Books to devour

Max Mallon’s been satsifying his literary appetite with some tasty new volumes…

Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient
Michael Ruhlman
Jaqui Small Publishing

Michael Ruhlmans can count Egg as his 21st book, having previously written many with other celebrity chefs as well as several alone. When I first picked it up, I didn’t open it for at least the first three minutes. Instead, I sat mesmerized by the cover illustration: a flowchart demonstrating the various ways to cook an egg (there’s an even more detailed pullout poster in the back, too).

The introduction – when I eventually made it inside – I found to be gripping and intelligently written. After a few witty anecdote-packed pages, Michael launches into his recipes, which begin with basic preparation techniques and eventually branch out into more complex creations. These range from luscious creams and cakes (the chocolate mocha number particularly caught my eye), to delectable savory recipes like pork ramen with soft-boiled egg and spring onion. Among the pages are also some re-imaginations of simple dishes – think curried egg salad with cayenne pepper and lime juice. 

Donna Turner Ruhlman’s classic-style step-by-step photographs accompany a few recipes and, while being sparse throughout the book, they’re informative and helpful where included.

The sheer volume and variety of recipes Egg offers makes it a worthy addition to any chef’s collection.   

A Year in 120 Recipes
Jack Monroe

Following the success of her first book, A Girl Called Jack, Jack Monroe returns to print with a year of delicious economical dishes. If you (somehow) didn’t already know, Jack Monroe is a popular blogger- turned-food-writer, who made her name creating tasty recipes on a less-than-generous budget.

Broken up into seasonal sections, the book covers everything from tasty hybrid dishes – we’re talking cauliflower mac ’n’ cheese with bacon – to the fantastically inventive Boxing Day pasties – a simple but delicious way to use up all those leftovers from the Christmas roast. Familiar takeaway favorites are also in attendance, dissected and reinvented as economical and healthy meals – for example, Jonaki’s baba gosht curry which, she tells us, is based around the one made by her local curry house. 

The book is testament to Monroe’s charm and ingenuity: the recipes are simple but still intriguing, and her narration is filled with humour and touching personal anecdotes (did you know she’s busked with Billy Bragg – becuase I didn’t). While the recipes are economical, they’re also, on the whole, nutritious, inspired and diverse enough to suit any home cook. What’s more, the simple instructions mean that even the least confident beginner could produce a meal fit for a foodie king or, in this case, queen.

The Floral Baker
Frances Bissell

In Frances Bissell’s second book on cooking with flowers, The Scented Kitchen being her first, the former Times food writer shares a selection of recipes for cakes, breads and pastries which all contain a variety of colourful flora. While not everyone will be able to go out to their garden and pick these ingredients themselves, you can find most in supermarkets or farm shops. 

Here, Frances’ recipes are thorough and well-written, their origins relayed in the well-known food journalist’s own personal style. One of the most notable and unusual recipes is for lavender teacakes, the fragrant addition creating a light, floral twist on the classic combination of marshmallow, biscuit and chocolate. Other interesting recipes featured include marigold and orange buttercream – which would add a pleasingly zesty touch to any cake – and orange blossom Jaffa cakes, an interesting twist on a well-loved biscuit (yes, it’s a biscuit – look it up).