We all have our favourite restaurants, chef’s, cookbooks and recipes – I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you about my favourite cookbook and why it is so.
I was given Risk Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey as a Christmas present in 2009 and since then I have been cooking recipes from it for my long-suffering dinner party guests. So why do I go back to it more often than any other of the 100 or so cookbooks that I own? Well, it is a genuine odyssey – a “long and eventful or adventurous journey or experience”.
I love the Far East and have been travelling there for over 25 years. I love the differing cultures, I love the people and, for the most part, I love the exotic flavours and spices used in the cooking. This cookbook takes the reader through Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – wonderful countries, each with their own distinct flavours and dishes. There are the usual staple of recipes for soups, salads, fish, meat and poultry. And I can assure you – if you have never visited any of these countries, this book will deliver to your table authentic dishes from each.
Mr Stein has a gentle, flowing writing style which is a pleasure to read and the recipes are relatively easy to follow. The hard work comes in making fresh many of the base curry pastes – but that just requires attention to detail and a bit of focus. The effort that goes in to getting the pastes and stocks right are rewarded in the plates you will put on your table. Appendices at the back of the book provide a wealth of helpful advice, tips and explanations.
If I have one criticism of this book, it is the same with every cookbook that tackles the Far East and it is this. Where a recipe requires hard-to-source ingredients (such as pea aubergines for a Thai green chicken curry), there is no suggestion for an alternative ingredient that might be easier to source. But this is a minor gripe.
I guess the test of any cookbook is the condition it is in – mine has pages stuck together and pages splattered with food and others that are a little worse for wear. These pages contain my favourite recipes and I will write about them on another occasion. If you like food from the Orient, this book is a must for your kitchen.