Friday, 18 November 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas 2016: food books

The art of the cheese plate by Tia Keenan (Rizzoli)
In this game-changing book by New York cheese chef Tia Keenan, cheese is paired with potato crisps, goats' cheese with matcha marshmallows, blue cheese with smoked chocolate chips, baked Camembert enrobed in Greek kataifi (a shredded pastry). It gives recipes for crazy chutneys, and explores the state of American artisanal cheese making. This is not the cliché ridden rusticity of usual cheese tomes. Inspiring and visually stunning.

Seven steps to happiness by Stella Newman (Headline)
Not a cookbook but a novel in the spirit of Nora Ephron's Heartburn. North London author Stella Newman, has written her fourth tale about love and food. Whizz through this witty and intricately researched insider's look at the food world. Intelligent chicklit with an appetite.

The Edible City by John Rensten (Boxtree)
Londoner John Rensten hosts foraging walks around the city. This small book, perfect for slipping into a bag, is a diary and illustrated guide of what to look for on walks and how to cook with those finds throughout the year. November calls for Hawthorn relish and pickled chanterelles, while cockspur berries went into a jelly on Boxing Day. Perfect present for a dad or a foodie.

Pride and Pudding by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch)
Possibly this year's most beautiful book. It was written, styled and photographed by Belgian blogger Regula, whose maternal tongue is Flemish, and designed and illustrated by her husband Bruno Vergauwen. Regula is in love with British food and culture and there are both savoury and sweet 'pudding' recipes. Mums, sisters and grandmas will love it.
Josh, better known as Guyrope Gourmet, is an expert on camping food. In this slim volume, he explores the history of hunger in Britain, from food riots and cod wars to today's food banks. For the serious foodie or activist.
To my mind, the most important book of this year is by Louise Gray, former environment correspondent for the Telegraph. For a period of 2 years, she was determined to only eat meat or fish from an animal she had killed herself. This is a brave, intimate, visceral and heart-wrenching account of what it means to take a life. It opens up essential questions on the ethics and provenance of the food we eat. It's also a lively read - not a turgid do-gooder exercise. 
Beautifully written tales and illustrations from award-winning veteran food writer Elisabeth Luard. Each chapter recounts a foodie journey from forest (Maine), island (Crete), river (Danube) or desert (Gujurat). You can dip in and out or gobble down the whole thing in one go. 
The fifth book from one of my favourite food writers, the owner of Persian corner shop 'Persepolis' in Peckham, flame-haired Sally Butcher. The recipes are creative and easy, even humorous (chip stew!). The tone is irreverent but practical with nuggets of cultural information from the fertile crescent. 
Felicity, with her Guardian 'How to make the perfect...' column, is one of the most useful food writers around, a reference point for the rest of us. Here, she gets to be more creative and delve into her favourite ingredients. I also love the illustrations.
Fuschia Dunlop went to China to train as a chef, learning fluent Chinese and how to expertly wield a cleaver along the way. This book explores a lesser known Chinese cuisine, more subtle and seasonal than Cantonese or Sichuanese. Jiangnan is the titular 'land of fish and rice', which includes the coastal province around Shanghai, rivers and lakes. I've tried some of the recipes in this book, and they all work.
I don't usually hold with reality show contestants but Chetna Makan, a graduate of The Great British Bake Off, has talent if this gorgeously photographed, richly styled cookbook is anything to go by. She creates a fusion of British traditional baking and Indian spices. I want to bake it all.
American food writer Young has been researching pizza for years to create this thick encyclopedic volume with a cover reminiscent of a pizza box. He calls in help and essays from pizza chefs, pizza journalists (yes, they exist) and pizza people from around the world.
Former teacher Monika Linton kick-started the tapas movement in the UK with Brindisa, a shop that provided authentic Spanish food, and, later, several restaurants. This book, five years in the making, has fascinating in-depth explanations of key Spanish ingredients and fantastic recipes.

Miso Tasty by Bonnie Chung (Pavillion)
Miso is one of my favourite ingredients in both sweet and savoury dishes, acting as instant 'umami' deliciousness. Bonnie has written 60 recipes, from the simple sweet white miso grilled aubergine that some might recognise from Japanese restaurants to a miso cheese toastie. She takes you through all the different types of miso from rice to barley, from white to red. For the adventurous cook.
As a chilli-head, I love this informative little book, which arranges chillies in order of Scoville ratings, from sweet and mild to super hot. Good stocking filler or dad present.
A reissued paperback classic by American journalist John McPhee, this is an absorbing reportage on the orange business. This ranges from interviews with orchard owners to the history of the fruit, its journey to America and how concentrate overtook fresh. This may sound dull but McPhee obtains sparkling quotes from his interviewees, such as 'the sex life of citrus is something fantastic'. Instead of a satsuma in the toe of the stocking, pop in this book. 


  1. Thanks for including Pride and Pudding in your round-up! Funny you say Mums, sisters and grandmas will love it, since I notice the book is actually very popular with men! I mean, cooking over fire, sausage and haggis making, blood, intestines, bone marrow, and all that ;-) I like it, but then I've always been a bit boyish! Definitely one to look up from 2016 is Harry's 'Carneval', very nice book about meat and also giving plenty to read about animal husbandry and how to eat meat in a more responsible way.

    1. I suppose I meant it was so pretty that it would be a beautiful gift. But yes men would love all that stuff too! Fantastic book Regula xxx

  2. Some great and different recommendations here Kerstin, thanks! x

  3. Elisabeth Luard's book is on my wish list this Christmas. I adore her books. I have to admit I have a weekness for an illustrated cookbook. Elinor x

  4. These are FANTASTIC and are going to make great end of year gifts for my kids. Thank you for sharing

    birthday gift


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