Neil Perry's tasty tomes

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31 January 2011
Nil Perry's tasty tomes

Neil Perry dips into his private larder of cookbooks to share five particularly inspiring favourites.

I have thousands of cookbooks, ranging over many cuisines. The ones I love the most provide a glimpse into the cook or chef and his or her journey through a life rich in food. These are the books I curl up with on the sofa or read before bed year after year as they give me joy, as well as a few good dishes.

Great Chefs Of France
Anthony Blake & Quentin Crewe (Marshall Editions, 1978)
This account of the lives of 12 of the greatest French chefs and restaurants of 1978 was the first cookbook I owned. I suspect it is the reason I became attached to restaurants the way I did. I read about the feats of the godfather of modern French cuisine, Fernand Point, who had died some years earlier, but whose legacy through his wife, Marie-Louise, lived on. He trained Bocuse, Troisgros, Outhier and Bise, each one a titan of 20th-century French cuisine. These stories to me were, and are, so inspiring. I have just bought a second-hand copy for my daughter, Josephine, as she follows me into this industry. 

Michel Guérard’s Cuisine Gourmande
(Macmillan London, 1978 )
This book taught me how to cook French food and, along with a few from Elizabeth David and the Time-Life: The Good Cook series, edited by Richard Olney, gave me my technique. Guérard’s food in the late ’70s was so exciting. My copy is dog-eared and well-worn as just about every recipe in the book has been attempted. One of my signature dishes – hare with beetroot – was inspired by this great book. The first 80-odd pages are on technique and after that include recipes such as lobster salad, asparagus feuilleté, sole with oysters, guinea fowl with red wine and smoked bacon as well as Guérard’s marvellous soufflé recipes. It is for the passionate cook and still relevant today.

Sichuan Cookery
Fuchsia Dunlop (Penguin Books, 2001)
If I could spend a day with anyone, I’d choose Fuchsia. She is the most passionate Chinese cookbook writer and Chinese cook I know. Her books are full of information as well as recipes that produce beautiful food every time. If you want to be enlightened about Chinese food and have ever wanted to cook ma la, which means “hot and numbing” in Sichuan, this book is for you. For the Western world, Fuchsia is to Chinese food what David Thompson is to Thai food.

Chez Panisse Cooking
Paul Bertolli & Alice Waters (Random House, 1988)
The first Chez Panisse cookbook I bought. I now own all of them, but this is the one I head back to regularly. Bertolli’s voice – that of an intellectual, passionate cook – shines through and I’d love it for that reason only, but the recipes are so inspirational, so beautiful and so right. There are so many great tips. You’ll be a much better cook coming out of this book than going in. There are stories of Chez Panisse’s commitment to the community and relationship with great vineyards. The list of menus at the back is superb. 

Tender Volume 1:  A Cook And His Vegetable Patch
Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, 2009)
The beautiful photography, wonderful styling and simple presentation of the food makes you want to cook everything in this book. It contains dish after dish of amazingly simple recipes that show how good cooking really revolves around the sourcing of the best, seasonal and freshest produce. 

For recipes and cooking tips visit www.neilperrychef.com or rockpool.com

Source Qantas The Australian Way February 2011
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Neil Perry

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