Top 15 Cookbooks for Fall : From Venice to Sri Lanka

If like me, you haven’t accepted the end of summer and would like to carry a sunny note through fall, there are several means to achieve it. For instance, scents can help but so can flavors. One of the reasons I love cooking is that it allows me to blend two of my passions–and savor the results. This fall, cooking is even more exciting because 2017 has been a year with many excellent cookbook releases. I had difficulty picking just a couple, so I decided to show you my favorite 15 books, from which I’ve cooked already and which I recommend wholeheartedly. They will satisfy your hunger as well as your wanderlust.

Europe

Veneto: Recipes from an Italian Country Kitchen by Valeria Necchio

Venice is on the well-trodden tourist trail, but its food and that of its region isn’t. This is a shame, because Venetian dishes blend a full spectrum of flavors and ingredients like polenta, pine nuts, rosemary, raisins, shellfish, white wine, and saffron. Veneto is Valeria Necchio’s debut cookbook, and it’s exquisite. I don’t mean the photographs and styling, beautiful though they are. The recipes are the only thing I’m interested in. For a taste of real Venetian cooking, I suggest trying fried marinated pumpkin with onion, pine nuts and raisins, prawn and Prosecco risotto, stir-fried beans with basil and garlic, and ricotta pudding cake.

Sabor: Flavours from a Spanish Kitchen by Nieves Barragán Mohacho

Nieves Barragán Mohacho, the chef at the famed Barrafina restaurant in London, showcases the kind of Spanish and Basque recipes that I could eat every day–grilled vegetables, fish in herbal sauces, rice with seafood and sausages with caramelized onions. Some recipes are complicated in so far as they require ingredients that might be hard to obtain outside a big city, but her flavor pairings are inspiring. Also, if you love organ meats, the book contains plenty of delicious ways to cook these overlooked cuts. Must try: whole brill (any flatfish will do) with garlic sauce, pork belly with mojo verde, potato, ham and tarragon salad. Do try mojo verde on grilled pork chops or chicken. It’s addictive.

Dalmatia: Recipes from Croatia’s Mediterranean Coast by Ino Kuvacic

Croatia is a small country with big history and more borders with other nations than one can contemplate. (If you’re curious, they include Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina and a maritime border with Italy.) All of this diversity means a culinary tradition with many different influences, from Slavic to Germanic, from Italian to Turkish. Dalmatia is a great introduction, especially since none of the recipes are difficult, even for a novice cook. Try fish baked with tomato and beans, potato stew with Swiss chard, Dalmatian mushrooms with port. For dessert, I’m torn between Croatian apple cake and rožata, a custard pudding similar to flan. Ino Kuvacic makes it with maraschino liqueur, but to stay true to the rose-inspired name, I use rose liqueur or rose water.

Oklava: Recipes from a Turkish-Cypriot Kitchen by Selin Kiazim

“The food of Cyprus is all about island cooking; it’s simply what is grown on the land,” writes Selin Kiazim in the introduction to her recipes. Cyprus is home to Greek and Turkish communities, and Kiazim, whose roots are in Cyprus, focuses on the food of her childhood. She explained that Turkish-Cypriot cooking has bright flavors, with numerous Mediterranean influences, and her recipes showcase it well. I recommend trying chili-garlic glazed chicken, fried fish with pickled apricots, and semolina cake perfumed with rose and lemon.

Mexico

Mexican Ice Cream: Beloved Recipes and Stories by Fany Gerson

Who could resist quince sorbet or coffee-cajeta ice cream with Mexican chocolate? What about chocolate-chilli ice cream that leaves a pleasant burn even as it cools the palate? The recipes in this collection range from simple, like watermelon sorbet spiked with serrano chillis, to decadent like mole ice cream that includes more than a dozen ingredients. Be sure to try walnut ice cream with pomegranate and hibiscus-cherry compote. Both are delicious and a breeze to make.

Middle East

Syria: Recipes from Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi

When it comes to nuance, sophistication and diversity, few cuisines can compare to Syrian. The prolonged war has claimed many victims, not least of which has been the cultural heritage, so it’s heartening to see books focusing on Syrian cooking in the fall lineup. This particular volume is a general overview that gives a good introduction to classical dishes like Kibbeh Labaniyeh (Kibben in Yogurt Sauce), Kebab al Karaz (Cherry Kebab, which is really a stew of lamb meatballs and sour cherries), and Sfouf (Semolina Cake). I enjoyed so many recipes from this book that I don’t know where to start lest I list the whole glossary. Do try Aisha Khanoum, Lady Aisha, a charmingly named white bean and lamb stew, fish in tahini, roasted cauliflower wrap, and aniseed biscuits.

Cherry Kebab from “The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria”

The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria by Marlene Matar

If I said that few cuisines can compare to Syrian when it comes to nuance, sophistication and diversity, then few towns in Syria have a grander culinary heritage than Aleppo. This book is a gem, and if I had to pair down my pile to only one, the Aleppo Cookbook would be it. I love that it covers all types of Aleppian cooking, from simple day-to-day meals to feast preparations, that it explains how to combine ingredients to achieve the distinctive flavors that makes this city’s food so renowned, and finally, that it guides with a gentle and assuring voice. For an Aleppian menu, I would make red lentil and lemon soup, grilled kebabs with eggplant, olive salad with pomegranate molasses, parsley omelets, and saffron rice pudding. Matar’s version of the classical Cherry Kebab is also excellent. Then, I would include Sit Geleila, which means “Respected Lady”, a salad of pickled turnips, onions and cumin dressed with olive oil.

Indian Subcontinent

Chai, Chaat & Chutney : A Street Journey Through India by Chetna Makan

Chai, Chaat & Chutney is a fun, vibrant collection of Indian street food favorites. Chetna Makan includes recipes for falooda milk shake from Mumbai, lemon rice from Chennai, egg curry from Kolkata, and even dabeli, a type of vegetarian sandwich, from Gujarat.  Clear instructions and plenty of inspiring ideas.

Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal

The most common Indian style of cooking in restaurants is Northern, with its pulaos, tandoori chicken, gulab jamun and the rest. However, the south of India has its own distinctive cuisine inflected with the heat of chilies, the smokiness of mustard seeds, and the brightness of curry leaves. This is the focus of Vibrant India. I liked Karnataka coconut curry with carrots and cauliflower, steamed semolina cakes and yellow lentils with tomato and ginger. Agrawal’s recipes are adapted to modern, healthier eating, so keep this in mind if you’re looking for a book on traditional South Indian fare (for that I’d recommend Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan). However, I liked her approach and light touch. Shredded carrot and lentil salad (pictured on the cover) is a must-try.

The Food & Cooking of Pakistan: Traditional Dishes from the Home Kitchen by Shehzad Husain

When I reviewed Sumayya Husain’s Summers Under the Tamarind Tree, I expressed a wish for more Pakistani cookbooks. This fall I found not only one, but two. As an introduction to regional food, The Food & Cooking of Pakistan by Shehzad Husain is my ideal cookbook. First, it includes plenty of photographs not just of artfully plated food but also of the preparation process. Second, it explains ingredients, techniques and menus. Third, the recipes are excellent. I’ve made okra with tomatoes, slow-cooked lamb stew, and Lahori fried fish at least three times over the summer. I also loved her lamb chops spiced with ginger, garlic and garam masala, tandoori shrimp, and chicken with chickpeas.

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice: Sweet Inspiration from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea by Sumayya Husain

This year, the author of Summers Under the Tamarind Tree, has published a book celebrating sweets from Pakistan (with a few forays into Afghani and Iranian pastry shops). The recipes include classics like semolina halva and jalebis as well as modern interpretations like apple cardamom pudding and pomegranate jelly. My recommendation is Kashmiri phirin, a silky pudding made with ground rice and flavored with saffron and cardamom. Buckwheat porridge with cardamom and stewed apricots, a modern adaptation inspired by traditional flavors, makes a delectable autumnal breakfast.

Chicken curry from “Sri Lanka The Cookbook”

Sri Lanka The Cookbook by Prakash K Sivanatham and Niranjala M Ellawala

Here is another cuisine from the Indian subcontinent that could benefit from more exposure. Flavored with coconut, pandan and dried fish, Sri Lankan food tastes vivid and bright, but there is also a dark, smoky undercurrent to many dishes that I find irresistible. For instance, try koli kari, chicken curry on page 197. Dal and spinach curry, pork curry, and chicken biryani were my other favorites. Don’t miss morr, a spiced yogurt drink accented with lime juice, onion and green chilli.

Southeast Asia

The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen

I’ve never thought of making pho at home until I moved to Brussels. For all of the culinary discoveries the Belgian capital has to offer, good Vietnamese food is not one of them. Cooking through Andrea Nguyen’s book, however, I realized that making pho is possible at home and that it’s immensely satisfying. Besides the traditional beef version, Nguyen includes several variations, classical and modern. I made Classical Chicken Pho a few times as well as Seafood Pho. Also recommended is Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.

Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy

From my short time in Myanmar, its food remains the highlight. The dishes had the heartiness I associate with Indian cooking (thick stews and curries) but the flavors were bright, fresh and like nothing I’d tried previously. This book allowed me to recreate some of them by cooking egg and okra curry, pork and pumpkin stew, tomato shrimp relish with raw vegetables, spicy eggplant and green mango salad.

Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu

This is not a cookbook to reach for when you have to cook a meal after a busy day. (For that, I’d recommend Leela Punyaratabandhu’s other book, Simple Thai Food). Instead, Bangkok allows you to recreate the traditional flavors of Thai cooking in all of their dizzying complexity. I save it for weekends, when I can spend a few hours making rice in jasmine-scented water with accompaniments, braised spareribs in salted soybean sauce, or grilled sweet sticky rice with banana filling. Yes, the recipes are complicated and require a certain level of confidence in the kitchen, but Leela Punyaratabandhu is a great teacher, and the results are worth the effort.

If you’ve counted my pile, you must have noticed that I omitted the top three books. It’s a deliberate oversight, because I already prepared an article with reviews and a menu idea for a Georgian feast. Please stay tuned.

What are your favorite cookbooks? What are you cooking these days? 

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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54 Comments

  • Elisa: That chicken curry looks so good!

    I was in a cooking rut for most of the summer, lazily making the same things over and over, but looking through recipes always inspires me to get more creative. I think I also enjoy cooking more when it gets darker and cooler at night. September 13, 2017 at 9:28am Reply

    • Victoria: When I returned from Ukraine, I had a craving for Indian food, and that’s when I found that Sri Lankan cookbook. The curry gets better the next day, so it makes sense to make a big portion. September 13, 2017 at 10:41am Reply

      • Mona: What a great collection of books!
        I love curries and will really enjoy the Indian and Pakistani cookbooks.
        You are a super resource.
        Thank you September 13, 2017 at 3:21pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve been enjoying cooking from them very much. September 14, 2017 at 9:21am Reply

          • Mona: I received a follow up email from your site. Not very readable. A bunch of links (uri)
            I thought you should know.

            Mona September 14, 2017 at 11:43am Reply

  • AndreaR: Thank you for a your wonderful list of cookbooks. I love to” travel” reading recipes from around the world.
    We’re ready to transition from our favorite summer dishes to something a bit more hearty. A favorite is Ottolenghi’s Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Lemon, although I use fingerling potatoes instead of the Jerusalem artichokes. This is an easy and delicious dish and smell divine as it roasts. September 13, 2017 at 10:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Ottolenghi’s recipes, and all that I’ve tried were great. But I also use them as a starting point for my own creations. September 13, 2017 at 10:42am Reply

  • Filomena: I love cook books and a nice collection of them, although I rarely ever follow a recipe. I am take an ingredient from a recipe and it to my own creation, but that’s about it. The only time I follow a recipe is if I make a cake or other baked goods. However, since I have lived alone for over 17 years now, these days I rarely cook just for myself. September 13, 2017 at 10:38am Reply

    • Victoria: If I cook a traditional dish, I usually follow the recipe to the letter to see how it’s supposed to turn out. Later I might change it to my tastes or my cooking equipment. It’s fun to experiment. September 13, 2017 at 10:44am Reply

  • Jillie: Spooky – the house is filled with the aroma of a shoulder of lamb that’s been in the oven for five hours! I marinaded it overnight in a mix of yoghurt and rose harissa spices and it still has another hour to go; with the windy autumn weather we’ve had this week this seemed like an ideal comfort dish. I love spices and now you’ve given me more ideas for books to buy.

    I am also yearning after the rose and lemon semolina cake in Oklava; my brother-in-law is Cypriot and makes a plain lemon version, but rose is of course even more appealing to me! September 13, 2017 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: You can add rose water to your brother-in-law’s recipe. It does taste great with lemon.

      Your dinner sounds amazing. September 14, 2017 at 9:11am Reply

      • Jillie: Our dinner was very nice, thank you! Served it with chickpeas and courgettes.

        I see below you will be talking about recipes for eggplants – can’t wait as these are one of my all-time favourite vegetables, and they are so versatile. September 14, 2017 at 10:23am Reply

        • Victoria: Will try to put it together soon. September 14, 2017 at 12:08pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Spoiled for choices! My cupboard with cookery books is full: for each new book, one old one must go. What a dilemma! As I’ve just returned from Greece, I might just settle for the Cypriot recommendation … September 13, 2017 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I couldn’t imagine making such a Sophie’s choice. 🙂

      Yes, that Cypriot cookbook has plenty of great recipes. September 14, 2017 at 9:16am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: Too true. But it’s not quite so tragic as your reference as the outgoing book goes into a big box in the attic 😅 However, without a strict policy, things would quickly get out of hand. Which, by the by, should also be true — at least in theory! — for new perfume purchases … September 14, 2017 at 10:10am Reply

        • Victoria: I follow this policy on most things, but not on cookbooks. Which means that things get out of control a lot around here. 🙂 But we eat well. September 14, 2017 at 10:37am Reply

  • Robert Herrmann: Some of those sound amazing, but I’m gonna keep my eyes open for the Indian street food book. This fall I’m really looking forward to David Lebovitz’s new Paris memoir/cookbook, he is an amazing baker, trained at Chez Panisse and a wonderful writer. I read his blog religiously.

    Also pre-ordered the new cookbook of northern Thai street & bar food from the owner/chef of Pok Pok in Portland and NYC. September 13, 2017 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m curious about that cookbook too. Thai street food is in a league of its own. September 14, 2017 at 9:17am Reply

    • Carla: Thanks for this I enjoyed Lebovitz’s Sweet Life in Paris September 17, 2017 at 4:45pm Reply

  • Severine: Trying to master Chicken Kiev without the butter running out all the time!!! I don’t purchase cookbooks as there are so many recipes online. However, I did stumble upon a little treasure called “Sunday Roasts,” which is all about making an occasion out of mundane cooking! I love your eclectic cookbook collection! September 13, 2017 at 2:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: The trick is to seal all of the seams with the egg and breadcrumbs and make sure butter is frozen well before you fry it. Good luck! It tastes good, even if the butter escapes. 🙂 September 14, 2017 at 9:20am Reply

  • maja: Oh, wow, what a choice! I haven’t bought any new cookbooks recently but I did open the ones I own all summer trying to find yet another recipe with eggplants (they were so abundant this year in our vegetable patch, and, yes, my son hated me :D). Sweet and sour eggplants with mint were our favourite.
    I would love the Pakistan food cookbooks, they sound lovely. September 13, 2017 at 3:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: I could live on eggplants. In fact, I have a few recipes that I’ve been meaning to publish. September 14, 2017 at 9:21am Reply

      • Severine: Please do! I love eggplants! September 14, 2017 at 4:56pm Reply

  • Lillian: Thank you Victoria for this wonderful article. I generally get recipes from magazines and online, but this list has really inspired me. I will definitely be ordering the Venetian cookbook. My favorite cookbook contains over 600 regional recipes from all over Italy – and it’s in Italian so I improve my language skills as I cook.
    By the way I’m also interested in trying my hand at Persian cuisine. I know there are several book out there, but is there one you would recommend above the others? September 13, 2017 at 3:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you read Italian and are interested in Venetian cooking, I highly recommend Giampiero Rorato’s La Grande Cucina Veneziana. He also has I Dolci delle Venezie focusing just on desserts.

      Persian cookbooks are many, but I still think that Batmanglij’s The Food of Life is the best. It has all of the classics, with variations, and lots of explanations. I know that many like Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour, but it’s more of a modern cookbook, with simpler, more paired down recipes. September 14, 2017 at 9:34am Reply

      • Lillian: Many thanks Victoria. These are going on my “to buy” list. September 14, 2017 at 9:44am Reply

        • Victoria: Please let me know how you like them!

          I also loved Greg Malouf’s Saraban, for his take on the Persian classics. September 14, 2017 at 10:35am Reply

  • bregje: I’ve had little time to cook lately and have been rotating different salades all summer.
    I just wanted to let you know that i’m in total denial of the end of summer! i keep hoping for a couple more warm/hot days to sit on my balcony and enjoy my oleanders.
    But it does seem to get colder so maybe i’ll soon have time to try one of those cookbooks.
    Definitely interested in the Veneto one and i love thai food. September 13, 2017 at 4:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you like Thai food, I also recommend the Youtube channel called Hot Thai Kitchen. Pai is fun and is a good teacher. September 14, 2017 at 9:39am Reply

      • bregje: thanks for the tip! September 14, 2017 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Becky: I am lucky enough to live on an island with several different cuisines. Half the population is of Indian descent so your picture of curried chicken made me immediately hungry. We also have persons of African, Chinese, and Syrian Lebanese descent. So naturally food is my hobby. My favorite cookbook is local. It’s the Naparima Cookbook. It’s written by the alumni of a local school all with years of experience in the kitchen. It’s available online. I may have to order an Ottolenghi book, so many people mention it. Enjoy your autumn. We will be heading into our summer come December. Salad. Yes. September 14, 2017 at 12:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I looked it up and found a delicious-sounding recipes for Black Cake. I might have to try it. September 14, 2017 at 9:41am Reply

    • bregje: i looked the cookbook up online and the recipes look yummy 🙂 September 14, 2017 at 4:46pm Reply

  • Becky K.: Your list makes me want to reach for my international cookbooks again! This summer, they have remained on the shelf, because my sweetie is a born and bred southerner from the United States, and he likes his fried chicken with gravy, stewed okra, and mashed potatoes. I am still learning how to cook some of his southern favorites, so I rely on a local cookbook from 1983. However, your list has reminded me of the joy of exploring other cuisines! September 14, 2017 at 8:48am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely an easy way to satisfy one’s wanderlust. Plus, discovering new combination is always so much fun. September 14, 2017 at 9:42am Reply

  • Eudora: Hello Victoria and (mostly) ladies, I found this NYT article in today’s digital paper: Why Stinky Socks May Bother Women More Than Men.
    Have a great one. September 14, 2017 at 11:10am Reply

  • Andy: These books all sound too good to choose between. I completely missed the Fany Gerson book release, and though I don’t have an ice cream maker, I have loved all her books and adore the paletas she sells enough to warrant a look anyway. Though I haven’t had a lot of time for very involved cooking lately, the books Chai, Chaat, & Chutney and Vibrant India sound like they might yield some particularly practical, quick kitchen comforts. In any case, I can always use a cooking “vacation” to whisk me away around the world in the space of an hour or two. September 14, 2017 at 12:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also don’t have an ice cream maker, but I still tried her recipes and they worked out well with my no-machine method. The result won’t be as smooth, of course, but it’s still delicious. I love all of her books. September 17, 2017 at 9:29am Reply

  • Lila: I am always on the lookout for a good Indian cookbook and these look amazing. Dalmatia looks tempting as well. Croatian is not a cuisine we get much of here so I should just take matters into my own hands! Right now I’m crushing on a fusion cookbook called My Two Souths by Asha Gomez. It blends Indian cuisine with American regional southern food (green cardamom etouffee, anyone?). My favorite ice cream brand is Jeni’s and her (Jeni Bretton Bauer) book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream At Home is my go-to ice cream source (Savannah Buttermint, Toasted Rice w/ Coconut and Black Tea and the Basil w/ Honeyed Pine Nut Bark recipes are a few of my favorites). The base for the ice cream is a bit different than the typical but it yields a very creamy, easy to dip result. Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours has a recipe for every single type of flour ever known, such as a Cardamom and Saffron Rice Chiffon cake (and I put a rose whipped cream on it). Anyway as you can see, I loved this post. September 14, 2017 at 1:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your cake sounds heavenly. I want to be invited to your house for tea. 🙂 September 17, 2017 at 9:30am Reply

  • Maria-Anna: These look wonderful and I am very much looking forward to the post on your top three. I had a leaf through the Kaukasis one in the bookshop today and it sparked all sorts of nostalgia. My grandmother lives near that area, and versions of many of those dishes were everyday part of my childhood.

    On a slightly different note, I also saw something called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Perhaps not the most appealing title, but it looked fun and the way it broke down cooking to its simplest mechanics somehow appealed to me. It had wonderful ingredient ‘maps’ too, for instance listing all the different oils used around the world. I was very tempted and might need to go back for it. I haven’t been cooking anything very exciting lately, but this post has certainly ignited a longing for culinary adventure! September 14, 2017 at 2:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also love books like that, so I will look up Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Have you read any of Harold McGee’s books? He’s great at explaining the science of food and he made me a better cook. September 17, 2017 at 9:31am Reply

      • Carla: Yes! Keys to Good Cooking is useful September 17, 2017 at 4:43pm Reply

        • Victoria: My favorite is On Food and Cooking. September 18, 2017 at 2:27am Reply

      • Maria-Anna: Thank you for that recommendation! I haven’t read any of his work, so I will look out for it. In a similar vein, have you seen Cooked (a Netflix show)? It uses the Four Elements to look at the cultural significance of food. I still can’t shake the memory of a nun discussing cheese as a meditation on mortality. Also really interesting on the impacts of the mass-production of food! September 19, 2017 at 9:07am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, I’m going to look it up. September 19, 2017 at 2:04pm Reply

  • Carla: I’m so boring compared to this. I’m getting the new Martha Stewart Slow Cooker cookbook from the library because we have a crock pot in our temporary apartment (just moved) and I’ve never owned a crock pot! I do love my subscription to Elle a Table as well. September 17, 2017 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Slow cookers have become very popular around here, and I see lots of books cropping up to show how to cook with them. Have you tried anything already? September 18, 2017 at 2:26am Reply

      • Carla: There was a brief article in March/April’s Elle a Table about the “Mijoteuse électrique”. I recommend the free Elle a Table app you can find the article there. I made the chicken recipe featured but added some water for more liquid. That first crock pot experience reminded me that if you can it’s best to prep dinner in the morning when you’re not tired. The problem is it fills our small temporary apartment with admittedly delicious smells but I don’t like my bedroom to smell of food. That’s when the Dans l’Atelier de Cezane candle is useful! September 18, 2017 at 11:40am Reply

        • Victoria: Ah, yes, I know what you mean. A small air purifier also works well. September 19, 2017 at 1:15pm Reply

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