I may be filling up my Kindle with vintage Georgette Heyer and the Game of Thrones series, but I am still collecting cookery books like there’s no tomorrow. In the same way that I am starting to find reading newspapers online unsatisfactory, I don’t want to read cookbooks online either.
That’s because whilst the internets are fab for finding specific articles, instructions or recipes, I find I miss so much by cherry picking exactly what I want. The joy of both newspapers and cookery books is seeing things you didn’t know you were interested in: that feature that grabs your attention on the way to your favourite columnist, or unexpected flavour combination you never knew to look for.
So here’s some of the books about food I’ve bought & been sent this year – and which rather neatly fill different book present requirements:
The Modern Pantry Cookbook Anna Hansen
Oh this book, I love. Anna Hansen’s restaurant in Clerkenwell is wonderful, the best representation of modern cooking with influences and inspirations from all over the world, all mixed up into fresh, seasonal, delicious food. The cooking isn’t clever for its own good, it’s just a reflection of the way we live – and eat – now. The book’s clean, restrained design looks cool & collected, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that restraint is in the recipes, which are all about extraordinary flavours.
Leon: Baking & Puddings, Book 3: Claire Ptak & Henry Dimbleby
This is not your average baking book. If you want classic baking standards, buy Delia’s Book of Cakes. If you want clever, modern baking, lots of gluten-, sugar- and dairy- free recipes, or have ever wondered how to use agave syrup, then this is the book for you, all wrapped up in a fabulous design, which draws you into the world of Leon. (Claire Ptak is the former pastry chef at Chez Panisse and now the chef-proprietor of Violet Cakes in London.)
Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes & Knives from a Travelling Chef: Allegra McEvedy
When I lived in Notting Hill (very short-lived), I ate brunch most weekends at The Good Cook at The Tabernacle, a local community centre on my street, where McEvedy was cooking scrumptious, simple everyday food. Soon after, she moved to open her own (now shuttered) restaurant, and my breakfasts were no more. Most recently, she is best known for working with Henry Dimbleby to launch Leon and for her work on the first Leon cookbook. This, her fourth book, reflects her eclectic cooking career, and is based around her travels in twenty countries. It’s a scrapbook, a travel journal, a book of memories through food. One over which to linger longer in bed or by the fire, and stick Post-Its in for future cooking sessions.
Ginger Pig Meat Book by Tim Wilson & Fran Warde
I think every bookshelf needs a proper manual for each cookery sector, and I really don’t think you can do better than this for all your meat-y needs. Focusing on more than just recipes, it looks at provenance and seasonality too. I particularly love the farm diaries, ramming home the point that good meat should come with a history and a backstory that is more than a manure-filled, antibiotic-ridden, corn-stuffed feedlot.
The Good Table: Adventures in and around my kitchen Valentine Warner
I was already in America when Valentine Warner first appeared on UK television, and I missed the hype. This is the first book of his I’ve read. (I’ve yet to catch one of his TV programmes.) This is what I would call an excellent basic cookbook, filled with lots of delicious, classic recipes like kedgeree or coq au vin. There is absolutely nothing complicated here: it’s the perfect book for someone who can master Jamie Oliver, but wants something a bit more adult – pigeon pie perhaps, and is scared by going off-piste. (It would be wasted on anyone cooking for a family everyday (hello osso bucco) or who doesn’t need a cookbook to cook – like me.)
The Good Table: Adventures in and around my kitchen
Good for someone taking the training wheels off in their kitchen
Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes & Knives from a Traveling Chef
Good for anyone who adores proper food & a good read
Leon: Baking & Puddings, Book 3
Good for people with children, with a sweet tooth, & those with food intolerances
The Modern Pantry Cookbook
Good for adventurous cooks, & for your stylish best friend
Ginger Pig Meat Book – Good for your boyfriend, and anyone who wants to know HOW