The best foodie books of 2011

 

FOOD FILE:Baking and vegetarian cooking are the hot topics in food publishing this year, and the books are more lavish than ever before

River Cottage Veg Every Day

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £25)

This is one of those really well-written vegetarian books where you don’t notice there’s no meat or fish involved; just appetising, interesting things to eat. Vegetarian friends are enthusing about this one like it’s the Roast Chicken and Other Storiesof their times. Whether it has the universal appeal of Simon Hopkinson’s classic (voted most useful cookery book of all time by readers of Waitrose Food Illustrated)remains to be seen, but it’s certainly bringing animal-free cooking mainstream. Signature dish:Sweet potato and peanut gratin

For the Love of Food: Vegetarian Recipes from the Heart

Denis Cotter (Collins, £20)

The Guardiannewspaper has described Denis Cotter as “the best vegetarian chef in the British Isles”. His previous books have been critically acclaimed, but perhaps not much cooked from, however he nails it for the home cook with this one. “The day came when I realised that perhaps a book of nice things to eat would be of more use than an addition to the growing list of serious food tomes,” he says. And what very nice things indeed he offers us. A stylish production, from its glorious cover to the Chartreuse green inside cover flaps, this is probably my favourite food book of the year. Signature dish:Blue cheese and walnut ravioli with maple-glazed shallots

Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury

Bea Vo (Ryland Peters Small, £16.99)

This gloriously photographed and styled book by the American-born pastry chef behind a small chain of chic patisseries in London is a gem. Bea Vo has a degree in science and technology from Cornell University – the perfect training for the exactitudes of baking. The styling and artistic team at Ryland Peters Small are the best in the business, but someone still has to take a good photo to make the food look good, and in this case Kate Whitaker excels herself. Signature dish:Espresso Bourbon cake with mocha buttercream

Supper Club: Recipes and Notes from the Underground Restaurant

Kerstin Rodgers (Collins, £25)

If London is the epicentre of the supper club movement, Kilburn resident Kerstin Rodgers is the creative force that unleashed this new way of dining. Her blog, MsMarmiteLover, enthrals her followers with stories of the trials and tribulations of inviting strangers into her home for dinner at her Underground Restaurant, which opened its doors in January 2009 and has spawned thousands of imitators. Theme nights are her forte, and her recipe collection is as eclectic as her active imagination. If you’ve ever been tempted to roll back the carpet, hire a few tables and chairs and show the world what you can cook, read this first. Signature dish :Stargazy pie

The Good Table

Valentine Warner (Mitchell Beazley, £25)

When Valentine Warner came to the attention of Pat Llewellyn of Optomen Television, small-screen success followed, and along with it two series tie-in books. The Good Tableis something different, a from-the-heart declaration of Warner’s life on a plate. He’s a posh boy, and a lover of the countryside, and he’s also very well travelled. His fatherwas UK ambassador to Laos and Japan, and having lived in exotic places as a child, he has embraced adventure and diversity in the kitchen as an adult. One for the boys, perhaps. Signature dish:Tandoori partridge

Bought, Borrowed Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Travelling Chef

Allegra McEvedy (Conran Octopus, £25)

McEvedy, co-founder of the Leon chain of good fast food restaurants, has already written several very sound recipe books, but here she gets to tell the stories that fuelled her fascination with food, and it’s a compelling read. As clever a literary device as you could imagine, the knives referred to in the title chart her progress through life, and many kitchens. Of course she bought many of them, but she might also have borrowed and stolen a few along the way. A great read that is food memoir, travelogue and personal recipe collection rolled up into a delicious package. Signature dish: Slow cooked lamb, chilli stock and melted onions

Comfort Spice: Recipes for Modern Living

Niamh Shields (Quadrille, £14.99)

Another successful blogger’s first book, published by Quadrille as part of the excellent New Voices in Food series, this is an eclectic reflection of Shields’s childhood in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and the cosmopolitan melting pot of London, where she now lives. It is an inspiring and refreshing read. Waterford blaas with home-made butter will seem exotic to some, while crumbed aubergine fritters with pomegranate and tahini will speak to others. It’s about spicy, earthy, gutsy food cooked with love, and shared with friends. Signature dish:Chicken and chorizo pie

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season at el Bulli

Lisa Abend (Simon Schuster, £8.99, paperback)

Lisa Abend, Timemagazine’s correspondent in Spain, spent the 2009 season as a behind-the-scenes observer in El Bulli, the most talked about restaurant in the world. She paints a vivid picture of a kitchen where eating and talking were both forbidden, and where world-class chefs came to be broken down and rebuilt, in the El Bulli way. The most intriguing stories Abend shares are those of the chefs themselves, as diverse and extraordinary a bunch of people as you could imagine.

The Silver Spoon

Phaidon (£29.95)

This definitive Italian cookery reference source has had a make-over and been re-released with a festive red cover, 400 new photographs by Edward Park, and – beginning on page 1,342 – a series of menus and recipes by 23 chefs including Massimo Bottura, Giorgio Locatelli, Mario Batali and Ruth Rogers. Originally written by cooking experts who collected thousands of regional recipes and published the first edition in 1950, it’s the only Italian cookery book you’ll ever need. Signature dish: Impossible to pick one from a list of 2,000 classic recipes