China Modern

by Ching-He Huang

(Kyle Cathie)

Taking on another country or region’s cuisine usually involves hunting out specialist stores to find ingredients, a costly initial layout for the various utensils, ingredients and such needed, and loads of patience for the often lengthy preparation and cooking processes. Fortunately, as East and West fuse more and more, finding ingredients has become easier — most are available at supermarkets now. And, although there are still quite a few drops of this and teaspoons of that involved, Ching-He Huang of BBC Food fame has taken the fuss and time out of cooking Chinese. China Modern: 100 Cutting-Edge, Fusion-Style Recipes for the 21st Century is forward-thinking, original and oozes passion, much like its talented young author.

Huang’s first book pushes the boundaries of East-West food fusion. Her soba noodles with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and rice vinegar dressing and Eastern-style tuna salad niçoise give a good indication of her innovation. She even takes on Britain’s staple fish and chips, giving it a twist by marinating the fish in rice wine, ginger and spring onion before dipping it in batter.

Huang also embraces East-East fusion, mixing up traditional Chinese dishes with Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and other flavours and methods — the full-colour, glossy photos of her Pecking duck sushi and Burmese-style beef curry with vermicelli rice noodles are enough to get anyone salivating.

Best of all, most of Huang’s creations are low-fat, even her desserts, which make good use of fruit and include lychee and vanilla ice cream and crêpes with red bean paste. The Western-style sesame balls, however, are definitely not low-fat, but worth their weight in chocolate.

Cocina Nueva: The New Spanish Kitchen

by Jane Lawson

(Murdoch Books)

Matthew Burbidge

Cocina Nueva is by no means an exhaustive manual to the cuisine. Rather, traditional dishes have been recast with a modern twist.

There are plenty of recipes for the snack-type food you’d find in a tapas bar, or tascas, as they are known in Spain. There’s an excellent recipe for bacalao cigars (the cod is mashed with potato and wrapped in filo) and another for dates stuffed with blue cheese and jamon.

But my favourite recipe at the moment is the baby calamari with sweet onions and lentils. The earthy lentils are the perfect foil for the rich onions and sauce, but you will need a few hours alone in your kitchen.

Fry onion and finely diced celery with a bay leaf for about 20 minutes, then reduce the heat and cook for another hour — it’s just not worth rushing this step. Then add the squid, some tomato, saffron, a cup and a half of stock, lemon zest (I used preserved lemon), sugar and thyme. Reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, then add boiled lentils.

Cooking from Scratch

by Lulu Grimes

(Murdoch Books)

Kelly Fletcher

Comfort food, good home cooking, every­day dishes — these are a few phrases that describe Australian Lulu Grimes’s Cooking from Scratch. Her recipes are simple, easy and quick to prepare — and most serve two, making it the perfect day-to-day food guide for a working couple.

The unfussy layout and Grimes’s down-to-earth, step-by-step methods make Cooking from Scratch ideal for beginners, or those with a dispassion for cooking. Veterans will also enjoy getting back to basics with recipes for simple eggs benedict, fried rice with prawns, lamb curry and chocolate pudding.

Ingredients are common to most kitchen cupboards and a clock icon on every page indicates preparation and cooking time at a glance. Full-page, full-colour photos take the guesswork out of presentation and a chef’s note for each recipe provides variations and serving suggestions.

Grimes’s no-nonsense approach renders each and every recipe usable — this is not one of those cookbooks from which you’ll use only two or three. She covers all the basics, from eggs through cheese, pasta, rice and tofu to meats, vegetables, fruits and chocolate. You could even just work your way through the book and eliminate any kind of menu planning from your life for the next 90-odd meals, excluding desserts (about 50 for pescatarians and 35 for vegetarians).

Cooking from Scratch is no-frills cooking reminiscent of local farmhouse fare, but with a modern twist.

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