Cookery Books

My mother had two cookery books, Constance Spry and an old battered book full of Norwegian staples given to her by her mother in law.

Back in the 1970’s cookery books were few and cooks plentiful; nowadays the reverse is true. Even the least used kitchen today boast’s a dazzling array of tomes with instructions on everything from ancient Aztec diets, (dust off that ‘Keenwaaah’), to how to eat like a Sicilian. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions then in Britain there’s a generation of us already crisp roasted, devouring tomes devoted to creating marvellous meals while turning take-away and pre-cooked meals into a national staple.


Ironically in our house my husband, who hasn’t willingly opened a cookery book in twenty years does most of the cooking, while I sit around drooling over the pictures! What greater pleasure than dipping chocolate biscuits into a cup of tea while reading recipes for healthy living. Like scented candles you can’t go wrong with a cookery book as a gift and this Christmas the choice is positive dazzling.

My native Scandinavian cuisine has certainly had a renaissance, we lived there in the sixties. Cook Scandinavian by Camilla Plum is full of ingenious possibilities from the relatively few basic ingredients available in the frozen north. If you like salmon, dill, asparagus and fancy a Christmas Ham Roast Scandi style with mustard, this is for you.

My favourite challenge at Christmas is stringing out the leftovers until the fridge is bare. This year there will be a few additions to my staples thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s, Love Your Leftovers. Though I’m not sure a written recipe for Eggy Bread is strictly necessary, even for total novices!

Union Flapjacks and Fried Egg Cakes abound in Frances Quinn’s playful Quintessential Baking, where basic bakery coupled with imaginative decorations will definitely be a wow with younger eaters, and bakers.

I hope my mother–in–law isn’t reading this, as James Martin’s Sweet will definitely be in her Christmas stocking. As a fan of his manly approach to baking she’ll love this new compilation of some of his most beautiful concoctions.

The Hairy Bikers deliver a bible for carnivores with Meat Feasts, featuring more ways to dress a beast than you every thought possible. It definitely won’t be on Stella McCartney’s Christmas List.

Jamie Oliver continues his crusade to get us to eat better with some handy recipes for 5/2 dieters and anyone wanting to turn basic sustenance into ‘Every Day Super food’.   At 100 calories a portion, who could resist ‘Cucumber stuffed with lovely things’?

I know we’re all meant to be experts but there’s something delightfully reassuring about Annie Bell’s How To Cook – a basic manual for everything from Spag Bol to Tex Mex Fajita’s. Even teenagers might lift a finger to feed themselves with this simple engaging guide.

Pop up chef Jimmy Garcia offers us Social Eats – Food to Impress Your Mates With, a comprehensive guide to party bites and comfort food for the day after. Perfectly themed for the bon viveur during the festivities ahead.

I’d struggle to get through a winter without Nigel Slater’s help, losing myself in his seductive prose is almost as much of a treat as eating his delicious recipes-and now with A Year of Good Eating we can snuggle up with him all year round!

The perfect challenge for friends whose home-cooking exceeds the culinary limits of we mere mortals, Nopi, from Ottolengi maestro Yotam, comes with a warning declaring the content as restaurant grade but his gastronomic glories look well worth the extra effort.

I’m not sure there’s any health conscious foodie without a copy of Deliciously Ella but if you’re that person, pick it up as a present to yourself. Good food, imaginative ingredients and the faintest hope of looking half as good as it’s author are some of the incentives.