Everything you ever needed to know about the taco
Tacopedia: The Taco Encyclopedia by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena (Phaidon Press, pbk, $39.95).
The title is no stretch of the word – Tacopedia is a veritable tome on Mexico’s most beloved and world-renowned dish, the humble taco. Just don’t think a dry old encyclopedia; this one’s the love child of two taco-fanatic Mexicans – a publisher and a designer by trade – and it shows in every cool illustration, bold font type and filter-treated pic that make up this hip-looking book. It’s an epic read, too, and not as narrow in subject matter as you’d assume – tacos are just one member of a family of Mexican antojitos, including burritos, flautas and more. On top of in-depth history, from the Aztec beginnings of maize to barbacoa’s ancient roots, Tacopedia also serves up recipes from the country’s best taqueros (taco makers), plus addresses to try them on the ground.
Best bit: This best-selling Mexican title originally published in Spanish oozes authenticity, from the authors’ zeal for tacos to the methodically researched information and the graphic identity.
Cook the book:
1. Tacos al pastor. Did you know one of Mexico’s most adored tacos – pineapple-marinated pork cooked on an upright rotisserie – is a descendant of Middle Eastern shawarma?
2. Conchinita pibil. Young pig marinated in a cacophony of delicious spices including annatto, then wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked until meltingly tender. If you’ve never tried it, now’s the time.
The definitive guide to one of the hottest global food trends
Lima: The Cookbook by Virgilio Martinez (Hachette Australia, hbk, $39.99).
Superfoods quinoa and chia seed, and that delectable cured seafood dish ceviche, catapulted Peruvian cuisine into the global food spotlight. A few top-notch restaurants helped things along, including Central in Lima and Lima in London, both by Virgilio Martinez, whose standout debut title Lima: The Cookbook is going to aid its popularity even more. It’s not the best-looking (the food styling and pics are a touch '80s) or most laden book on the subject, but the selection of recipes, which tread a line between authentic Peruvian cooking, cheffy food and stuff you’d actually want to make at home here in Australia, are downright appealing. The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Latin American Restaurant chef is also a concise writer, whose fascinating historical and ingredient tidbits help sell Peruvian flavours.
Best bit: The diverse ingredients you’ll encounter, from the Andes to the Amazon, and the intriguing combos Martinez works them into.
Cook the book:
1. Quinoa with kohlrabi and pearl onions. If you thought Australians had countless uses for quinoa, wait till you see how many Peruvians have. Here's just one of many from the book.
2. Chicken and potato pachamanca. A spice-lade hearty slow roast prepared in honour of Pacha Mama (mother Earth)? Sign us up.
French food like you’ve never seen it before
Luke Nguyen’s France: A Gastronomic Adventure by Luke Nguyen (Hardie Grant, hbk, $59.99)
French onion pho and chicken roulades with Vietnamese mint are some of the tempting fusion French-Vietnamese dishes you can expect in Luke Nguyen’s France: A Gastronomic Adventure. It’s the accompaniment cookbook to his latest TV series, which sees the celebrity chef trace the fascinating cultural and culinary connection between the two countries right across France. If they’re too wild for your liking, there’s classic French fare from Normandy to Marseilles and Luke’s signature homeland creations as well. While for those who watched the TV show it could feel a bit familiar, overall, this is one of the most unique takes we’ve come across on one of the world’s most written-about cuisines.
Best bit: Luke’s re-imagining of French and Vietnamese dishes.
Cook the book:
1. French onion pho soup. Best-sounding culinary mash-up ever.
2. Snails cooked in coriander and Thai basil butter. Apparently this Vietnamese twist on the French classic is the best rendition Luke’s ever tried.
Summer can’t come soon enough
Summer on Fat Pig Farm by Matthew Evans (Murdoch Books, hbk $49.95).
When you’ve written 11 books (not to mention countless reviews in your long-ago days as a food critic), is there anything left to say? There is if you are Matthew Evans and you live on Fat Pig Farm, in Tasmania’s Huon Valley, where the seasons and animals and the island’s bounty are constantly giving you reason to head to the kitchen or fire up the barbecue. Evans, the star of the SBS Gourmet Farmer series, describes this book as “my love letter to summer”. And so page by page, we salivate over juicy berries in baking, cooling salads, easy dinners off the grill and fizzy cold drinks to mark the end of a hot day.
The best bit: Summer food, as he points out, is often about assembling, quick cooking, barbecuing, nibbling. These are, in the main, easy recipes with short ingredient lists - just what you want on a hot day.
Cook the book:
1. Flathead tacos This is a great, messy, spicy dish that is suited well to the barbecue and outdoor eating. Soft tortillas encase spiced fish and a lively pico de gallo salsa.
2. Yoghurt and raspberry cake with elderflower syrup The raspberries tend to sink into the batter a bit as the cake rises, which is just perfect.
Is this the best food gift of the year?
Bread and a Dog by Natsuko Kuwahara (Phaidon Press, pbk, $19.95)
Praise Japanese eccentricity. Every day for one year, Tokyo-based food stylist Natsuko Kuwahara snapped a pic of breakfast and her dog Kipple loitering in the background (read: angling for a taste). Kipple apparently LOVES bread, hence the title of the book, Bread and a Dog. There’s giggle-worthy commentary too; what’s part of the breakfast spread (think walnut and raisin bread, tea with milk and hyuganatsu – Japanese citrus fruit) and Kipple’s thoughts on the matter (“All of it, please!”), plus a handful of quick recipes. Probably the most random food book of the year (is there even a category for this kind of thing?), but just so adorbs. The stuff of a very popular Instagram feed cleverly translated into a book, and for the first time, in English too.
Best bit: An equally great gift for Nipponophiles, foodies and animal-lovers, but dog’s best friends, in particular, are going to flip.
Cook the book:
1. Black sesame pancakes. Think delicious black sesame paste stirred through fluffy pancake batter. Umm, yum!
2. Ume juice. Kipple’s not the only one with a bread obsession. Natsuko’s a keen baker and often pairs her fresh treats with a drink, in this case, ume juice made from preserved Japanese or regular plums.