This is a little earlier than last year’s Books for Cooks at Christmas recommendations, just to give extra time for anyone planning their gift buying in advance!
I’ve been cutting back on buying new books for my recipe collection recently, so this year’s top choices are down two recommendations, an old favourite and a new one. The links are for Amazon U.K but they are also available via Amazon.com or you can support your local bookstore by ordering through them if you prefer.
1. Full of Flavour by Maria Elia
This is a new book to my cookery collection this year and I love it. Full of Flavour is an excellent buy for a more experienced home cook who is looking to experiment with flavours but not quite sure where to start.
With the subtitle being; ‘Create… how to think like a chef’ it definitely delivers on how some fairly straightforward flavours of meats, fish, vegetables, spices and herbs can combine to create surprisingly new and fresh tasting dishes.
Not only does the layout include clear photos, there are also mind maps in hand-drawn style illustrations heading each chapter with snippets of information and flavour combinations to think about, as well as having blank pages at the back of the book to write in your own modifications and changes to the recipes. A useful and handy feature for me instead of scrabbling around for a notebook and having loose pages stuffed in the back of the book as an appendix.
The recipes themselves are broken down into a different than usual categorisation with sweet and savoury dishes appearing in the same chapters defined by main ingredient; Birds, Pork, Lamb, Beef, Game, Oily Fish, White Fish, Seafood, Grains and Pulses, Roots, Aubergines, Greens, Dairy, Berries, Stone Fruit, Apples & Pears, Citrus Fruit and Chocolate.
Some of my personal favourite recipes that I’ve tried include: Asian Braised Brisket of Beef, Spiced Pork Belly with Fennel Pureé and a Fennel and Tomato Salad and Masala Chai Rice Pudding.
There are plenty of good, well-flavoured home cooking recipes; lamb meatballs with peas and tomato, fresh grilled sardines with tomatoes and butter beans on toast and a chicken and barley broth, amongst others. I’ll be cooking from this for years to come.
2. Delia Smith’s Christmas
Not so much a book to give at Christmas as one to have a month before. There’s a reason this hasn’t been out of print in over twenty-one years; Delia Smith’s recipes for Christmas are a traditionalist’s approach to English cooking, but there is still enough variation here to satisfy nearly every taste with chapters on Christmas Cakes, Turkey, Geese and Hams, Christmas Puddings and Mincemeat, Preserves, Pickles and Chutneys, Canapés and Nibbles, Vegetarian, Ducks, Geese and Game, Roasted Meats and Cold Cuts, Winter Vegetable Dishes and Salads, Christmas Desserts and Chocolates, along with a cooking planner for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, using leftovers to make dinners and lunches, freezer-friendly recipes to plan in advance, all of which range through just about every type of Christmas-related dish you could need.
This would be the book I’d give someone if they asked; “What type of things do you cook for Christmas?” and wanted to try making a family meal for the first time. Delia’s common sense, unfussy and practical approach to cooking is a world away from fashionable fusion food, but it consistently explains all the basics and gives the home cook exactly what they need to know about creating delicious feasts for a family table on Christmas Day or a Boxing Day buffet for friends.
As the picture shows, my own copy is well-thumbed after being in use for a long time and I do cook from this every year. Favourite recipes are: Sausage Rolls (I’d have a rebellion on my hands if I didn’t make these at Christmas), Mulled Wine, Quick Cheese, Sage and Onion Bread, Roast Sirloin of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding, Brussels Sprouts in Riesling with Bacon, Parmesan Baked Parsnips, Salt-crusted Mini Baked Potatoes with Cold Chive Hollandaise and Fig Ice Cream.
This book will last a good long time yet!