April ’24 – My Favourite Cookbooks Of The Month

The image is a composition of several elements. On the top half, there are two photographs. The upper left shows a close-up of chestnuts with glossy brown shells against a pale surface. To the right, there's a branch with bright green leaves and clusters of young, spiky chestnut burrs. The bottom half of the image features a stack of four cookbooks. The spines are visible, showing the titles from top to bottom: "Rachel Khoo MY LITTLE FRENCH KITCHEN," "The Taste Of CENTRAL OTAGO" by Pete Gawron, and "Planted" by Chantelle Nicholson, with the recognizable sprouting plant icon on the spine. Each spine displays its own color and design, suggesting the unique culinary focus and style of each book. The books are likely representative of different cuisines and recipe collections, and the overall image has a theme of natural ingredients and cooking.

This month’s picks started with a search for chestnut recipes. They are a relatively new ingredient to me and I have a free supply. Last year I learned how to forage and cook chestnuts, made chestnut flour and made a classic castagnaccio too. I was searching for inspiration and new ways to use chestnuts. For April ’24 – My Favourite cookbooks of the month include a British Malaysian Chefs French cookbook, a London based Kiwi Chef’s Plant Based cookbook and one from Arrowtown’s (now closed) Saffron restaurant.

Together, these books blend culinary education with personal and regional storytelling, while promoting a deeper appreciation for the source and seasonality of food. This makes them valuable not only as cookbooks, but also as cultural documents that celebrate the richness of their respective cuisines.

Other books I reached for were by Dennis Cotter. His cookbooks champion seasonal eating and are featured as favourite cookbooks for the month of March. The Chestnut Shortbread recipe in The Foragers Kitchen is on my list to veganise.

Planted – Chantelle Nicholson

This cookbook balances sophisticated vegan recipes with accessible plant-based cooking, a guide that appeals to those fully committed to a plant-based lifestyle, as well as, those simply looking to diversify their culinary horizons.

The cookbook cover shows the title "Planted" in large white letters against a pink background with brushstroke textures. Below the title, it reads "A Chef's Show-Stopping Vegan Recipes." The author's name, "Chantelle Nicholson," is prominently displayed at the bottom. A small white icon of a sprouting plant is near the bottom left. The spine of the book is in a contrasting green color. There's a praise quote at the top: "Groundbreaking plant-based cookery from a remarkably talented chef," attributed to Marcus Wareing.

Planted demystifies professional techniques and makes them accessible to home cooks, allowing for the creation of sophisticated dishes without the need for professional equipment. The author focuses on ingredient sourcing and minimising waste and with mindful approach to cooking that will resonate with eco conscious cooks.

Planted is a source of inspiration that invites cooks of all levels to explore the art of vegan cooking with enthusiasm and creativity.

It encourages the reader to explore new flavours and embrace a healthier, more sustainable way of eating. Covering everything from breakfasts and light meals to hearty dinners and indulgent desserts, these recipes often feature unique combinations and techniques that elevate vegan cooking to new heights.

My Little French Kitchen – Rachel Khoo

The cookbook cover features a montage of images around the title "My Little French Kitchen" by Rachel Khoo. At the top, Rachel Khoo is seen in a denim shirt with a natural backdrop, smiling at the camera. The central image is a decorative banner with the title, styled in ornate lettering typical of French aesthetics, with the subtitle "Over 100 recipes from the mountains, market squares and shores of France" below it. Below the banner, there's a photograph of a dish with escargots, and in the bottom right corner, Rachel Khoo is cooking, engaged in her craft. The images suggest a personal journey through French cuisine, highlighting its diversity and the author's hands-on approach.

“My Little French Kitchen” explores regional French cuisine, describing the diverse flavours and cooking traditions from alpine regions to the Mediterranean coast. Each chapter focuses on a different region, highlighting local ingredients and traditional cooking methods, simplifying complex French dishes, making recipes accessible to home cooks.

The emphasis on vegetable-centric dishes showcases the versatility of vegetables in French cuisine.

For those on a plant-based diet, the book offers ample ideas. Choosing local and seasonal ingredients helps keep cooking earth friendly. It’s a great way to eat well and take care of the planet at the same time.

This book is beautifully illustrated with photos and collages that capture the essence of each region’s culinary culture. It is a practical and comprehensive guide to French cuisine; full of inspiration that will make you want to create plant-based French food. Its recipes are engaging, approachable and adaptable, making it an ideal choice for anyone looking to expand their culinary repertoire and explore the geographical diversity of French cuisine.

The Taste of Central Otago – Pete Gawron

The cover of the cookbook displays the title "The Taste of CENTRAL OTAGO" in elegant, serif font against a dark, marble-like background. Below the main title, it reads "More recipes from Arrowtown's SAFFRON" in a smaller type, highlighting the source of the recipes. The author's name, "PETE CAWRON," is given prominence at the bottom, with a credit for "Photographs by Aaron McLean" just below. The cover is adorned with striking images of saffron crocus flowers, featuring rich purple petals and vivid orange-red stigmas, which are the parts of the flower used as the saffron spice.

Even though it isn’t exclusively a vegan or vegetarian cookbook, a plant-based cook will find the many of the recipes ‘vegetable forward’ (as chef’s like to say) and very easily adaptable to being vegan-friendly. Continuing with this month’s theme, this book has a focus on utilising local and seasonal produce, both farmed and foraged. Chef Gawron describes culinary techniques that enhance the flavour and texture of vegan dishes. The unique flavour profiles encourage a deeper appreciation of food sources and sustainability.

This cookbook captures the seasonal ebb and flow through stunning photography of Central Otago’s breathtaking landscapes. It not only provides a culinary tour of the region’s flavours, but also a journey into the heart of one of New Zealand’s most picturesque and productive regions. The connection of the recipes to the landscape and seasonal cycles makes “The Taste of Central Otago” a must read for anyone interested in expanding their culinary knowledge and exploring New Zealand regional cooking. This book resonated with me personally, we now live in the same island in New Zealand, but the landscape and produce reminded me of having lived in Scotland too. While the ingredients are local, most are introduced from Europe making it a creative resource for those looking to expand their plant-based culinary repertoire with innovative Kiwi inspired dishes.

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