We are happy to have an extensive collection of cookbooks at Maldonado Bistro which we have been curating throughout the years. Since Christmas is around the corner we decided to prepare a quick pick of our current favourites.
If you know somebody who loves to cook and spends most of the time in his/her kitchen, then a cookbook can be a fantastic Christmas gift. Cookbooks are fantastic because they are a way of sharing knowledge. Sharing the love of food.
Important to note that our chronology has nothing to do with which book is better than the other. We love the whole pick. We just need to start with one, and end with another.
We have also tried to keep a balanced mix between books which promote kitchen basics, books that promote regional cuisine, books that inspire delicious food, and books which are useful as a point of reference.
1: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
By Samin Nosrat
This is a fantastic cookbook created by the humble and empathetic Samin Nosrat. The cookbook made such a hit that it even ended up as a Netflix 4-part series.
Even though growing up as the daughter of Iranian immigrants, Nosrat embraced western cooking and decided to explain the common sense of kitchen cooking.
The cookbook is full of interesting and useful illustrations as visual aids. But apart from the pretty illustrations one can find a plethora of useful staple recipes.
Look out for the chocolate midnight cake recipe for example. This recipe has saved the day for us many times when we need to knock up a quick birthday cake or lactose free dessert.
2: Sour – The magical element that will transform your cooking
By Mark Diacono
During the lockdown we fancied making our own kombucha which then fuelled our curiosity into fermentation and the aim of purposely making things go sour to achieve acidity.
This book gave us quite a lot of inspiration. For example, there is a dedicated chapter to vinegar with a basic step-by-step guide to make your own mother vinegar.
We tried the tepache recipe for our cocktail’s menu in the summer. And we tweaked the peach salsa on our pork belly thanks to Diacono too.
We are not sure if there is a Maltese connection with the author because Diacono is known to us as a Maltese surname. Maybe a close relative to the revered Chef Michael Diacono?
3: Curing & Smoking – The River Cottage Handbook No.13
By Steven Lamb
This handbook is one of many essential and insightful cookbooks by Steven Lamb and the rest of the team at the River Cottage. It is a small yet handy book for anyone interested in developing salt curing and smoking skills.
We use the recipe in this book to make our own cured ham and bresaola. There are some other recipes in the book which are still on our bucket list. We are sure that any owner of this publication will cherish it as a quick reference for their salted and smoked creations.
4: Falastin – A Cookbook
A remarkably interesting publication dedicated to kitchen cooking and culture in Palestine. Even though the territory is divided with conflict, this book provides an eye-opening account of the people and food of Palestine. An interesting book with local kitchen stories but also packed with over 100 recipes with complimentary photography.
What we love about this book is that the recipes are full of common Maltese pantry ingredients. Even some recipes have similarities to Maltese kitchen culture. The book is great for inspiration, great for reference, and most importantly great to get down to basic kitchen cooking.
The book is a lovely demonstration of the role and power of food culture in a place full of political tensions and conflict. Food is the glue that bonds the region together in its quest for peace and solidarity.
5: Moorish – Vibrant recipes from the Mediterranean
By Ben Tish
A lovely cookbook celebrating the Muslim Moor’s influence on Mediterranean cuisine. Ben Tish does a great job preparing a balanced mix of recipes useful for morning, noon, and night. The book even has a drinks section at the back which comes handy on a hot summer night!
The recipes in the book are great for home cooks. It gives the reader a broad understanding of Mediterranean cuisine from a Moorish perspective which is central to the cuisines of Sicily, Spain and Portugal.
The book contributed to many touches to our menus as Ben Tish prepared a very wide and appealing canvas of the Moor’s influence on Mediterranean cooking.
6: Salt, Butter, Bones – Mastering the art of great cooking
This is a book from one of our Maltese darlings. From working for her family restaurant to stepping up to the London restaurant scene as head chef at Ottolenghi’s Nopi, Nicole Pisani has done a great job representing her Maltese kitchen roots but still including subtle influences from Asian and South American cuisine.
This is a great cookbook full of interesting recipes but also full of little personal stories. The book is beautifully written and planned out presenting Pisani’s Mediterranean kitchen repertoire but with little touches inspired by her travels.
We love the carrot salad and the aubergine nam prik recipes. Also the oxtail and monkfish recipes are recommended to try. While Nicole Pisani might have her hands full with her current role running a school kitchen in Hackney (UK), we hope to have the opportunity in the near future to enjoy her lovely cooking when she next visits her homeland, Malta.
7: Jamie Cooks Italy – From the heart of the Italian kitchen
By Jamie Oliver
You might ask what is there not more to say about Italian cooking? With this cook book Jamie Oliver bangs it again with the help of his Italian side-kick Gennaro Contaldo. The Batman and Robin of celebrity cooking!
A lovely cookbook celebrating Italian cooking but still full of new and different recipe perspectives that help fuel menu ideas. You can’t go wrong with this cook book as a gift for someone who loves the refined simplicity of Italian cooking.
It is hard to pick a strong recipe favourite from this cookbook with the various options one can find within.
8: Andina – The Heart of Peruvian Food
This cook book gives us a close perspective of Peruvian cuisine from the eyes of South American Chef Martin Morales. A beautiful book full of intriguing recipes, food photography, and regional stories. A great cookbook for those searching for a different view of South American cuisine beyond the chimichurri and pit roasting.
There is an interesting section on ceviches for example. Also the book is full of dish ideas evolving around ‘Tigers Milk’, avocado and crudo.
Last summer we admit that we had a watermelon salad on our menu which was inspired from this cook book. We love the Peruvian perspective which can fit in nicely with our Mediterranean kitchen.
This is a lovely and useful book for anybody who loves pastry, sweets and cakes. There is not one recipe we have not tried in this book from start to finish.
The book is a celebration of a wide range of ‘sweets’ which are prepared and served at Ottolenghi’s food and pastry shop in Notting Hill in London.
Thanks to the help of the Australian-Asian Helen Goh, the magic duo concoct an amazing sugary feast. The rolled up pavlova for example, chocolate and tahini brownies, and apricot and amaretto cheesecake amongst others are some of the recipes we have tried and never disappointed.
10: Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet
By Tom Hunt
An interesting and educational book from eco-warrior, writer and chef, Tom Hunt. A regular contributor on the Guardian, Hunt is a champion of promoting sustainable cooking which is plant rich and zero waste.
While the book is full of useful and easy to do recipes, it is also a great reference book full of diagrams to help the reader break down recipe design and planning.
If you are trying to strengthen your kitchen repertoire with more plant and seed-based dishes, this book will take the lead and show you the way as good point of reference.
11: The Flavour Thesaurus – Pairings, recipes, and ideas for the creative cook
By Niki Segnit
If there is one book any chef needs in their collection, it just has to be this one. The book is a unique compendium of flavour combinations that will help you discover and stimulate ideas when you are stuck with ingredients.
The book is based on the author’s research to create a flavour wheel of 16 distinct flavours. The ingredients evolve around the flavour wheel and helps the user with references of pairing with other ingredients.
The book is one of our top favourites in our cookbook collection. We have reached out to it from time to time for some assistance to pair ingredients and develop new dishes and menus.
A book that nurtures one’s curiosity and help the reader expand their knowledge of staple ingredients.
12: Signature Dishes That Matter
Curated by Susan Jung, Howie Kahn, Christine Muhlke, Pat Nourse, Andrea Petrini, Diego Salazar, and Richard Vines
This is a great book fit for fellow kitchen nerds like us. The book is much like a coffee table book bringing together a wide collection of signature dishes renown from around the world.
Most of the recipes one can probably find with a simple Google search. But what makes this book so interesting is that the publication is much more about presenting the history of the dish, its origins, and how it contributed to the global restaurant scene.
Each dish is presented with an illustration and historical note. Dishes which many common diners have heard of but do not have much of an understanding of its originals.
A great book to use as a point of reference when we want to revive an interesting restaurant classic. But it can also be a useful tool to settle differences on the how and what of a known signature dish!
BONUS: Eat a peach, a memoir
By David Chang with Gabe Ulla
From the Chef Patron and founder of Momofuku, a welcoming memoir documenting the world of food and restaurants.
While some might see Chang as melodramatic and cynical, which might be driven by his confessed challenges related to mental health, he has impressively built a gastronomic empire by going against the grain, sticking to his gut, and going all in for what he wants to achieve and aspire for. A fearless chef on a mission to celebrate, and disrupt when he can, the world of gastronomy.
The highlight of the memoir is Chang’s 33 rules for becoming a chef. A realistic and honest collection of kitchen commandments to prepare any aspiring chef. There is the good, the bad, and the ugly. As said in the memoir, you don’t need 33 rules to be a shitty chef!
As a true entrepreneur and human being, Chang admits to his failings and does not shy away from the inconvenient truths and imbalances in the world of restaurants. A great read for anyone who wants to discover the hard realities of the restaurant industry beyond the awards and the limelight. For some a suicide mission, for others like reaching the ultimate nirvana.
We hope you like our pick for 2020. Don’t hesitate to suggest any other titles which we did not mention. We already earmarked a considerable number of titles for our bucket list for 2021.