Cookbooks

Peter Gordon is one of those chefs you feel probably doesn't often cook in his restaurants in Auckland and London because he is so busy travelling and cooking at festivals, not to mention his prolific writing for periodicals as well as books.

His latest cookbook, Peter Gordon Everyday (HarperCollins) is full of mostly simple recipes, some even homely, such as baked beans in meat loaf and Mum's slow-cooked shoulder of mutton. Others reflect his global palate, a version of the Greek cucumber yoghurt salad using coconut milk instead of yoghurt and dill instead of mint, or the use of miso in several otherwise Western-inspired dishes. There are exotic combinations like carrot salad with rosewater, typical of Morocco, but I get the impression his signature yoking together of fusion flavours has mellowed over the years.

There are some very simple pasta dishes, some more complicated dinner-party recipes such as avocado mousse, tomato jelly and prawns, but I loved some of his simpler vegetable dishes, like roast cauliflower with olives and sage leaves, and his combination of broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, raisins, pinenuts, radishes with pomegranate molasses and mint.

The index, unfortunately, is not particularly helpful - I could not find either of the above two recipes under "cauliflower" - which limits the book's usefulness when you are looking for inspiration for particular ingredients.


Annabel Langbein is big at the moment: her television series and cookbooks are hugely popular in many countries.

While international fame might be relatively recent, her food philosophy over many years of food writing has always been to help busy people cook, and share, good, simple food made with fresh ingredients and without too much fuss.

Her new book, published to coincide with her new television series, Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures (Annabel Langbein), continues with this theme and, like her two previous books, Free Range Cook and Free Range in the City, is lavishly illustrated with photographs of her in her garden at Wanaka and elsewhere in the South, enjoying food and wine with friends, and, of course, of seductive food.

Her food is fresh, modern and stylish, and covers the gamut from breads to cakes, from soups to preserves and, of course, lots of vegetables and salads. Chicken salad with nutty orange dressing, Mexican pulled pork, silverbeet gratin and ginger biscotti are some I plan to try.

Besides recipes and lovely photographs, there's lots of help in the book - menu suggestions and even some QR codes that link directly to videos on her website, www.annabel-langbein.com. It's a feel-good cookbook, with an underlying message about not losing sight of where our food comes from in an industrialised world. It's an enticement back to the land for city-dwellers with holiday houses in the country - like Langbein herself, who lives in Auckland where she also has a large vegetable garden - or those who wish they had. But nonetheless, she has a worthwhile message and great recipes. Her many fans won't be disappointed.


Another domestic goddess with an international following, British cook Nigella Lawson, has a new book out, Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration (Chatto and Windus).

Although she had planned to write a book of authentic Italian recipes, she says in the introduction, she realised the dream of a glorified peasant past with mamma and nonna cooking and the family eating together around a kitchen table was an illusion - peasants often didn't have kitchens let alone tables, and sometimes not even food! The recipes in this book are inspired by Italian ways of cooking and the realisation that culinary traditions change with new ingredients and influences. After all, tomatoes were only introduced to Italy from the Americas in the 16th century.

There are lots of pasta recipes, some simple, homely ones like white beans with rosemary, or golden lentils with leek, lots of vegetable and meat dishes, a plethora of rich desserts and a whole section entitled "An Italian inspired Christmas" which includes nibbles such as crostini, savoury baking and dips, pork belly with chilli and fennel seeds, stuffed turkey, a wonderfully red "Renaissance salad" with different types of radicchio and pomegranate seeds, and baking - but no panforte. Perhaps that's already in one of her other books. Her fans will want this lavishly illustrated book. I'm not sure I like the shiny paper it's printed on or the capitalised ingredient lists, but her recipes and comments are always enticing.