Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

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19 December 2013


The overall trend of this the 2013 cookbook collection seems to be to encourage simple cooking. Not many glossy books from chefs have appeared; publishers know cooks want everyday ideas for easy meals that are healthy and provide energy for the family. Even chefs cook at home.

Books with the most appeal are those with plenty of tips and hints to assist the cook. The stories behind the recipes are important too, as many readers now stack their books on the bedside table to read like a bedtime tale. I hope they make it into the kitchen occasionally!

A well chosen cookbook makes an ideal Christmas gift. My personal philosophy; recipes are all gifts, for once you cook a recipe it becomes your own; the gift of the food writer to you.

Top New Zealand Picks

Alice in Baking Land by Alice Arndell, (Harper Collins $49.99)

In a year of many beautiful baking books, this one stands apart. Arndell produces mouth-watering baking with highly original spins on well-loved classics like Neapolitan layer cake, and cupcakes with beer or pinot noir. A former contestant of a television national baking competition, her passion comes across strongly, with ‘How To’ sections explaining many baking techniques clearly and concisely, accompanied by photos. Each recipe is a delight.

Cut by Josh Emett, (Random House $65)

Focussed on sophisticated yet approachable recipes, this will delight meat lovers. Our favourite television food judge and chef of multiple restaurants dishes up a host of recipes for both common and uncommon cuts of pork, beef, lamb, chicken and venison, and also includes rabbit, quail, veal recipes and some very delicious pies. Added bonuses are every recipe is a complete dinner solution and stunning moody photography by .

Julie Biuso at Home by Julie Biuso, (New Holland $59.95)

One of our most experienced recipe writers Julie Biuso has created a record of the dishes her family loved most, a bonus for everyone who has followed her career in her magazine work. It is crammed with more than 270 family favourites, and has a useful section providing tips and notes for cooks. There has always been a strong Italian influence in her cooking but this is a comprehensive selection of finely tuned internationally and locally inspired recipes for every occasion.

Ladies a Plate, Jams & Preserves by Alexa Johnston, (Penguin $47)

Known for studious, careful research and a love of food history, it is no surprise Alexa Johnston has looked beyond the baking of her previous titles in the Ladies A Plate series. She has gathered recipes and techniques needed for home preserving from fruit jams to pickled eggs. Anyone who fancies making their own favourite sauces, jams and chutneys will revel in this book as the explanations and tips are clearly and well written. Each section starts with a fantastic ‘basics’ with sensible advice and tips to ensure success.

Limited Edition Cookery by Laura Faire, (Laura Faire $115)

Laura Faire, food writer for the Sunday Star Times, lives a sustainable life, tending her garden and nurturing her young family. Self-published, with a print run of only 1000 copies, the beautifully produced book will no doubt become a collector item. Limited Edition is a volume of her favourite recipes, with several pages hand finished and each copy hand-wrapped and signed. Arranged seasonally, the recipes are healthy, simple and accompanied by Faire’s evocative musings on food, garden and the ethics of sustainability.

Nadia Lims Good Food Book by Nadia Lim, (Random House $49.99)

Since winning Masterchef, Nadia Lim has proved a worthy winner of the title. In her second book she has gathered a collection of simple healthy recipes that will be welcome in every busy household. Her background in nutrition will assure cooks that this food, whether served for breakfast, lunch or dinner will be packed full of the grains, fruits, vegetables and other daily requirements needed for a healthy life.

Top International Picks

30 Years at Ballymaloe by Darina Allen, (Kyle Books $75)

Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School has been one of the major influences on the Irish food scene. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the school, readers get an extensive peek into the riches of Ireland’s artisans, producers and connections to the life at Ballymaloe. There are interesting stories and splendid photos of one of the best cooking schools in Europe, along with more than 100 superb recipes. (Available from mid-December)

Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater, (4th Estate $49.99)

The inimitable Mr Slater has done it again. Much loved for his simple approach to food and clever writing, he has produced a handsome and easily handled little book packed with innovative meal ideas. He has dropped the usual format of recipe with lists of ingredients in favour of what he calls ‘extended tweets.’ Arranged by cooking style – ‘in the hand, little stews, in a wok’ and more - this is the book you will want for simple, tasty and comforting dinner solutions.

Love, Bake, Nourish by Amber Rose, (Kyle Books $45)

There is much to love about this book. Author Amber Rose grew up in New Zealand at Koanga Gardens where her mother, Kay Baxter, had a passion for heritage plants and gardening. Such an upbringing shines through these original and appealing baking recipes that emphasise flavour, fruits and their relation to the seasons. Ali Allen produces photography that is delicate and pretty, just like the author’s cakes and puddings.

My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo, (Penguin $50)

Following the success of My Little Paris Kitchen, Rachel Khoo has branched out to present a second book that covers her trips to little villages and towns beyond the city. It’s interesting and appealing with loads of wonderfully diverse recipes included with lovely notes and illustrations of regional dishes and the specialty foods and customs she uncovered. Bright, breezy and delicious.

Simply Good Food by Neil Perry, (Murdoch Books $59.99)

One of Sydney’s best chefs, Neil Perry shares simple, produce-driven recipes that express his love of the multicultural cooking Australians are currently embracing. Family favourites for dinner ideas range from simple pasta and a variety of meat dishes to Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican feasts and tempting puddings. Earl Carter’s photography is superbly and stylish.

The New Classics by Donna Hay, (4th Estate $69.99) Packed with Donna Hay chic recipes this huge volume almost needs a weightlifter to manoeuvre it. Filled with new classics recipes, there’s lots to inspire family cooking and entertaining for friends. Stunning photography, accompanied by clear concise instructions, has made this author a household name in our part of the food world. A must for young cooks and Donna Hay fans.

For the side bar

Fundraising Book of the Year

Share, Women for Women International, (Kyle Books distributed by New Holland $59.99)

Women for Women International is a charitable organisation that enables women in some of the most war-ravaged countries of Africa and central Asia to rebuild their lives and communities. Simple yet delicious healthy recipes were contributed to the book by an international line-up of chefs, humanitarians and others actively engaged in a range of causes. Beautifully photographed feasts are interspersed with heart-warming stories of the women who have turned their lives around, and recipes from their countries. The presentation and originality sets this book ahead of most books I have encountered this year. Better still, 100% of the publisher’s profits are sent directly to W f W.

First published in the NZ Listener where I write the weekly food column.

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