The best cooking books of all time

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The best cooking books of all time


You and I Eat the Same, Edited by Chris Ying, Forward by René Redzepi.

If the legacy of the late Anthony Bourdain taught us anything, it’s that food is what brings us together. Good food is humble and honest, and the dining table is a welcome invitation. Sit down and leave your nonsense at the door. You share, you listen, you eat.

You and I Eat the Same: On the Countless Ways Food and Cooking Connect Us to One Another (YAIETS) nurtures this idea. Immigration is fundamental to good food and bringing us together. When we eat, we let down our barriers and learn from both conversation and cuisine – YAIETS explores these lessons in long-form prose. Shorter features continue to point to our similarities – the way we wrap meat in bread, a catalogue of the animals we eat, the list goes on.

This is the first in the Dispatches series, a run of single-subject books that ponder the ways we engage with the food we eat. It’s a collaboration between MAD, the international non-profit organisation founded by Noma’s chef and co-owner, René Redzepi, and Chris Ying, the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Lucky Peach. The series unpacks our relationship with food, questioning the ways in which we can work together to make our lives better. We explore urgent topics from the history of creative cooking to farming in a world coloured by climate change.

The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber

René Redzepi – author, chef and co-owner of Noma – has had a busy year maintaining Noma’s reputation as one of the finest and most reputable restaurants in the world. He’s also penned what can be read as the definitive guide to fermentation.

This is one to get excited about. In The Noma Guide to Fermentation, Redzepi and David Zilber (Noma’s own chef, who stands at the helm of the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab) provide a first glimpse into their mastered art of fermentation. This new book is the first to shed light on Noma’s defining techniques.

As Redzepi quite frankly states in the book’s introduction, “Without fermentation, there is no Noma”. While the ever-changing menu heroes local ingredients and their honest collection, fermentation stands at the heart of the restaurant and its philosophy. Every dish includes a fermented element, building complexity while maintaining a nuanced sophistication, be it a bright punch of vinegar, a deep, savoury miso or sweet black garlic.

The Noma Guide to Fermentation covers a lot of ground, journeying through the treatment of lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables, kombuchas, koji, misos and peaso, shoyus, garums and black fruits, via a convenient ordering system that runs from the easiest through to the more technical. Each process is supported by step-by-step photographs, bringing a style of cooking typically reserved for the most high-end establishments into the hands of the home cook.

Eat at the Bar by Matt McConnell with Jo Gamvros 

At its core, Eat at the Bar is a cookbook. It’s a catalogue of recipes that traverse the simple flavours adored by author, Matt McConnell – garlic, pimento, salt and only the finest olive oil – showcasing their endless depth and potential. It delivers an impressive lineup of recipes inspired by travel across Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and the work of local farmers, providores, fishmongers and suppliers whose recipes and methods are as honest as they are delicious. 

Every page positions the reader upon a European bar stool, perched and poised for a journey through European flavour profiles. We stop for lunch at cliff top restaurants, wander through bustling markets and go back in time at family-run bars as the authors share anecdotes, photographs and personal reflections from their journey across the continent.

As we follow McConnell and Gamvros across Europe, we’re given a warm insight into the ideas and philosophies at the heart of Bar Lourinha, the Melbourne restaurant owned and run by the two authors.

What Eat at the Bar delivers is an appreciation of the most honest ingredients and methods, with the pages showcasing a repertoire of tapas and raciones that echo the menu at Bar Lourinha. Taken together or as free-standing entities, both book and restaurant embrace Europe’s relaxed approach to hospitality in its warmth, conviviality and generosity.

Smith & Deli-cious by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse 

Let’s be frank, Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez have put vegan food on the map. Their Fitzroy restaurant, Smith & Daughters, and its sister deli, Smith & Deli have breathed new life into an oft-snubbed cuisine. Vegan food is no longer disregarded as a weary extension of bland, boring tofu slabs, reserved for those with specific dietary requirements or an underdeveloped palate. The rebrand is fresh and punchy; the menu is tasty and of broad appeal.

Smith & Deli-cious: Deli Food (That Happens To Be Vegan) teaches us how to cook vegan food, properly. Every chapter lifts the lid on the produce behind the counter of Fitzroy’s Smith & Deli. Recipes journey through fresh salads, hearty soups, ready-meals and pie fillings, with special mention going to Smith & Deli’s iconic mac and cheese, spanakopita, beef bourguignon, scalloped potatoes, lasagne and mince meat pies. For dessert, the final few chapters showcase the sweet stuff (including pastries and drinks).

Each recipe is given a visual representation through a photographic flat lay, showcasing a spectrum of colour and texture. These dishes are multi-dimensional with a flavour profile to match. The book’s design is modern and bright, reflecting the philosophy within which Smith & Deli is rooted: that vegan food should be just as good – if not better – than its meaty counterpart.

Smith & Daughters and Smith & Deli have breathed new life into the lentil. Now, Smith & Deli-cious hands the reins over to the home cook – this roster of recipes represents a natural progression. This is honest, good food.