I haven’t bought as many food books as I have in 2017 ever. So I thought I’d do a roundup of all the food-centric books I’ve bought (or been gifted) this year and tell you what I liked about which books and why.
Suraj bought me Cook Korean! for my birthday in January. I had just moved cities and was living with my parents for a bit (until I could find us a place). He moved a couple of months later and we cooked a couple of recipes out of the book together. Lots of pork, lots of vegetables… and recipes written in comic form. All in all, a lovely buy and definitely a book worth owning!
Bourdain’s Appetites was delivered in March, and I was thrilled when I opened the Amazon package that it came in. We did a cookbook club lunch using recipes from the book a few months later. Everybody had mixed reviews about the book. I remember Kala made a rich, golden saffron risotto and Priyanka’s chicken pot pie was crumbly and comfortably gooey all at the same time. My shrimp bisque tasted good when I made it but had taken on a slightly bitter aftertaste at the time of serving, so I was a little disappointed. And Sahil thought the flavours on his spaghetti just didn’t come together right. That was also the first time I realized that books written across the world probably need some sort of standardization for measures. Saying 4 cloves of garlic doesn’t really work when a clove of garlic in USA weighs about 4 grams, and one in India weighs a little under 2 grams. In that sense, dessert recipe books are written better because they call for more precise measurements – 45 grams of dark chocolate (72%).
April saw me open another Amazon parcel that contained Jerusalem. Why Suraj bought me this, I can’t remember. It’s also the book that found me a new friend in Priyanka. She travelled around Georgia a few months later and bought a copy of the book on her way back. She tweeted about a recipe she’d cooked from the book, and a few weeks later, she was a part of the cookbook club. I’ve cooked several recipes inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi this year, though I haven’t quite cooked from the book yet. I’ve based a lot of my Meditteranean cooking from the book though. I’ve read it a couple of times cover to cover and have gotten a hang of how to build Middle Eastern recipes, in general. Next up for 2018, Ottolenghi’s Sweet.
My parents, Suraj and I dined at Boteco in Pune sometime in April. And I loved the food so much that I ordered The South American Table on a whim. It’s really just a tome of recipes – one after the other, with no classification by country or no cultural references. And as someone who is completely unaware about the South American continent, the book was just so much information, it was almost a turn-off. I haven’t cooked from it. But I hope to begin a South American obsession once I’m done with my current obsession with all things Japanese.
In May came Ivan Ramen. It was really silly when the book arrived really. We’d been binge-watching episodes of Chef’s Table on Netflix and one Saturday afternoon, we were finishing the Ivan Orkin episode, when I told Suraj I’d read so much about him and that he also had a book. Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang to an Amazon Prime order delivery for, yeah, Ivan Ramen. The book is one of my best reads of the year, to be honest. I’ve read it several times over. I’ve even made various components of a ramen bowl using recipes in the book. I’ve tweaked them, worked with locally available ingredients and referenced over a dozen recipes online to create some bowls of good ramen. Of course, my recipes still need some improvement, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how far I’ve gotten with my ramen game.
Then, I bought Gourmet Journeys in India by Pushpesh Pant for Suraj for his birthday in June. We’re both fans of his writing and his TV shows, so I was hoping it’d be a collection of stories centred around food and travel, just as good as the stuff we’ve watched on TV. Turns out, it’s a recipe book. With pretty standard fare. I’ll admit I was a tad disappointed. I also forgot to include it in this picture.
July is my dad’s birthday month and he’s quite the man in the kitchen with cocktails, every time my parents have guests over. So I thought I’d buy him The Bar Book. He was quite amused that I did because he’s not a reader at all. Though he spent exactly three minutes flipping through the book and the handful of recipes it includes. I also wrote a little note in the book that I’d borrow it from him soon enough. The book deals with a lot of technicalities around making cocktails, which is something that a geek might totally dig. So once we’re done with the Japan obsession AND the South America obsession, maybe we can move on to cocktails, yeah?
And who ever buys only one book at a time? I’m sure there’s a rule somewhere that says you must add as many books to your cart as you can afford and buy them all in one go. Or something like that. That’s how I bought The East Indian Kitchen. I’d been meaning to make a bottle masala for a few weeks and with this book, I was only too thrilled to see two variants of the masala. A lot of the recipes feel very Goan, what with the heavy Portuguese influence. This book also helped me read up about Matharpacady in the Mazgaon dock area of Mumbai where the last of the East Indians live – in quaint little houses. I also hear that they’ve been trying to protect their “village” because the Maharashtra government is all out to label it a slum and that’s really not what it is at all. I’d love to do a trip to Mumbai some day and spend some time at one of the homes here and maybe learn a recipe or three first hand, I would.
In August, I bought Grape Olive Pig (which was my other birthday present to Suraj – only 2 months too late), The Whole Beast AND Izakaya. What was that thing I said about binge buying books? Grape Olive Pig is a fabulous read, much like its predecessor Rice Noodle Fish (where my Japan obsession really started).
And then it extended to me buying a book on Japanese pub food and culture – Izakaya. And then an entire series of food manga books. The book makes for a beautiful read, filled with lots and lots of information about why Japanese pubs are designed a certain way and how pub meals flow through the course of the evening. The book also has several recipes. A lot of them, however, use fresh cuts of fish that we don’t get in India and also a few Japanese ingredients that I haven’t seen in markets here. So I guess cooking out of this book is still a while off for me. But if you’re up for reading and learning about a culture through its food, this is one book I’d definitely recommend you pick up.
The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson had been on my wishlist for many years. I haven’t had the chance to cook out of it yet. Though I did hyperventilate when I was painstakingly going over every page of the book and discovered that the roast bone marrow with parsley and caper salad recipe is what Anthony Bourdain said he’d like his last meal to be in My Last Supper. On an aside, I’ve had the biggest crush on Anthony Bourdain since I was 15, that’s some time around 2001. And in the few years that I lived in USA, I bought whatever books I could that he’d written or he’d been mentioned it. This picture holds a very special place in my heart (and umm… at the risk of being risque, hehe, in other places too). Needless to say, I have the interview memorized and when I saw the recipe and I realized that Fergus Henderson is Fergus Henderson of St. John, I had a mild panic attack (of joy). I checked with my pork vendor about how much he’d sell different cuts to me for. Turns out, I need to let him know at least a couple of days in advance if I need the nasty bits (see what I did there?), and somehow, I never got around to cooking anything from the book. Someday, I hope that we can do a Nose to Tail meal for the cookbook club and that we use this book. That’ll be fun.
Come October, I was broke. And out of a job. And I bought Kirsten Tibballs’ Chocolate as one of those last books I might ever buy for a long long time. I broke that self-inflicted punishment in November because it was wedding anniversary month, but now that November’s gone, the punishment is on (again). The book is a beauty! I’ve made a couple of dessert from it and then made a couple more by using different techniques across several recipes in the book. It has clear instructions, with pictures, on how to glaze cakes, on how to make fancy decorations, on the perfect meringue, a great mousse, macarons… EVERYTHING! Plus, it’s all chocolate. What more can you want?! This one, along with Ivan Ramen, was one of my top buys of the year.
The Seven Sisters was one of the four books Suraj gifted me for our wedding anniversary. I haven’t had the chance to cook from it just yet, but I promise to do so early 2018 and leave a little review on the blog. But I’ve flipped through it several times already. It has a section for every state from India’s North East, each profiled with a person from that state and their favourite recipes. I’m a little wary that some recipes might need ingredients that we don’t get in this part of the country, so I’m also going to try and see if I can buy them online and source them from friends of friends whose families stay in the north-east.
Next up, the non-recipe food-centric books from this year.
Also, I can’t help but link you to this list of food books by Ankiet Gulabani. He’s a big name in the world of recipe development and food writing, and I’ve had a couple of conversations with him on Instagram. I was thrilled when this showed up in my email literally minutes after I’d taken pictures of my food books.