Short takes: food books - reviewed by Kim Knight
by Caroline Dafgard Widdnersson (Murdoch Books, $28)
Mustard seed releases heat when it comes into contact with water; Worcestershire sauce will take your bearnaise to new heights. And if you're looking to make egg-free avocado mayonnaise, your secret weapon is white miso. All this and more in an excellent book on condiments that leaves the standard tomes on infused vinegar and tomato chutney for dead. In this book, you make your vinegar from scratch using a "mother" starter and the where-have-you-been-all-my-life recipe for homemade sriracha includes a five-day ferment. Conversational, genuinely interesting and (serious foodie bonus) there's even a take on the Momofuku original ssam sauce.
The Visual Guide to Easy Meal Prep
by Erin Romeo (Quarto Group, $33)
The Tupperware container approach to cooking is a phenomenon for our times - everyone works, the commute takes forever and we probably shouldn't have burgers every night. Enter "meal prep", in which you spend Sunday making the meals you'll be eating Monday through Saturday. If the sentence "quinoa is a staple food for meal prep" makes you squeamish, then this system is not for you. If, on the other hand, you're okay with microwaving 4-day-old scrambled eggs and mixing ground turkey into a "meatloaf muffin" then get ready for a whole lot less weekday time in the kitchen. It's a book for absolute beginners (one pro-tip advises keeping veges in the crisper section of the fridge) but the ideas are useful for anyone looking to save time and money.
A Kitchen Well-Travelled
by Sai Yoganathan (Tarras Press, $60)
Imagine a childhood so saturated with flavour that your mother's dark-roasted aromatic spice powder requires two full cups of coriander seeds and at least 15 cardamom pods. Yoganathan was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and has lived in Africa, New Zealand and Australia. She describes this book as her "ultimate recipe collection", dedicated to her father, who died of a brain tumour (with all profits going to the New Zealand Brain Tumour Trust). It's an elegant collection packed with family photos, drink matches and (crucially) some really interesting dishes. Deploy that spice powder in a venison pastry described as "somewhere between a Cornish pasty and an empanada by way of Sri Lanka and Ōtāgo" and consider stuffing your mini roti with devilled chicken hearts. Expand your vegetable vocab with a gotu kola salsa and stock up on Kashmiri chilli - the author's secret for vibrant curries with minimal burn.
The Secret Garden Cookbook
by Amy Cotler (Quarto Group, $28)
The book that became a movie has become a book - a delightful and quirky cookbook packed with recipes and factoids from Victorian England (the period in which Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved story is set). Fruit loaf made with tea? In Yorkshire, it was called "slow walking bread" because it kept so well. If you've ever wondered why actual bread was baked with a top-knot, the author speculates it was about economising space in a small oven. There are many instructions for puddings - Yorkshire, of course, but also jam roly poly, toffee cakes and that peculiarly English dish, pease pudding. "The English are enamoured with puddings," writes Cotler, proving herself correct with instructions for everything from pease to Yorkshire to roly poly pudding. The Secret Garden's social class themes make for interesting chapter divisions - roasted chicken with bread sauce from the "Manor lunch" section; Tattie broth and oatcakes from "Dickon's Cottage" with a side trip to India and the occasional garden picnic.