Thursday, June 17, 2010
New Voices in Food: two stars in the making
For those of you who - like me - have become increasingly depressed at the way cookbook publishing has been gripped in a celebrity stranglehold over the last few years Quadrille’s new series New Voices in Food is like a breath of fresh air. The idea is to give a platform to budding young food writers - without them having to have secured a TV slot first.
The first two titles - Stevie Parle’s My Kitchen and Alice Hart’s Alice’s Cook Book are a delight - inspiringly written and full of luscious things to cook
Parle’s is probably the most challenging. As befits a graduate of the River Café he refuses to compromise on ingredients which occasionally leads him down some pretty obscure alleys, cooking with ingredients that even I as a food writer would find tough to source. Typical meals and recipes are a romesco sauce with three kinds of paprika (one agrodolce which I’ve never seen) and a glass of Albarino (like his mentor, the late Rose Gray, he obviously believes in using decent wine for cooking) and a Malaysian breakfast that he just happens to rustle up for friends who’ve popped over from Paris. There’s certainly no dumbing down here.
That’s not to say there isn’t some thoroughly useful information. I love the step-by-step illustrations of how to prepare an artichoke and how to cut a mango (there are, refreshingly, no glossy photographs in his book and few in Hart’s) and the focus on less common ingredients make this an inspiring read for the more experienced cook. If Elizabeth David had back-packed round the world you feel this is the book she’d have come up with.
Hart’s, by contrast, is a more conventional cookbook but that’s certainly not to damn it with faint praise (she has, after all, a degree in physiology and neuroscience and this year’s must-have accessory, a camper van). She writes with great energy, verve and humour, making you want to try every one of her simple, delectable recipes. (Top of my list currently are the roast carrot houmus and raspberry custard cake, the latter part of a ‘Holiday Lunch for Six to Eat Outside’.) There are also some additional pages of quick ideas which are as good as the full recipes - a generous bonus.
If I had to crudely categorise them I’d say that Parle was the new Sam and Sam Clark (of Moro fame) and Hart the new Nigella - which sounds faintly derogatory until you remember what a joy her first book How to Eat was. I already know they’ll become great friends in the kitchen. They should be in book shops by the beginning of next month.