Book it cook it
The words “triple-tested” are just what you want to read on the front of a baking book, to give you the confidence to tackle the temptations within. There are cakes and sweet treats for every occasion here, 200 of them in total, with the emphasis on classics, rather than novelties.
Signature dish: Original Victoria sponge cake
The Food of Spain: A Celebration by Claudia Roden (Penguin Michael Joseph, £25)
Five years in the making, this encyclopaedic doorstopper retains a lightness of touch that prevents it becoming too worthy. Historical, cultural and regional contexts are explored in detail before you ever get to a recipe, which makes for a more informed cook. But if you do skip straight to the cooking, you’ll still get enough background to keep you on the right track. Fabulous photographs and gorgeous illustrations will make you imagine the heat of the sun on your back.
Signature dish: Hake in green sauce
Polpo. A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts) by Russell Norman (Bloomsbury, £25) Definitely the design classic of 2012, with its concertina spine that allows it to lie completely flat when open. The author’s London restaurant empire may be expanding, and broadening its scope, but there’s a feeling, in these pages, that the Venetian small-plates style of eating that is at the heart of Polpo is his favourite. His devotion is such that he had an octopus tattooed onto his back.
Signature dish: Spicy pork and fennel polpette
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury, £27)
Exotic, exciting, engrossing . . . there are lots of reasons to buy this beautiful collection of recipes that reflects the rich tapestry of Jerusalem’s culinary heritage. With Ottolenghi’s German/Italian Jewish roots and Tamimi’s Palestinian Muslim origins, this was always going to be a diverse exploration of the city’s cuisine. Half-remembered flavours of childhood, family favourites, and new ideas from the talented duo sit happily together on these pages. Signature dish: Chermoula aubergine with bulgar and yoghurt
The Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, £30)
A great big read to be dipped into repeatedly, or devoured in one long, greedy session. Slater polarises opinion on TV, but in print, he’s peerless. There’s an undertone of austerity in this volume that suits the times we’re in. Cheaper cuts of meat, pulses, grains and beans are treated in ways that make them things of beauty; leftovers outperform their origins and there’s a recurring homage to the not so simple sandwich.
Signature dish: Nigel’s chocolate muscovado banana cake