Cook the Books – The Best of 2016

. December 19, 2016
Cook the Books – The Best of 2016

After a year of trialling the deliciousness, ease-of-use and general wow-factor of the latest cookbook releases to hit the shelves, reviewer David Parker shares his top five best cookbook experiences of 2016. 

1. Cornersmith 

Another book I didn't expect to enjoy. In fact, even now I’m slightly surprised I’m putting it at my top spot but I really liked Cornersmith. Following the trend of health and wellness bloggers, I’ve seen so many health cookbooks hit the market and most of them follow the same tropes of avoiding gluten or being paleo etc. So it’s really refreshing to find a book that doesn't make bold claims about some special diet yet is full of wholesome, healthy food that looks delicious and I want to eat. Now I’d be the first to admit I don’t eat healthily so this book isn’t on my personal list of must buys but I think if you’re after something to invigorate your everyday eating this is a great buy, much like Cornersmith I think it’s very usable and you’d definitiely be cooking from it. Plus, there is a fair amount of fermenting and pickling in there, which is very 2016 so get in quick before that fad dies down. Find the review here. 

2. Lamingtons and Lemon Tart

I took one look at that name and was ready to hate this book. It just struck me that it was going to be another boring book about baking the same baked goods as every other book has already covered. But, fortunately, I was really wrong, don't judge a book by its uhh... title, I guess? Not only does this book give you a recipe for really good chocolate chip cookies, a decent brownie and, yes, the titular lamingtons and lemon pie, there are some really interesting tweaks on those recipes and some very classy-looking desserts, without the book ever really getting too complex. I thought it was put together with great taste and has a really good selection of recipes and difficulty levels. I think if you bought this book you'd definitely use it... lots. Find the review here.

3. Supernormal

Supernormal, from the Melbourne restaurant by the same name, is another book that might be tricky to cook from, certainly some very “cheffy” approaches to recipes. But the pork I cooked (with the ssamjang and steamed buns) was so simple but so delicious, and there were plenty of other recipes I salivated over that you should be able to manage from home without too much stress. I think what interests me about this book is the recipes are very unique to Supernormal’s own special brand of fusion cuisine – you couldn't begin to google the recipes, they probably don't even exist in your brain (or mine). Find the review here.

4. Mexico From The Inside Out

This book by Enrique Olvera, from Mexican restaurant Pujol, is probably the most impossible to cook from in my list of favourite books. To give you an idea of the level of food we’re talking about here, Pujol was ranked #1 in Mexico and #20 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards... So it’s not going to be something you cook from every day, if at all... However, I think it’s pretty amazing a chef at this level is prepared to make a book with recipes for what they're serving in their restaurant. And while lots of the ingredients are likely impossible to find and there is a lot of work and special equipment involved in every recipe, I think that there are elements you could steal and improvise from and turn into your own recipes. But I also think books like this are good to educate yourself about what you're really being served in a fine dining restaurant like Pujol. Find the review here.

5. Tokyo Cult Recipes

I've never really tried cooking any Japanese food befor – who needs to with so much great Japanese food in Auckland – but I really enjoyed this book. It covered all of the classics but also delved a little deeper than what you'd probably get from eating out at Japanese restaurants. While I decided to test the recipe for Karaage Chicken – one of my regular favourites to eat out – the book also covers home cooking, slow cooked and big sharing recipes that you wouldn't find in a restaurant. It's the third book in a series of “Cult Recipes” books and I’d certainly be interested in taking a look at the New York book too. Find the review here. 

Special mention: Nopi

I know technically I reviewed Nopi in December last year but it was after I'd already made one of these lists so I think it could make it into this list – but I'm a stickler for rules. Had I reviewed it in January however it would 100 per cent be my number one recipe book. It was last year’s hot must-buy in most book stores so I'm a little late to the party but it’s the only book on my Christmas list this year. Apart from cooking the venison from it, I’ve also cooked the amazing potatoes, a Korean-inspired beef fillet and the baked chocolate ganache... all before I sadly had to return it to the Dish library. If you’re holding a dinner party or entertaining and you want to cook something special but not too tricky, this book has you covered. Find the recipe here.