As the days get darker and the weather gets cooler, we begin to crave the comfort of a home-cooked meal
This year, more than ever, we have been cooking at home—and we are bound to need some fresh inspiration for fall and winter. Here are 11 cookbooks I recommend to motivate you to try making something new and special for your family this season.
1. The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking Explained in More Than 100 Essential Recipes by Nik Sharma
There was a big focus on flavour this season and author Nik Sharma, with his education is in molecular chemistry, is a genius in presenting both an entertaining and scientific approach to great cooking. If only this was the type of chemistry I studied at school!
In his second book, The Flavor Equation, Sharma explains how our senses and feelings guide our eating experiences. Sight, sound, mouthfeel, aroma, taste, emotions and memories combine to create a “Flavor Equation”—and cooking with this in mind is the key to success in the kitchen.
After discussing the intricacies of the “Flavor Equation,” Sharma divides the book into seven chapters—brightness, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, savoriness (umami), fieriness and richness—and dishes up recipes that showcase these nuances.
The recipes are easy to follow and the photographs exceptional. Most rely on familiar ingredients, and if items like tahini and pomegranate are not yet staples in your pantry, they should be. Recipes such as Crab Tikka Masala Dip, Lamb Chops with Scallion Mint Salsa and Chocolate Miso Bread Pudding can be easily prepared and pack the kind of flavour that will have your dinner guests forming new memories about how savvy you are in the kitchen. Find online here.
2. Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
Ottolenghi has been one of the driving forces in changing the way we eat vegetables, enticing us to think of them as more than just a side dish. In his newest cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavor, he and his test kitchen’s recipe developer, Ixta Belfrage, break down the fundamentals of cooking into three elements—process, pairing and produce. In the “process” section, he and Belfrage showcase techniques to amplify flavour, such as browning, charring and fermenting; while over in the “pairing” chapter, it’s all about combining vegetables with the perfect balance of fat, acid, “chilli heat” and sweetness. “Produce” then focuses on specific ingredients that pack a punch, such as mushrooms, nuts and seeds and alliums (garlic, scallions, leeks, chives, onions, shallots).
These dishes will have you cooking in an all-new and very flavourful way. Romano Pepper Schnitzels elevate peppers with ingredients such as nori, lime leaves and black sesame seeds. The Kohlrabi “Noodle Salad” adds Aleppo chilli flakes, ginger and Szechuan peppercorns to enhance this veggie’s flavour. Tapioca Fritters are intensified with star anise, orange and honey. I’m keeping this one close at hand. Find online here.
3. Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
Falastin introduces us to the people and food of Palestine through the eyes of Tamimi, who lived and travelled through the region over several years. The stories of the restaurateurs, farmers and artisans that craft products—such as the perfect tahini or grow olives and press olive oil—pepper the book, adding that extra bit of coveted insider information.
Falastin is logically divided into meals and courses, providing plenty of vegetable-centric dishes, but also including plenty of fish and meat meals as is customary in Palestine. Brilliant photography and bright flavours will entice you to cook up dishes such as the Eggplant, Chickpea and Tomato Bake, elevated with chilli, cumin and cinnamon, or the Prawn and Tomato Stew with a cilantro pesto flavoured with cardamon, cumin and coriander. Find online here.
4. Hawksworth The Cookbook by Chef David Hawksworth with Chef Stephanie Noel and Jacob Richler
The recipes in chef David Hawksworth’s inaugural cookbook range in difficulty from dishes as simple as Grilled Spot Prawns and Roasted Tomato Soup to the multi-page Squab Pot-Au-Feu with Parsley Dumplings. However, instructions are given so logically that this is a book that will give you the opportunity to kick up your culinary repertoire.
Hawksworth is a classically trained chef and his restaurants, Hawksworth and Nightingale, are among the best in Vancouver. This is your chance to get a glimpse into why diners are constantly impressed with meal after a meal as he guides you through the procedures.
Recipes range from his early career in the UK to his days at West on South Granville (now closed), and most are from the more current menus at Hawksworth and Nightingale. This is a beautiful book worth taking your valuable time with. Find online here.
5. Maenam by Angus An
One of my favourite places to eat in Vancouver is Maenam. The food is so vibrant and fresh and the flavours are so well-balanced. Now that Chef Angus An has given away some of his secrets in this new cookbook, we are able to enjoy delicious Thai food at home without having to order delivery.
Chef An is obsessed with Thai food, studying at Nahm with chef David Thompson in London, and travelling frequently to Thailand to research and fine-tune his craft. His approach takes Thai flavours and cooking techniques and marries them with local West Coast ingredients.
Instructions are clear and sections are divided into snacks (featuring his recipe for Mini Cupcakes with Dungeness Crab), curries, salads, noodle bowls (including Braised Duck Noodle Soup), desserts (with his recipe for Pandan Panna Cotta), cocktails and a savvy section on pairing wine with Thai food from sommelier Kurtis Kolt. Find online here.
6. Dinner Uncomplicated by Claire Tansey
Dinner Uncomplicated is exactly that: a guide to putting dinner on the table without complications. Claire Tansey gives us all the flavour and none of the fuss in this guide to feeding yourself and your family healthy, tasty meals.
Glazed Ginger Chicken Meatballs are ready in under an hour—just steam some rice, stir-fry some broccoli and you are set. A Butter Roasted Masala Fish takes a mere 20 minutes. There is also a little section on side dishes, so you can mix and match and create a whole year of different menus. Find online here.
7. The BC Wine Lover's Cookbook by Jennifer Schell
In The BC Wine Lover's Cookbook, Jennifer Schell’s fourth cookbook, readers get more than just the Coles Notes on the B.C. wineries featured. Schell gives us a glimpse into the personalities behind the wineries and the recipes provided as she entertainingly tells their stories.
As readers leaf through the pages, we get to know the people behind the wineries and insights into what drove them to venture into—and stay—in wine country. The recipes that follow each of the 53 winery stories vary from extremely simple (in procedures, as opposed to flavour) to those that will take a bit of planning, or perhaps require specialty produce. Like any recipe, you should always read ahead before attempting, and as you do so with this cookbook, you will receive both a cooking and history lesson. Find online here.
8. Chasing Flavor: Techniques to Cook Fearlessly by Dan Kluger
Chef Dan Kluger provides readers with lessons on techniques and insights into combining ingredients that he uses to create the simple, flavourful foods he is known for. The recipes are approachable, teaching us the building blocks of flavour, as we are guided expertly through the process.
Each recipe includes a take away that can be used when creating other dishes. Blood Orange and Pomegranate Salad’s goat cheese gets double-battered before frying, a technique that can be used when deep-frying any moist ingredient. Citrus-Glazed Carrots teach us the “roll cut” knife skill. This is a book that marries tradition with innovation to create meals you will cook again and again. Find online here.
9. In Bibi's Kitchen by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen
This is a book filled with stories gathered from the bibis (grandmothers) of eight African nations, where the spice trade was woven into their history, culture and kitchens. Hawa Hassan is a Somali chef and Julia Turshen a food writer and they have managed to capture the essence of the people behind the recipes in this beautifully photographed guide to African cooking. There are so many flavours and so much history to be told here, and this is one of the first books I’ve seen that dives into this region so passionately. Find online here.
10. Xi’an Famous Foods by Jason Wang with Jessica K. Chou
The restaurant, Xi’an Famous Foods, turned America onto real Chinese food beyond “General Tso’s chicken” (Wang's words) and tantalized palates when their storefront in Queens in 2005. As they expanded into Brooklyn and Manhattan, the spicy, sour tastes of Western China caught on and the noodle shop drew a cult following with lines forming around the block. As Wang describes the account of his family’s path to restaurant success, you are treated to dishes such as their Mt. Qi Pork with hand-pulled noodles, Spicy Sour Dumplings and Cumin Lamb over Biang Biang noodles. Find online here.
11. Baking Day by Anna Olson
Anna Olson knows baking and this latest book is a must-have for new bakers and seasoned bakers alike. I adore the way she’s laid out the book with notes on baking tools and equipment (she has her own collection, did you know?), and smartly includes a preliminary section of recipes at a glance, divided into how long each recipe takes so you can quickly choose a sweet or savoury treat according to the time you have available to bake.
I was immediately drawn to the Fluffy Cheddar and Chive Biscuits as I still had some chives on my balcony, and for my next dessert I’m going to go all out with the Chocolate Cream Pie. She’s even got pet treats for kitties, birds and dogs. Find online here.