Does the world need another cookbook? Well, the answer to that depends on the book. Another celebrity tome with ‘notes from their kitchen’, perhaps not. But a book that stirs up a desire to race towards the stove, or that evokes the smells, tastes and sights of foods from far-flung places, absolutely.
There is a major difference between a best-selling cookbook (celebrities can and do sell books) and an award-winning one. Glance down any prestigious awards shortlist – Gourmand World Cookbooks, the Cordon Bleu World Media Awards, or the Guild of Food Writers – and you won’t find a crowd of celebs but a host of food-world stars. Books that make it on to these illustrious lists are predominantly from the ‘serious’ food writer; one who has fought and won the notoriously difficult fight to be noticed by publishers, and most certainly without any multimillion pound deals attached. Their books are written to impart knowledge and share a passion, rarely to make lots of money.
So what makes a great cookbook?
A hefty package recently landed on my desk: an opulent book, with a padded cover, a serious amount of stunning photography and a stylish motif running along the edge of each page. But what made the presentation of this book remarkable is that it came from a relatively unknown (in the UK) Sydney-based food writer called Leanne Kitchen. Not a ‘name’ who would normally justify this level of expensive production.
Turkey: Recipes and Tales from the Road takes the reader away from the tourist traps and into each of the seven diverse regions of this culinary-rich country. The point of the journey is the food but, without losing this focus, the author draws the armchair traveller into the culture, the history and the lives of the Turkish people.
You will not be in your armchair for long, however. The simplicity of the recipes makes this an easily manageable book for the novice cook and will inspire any die-hard foodie. The eight chapters travel from smoky eggplants, walnuts, fried haloumi and spicy relishes combined into authentic meze, through soups, breads, salads, meats, poultry and fish, and end beautifully in honey-drenched, rose-scented desserts. Along the road you will fall in love with the people, the places and importantly, the food. That’s what takes this from a good to a great book.
I expect to find it on all the major awards lists in 2011 and most certainly at the prestigious biennial Cordon Bleu’s next year.
Turkey: Recipes and Tales from the Road by Leanne Kitchen (Murdoch Books, £25)