Yesterday, I made rabbit in cider with celery, carrots and tarragon. It’s a sure sign that I have mentally switched to autumn. It is unclear how much cooking (by me) will take place in the coming months, as the work schedule will be tight. It’s certain, however, that cooking is more likely to happen when one is inspired. To this end, I have bought three cookbooks that I have high hopes for.
1. Kaukasis by Olia Hercules. One of the best meals I had this summer was at a Georgian restaurant in what is otherwise a culinary desert of North Eastern Estonia.* It’s fitting then that one of today’s trio focuses on Caucasian – mostly Georgian – cuisine**. The reason I love Georgian food is the same reason I like Middle Eastern and Central Asian cooking: lots of flavour, but not much heat. I’m also a huge fan of tarragon, lamb meat, shashlik and using fruit in savory dishes, all duly represented in Kaukasis.
I’m yet to cook from these three books, but I’ve zoomed in on things I really want to try. From Kaukasis, one of them is making my own tkemali sauce. There is also a recipe of my favourite Georgian dish, Chakhapuli (lamb! plums! tarragon!), and most interestingly, a variation where you’d roast the lamb instead of the traditional stewing. The combination of peaches and tarragon is also something I need to try immediately.
2. Feasts by Sabrina Ghayour. I own and love both books Ghayour has previously published – Persiana and Sirocco. I like her Perisan/Middle Eastern influences and I very much appreciate her relaxed attitude to food and its preparation. As a cook, she seems very close to my own way of doing things – big flavours, broad guidelines, improvisation, various inspirations – she’s obviously just much better at it.
Feasts is a pretty self-explanatory title: there are recipes for all kinds of occasions and celebrations, including lighter and vegetarian feasts. Vegetables, legumes, nuts and fruits play a big role overall, but this isn’t a “clean eating” cookbook and yay for that. Pomegranate-bulgur salad, saffron potatoes, a lamb-plum-preserved lemon stew (I’m sooo predictable) and ricotta and fig toasts are some things I want to make. The figs have already been procured.
3. Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. All things considered, I don’t like Ottolenghi’s recipes as much as I should. I mean, he does Middle Eastern food, he writes well and he writes for the Guardian – this is pretty much all I want from a cook! The truth is that I almost never cook his recipes, however – maybe because, unlike Ghayour, he’s very precise and the recipes perfected down to the very last gram.
Whatever the case may be, Sweet is a gorgeous cookbook with over 100 cake, biscuit and dessert recipes. I have a feeling I’ll get along just fine with it: in baking, precision is necessary. And again, while Ottolenghi and Goh acknowledge the health challenges related to sugar, this clearly isn’t for anyone on an elimination diet. It trusts you to be reasonable and know, if and how often to treat yourself. I’m going to make blackberry and star anise friands today and the schiacciata sounds absolutely fascinating as well.
Have you discovered any inspiring cookbooks lately?
*In terms of restaurants. There is of course nice food being cooked at home.
**There’s another Georgian cookbook I’m interested in: Supra by Tiko Tuskadze. My local Waterstones didn’t have it, however, so I’m yet to order this.