If you’re a keen cook, or know someone who is, then this is the time of year that online or local bookshops positively overflow with cookery and food-related books.
Here’s a short list of some my new and old favourites as a suggestion for readers who may be looking around for book-buying inspiration. All links are to the U.K Amazon site, however they are available on Amazon.com too, or you can find them through a local bookstore if you prefer to support them!
This is one of my favourites for French-style cooking for two reasons, Clothilde Dusoulier’s chatty and relaxed writing style and the way she combines flavours. The book mostly concentrates on traditional French cooking (Pistou, Steak Tartare, Pain d’Epice, etc.,) but it also excels at pointing you at dishes you may never have thought of trying; the eponymous chocolate and zucchini/courgette cake for one.
Favourites for me are a wonderful club sandwich; it’s layered with tuna or mackerel, cream cheese, rocket/arugula and a spicy tomato confit. Then there’s the best savoury short pastry recipe I’ve ever tasted (it got me into quiche, which was never something I particularly enjoyed) and a delicious and incredibly more-ish pistachio pesto which is great with pasta, as a spread on baguette or as a filling for stuffed tomatoes. A lovely book to read and to cook from with lots of photos, tips on wine matching for recipes and how to pick French cheeses for a dinner party platter.
This cookbook was given to me as a Christmas present last year. I’ve used this so much! As the main focus is on home-cooked, cucina povera, recipes, I find it amazingly good; the simpleness of the recipes is matched only by the concentration of the flavour from the use of relatively few ingredients. Fans of regional cooking may disagree on the exact authenticity of some recipes, but if you’re more interested in eating food than food history this is indispensable.
It was Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe that inspired Mr Other Half to try making beef carpaccio for the first time at home (and most excellent it is too), along with other lovely dishes such as a simple summer pasta of raw cherry tomatoes, peppers and basil, a fantastic ragú and a surprisingly refreshing garlic soup. Great for beginners to Italian cooking and for those looking for recipes that are economical to cook.
A photographer writing a book with recipe contributions from leading chefs and a theme based around a Jules Verne novel? This could sound all a little aspirational and arty but it is one of the loveliest cookery books I have. As expected from the leading food photographer; the book is full of beautiful images of food and mood setting. For those of us that like to have an image to match, there is no skimping here, every recipe has its own. David Loftus knows his food extremely well and in his own recipes, from family and travels, he has the kind of casual but knowledgeable writing style that makes me wish he’d put down the camera a bit more often to write about cooking.
The contributions range from household names to talented cooks you may never have come across before (I love that it includes an Alexis Soyer recipe, who could be considered the model for celebrity chefs in 18th Century). Particular favourites are David Loftus’ simple tip on freezing grapes so that they crunch like little sorbets and his Marinated Feta with Watermelon, Fennel and Mint, Ravinder Bhogal’s Malai Jhinga Poppadoms (miniature poppadoms served with spicy prawns), Jody Vassallo’s Green Tea Noodles with Tofu and Sybil Kapoor’s Sweet Spiced Beef with Green Beans.
Have a delicious Christmas and New Year!