The 20 Best Food Books of 2016
Killian Fox, Allan Jenkins and Gareth Grundy select the year's best food books
BOOK OF THE YEAR
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Published by One World, distributed by Allen and Unwin, $29.99
A coming-of-age novel that’s as much about falling in love with the restaurant industry. The protagonist, Tess, is a waitress in New York. Danler worked at Union Square Cafe for a while and was clearly making excellent mental notes.
Buy it for: The turns of phrase: salt is “flakes from Brittany, liquescent on contact”.
BEST OF THE REST
Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop
Published by Bloomsbury, $52.99
An introduction to the food of Shanghai and the Lower Yangtze region brought to you by a gifted scholar and recipe writer. Beautifully written, brilliantly curated, a perfect present for an adventurous cook keen to expand their recipe repertoire.
Buy it for: Shanghai red-braised pork with eggs.
Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann
Published by Quadrille, $55 from The Women’s Bookstore, ph (09) 376 4399.
Continuing our love affair with Scandinavian food and lifestyle, here is food as loving expression of hygge, the Danish art of relaxation and welcome. Comforting in the best way, with updated classics and a modern sensibility.
Buy it for: The fish soup and the rye bread.
The Palomar Cookbook
Published by Mitchell Beazley, about $45
The London restaurant won over fans with its family atmosphere and riotous sense of fun as well as Tomer Amedi’s brilliant southern Mediterranean cooking. All of which translates to their first cookbook.
Buy it for: The scallop carpaccio with “Thai-bouleh”.
The 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson
Published by Penguin, $15.99
Short, snappy, demystifying deconstruction of the wine world. If not quite an expert after reading, certainly better informed. You’ll
likely save the price of admission with the wine-matching and occasion-matching tips alone.
Buy it for: 10 ways to pick the right bottle.
Classic Koffmann by Pierre Koffmann
Published by Jacqui Small, $69.99
The life’s work of OFM’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, a celebration of an extraordinary 50 years in the kitchen. Here are signature dishes from perhaps the most influential chef in Britain, with insights from his proteges.
Buy it for: The trotters.
Basque by Jose Pizarro
Published by Hardie Grant, $54 from Collected. Visit collected.co.nz
A homage to the Basque country by a London-based exile from Extremadura. Written with love and the blessing of Juan Mari Arzak, godfather of the region’s culinary revolution. A cookbook to keep in the kitchen and perhaps splatter with squid ink.
Buy it for: The hake with green sauce.
Food for all Seasons by Oliver Rowe
Published by Faber, $45
A hymn to seasonality and locality from the former Moro and River Cafe cook. A year in the life of the food cycle that feels like a labour of love. Good writing, recipes and well-chosen poetry.
Buy it for: The herrings and oatmeal and Milton’s Song on May Morning.
The New Vegetarian by Alice Hart
Published by Square Peg, $90
With chapters titled Grazing to Gathering, and Breakfast to Afters, Alice Hart has trawled the day for hungry moments, and the world for interesting answers (it is particularly strong on Asian-inspired recipes). Stylish and modern.
Buy it for: Spiced turmeric broth with roast vegetables.
Cook For Syria by Clerkenwell Boy and Serena Guen
Suitcase Media, about $30
The book of the Unicef NextGen fundraising campaign rush-printed for Christmas. A celebration of Syrian food with family recipes and stories. Contributors include Angela Hartnett and Jamie Oliver.
Buy it: Because 100 per cent of profits go to children affected by the conflict.
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Published by Ebury, $65
The book that left us Ottolenghied, the first in a sumac-infused series that maybe more than any changed the way we eat. Retooled, repackaged, introductions rewritten.
Buy it for: The roast chickens.
On the Menu by Nicholas Lander
For Lander, menus are “the swiftest form of travel” and “less a record of what was eaten but rather a conduit for the overall experience”. This collection of menus from some of the world’s greatest restaurants offers an insider’s view of how such places work.
Buy it for: Making a list of dream dining destinations.
Savour by Peter Gordon
Jacqui Small, $55
A decade ago, the Kiwi chef wrote a cookbook making the case for salads as a main course. This excellent volume updates the argument — ushering in goat’s curd, beet-cured salmon and umeboshi — without over-complicating it.
Buy it for: The simple salads section.
Les Diners de Gala by Salvador Dalí
Published by Taschen, about $80
Lavishly published Taschen re-issue of the artist’s 1973 cookbook, complete with recipes from Maxim, La Tour d’Argent and other top restaurants of the time, with (of course) erotic etchings, paintings, photos and a chapter on aphrodisiacs.
Buy it for: A look into a lost gastronomic world.
La Mere Brazier by Eugenie Brazier
Published by Modern Books, about $65
The first woman to have three Michelin stars, then six (her second place had no gas or electricity). Eugenie Brazier died in 1977, two years after starting this recipe collection and her memoir, which has been translated into English for the first time.
Buy it for: The woodcock recipe.
Salt is Essential by Shaun Hill
Kyle Books, about $45
From another 50-year veteran of the kitchen — Hill is head chef at the Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, Wales — this is laden with lovely recipes and leavened with pithy comments. A world of good food from Sweden’s Jansson’s Temptation to Kerala’s fish curry.
Buy it for: The bourride (fish stew).
The Nordic Kitchen by Claus Meyer
Mitchell Beazley, about $45
Accessible seasonal recipes from the co-founder of Noma and business guru of the New Nordic Manifesto. Ramsons, nettles, chanterelles all appear though Meyer is no foraging Redzepi. Strong on fish and vegetables.
Buy it for: Fried flounder with braised endive.
Symmetry Breakfast by Michael Zee
Bantam Press, about $30
The power of two in a mirror-image meal. Zee became an Instagram sensation by photographing the symmetrical breakfasts he made for himself and his partner. His book includes selections from around the world, from green shakshuka to a fish noodle soup.
Buy it for: The marriage proposal.
Gather by Gill Meller
Quadrille, about $45
One of the year’s most understated cookbooks from the head chef at the River Cottage. Reverence for the countryside and its bounties is evident here, though Meller also knows how to write a great recipe.
Buy it for: Mutton tartare with pan-roasted oysters and wild garlic flowers.
— The Observer