Our favourite cookbooks for your favourite cook
Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver all feature in our 2017 top-10
Great British Bake Off: Nadiya Hussain’s cheese scones with chive butter caused a sensation when aired on the TV show that accompanied her book
First things first. There is no such thing as the top 10 cookbooks of 2017, because that choice will be different for every reader. Here, then, are just 10 of the cookbooks that I have enjoyed reading, and cooking from, over the past 12 months.
5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food
By Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, £26)
I was prepared to hate this book, but instead I found myself full of admiration. Flatbreads made in minutes with only flour, yogurt, olive oil and salt drew me in, and comforting sausage bake became a weekly go-to recipe. Sure, a few bottles and jars are involved, but that’s okay, isn’t it? It’s beautifully designed, too, in an entirely fresh and powerful way.
Must cook So-easy fish curry. Like so many recipes in this book, it amounts to so much more than the sum of its five parts.
Fearless Food: A Guide to Culinary Courage
By Lynda Booth (DCS Publishing, €29.99)
The cookery tutor Lynda Booth’s second book contains the best line I’ve ever read in an acknowledgment: “My husband Richard . . . has always been a fearless cook. With the help of this book, his food can become a little less terrifying.” Adding half a pint of milk to Booth’s ragu sounded a little terrifying to me – until I tried it.
Must cook Beef and pork ragu tagliatelle.
The Christmas Chronicles
By Nigel Slater (4th Estate, £26)
A well-written diary is a compelling read, and Slater is a master of the craft. His paean to winter, and Christmas, the jewel in the season’s crown, will make you reminisce, and smile, and cook. It is a mixture of essays, recipes and unexpected confidences.
Must cook On this date in 2016, December 16th, Slater was cooking pickled rhubarb and salmon. Well, it would be rude not to . . .
Cook Well, Eat Well
By Rory O’Connell (Gill Books, €24.99)
Three-course meals, arranged seasonally, are the backbone of this second book from the Ballymaloe Cookery School tutor and TV cooking show presenter. Balance is everything when it comes to composing a menu, and there are some clever, considered examples here, as well as highly original recipes.
Must cook Celeriac fritters with pears, walnuts, radicchio and capers.
The Modern Cook’s Year
By Anna Jones (4th Estate, £26)
This is a big book, in every sense, running to almost 500 pages and containing more than 250 “vibrant vegetable recipes”. As with the best vegetarian books, the absence of animal protein is not immediately apparent; it’s just one delicious-sounding recipe after another.
Must cook Roast celeriac, fennel, clementine and almond aioli.
At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking
By Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £26)
For her latest book the queen of British food writing simply threw the rule book out of the window. There are no defining themes, no neatly delineated groupings of ingredients, and no chapters whatsoever in this one. And it is a joy to read, and to cook from.
Must cook Herbed leg of lamb. Irish lamb is great, but slather it in this green, garlicky paste and it is sensational.
By Sabrina Ghayour (Mitchell Beazley, £20)
Sabrina Ghayour is a greedy, generous cook – the best kind – and her love of good food and great friends to share it with come together in this joyous book. There are recipe suggestions for feasts for every occasion, from quick fixes for when you’re put on the spot to special occasions when you have time to lavish on it.
Must cook Spiced rhubarb and almond cake. A clever, and surprising, cake with a twist.
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ebury Press, £27)
You’ll need no baking, dessert and confectionery book other than this beauty, a compendium of 110 sweet things to eat. It’s a clever mixture of simple, satisfying bakes and puddings, and more complex creations. The Ottolenghi team’s recipe-testing rigour is peerless, so you can be confident of a good outcome every time.
Must cook Middle Eastern millionaire’s shortbread. A quirky take on the classic, with halva and tahini caramel.
Nadiya’s British Food Adventure
By Nadiya Hussain (Michael Joseph, £20)
For her winning smile, down-to-earth approach and calm forbearance in the face of vile racist rants, Nadiya Hussain has won many new fans this year. The 2015 Great British Bake Off winner criss-crossed Britain in search of recipes that reflect its diversity.
Must cook Cheese scones with chive butter. These caused a bit of a sensation when aired on the TV show that accompanied the book. Yes, they are that good.
Chai, Chaat & Chutney
By Chetna Makan (Mitchell Beazley, £20)
This one’s subtitle – A Street Food Journey Through India – perfectly encapsulates it. Chetna Makan returns to the country of her birth in search of the tastiest morsels of food to be found on street corners, in railway stations and at markets across the subcontinent.
Must cook Egg chops. An Indian version of the Scotch egg, popular in Kolkata.