2022 has been a bumper year for cookbook enthusiasts. And while the best of them include clever and delicious recipes – that’s a given – the books we’ve selected also tell stories that matter.
Two navigate the complex issues of heritage, tradition and authenticity. One tells a tragic but ultimately triumphant story of the power of community. Another offers candid revelations about an iconic restaurant. And one is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through food.
So if you’re looking for a cookbook with meaning, want a new culinary challenge, or simply want more lunch fillers, after-work quick meals or to do a deep-dive into a cuisine, these are the best cookbooks that landed on our desks this year. Happy cooking.
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Lanka Food: Serendipity and Spice, by O Tama Carey
I don’t think there was an Aussie cookbook released in 2022 that had an introduction better than the beautifully articulated one written by O Tama Carey in her golden-coloured cookbook Lanka Food. The owner-chef of Sydney’s modern Sri Lankan restaurant Lankan Filling Station tells the fascinating story of her food journey – from working at influential Aussie eateries such as Kylie Kwong’s Billy Kwong and Berta, to finding her cooking style and navigating the complex issues around heritage, tradition and authenticity. “The concept of authenticity has been much debated in food. It’s a twisty topic with many angles and I often find more questions are raised than answered when I talk about it. Being authentic means being genuine, but in terms of food the concept is often inextricably linked to tradition. And while tradition certainly deserves respect, it doesn’t always mean delicious food,” she writes. That has guided the book’s recipes, which are a mash of those she’s learnt from her Sri Lankan family and travels to the island, but also, “some are inspired by things I have read, some are strictly traditional … And there are also dishes that evolved because of the produce we have in Australia and the fact that my culinary training has taken me all over the place.” This beautiful book should have a place on your bookshelf.
Chinese-ish: Home Cooking, Not Quite Authentic, 100% Delicious, by Rosheen Kaul and Joanna Hu
Like Lanka Food, this outstanding book is as much a memoir as it is a collection of recipes. Illustrator Joanna Hu and her friend, star Melbourne chef Rosheen Kaul of restaurant Etta, tell the complicated story of their identity through food. It offers a glimpse into what it’s like to grow up straddling two or more cultures (Kaul has Chinese, Filipino and Kashmiri heritage), reflected not only in recipes, but also in anecdotes, portraits and Hu’s brilliant illustrations. The immensely colourful book is fun and energetic, and contains what they call “Chinese-ish dishes” – “a glorious mishmash” of Australian-Chinese recipes and ingredients. That translates to fun and immensely delicious recipes such as Sichuan sausage sangas, billionaire fried rice, burnt spring-onion oil noodles and many more.
Yiayia Next Door: Recipes From Yiayia’s Kitchen, and the True Story of One Woman’s Incredible Act of Kindness, by Luke and Daniel Mancuso, with Yiayia
In 2013, Melbourne brothers Luke and Daniel Mancuso lost their mother, Teresa, to an incomprehensible act of domestic violence committed by their father at the house she grew up in. It was their neighbour, a yiayia (Greek for “grandmother”) called Nina, who sounded the alarm. “I’ll never forget the day,” Yiayia says through glassy eyes. “I knew something was wrong. I called Teresa – no answer. I was shaking. I had to do something.” Two years later the boys moved back into that house and Yiayia helped make the transition bearable by passing food over the back fence. Luke and Daniel started documenting it on @yiayianextdoor, and the internet loved it. This year they took that story and the dishes she made, and put it into this book. Recipes include her comforting Greek classics like spanakopita, moussaka and baklava, as well as ones by members of the Yiayia Next Door community, including Eftichia’s avgolemono.
First Nations Food Companion, by Damien Coulthard and Rebecca Sullivan
Adnyamathanha man Damien Coulthard founded native food business Warndu with his partner Rebecca Sullivan in 2014 to help introduce ingredients such as Davidson’s plum, wattleseed, finger lime, quandong and pepperberry to the wider Australian population. The couple live on a property on Ngadjuri Country, in the Clare Valley, where they grow their foods. “These are the oldest foods eaten – but also the newest foods in the sense that they are finally getting the attention they deserve,” writes Sullivan. Their book is all about shining a light on those ingredients and providing ways to use them. For example, saltbush can be used “like you would Swiss chard”, or warrigal greens instead of spinach to make this triumphant cheesy cob.
Cook, by Karen Martini
Karen Martini’s eighth cookbook is simply called Cook. And with 1000 recipes, it’s doing some heavy lifting in trying to get people to do it. It’s reminiscent of Stephanie Alexander’s hulking 1996 tome The Cook’s Companion, which many refer to as the kitchen bible. In fact, the culinary legend is quoted in the preface to this ambitious book. Martini is one of Australia’s most famous chefs and she draws on her Tunisian Italian heritage in her cooking. Her most recent restaurant endeavour is Melbourne’s Hero. Cook was five years in the making but as Martini says, “The journey behind this book is a lot longer. It’s 26 years, or maybe close to 30 years of cooking and eating. All the pleasure in life, I’ve realised, comes from food and flavour, and I want to share that [here].” We were particularly taken by her carbonara recipe, so we popped around to her home so she could make it for us. It’s a goodie.
Salamati Hamed’s Persian kitchen, by Hamed Allahyari with Dani Valent
This book is gloriously colourful. Lavish salads are punctuated by vibrant reds and greens, platters are stacked with saffron-tinted rice covered in pops of pomegranate, and there are many meats cocooned in deeply coloured sauces. Flipping through the book, it feels simultaneously generous and enticing. Like many cookbooks on this list, it’s part biography. It tells the story of Hamed Allahyari, who fled his country, and his traditional Persian restaurant in Tehran, because his views on religion differed to those of the government. He eventually ended up in Melbourne and after volunteering at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, where he met Jen Morillas, he and Morillas opened Cafe Sunshine & Salamatea in 2018. Allahyari has worked with food writer (and Broadsheet contributor) Dani Valent to tell his fascinating story, and how the food of his home has shaped his journey.
Lune: Croissants All Day, All Night, by Kate Reid
Few Australian pastry items have captured attention like Lune’s croissants. Kate Reid’s flaky, crisp bundles have become globally renowned, and a decade on from Lune’s founding, people continue to sacrifice sleep to be first in Lune’s long lines to get theirs hot out of the oven. The empire was born in Melbourne but is expanding up the east coast of Oz. Now, Reid adds a cookbook to her resume. The centrepiece of the book is a croissant-dough recipe Reid fine-tuned for the home cook, and includes step-by-step techniques for rolling and shaping it. There are also 60 other recipes, plus what to do with croissant pastry leftovers, and our favourite part, a clever chapter on twice-baked croissants (here’s a recipe). We might never get around to cooking some of Reid’s baked creations, as several of the recipes require three or four days of pastry-making, but the book coincides with Lune’s 10th birthday and that’s something we can get behind.
Mabu Mabu, by Nornie Bero
If you’ve eaten at Melbourne’s Mabu Mabu or Big Esso, you’ve most likely ordered Nornie Bero’s damper. It’s hard to resist – the trailblazing Torres Strait Islander chef serves it with an outstanding golden-syrup butter you can’t help double spreading. Now you can make both the damper and the butter at home and apply as much of it as you like without getting raised eyebrows from your dining buddies. It’s one of the 50 recipes in her first cookbook, which is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through food. It also includes the native pantry ingredients to add to your shopping list.
Around the Table, by Julia Busuttil Nishimura
Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s third book is here to help set the mood, providing you with the perfect dish to match a time, place or setting. Think of it as the culinary equivalent of stumbling upon a moody thriller on a rainy weekend afternoon. This is the third book for Busuttil Nishimura, after Ostro and A Year of Simple Family Food. Like those, it includes homey interpretations of dishes from Italy, the Mediterranean, Japan and beyond. This time she’s broken it down into 14 chapters set around different moods and themes, including weeknight saviours, cakes for coffee and slow Sundays. From that we love her weekend sauce recipe, which will happily splutter away on the stove as you tend to other weekend things.
The Food Saver’s A-Z: The Essential Cornersmith Kitchen Companion, by Alex Elliott-Howery & Jaimee Edwards
If there was a time to think smart in the kitchen, it’s now, as the world becomes increasingly expensive – and this hefty book will help you do it. It’s a follow-up to Jaimee Edwards and Alex Elliott-Howery’s clever *Use It All*, a guide for home cooks to reduce food waste but “eat generously” while doing it. The duo are behind Sydney’s innovative cafe Cornersmith and they’re masters at coming up with waste hacks, storage tips and shortcuts.
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar 2002-2022, by Maurice Terzini
There are few restaurants in Australia like Icebergs Dining Room and Bar. It’s perched on the south end of the world-famous Bondi Beach, and when you’re in the handsome restaurant it’s almost like you’re in the water, moving with the tides and ocean breeze. It’s magical. This year the Italian eatery celebrates 20 years. (For a lot of this year it’s been out of action because of extensive renovations but has now reopened.) To mark the double-decade milestone, the brand has released a book celebrating the food, cocktails, music, art and personalities of the iconic restaurant. And there is no bigger personality than its restaurateur Maurice Terzini – a visionary, a provocateur, a driving force, an eccentric culinary maverick. The book includes some of the restaurant’s best recipes, and they are great, but we’ve included this book in our 2022 list because it’s candid and includes a fascinating timeline of the people and events that have shaped Icebergs’ journey, including the many failings and fallouts along the way.
With extra reporting by Tomas Telegramma, Emma Joyce and Jo Rittey.
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