Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Eleanor Ford. Apollo, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-948062-80-0

As a youngster, British food writer Ford (Samarkand) often travelled to Indonesia with her architect father, and here she builds upon her childhood memories in a spirited and flavorful roundup of 100 recipes culled from Java, Sumatra, and elsewhere within the world’s largest archipelago. Dishes are geared around the Indonesian dining practice of having four or five small plates, along with rice, served at room temperature. The heat, instead, comes from the spices, and more often than not from a spice paste called bumbu. Beef rendang, for example, employs a bumbu composed of eight flavorings, including ginger and Asian shallots, to enhance brisket simmered in coconut milk. Indeed, the creaminess of coconut milk is a constant in fiery fare such as scallops gulai and a vegetable curry called olah olah. A section titled “Awakening the Senses” features seven different sambals (chilli paste condiments), ranging from an intense red chilli version to a strawberry variation that pairs well with fish. And to cool the palate, a chocolate and lemongrass ice cream from Bali is featured among the dessert offerings. Those who like it hot will want to dive into this fascinating collection. (Nov.)