You can always rely on Lonely Planet’s recipe books to come up with an eclectic mixture of the familiar and the exotic, an individual selection of dishes from every continent. The latest title – The World’s Best Bowl Food – is no exception. It includes 100 recipes, sweet and savoury, plain and spicy, from all around the world.

World's Best Bowl Food
The World’s Best Bowl Food, a new title from Lonely Planet

But what is bowl food? Put simply, it is food that can be served in a single bowl. But, essentially, it is a meal that is easy to serve and to eat – “foods that go to the heart of a cuisine, and recall home, or childhood, or tradition”. Home cooking rather than gourmet dishes. Comfort food, if you like.

Risi e bisi
The classic Italian risi e bisi, one of 100 recipes in the book

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Using The World’s Best Bowl Foods as a Cookbook

The book has many national favourites, like macaroni and cheese from the US and poutine from Canada. And there are traditional ways of using leftovers, such as Dublin Coddle or Polish bigos. It is arranged in six sections – including breakfast bowls, soups and desserts – with a recipe for each entry. Recipes are graded according to difficulty: some are very quick and easy to prepare, others less so. (Bowl food doesn’t necessarily mean just one pan!)

Dublin Coddle
Dublin Coddle is a traditional way of using up leftovers

If you don’t live in a large city, you may find some of the ingredients hard to obtain, but the glossary at the end suggests alternatives for many items. And vegetarians and vegans may find this book over-meaty. However, there are a few meat-free recipes, and others that could be adapted as necessary.

Egyptian kushari is made with rice, lentils and pasta

Using Lonely Planet’s Bowl Foods for Inspiration

Even if you don’t make the recipes you can use this book for inspiration. Read it for ideas on what to eat when you travel, or just for daydreaming about distant places. Each entry has a note on origins and history, so that the original recipe for Turkish manti “travelled down the Silk Road from Central Asia”, or “the roots of fish head curry can be traced back to the early days of nautical migration”. And did you know that lentils were a staple ingredient during the Bronze Age or that Cock-a-Leekie soup featured on the Titanic’s lunch menu on the day it sank…

Each entry comes with tasting notes and a brief history

And there are tasting notes to whet your appetite. Whether you are trying a dish at home or abroad, it is helpful to know the degree of spiciness or the traditional accompaniments.

Ezogelin Corbasi
This Turkish dish of Ezogelin Corbasi is simple but tasty

But the ultimate proof of a cookbook is in the eating, and I’m happy to report that I’ve enjoyed all the recipes that I’ve tried from The World’s Best Bowl Foods.

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