FEEDING FAMILY AND FRIENDS MUCH MORE THAN SPICE AND ALL THINGS NICE

Cookery books, some brand new and others not so much, but all with recipes that will send you racing to the kitchen – an enjoyable escape in a time of Covid. DIANE DE BEER grabs an apron:

Spice Odyssey by Cariema Isaacs (Struik):

Isaacs affinity for spices reflects her Cape Malay heritage and the time spent cooking and baking in her grandmother’s kitchen in the Bo-Kaap, Cape Town’s Cape Malay Quarter.

Cumin and coriander, cloves and star anise as well as cayenne pepper and masala blends are all very familiar to her and part of her cooking vocabulary.

But going even further, her travels to India, Turkey, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Middle East have further enhanced her spice palate and add rich flavours to her recipes.

Just paging through, it is easy to pick many recipes that could become staples with vegetables, meat and fish all playing a starring role. She says that if she had to stop eating meat she could easily survive on cauliflower and what follows is a recipe titled My Beloved Gobi Masala (Cauliflower Spiced Curry). Then there’s also a leg of lamb, a bunny chow and a Bengali fish curry.

Or that wonderful Middle Eastern breakfast/brunch dish that pops up in slightly different versions from Morocco to Turkey, a Shakshuka, which in this instance is a combo of YouTube versions from a friend!

More than anything, you should be guided by the title. If you want to expand and add more spice to your food, this is it.

Anatoli Authentic Turkish Cuisine by Tayfun Aras (Human & Rousseau):

It is quite eerie in these times to write about restaurants because you first have to check whether they have made it.

I had many meals at Anatoli but that was more than 20 years ago for no other reason than I don’t visit the Cape that often and when I do, there are so many new places to try and usually the friends who live there are the ones who decide.

But following a visit to Istanbul a few years back, I fell in love with Turkish food and who better to introduce you to the magic of their cuisine than someone who is also familiar with this country. In fact he has been the owner of this iconic Cape restaurant since 2003 and this book is a way of sharing his recipes and kitchen secrets so that his native food can be celebrated in his adopted land.

He introduces himself, offers some background and also pays homage to the original owners of Anatoli, whom he credits for the longevity of the establishment. He is only the second owner and while he inherited their menu and used it to find his feet in the first few years, he then began to put together a meaner and leaner menu, which according to statistics consists of the items most favoured by customers.

It’s a glorious book with many familiar recipes (kebabs to brinjal in many different forms) as well as their most delicious and famous rice pudding. That will be first on my list to see if I can replicate anything close to the heavenly desserts we tasted in Turkey.

 I lost my heart.

Set A Table by Karen Dudley  (Jacana):

I was so upset when I first heard that Karen Dudley’s amazing deli The Kitchen was closing that I had to recheck and confirm when reviewing this beautiful book.

Yet another reminder of her remarkable cuisine skills, which reach much further than food.

I also remember that when I read that Michelle Obama was having lunch there during a visit to Cape Town, I felty it was such a magnificent choice and would give her a real flavour of our country’s food.

With this particular book, Dudley’s latest, she focusses on entertaining – hosting a dinner party, something that might again become popular once the worst of Covid-19 has abated and we feel safer with at-home dining. In the meantime, the book allows you to dream.

“When we set a table, we reveal ourselves in an intimate way,” writes Karen, and she would know. Like her sense of style from dressing herself to her deli, she immediately speaks volumes about who she is. Every  time I was privileged to interview her on one of her two earlier cookery book tours, she made a dramatic impact – of the best kind.

For her inviting people to dine is all about friendship and sharing stories and conversation and for the sheer joy of eating something delicious!

And while there are many pictures capturing her style as well as much information on entertaining, in the end, it also holds marvellous recipes specifically for entertaining as well as a reminder of the kind of food you could find at her memorable deli.

Thank goodness she left us with recipes to keep us going.

Google Karen Dudley or check on Facebook because I know in the future she will simply reinvent herself – and that will be something to watch.

Ottolenghi FLAVOUR by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ebury Press):

This is the only cookbook not from our shores but Ottolenghi is an old friend and many followers will know that with his focus on vegetables in this one, it’s not a new trend: “I have never been shy about my love for vegetables. I have been singing the praises of cauliflowers, tomatoes, lemons and my old friend the mighty aubergine for over a decade.”

FLAVOUR is the third in a series and as the chef says it best: it’s about understanding what makes vegetables distinct and, accordingly, devising ways in which their flavours can be ramped up and tasted afresh; it’s about creating flavour bombs, especially designed for veg.

Here especially, he was challenged to ramp up flavour in vegetables and take it to new heights. “For me,” he confesses, “ this includes ingredients such as anchovies, fish sauce and Parmesan which are not, of course, often used in recipe books in which vegetables play the starring role.”

He understands this and the growing trend of defining as either vegetarian or vegan, but he decided to appeal to the widest group of vegetable lovers possible. However, when he uses an animal product (“we are not talking prime cuts of meat here, or a bluefin tuna steak!”), he will offer a vegetable alternative for the sticklers so that everyone can join in.

But he also introduces a secret weapon and about her, he has this to say specifically: “If you managed to spot a lime or two in places where lemons would appear in previous Ottolenghi books, or noticed a range of Mexican and other chillies peppered all over these pages, or if you came across quick pickles and infused oils used to give dishes a finishing touch – you have identified the fingerprints of Ixta Belfrage, who’s had those same fingers on the vegetable pulse for the last couple of years and helped shape the recipes in this book in particular ways.” Enough said! If you haven’t yet discovered the Ottolenghi magnificence, perhaps it’s time . His books like his food are sheer genius.

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