Get the Sunday Star newspaper (Feb 11) for a 25% discount on each of the cookbooks featured in this month’s Cooking The Books. Look for the coupon in Star2.
Daily Nonya Dishes – Laok Hari Hari: Heritage Recipes For Everyday Meals
Author: Lloyd Matthew Tan
Publisher: Landmark Books
Just when I thought that every Peranakan cookbook was basically the same, along comes Daily Nonya Dishes. This book documenting the recipes of daily meals cooked in author Lloyd Matthew Tan’s childhood home is an unexpected treat. (Chinese Peranakan refers to the community of ethnic Chinese people whose culture and language are predominantly Malay-influenced.)
As Tan rightly points out in his introduction, most Malaysians would have at least heard of festive Peranakan dishes such as Babi Pongteh, Ayam Buah Keluak, and Bakwan Kepiting. It’s the dishes that we take for granted – the simple, everyday dishes that make up the family’s comfort food – that have not been widely documented. This book is thus Tan’s attempt to record the recipes of his family’s laok hari hari (daily dishes) and keep them from disappearing.
Tan meticulously explains the ingredients and tools needed in the nonya kitchen; from how to make five-spice powder to how to prepare banana leaves for wrapping and how to cut cucumber for a kerabu (salad). There are many useful tips here for the amateur nonya cook (and maybe even for those who fancy themselves experienced).
His recipes are detailed, giving precise measurements for everything, even the amount of water and oil needed. And the book includes such basics as recipes for the stock needed for various dishes.
Tan also welcomes readers into his home kitchen by presenting the recipes and ingredients in his Peranakan lingo, with Malay words spelt the way they are pronounced. Hence “sambal” is “sambair” and kaffir lime leaves are “daon lemo perot”. Another personal touch are the anecdotes related to the recipes in which he reminisces fondly about his relatives, using their family titles.
Most recipes familiar to those who grew up in nonya homes are mostly easy to prepare and do not require too many ingredients.
But there are some unusual recipes and unexpected finds. For me, those are the recipes using gerago – tiny shrimps or krill.
One of Tan’s staple ingredients is “tohay”, made from fermented krill and red yeast paste. He says it’s hardly known these days, and hopes that printing the recipe will revive it.
He also has recipes using belimbi or sour starfruits, such as Sambair Kim Chiam (Dried Tiger Lily Buds in Cocounut Cream), which is a kerabu made with boiled tiger lily buds, belimbi, prawns and cucumber. It also requires cooking the coconut cream.
But the recipe I am most curious to try out is his bee cheo, a sweet flour sauce used for popiah and as a dip. – Ivy Soon
Made At Home
Author: Giorgio Locatelli
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Giorgio Locatelli said his hair turned white in three days after Locanda Locatelli, his Michelin-starred restaurant in central London, blew up in November 2014.
It could have ruined him and his family, but the blast – caused by a gas leak – did not stop him from reopening the restaurant four months later.
His wife Plaxy, to whom Made At Home is dedicated, said in an interview that after that incident, Locatelli started to be more open to possibilities outside of his own restaurant and home kitchen – such as making TV shows and writing cookbooks that the home cook would not find daunting. One of them is Made At Home.
Subtitled “The food I cook for the people I love”, the cookbook has the kind of recipes any Italian grandmother would cook in her own kitchen … if that kitchen always stocked ricotta, pancetta, and double-zero flour.
But that’s not to say you will not find easy-to-prepare gems in the prettily laid-out pages of the book. Locatelli includes recipes for dishes he cooks for his wife and two children, one of whom suffers from severe allergies, as well as those he has adapted from the restaurant in northern Italy that his grandfather opened in 1963. These are recipes that he says he has cooked “more than a couple of hundred times”. – Jane F. Ragavan
Roasting Tray Magic
Author: Sue Quinn
Publisher: Quadrille Publishing Limited
This brilliant cookbook by food writer and former Guardian journalist Sue Quinn is pure gold. The book explores all sorts of easy, delectable meals cooked entirely on a roasting tray in the oven.
While Quinn does say that you’ll have to check on the contents of the tray to make sure nothing burns or overcooks, the idea is that you can whip up easy meals for the family without having to spend too much time slaving over a hot stove. And the recipes in the book look so appealing, you’ll have no problems being sold on the idea.
The recipes run the gamut from cinnamon French toast, massively cheesy cheese and garlic pull-apart rolls, chicken fajitas, pork belly with smoky beans, fish and chips, and strawberry and rhubarb brioche pudding.
Ultimately, you’ll discover a treasure trove of recipes that form amazing eye candy and, just as amazingly, only need to be popped into the oven to make a meal! – Abirami Durai
Tasty Latest & Greatest: Everything You Want To Cook Right Now
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Billed as the world’s largest food network, online digital media portal Buzzfeed’s Tasty brand is heaven for foodies and anyone who feels like salivating over delectable images and videos of food all day long.
I’ve been following the brand’s recipe videos on Facebook (where they have over 98 million followers) for a while now, and have even made a couple of too-seductive-not-to-try dishes, and they’ve all been oh-so good!
Tasty Latest & Greatest capitalises on this success and features over 80 fail-safe, tempting recipes that totally throw any notions of diets out of the window. This is food you’re meant to really enjoy, like the chewiest chocolate chip cookie ever, giant cinnamon roll, honey-garlic slow cooker ribs and fried mac ’n’ cheese sticks.
The bottom line is, you’ll find plenty to love to in this easily-digestible collection of recipes, and plenty more to inspire your culinary endeavours in the kitchen. – AD