Although I’ve been immersed in study, there is (somehow!) always time for reading cookbooks. Here are a few recommendations for Christmas.
Cook Simple by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)
I’m a fan of Diana’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons and last year’s Roast Figs, Sugar Snow so I was looking forward to reading Cook Simple and it’s remained on top of the pile ever since. Here you’ll find brilliant ideas for dinners, and plenty of them, with influences from Sweden, Sicily, Turkey and Georgia. Divided into chapters based around easily available core ingredients – pasta, fish, sausages, leg of lamb – with seasonal vegetables and fruit in their own sections, Diana gives lots of recipes and ideas to make mealtimes easier. Must Make: Roast Squash, Feta and Black Olive Salad.
Food From Friends edited by Kate Fraser for the Matthew Fraser Motor Neuron Charitable Trust
When I lived in Christchurch, NZ, I would always pick up The Press every Thursday for Zest, Kate Fraser’s weekly food section. When her son was diagnosed with Motor Neuron disease, the Matthew Fraser Motor Neuron Charitable Trust was set up and this book of recipes is a fundraiser to help provide for his care needs. Charitable cookbooks are only worth picking up if they actually have decent recipes; with contributors ranging from Paris-based American food writer Patricia Wells and European Peasant Cookery author Elizabeth Luard to homegrown writers like Ray McVinnie, Fiona Smith, Peter Gordon and Lois Daish this is not a problem with Food From Friends. Great recipes – and a good cause. Food from Friends is available here. Must Make: Roasted Vegetable Flatbread Pizza
The Creators: Individuals of Irish Food by Dianne Curtin (Atrium)
Fifteen producers are featured in Dianne Curtin’s The Creators, a wonderful picture of the artisan food available throughout Cork city and county. Profiles of people like organic beef farmer (and the woman behind our favourite Brown Envelope Seeds) Madeline McKeever, chocolatier Eve St Ledger and fisherman Cornie Bohane are all followed by Dianne’s own recipes, chosen to make the most of that producer’s ingredient. As well as the chocolate, cheese, beef, poultry, vegetables and fish featured here, Dianne includes a directory of other producers so that readers have the chance to discover even more local delicacies. Must Make: Carrot and Gin Soup (with Cork Dry Gin!)
Wild Garlic, Gooseberries… and Me by Denis Cotter (Collins)
Denis Cotter’s third cookbook is an enthusiastic insight into his creative process and the symbiotic partnership he has with the growers who provide the local produce that he uses in Café Paradiso. This is a journey through stories about and recipes for vegetables both familiar – cabbages, kale, watercress – and the more unusual varieties, like oca or yams, salsify and scorzonera. Wild Garlic… is a book to whet the appetite and stimulate the brain. Must Make: Damson Membrillo
Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini (Phaidon)
A tempting role call of recipes that includes six different types of scone, five soups, four variations on pancakes and a substantial selection of sweet and savoury tarts, cakes, biscuits and tray bakes. Must Make: Brownie Cheesecake
Time to Eat by Gary Rhodes (Penguin)
I’ve never been a fan of Mr Rhodes but Time to Eat is great. Organised according to the amount time that you have, from No Time to Cook to Cooking for Pleasure – When Time Doesn’t Matter, there are plenty of simple and tasty ideas to try out. The pictures of beautifully plated food were also surprisingly useful when I was trying to concentrate on presentation for school, could have done without all the photos of Gary in his tight white t-shirt, though! Must Make: Fiery Mushrooms on Toast