Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cookery books for Christmas

Here is a list of cookery/food books that I have enjoyed this year. But first of all, before you read another word: Buy My Book! Subtle eh? But apparently I'm not the only person that thinks you should do this. Bee Wilson of The Sunday Times has mentioned my book in her list of the best cookbooks of the year.  And so did Helena, the editor of Sainsburys magazine in their Christmas edition. So ha!
Well, what are you waiting for ? Go forth and spend!

My picks below are not all new but they are what I've been reading this year.

Ingredient led books:
It's funny, in Britain cookery books in bookshops are filed under chefs/TV personalities ie: Jamie, Nigella, Nigel, Gordon etc whereas in France books tend to be ingredient or dish led. A typical example would be a book entirely on cheesecakes, soufflés or 'mes petites barres de cereales'. (They also love an overload of cute in France).
The Big Red book of Tomatoes by Lindsay Bareham. Lindsay is one of the best recipe writers in Britain. I remember cutting out her recipes from her Evening Standard column. They always worked.
Macarons by Pierre Hermé: master patissier shows you how it's done. I've only tried making macarons once and in an ill-advised spurt of experimentation tried to make 'Indian snuff' flavour macarons. Instant projectile vomiting soon put paid to that idea. I almost got 'feet' though but it seemed to involve all kinds of witchcrafty techniques such as keeping the egg whites for several days before you use them, banging the tray and keeping the oven door ajar with a wooden spoon. I will have another bash soon now I have this book. Wish me luck.
Je veux du chocolat by Trish Deseine.
Reasons for picking this book:
a) Trish is my mate
b) She is one of the best cooks I know
c) I've got a recipe in it
d) All of her books are beautiful.
e) Oh and it'll make you learn French.
Nuff said?
The Mustard Book by Robin Weir and Rosamund Man.
I used this book for research and ideas when doing my Maille mustard meals back in July. Teaches you how to make your own mustard too.
Yoghurt by Arno der Haroutunian.
A reissued classic tome on yoghurt. Yoghurt soup. Don't knock it till you tried it.Yum.
Pies by Angela Boggiano. Pies are deffo due a revival. The Hairy Bikers have done a book on them. This is a beautiful photographed step by step guide. Who ate all of them? You will.
Cheese by Andrea Dolby. Published as part of an 'edible series' by the award winning independent publisher Reaktion books, these are scholarly histories of different ingredients such as pies, spices, pancakes or milk.

Big sellers: some of those big selling books are very good, have tons of budget for photography and styling and are not all simplistic crapola meant for brain dead TV watchers.
Leon 2 by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent. I loved the first book and this one. In fact I've loved it so much I keep giving them away and now I don't have any copies. Gorgeous vibrant design, great tips and recipes, a lovely gift.
Jamie's Great Britain by Jamie Oliver. What can I say? This book is gorgeous, interesting, inspiring. In fact I mistakenly 'libelled' Jamie recently. I said at a talk 'You don't think he writes them do you?' because that is what I had heard. But actually I must apologize: I've since been told by inside sources that he is meticulous about every recipe, every idea. He is very hands on. Soz Jamie. But it is hard to believe that he can micro manage everything he does to such a very high standard.

Chef's books:
Easy by Tom Aikens. Nobody likes Tom Aikens, except perhaps TV producers. 'Why do you have him on your shows so much?' I asked one. 'Because he's one of the few pro chefs who is not ugly' came the reply. Anyway this book works. Tasty and yes easy, recipes and apparently he actually wrote them.
Formulas for Flavour by John Campbell. Here you go, a proper chef's book recommended by Heston. He teaches you how to cook restaurant quality food and how to plate it...very simply.
Modernist cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold. If I could just have one book this year, this would be it. Six volumes, 2,500 pages, it comes with it's own see thru ('modern' geddit?) bookshelf. It also costs over £300. It tells you everything from how to make caviar from soup to how to use a pressure cooker. Brilliant.
For the love of food by Denis Cotter. Didn't like the look of this book when I got it. Tried a few of the recipes and they work beautifully. An important resource for vegetarians.
Bought Borrowed Stolen by Allegra McEvedy. Consistently interesting but down to earth chef. Chatty warm book. Looks good too.
Everyday and Sunday by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter. Brilliant workable unique recipes. Tried loads of them and they are all good. This isn't a glam, splashy book. It's quite cheaply produced and hasn't got many pictures but you know what, you should get it. Really. (Even tho she doesn't follow me back on Twitter. Beeatch).
Chez Bruce by Bruce Poole. Nicked this book off my publishers. Ho hum, I thought, looks a bit boring, a bit old school. But then I got hooked. This is a book for people who are really into cooking. Good classic French cookery.

Restaurant books:
Balthazar by Keith McNally, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr. McNally is a legend among restaurateurs; he's one of those guys that's done a bit of everything before owning a restaurant. He's directed a film, lived in France, really lived. I've heard Russell Norman (Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino etc) go on about him and Stevie Parle (The Dock Kitchen) get excited over Twitter that McNally has visited his restaurant. The restaurateurs' restaurateur.

The competition:
The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adorée. It pains me to say it, cos she has clearly, shall we say, taken quite a few leaves out of my book, but this tome from Dragon's Den applicant is gorgeous. Beautifully designed, photographed and illustrated with original recipes. Along with mine, the most visually stunning cookbook of the year. Buy 'em as a pair?

A history of English food by Clarissa Dickson Wright. Ah, Clarissa harks back to the halycon days before models and soap actresses became TV chefs and the idea of a woman who actually bloody eats what she cooks was not so preposterous. Working my way through it. It stops too early, is maybe a little dated, for  I would like to have known what she thinks of cooking après Gordon Ramsay and Delia. But the history is captivating and entertaining whilst being easy to understand.

American books: always good to look across the pond, they are usually ten years ahead of us:

Salted by Mark Bitterman. I went to his store in New York in January. Hundreds of kinds of salt. Great book too with fabulous ideas (cooking on salt blocks) and recipes.
In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters. The influential force behind sustainable food in America, creator of Chez Panisse restaurant has accumulated a series of slow food cooking techniques such as pickling, roasting, fermenting and fileting with brief portraits of DIY food suppliers and chefs. Includes our own bedroom-eyed London chef Ollie Rowe formerly of Konstam, the brave but now defunct Kings Cross restaurant that only used food grown within the M25.
Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa and H.Alexander Talbot. All my chef friends are buying this book. No pix, just ideas. Josh of Blanch & Shock told me: "These guys are changing how I think about food. Their pre-soak technique for risotto is miraculous. Why didn't anybody think of it before?" A very interesting but clearly written, not too technical, book for serious food geeks.
Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. Ruhlman is one of America's foremost food writers. In this book he eschews recipes and talks ratios. Almost every recipe can be reduced to ratio: "Isn't it easier just to remember 1-2-3? That's the ratio of ingredients that always make a basic, delicious cookie dough: 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour." It's just the proportions that change. It comes with a handy little wheel which I've lost. It's also one way of combating the age-old difficulty of the grams (Europe) vs cups (US) recipe problem. (Those who own and know how to use a scale and those who don't).

Bloggers books:  this is the age of the blogger. It remains to be seen whether they gain the sales. The bottom line is... if you aren't on telly it's really hard to get the big sellers. Why do you think I keep begging you to buy my book? And publishers are becoming more risk averse what with the recession ect. It's a shame because there really is a ton of talent out there in the blogosphere.

Scandicilious by Signe Johansen. Sig is one of the most interesting cooks I know and she's got the chops having trained at Leiths, in Japan and with The Fat Duck. Her first book is plain and understated design-wise, no doubt because the publishers were trying to do that whole pale designery Scandinavian thing. But the recipes work and are interesting. She's one to watch. She'll probably be on telly soon as she's good looking too. Makes you sick doesn't it?
Comfort and Spice by Niamh Shields. Niamh is a powerhouse in terms of UK food blogs (Eat Like a Girl) and her first book is well photographed and beautifully done. I constantly hear great things about her recipes, how easy they are and how well they work. I'm sure this won't be her only book.
On a stick by Matt Armendariz. Better known as US food blogger 'Matt Bites', this book is a little bit silly, everything, including spaghetti, is served on a stick but I liked it. Inspired, I'm even going to do a meal in the spring where each dish is served on a stick. Details coming....
Perfect by Felicity Cloake (although she's not really a blogger in the true sense). I don't actually have this book yet. But I've been following Felicity's articles in The Guardian and she performs an extremely useful service by testing techniques from different chefs and food writers and telling us which works best. (She even uses one of mine, an 'outrageous' recipe for Mac and Cheese.)

Travel cookery books:
Tasting India by Christine Manfield. Boasting a gorgeous yellow silk cover, this coffee table sized volume of travel photographs plus authentic Indian recipes is possibly hard to use in the kitchen due to it's sheer unwieldiness. Love the recipes though, really unusual. Will definitely be using this book but may have to photocopy the recipes so as not to ruin the cover.
Tapas by Elizabeth Luard. Useful little volume by award winning cookery writer Elizabeth Luard.
The Camper Van cookbook by Martin Dorey and Sarah Randall. I really really want a VW camper van. In fact any camper van. This has fun light recipes and great tricks. It's an armchair travel cookbook for people without camper vans. People like me, sob.


  1. Hugh @ foodforthirst1 December 2011 at 11:00

    Ah!... Le Gâteau Au Chocolat Indémoulable De Jean François! - yes, upper case is deserved, I'm already melting on my seat.

    I absolutely adore Je veux du chocolat by Trish Deseine! Bought it originally for a chocoholic friend and had to get a copy for myself the next minute.

    I'm curious to know which recipe is your contribution. I'll make sure to take a look at your book as well.

    Thanks for your articles. Hopefully I'll be posting mine in the near future.

  2. Hi Hugh,
    Mine is the white chocolate fondant cake...

  3. The chocolat indemoulable is my favourite........

  4. Is this our set reading list for 2012?

    Must actually get round to Ideas in Food in depth rather than browsing. The John Campbell book will be a good one - he's pretty intense. A whole book just for macca-roonies? Never have got round to making those. Yes - ratio - been meaning to get that too. Seemed to have lost your book at Bestival - must have been getting a recipe out of it & it floated away. Have to dig out last years Christmas vouchers.....

  5. Aw sorry James, I'll give you one next time I see you. I think a bunch of books got took at Bestival.


  6. Lovely list and very flattered to be included - thanks for the kind words.


  7. Thаnks foг finalⅼy talking about >"Cookery books for Christmas" <Loved it!

  8. Keep this going please, great job!


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