Kim Knight on life lessons from food books
In 2019, every celebrity chef worth their Korean grey sea salt wrote a vegetarian cookbook. The ones who didn't, focused on recipes reflecting our current national mood: Busy. In between, there was pudding, a lot of armchair travel and some brilliantly evocative writing. 'Tis the season to reflect on cooking lessons learned.
When you're boiling chickpeas, add a teaspoon of baking powder or a piece of kombu to the cooking water to improve flavour, soften skins and make them more digestible (throw away the kombu when you're done).
Under the Mediterranean Sun by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol (Simon & Schuster/Smith Street, $65)
The slower you cook kumara, the sweeter it will be, thanks to an enzyme that converts starch to sugar when exposed to heat. (More heat equals more conversion time).
Eat More Vegan by Luke Hines (Macmillan, $40)
If your meat is wild (boar, venison, etc) freeze it for a couple of days to tenderise. Also, when you're blitzing a passata from tinned tomatoes, buy the whole ones - they're unblemished and better quality.
Pasta Grannies by Vicki Bennison (Hardie Grant, $45)
Not all octopus are created equal. The "common" is more tender than the "curled" or "lesser" and can be identified by the twin rows of suckers on its tentacles.
Secret France by Rick Stein (Penguin Random House, $60)
Sometimes you have six spare hours to tackle a recipe that includes multiple complicated chemical interactions. Sometimes, you can just grate frozen cream cheese over microwaved veg and call it "snow".
More: More recipes with more vege for more joy by Matt Preston (Macmillan, $40)
Crumpets don't hold their heat very well. Solution? Cook them twice. Toast, then smother with something delicious and return briefly to the grill.
Greenfeast: Autumn Winter by Nigel Slater, $50
The less water in the mix, the smoother the ice texture of a homemade popsicle.
Copenhagen Cult Recipes by Susie Theodorou and Christine Rudolph (Murdoch Books, $55)
Warrigal greens, aka New Zealand spinach, made it to France (where they are called "tetragon") via Captain Cook's botanist Joseph Banks who first sowed the seeds at England's Kew Gardens. If you blanch them (to remove oxalates) they can be pureed and added to bread dough to make a sweet, pale green loaf.
Cooking with the Oldest Foods on Earth by John Newton (Newsouth, $28)
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No pomegranate seeds? Consider small cubes of mango, quartered grapes, grilled peaches, apricots or figs.
Veg by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, $60)
Smen is an aged butter with (seriously) "a rancid flavour". Considered essential to a traditional spicy tagine, you can make your own with salt, oregano and a sterilised jar, or (less pungently) substitute with store-bought ghee.
The Modern Tagine Cookbook by Ghillie Basan (Ryland, Peters & Small, $25)
Cold air sinks. When you're packing the chilly bin for camping, put raw meat, frozen foods and dairy at the bottom (lined with a cheap sponge to keep things dry and clean).
The camping cookbook by Sara Mutane and Andrea Lo Vetere (Beatnik Publishing, $25)
To cook a great steak: Bring the meat to room temperature and season no more than four minutes before cooking.
Summer with Simon Gault by Simon Gault (Penguin NZ, $50)