With winter in full swing, there's no better place to keep warm than over a stove. And there’s no better excuse to do that than with a fresh slew of nattily-designed European cookbooks. From comprehensive guides to Nordic bakery and fermentation trends to more conventional guides to national gastronomy, the publications below explore the subtle complexities of cuisines often written-off as overly stodgy or simple. No longer.
The German Cookbook, by Alfons Schuhbeck (Phaidon)
Phaidon’s predilection for producing definitive, breeze-block sized surveys of single-country cuisines continues with this tome to all things Teutonic. Collated and penned by the Michelin-starred chef Alfons Schuhbeck, the sheer breadth of recipes is startling. That’s not to say the stereotypical tenets of German cookery are broken: stodge, stews, sausages and pickles abound, from Berliner currywurst (each dish is listed with its region) and Bavarian sour calves liver, through Thuringian river fish ragout, a beef-and-dumpling-laden Wedding Soup from Westphalia, myriad preparations of cabbage and hundreds more. A concise intro and decent glossary provide welcome context for this perennially underrated national cuisine.
The Noma Guide to Fermentation, by René Redzepi and David Zilber (Artisan Books)
Fizzing jars of indeterminate liquids and matter are all the rage at the moment, and rightly so. As a method of preservation, fermentation makes for some seriously complex and delicious eating – a philosophy explored in-depth by René Redzepi and David Zilber (he the head of Noma’s Fermentation Lab). The years of research that went into this bible to ‘microbial terroir’ are tangible, and the book covers in simple, engaging detail how to create and use everything from kombuchas, vinegars and lacto-fermented fungi and fruits, to more esoteric edibles like blackened fruits and meaty garums – the latter the wider family of fish sauces, here including raw beef mince, bee pollen and shrimp-and-rose varieties.
Wild Honey & Rye: Modern Polish Recipes, by Ren Behan (Pavilion)
Polish food, explains Ren Behan in the intro to this effervescent book, is a more globally-influenced cuisine than is normally acknowledged, with roots in Italy, Scandinavia and stops on the old spice trade routes. Ergo, her collection features delectable looking recipes for wild mushroom millet risotto (or kaszotto), Polish kopytka gnocchi and riffs on shakshuka among the more recognisable gołabki stuffed cabbage, myriad preparations of pierogi, dense rye loaves, meat platters and fruity vodkas. While Wild Honey & Rye doesn’t quite swerve the ‘Mama’s kitchen’-style sentimentality that besets so many modern cookbooks, it’s nevertheless a beautifully shot and sunny collection.
In my blood, by Bo Bech
No one could accuse the Danish chef Bo Bech of lacking ambition with this, a mish-mash of conventional cookbook, foodie philosophy and retrospective overview of the founding of his feted Copenhagen spot, Geist. While the obtuse Q&As and boxing match transcripts err towards the self-indulgent (Bech is credited as both writer and editor, tellingly), there’s no sniffing at the recipes. Bech runs ramshod through the often puritanical frameworks of New Nordic cuisine via dishes like translucent raw langoustine with hibiscus, licorice-powdered trumpet mushrooms and smoked eel with pickled elderflower. It looks a picture too, stuffed with delicate watercolour sketches and cool formal photography of the food itself.
The Nordic Baking Book, by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon)
Clearly not content with hacking out Phaidon’s previous paean to pan-Scandinavian cookery, Faviken’s Magnus Nilsson here turns his attention to ‘pretty much all the dishes in the Nordic region containing grains’ (these usually harnessing wheat, rye, barley and oats). Understandably for a chilly region so historically reliant on the profusion of storable foods, the recipes here stretch well into the hundreds. Nilsson takes in everything from flatbreads, rye loaves and rusks, to stuffed and leavened pastries, Nordic pizza, grain soups, kringles (a kind of Nordic pretzel) and sweet-spicy biscuits of every ilk, interspersed with icy photography of the Scandinavian landscape and minimalist portraiture of the food. It makes for a hyper-detailed treatise that’s up there with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat Book in the exhaustive modern classic stakes.
Cookbook for Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter, by Martin Berg, for Arket
Arket head chef Martin Berg (who also has a Michelin star to his name) has penned the clothing and homeware brand’s first cookbook. One of the early proponents of the New Nordic food movement, Berg has written each recipe in reflection of the changing seasons, through ingredients typical to the Nordic climate (where the brand originates, and takes its style cues from). The first chapter has us pining for warmer climbs with its focus on spring vegetables; the second asks us to don our boots and forage for autumnal treats, the third turns to the berries of summer (and so on, seasonally). Design-wise, think rustic minimalism, with a sturdy fabric cover, unfussy illustration and colourful, easy-to-follow instruction. A great family all-rounder (all year).
Additional writing by Elly Parsons.
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