Anyone toying with the idea of writing a cookbook should visit my desk. That’s not an open invitation but it could be a sobering experience.
Nanjing Night Net

The books desk – for want of a better description – groans beneath about 10 piles of 10 books apiece. All are relatively recent releases and the Christmas titles have not yet begun.

What shouts ”buy me” above all others? A celebrity – preferably television – is the sure and fast way. As for the rest, it is endlessly fascinating to see how trends emerge.

Pretty is very 2012. After years of blinding white on white, book covers have images of lace, doilies and ornate spoons.

As for the recipes, why choose a snappy name when you can list almost every element? Hence Alice Hart has ”stuffed firepit venison with roast pear, port sauce and perfect mash”. If 1.3 kilograms of potatoes did anything less than caress my arteries with utter deliciousness when accompanied by 350 millilitres of single cream and up to 240 grams of butter, I’d be asking Macquarie to redefine ”perfect” in the dictionary.

Pendolino restaurant’s owner and chef, Nino Zoccali, has recipe names that read like an ingredients list. Take Pugliese tagliatelle with fresh and dried fava beans, salted dried ricotta, parsley, mint and basil. He writes: ”For those who have never heard of this dish …” It’s unusual, but barely a secret with that as a title.

Italian is also big in 2012, with Zoccali’s offering joined by Giovanni Pilu’s book on Sardinian food and Amanda Tabberer’s travels down the Amalfi Coast.

Johnnie Mountain cooks with a passion for pork in Pig, which promises to demystify the meat. I’m not sure I’ll take up his invitation with such dishes as toad in the hole with onion gravy. It looks very, um, English boarding school.

Prince Charles’s stepson, Tom Parker Bowles, also offers toad in the hole, saying it was one school meal ”I actually found edible”, but spares us a picture. He gets the prize for the recipe with the weirdest name: ”A simple dish for bachelors and widowers to impress their guests”. The meal’s main ingredient, chicken, is the same as his mum’s classic recipe, although the future king’s Camilla chops off ”that dangly bit” above the cavity and puts it on top of the roast chicken. What dangly bit, I’m left wondering.

Parker Bowles confides his wife threatens to shove the recipe ”where the sun doesn’t beam” if she hears about it one more time. A choice little vignette on royal life.

Meanwhile, Bill Granger publishes Easy – or maybe that’s a tautology. Can his recipes get any easier?

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