CHRISTINA KO rounds up recipe anthologies and memoirs for any foodie or occasion
Just because these big-name chefs haven’t opened an outpost in Hong Kong doesn’t mean you can’t have a taste of their work
René Redzepi of Noma put together a three-book collection called A Work in Progress: Journal, Recipes and Snapshots. Beyond a simple recipe collection (though 100 of them are also featured), this includes a year-long personal journal penned by the revolutionary chef himself, exploring his exercises in innovation. A must-buy for anyone interested in the science of creativity.
Seeking to bring Britain’s culinary reputation back up to the top, Heston Blumenthal investigates the same storied dishes he does on his television shows and in the kitchens of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Fat Duck. Historic Heston tells the tales behind dishes like meat fruit and salmagundi, and brings new life to them through updated variations that are probably too complicated for the average kitchen, but great reading nonetheless.
Titled with a truism, Massimo Bottura: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef grabs you from the get-go. Inside, you’ll find four sections that detail dishes tried and tested over Bottura’s 25-year career challenging the confines of Italian cuisine. Look for “new classics” like his Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart, and enjoy the sublime and in-your-face photography.
Gift these gems to hobbyist friends
American Fashion Cookbook isn’t just a great gift for fashion-loving foodies. It’s a collection of guilty-pleasure recipes treasured by the world’s most stylish (who said fashion people don’t eat?), comprising Cynthia Rowley’s “Double Your Pleasure” Truffle Mac and Cheese, Bill Blass’s meatloaf and even Sean “Diddy” Combs’ sweet potato pie. Then there’s Donna Karan’s green juice …
For artsy types
Spiral-bound so it seems like it might legitimately be the artist’s notebook, Dinner with Jackson Pollock: Recipes, Art & Nature is an introduction to the famed artist’s life in the kitchen and garden. Handwritten recipes taken from Pollock’s notebook feature, along with photographs of his home and artwork.
For literature lovers
First published in 1954, The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book has endured through the ages. Written by Gertrude Stein’s lover Toklas, it’s an autobiography-cum-cookbook that contains recipes she used when entertaining friends such as Picasso and Hemingway, and is best known for introducing a how-to guide for hashish fudge, complete with suggestions on where to score the key ingredient.
For comic-book geeks
Sorry, we mean graphic-novel consumers, because In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef is so much more than line drawings accompanied by speech bubbles – it’s a peek into the life of the world’s most accomplished vegetarian chef, whose Paris-based L’Arpège has been winning over herbivores, carnivores and everybody in between since going green in 2001.
Skip the recipes and get to the meat of the matter with these “foodoirs”
Just the title – Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef – is enough to draw you into Gabrielle Hamilton’s tale of sustenance and redemption as she travels the world finding her foothold. In beautiful prose it also details how she came to open one of New York’s favourite restaurants and brunch hotspots, Prune.
The New Yorker‘s Bill Buford suffered for his art – as an accomplished home cook, he decided to go to work for free in the kitchen at Mario Batali’s Babbo, taking on roles from dishwasher to butcher and more. He documented these trials in Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
Most chefs rely on name value and accounts of dastardly deeds to sell memoirs. Instead of trading on anecdotes from a misspent youth, Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir uses humour and a colloquial tone to recount growing up Asian in America, and how he came to launch the Taiwanese bao movement that swept culinary circles. It’s a story so riveting it was converted into a television series this year.
EAT THE WORLD
Top restaurants release recipe anthologies
From Hong Kong
Few cookbooks will be able to replicate the diverse expertise encapsulated in The Royal Garden’s A Taste of Food, which brings together recipes by chefs from the hotel’s 10 restaurants, from Sabatini Ristorante Italiano to Dong Lai Shun to Inagiku Grande. Each of the restaurants’ signature dishes is included, whether it’s Le Soleil’s crispy beef brisket in curry sauce or Fine Foods’ delicious palmiers.
Obicà launched just over 10 years ago as Rome’s first mozzarella bar, and has become one of Italy’s top exports, with branches in New York, London and Tokyo. It also launched its first cookbook last year: Obicà: Mozzarella Bar. Pizza e Cucina. The Cookbook presents simple Italian recipes along with essential pairing recommendations.
Launched in the summer of last year, British chef Jason Atherton’s Social Suppers offers 100 recipes of moderate difficulty, and besides selections from his London outposts the book includes gems adapted from the menus of his Hong Kong restaurants, 22 Ships and Aberdeen Street Social, such as the Spanish Breakfast or the goat’s cheese ice cream with honeycomb and milk biscuit.
From New York
The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries brings to life recipes from one of New York’s charmingly rustic hipster restaurants, The Fat Radish: look for sublime Scotch eggs, the signature vegetable plate, the carrot and avocado salad with hijiki and crispy kale … and instructions that are easily followed, making this a great pick for the practical set.
From San Francisco
Corey Lee may not be a household name even to Michelin-star chasers, but he’s earned the respect of former boss Thomas Keller and David Chang, who both wrote forewords for his recipe compilation, titled after his restaurant, Benu. Essays both written and photographed provide a counterpoint to recipes, including one for his signature mock shark’s fin soup.
Its founder Nick Palumbo may hail from Messina in Sicily, but Gelato Messina is a Sydney institution, no question. Learn to understand the science behind making his gelato in this book, Gelato Messina: The Recipes, which is available for pre-order now and will be released next month.
Sweets and carbs
There’s literally nothing cuter than Nutella: The 30 Best Recipes, a jar-shaped cookbook centred around that famed chocolate-hazelnut spread. Look for instructions on how to make macaroons and milkshakes, crumbles and crème brûlées, all of which are more sophisticated than you’d expect.
Parisian café Rose Bakery opened its doors in Harbour City late last year within Page One bookstore, and while it’s still worth your while to head down that way to sample that crazy carrot cake, you can consult the brand’s beautiful cookbooks for at-home culinary inspiration – our favourite of the two tomes is the more recent How to Boil an Egg, which offers advice on what to do with the popular protein, along with stunning illustrations in place of the typical lush photography.
What chefs read
Branded as “the ultimate guide to where to eat by the real insiders”, Where Chefs Eat brings together 3,200 restaurant recommendations from some 600 chefs, from David Chang to Massimo Bottura to Yoshihiro Narisawa – and not just the fancy stuff, either. The best restaurants as defined by the people in the kitchens are handily indexed by city and with key information, making it the perfect gift for any travelling foodie. Techies will appreciate the on-the-go app version, too.
Grassroots Pantry’s Peggy Chan can be credited with making vegetarian fare hip in Hong Kong. Her favourite compendiums are Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi and the follow up Plenty More, in both of which Yotam Ottolenghi challenges the idea that vegetarian cooking is boring, with recipes Chan praises as “functional, relatable and deliciously appealing”.
Executive Chef Hervé Fucho of the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong loves the classics: The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller and Sous-vide Cuisine by Joan Roca. According to Fucho, these treasuries embody authenticity and have influenced today’s cleanliness of presentation, with style and technique that results in food that is still “beautiful and recognisable”.
Jowett Yu and David Thompson may not have restaurants in Australia any more, but the two of them were leading lights in the Asian food movement down under, so it’s no surprise that Yu picks Thompson’s Thai Food as his favourite Asian cookbook, calling it “the best book to understand Asian flavours.”