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The secret (ingredient) behind every great getaway is that a place is best understood through its stomach. Yet you needn’t hop on a flight to get a slice of a country’s cuisine. These cookbooks whisk you from Mumbai to Melbourne with recipes and their backstories borne from diverse cultures. Eat up.
Francis Bacon said: “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” While our round-up of cookbooks is far from definitive, these are the ones we’re currently chowing down. Consider it an aperitif.
A moveable feast: global recipes for the home cook
Bilbao-born chef Barragán Mohacho was at the helm of London hotspot Barrafina when it snagged a Michelin star in 2013. Sabor – meaning “flavour” in Spanish – is an ode to her current Heddon Street restaurant, and serves to inject a little Basque piquancy to the home kitchen. The tortilla with morcilla and piquillo peppers is our go-to.
Epicureans will have heard of Nilsson, who once headed up two-Michelin-starred Fäviken (Sweden’s answer to Noma) and appeared on Netflix docuseries Chef’s Table. Having travelled across Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, he refines familiar recipes (gravadlax, lingonberry jam), highlights lesser-known dishes (rosehip soup, juniper beer) and explains how to smoke and preserve food at home.
Search any cookery section for books on sub-Saharan Africa and you’ll most likely be left wanting. Friends Timothy, Todd and Brown are on a mission to change this. Get a taste of Africa with vibrant, healthy recipes for jollof rice, groundnut soup, pork in tamarind, and… erm… Yorkshire pudding with mango curd.
Should you have even an iota of interest in Indian cookery, you’ll probably already own a book by Madhur Jaffrey or Meera Sodha. That’s why we’re spotlighting Asma Khan, who used cooking as a remedy for homesickness after relocating from Calcutta to London, began a sellout supper club and now runs London’s Darjeeling Express restaurant. Khan’s book traces her personal history from Bengal to Hyderabad, sharing the recipes that shaped her.
Never cooked with sumac? You’ll be sprinkling that zingy pink powerhouse everywhere after reading Jerusalem. Ottolenghi was born in the city’s Jewish west; Tamimi in the Arab east. The book pays homage to their shared history and love of food, while echoing the city’s Muslim, Jewish, Arab, Christian, Armenian and Mediterranean influences. Like this? Try Yasmin Khan’s Zaitoun, an illuminating culinary anthropology of Palestine.
Lima-native Gastón Acurio is the authority on Peruvian cuisine. His television shows, books and restaurants have introduced the country’s bright palate to the world’s culinary repertoire. Here, he guides us through classic dishes and ingredients (ceviche, quinoa) to the more obscure, such as chanfainita (beef-lung stew) and frejol colado (a bean pudding).
Featuring tagliatelle and tiramisu, nettle risotto and chestnut mousse, this compendium of Milan-born del Conte’s best recipes is brought to life by personal anecdotes and regional histories. For something a little more alla moda, try A Table in Venice by Skye McAlpine.
With a dining scene that runs the gamut from loncherías (snack bars) to Enrique Olvera’s Pujol (ranked 12th by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2019), Mexico City has inspired many cookbooks. Mena digests the distinctive foodscape, giving us insider intel while arming us with recipes for antojitos (street food, literally “little cravings”) and hearty mains.
While Irma Rombauer is the Delia Smith of American kitchens, it is Langholtz’s hefty, 800-recipe encyclopedia that has fired our imagination (and appetite) with its state-by-state romp through the country’s melting-pot food culture and regional recipes – encompassing Mississippi mud pie and Washington’s Ethiopian-influenced injera (a fermented flatbread) – coupled with essays from a who’s who of US-based chefs and food lovers.
There’s nothing sweeter than this story of a charity bake sale that has become part of a global movement raising more than £700,000 in aid of the child victims of the Syrian civil war. Following the success of their #CookforSyria book, SUITCASE Founder Serena Guen and London-based blogger Clerkenwell Boy joined forces with baker and cake-designer Lily Vanilli to create #BakeforSyria. Expect Middle Eastern-inspired recipes for baked goods and desserts from the likes of Nigel Slater, Yotam Ottolenghi and Rachel Khoo. All proceeds go to Unicef’s Children’s Emergency Fund. The tahini, date and cardamom cinnamon rolls are on the top of our lockdown to-do list.
Vefa Alexiadou is the grande dame of Greek cuisine and this book (originally titled Vefa’s Kitchen) is the most comprehensive of its kind published in English. Take your tastebuds on a trip to the Aegean as you wrap your mouth around classic fare – tzatziki, taramasalata, souvlaki, calamari – while diving into its historical and religious significance.
“People who love to eat are always the best people,” wrote the queen of French cuisine. We couldn’t agree more. With all the ingredients of a cult classic, Child’s culinary bible (co-authored with Beck and Bertholle) reshaped home cooking in 60s America. Recipes scale the backbone of French gastronomy, from Provence to Paris, bread to bourguignon. Not ready to throw on a pearl necklace and grab le beurre? Tuck into Child’s television shows – YouTube has a great back catalogue.
13. Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura and more from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
If you want to make your kitchen skills sashimi-knife sharp, try Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji. We, however, are big fans of comfort food. Ono and Salat’s book sidelines sushi and focuses on soul-hugging fare – ramen, tonkatsu, tempura – while exploring the surprising origins of lesser-known dishes such as mentaiko spaghetti and saikoro steak.
Thought the Emerald Isle was fuelled by potatoes and soda bread? Think again. From Ireland’s “rebel county” of Cork, chef and food writer Clodagh McKenna has taken all the know-how from Ballymaloe Cookery School and given a new lease of life to traditional Irish fare. Wild-nettle gnocchi and Baileys ice cream, we’re looking at you.
Recipes are peppered throughout this intimate portrait of Portugal’s City of Light. It’s a love letter from Lisboeta Nuno Mendes to his hometown, in which he brings to life the roar of Lisbon’s modern food scene along with its centuries-old traditions. And yes, there’s much more in here than sardines and pasteis de nata.
On a five-month, 37,000km, coast-to-coast road trip across Canada, Anderson and VanVeller chatted to more than 80 farmers, grandmothers, First Nation elders and acclaimed chefs. The result is this anthology of recipes and reflections, including Yukon cinnamon buns, bison sausage rolls and tundra-berry muffins.
The East is a pretty big place and home to a miscellany of foodscapes. Whisking us from India to Indonesia via China, Thailand and Vietnam, Sodha’s rundown proves that flavour can be both fuss-free and meat-free with her variations on curries, noodles, tofu dishes, sweets and more. Kimchi pancakes and salted miso brownies are on the top of our to-do list.
Part travelogue, part cookbook, Black Sea is an expedition through Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey that hones in on the intersection between food and culture. A recipe for borscht is accompanied by a tale of rebellion, while comparisons are drawn between Romanian covrigi and Turkish simit bread. Can’t travel there? This is the next best thing.
When it comes to dining out, Melbourne’s effervescent food scene rivals that of New York and London. This book tells you not just where and what to eat, but also gives you a slice of Down Under with recipes straight from the kitchens of the city’s cafés and restaurants, including Chin Chin, Mamasita and Ladro. Like this? There’s also a Sydney iteration of the book.
Gracing our screens and lining our bookshelves, Jamie Oliver is the bread and butter of modern British home cooking. In this culinary tour of the UK, he updates nostalgic dishes such as bubble and squeak, toad in the hole, jam tarts and arctic roll. Pukka.
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