27 September 2023

Books For Christmas

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By Christine Salins.


One of the legacies of nigh on three years of pandemic is a widespread enthusiasm for baking. Tapping right into that is First Cream The Butter and Sugar, by Emelia Jackson (Murdoch Books, $59.99). Sub-titled The Essential Baking Companion, it’s by cake designer Jackson, who won the 2020 MasterChef Back to Win series. This thoroughly modern baking bible covers a range of skill sets and experience, from everyday cakes and cookies to tips for mastering choux pastry and chocolate.

Speaking of companions, Damien Coulthard and Rebecca Sullivan’s First Nations Food Companion (Murdoch Books, $49.99) would be the perfect gift for someone who is curious about native Australian ingredients. The first half of this ground-breaking book is a guide to more than 60 of the most accessible Indigenous ingredients, with tips for how to buy, grow and store them. That’s followed by 100 exceptionally lovely recipes, tips on an Indigenous medicine garden, and the best places to find native ingredients in shops and online.

Distilling an enormous amount of food knowledge into a single volume, Matthew Evans’ The Real Food Companion (Murdoch Books, $65) is a substantial update of the original edition of Real Food published more than a decade ago. Evans celebrates the joy of home cooking with integrity and with consideration for the future of the planet. The 200 recipes are unpretentious, wholesome and delicious, but it’s his musings on food and farming that put this one high on the wish list.

Phaidon is renowned for its detailed and authoritative volumes, and these two are standouts. The British Cookbook ($74.95) by food historian Ben Mervis has more than 550 recipes from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They range from well-known dishes such as Lancashire Hotpot, Roast Beef, Chicken Tikka Masala and Eton Mess to lesser-known regional specialities. Stunning images of both food and landscape complement this culinary journey.

The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook (Phaidon, $74.95) by chef and restaurateur Margarita Carrillo Arronte is a definitive collection of around 400 traditional, authentic plant-based recipes. Brimming with stories about Mexican ingredients and culinary tradition, it’s a beautiful looking book, the cover featuring a gorgeous cactus die-cut design inspired by traditional Mexican papercraft.

Vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends alike will love Tenderheart by Hetty Lui McKinnon (Plum, $59.99). Not only is it packed with recipes that transform humble vegetables into fabulous dishes without fuss, it’s also a story about the legacy of food as a way of staying connected with loved ones. McKinnon lost her Chinese-born father when she was 15, and it’s clear he left an indelible mark on her life, not least because he was a ‘fruit and vegetable guy’ at Sydney Markets. Incidentally, McKinnon does all her own photography and it’s pretty schmick.

One can never have too many companions. The Food Saver’s A-Z (Murdoch Books, $49.99) is The Essential Cornersmith Kitchen Companion, compiled by Sydney’s Cornersmith Cooking School owners Alex Elliott-Howery and Jaimee Edwards. The book is organised alphabetically by ingredients (veg as well as meat). If you’ve got things in the fridge or pantry that need using, you can delve into these pages for help in turning them into meals, side dishes, condiments and baked goods. Great for the budget and great for reducing food waste.

I’ve had a lot of joy over the years from Sabrina Ghayour’s Middle Eastern cookbooks and her latest one, Persiana Everyday (Hachette, $39.99) looks equally delightful. Iranian-born Ghayour has turned her attention to no-cook, quick-prep, quick-cook and one-pot dishes, and the results as always are delicious and inviting. Think Fried feta parcels with honey, Bloody Mary spatchcocked chicken, and Rhubarb, rose & pistachio trifle pots. Yum!

Parsi cuisine is a rich fusion of Persian and Indian influences, and in his debut cookbook Parsi (Bloomsbury, $52.99), Farokh Talati lifts the lid on the fascinating culture he was born into. Now a chef in London who cut his teeth in Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen, he has gathered together recipes and tales from his travels through India and time spent in the kitchen with his Parsi family. Rich, evocative and different.

Donna Hay has two lovely books out in time for Christmas. In The Fast Five (Fourth Estate, $49.99), she takes all-time classics and standbys like lasagne, pasta, schnitzels and tacos, and re-imagines them into super-fast creations that you can have on the table in no time. Donna Hay Christmas Feasts and Treats (Fourth Estate, $44.99) is a new edition filled with festive recipes, styling ideas and shortcuts. Christmas entertaining looks effortless the Donna Hay way, and we know you will enjoy her Lemon Thyme-brined Turkey recipe featured here.

Finally, it must be time for a drink. It’s Always Spritz O’Clock Somewhere (Harper By Design, $19.99) has classic cocktail recipes from anywhere you’d rather be: Aperol Spritz in Palm Springs, Bellini in Buenos Aires, Mimosa in Barcelona, Limoncello Sprit in the Mediterranean. This is one cool little book to pop into the Christmas stocking.

Lemon Thyme-brined Turkey

Serves 6 to 8

1 x 5 to 6kg turkey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 orange, quartered

24 sprigs lemon thyme

4 brown onions, peeled and halved

2 heads garlic, peeled and halved horizontally

1 litre good-quality chicken stock

125g unsalted butter

1 cup (240g) firmly packed brown sugar

lemon thyme brine

1 cup (140g) sea salt flakes

1 cup (240g) firmly packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon lemon thyme leaves

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

Brine the turkey the day before. To make the lemon thyme brine, place the salt, sugar, fennel seeds, lemon thyme and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine. Place the turkey on a wire rack over a large container or tray and sprinkle evenly with the brine. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours. Brush off any excess brine mixture.

Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Place the turkey in a large, greased baking tray and drizzle with the oil. Fill the cavity of the turkey with the orange and half the lemon thyme sprigs. Arrange the onion, garlic and remaining lemon thyme sprigs around the turkey. Pour 1 cup (250ml) of the chicken stock into the tray and cover tightly with aluminium foil.

Roast the turkey, rotating the tray every hour and adding 1 cup (250ml) of the chicken stock each time, for 2½ to 3 hours.

Place the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until melted and smooth. Brush the glaze all over the turkey.

Increase the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F) and continue to roast the turkey for 20 to 30 minutes or until the skin is deeply browned all over. (If the skin is browning too quickly, especially at the breast, cover with foil.)

Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter with the garlic and onion. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan, add the remaining stock and bring to the boil. Continue to gently boil until the gravy is reduced by half. Carve the turkey and serve drizzled with the gravy.

Recipe and image from: Donna Hay Christmas Feasts and Treats, photography by William Meppem, published by Fourth Estate.

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