This month, we offer something practical and some down-home vibes, along with healthy recipes from Queen Oprah, and sensuality from a beautiful book on chocolate.

str2_cookbookmar17_abirami_2China – The Cookbook

Authors: Kei Lum Chan & Diora Fong Chan
Publisher: Phaidon
Price: RM164.73

Weighing in at 720 pages, this is a hefty tome. Any book that tries to cover all of the cuisines of China, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and inner Mongolia, will eventually run out of paper … and this is not an exhaustive book despite the heft. No fault of the book though – Chinese recipes are a neverending story.

Like so many encyclopaedic cookbooks, more content/recipes comes at the price of fewer pictures.

The chapters are organised into courses – like appetisers and salads; fish and seafood; and rice, congee and noodles – instead of by region as is usual in such books, as the book is geared for home cooking. Which is also the reason why daunting recipes such as Peking duck and roast pork have been left out.

Another major difference from most such books is that it is not adapted for a foreign audience or for bedtime reading – it is a pure Chinese recipe book, pig’s entrails and all.

It is rather dry as such, lacking in engaging storytelling, but it is rich as a recipe resource. – Julie Wong

str2_cookbookmar17_NEW_ma_1Chocolate

Author: Pierre Hermé
Photographer: Sergio Coimbra
Publisher: Flammarion

Price: RM223.90

To say that this is a chocolate recipe book by Pierre Hermé is to completely miss the point. This book is chocolate fantasy. By the Picasso of Pastry.

The pages flow like molten lava in waves of chocolate nuances and resonate with the sound and texture of chocolate: thin and crisp, spongy, snappy, powdery, velvety, smooth as silk or full of warts. You really can feel the chocolate expressions across the pages.

That is the work of photographer Sergio Coimbra. The two felt a connection even before they met and planned to work together.

“As if the years I’d spent collecting his books had been part of the trip that had brought us to the time shared in creating this book together,” Coimbra writes.

While chocolate is his mistress – whom he bends to his will – Hermé is held prisoner by it: “To achieve my goals it is I who must bend to adapt to its demands.”

He uses, almost exclusively, Valrhona chocolate. Every chapter explores an emotion or phase of chocolate: “Architectures”, “Mysterious”, “Sensual”, “Voluptuous”, “Euphoric”, “Gourmet”, “Dream”.

“Architecture” is an encounter between sculpture and flavour. “The format and the perception of flavour are inextricably linked,” he tells you.

“Whatever architecture of taste I have in mind, my goal is to create something very good, something that stirs the emotions.”

It is, in the end, a book rippling with sensuality. Maybe you will cook from it – if you can read it. Setting coloured text on a coloured page does not make for easy reading. – JW

Copyofstr2_cookbookmar17_abirami_3Food, Health And Happiness: 115 On-Point Recipes For Great Meals And A Better Life

Author: Oprah Winfrey
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Price: RM99.90

This is one of those books that will probably inspire the question “Is there anything Oprah Winfrey can’t do?”

In her debut cookbook, the award-winning talk show host, philanthropist, magazine publisher, actress and all-round superhero proves that she can also cook – well.

Winfrey (who is now following the Weight Watchers programme) is on-key, delivering relevant recipes that are tuned for this generation’s obsession with healthy eating and clean living.

All the recipes include information about calories (which is very useful if you’re looking for low-calorie meals) as well as the WeightWatchers point system rating.

You’ll find delicious recipes from Winfrey’s chef friends like Maya Angelou’s smothered chicken, Art Smith’s world-famous fried chicken as well as loads of recipes from Winfrey’s own arsenal, like barbecue chicken, kale and farro soup, breakfast cookies and a really delectable-looking turkey lasagne.

The charming chapter introductions also give you additional insight into a woman who has struggled with her weight and food for years now, which makes her seem very relatable, because her weight complexities echo most people’s food challenges.

But whether you’re a Winfrey fan or not, this is a great cookbook to add to your library, if you’re angling to churn out delicious, healthy meals on a regular basis. – Abirami Durai

Copyofstr2_cookbookmar17_abirami_1Molly On The Range: Recipes And Stories From An Unlikely Life On A Farm

Author: Molly Yeh
Publisher: Rodale
Price: RM152.90

Molly Yeh is a food blogger and food writer who lives on a farm on the North Dakota-Minnesota border in the United States.

She’s a Juilliard graduate (with a degree in classical percussion) who fell in love with a trombonist … who turned into a farmer.

Yeh is very likeable. The book is permeated with a sense of that combination of wry, urban sensibilities, down-home charm and irreverent humour that makes My Name Is Yeh (Saveur’s 2015 Blog of the Year) so popular. More than anything else, though, this is a book riddled with joy.

Molly On The Range is the story of a life told through food, from a Chicago childhood of Lunchables to meeting and dating husband Nick over many, many egg dishes, and some wince-worthy first-date hummus.

Her recipes are intriguing and extremely achievable – Asian Scotch Eggs and Scallion Pancakes with Maple Syrup Slaw are nods to her Jewish-Chinese background; Wild Rice Hotdish with Ras el Hanout and Dates is a twist on Midwestern comfort food; and Dukkah Donuts with Blood Orange Glaze are as quirky as her stories.

Yeh’s recipes, which she photographs and styles herself, look plain delicious. Honestly, the Kale Khachapuri alone – cheesy bread from Georgia, studded with an egg, to which Yeh adds kale and tangy labneh – nearly had me running for the kitchen. – Suzanne Lazaroo