Marie-Claire Digby’s top ten food books of the year

It’s been a great year for cookery books, with Irish publishing houses in particular having a strong showing. Here are 10 of the titles that got us cooking, and talking, in 2013

Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 03:00

food booksChapter One: An Irish Food Story, by Ross Lewis (Gill & MacMillan, €39.99). It’s been a bumper, bar-raising year for Irish cookbook publishing. But this one that stands out for lots of reasons including its sky-high production values, with expert input from project manager Ross Golden Bannon and recipe editor Orla Broderick, and wonderful photography by Barry McCall. It could have been just another coffee table collection of pretty plates of food, but Ross Lewis generously shares the pages with the staff and food suppliers that are part of his restaurant’s story, and it’s all the better for it. Happy 21st birthday, Chapter One.

Signature dish: Dublin Bay prawn, smoked bacon and basil spring roll with red pepper escabeche puree.

Food booksThe Irish Beef Book, by Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness (Gill & MacMillan, €22.99. This collaboration between a butcher and a food writer will do more to restore confidence in Irish beef, and get more of us buying and cooking it, than any other initiative. There are plenty of classics like beef Wellington, bourguignon and stroganoff, and lots of unusual ones too, like slow-cooked pulled chipotle brisket and oxtail and truffle pizza.

Signature dish: Braised beef with five spice, ginger and Highbank Apple Syrup.

Food booksFrom Lynda’s Table, by Lynda Booth (DCS Publishing, €24.99). The author says she “likes a cookbook with plenty of reading”, and there’s plenty to get stuck into in this her first book. Booth is the proprietor of the Dublin Cookery School, but her approach in this book is anything but teacherly; it’s much more fun than that and you’ll learn plenty along the way.

Signature dish: Robert de Niro’s chocolate hazelnut cake (the one she cooked for de Niro and Sean Penn).

Food booksSimon Hopkinson Cooks, by Simon Hopkinson (Ebury, £25). The premise is simple: 12 complete menus for occasions varying from a celebratory dinner that ends on an indulgent note with custard pancakes with rum, to a continental supper, featuring the best and only paella recipe you’ll ever need.

Signature dish: Roast duck stuffed with potato, spring onions and sage.

food booksMy Vietnamese Kitchen, by Uyen Luu (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99). Luu, who runs a Vietnamese supper club out of her East London apartment and teaches classes in her kitchen, has taught Jamie Oliver and Raymond Blanc how she makes her pho and summer rolls. Insights into Vietnamese culture and dining habits make this an interesting read.

Signature dish: Raw fish and chips. Not as odd as it sounds – the tuna is marinated in soy sauce, ginger, orange juice and wasabi.

Food booksMark Hix: The Collection, by Mark Hix (Quadrille, £25). A “best of” compilation from Hix’s two decades as a champion of British regional cooking. Exceptionally strong on game, as you’d expect, but with a lighter hand too, seen in some interesting salads and soups.

Signature dish: Pot-roast Gloucestershire old spot pork loin with scrumpy.


Food booksPâtisserie At Home, by Will Torrent (Ryland, Peters & Small, £19.99). One for the competent baker with no fear of the glossy, high maintenance Sachertorte or the technically challenging Gâteau Saint-Honoré. Quite a few recipes begin with the words “start the recipe before you want to serve the cake”. But the instructions are precise and the photographs promise glorious results.

Signature dish: Tarte au citron.

Food booksWhat Katie Ate, by Katie Quinn Davies (HarperCollins, £25). Dublin-born, Sydney-based, food photographer, stylist and writer Quinn Davies was an internet sensation before putting pen and camera to paper in this collection of recipes informed by her cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Signature dish: Barbecued ginger ale pork ribs.


Food booksMaster It, by Rory O’Connell (4th Estate, £25). Another bible of techniques, methods and skills, this time from one of the Ballymaloe Cookery School’s most popular tutors, who brings patience and clarity to his recipes and instructions in these pages. Like its author, this is not a flashy volume, but it is hugely comprehensive, and the writer’s integrity shines from the pages.

Signature dish: Grilled chicken with summer marjoram and lemon and roasted almond sauce.

Food booksLevant: Recipes and Memories from the Middle East, by Anissa Helou (HarperCollins, £20). A book on Middle Eastern food that doesn’t have a single photograph – how could that be? Sadly Jason Lowe lost all the images he had shot for this book as a result of a burglary. This makes it all the more admirable that the author’s evocative prose and intriguing recipes, gathered from home cooks and chefs, are enough on their own to make this a compelling read.

Signature dish: Stuffed courgettes and aubergines.

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