has some delicious soup and salad suggestions, pub grub, new British classics (curried empire roast chicken, jerk-dressed pork), afternoon tea recipes, very handy for this time of year, seaside food, pies and puddings (including a Kate and Wills' wedding pie), Sunday lunches, a very good veg section, puds and condiments. A nice balance.
by Frank Camorra & Richard Cornish
(Murdoch Books $59.99)
Melbourne chef Frank Camorra's MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino - which he calls "just a pub" - has proven so popular he has expanded over the years, with MoVida Next Door, MoVida Acqui and MoVida Terrazza (an outdoor kiosk). Add the food he creates in his own kitchen and we have "Spanish Flavours from Five Kitchens", the subtitle to this vibrant book. Camorra, who was born in Spain, obviously knows its regional foods like the back of his hand and is doing us a favour by passing on his knowledge and enthusiasm. Just the bocadillos section alone (rolls and sandwiches) made my stomach rumble like a truck. Beautifully illustrated, it's a sterling introduction to a cuisine we don't encounter often enough in New Zealand. The repertoire includes bar food, salads, grill dishes, shared plates and desserts.
Rockpool Bar & Grill
by Neil Perry
(Murdoch Books $99.99)
Phwoar! This is one big, fat, slick book that showcases the Rockpool Bar & Grill, one of the top dining sensations in Australia and far beyond. It has been named in the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants five times. First, chef-founder Luke Perry introduces the brand's history and the events leading to the opening of a new branch in Melbourne (the original is in Sydney, with another grill in Perth). His general manager once told him managing Rockpool was like "driving a Fiat Bambino around the bends of the Amalfi Coast on two wheels". Perry agreed, but said the car would be a Ferrari, and that analogy exactly fits the recipes.
This is superstar material from the range of cocktails through to all that follows for the next 400 pages. The layout is crystal clear, the photos sublime, the food heavenly - a work-of-art book for a very dedicated home cook, professional chefs - or the rest of us who like to dream.
A Taste Of The Sun
by Elizabeth David
(Penguin Books $12.99)
One of Penguin's 20-title Great Food series, which reinvigorates 20 of the best food writers from the past 400 years, including MFK Fisher's Love In A Dish, Mrs Beeton's Campaign For Domestic Happiness and Samuel Pepys' Joys Of Excess. David, who gave Britons "a taste of the sun" in its dour, rationed post-World War II days, has the gift of a direct writing style, as if you were sitting in her own kitchen. In her "Useful Advice", section, she offers her views on the basic equipment you need to build a fine kitchen, "the most comforting and comfortable room in the house". While recipes are included, the pleasure comes from her marvellous prose.
by Tony Bilson
(Pier 9 $49.99)
If Luke Perry is one of the bright young(ish) stars in Australia's food scene, Tony Bilson is the godfather, the chef who established a group of great restaurants, including Berowra Waters Inn and Bilson's at Circular Quay. Subtitled "My life in the kitchen", this is not a recipe book but a moving memoir, opening with his childhood which was rocked when his father died in a car accident. When he was still a teenager, his mother's death, ruled as suicide but probably a barbiturate "accident", propelled him into depression. Bilson's life in food started in 1965 with a job washing dishes, quickly moving on to chefdom. It was the 60s: drugs and sex figured large in Bilson's life. So, too, did his alcoholism, about which he writes frankly. The book ends with Bilson describing a stoush with food critic A.A. Gill.
Supper At The Victoria Room
by Jill Jones-Evans & Joe Gambacorta
(New Holland $45)
The Victoria Room, a opulent late-night supper establishment in Sydney's Darlinghurst, hosts high teas during the weekends. It's every traditionalist's idea of heaven. Vintage china, soft lighting, luxurious table linen - and beautiful food. Here, owner Jones-Evans and head chef Gambacorta let you into their secrets of entertaining. They offer recipes for tiny delicious canapes to serve on arrival, a range of grill, salad and vegetable dishes, share boards, VR signature dishes, sauces and condiments, sweets and drinks. Pretty, as well as useful (note: this is out next month).
The Art Of French Baking
by Ginette Mathiot
French baking may look intimidating but, as the foreword to this definitive guide says, even the most complex creation "is but a sum of basic techniques, building blocks that can be learnt, mastered in time, and then used to replicate the greatest classics". Mathiot, a former home economics teacher who published more than 30 recipe books, collections which have become classics of French cooking, died in 1998. These recipes have been "fleshed out" and, in some cases, amended to help the home baker create the finest small cakes, gateaux, tarts and pastries, biscuits and puddings and, yes, the famous madeleines so beloved by Proust are included. The recipe looks extraordinarily easy ...