Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: A year of many cookbooks

Thnking back on the year that was, ie. 2010, the thing that stands out for me is the amount of photos I took of food.  Coming a close second in terms of *blink* amount of things is how many cookbooks I accumulated.  Sure, I bought heaps (too many) of other non-fiction and novels, as well, but the cookbooks sit there, reminding me, in a pile on the sideboard because they are too big to fit into my 'cupboard full of books and stuff that will get dusty if it's not put away'.

So.  Here's a summary of some of the books I bought, and what they are up to as the year draws to a close.

Most Surprising
Yotam Ottolenghi's first book, Ottolenghi the Cookbook, was bought on a whim, because someone somewhere on the internet had mentioned it.  I am extremely glad to have this book in my collection because every recipe I've tried is a winner - the flavours are fantastic, the ingredients are interesting but not too hard to find, and most of the dishes are easy to make. There aren't pictures of every dish in the book, and it's kind of difficult to make a barley salad look interesting, but Ottolenghi manages to convey a sense of fun, making each dish exude an uncomplicated naturalness that's mouthwatering in its simplicity. 
My favourite recipe of the year is this buttered prawn, tomato and olive dish that tastes amazing and is so quick to prepare.

Most Promising
Usually before I buy, I flick through a book to see if any of the recipes 'speak to me'.  Tobie Puttock's Cook Like an Italian cried out (in an Italian accent) 'ah, signorina, compri questo libro, è buono per voi!*' accompanied with a clicking of fingers.  I love the clear recipes and descriptions of ingredients and how they are used in Italian cooking. I also like how the book has footnotes on adjusting the recipes for gluten, dairy and lactose intolerance.  There are also little paragraphs on the various Italian towns (Parma, Venezia, Lucca, Firenze!) and it's like going on a mini tour of the regions. I've only made one recipe so far (this lovely gnudi with pancetta and broad beans) and I can't wait to try more. Molto bene!
*bad translation: 'hey lady, buy me, I could be so good for you!'

Lives up to the Hype Award
You'll notice that most of my cookbook purchases are by so-called 'celebrity chefs', ie. chefs who have restaurants and have suddenly discovered the benefits of Fame (chef fame, not Fame dance school fame).  I wasn't expecting much from Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris's Your Place or Mine?, but the book lives up to the Masterchef hype.  It contains lots of do-able recipes (with a brief chatty piece by each of the guys on why they chose it) and they (the guys) do come across as very likeable, in case you didn't already know it. The best part of the book for me are the photographs - full page portraits of each dish that will have you licking the drool off the page before running to the kitchen to grab a saucepan to start cooking. I made Gary's tasty Miso with Eggplant and tried to replicate the colourful picture in the book - both the eggplant and the pic do the original dish justice, I hope.

Best Picture
Well, now we come to the award of the night.  It goes without saying that it is unlikely I will be making anything from this book because a) I can predict my own failure, b) the pictures are so stunning that I prefer looking at the pictures rather than getting hands on, and c) come on, really, as if!
And the award goes to ... Bentley by Brent Savage.  From the thick, black embossed cover to the 'OMG! look at that!' recipes, this is one good-looking book.  Brent Savage does say in the book it was a challenge to think about the recipes in the context of homecooking, and there are an abundance of recipes requiring a Pacojet, liquid nitrogen and trimoline - if you need to look these things up in the Glossary, then see c) above.
But the photographs and dishes are really inspirational, and who knows, one day, when I'm feeling ambitious or insomniac, I may give them a go.

The Rest
I do have other cookbooks in addition to the ones in the photo above.  Of the ones here, delicious More Please deserves a mention because I love delicious magazine and this book is a collection of similar recipes (easy to prepare, nicely styled and photographed).
You may notice that I have The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Bakerella's Cake Pops. Both bought due to the writers' blogs and both never used - the books are alright, I just prefer the blogs.

There you have it.
A year of cookbooks and of cooking.
Here's to more cooking and cookbook buying in 2011.

Tabitha cat checks out the nominees

Where's my goodie bag for being a presenter??


  1. We need to start a library together! Wed certainly save lots of money because your favorite books are my favorites too! Happy New Year Bel!

  2. Hey Bel, very nice review of the cookbooks you got this year. I am pretty curious about the Ottolenghi book after seeing you do quite a few posts based on recipes from it. Ooh, and your cat is too cute. I like that her name is Tabitha too-very witchy;-)
    Hey, I hope you have a great new year!!!

  3. I don't even want to think about all of the cookbooks I've bought this year. It's obscene.

    And now I've added more to my wish list. Sigh.

    Great round up and Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks for the quick review. I have to admit 2010 had me collecting cook books as well. I LOVE the Bentley book and it's on my wishlist. The winner from my collection is Alinea by Grant Achatz. Happy Food Year Belle!!

  5. Haha, I'm a bit worried about celebrity chefs going for the Fame-dance-school angle! Hmmm, so you think you can dance, Masterchef??

    Happy New Year to you and Tabitha!

  6. You got me thinking I've bought quite a few cookbooks too this year! Happy New Year Bel!!

  7. happy new year!
    come to think of it, i've purchased a good few cookbooks in 2010 too...

  8. Am back Bel - just to tell you I bought the How to Cook like and Italian and Delicious Book because of you - plus they were 35% off on Boxing Day!

  9. Thanks for that roundup Bel - I had bookmarked that gnudi recipe when you first posted it and this was a good reminder to get around to making it (might actually get this one)! Ottolenghi is my favourite cook book from 2010 for pretty much the same reasons you list - his combining of ingredients and the substantial and enticing vegetable dishes have me hooked. I also got Plenty for Xmas so I'll be exploring that one too.

  10. A great round up of cookbooks! I have none of them :-(
    I love your tabitha cat.

  11. I love Ottolenghi... just brilliant. Simple but the flavours combo just work so well... to more cooking!

  12. Hey Bel, I just read about Australia and the trouble with flooding. I hope you're okay! We've had a lot of bad flooding here in the Southeastern portion of the U.S. over the past 5 years it seems like-it's so horrible for the areas affected...
    Anyway, hope you guys are okay.

  13. hi Stella - we're fine here in Sydney, but we are keeping our fingers crossed for those in mid-north Queensland (Rockhampton) where the floodwaters are yet to peak. Thanks for your thoughts!

  14. happy new year!! Here is to another year of more deliciousness! :)

  15. good post! im thinking of getting Ottolenghi now having heard this floating around a lot lately!
    i havent tried anything from 'your place or mine' though...i do love the pics but the ingredients in the cook are not my typical pantry/fridge items ;)

  16. Bel, what a great round up of cook books...fascinating :-) Happy New Year a lots of cooking!