The Wandering Palate Book Selection for the Gourmand – mostly available through amazon.com

With Christmas only weeks away now, it’s that time where indecisions on present buying start turning into panic, particularly for friends and relatives abroad and you know you have to get that parcel off in the post pronto.Books obviously make for convenient and meaningful presents and can reflect your good taste or intellectual interests as much as they can tailored to the person you are giving it to, with the knowledge of their interests, hobbies or reading habits. Moreover, they are easy to post, courier or more than likely, sent by amazon.com.

No denying Amazon is the saviour for getting last minute presents there on time and will no doubt be doing a roaring trade presently, with an emphasis on priority deliveries.

So, what does one get for the gourmand or wine enthusiast that seemingly has everything?

Well, there is always a multitude of cookbooks released every year and many of them more than just coffee table decoration. Besides, any gourmand or home cook I know can never have enough cookbooks.

Wine enthusiasts are a bit more difficult, in that they might not necessarily be in to reading wine books, which are often pretty dry (pardon the pun) although perhaps good for reference.

There is though the occasional good read on wine more in the story format, sometimes autobiographical from a vintners or merchant’s experiences, or wine writers accounts of travels and wine tales.

I have compiled this list of suggested titles based on my personal reading throughout this year, including the ‘Best o f Year’ efforts. Some are new titles and some are works revisited or reference books and all come highly recommended. Most are available through amazon.com

The Wandering Palate Cookbook of the Year

More than French – Philippe Mouchel with Rita Erlich forward by Paul Bocuse (Slattery Media Group ISBN 9780980744729) http://www.slatterymedia.com

In the world of cookbooks, or perhaps it should be universe with new galaxy’s being discovered every day, how does one arrive at the ‘Cookbook of the Year’?

Well, it’s largely a personal choice although subjective as this is, there is I feel a strong element of objectivity as the choice of chef and the contents of this cookbook is very much centred on what is a growing trend in our approach to food and the environment.

I sense a palpable appetite for wholesome food and a return to classics and heritage cooking techniques, or even ancient methods and ideology. Central to this is the grand master chef, Philippe Mouchel, whose axiom not only goes back to his Normandy roots, but embraces many of the oldest and simplest cooking techniques known to man.

More than French - Philippe Mouchel with Rita Erlich

If you have had the pleasure of dining at Mouchel’s latest restaurant in Melbourne, PM24, you will comprehend all this and taking pride of place is his theatrical open-plan kitchen is an impressively large and bright red rôtissoire that is the mainstay of the menu. And I quote “Rôtissoire cooking is one of the oldest cooking techniques and is such a natural way to bring out the flavour of the meat. Spit roasting, with its gentle cooking and self-basting is for me the father of cooking”.

Cardinal to this is Mouchel’s insatiable enthusiasm and emphasis on the freshest, locally-sourced, organic and wholesomely nutritious produce sourcing much of it from around Melbourne and within the state of Victoria. Australia is truly an incredible food bowl and clear motive for a great chef to become well and truly ensconced.

And putting that into perspective, we are talking about of the most talented and respected French chefs in the world, not only a protégée of the legendary Paul Bocuse, but his right-hand man and executive chef responsible for steering many of Bucuse’s projects around the world.

Bocuse remarks in his foreword in More than France, “A remarkable chef – Philippe Mouchel is one of the most esteemed graduates of the Auberge du Pont de Collognes. He developed from an apprenticeship at the Le Grand Cerf in Evreux in Normandy to become a highly respected chef in many countries”

Bocuse discovered Mouchel when he visited Roger Verge’s Moulin de Mougins in Provence, the then young Mouchel chef de partie. Sensing great talent, Bocuse invited Mouchel to join his team at Collognes in Lyon and subsequently at the age of only 22, dispatching him to Japan to become chef at Rengaya, one of Bocuse’s overseas ventures.

Bocuse then appointed Mouchel chef of his Hong Kong venture, Le Restaurant de France at the Meridien Hotel and also had him open the White Swan Hotel in Guanqzhou, China. He then became chef at Le Restaurant de France at the Le Meridien hotel in Houston, Texas, coming back to Asia as chef at Tokyo’s Belle Epoque.

Bocuse then approached Mouchel to open the Paul Bocuse restaurant in the Daimaru department store, opening in 1991 which was the beginning of Mouchel’s entrenchment in Melbourne and Australia’s, both diners and the media embracing his rare talents in successive restaurant projects; Langton’s restaurant and The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel.

Mouchel has certainly fully assimilated to Australia much of this due to his jovial nature, and despite his commanding aura, cutting a giant figure accentuated by the tallest of torques, he is a most gentle, calm and humble individual (the antithesis of Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen) and you only have to be around Mouchel for a moment to be overcome by a sense of profoundness and an exuding confidence, wisdom, passion and assuredness that you just know you’re going to eat well.

I was one of the first people Mouchel met when he moved to Melbourne, Australia to open the Paul Bocuse restaurant at Daimaru. A friend of mine was his relocation agent and asked me to introduce him to the French restaurant mafia, to which I assemble all the usual suspects for a long evening at Francophile headquarters, France-Soir bistro.

This was to be the beginning of a very long relationship with Mouchel, working with him opening Paul Bocuse designing the entire wine program for both the restaurant and Daimaru department store wine boutique, the most challenging yet rewarding experience and achievement in my Sommelier career.

You could say this cookbook has been ‘a long time coming’ or decades in the making and there are only a handful of chefs of Mouchel’s calibre and worldly experience that deservedly demand an audience in global sense in totally saturated cookbook market.

More than French justifiably contains a good degree of autobiographical account of a chef’s journey yet this is approached modestly and tastefully, as one would expect of Mouchel.

Mouchel has also astutely collaborated with Rita Erlich, one of Australia’s most respected food journalists, restaurant commentators and prolific food writer and author in co-writing this book. Indeed there lies the difference and extra merit of this user-friendly cookbook.

No disrespect to all the great chefs out there who have cookbooks, but invariably these are cumbersome technical manuals, some with wonderful photography yet invariably have over complex recipes and methods that might be standard practice to cooking professionals but befuddle most amateur cooks.

Erlich’s involvement is clear in the approach in format and layout of the book with ingredients and methodology meticulously and succinctly detailed combined with Mouchel’s firsthand narrative. Clearly there has been and enormous and painstaking effort in test cooking and translating Mouchel’s expertise and recipes to which Erlich has the requisite background knowledge and equal passion to do so eloquently and fluidly.

Erlich describes working with Mouchel as learning “The language of cooking” and goes on to say in her introduction, “In working with Philippe I have learnt about the double helix of passion and skill that is at the centre of his cooking. He has a great sense of flavour balance and a remarkable ability to put together combinations of taste. His attention to detail is unfailing, and I would advise anyone using this book always pay attention to details – it is the difference between a dish that is merely good and one that is exceptional.”

Most pertinently, she comments, “His good humour shines through in everything he does”.

And what makes the book, “More than French”? Well, notwithstanding Mouchel has cooked in more countries than most chefs would in their career, but clearly Japan his influenced him more than any other country, besides, he has a Japanese wife!

Mouchel arrived in Japan in 1978, the first time he had left France moreover the first time he had been on a plane. Paul Bocuse was the first French chef to open a restaurant in Japan, partnering with a wealthy Japanese restaurateur, Mrs Inagawa.

What Mouchel experienced in Japan, to his credit at a very early age, was how to adapt to a totally different country and culture, which unbeknown to him would instil a lasting ability to adapt recipes and ingredients to the local palate without losing the underlying French style, or more specifically, Paul Bocuse style of cooking.

In his own words, “I was there to cook the food of Paul Bocuse, in the style that I had been taught, but customers weren’t ready to accept cream and butter and heavy sauces. No-one in the kitchen was going to help me.” He goes on to say, “What I didn’t understand initially was that it was my job to present the Bocuse style of cooking, but not to replicate exactly. Monsieur Bocuse never gave me the recipes; the idea was that I could cook what I wanted, within his style.”

This resulted in Mouchel adapting to a new take on Bocuse style, “I simply had to change the style of cooking – to be successful, you have to adapt to the customer. So I gradually dropped the use of cream.”

Inadvertently Mouchel was inventing modern French cuisine and with the combination of his stint in Houston, Texas, by the time he reached Australia he was well and truly an innovator and highly adaptive chef.

Hence More than French incorporates some dishes with a Japanese flavour such as, ‘Japanese seafood omelette’, or ‘Vegetable miso soup’ and ‘Tomoko’s steamed snapper’ named after Mouchel’s wife.

Many of the dishes are reflections of Mouchel’s travels and overseas postings such as ‘Wok-cooked chicken’ or ‘Quinoa salad’, but there is also many French classics perfected by Mouchel; ‘Salad Nicoise, Cassoulet, Pot-au-feu, Baouillabaise, Boeuf bouguignon, Creme Brulee to mention a few.

Then there are Mouchel family classics with a thread of Normandy cider used liberally, ‘Raymond Mouchel’s French onion soup’, ‘Steamed mussels with apple cider’, ‘Grandmother Jeanne’s braised pig trotters’, or ‘Raymond Mouchel’s tripe with apple cider and calvados’.

The meat section has my kind of speed, ‘Daube Provencale’, ‘Stuffed spatchcock and peas a la Francaise’, ‘Pork chops with prunes and couscous’, ‘Cocotte of pork belly and vegetables’, ‘Duck breast au poivre’ all have me salivating and then there’s the all-time legendary classic, ‘Truffle soup Paul Bocuse’.

There is a strong dessert section, as Paul Bocuse remarks, “a complete chef’ and particular strength of Mouchel who says “If I leave the table without something sweet, it feels like something is missing’.

All the dishes and recipes exemplify the bounty of fantastic produce that Australia has to offer with the food photography arousing the senses and will motivate your hunter-gatherer instincts.

In summary, this is a cookbook that you use constantly both in day to day cooking and as much entertaining and planning gourmet meals, no matter where you live. It will make for a wonderful Christmas present for gourmands enthusiasts and you’re every day cook alike.

All that said, I can’t wait to dine again at Mouchel’s restaurant, PM24, and have the rotissoire organic Milawa chicken again. www.pm24.com.au

More than French is published by Slattery Media, ISBN 9780980744729 and available direct www.slatterymedia.com or through your favourite bookstore.

The Wandering Palate Produce Book of the Year – Cheese

Cheese Slices – Will Studd http://cheeseslices.com/ (Hardie Grant Books, ISBN 978)1 74068 550 6)

http://www.amazon.com/Cheese-Slices-Will-Studd/dp/1740665503

Chalk & Cheese – Will Studd (Purple Egg, ISBN 09586195 0 6)

http://www.amazon.com/Chalk-Cheese-Will-Studd/dp/0958619506

The Wandering Palate Produce Book of the Year - Cheese - Will Studd Cheese Slices

The Wandering Palate Best Discovery Cookbook of the Year

Papaya Flower – Manadonese Cuisine Provincial Indonesian Food – by Petty P Elliot (Komunika Partners ISBN 978-602-95717-0-7)  Email: pettyelliot@yahoo.com Tel: +62816922099

Having recently met Indonesian food writer, Petty P Elliot, my curiosity in Indonesian cuisine and culture has been reawakened, moreover enlightened and fascinated with her book, ‘Papaya Flower, Manadonese cuisine Provincial Indonesian food’, inciting a compulsion to discover more on this (undiscovered) cuisine.

Papaya Flower Manadonese cuisine Provincial Indonesian food

I am sure Indonesia is an enigma to many, even though it is the world’s 4th largest most populated country, 240 million people in fact, which is more than the combined population of England, France, Italy and Spain; but are we familiar with Indonesian cuisine or culture?

Perhaps the universal engrossment with money and recent revelations that Indonesia is approaching being a trillion dollar economy and that it is after all the biggest economy in Southeast Asia might have us thinking beyond nasi goreng and sate.

Standard Chartered bank expects Indonesia’s economy to rise to $9 trillion by 2030, “which would make it the largest economy in size after China, the United States, India, Brazil and Japan; Indonesia’s economy would be bigger than Germany, Mexico, France and Britain”.

If that’s not reason enough for the world to start paying a lot more attention to this rapidly growing-evolving country-culture, well I’ll eat Adyuma.

Much of Indonesian mystery lies in its cultural diversity, indeed 300 ethnic groups with 742 different languages and dialects in an archipelago of 17,508 islands scattered across either side of the equator, of which 6000 are inhabited; there is much to explore!

Also consider that Indonesia has land borders with Malaysia in Borneo, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and is maritime neighbours within close proximity to Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia; there have been many centuries of complex cross-cultural influences on their cuisine and evolution of agriculture.

Indigenous evolution in Indonesia is no less complex or intriguing, spanning from the fascinating discovery of the Java Man, one of the first known homo erectus living on the banks of the Solo River, East Java over 1.5 million years ago, to the Austronesian whose roots go back to Taiwan and known to have migrated from 10,000-2500 BC, some of whom in turn interacted over many thousands of years with the Melanesians, the indigenous Papuan-speaking people of New Guinea.

No wonder those who delve into the history of the region become infatuated, even if most people’s first Indonesian encounter is Bali and seemingly tailored to western pampering and of ideals of nirvana; Bali itself has an incredibly rich culture and history and the gateway to discovering Indonesia.

So, with 17, 507 islands other than Bali to explore, where does one start?

Well, how about we explore one of the largest islands, Sulawesi, or more specifically exploring the Manadonese cuisine that has evolved around the city and region of Manado at the northern tip of this mountainous peninsula stretching out from the Bay of Manado to the Celebres Sea and neighbouring southern Philippine Islands.

Enter Penny P Elliot, not only peerless in her commentary and writing on Indonesian cuisine, also the author of a truly unique cookbook, ‘Papaya Flower – Manadonese Cuisine Provincial Indonesian Food’. Elliot is a Manadonese native of both Dutch and Manadonese ancestry and thoroughly passionate in her pursuit of championing Manadonese cuisine and illustrating the intriguing mosaic of flavours and cultural influences.

I asked Elliot for her general thoughts on Indonesian cuisine and how she feels it is perceived, to which she writes profoundly:

“As an Indonesian food writer – I sometimes feel I am a rarity – a silly notion given that I come from the fourth largest democracy in the world. There are 240 million Indonesians – so why does real Indonesian food remain an unknown?

It is still amazing to me that one struggles in leading international cities such as London (and England is my second home these days) – to find a decent Indonesian restaurant. With the possible exception of its former colonist, the Netherlands, South East Asia’s largest nation is so often overshadowed by greater familiarity with Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine.

For many, Indonesian food equals fried rice, satay, gado-gado (blanced mix vegetables with peanut sauce), rendang (dried beef curry from Sumatra) and instant noodles. These fast food staples are indeed available everywhere in the archipelago, equivalent to British fish and chips or American hamburgers. But in truth how many of us foodies spend a micro-second on such offerings?  So it’s long overdue to reveal the true potential of the Indonesian menu.

Pumpkin curry with fresh lemon grass and basil, stir fried papaya flowers and water spinach with smoked tuna, pork tenderloin with soya sauce, nutmeg and cloves or red snapper with grilled pineapple chillies and ginger.  These are just a few of the regional dishes I have grown up with in Manado, North Sulawesi – flying time just three hours from Singapore.

Seeking a better-known destination? Try Bali. The land of the Gods has punched well above its weight in recent years, with well earned international publicity as a gourmet destination.

In Bali we are beginning to see change as leading international chefs are creating fantastic combinations from local ingredients, experimenting and adapting local dishes with modern cooking technique.

But Indonesia is more than Bali. Indonesia is beyond Bali. I think this is the window of opportunity, and the beginnings of some exciting new offerings from the land of spice.” Let’s discover the regional taste of Indonesia.”

There is a powerful message here and surely the awareness and popularity of (Indonesian) cuisine will grow in as much as their economy and importance on the worldwide stage.

Looking at Manadonese cuisine alone, history and foreign influence has imparted perhaps more than people realize and there will be some sense of familiarity amongst both western and eastern (Chinese) palates. As Elliot outlines in the introduction to her book, “It (Manadonese) is a very particular style of cuisine, strong in flavour and quite distinct from the fare elsewhere in Indonesia. One difference is the popularity of pork. Lying within the largest Muslim state in the world, North Sulawesi is predominantly Christian.”

The timeline of history tells us that the Portuguese and Spanish vied for control over these parts of South East Asia, the Portuguese attempting to secure Sulawesi by installing the Sultan of Ternate as their vassal however, it was the Spanish who eventually had the upper hand.  Subsequently the Spanish traded possession of Northern Sulawesi to the Portuguese although they were outsmarted by the Dutch (Dutch East India Company) who had already forged an alliance with the natives (Minahasa) and it remained a Dutch Colony until the Japanese invasion and even more bloody war, the Indonesian War of Independence at the end of World War II, with succession in 1949.

I should mention the British were also vying for power in the region over the same period of time with the British (East India Company) becoming increasingly hostile (and ambitious) throughout the Malay Peninsula as the Anglo-Dutch wars unfolded in the 17th and 18th Century.

Meanwhile Chinese traders and Malay fisherman went about their business with cross-culture marriages imparting their own influences on Manadonese cuisine with seafood a large part of the diet. As Elliot puts it, “Located on a peninsula, nowhere in Manado is further than an hour and half from the coast, ensuring both seafood and freshwater fish from the inland lakes are perennial favourites”.

It is intriguing though and testimony to the distinct cultural differences in Indonesia, as pointed out by Elliot in her depiction of Manado history, pre-colonial times, “The settlers of this idyllic and remote finger of land atop Sulawesi seemed to have been able to evolve a lifestyle and culture based on their Austronesian heritage, largely undisturbed until the arrival of the Europeans. In comparison to other parts of Indonesia and the Philippines, the influence of either Islam or the cultures of India was negligible. There is little evidence of Hinduism, no Indic scripts and very few linguistic borrowings in local dialect.

As distinct from Bali, with its Hindu majority and yet also under Dutch rule, albeit a far more tumultuous relationship, it is fascinating that in relatively close proximity and under the same colonial power that such cultures and cuisines could be so different moreover, nothing much has changed to this very day.

Elliot describes Manadonese cuisine as using “many South East Asian favourites: chillies, lemon grass, ginger, galangal and turmeric. It is a very particular style of Indonesian cuisine, strong in flavour and quite distinct from fare elsewhere in Indonesia.” She goes on to say, “The Manado have a reputation throughout the archipelago for preparing some of Indonesia’s spiciest food.”

Thankfully, she has reduced the quantities of chilli in all of her recipes and whilst she aims to “re-kindle interest in Manadonese cuisine in its purest form”, she takes a pragmatic and contemporary approach to fresh ingredients and techniques, “without losing the unique taste and of the spices and herbs in use for hundreds of years.”

Elliot’s chapter on ingredients is captivating, articulately explaining spices, herbs and fresh produce and superbly illustrated with original photography by Jakarta based professional photographer, Melbourne. Indeed, the photography throughout the book is brilliant and every dish is pictured; I don’t know about you, but food photography is paramount and a picture of each dish an imperative as far as guidance and both cooking and presenting the dish.

Indeed, this is not only a well-presented and formatted cookbook, it is thoroughly user-friendly and practical in its clear layout and recipe flow; presented in a manner that one can sense someone who cooks at home and understands the boundaries of the home-cook and the limitations of a home kitchen. Too many cookbooks, authored by chefs, end up with dishes deconstructed in a complex and disconcerting manner that only professionals and obsessive gourmands can follow.

Manadonese cuisine utilises basic Asian cooking methods such as the wok for frying and braising but also young palm leaves and banana leaves are used for steaming a barbecuing and even though modern lifestyle has infiltrated Manado, traditional cooking methods remain much the same.

Papaya Flower - Pumpkin Curry

Vegetarians will gain much from book in expanding and spicing up their repertoire with both the ‘Vegetable’ and ‘Rice and Noodle’ chapters offering dishes and recipes of wonderfully exotic ingredients and complex flavours, including a Manadonese Risotto with pumpkin, sweet potatoes, corn and spinach. No, the Italian’s did not invade Manado more the fact rice has been a staple here and trading commodity here for Centuries.

There are also vegetables soups, Grandma’s spicy pumpkin soup, Mung Bean, carrot and potatoes soup incorporating exotic spices, and salads using papaya, pomelo and mango that have their similarities to Malay and Thai flavours.

There is a surprisingly large dessert section, although not strictly Asian sweets, and underscores Elliot’s contemporary approach to Indonesian cuisine. Her recipes and interpretations are indeed modern and her approach not constrained by the rigidity of ‘authenticity’.

Authenticity in cuisine is a mute point, as Anthony Bourdain verbalizes in his recent book, Medium Raw, leaving out some of his animated vernacular, “What does ‘authentic’ mean, anyway? Creole, by definition, is a cuisine and a culture undergoing slow but constant change since its beginnings, a result of gradual, natural fusion—like Singapore or Malaysian flavours and ingredients changing along with who’s making babies with who, and for how long… the term ‘authentic is essentially meaningless. ‘Authentic’ to when? ‘Authentic’ to whom?”

And this is what I find refreshing in Elliot’s approach to her book; that she is not bogged down in ‘authenticity’ or tradition rather, in reuniting herself with her homeland she has absorbed all the transitions and evolution of Manado and applied her personal, contemporary ideologies and techniques without compromising the purity and wholesomeness of the local ingredients with the emphasis on great produce.

It is an uncomplicated book that has no intention of being a scholarly reference and is I would suggest purposely abridged in content and pictorial to appeal to those discovering Asian cuisines, and those who like cookbooks that are practical and will actually be helpful in exploring and cooking an unfamiliar cuisine.

That said I can sense Elliot’s is working cautiously within realistic constraints, and she would happily produce a tome on Indonesian cooking, and perhaps she will, as she has embarked on a monumental journey of culinary discovery.

For the meantime she is pursuing her passion with this commendably self-published entree. We are also hoping Elliot will share her ongoing discoveries on the Wandering Palate website.

Papaya Flower, Manadonese cuisine Provincial Indonesian food, is published by Komunika Partners ISBN 978-602-95717-0-7 and available in specialist bookstores or by contacting her direct at pettyelliot@yahoo.com Tel: +62816922099

  • Reference: Papaya Flower Manadonese cuisine Provincial Indonesian food and Wikipedia

How to Cook Everything Completely revised Tenth Anniversary Edition, Mark Bittman (John Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-0-7645-7865-6)

http://www.howtocookeverything.com/ http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/  http://markbittman.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Cook-Everything-Completely-Revised-Anniversary/dp/0764578650

I have a confession. I did not know who Mark Bittman was until 3 years ago when friends from the US, Stacy and Greg, living in Singapore kept on mentioning or quoting him and this fantastic book on how to cook; in Stacy’s words, “Absolutely everything and the recipes are so easy to follow and practical”.

I guess for a foodie like me, there’s no excuse for not being aware of America’s most well-known food writer, although such as it as sometimes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Only the other day I was having a conversation with an American on a particular wine and I referenced Jancis Robinson MW. He said, “Who’s that?”  I said, “Well arguably the most well-known authority on wine on this planet”. He said, “Never heard of her”.

So, whilst this does not negate my ignorance of American food writers, I just wanted to make this admission so readers in the US relate to my new found enthusiasm for this culinary tome.

How to Cook Everything - Mark Bittman

Actually, Stacy gave me a copy for Christmas 2009 and I would say there has hardly a week gone by when I have not used it. I actually use it as a research tool before Google, referencing produce, recipes and techniques as it is assuredly more accurate than a good deal of the contrived content on the web.

Prior to my introduction to Bittman’s master work, I always used Stephanie Alexander’s “The Cooks Companion – The complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen” – yes, I know your saying, “Who? Alexander is the doyen of Australian cooking and there is a lot in common with Bittman’s volume, in that they are both centred on the home cook with straightforward practical advice, using the best wholesome organic ingredients with an emphasis on enjoying day to day cooking and dishes and meals that often take no more than 30 minutes preparation time.

But I have to admit, Bittman’s book is encyclopaedic – like an Oxford Dictionary to food, and if you can’t find your schnitzel meat pounder, this does this book does the job more than sufficiently.

It is mind boggling how many recipes and cooking antidotes this book contains, more than anyone could cook in a lifetime and it is completely astonishing how Bittman has managed to be a part of every word, recipe perfection and guidance. Just the sheer labour and time involved is nothing short of extraordinary; 2’000 recipes with hundreds of new dishes added since the last edition with everything from Pad Thai to the simplest whole Roast Chicken.

Indeed, it has been a life’s work with this edition keeping up with the evolution, trends and demands (fashions and vagaries) of food, ever-changing yet always linked to tradition and time-honoured techniques.

The cake baking, bread and patisseries attention to detail is incredible, and this is an area you can’t afford to cut corners and Bittman is an expert and completely thorough in this regard.

Above all, and what I like most about this book and Bittman’s ideology, it is all about cooking at home, simple recipes with more than half of them feasibly taking less than 30 minutes with no special equipment or complicated techniques. Moreover the emphasis is on fresh ingredients, healthy preparations and getting back into the kitchen – away from fast food, processed food, corn starch and all those modified ingredients.

Bittman creates a whole new comfort zone for anyone to enjoy cooking and I would suggest, save a hell of a lot of money on grocery bills and general cost of living for any household. Bravo!

Ginger Pig – Meat Book Tim Wilson & Fran Warde (Mitchell Beazley – ISBN 978-1-84533-558-8 http://www.thegingerpig.co.uk/

The Borough Market in London is one of my favourite food foraging spots on this planet and also home to the Ginger Pig Butchery – a real butcher.

This is a carnivore’s paradise where meat and poultry are a religion and the provenance and husbandry of animals is decidedly organic, if not Celtic in its quest to bring back all the goodness and authenticity in butchery.

The Ginger Pig Meat Book brings all this to your kitchen and an invaluable resource, no matter where you are on this planet. As founder of Ginger Pig, Tim Wilson, says, “This book is a meat manual for the inquisitive cook. The word ‘provenance’ is thrown about a lot these days with regards to the food we eat, and with very good reason, as it means ‘to know the origin, source, birthplace, roots, pedigree and derivation’. All these things are vital for us to know about every piece of meat we buy.”

For me, this is the defining line between those who care about what they eat and what it tastes like, and the apathetic supermarket shopper who is completely nonchalant about where their meat or poultry comes from, and clearly do not care about all the chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics and modified and processed feeds in the food they eat, never mind the inhumane treatment these animals have inflicted upon them.

Wilson’s rationale is “Good farmers look after their stock well – it is their greatest asset – and give the butcher excellent meat.” He goes on to say, “I would like to see more businesses follow a model of animals being reared and sold by the one owner, who is then more responsible for the wellbeing of the stock”.

Profound logic and as with all produce, the answer lies in going back in time for the benefit of our future and sustainable farming will only be achieved by going back to the ancient methods of agriculture.

The Wandering Palate Produce Book of the Year - Ginger Pig Meat Book

The Ginger Pig Meat Book has all the necessary if not fascinating facts on meat, poultry and game, how they are raised, the best breeds, the different cuts, strategically how to prepare different cuts for cooking and most importantly what is in season and best to be on your table with a month to month insight on what happens at the Ginger Pig farms.

Indeed, this approach sets this book apart from others; to go back to our roots and pragmatically cook what is seasonal and obviously what is in good supply and generally in sync with the weather, or seasons as it were.

There is brilliant ‘Farm’ recipes detailed month by month that have me yearning to live in a country with true seasons and great produce  – “September: Braised Spanish pork with muscatel raisins, Peasant rabbit paella – October: Sausage and butterbean pot, Slow-roast shoulder of lamb – November: Boned and rolled fennel-stuffed chump of pork, Mutton shepherd’s pie – December: Braised oxtail, Citrus roast festive turkey – and many more dishes that are all perfect for the home cook; user-friendly simple in method yet wonderfully wholesome and tasty.

Each recipe is well-detailed in ingredients and method, and there is a very useful section on accompaniments and kitchen tips.

It is a beautifully bound, plain brown-covered book on recycled paper adding a butchers feel to it, along with great down on the farm pictures and precise step by step photo-instructions for preparations and the finished dishes.

Obviously the book has a more relevance to the United Kingdom and the Northern Hemisphere seasons, although this is easily adapted to the Southern Hemisphere. And yes, the Ginger Pig butcher has stores only in London (five of them now) although you can order online for delivery anywhere in the UK – their website is amazing with screeds of information http://www.thegingerpig.co.uk/

However, as a reference to meat, poultry and game and a recipe book, Ginger Pig Meat book is an invaluable addition to your cooking library, no matter where you live on this planet and an inspiration to all that enjoy good, wholesome food.

I am personally going to work through all the recipes and seasons, masquerading autumn and spring in the tropics here in Singapore.

(Mitchell Beazley – ISBN 978-1-84533-558-8)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ginger-Pig-Meat-Book-Wilson/dp/1845335589

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ginger-Pig-Meat-Book-Wilson/dp/1845335589

Food Heroes Rick Stein (BBC – ISBN 0-563-53474-5 www.rickstein.com/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Food-Heroes-Stein/dp/0563534745

Best Food Writing, 2011, Edited by Holly Hughes (De Capo Press – ISBN 978-0-7382-1381-1

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Food-Writing-Holly-Hughes/dp/073821518X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322537479&sr=8-1

In Defence of Food – An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan (The Penguin Press) ISBN 978-1-59420-145-5

http://www.amazon.com/Defense-Food-Eaters-Manifesto/dp/1594201455

Silent Spring – Rachel Carson (Houghton Mifflin) ISBN 0-618-24906-0

http://www.amazon.com/Silent-Spring-Rachel-Carson/dp/0618249060

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Spring

Wine Books

The Wandering Palate Wine Book of the Year

白葡萄酒经典 Cool Climate Wines Michael Thurner & Susie Wu www.wenjingbook.com (Horizon Media Co) All sales outside of Mainland China and enquiries to Michael Thurner michael@austriasfinebrands.com www.austriasfinebrands.com

Dust to Gold – The Inspiring Story of Bendigo Station, home of Shrek – John Perriam (Random House) ISBN 978 1 86979 280 0   www.bendigostation.com.nz

The Heartbreak Grape – A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir – Marq de Villiers (McArthur & Company) ISBN 1-55278-610-2

http://www.amazon.com/Heartbreak-Grape-Revised-Updated-Journey/dp/1552786102

Wine Dogs New Zealand – the dogs of New Zealand wineries – McGill, Elliot, Judd (Giant Dog Publishing) ISBN 978-1-9211336-12-6 http://www.winedogs.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Zealand-Craig-McGill-Susan-Elliott/dp/1921336129

The Secret of Scent – Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell – Luca Turin (Harper Perennial ISBN 978-0-06-11383-1

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Scent-Adventures-Perfume-Science/dp/0061133833

Luminous Debris – Reflecting on Vestige in Provence and Languedoc – Gustaf Sobin (University of California Press ISBN 13: 978-0520222458

http://www.amazon.com/Luminous-Debris-Reflecting-Provence-Languedoc/dp/0520222458

Adventures on the Wine Route, A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France – Kermit Lynch, published (North Point Press ISBN-13: 978-0374522667) Also available direct via www.kermitlynch.com

http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Wine-Route-Buyers-France/dp/0374522669

Magazines and Website Subscriptions

The Wandering Palate Magazine of the Year

Donna Hay – Food Magazine (monthly) http://www.donnahay.com.au/

The World of Fine Wine http://www.finewinemag.com/

4 issues a year

The Wandering Palate Wine Website of the Year

Burghound – Allen Meadows www.burghound.com

Jancis Robinson MW – Purple Pages www.jancisrobinson.com subscriptions@jancisrobinson.com

In my view, Jancis Robinson is the  most knowledgeable wine person on this planet; one of few true wine generalists left, there is little in the wine world that she has not covered and encompassed in her website, which also incorporates the Oxford Dictionary of Wine – web version.

There are few subscription websites that deliver as much as the Purple Pages and Robinson appears to be building a team of regional specialists to keep up with the ever-growing world of wine.

There is a constant flow of new content daily with comprehensive tasting reports and cutting edge wine trade news, consumer trends, wine politics, events and everything else vinous.

An indefatigable, intellectual, intelligible and prolific writer, Robinson makes the rest of us wine scribes look like lazy hacks. I use her website daily and can highly recommend it to wine enthusiasts and novices alike moreover great value; about the same a decent bottle of wine – money well spent and recouped ten times over with the invaluable resource at your fingertips.

And a little Christmas word from Robinson herself just emailed out:

“If you’re like me, you’ve suddenly discovered a new energy for finding the right gift for close friends and family.  I heard recently that 68% of Brits head out to the shops on 24 December to pick up last-minute gifts – and I can’t imagine the figure is much lower in the rest of the world.

But this year I, for one, am determined to spend those final hours on Christmas Eve pottering in the kitchen and doting on my one-year-old grandson.  If you’re hoping to be in a similarly relaxed position, why not consider giving a year’s membership of my Purple pages (£69, about $107 or €80) to any wine lovers on your list?

Wishing you many great bottles this season, Jancis”


Gambero Rosso www.gamberorosso.it/en Slow Food www.slowfood.com

Slow Food Editore  http://editore.slowfood.it/editore/ita/chi.lasso



By Curtis Marsh | Produce | Related to: , , , , ,

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