Celebrity chef cookbooks

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Time Out reviews the best celebrity recipe books to give you culinary inspiration

The Modern Vegetarian: Food Adventures for the Contemporary Palate

Maria Elia, Kylie Cathie, £16.99

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Author Maria Elia is currently head chef at Joe's Restaurant, and before that made her name as chef at the Delfina Studio Café in Bermondsey and the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room in east London. She’s known for her creative, flavour-packed cooking style that pulls together gutsy flavours and ingredients from around the world. This book is a further expression of this vein, drawing on influences from Thailand, Italy, Japan, North Africa, India, Greece and elsewhere.

Elia’s not afraid of a bit of culinary miscegenation, and that’s evident in recipes for watermelon curry with black beans and paneer, or miso-marinated kataifi-wrapped aubergines. The full title of the book pretty much sums it up: this is adventurous stuff, far removed from the usual clichés that are still too frequently served up as ‘the vegetarian option’ in restaurants.

Recipes such as blue cheese cheesecake with sticky figs, and tomato, feta, almond and date baklava had us wondering of Elia sometimes goes a flavour too far. Other recipes though, such as chestnut pasta ‘rags’ with brussels sprouts and wild mushrooms, almost had us wishing for autumn so we could get stuck in.

Though it doesn’t make a big fuss about seasonality, this is an excellent book for making the most of seasonal produce such as artichokes, aubergines and plums. There are a few cheffy indulgences (such as ‘textures of peas’ and ‘textures of beetroot’ – trios of dishes meant to be served as an ensemble), and the book demands a well-stocked larder. But if you’re looking for new and unusual vegetarian recipes to add to your repertoire, this book does the trick. The hyper-real colours of Jonathan Gregson’s photography make the food look suitably luscious.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2034: August 13-19 2009

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