My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
Ten Speed Press, £20
This latest book by David Lebovitz offers classic French recipes written from an American-in-Paris point of view.
The former pastry chef at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and author of The Great Chocolate Book and The Perfect Scoop, upped sticks and moved to the other side of the world more than a decade ago. In doing so, he took with him his upstate California food ethos for organic ingredients sourced from local suppliers.
It's a philosophy he says the French are returning to following a series of blows: fast food surpassing traditional cuisine; frozen food's growing popularity; and well-known Paris restaurants being found to be serving pre-packaged food. As such, his outlook and style of cooking are both well-suited to his current environs, where ingredients are bought fresh from the market in a kid-in-a-sweet-shop style.
Lebovitz, a food writer with a very successful blog, offers a lengthy analysis of how differently a recipe will be presented in France compared with his native America. US cookbooks, for example, will feature instructions liberally sprinkled with detailed explanations, but on the other side of the pond, a recipe calling for caramel will most likely simply read "caramelisér une tasse de sucre" (caramelise a cup of sugar), with the expectation that the reader will cook "au pif", or "by the nose", which means to cook by feel or instinct. But with the Lebovitz recipes erring on the side of comprehensive, it's clear which audience the book is aimed at, and it's not the city of its title.
My Paris Kitchen is as much a culinary diary as a recipe book. Lebovitz is incredibly prolific on his website, and that need to share his food experiences is in full swing here. Each dish has a lively and informative introduction, making the book read like a collection of favourite recipes sent from a friend, albeit one who's terribly organised.
With that in mind, you could argue that the food photography is a bit thin on the ground, but Lebovitz has a charming and illustrative writing style and the images that are there are lovely and make up for there being relatively few.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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