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Mother's Day is coming up and the current stack of new book releases includes three books that will appeal to mothers who like to bake and make desserts.

Phillippa's Home Baking Phillippa Grogan and Richard Cornish, ISBN 978-1-921383-31-1, Lantern, RRP $49.99

I’ve enjoyed various bites from Phillippa’s kitchen for several years thanks to Christmas boxes from friends and assorted baking picked up during shopping.  Here, at last, is a wonderful and comprehensive volume of her baking recipes.

In 1994 she returned from a decade working in London and opened her shop in Melbourne’s Armadale.

“People thought I was mad. The street was dead, many shops were empty and everyone said I was too far from the newsagent and post office and foot traffic.”

But on that first day total sales “came to a massive $284 - and I breathed a sigh of relief.”

There are no shortcuts with Phillippa’s ingredients – real butter, real eggs, bread baked using time-honoured traditions where the investment of time, rather than additives, is an essential ingredient.

The book begins with a chapter that is well worth reading from start to finish – baking basics. A baker of Phillippa’s experience has plenty of useful tips to pass on about flours, how to treat fruit before using, what to look for in choosing dried fruit, how honey strengths can make or mar baking and so on. Cooking terms and techniques are clearly described.

Homework done, it’s time to cook and this is a volume that is as much for the novice baker as for the experienced one. Phillippa and her business partner Richard Cornish have put together a few easy recipes to get the kitchen warm - pikelets, rock cakes, scones (including some ravishing beetroot currant ones!). Having an under-used set of gem irons, I was delighted to find cheese and chive gems.

Then follow biscuits and slices; cupcakes, small cakes and muffins; cakes; pastries, pies and tarts; bread and butter; bread; festive baking. Each chapter starts with the easiest recipes before proceeding to those that need more care and attention.

Useful tips and advice are shared and there is enough variety to satisfy all palates.

Many know Phillippa best for her bread and this will be the go-to chapter for them. It covers the essential techniques required and includes pizza dough, Brighton bun, focaccia, a variety of loaves from baguettes to sourdough and the various starters.

There are a number of recipes where bread or breadcrumbs are used as an ingredient and it all ends with some festive recipes for Easter and Christmas.

Probably the best piece of advice in the book is read the recipe – from start to finish, making sure you understand the instructions. Then you’re set to go.

This book is sure to become an essential classic in many kitchens. It’s a sturdy volume that should be up to it.

Mark Chew took the photographs.

Sweet Alison Thompson, ISBN 978-1-921383-54-0, Penguin, RRP$49.99

Alison Thompson runs a busy cake-making business in the Yarra Valley, near Melbourne, and works as a consultant pastry chef. She’s been baking since she was seven and has worked with some of the best pastry chefs including Philippa Sibley and Mich Turner. Her previous books include Macaron, the best seller Bake, and Popsicle.

For the novice cook, there is a very useful chapter with step-by-step photos showing a number of essential techniques – baking blind, lining a cake tin, and tempering chocolate.

Tips include the invaluable advice – follow the recipe exactly the first time you use it. “Omitting an ingredient or adding a new one may cause the recipe to fail.”

Seven chapters cover just about every form of dessert you will want to make:

  • Meringues, mousses, custards
  • Ice creams, granitas, sorbets
  • Crepes, pancakes, doughnuts
  • Pies, tarts, cakes
  • Pudding, soufflés
  • Gateaux, layered desserts
  • Sweet bites

Thompson says: “I’ve kept the recipes as simple as possible and opted for ingredients that are easy to find so you can whip up something that looks and tastes amazing without any fuss.”

The hardest part will be choosing which one to make. Bomboloni with lemon curd or blackberry mousse crepe cake? Peach and raspberry cobbler with vanilla custard or ginger-spiced upside-down pear cake? Raspberry meringue tarts or profiteroles with honeycomb ice cream and dark chocolate sauce?

With this book on the kitchen shelf, one need never be short of inspiration.

The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook Liz Harfull, ISBN 978-1-74237-749-0, Allen & Unwin, RRP $39.99

Thanks to the ever-seeing eye of television, most of us have visited behind the scenes at assorted royal shows or other country and city shows and witnessed competitive cooks fronting up with their biscuits, cakes, scones, pickles and preserves then waited for the judge’s verdict. As some TV personalities like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have learned, there’s a lot more to winning a ribbon that most of us imagine.

Around 580 of these shows are held in Australia each year and Liz Harfull has met some 70 or so competitors, learned their stories and secrets – and also collected tips from the judges on what they are looking for.

This book is a lovely read as well as a great collection of recipes. Entering the competitions often becomes a family affair and can embrace more than a couple of generations. Some entrants are consistent winners, sometimes in more than one class.

Far from what many of us might imagine, it’s not just an interest for middle-aged women. Men and women, girls and boys, teenagers and those with many many years’ experience are all participants.

The recipes range from afghans to yoyos. There are jaffa friands and pizza muffins, pikelets, pickled eggs and patty cakes, Penang pickle and tomato relish, Wendy’s plum sauce and Rod’s bloody hot tomato sauce.

To set the mood, there are plenty of photos, advertisements and souvenir programmes from assorted shows around Australia.

This is a lovely book for competitive cooks and family bakers alike.

Harfull is also the author of best-selling The Blue Ribbon Cookbook that was runner up in the Gourmands World Cookbook awards in 2009.

Argentinian Street Food: Empanadas, Helados and Dulce De Leche Enrique Zanoni and Gaston Stivelmaher, ISBN 978-1743362945, Murdoch Books, RRP $29.99

This book is a compilation of authentic recipes and focuses on the key aspects of Argentine food culture.

The introduction says, “Some might think it’s a strange idea to devote an entire book to stuffed pastries and ice cream. But these two very simple dishes are a crucial duo in Argentina.”

To introduce these items, founder Enrique Zanoni and chef Gaston Stivelmaher inaugurated the Clasico Argentino concept in France in 2011. Today Clasico Argentino has three restaurants in Paris and a food truck cruising the streets.

In this book Zanoni and Stivelmaher share their secrets so home cooks can try the food for themselves.

The first half comprises an extensive collection of empanadas. The name comes from the verb empanar – “to put into bread”. It’s the ultimate in portable food. The dough is filled with the filling of choice – meat, vegetables, cheese, seafood or sweet ingredients.

Casas de empanadas throughout Buenos Aires sell this deluxe gourmet takeaway and there are empanadas for every region.

The dough is essentially a flour and water one with a little beef fat, butter or oil. The finished item is then baked or deep-fried. Chef Gaston Stivelmaher prefers to use beef fat and bake his empanadas.

The selected filling is placed on a circle of dough that is then folded in half and the edge, which has been pressed together, is folded in a pattern that can indicate what the filling is. Various folding and crimping techniques are illustrated.

The next chapter features some little dishes and preserves to jazz up a meal. Then there’s Loa Helados, a selection of ice cream, sorbets and sundaes. The book is worth its cover price for that section alone.

The last chapter, Los Dulces begins with the famous dulce de leche and embraces other little sweet delights including one of my personal favourites, preserved kumquats. And, of course, there is a brew of mate tea and a luscious fruit and wine drink.

This is delightful collection for people who enjoy casual entertaining and would like to present something different, or for someone just looking for a couple of interesting snacks. Photography is by Akiko Ida.

Stefano Manfredi's Italian Food Stefano Manfredi, ISBN 978-1-74331-117-2, Allen & Unwin, $59.99

Stefano Manfredi is known as the godfather of modern Italian cuisine in Australia. Manfredi at Bells, under the helm of this award winning chef, has been named the third Best Hotel Restaurant in the world at the recent prestigious Mr and Mrs Smith Hotel Awards. Manfredi is also known for Osteria Bella at The Star.

Now he has put together a staggering 500 recipes from across Italy’s 20 regions. Not surprisingly, these are contained in a massive 640 page tome, the culmination of a remarkable culinary journey.

While some cuisines can be a challenge, I think many people feel relatively safe on the consuming side of an Italian menu. This book is worthy of a place in today’s kitchen. It captures the spirit of regional specialties that can vary so markedly as the traveller moves from one area to another experiencing the truly local flavours of produce.

Climate, geographic location, the hilly harshness or the gentle undulations of the landscape all play their part, as do landlocked or coastal influences and species.

These days, says Manfredi, financial pressures have seen a contraction in the number of meals eaten outside the Italian home. People are eschewing the lavish and going for a good pizza with friends or a family meal at a nearby osteria.

This encyclopedic work starts with a brief culinary history then peruses Italian wine grape varieties. There’s an excellent introduction to the Italian kitchen then a look at basic techniques and recipes.

Then it’s straight on into Italy’s 20 regions, from Abruzzo e Molise – which Manfredi deals with separately as far as their geography goes - through to Vento.

Sensibly, illustrations are restrained or this book would need it own wheeled trolley. Nonetheless, there are enough drawings and photos to lend visual charm.

Individual chapters traverse the menu from antipasti through to dolci and there are plenty of “Pick me, pick me!” beckoning.

A beautiful work from a man who truly wears his love of food on his sleeve.

Eat in: The Best Food is Made at Home Anna Gare, ISBN 978-1742663890, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99

Anna Gare has become a familiar face on Australian TV with her appearances in in The Best in Australia, with Ben O’Donoghue and Darren Simpson, as a judge in Australian Junior MasterChef and as host of The Great Australian Bake Off. Her first cookbook Homemade was published a couple of years ago and there is now a welcome follow-up with Eat In.

Gare, with her fetching dimpled smile and clever ways in the kitchen, has spent more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, working in various restaurants and setting up Deluxe Catering in Freemantle.

It’s good to have her latest cookbook within reaching distance of the kitchen bench. Like me, she’s learned the wisdom of scribbling down her recipes on scraps of paper so the hit dishes can be retrieved and made again.

“Every recipe in this book has been triple tested, eaten and loved.”

As anyone who is a busy mother of teenagers well knows, there’s a knack to shopping and meal planning, and Gare shares her hints and tips.

The book embraces joyful weekend breakfasts, lovely lunches (for those lovely occasions when there is time to make and eat them), ideas for feeding family and friends, salads with a bit of pizzazz, character and kick, family dinners and sweet things.

As the photos show, it’s all lovely fresh fare, the sort of dishes that remind us cooking for family and friends doesn’t have to be a chore when dishes can look and taste so good.

River Cottage Fruit Every Day! Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall,  ISBN 978-1-4088-2859-5, Bloomsbury,  RRP $49.99

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall awakened the home gardener in many of us when he started out on his mission to grow and raise his own food all those years back. While we may not have the acreage he has at our disposal, I think many of us have learned the joy of sourcing lovely fresh produce and experimenting with precisely what’s on hand on the day.

Some people are happy enough dealing with vegetables but often think of fruit as a quick snack rather than a serious ingredient. In this latest book Mr F-W has mixed fruit with the whole gamut of other ingredients for a wide range of dishes traversing the menu from beginning to end.

Chapters are organised by individual species, from summer berries and currants through rhubarb, stone fruit, apples, pears and quinces, hedgerow fruit, figs, melons, grapes and more, tropical favourites, citrus and then dried fruit.

This makes it easy for the cook to find recipes for seasonal bounty, the uncommon fruits that pop up from time to time, garden gluts, and serendipitous finds.

Pies, pickles, jams, fruity sauces, meat dishes, sides, salads, cooling drinks, desserts – there are dishes for all courses, occasions and seasons.

Those of us who are regular River Cottage fans, won’t be surprised at the great combinations from that kitchen. Imagine pasta with cauliflowers, capers, chilli and raisins. And why not?

Readers will need to remember this book is from the Northern Hemisphere and the odd hedgerow fruit may be more difficult to locate, but there’s plenty for Down Under adventurers.

Dish it Up Hayden Quinn, ISBN 978-1742669939, Murdoch Books, RRP $35.00

Cookbooks have become almost a rite of passage for survivors of the MasterChef Australia series. The latest is from Hayden Quinn, a contestant in series 3 who was also named Cleo’s Bachelor of the Year for 2012.

Quinn’s repertoire is inspired by beach living and includes delicious flavours from round the globe, from classics to street food, barbecues and summer fun. He grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and it’s certainly influenced his style.

This book is full of sunshine with plenty of lovely food to enjoy when the skies are clear, the temperatures is up and we’re looking for the fresh light flavours of summer, or reminders of days spent at tropical destinations with the sound of waves lapping not too far away.

Why eat soggy cereal? Why, indeed when there’s a Bali style pancake with banana, coconut and honey beckoning or a rustic chorizo brekky or maybe even spiced chickpea and sweet potato cakes with poached egg.

Quinn likes to keep in shape and a seared tuna and chickpea salad with a soft-boiled egg looks like a good option after a gym or yoga workout.

Who needs knives and forks? Not really, with the casual food dished up in the third chapter – hot dogs, grilled corn, meat skewers, mussels, falafel pockets, tasty tapas dishes.

There’s plenty of fare for eating outside, lots of salad accompaniments, even some great dishes for cooler days. This is a truly lovely collection of recipes with freshness, punch and good looks.

I also liked the touch at the back of the book – a series of QR codes so people can scan the images from their phone’s camera and be dropped behind the scenes at a photo shoot, learn how to make a quick Aussie pie, poach the perfect egg or maybe get on Facebook or Twitter and show Quinn they’ve been cooking his recipes.

This is one book I am taking to the beach this summer.

Simply Good Food Neil Perry ISBN 978-1743360514, Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99

I sometimes wonder if Neil Perry is really a pair of identical twins. He has a nice little portfolio of restaurants in Australia, creates menus for Qantas, has appeared from time to time on TV, and has now produced his eighth cookbook. It would be good if he could bottle his energy and sell it to those of us who flag a bit when challenged.

With his latest book, he hopes that “having simple, produce-driven recipes at your fingertips will inspire you to cook more at home for friends and loved ones.”

He kicks off with a handful of his favourite cocktails. Maybe that’s a suggestion that the pleasure of cooking can be enhanced by the presence of a cocktail on the bench.

There are soups and salads, a few pasta dishes then a series of chicken, pork, veal and lamb dishes.

When Perry was compiling his book, he noticed there were a number of Mexican dishes that would work well together “and for that matter many Asian-inspired and Mediterranean dishes as well.” And so individual chapters visiting these ideas became a natural evolution. The cook can go for individual dishes or choose a theme and pick several recipes for a banquet.

Some dishes have fairly long ingredients lists, but if these are broken down and assembled before cooking begins, it’s no big deal.

The mix of cuisines might look a little odd at first, but if you regard this as several small cookbooks in one, it’s a quite lovely collection that will suit the day’s mood, or the meal’s theme. And there’s a great selection of desserts that will keep everyone happy.

Some photos have the sombre moodiness that is creeping into some cookbook illustrations. I am a bit ambivalent about that. I keep wanting to turn the lighting up. But it’s a minor niggle.

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka Bree Hutchins ISBN 978-1743360552, Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99

More than two decades ago Sri Lankan friends introduced us to their cuisine and we had the opportunity to sample quite a lot of it at their national day celebrations. This book reminds me of those days and the pictures make me want to roll up my sleeves and start cooking.

In late 2012 author Bree Hutchins was in Sri Lanka for a month documenting the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation set up by Dilmah founder Merrill J Fernando. She found herself in a tropical paradise where the people were friendly and hospitable, inviting Bree and the team she was travelling with into their homes for a meal or a cup of tea with their families.

She suddenly blurted out to their guide, the marketing manager of Dilmah that it would be incredible to travel the country, stay with local families, hear their stories and learn their family recipes. “Why don’t you?” he said. “Dilmah could sponsor the publication.”

Her journey begins in the Pettah Manning Market in Colombo in the west where William has travelled 90 minutes by bus to make his hot milky tea and deliver it round the workers as they prepare for their 5am opening.

In the ensuing pages Hutchins travels up country to the central region, east to rural and coastal areas and north to the Jaffna Peninsula. En route there is a Muslim family feast, the Festival of Lights, Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrations, lunch with tea pickers, cooking with prison inmates and cooking with the army, a Hindu festival with a temple feast, and even some Tamil comfort food.

This book is a combination of a good read, interesting pen portraits of her friendly generous hosts, an amazing collection of recipes, and beautiful photographs of people, food, scenery, daily activities.

This really is a grand taste of Sri Lanka on several planes. The food goes from modest to sophisticated, ingredients are fresh and there’s plenty of flavour going on in the spice department.

Mostly ingredients are available at Indian or Sri Lankan specialty stores, or substitutes are suggested in the glossary.

Colour of Maroc: A Celebration of Food and Life Rob and Sophia Palmer, ISBN 978-1743360712, Murdoch Books, RRP $59.99

Australian photographer Rob Palmer and his French/Moroccan wife Sophia explore Morocco. The result is this book about delicious traditional yet contemporary food, says Sophia. “But it’s not a cookbook. It’s about amazing destinations, but it’s not a travel book. It’s about the journey and the people we met. It’s a book about experience.”

However, for a non-cookbook it does contain some very inviting recipes so we can share something of the journey ourselves.

There’s Spiced salmon with tomato and red onion salsa, Blood oranges in orange blossom syrup, Broad Ben soup, Spicy lamb filo triangles with minted yoghurt sauce, Spinach and preserved lemon salad, vegetable cigar filo, Deep sea perch with dates and little onions, Pistachio and rosewater biscuits, Couscous with lamb and vegetables, Steamed vermicelli with quail – to randomly pick a few.

And, yes, b’stilla is there in the form of a seafood pie stuffed with mussels, prawns, squid and white fish.

We meet the people and enjoy the sights through Rob Palmer’s camera lens as the couple are guided round cities and villages and discover Morocco is a fusion of old and new.

Fired Up Vegetarian – No Nonsense Barbecuing Ross Dobson, ISBN 9781743363539, Murdoch Books, RRP $34.99

We’ve all had those mental blocks when one of the guests invited to a dinner or barbecue advises they’re a vegetarian. It’s not usually a big deal but sometimes inspiration deserts us and it becomes a last-minute temptation to “let them eat eggplant”.

With the barbecue season sneaking up on us, Ross Dobson is riding in to the rescue with this follow-up to his earlier Fired Up cookbook for omnivores.

His first suggestion is to pay close attention to the menu next time you dine out at  your local South-East Asian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese or Middle Eastern restaurant.

“These cultures have long traditions of vegetarianism, so naturally their cuisines are loaded with wonderful vegetarian dishes with ingredients that are now more easily accessible than ever before.”

And, he advises, good vegetarian cooking is not about a need to make a meat substitute. So, no lentil cutlets or ersatz meatloaf though there be some eggplants lurking in the recipes.

Dobson has drawn on various ethnic cuisines for inspiration and this is and collection of deliciousness waiting to go on the grill. Here are some random examples – silverbeet and feta gözleme, grilled cauliflower with vinegar and garlic dressing, chargrilled witlof with parsley, lemon and pecorino, mushrooms with manchego rarebit, fragrant five-spice vegetable parcels. Flavpours-of-India pizza, Spanish egg pots, kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass tofu, Maltese cheese with olive, parsley and preserved lemon salad, Indian bread with truck-stop potatoes.

The dishes will certainly have the omnivores salivating, too.

Dobson’s book won’t be far from my barbecue this summer.

Mastering the Basics Murdoch Books RRP $24.99 each
Baking ISBN 9781743361764
Pasta ISBN 9781743362990
Pies, Tarts and Pastries ISBN 9781743364369
Desserts ISBN 9781743363041

The powers that be at Murdoch Books have always acknowledged that not all of us are born cooks. Over the years they have produced a fine range of books encouraging kitchen neophytes to develop their skills.

The latest offering is a series called Mastering the Basics and the first four volumes are titled Pasta; Baking; Desserts; and Pies, Tarts and Pastries. Each book offers techniques, tips and trusted recipes to take the novice from basics to brilliance.

Even accomplished cooks will enjoythe appeal of these fail-safe recipes with their step-by-step instructions and attractive photos that include various stages towards the finished products.

Any or all of these initial volumes would be a good start for someone wanting to set up their first kitchen library.

Marie Claire Summer Michele Cranston, ISBN 9781743360088, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99

One of the joys of heading into spring is the prospect of long warm days ahead and the inspiration summer produce brings. The salad that was such a joyless prospect in midwinter takes on a whole new meaning with sun-ripened produce.

Michele Cranston has produced a number of delightful cookbooks in the past two decades and has chosen this culinary holiday to explore the tangy and spicy flavours of summer.

Picture a chicken salad with fresh coconut, warm peaches with cinnamon cream, salmon wrapped in vine leaves, capsicum curry, shiitake broth with somen noodles, a berry breakfast trifle to kick-start the day or berry shortcakes after the evening barbecue.

This is an innovative collection and one that will find favour with those of us who like the lighter ingredients summer brings. If you’re looking for summer inspiration, here’s the place to start

The Bookery Cook: Art to Eat Jessica Thompson, Georgia Thompson and Maxine Thompson, ISBN 978-1742667560, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99

Three Australian sisters put their heads together and came up with 120 recipes for this book and reached out to a group of artists to provide unique artworks to illustrate the work.

The result is a joyful collision of food and art that will have some readers thumbing through for meal inspiration and others admiring the art.

The artists have certainly taken their brief seriously and there are some delightful interpretations of the dishes.

There’s a playful moustachioed cup peering through a monocle at a little pink-faced Earl Grey teacake. The picnic banquet is a riot of coloured tablecloths and rugs spread under a tree laden with fruit and flowers. A serious looking Italian couple stand in front of a little house with its semolina gnocchi roof tiles and jaunty sausages. Fish in sombreros serenade the arrival of Mexican fishcakes with salsa. A tepee of asparagus spears shelters poached eggs on a curl of smoked salmon for a piscatorial eggs benedict.

The recipes cover plenty of bases and this book would be a great gift for cooks who enjoy art and art lovers who like cooking. A happy marriage.

Salt Grill: Fine dining for the whole family Luke Mangan, ISBN 978-1-74331-516-3, Murdoch Books, RRP $59.99

Luke Mangan runs eight successful restaurants, has his own range of gourmet products and appears regularly on television. He opened his first Salt restaurant in Sydney in 1999 and there are now a number of Salt and Salt Grill restaurants around the world. Salt Grill brings together their signature dishes plus Luke’s personal favourites.

Shared meals have grown in popularity with restaurant diners, particularly in less favourable economic times and this is echoed in Mangan’s book which embraces various permutations of the shared meal from small tapas plates to the Chinese way of a big sharing platter in the centre of the table.

It’s virtually impossible to eat out without encountering pork belly these days and it pops up a couple of times in this book, one recipe featuring an accompaniment of star anise, cauliflower puree and green mango. It’s one of the many interesting starters. Others include seared scallops with blue cheese polenta, shiitake mushrooms and truffle oil; a crab omelette, enoki mushroom salad and miso broth; pork and fennel sausage rolls with green tomato chutney; quail with zucchini, basil, pine nuts and currants. This is an excellent collection for anyone looking for dinner party entrees.

Many of the mains are straight from Mangan’s Salt grill restaurants and include a variety suitable for sharing. Some of the meat dishes can be done on the barbecue when entertaining goes informal. The Moroccan snapper and shellfish hotpot with lime pickle looks tempting.

There’s a small but interesting selection of sides and salads and desserts with a twist, including orange lamingtons, Turkish delight, chocolate panforte and a challenging coconut rice pudding with mango sorbet and little cigar tuiles – plus optional rice pudding foam.

A good all-round collection.

Kumar's Family Cookbook Kumar Pereira ISBN 978-1-74331-118-9, Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99

Kumar Pereira was a crowd favourite in the third series of MasterChef with his delightful dishes and happy approach. He’s a graphic designer, design teacher, food writer and tour guide and he’s combined his skills and interests into one of the most charming cookbooks I’ve seen in a while.

Instead of boasting the usual carefully styled food photography, Pereira’s book is illustrated with his own sketches of the dishes, along with his artistic penmanship.

For years he supplied his sons with lovingly handwritten and illustrated recipes for them to cook from when he and his wife were away from home and now his audience has been extended with this publication of his book.

The recipes are interspersed with photos and stories about his family and include dishes he enjoyed growing up in Sri Lanka plus dishes from the countries he has visited or lived in.

He believes food is to be shared and so he shares the bounty from his kitchen. Chapters include seasoning, breakfasts, lunches, light meals, starters,  mains, family gatherings, snacks and party food, sweets – pretty much something for every occasion.

And of course many of the dishes reflect his heritage. There are curry-based dishes, seasonal salads and vegetable dishes, sambols and other accompaniments. Risotto, roast chicken, and veal involtini rub shoulders with hoppers and mango curry.

It’s a beautiful book to enjoy as well as to cook from.

The Original Lebanese Cookbook Dawn, Elaine and Selwa Anthony, ISBN 978-1-74331-291-9, Allen & Unwin, RRP39.99

The three authors were born in Cowra, NSW. Their parents were emigrants from Lebanon and taught them a love of good food, good books, generosity and hospitality. This book reflects those loves and it is not surprising that the family kitchen attracted visitors.

It was originally published when Lebanese cuisine was not well known in Australia. This edition appears at a time when the cuisine is familiar to and loved by many home cooks.

As I browsed through the pages, I recognised many dishes that are now a regular part of our family meals. But there are plenty more I have yet to try.

Most of us are now familiar with the national dish, kibbi, as well as tabouleh, hoummus, baba ghannouj but that is just scratching the surface.

There’s an interesting small section on assorted pickles that extended the life of vegetables before the days of refrigeration – eggplants, turnips, onions, even cauliflower.

One on my to-try list is a simple rice stuffing for poultry which includes pine nuts, minced lamb and assorted mixed spices. Cooks who love to make their own dairy products will enjoy the yoghurt and cheese variations. These are all in the basic mixtures section.

I can’t handle very sugary food but I know the sweets section will appeal to those who can and there is a very intriguing recipe for Hilwaat el jibni – a syrup cheese dish made from unsalted white Lebanese cheese – or mozzarella – made into a dough with semolina, patted out thinly and moistened with syrup several times, then torn into strips and dropped into more warm syrup.

When summer salad fatigue sets in or when winter fare calls for an interesting salad accompaniment, a salad of lightly cooked vegetables such as zucchini, cauliflower and green beans makes a good change. And there’s an excellent section on stuffed vegetables which incudes the filling techniques.

Assorted meat recipes make good use of secondary companions like lentils, burghul and pasta. And of course there is kibbi, including a fish variety.

A mezza section has old favourites and some less familiar dishes including various offal cuts.

This is a grand selection of 150 dishes, accompanied by a guide to the Lebanese way of life, customs and manner of eating and sample menus. For anyone wanting to extending their repertoire or to start from scratch, this is an ideal guide.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photos by Adrian Lander.

Wholefood Baking Jude Blereau, ISBN 978-1742666594, Murdoch Books, RRP$45.00

When a list of ingredients on a biscuit packet starts to look like a shopping list for a chemistry lab, guilt makes me think I would be better off getting into the kitchen and baking a batch of biscuits so I know exactly what I am eating. Many times I have halved the amount of sugar in a recipe without detriment to the finished product, and endeavoured to make biscuits that are nutritious rather than hollow calories.

If you have these little guilt trips, too, then Jude Blereau will take the angst out of trying to balance the scales in favour of better nutrition.

This is a real cookbook rather than a photograph album. Yes, there are some photos but the recipes are the major content.

Blereau starts with “ingredients and what they do”. She demystifies myriad sweeteners and the impact they have on crumb and crust, those that have been refined to the nth degree and are no more than a high-octane fuel in the body and those that retain their vitamins and minerals.

And she proceeds through flours and meals, gums, starches, thickeners, raising and gelling agents, chocolate, cocoa and other flavouring agents. The various fats used for baking, eggs, milks, salts and some other useful ingredients including nuts and seeds, coconut, dried fruit, fresh fruit and vegetables.

It’s well worth reading through this whole section so you can make the right choices.

Tools for the wholefood kitchen are dealt with and then there’s a chapter on becoming a baker and balancing instinct and technique. Another chapter is for those who need to take the dairy-free, egg-free or gluten-free road.

With all this knowledge under your apron it’s time to tackle the recipes from scones to biscuits, bars and crackers, cakes, muffins, pastry, custard, creams and toppings, fruit.

If you thought that gluten-free meant your only option was the ubiquitous orange and almond cake, Blereau has other ideas. Think carrot, pistachio and amaranth cake, for example.

I don’t get cupcakes, maybe because I’ve had some truly bad ones with an arty but oversweet lump of barely edible plastic on top and no flavour beneath. But Blereau might just get me to try one of her suggestions. Oh, and there’s not a macaron in sight.

Her Wholefood for Children struck a chord with many parents anxious to ensure their children developed good eating habits and this book will be invaluable when it comes to baking for those school lunchboxes and providing fuel for active teenagers.

Jude Blereau is a whole and natural foods expert, involved with the organic and wholefood industries for more than 20 years, teaching and food coaching. She co-founded a wholefood store and café in Perth in 1997 then moved on and set up the Whole Food Cooking School in 2001.

The Breakfast Bible Seb Emina and Malcolm Eggs, ISBN 978-1-4088-0481-0, Bloomsbury, RRP $49.99

Breakfast is a meal that can be either a flash in the pan or something really flash in the pan. There’s the functional breakfast that stokes up the bodily furnace, hopefully for several hours. Or the all-out no-holds-barred weekend brunch at a neighbourhood café or round the family barbecue. Or the cocktail of pills and potions, supplements and capsules, a joyless, tasteless melange that is fit neither for man nor beast.

Anyone who has ever motored the villages of the UK staying at B&Bs along the way will have experienced the Full English (Irish, Scottish) breakfast with its local quirks. Some are glorious, others stodgy and greasy – a roller coaster of pleasure or indigestion.

This book celebrates the individual components of the Full English – eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, black or white pudding, bakes beans, potatoes, toast – and some of the additional regional specialties.

Then there are the “alter eggos” – eggs Benedict and variations, huevos this and that, Middle Eastern and European specialties, Asian legends.

And let’s not forget kippers, Continental breakfasts and pancakes.

This book celebrates all that is good and bad on the morning kitchen front. Recipes are interspersed with little essays such as reading tea leaves, the first breakfast cereals, breakfast in bed, Hunter S Thompson’s breakfast.

An interesting and quirky book and an excellent one to read in bed when someone else is out in the kitchen rattling the brekkie pans.

Seb Emina is the creator and editor of the London Review of Breakfasts blog where he writes under the nom de plume Malcolm Eggs.

At My Table edited by Amanda Bilson and Janni Kyritsis 978-1-74237-731-5, Allen & Unwin, RRP $39.99

One in four Australians over 25 has diabetes or impaired glucose intolerance or pre-diabetes. One person is diagnosed in Australia every seven minutes. Last year I was one of them.

Fortunately I already had a good understanding of the dietary dos and don’ts for Type 2 diabetes and really didn’t have to adjust my diet. Some people, however, panic that they will have to give up everything worth eating.

Sixty celebrated chefs have provided a wide range of tempting recipes to prove this just isn’t so. In fact, I had a fair thumb through the book before I noticed the Diabetes Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney mentioned on the cover.

Editors Amanda Bilson, wife of chef Tony Bilson, has had Type 1 diabetes for 45 years and chef Yanni Krytsis has Type 2 diabetes. They invited some of the best chefs in the Southern Hemisphere to contribute recipes and the book will help raise funds for the St Vincent’s diabetes centre. It’s timely that the book is being launched just prior to National Diabetes Week, July 14-20, 2013.

Fortunately I don’t have a sweet tooth, so unlike Janni Krytsis I didn’t have to give up rich desserts. With his good understanding of pudding no-noes, he created most of the dessert recipes for the book with an emphasis on light – granitas, jellies and chocolate mousse with a twist for a bit of indulgence, he says. Not to mention baked strawberries with lemon ricotta.

The chapters cover entrees, seafood, meat, vegetables, salads and pasta, then desserts.

Stephanie Alexander kicks off the entrees with mushroom soup with porcini. There’s Lauren Murdoch’s white anchovies with caper berries and roasted onion, Christine Manfield’s sea scallop ceviche, Peter Doyle’s salad of blue swimmer crab, heart of palm, coriander and mint, Lindey Milan’s low-fat prawn laksa, Jeremy Strode’s winter salad of prawns and fennel and Cheong Liew’s fresh silken tofu with fried peanuts.

Roberta Muir contributes a colourful seared tuna with salsa verde in the seafood section, along with Maggie Beer’s squid, leek and caper salad, kingfish marinated in squid ink with perfumed fruits and coconut puree, and a pan-fried ocean trout, asparagus, fennel, feta and green olives from Damian heads. These are just a few from the first two chapters.

No less impressive are Matt Moran’s lamb rump with hummus and roasted capsicum and Michael Manners’ venison tenderloin with red wine sauce in the meat section.

Each recipe has a dietitian tip, maybe for those also watching their cholesterol or pointing out a great low-fat way of preparing chicken or adding a salad to make a low-fat rice dish complete.

The chefs are household names – Guillaume Brahimi, Serge Dansereau, Manu Feildel, Gary Mehigan, Adam Liaw, Andrew McConnell, Neil Perry to mention a few more.

Worthy cause aside, this is a book that will appeal to anyone - diabetic or not - who has to take a bit of control over their food intake, but who doesn’t want to feel deprived of deliciousness.

Supergrains: Eat Your Way to Great Health Chrissy Freer, ISBN 978-1743316269,  Murdoch Books, RRP $29.99

There was a time when my pantry held white flour, wholemeal and maybe a bag of barley during winter.

I bought a bread maker in the early 1990s in New Zealand and had to widen my shopping opportunities to include a health food store in Wellington.

That was the first time I’d came across quinoa – not as a whole seed in those days, but as flour. I was already familiar with buckwheat from using the flour to make blini for dinner party pass arounds. I bought rolled oats for homemade muesli for the fast-growing sons. That was about it.

These days a shop at my local market is bursting with amaranth, chia, millet, farro, freekeh, quinoa and spelt – and no doubt other grains and seeds I’ve yet to discover. Here’s a timely book packed with ideas for extending our food options.

The supergrains mentioned above, plus kamut and brown rice, all feature in Chrissy Freer’s book. They’re complex carbohydrates and generally have a low glycaemic index with a slowly released energy that is beneficial for everyone, particular diabetics.

Supergrains contains 100 easy recipes made with simple ingredients. They span breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

Imagine the earthiness of a roasted beetroot, buckwheat and goat’s cheese salad with an orange spiked dressing. Or a plate of roasted root vegetables with dukkah that includes coriander, cumin and chia seeds and lightly toasted pistachios.

How about five-spice duck breast with ginger and spring onion brown rice, or grilled olive and anchovy yoghurt flatbreads made with spelt or kamut flour? Or a slow-cooked lamb shank and barley soup with gremolata? Chia crepes with star anise mandarins for dessert or maybe buckwheat, honey and nut muesli bars for the lunchbox.

There are plenty of great ideas for finding out how delicious these ancient grains can be. Plus 40 of them are gluten-free.

Chrissy Freer is a food writer, qualified nutritionist, stylist and editor whose signature style is creating delicious recipes with a holistic health focus. She has worked for numerous food magazines and on cookbooks including The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook and many Weight Watchers titles.

From India: Food, Family and Tradition Kumar and Suba Mahadevan, ISBN 978-1743316276,  Murdoch Books, RRP $59.99

In 1994 when Les Luxford, then food critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, went searching for great ethnic cuisine he discovered that while there was good news on many fronts, Indian cuisine was a mess. He encountered fire-engine-red kebabs, cardbroad-dry tandoori chicken, searingly hot vindaloos, soggy bread and curries with boring, singular tastes. Indifferent ingredients lurked under all the bad spicing. “This was an insult to a great cuisine.”

On his way back from a business meeting, he stumbled into Abhi’s suburban Indian restaurant. His expectations were not high but “it was a true revelation.” No red kebabs, the tandoori chicken ozzed juices and flavour, tandoori lamb chops “were clearly superior produce”, curries had an array of complex, fresh tastes and the breads were perfect.

After a return visit, he published a review headlined “The search is over.” Sydney finally had a great Indian restaurant. People flocked to Abhi’s and in 2003 owner Kumar went on to open Aki’s where he invented his own style of Indian cuisine, based on classic Indian technique but, says Luxford in the foreword to this book, “with a wonderful Aussie accent thanks to our great produce ad Kumar’s unending passion to be the best.”

Aki’s has earned one SMH Good Food Guide chef’s hat for two years in a row, along with other awards.

From India records Kumar and his wife Suba’s story, and is also an exciting collection of dishes, often mixing the classic with a 21st century twist.

The chapters reflect the heart of Indian food – salt, bitter, sour, spice, sweet – along with condiments and sides.

It’s a beautiful book, a visual feast as well as a very inviting recipe collection. It is artfully styled using gorgeous textiles, scattered spices and other ingredients, and little trinkets.

There are occasional ingredients that may have to be sought out, but home cooks with a well-stocked spice drawer should have most ingredients on hand.

The food is eminently suitable for shared meals. So what’s for dinner? Many choices. I fancy a Keralan duck curry, minced lamb kebabs, some grilled swordfish,  school prawns with winter melon, a few Goan clams, rolled veal in almond and saffron sauce, a fiery goat curry from Rajasthan, and some pistachio ice cream.

As I thumbed through the pages, I thought this looked like a good book for rounding up a few friends, giving them a recipe each to prepare, then getting together to share a banquet.

Sydney Seafood School Cookbook Roberta Muir, ISBN 978-1-921382-76-6, Lantern, RRP $49.99

This book has spent a lot of time on my kitchen bench since it was published. I've certainly enjoyed cooking from it and exploring new recipes.

It’s easy to get in a rut when it comes to cooking fish. We buy the same old familiar species and cook them the same old familiar way. But adventurous chefs, always looking for something new, have taught us it’s time to get more adventurous ourselves.

The Sydney Seafood School was opened in 1989 to teach people how to cook some of the more unusual species and help create a demand for the huge variety of species found in our oceans.
Each year about 13,000 people attend classes there  and leading chefs have shared their expertise and encouraged classes to think beyond whiting, snapper and flathead. And that is what this book is all about.

Seafood, with all of its innate goodness, is an important part of the balanced diet we are all encouraged to follow.

While many of us buy our fresh fish ready for the pan, the book embraces the basics like scaling, filleting, skinning, pin-boning and butterflying.

These days, more and more people are becoming accustomed to eating raw fish and the first recipes in this beautifully illustrated book include some delicious variations on the theme with experts like Guillaume Brahimi, Tetsuya Wakuda, and others sharing their favourites.

There are simple but interesting family dishes, party food, special occasion dishes, quick and easy recipes, soups and salads. Fish varieties cover finfish, shellfish, cephalopods and crustaceans and cooking methods include baking, barbecuing, deep-frying, pan-frying, poaching and steaming.

With its fabulous collection of tips, techniques and recipes from Australia’s leading chefs, this book deserves a place on every kitchen bookshelf. It will help home cooks to confidently choose from some of the less familiar species in the fishmonger’s showcase and produce some excellent dishes for family, friends and guests.

Author Roberta Muir is manager of the Sydney Seafood School at the Sydney Fish Market and even she admits to learning something new at every class. I can believe her - this book has certainly augmented my own knowledge.

Photography is by Alan Benson and certainly adds to the charm of the volume.

 

 

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