Making it easy – finding the perfect cookbook for Mothers' Day 2011

Does mum love to cook? Here are some culinary gift suggestions

By Robyn Lewis
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Degustation by Alain Fabregues

Degustation by Alain Fabregues [©UWA Publishing]

Maggie's Kitchen by Maggie Beer
salades – Damien Pignolet
Cuisine Temps by Jacques Reymond
Inspiring Ingredients by Lola Berry

 

There’s no doubt that many of today’s mums feel overwhelmed and under pressure.

With less extended-family support, more women at work, more demands on our time, and more activities for our kids, life for many mothers is a hectic treadmill that can start even before the arrival of our firstborn, and which scarcely ceases from early morning to collapse into bedtime, for decades.

Few indeed are the ‘kept mothers’ of yesteryear, fewer still with the luxury of nannies.

Add to that the ‘me-time’ mentality so prevalent in the West today and really it’s a surprise that more mothers don’t fall in a heap. Fathers feel unsupported, too.

There is however one day of the year that shines like a beacon to mothers around the globe, and that’s Mother’s Day. Our little darlings make us gifts, perhaps of cardboard, paint and glitter, and practice their best handwriting on cards they may make themselves, that touch our hearts and become keepsakes in our treasure chests. The love and cuteness goes a long way.

Some also buy us gifts, or send out dad to search. Hint to fathers: we don’t want power tools thanks, and although we might need a new vacuum cleaner it really isn’t going to win you too many points, either. Clothes or other vouchers are an old standby, but where’s the thought in that? And mum still has to go and redeem them herself – just another thing to do, before they expire…..

Buying for mums who love to cook, however, is just about to become easier.

Faced with a wall of cookbook titles in the bookstore or online? We’ve put together a list of cookbooks for Mother’s Day gifts that should help any dad or child select the perfect title to make their mum happy this year.

And if you get in early, there are plenty of bargains around, if budget is an issue (or save the balance for the always-appreciated bunch of flowers and/or Mother’s Day lunch).

Click on the links for a full description and information on where to buy.

 

Mum’s a beginner in the kitchen:

A few oldies but goodies are great here, including

  • Maggie’s Kitchen by much-loved Australian food icon Maggie Beer RRP A$59.95
     
  • Our Family Table, by the first Masterchef winner Julie Goodwin. This book has received a bit of a caning from the high priests of food, but for a mum who wants to improve her cooking skills and repertoire of dishes – with more that a generous dollop of love – we still recommend it. Dads and kids can use it, too. RRP A$49.95
     
  • MasterChef Australia The Cookbook Volume 1. This book got panned too, but there are some really good sections on basic preparation techniques that I bet many food critics haven’t mastered themselves, and some good recipes, especially if mum enjoyed the TV series.

    Yes, she could download many (but not all) of them from their website, but the book is easier to use. Shop around, you can now find it for half price, and maybe buy her Volume 2 as well (see next section). RRP A$39.95
     
  • You wouldn’t normally associate British food enthusiast and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with beginner cooks, but if someone had given me The River Cottage Meat Book when I was starting out, I’d have been eternally grateful. RRP A$95, but look online.

 

Mum’s not a bad cook but she’s keen to update her cooking style and be more adventurous:

  • Family Italian by John Lanzafame. How to produce authentic-tasting Italian dishes with a few simple, fresh ingredients ­– just like they do in Italy. RRP $45
     
  • MasterChef Australia The Cookbook Volume Two. Again if your mum enjoyed the series, she’d most likely enjoy this – the recipes are more advanced than Volume 1 and there’s a lot more Asian and Mediterranean influences, as per many of the contestants’ origins. RRP A$45 (but currently available at half-price if you look around.)

    Best avoid this title though if mum is into healthy eating; I haven’t seen more butter, fat and cream in a recipe book in a long time.
     
  • Poh’s Kitchen – My cooking adventures by Poh Ling Yeow. Another MasterChef 1 spinoff, with over 80 recipes from Asian (Nonya chicken curry, sticky rice pudding) to traditional Western (lamb shank casserole, roast leg of lamb). RRP A$39.99
     
  • Hot off the press is Masterchef 2 winner Adam Liaw's Two Asian Kitchens – we are very impressed with this and predict it will be a winner, with dad and the kids as well. Systematic, thoughtful, and good recipes. (Review to follow shortly). RRP A$49.95
     
  • We Love Food – Family Recipes from the Backyard by Kirsty Manning-Wilcox and Peta Heine. Recipes that all the family will enjoy, using the bounty of your garden or the farmers’ market. RRP A$39.95.

 

Mum could go on MasterChef – and she’s good enough to win:

If your mother is already a fabulous cook, well, lucky you! But perhaps mum hasn’t got 4 spare months to enter a TV competition, or isn’t fit or mad enough to sprint kilometres through Paris in search of ingredients? If she’s keen to outcook the contestants without a TV camera poked in her face, then these might appeal – certainly the family will appreciate the results.

  • Degustation by WA chef Alain Fabrègues. French-inspired recipes that are ‘do-able’ at home, with an emphasis on fabulous presentation. And truffles. RRP A$84.95
     
  • NOMA – Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi. Currently ranked as the number one chef in the world, who uses only Scandinavian ingredients – you won’t find a tomato, a chilli or anything vaguely Mediterranean or Asian in sight. One for the dedicated and adventurous cook, looking for something different. RRP A$69.95 (see link for alternatives).
     
  • Cuisine de Temps by Melbourne chef Jacques Reymond.Beautiful to look at, and blends the old with the new to create inspiring food, with French flair. Good recipes and a lot better value than many others at this price. RRP A$60
     
  • MasterChef Australia The Cookbook Volume 2 could also fall into this category – mum can always try making Peter Gilmore’s famous ‘snow egg’ (someone I know just spent an entire day successfully creating it, with family help, of course!).

 

Mum’s keen on regional Australia and getting in touch with our fabulous produce and producers:

There’s a lot of choice in this area, but you have to know where to look, and it’s not usually in your local bookshop. Try here on VisitVineyards.com instead, and click on the links for information about where to buy or order (including some special offers for VisitVineyards.com subscribers).

 

Mum’s into the environment, and/or organics:

  • The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans. Help mum make better food choices for herself, her community and the planet, and to learn how to cook them. RRP A$89.95
     
  • It Tastes Better by Kylie Kwong. A sustainable foodie’s adventure around regional Australia, introducing some of the hunters, gatherers, artisanal makers and farmers of organic and wild produce that mum probably won’t find in her local supermarket. Over 100 recipes that are generally simple yet delicious, in true Kylie Kwong style. RRP A$69.95

 

Mum’s into healthy and natural, maybe even vegetarian:

  • Inspiring Ingredients by Lola Berry. Mum can make healthy eating fun for herself and all the family – and even spring a few vego meals on you that you won’t even notice – with this great little book by dynamo Lola Berry. Includes snacks, smoothies, face packs, herbal teas and other things to boost mum’s energy and immune system as well. RRP A$29.95
     
  • Out of the Bottle by Sally Wise. If mum’s into preserving and likes to make the most of the seasonal bounty – or maybe you’ve left the nest and she has ‘nothing to do’ (!) – then she might enjoy this, by one of the country’s leading exponents of bottling, preserving and jams, and what to do with it all. RRP A$24.95

    I’m not sure I’d be tempted by her recently-released Leftover Makeovers though, not because it isn’t any good, but the Mother’s Day points factor might not be so high. Let mum get that one herself if she feels the need.
     
  • If your family is also keen on growing your own vegetables, then The Kitchen Garden Companion by Stephanie Alexander is another classic that mum will treasure for years. RRP A$125, but shop around – I never thought I’d see this title discounted, but I just have. You might be lucky.
     
  • Salades by Damien Pignolet. Beautiful to look at, even more beautiful to use. Interesting, adventurous but above all harmonious salads for year-round enjoyment, including novel fruit salads for desserts. RRP A$59.95.

 

Mum’s more time-poor than Julia Gillard:

  • Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson. Fairly basic, but lives up to its promise of ‘good food fast’ – such as dishes in 20 minutes, plus lots of short cuts and time-saving ideas, with Nigella’s celebrity stamp. RRP A$54.99, but shop around, you can currently find it in bookshops at 50% off.
     
  • Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver. Fresh from the TV series, Jamie shows mum how to make entire meals in the time normally spent on one dish. Or perhaps buy a copy for yourself and give mum at least one night off cooking a week (for a year!). RRP A$49.95. Some of the recipes are online.

 

Mum likes to dream about (or travel to) faraway places:

  • Jamie Does … Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France, by Jamie Oliver. Yes, I used to think Jamie O was ‘just’ a TV chef too, but now he’s putting his time and money where his reputation is, and is kick-starting a ‘Food Revolution’ to reintroduce a knowledge of good, nutritious food and cooking into Western countries beset by obesity and other ailments of modern diets.

    However, this book is more about where he spends his holidays; it might make mum rethink Jamie too, or if she’s already an easy-peasy fan then you’re on a sure winner – it’s about the love of food, life and travel, with some great recipes. RRP A$60, but check out the link above for a bargain.
     
  • Food from Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros. An armchair culinary adventure around Greece. RRP A$76.99 but can be found at 50% off.
     
  • Saraban by Greg and Lucy Malouf. This book is simply gorgeous and is as much about travel and culture as it is about food. It will introduce mum to a part of the world that she may not have experienced, and whose ancient cuisine is under-appreciated in Australia: Iran. RRP A$79.95 but available for much less online; try booko.com.au.

 

Mum wants to learn about food and wine matching:

  • If mum’s a beginner in the food and wine-matching stakes (think ‘what wine goes with roast chook?’), then In Search of the Perfect Partner by Ryn and Cordie (Karyn McDonald and Cordelia Smiley), two Brisbane gals with flair, is a sure winner.

    66 recipes that are fresh, easy and achievable, from breakfast through to evening, with wine matches by variety not a particular brand or label. RRP A$29.95. Subscribers and Members of VisitVineyards.com can purchase direct online at 20% off total cost (ie book + postage). To obtain the code to quote when you order, click here »
     
  • Wine and Food by Kate Lamont. A modern Australian classic by chef, restaurateur, winemaker and tourism authority Kate Lamont from Western Australia.

    Based on the BYO principle – you pick the wine first, then adapt your food to match, following Kate’s well-explained, basic principles. Fabulous recipes and a book that any mum who loves good cooking and wine is sure to enjoy. RRP A$55.
     
  • Daring Pairings by Evan Goldstein. One of the most exciting books we’ve seen in the last year – perfect for a wine-loving mum who is exploring alternative grape varieties and wants a modern, international (US) flair to her food. RRP A$55.95, of A$45 + free postage for VisitVineyards.com subscribers.

    If you are unsure whether mum would like this book, we have excepts from several chapters and some sample recipes on VisitVineyards.com here (or search on the VisitVineyards.com website for Goldstein).

 

Mum likes fine art and/or fine food, and has the time and skills to match:

Even the best cooks love new ideas and inspiration, however, and she should find some here. Especially good if mum is a chef.

  • Quay, by one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs and Sydney restaurateurs, Peter Gilmore. Described as ‘food inspired by nature’ with sumptuous photography by Anson Smart that will inspire and delight, even if mum never cooks a single recipe. RRP A$95.
     
  • The New Renaissance of Italian Fusion Cuisine 1.0 by Culinary Artist and Chef Gianfranco Chiarini. Described by one female foodie friend as ‘the best food porn I’ve ever seen’, this is one for the serious cook (or chef) and modern food lover, but again most of the recipes can be reproduced at least in part at home.

    Only available by mail order, and limited to 2000 copies globally, of which at time of writing around 600 remain. Mum certainly won’t be seeing this book on the reminder counters next month. RRP €200 (postage extra), and can be signed and personally inscribed by the author. You'll need to order soon if you want it to arrive in time.

    Or you can win a copy for mum (or yourself) for free if you enter our competition by the end of April.

 

One other thing I’d recommend for a mum who loves to cook, but whose saucepan collection is perhaps getting a little tired, is to buy her one or more of the new generation of non-stick saucepans or frypans, along with a new silicon spatula and spoon so it doesn’t get scratched.

You mum may not think of getting one herself, but believe me, they make such a difference. Team those with one of the cookbooks above, and you have the perfect culinary gift, anytime of the year.

But most of all on Mother’s Day, what mum most appreciates is a little of your time and love – in person, or on the phone if you are far away.

 

Subscribers and Members of VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive can purchase many of these titles for 12.5% discount on RRP (postage extra, at a flat rate if more than 1 title is purchased). See http://winepros.seekbooks.com.au »

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April 02nd, 2011
 
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