From fresh takes on Polish and Spanish cuisine to authoritative guides on sous-vide and smoking, top chefs and food writers reveal their favourite titles of 2016
Jess Murphy, head chef at Kai, Galway
Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak (€35, easons.com)
I have so many beautiful Polish friends yet in Ireland no one has really embraced that country’s cooking. We have so many Polish shops and, as we are now a more integrated society, we need to embrace our new Irish culture, especially in terms of cooking. The best dish in here is the venison with prunes — fabulous.
The Palomar Cookbook (€35, easons.com)
This reminds me of earlier books by Sam and Sam Clarke, of Moro. Everything is here, from hand-chopped chicken liver to tahini ice cream. It is like a big Middle Eastern kiss from a granny. I also love all the dates.
Jenny Flynn, head chef at Roseville Rooms in Faithlegg House, Waterford
Salt, Sugar, Smoke by Diana Henry (€35, easons.com)
It is a couple of years old now but I love the way it introduces unusual spices and marinades into everyday foods. I have a great interest in the old Irish methods of cookery — curing, smoking and pickling are things that I have being doing for a while now — and I was looking for a different angle on it. This book delivers. I find recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation are the ones that I love the most: adding modern ingredients and embracing powerful flavours but staying true to the rustic look.
Under Pressure by Thomas Keller (€70, easons.com)
I am waiting to get my hands on Keller’s guide to sous-vide cooking, which involves packing food in airtight plastic bags and cooking in water at a low heat. It achieves results that other cooking methods cannot match in terms of flavour and precision.
Adrian Bane, head chef at Radisson Blu, Galway
Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls by Graham Garrett and Cat Black (£23.78/€28, amazon.co.uk) Part-memoir, part-cookbook by a 1980s musician turned Michelin-starred chef [Garrett was a drummer with Dumb Blondes, Panache and Ya Ya before opening his own restaurant in 2002]. It is a unique body of work with fantastic autobiographical stories and recipes.
Salt is Essential by Shaun Hill (€35, easons.com)
The latest book from the legend that is Shaun Hill. Here he breaks down the finer details of cooking, preparing and serving classic dishes. He also explains the use of salt in cooking, and the differences between a home cook and a professional chef. A superb book from one of the finest chef/writers of his generation.
Jordan Bourke, chef, food stylist and writer
Gjelina by Travis Lett (€30.79, easons.com)
If you have eaten at Gjelina or its sister restaurant Gjusta in Los Angeles, you may already have bought this wonderful cookbook, in the hope of recreating this California bliss when you get home to Ireland. For everyone else, this should be on your Christmas list because it manages to achieve that elusive balance of indulgent-tasting food that also happens to be pretty good for you.
Ducksoup Cookbook by Clare Lattin and Tom Hill (£19.99/£24, amazon.co.uk)
This is full of fairly simple, seasonal dishes that you will want to cook now. It also shows you how to make delicious sauces, dressings, herb oils and many other condiments that will be your secret weapon when you want to bring some forgotten vegetables in the back of your fridge back to life. Unusually for a restaurant cookbook, the recipes are well-written and tested — so you won’t be left with a heap of ingredients that bear no resemblance to the photograph in the book.
Johann Doorley, cookery teacher and blogger
Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour (€34.95, easons.com)
This combines the freshness and warm spices of the Middle East with modern cooking. The lovely, easy recipes — particularly the vegetable ones — are so varied and plentiful that you do not even notice there is no meat. Two of my favourites over the summer were the aubergine wedges roasted with cumin and the feta baked with chilli in vine leaves. I’m looking forward to trying the tagines and stews over the colder winter months.
Squirrel Pie by Elisabeth Luard (€23.79, easons.com)
Squirrel Pie is a collection of, as it says on the jacket, “Adventures in food across the globe”. It is more travel stories than cookery book, although not without recipes, including one for squirrel pie of the title. From Hawaii to Gujarat, we get to meet real people and the foods they prepare and eat with the author. Sprinkled with Luard’s own illustrations, it is an escape from everyday cooking and a reminder that sharing food is a universal sign of peace and friendship.
Liz Matthews, restaurateur at Etto, Dublin
On The Menu by Nicholas Lander (€42, easons.com)
If you know anyone (like me) with a drawer full of stolen menus, this is for them. It is the follow-up to Lander’s brilliant first book, The Art of the Restaurateur (€34.93, easons.com). Both are a restaurant fetishist’s dream. Lander has spent decades owning and eating in restaurants, and it is such a treat to be given a glimpse from his viewpoint. I love it. As much as I love and collect cookbooks, I wish there were more food-related books that aren’t just full of recipes.
Anthony O’Toole, chef, Failte Ireland food champion and cookbook collector (he currently owns 450)
Toast Hash Roast Mash by Dan Doherty (€27.95, easons.com)
As it states on the cover, “Real food for every time of the day”. Toast Hash Roast Mash is full of easy-to-make dishes that can be enjoyed any time of the day, even past midnight when I come in from work and feel like cooking something indulgent and delicious. Dan’s recipes are full of eggs, which I love, especially because I have chickens in my new vegetable and fruit garden — gathering fresh eggs is one my favourite chores of the day. I love the chopped roast beef and mustard recipe as it uses up Sunday lunch leftovers. Also try the beetroot bloody mary too — it’s dangerously tasty.
Land of Fish and Rice by Fuschia Dunlop (€36.40, easons.com)
Fuchsia has taught me a lot about Chinese gastronomy through her writing and travels since I found her first cookbook, Sichuan Cookery, in the college library at DIT Cathal Brugha Street back in early 2006. I remember the day because I decided to miss a class and spend an afternoon in the library reading cookbooks. I have not visited China yet but when I do, I want to go on one of Fuchsia’s culinary tours. I’m looking forward to cooking through this over Christmas. First up is the Shanghai red-braised pork with eggs.
Appetites by Anthony Bourdain (€36.40, easons.com)
Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour were two books I read back to back instead of studying for my Leaving Certificate. Since then, Bourdain has been in my life. His writing is raw, real and seductive. For me, he is one of the most important people when it comes to highlighting authentic food culture around the globe. Bourdain’s new book, Appetites, is his interpretation of a typical family cookbook. Becoming a father at 50 seems to have been an important turning point for Bourdain. It is a beautiful piece of work with a great cover illustration by Ralph Steadman and glorious page-jumping colour photography. I like the balance between entertaining narrative and how-to-do-it-well instructions. Many of the recipes are achievable in a home kitchen with the odd few that might test some people. This book made me laugh and it made me hungry.
Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan (£27.50/€33, amazon.co.uk)
Who doesn’t love cookies? This tome is full of classic and inventive cookie variations; enough that you could bake a different cookie every day of the year. The recipes look long but that is because they are detailed. The precision is what I love about this book, as people spend a lot on specialised ingredients and baking equipment, and allocate time for baking — and in the end they create something that frankly is inedible. Dorie recognises that detail is as important in baking than, say, good-quality chocolate or a specific equipment you need to create a dish. This is a book I will be giving as Christmas presents to friends and family who love to bake.
Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten (€39.20, easons.com)
Ina Garten writes recipes that anyone can cook. I think I have every book she has written. If I’m honest, some of my go-to recipes originated from her books, adapting the recipe each time to what I have in the kitchen. What I love about Cooking for Jeffrey is that it is a book of updated recipes that Ina made specifically for her husband, Jeffrey, to whom she has been married for 48 years. He loves a good roast chicken best of all. Many of the recipe headers note Jeffrey’s adoration of specific dishes or ingredients, or put the recipe in context of an experience Ina shared with him. “Cooking is more gratifying and, frankly, more fun when I’m cooking for people I love,” says Ina. For me, this is what cooking is supposed to be about. More than sustenance, it’s about creating memories. I love to cook food for friends, colleagues and family, and people who love to eat good food. Try the parmesan-roasted zucchini (courgettes for us) and, of course, a roast chicken dish.
Diana Henry, food writer and cookbook author
I think it was a strong year — a golden age of cookbook publishing with many interesting books published and a lot of effort being put into design, production, and so on. There are still too many books published that should not be, though.
Gather by Gill Meller (€34.95, easons.com)
This is a celebration of both countryside and coast, and my cookbook of the year. Meller, for years head chef at River Cottage, is steeped in southwest England where he writes and cooks, but the book is so much more. It presents modern cooking from a northern country, offering dishes that are for the home cook but have been created by someone with a chef’s sensibilities. Beef shin with smoked dulse, oysters with gooseberries and sweet cicely, honey cake with spelt and orange . . . I want to cook them all. Meller also has a beautiful writing voice that is earnest, poetic and sincere without being at all self-conscious.
River Cottage A to Z: Our Favourite Ingredients & How to Cook Them (€55.95, easons.com) The cleverest thing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall does is hire the smartest, most committed and most knowledgeable food people he can find. This huge tome has been written by his team — including Pam “The Jam” Corbin and the aforementioned Meller — and it is packed with wisdom, useful information and homely yet imaginative recipes. This is a book for a lifetime of cooking.
Brindisa by Monika Linton (€41.93, easons.com)
I can’t think of anyone better qualified to write a huge compendium about Spanish food and ingredients that Monika Linton, a Hispanophile who founded Brindisa, the UK’s big Spanish import company. This book displays a lifetime of collected knowledge about the ingredients, geography, history and culture of Spain — there’s just masses I didn’t know. It also is full of personal histories and stories about the Spaniards she knows. On top of that, the recipes are great and there are plenty of dishes you’ll never have heard of.
Danni Barry, Michelin-starred chef at Eipic, Belfast
Classic Koffmann: 50 Years a Chef by Pierre Koffmann (€38.99, easons.com)
Fifty years — a legend. The photography by David Loftus in this book captures great moments of Pierre working in his kitchen and his classic dishes, some of which he still makes today. Pierre has been such an influence to so many top chefs, has created a real legacy and still won’t retire. This is the real definition of passion. I got to hear him in conversation with Jacinta Dalton at Galway’s Food on the Edge symposium in October and he managed to entertain and inspire the room of chefs just by being himself. Nothing molecular and no water baths: “Here’s how you salt-bake a whole bass, and this is what you can do with a hot pan, some fresh fish and lots of butter.”
The Cultured Club by Dearbhla Reynolds (€27.99, easons.com)
The f-word, fermentation, has been everywhere this year. This book is a great, practical introduction to how it all works. It is full of ideas to bring out different flavours, sometimes from bits and pieces that would normally be wasted — chard stems, for example. It’s something I would like to introduce more to our menus next year and also just to my own diet.
The Brother Hubbard Cookbook by Garrett Fitzgerald (€24.99, easons.com)
From the Capel Street restaurant in Dublin, a book of straightforward Middle Eastern-inspired recipes that are exactly the kind of healthy and super-tasty food that we all want to be eating right now.