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From tapas to tandoori, desserts to pastries, Suffolk food writer Nicola Miller finds the best cookbooks





TAPAS

by Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy (Blasta Books, £13)

Offering us an ‘inclusive snapshot’ of modern Irish food’, Tapas, by Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy, co-owners of Las Tapas de Lola, a restaurant in Dublin, is the sixth in a series of 72-page A5 cookbooks published by Blasta Books — all of them much-needed correctives to some really tired old stereotypes about Ireland and its food.

Tapas by Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy (Blasta Books, £13)
Tapas by Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy (Blasta Books, £13)

“Our recipes are the way we love to prepare them,” write Cabrera and Murphy, pointing out that within Spain, you will find thousands of recipe permutations, many handed down from generation to generation.

We learn about the philosophy of tapas, how to stock your cupboards with tapas-suitable foods, and the glories of the vermouth bar, where icy glasses of red or white vermouth are served over ice with a twist of lemon or orange and accompanied by anchovy-stuffed olives, plates of high-quality tinned shellfish, salted crisps, and a little bowl of sauce made with vinegar, paprika and spices.

“We typically take a crisp, pinch a berberecho (cockle) with a toothpick and away we go,” they write.

Their recipes are delectable and versatile: a base recipe for the famous ham and cheese croquetas is followed by two pages of variations and an appeal to “revisit your fridge and think of what to try next”.

A recipe for Catalan-style Pa amb Tomàquet is augmented by a page of tomatoey advice on what varieties to look out for and how to use them.

We’re shown how to prepare and cook octopi and given a recipe for Pulpo a la Gallega, Malagan fried fish platters, a classic Tortilla, Espinacas con Garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas), and Riñones al Jerez ( sherried kidneys), among others.

To end, a small but perfectly formed section on postres focuses on the classics: Tarta di Santiago, Churros, Arroz con Leche, and Crema Catalana. As with the rest of the series, the book’s illustrations are by Dublin-based artist Nicky Hooper.

MAYUMU: FILIPINO-AMERICAN DESSERTS REMIXED

by Abi Balingit (Harper Collins £30)

“Mayumu is my story of what it means to be a Filipino-American baker in New York,” writes Abi Balingit, who grew up in California and began to blog via The Dusky Kitchen back in 2020 during the Covid pandemic.

Mayumu: Filipino-American Desserts Remixed by Abi Balingit (Harper Collins £30)
Mayumu: Filipino-American Desserts Remixed by Abi Balingit (Harper Collins £30)

As Balingit concentrated on home baking in her small, low-lit (‘dusky’) city kitchen, her work caught an agent’s eye, and here we are. Balingit’s recipes are fueled by memory and appetite and talk of culinary evolution and pleasure: they trace her life through chapters which begin with her parent’s home in the Philippines and her childhood in California.

A move to Brooklyn in adulthood further expands her baking repertoire: “There’s a pocket of the city meant for everyone who lives here,” she writes.

Her Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookies, with their compelling blend of sweet and savoury, have overtaken the culinary world.

A recipe for Biko uses speculoos (Biscoff) cookie butter from a jar, a Strawberry Shortcake Sapin-Sapin has delicious layers of vanilla, molasses and strawberry and her Peach Mango Cheesecake Turon is inspired by the fried peach mango pies sold by Jollibee, a Filipino chain of fast food restaurants with outlets in the UK.

The TV show I Love Lucy and the classic retro-American pineapple upside-down cake inspire her to make pineapple-guava upside-down cupcakes. She pays tribute to the Filipino love of flan with a Chai leche version and an Austrian Linzer Cookie is given a Filipino twist via a filling of Caramelised Banana and Jackfruit Jam (Balingit shows us how to make the jam).

I adore Balingit’s reminiscing about the ubiquitous Yakult probiotic drink of her youth which, in NYC, she mixes with icing (powdered) sugar to make a tangy glaze for enormous citrussy poppy seed muffins. Clearly, quite a few of Balingit’s ingredients will be new to people unfamiliar with Filipino food, but Balingit is aware of this: she wants you to succeed.

There’s a lot of useful cooking advice in this book, including an illustrated guide to Filipino-American pantry essentials, recommended brands to look out for, and a glossary of Filipino culinary terms.

I’m British and have managed to source most of the ingredients mentioned in Mayumu, either online or in international food stores.

Google will help you with ingredient substitution: a simple search for ‘What can I use instead of calamansi juice?’ (for example) is really all it takes, but to cook from Mayumu, you must also buy some American-style cup measures if you don’t have them. They are widely available and inexpensive.

TWO MAGPIES BAKERY: STORIES AND RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF EAST ANGLIA

(Headline Home £26, published April 27)

Two Magpies Bakery: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of East Anglia (Headline Home £26, published April 27)
Two Magpies Bakery: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of East Anglia (Headline Home £26, published April 27)

The first Two Magpies Bakery opened in Southwold in 2013; since then, it has expanded across Suffolk and Norfolk.

“Baking from scratch and working with small local suppliers who share our ethos is key to everything we do,” writes owner-baker Rebecca Bishop in this, her first book which does our region proud.

“We hope that we’re an inspiration to home bakers.”

They are. This is an excellent primer for the baking of bread, pizza dough, and yeasted pastries, offering detailed advice on technique accompanied by handy photos.

If you are a beginner, Bishop starts you off with an easier recipe for Honey and Oat Soda Bread that is leavened with bicarb before moving on to yeast-leavened Pain de Campagne, Pan de Mie, Focaccias, the classic Magpie Sourdough and flavoured permutations thereof (Malted Double Chocolate, and a New Potato, Spring Onion and Dill version are just two of them), their popular East Coast Rye and lots of other wonderful bread recipes.

She holds your hand throughout the pizza chapter, where you will learn how to make a classic sourdough pizza dough which goes on to host ‘Annie’ named after the Southwold lifeboat and topped with smoked ham, mozzarella, honey and Tallegio, ‘La Dolce Vita’ (pork and fennel), and ‘The Green Man’ with its ribbons of courgette, tomato, lemon zest, chilli and olives.

Her pastries and cakes are divine: I love the sound of Pain au Mocha with its layers of coffee and chocolate. Danishes are flavoured with Poached Pear, Blackberry and Bay, Bacon, Blueberry and Maple, or Honey, Fig and Sesame. There’s a Brown Butter Nutmeg Shortbread (genius!), Black Sesame and Miso Financiers, a Pear, Sage and Almond Cake, and Adnams Broadside Bread Pudding.

Bishop’s doughnuts are made with brioche dough and filled with Rhubarb and Custard Apple Cinnamon or Caramel Custard. Her Cardamom Buns are crowned with Redcurrants, Raspberry, Rose and Pistachio.

A brunch section with recipes including Mushroom and Binham Blue Tartine and a Pink Grapefruit, Frisée, Pecans and Gorgonzola on Sourdough is particularly strong. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though. I want to make everything.

TANDOORI HOME COOKING: OVER 70 CLASSIC INDIAN TANDOORI RECIPES TO COOK AT HOME

by Maunika Gowardhan (Hardie Grant Books £25, out May 4)

Tandoori Home Cooking: Over 70 Classic Indian Tandoori Recipes to Cook at Home by Maunika Gowardhan (Hardie Grant Books £25, out May 4)
Tandoori Home Cooking: Over 70 Classic Indian Tandoori Recipes to Cook at Home by Maunika Gowardhan (Hardie Grant Books £25, out May 4)

Don’t be fooled into thinking the tandoori method is impossible to recreate without a clay oven.

Third-time author Maunika Gowardhan’s Tandoori Home Cooking will teach you how to achieve the flavours and sense of community this traditional cooking method possesses – using your conventional oven.

We are taught how the technique moved across India from its home in the northern part of the country via delicious descriptions and photographs that draw you in.

As I read, I could almost smell the ‘smoky, charred flavours. . . the enticing aromas, the crackle of the burning charcoal and the sizzle of the food’ that Gowardhan’s introduction tempts us with.

As Gowardhan walks the streets of Mumbai, she describes the street food vendors who can be heard chanting in rhythm the lists of dishes on offer, and as her progress along the streets unfolds, so does the story of tandoori itself.

We learn about the Grand Trunk Road, which ran from Kabul in Afghanistan to Kolkata in West Bengal and how displaced, separated families travelled it during Partition, setting up communal kitchens whose tandoor ovens offered familiarity and comfort.

Gowardhan’s book dispels the mistaken belief held by some of us that tandoori cooking is meat-heavy or a technique for summer only. Her recipes work all year round.

There are enticing vegetable dishes, recipes for bread and chutneys, and smart tips for infusing your meals with incredible flavour, whatever the temperature.

A clever technique for making Smoked Butter uses charcoal (I’d make a ton of this to jazz up all kinds of meals). Spicy Potato & Fig Cakes with Chilli, Mint & Coriander reflect the Awadhi diet’s love of dried fruits (and the UK’s!) and an Apple, Beetroot and Mooli Salad is packed with winter-suitable texture, flavour and colour.

There’s a dreamy Saffron-Infused Milk Bread with Cardamom & Rose Water, an Ice-Cream Float with Jelly, Chia Seeds, Noodles & Crushed Pistachios, and a recipe for Smoky Caramelized Fruit with White Chocolate & Cardamom Cream that I really want to make this summer. Meat and fish eaters should try the Tandoori Chicken Wings with Tamarind & Chilli, Spiced Lamb Skewers with Black Pepper, Cumin & Dried Mango and the Salmon Skewers Marinated in Green Chilli, Basil and Coriander.

Follow Nicola on Twitter: @Nicmillerstale

Winner of the Guild of Food Writers Online Food Writer Award 2020

Fortnum & Mason Cookery Writer of the Year 2022