Ten of the best cookbooks this Christmas
It’s been a bumper year for food publishing, so much so that selecting just 10 books to recommend was a challenge
Marie-Claire Digby at home
Our Korean Kitchen
Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25)
Jordan Bourke’s books are always beautiful – he’s a food stylist as well as a chef and writer – but this collaboration with his Korean wife Rejina stands out also for its rigorous research. It’s a joy to read such authoritative voices on a less well-known cuisine. Must cook: Bibimbap, or rice with vegetable and beef, and gochujang chilli paste.
Festa: A Year of Italian Celebrations
Eileen Dunne Crescenzi (Gill & Macmillan, €24.99) The author’s masterful storytelling makes this one of the most enjoyable cookbooks of the year. One to curl up with in front of a fire, with a glass of vin santo and a cantucci. Must cook: Aubergine Parmigiana. “The best you will ever have eaten,” she says.
Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries III: A Year of Good Eating
Nigel Slater (4th Estate, £30)
This is a smaller book than the big chunky doorstoppers that preceded it, but no less impressive. A handy size to prop up in bed, and with such glorious writing, that’s where many end up savouring it. Who can resist checking what and where Slater was eating on a significant date such as a birthday? Endless amusement. Must cook: Roast pheasant with apple bread sauce. It’s the entry for this day last year, as good a place to start as any.
Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food
Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £26)
Worth buying for the introduction’s masterful rebuttal of “clean-eating” alone, although the recipes are the sort that propel you to the kitchen to cook, too. Flicking through the book, I was compelled to make some pink pickled onions, such was their beauty on the page and the promise of a near instant lift for a lunchtime sandwich 20 minutes later. It’s that sort of book. Must cook: Asian-flavoured short ribs. A two-day process, but worth the wait.
Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite
Gizzi Erskine (Mitchell Beazley, £25)
Stands out amid the sea of healthy-eating books published this year for the simple fact it keeps the joy in food. Erskine follows the 80/20 rule, eating healthily most of the time but allowing indulgences. Must cook: Grilled cauliflower with curried hummus and cashew nut brittle. Kale’s understudy gets star billing this time.
A Bird in the Hand
Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley, £26)
“Chicken recipes for every day and every mood” is what Henry promises, and she delivers in spades. In her hands the humble chicken takes on many guises, from creamy, comforting gratins to aromatic curries heady with spice, smokey barbecues and and tender roasts. The wide world is Henry’s larder, with influences from all over to keep it fresh and interesting. Must cook: Cider-brined chicken with prunes, chestnuts and baby onions. “An excellent Christmas option if you don’t want to cook a turkey.”
Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully (Ebury, £28)
Is there such a thing as a cookbook that’s just too beautiful to use? If there is, it’s this striking cream and black volume embossed with gold. Although this is undoubtedly a restaurant book, Ottolenghi says he has simplified and modified Nopi’s recipes “without losing their essential core”. The real star is co-author Ramael Scully, head chef at Nopi. Born in Malaysia to a mother of Chinese and Indian heritage and a father with a Malay and Irish background, he’s the chef credited with bringing Asian influences to the Ottolenghi canon. Must cook: Spiced buttermilk cod with urid dhal. This has many elements that can be done in advance, and there’s a cunning hack for replacing bergamot oil with olive oil infused with Earl Grey teabags.
Home: Recipes from Ireland
Trish Deseine (Hachette Cuisine, €39.95)
Someone had to write a realistic book about Irish food, rather than a romanticised one, and Deseine was just the person for the job. Homely recipes using only indigenous Irish ingredients, with a sprinkling of more cheffy ones. Beautiful photographs by Deirdre Rooney make a handsome package. Must cook: One-pot beef short ribs braised in Guinness with barley and onions.
AWong – The Cookbook
Andrew Wong (Mitchell Beazley, £25)
Few of us who like to eat Chinese food cook it at home at anything beyond a basic level. Wong’s book takes readers inside the workings of his London restaurant, which strives to “represent Chinese cuisine with a lighter, modern approach”. Must cook: Sichuanese aubergines. The restaurant’s most popular dish.
Michael O’Meara (Artisan House, €30)
Probably the only book you’ll ever need on fish cookery – calling this 440-page volume by a Galway chef comprehensive is an understatement. Many of the recipes have an Asian spin, but all the classics are there too. Must cook: Cod with udon noodles, sea vegetables, beans and green cardamom-infused blood-orange sauce.