Curd Cake with Caramelised Apples by Olia Hercules

Curd Cake

Curd cake with caramelised apples

SERVES 8–10

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g apples, cored and sliced 1 tbsp brown sugar
200g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, separated 1 tsp vanilla extract
500g ricotta or good-quality cottage cheese
120g fine semolina or polenta Pinch of salt

My friend Jan once drunkenly asked me to cook for his dad Anton’s seventieth birthday, which I enthusiastically agreed to (also tipsy). Anton, aka Papa Florek or P Flo, grew up in Derby – his Polish father, Alfredo, had settled there after the war, when he was demobbed from the Carpathian Lancers.

Sernyk, a traditional cheesecake eaten across Poland and Ukraine, was one of Anton’s childhood favourites, something that connected him to his Polish heritage, so I decided that’s what I would make. Struggling to find good-quality cottage cheese the day before, I panicked and bought ricotta, adapting my mum’s original recipe to suit the moister texture of ricotta. Happily, it was a huge success, and this cake is now also one of my son’s favourites. I hope someone will make it for him when he is seventy.

Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the apples and cook for 2–3 minutes on each side until they start to turn golden. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and cook the apples for another minute on each side, then transfer the caramelised apples to a bowl and let them cool slightly.

Preheat your oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a 20cm square or round cake tin with butter. Lay the apples in the base of the cake tin.

If, like me, you left your butter out in the kitchen overnight, but
it was so blooming cold it didn’t soften properly, cut the rest of it into small pieces. Whatever state the butter is in, put it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, along with 150g of the caster sugar, and whisk until it’s looking fairly fluffy. Break the egg yolks with a fork and gradually add them, whisking well, then whisk in the vanilla extract and cheese. Transfer the mixture to another bowl, then fold in the semolina or polenta (the latter will result in a cake with more texture).

Wash and dry your mixer bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly, then put in the egg whites and whisk until they start frothing up. Add the remaining 50g of caster sugar and the salt and keep whisking until you have soft peaks. Now take a large spoonful of the egg white mixture and fold it quite vigorously into the butter and cheese mixture to loosen it up. Add the rest of the egg white mixture and fold in gently. Pour the mixture over the apples in the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is a little wobbly, but not liquid. Remember it will set more firmly as it cools.

Leave the cake in its tin to rest and cool down, then slice and serve. Some unsweetened tea with lemon goes perfectly with this.

Buy this book
Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

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Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Tokhme Banjanromi by by Durkhanai Ayubi

tokhme banjanromi

This recipe is for traditional Afghan-style breakfast eggs, which are cooked in a sauce of onion, tomatoes, and chili, absorbing the complementary flavors. As with most Afghan meals, particularly breakfast, fresh naan breads served on the side are essential. Afghan breakfast spreads also typically include shir chai, a traditional milk tea that, with its dairy base, provides a calorie- and protein-rich start to the day.

My mother recalls having this dish for breakfast during family day trips, such as to Mazar-i-Sharif for the red tulip festival during the spring equinox. It would be made in a beautiful copper karayee, a shallow, heavy-based pan used in Afghan cooking. The karayee would be placed directly over a portable kerosene burner, where the eggs, vegetables, and spices would bubble away. The large karayee was then placed in the middle of the breakfast spread, surrounded by naans and various chais, for everyone to help themselves.

This is an easy dish to scale up, to feed as many guests as you need.

1 cup (250 ml) sunflower oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
1 moderately hot fresh red chili, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro Leaves, to serve
Salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until softened and browned. Add the tomatoes and fresh chili, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened, but are still intact, then mix in 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste.

Break the eggs into a bowl then pour evenly over the tomato and onion mixture in the saucepan. Break up the yolks gently, if that’s how you prefer them, then cover the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook the eggs slowly, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid sticking, for 5-10 minutes for soft, 10-15 minutes for medium-soft, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, the ground red pepper, and cilantro, and serve hot-straight from the pan.

Cook more from this book
Narenj Palaw by Durkhanai Ayubi

Buy this book
Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen
£20, Murdoch Books

Read the review

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Narenj Palaw by Durkhanai Ayubi

narenj palaw image

A delicate and fragrant rice dish topped with a mix of candied citrus peel and nuts, narenj palaw is popular in Afghan cuisine. Like kabuli palaw, it was often reserved for special occasions because of the delicacy of the ingredients and the time taken to prepare them.

In Afghanistan, the citrus peel comes from a fruit called narenj, which is a cross between an orange and a lemon, and more widely known as bitter orange. Here, where narenj isn’t available, it can be substituted with the peel from any orange variety. The peel is blanched to extract any bitterness, and then soaked in syrup with the nuts to create a tangy. sweet, and aesthetically beautiful topping for the palaw.

Serves 4-6

FOR THE PALAW

½ cup (125 ml) sunflower oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
1 lb 2 oz (500 g) diced boneless lamb leg
3 cups (1 lb 5 oz/600 g) sella basmati rice, soaked for 2-3 hours
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

FOR THE TOPPING

3 large navel or other oranges
1¾ cups (11 ½ oz/330 g) white sugar
Heaped 1 tablespoon slivered pistachios
Heaped 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
Salt

The Palaw

To prepare the palaw rice, add the oil and onion to a pressure cooker pan over high heat and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the lamb and stir occasionally for 5 minutes, or until the meat is browned and sealed. Add 4¼ cups (1 liter) hot water and a heaped 1 tablespoon salt, place the lid on the pressure cooker, and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, then carefully release the pressure to remove the lid. Using a slotted spoon, take out the meat (which should be lovely and tender) and set aside. Reserve the stock to flavor the rice.

Bring 10 cups (2.5 liters) water to a boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, drain excess water from the rice, add it to the boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt, and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the rice is parboiled and the grains look like they have doubled in length.

Drain the rice in a colander and return to the pot. Pour the meat stock over the rice, then add the cumin, cardamom, and 1 tablespoon salt to the mix. Using a large, flat slotted spoon, known to Afghans as a kafgeer, mix gently. With the kafgeer, create a well in the center of the rice and place the lamb in the well. Cover the meat with rice and place the lid on the pot. Cook over high heat until steam escapes from under the lid, then reduce the heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes.

The topping

Using a small sharp knife, cut the peel from the oranges in long strips and slice off any white pith. Layer two or three strips of rind on a cutting board and slice them diagonally into thin strips. Repeat until all the peel is cut.

To remove any bitterness in the rind, bring 4¼ cups (1 liter) cold water, ½ teaspoon salt, and the rind to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rind and blanch by boiling for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander. Rinse under cold running water, drain again, and return the rind to the saucepan with another 4¼ cups (1 liter) of cold water and ½ teaspoon salt. Repeat the blanching process three more times, and set the rind aside.

In a small saucepan, stir the sugar into 1½ cups (375 ml) water until dissolved. Place the saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring for 6-8 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 200° F (100°C) on a candy thermometer and the syrup thickens slightly. Add the orange rind to the syrup and boil for 5 minutes, or until it is translucent and sweet. Add the pistachios and almonds, and stir gently to combine. Store the topping in the syrup until you’re ready to use it.

To serve, gently layer the rice and lamb pieces onto the center of a large platter using a kafgeer, or large flat slotted spoon, creating a heap. Drain the narenj topping, discarding the syrup, and liberally spread over the rice to serve.

Cook more from this book 

Buy this book
Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen
£20, Murdoch Books 

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Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Parwana by Durkhanai Ayubi

parwana

What’s the USP? The story of the Ayubi family’s flight from war-torn Afghanistan and the opening of their Adelaide restaurant Parwana (Farsi for ‘butterfly’), interwoven with traditional Afghan recipes.

Who’s the author? Durkhanai Ayubi helps to run her family’s restaurants Parwana and Kutchi Deli Parwana, both in Adelaide. She is also a freelance writer and is an Atlantic Fellow of the Atlantic Institute. Parwana is her first cookbook.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? As Ayubi points out in the book’s ‘prelude’, ‘those who dine on Afghan food for the first time find themselves surprised by the familiarity of the dishes, hinting at a rich and interconnected history untold’. I have to admit that, before reading this book, I had never eaten or cooked Afghan food and I was surprised at how accessible the food and recipes were and how familiar nearly all the ingredients turned out to be.

While you will find the vast majority of them at your local supermarket, there are one or two exceptions. You will need an Afghan or Persian grocer for the dried sour apricots (which Ayubi says is a ‘specific type of Afghan fried apricot) and sinjid (Russian dried olives) required to make Haft Mewa, a compote of dried fruits and nuts steeped in water and eaten at Nowroz, a New Year celebration. The same applies to the dried basil seeds for rose sharbat (syrup).

But you can substitute the gandana (a traditional Afghan leek) that’s used to stuff Ashak dumplings for garlic chives or just plain old leeks. Qaymaq cream for chai can be made at home (but requires simmering milk for hours and skimming off the cream layer by layer) or may be found in Persian or Middle Eastern grocers. Equally, you could simply substitute clotted cream.

What’s the faff factor? In a word, low. Recipes often feature a short ingredients list and simple one-pot cooking methods. The recipes for the very tempting baked goods are probably the most complex but even they pretty straightforward.

How often will I cook from the book? With delicious braises, grills, curries, noodle dishes, soups, salads, vegetable dishes, pickles, breads, desserts, sweets and biscuits it might be more a matter of when you’re not cooking from the book.

Killer recipes? There are loads, but a representative sample might include salaateh Afghani, a simple, fresh and bright salad made with red onion, cos lettuce, tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers and radishes, flavoured with chilli, coriander, mint and lime;  comforting and gently spicy yoghurt-braised lamb with yellow split peas, and rhot sweet bread topped with white and black poppy seeds. If I got into all the lovely kebabs, curries and dumplings we’d be here all day.

What will I love? The book’s design and photography is full of warm colour, reflecting the turquoise and terracotta interior design of Parwana restaurant. Stylist Deborah Kaloper has done a great job with the food, with every one of photographer Alicia Taylor‘s shots looking incredibly inviting.

Is it good bedtime reading? Ayubi’s text doesn’t limit itself to the story of her family, their restaurants and their food, but is a serious and very well written political, social and culinary history of Afghanistan.

Should I buy it? Unequivocally, yes. Fantastic food, looks amazing and you will almost certainly learn a lot. You will not regret buying this book.

Cuisine: Afghan
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules

What’s the USP? A passionate love letter to Ukraine, written in everybody’s favourite love language: good food.

Who wrote it? Olia Hercules, who grew up in Ukraine before moving to Cyprus and eventually settling in the UK, has some chops in this field. Giving up her career in film business reporting after the 2008 financial crisis, she retrained at Leith’s and has worked as chef de partie at Ottolenghi. This is her third book – Mamushka and Kaukasis, her well-loved previous efforts, both drew on the traditions of a number of eastern European countries. Hercules tightens her vision to her homeland here, acknowledging throughout that the ever-shifting borders and populations of the region mean influences seep in from across the continent.

Is it good bedtime reading? The book is filled with evocative and fascinating prose, and is a little reminiscent of James Rebanks’ writing on shepherding – writing in such a way that even hardship is given a silver lining through the emergence of community spirit and creative solutions. The summer kitchens of the title are traditional outbuildings in Ukraine. When a young couple gets married, they share this single room kitchen/bedroom hybrid – often raising their families whilst they save to build a house. That home itself is built through a great community effort – Hercules’ descriptions reminded me of the barn building scene in Witness. Once the end result is completed, often many months later, the old structure becomes a ‘summer kitchen’ – a workshop-esque space for cooking and making the most of the produce grown in the garden. Stories like these permeate the book, making it as much a champion of Ukrainian culture as it is the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? None at all – these are simple, homely recipes that create filling dinners from a range of ingredients you wouldn’t struggle to pick up from your local Aldi or Lidl. Classic staples make up the overwhelming majority of ingredients required here – vegetables, grains and plenty of eggs.  Occasionally you might need to visit a butcher for some goat, but most calls for meat are catered perfectly to what’s readily available in a supermarket – something that even our biggest celebrity chefs often fail to manage.

What’s the faff factor? Hercules is happy to devote a little time to her dishes, and you’ll need to do so as well. Noodles are made from scratch, and there are plenty of recipes that will require a leisurely afternoon in the kitchen. But nothing will test your skill as a chef – another benefit of the simple home cooking approach.

How often will I cook from the book? The time required for many of the dishes will relegate this to a weekend-only book for many, but there’s variety enough for at least a fortnightly visit.

Killer recipes: The chicken broth with bran kvas, noodles, mushrooms and lovage – a comforting Ukrainian take on the chicken noodle soup – looks set to cure any ailment you might present it with. The yeasted buns with slow-roast pork are irresistible too; crisp and soft rolls stuffed with unctuous belly, prunes and sauerkraut. Hercules also offers up some tempting fish ideas – be they deep-fried Odesan sprats or simple but delicious fishballs in tomato sauce.

Should I buy it? There’s a lot to love here, from the passionate celebration of Ukraine’s melting-pot culture to the extended section dedicated to pickling and fermenting. Olia Hercules has form, clearly, in the bottling of magic – and whether that’s in the form of fatty pork shoulder preserved for the winter months, or a love of her homeland, preserved for all to enjoy, it’s worth taking a bite of whatever she’s offering.

Cuisine: Ukrainian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Buy this book
Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Red Sands by Caroline Eden

Red Sands by Caroline Eden

What’s the USP? Ever wondered what the food, people and places of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are really like? Then here’s your chance to find out.

Who is the author? Caroline Eden is a writer and journalist specialising in the former Soviet Union. Her first book Samarkand – recipes and stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus appeared in 2016 and was named Guardian book of the year and won Guild of Food Writers ‘Food and Travel’ award in 2017. He second book Black Sea was awarded the Art of Eating Prize, the John Avery Award at the Andre Simon Awards, Best Travel and Food Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards and Best Food Book at the Guild of Food Writers Awards 2019.

Is it good bedtime reading? It’s probably best to think of Red Sands as a travelogue through Central Asia with recipes rather than a cookbook per se (on her website, Eden describes herself as ‘a writer about places’ rather than a food writer) so you will spend at least as much time with the book learning about Nur-Sultan, the ‘purse proud and machine made’ capital of Kazakhstan as you will cooking dishes like mushroom khinkali (dumplings), something Eden ate at Café Tselinnikov in the city.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Although you may be new to Central Asian cuisine (I certainly was), the ingredients will be surprisingly familiar. Meatballs are flavoured with paprika and cumin in a soup from Karaganda made with lavash and chickpeas; Laghman, a noodle dish served throughout the region, features lamb, Chinese cabbage, peppers and cumin, and even canned peaches turn up in a sour cream cake from Northern Kazakhstan. You should even be able to find Tvorog, a soft curd cheese similar to quark in your local superstore (but if not head to a Polish shop if you have one nearby) which you’ll need to make a simple and light Zapekanka cake for breakfast.

What’s the faff factor? Basically non-existent. This is simple, homely food with mostly short ingredient lists and easy methods. There are a few dumpling recipes, including steamed pumpkin khunon, which by their nature are a little more complex as you’ll need to make both dough and filling and then shape and fill the dumplings  before cooking, but apart from that many of the recipes would be ideal for beginner cooks.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The ingredient list for non puju, (a sort of yeasted flat bread topped with beef stew flavoured with Chinese five spice, soy and chilli)  calls for 1/2 handful of coriander which is the epitome of vagueness, but the recipes are so straightforward that the odd handful (or half) is neither here nor there.

Killer recipes: Sultan kurgan tofu; autumnal soup with rice, barley and lamb; Kulich – Russian Easter bread; sweet bread and mung bean pilaf; blushing quince jam; Grand Asia Express samsa (chicken, potato and cumin puff pastry turnovers); pickled cauliflower.

How often will I cook from the book? With accessible and delicious recipes for soups, stews, breads, snacks, pickles, preserves, desserts and breakfasts, Red Sands should prove a useful resource that you’ll return to often.

What will I love? Eden has gone to the ends of the earth (well, sort of) to research the book and writes about her subject with great authority and style. The book is packed with telling details that enliven the prose and put the reader right in the action. For example, in a market in Tashkent, northeast Uzbekistan, Eden watches as ‘one sold out vendor packed his weighing scale back up and, reversing out of the block, licked the fingers of his right hand and counted the banknotes straight on to his ballooned belly.’ Also, what about that stunning cover?

Should I buy it?  Caroline Eden is an outstanding writer and if Red Sands doesn’t win as many if not more awards than Black Sea I’ll be amazed.  An essential purchase for anyone interested in world cuisine and travel. 

Cuisine: Central Asian
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Red Sands: Reportage and Recipes Through Central Asia, from Hinterland to Heartland
£26, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller

The French Laundry Per Se

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from a pair of three Michelin-starred American restaurants. The book appears 20 years after the publication of the original The French Laundry cookbook and serves as a kind of update and elaboration as it now also covers sister restaurant Per Se.

Who is the author? Thomas Keller is one of America’s best known and most decorated chefs. He holds three Michelin stars at The French Laundry in Napa, California and at Per Se in New York. His other restaurants include Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery in both Yountville California and Las Vegas and The Surf Club in Miami. His glamorous, upscale TAK Room restaurant, opened in the mid-town Manhattan Hudson Yards development and inspired by classic American cuisine from the 40s and 50s, closed in August 2020 after just one year of trading, a victim of the pandemic.  He has also been a consultant to Hollywood, working on the  animated film Ratatouille and the Adam Sandler comedy Spanglish. He is the author of five previous cookbooks, publisher of Finesse magazine and has his own Masterclass. He has recently been the subject of a Trump-related Twitter controversy that has seen the chef delete his account on the social media site. At the time of writing, he remains active on Instagram.

Is it good bedtime reading? Given it’s size and weight – The French Laundry, Per Se is a great big, beautiful book – it won’t make the most relaxing bedtime reading material. Better then to enjoy it sitting in your favourite chair with a nice glass of Californian red (in homage to The French Laundry’s location in the heart of Napa Valley wine country) and appreciate the thousands of words carefully crafted with the help of leading food writers Susie Heller and  Michael Ruhlman.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Let’s have a look at the very first recipe in the book shall we? Smoked Sturgeon Rillettes on an Everything Bagel. No problem, apart from the smoked sturgeon, Reglis Ova caviar (Keller’s own brand, available online for US only delivery), Argumato lemon oil and onion blossoms. Opening the book at random, I land on Hiramasa with Apple Vierge. First, catch your hiramasa (sushi grade Australian Yellowtail Kingfish, available online in the UK from The Fish Society) then track down some Champagne vinegar and Marcona almonds and you’re good to go.  Elsewhere, expect ingredients such as foie gras, spiny lobster, and Alaskan king crab. Things get ludicrously specific with Venison Rack Roasted Over Grapevines that not only call for 1.5kg of ‘dried grapevine knots’ but ‘250g of dark raisins, dried on the vine, preferably from Paradigm Winery’. Thankfully, not all the recipes are this tricky to negotiate and, with some common sense substitutions, you should be able to attempt a number of dishes from the book.

What’s the faff factor? These are recipes from three Michelin-starred restaurants so they were never going to be a walk in the park for the home cook. They will take time, money, effort and concentration, but they are far from unachievable if you have the resources and will to make them.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Six books in and with the help of some of the best food writers in the business, this is not an issue. Keller is a proponent of sous-vide cooking, but has include full alternative ingredient lists and methods when appropriate so if you don’t happen to have a vacuum sealer and immersion circulator in your kitchen, it’s no biggie.

How often will I cook from the book? When you have the time and inclination; for example, during a pandemic. Even a simple sounding – and looking – bowl of Red Pepper Farfalle lists 38 ingredients, not counting those included in the three additional satellite recipes you’ll need to make to complete the dish. A few simple soup recipes aside, this is not a book for weeknight cooking.

Killer recipes: Smoked Montana Rainbow Trout Chaud-Froid; Celery Root Pastrami; Salt-and-Rye-Baked Lamb Neck; Malted Brownies among others.

What will I love? The premium look and feel; the numerous essays that cover everything from a treatise on fine dining to the importance of bread and butter; the gorgeous food photography by Deborah Jones.

What won’t I like so much? Before embarking on the majority of recipes, you will have to take some time to consider if you can source the necessary ingredients, and if not, will the dish still be worth making with replacements. You’ll also want to weigh up if the dish, which may only be a mouthful or two, is worth the cost and effort required. It’s worth bearing in mind that the recipes in the book are the product of a very well staffed and resourced kitchen and that the resulting dishes will be sold at a significant profit on menus that cost upwards of $350 a head, none of which applies to the home cook who will be left with a much depleted bank account and a mountain of washing up.

Should I buy it?  For many professional chefs working in the fine dining arena, The French Laundry, Per Se will be an essential purchase. The same will be true for serious hobbyist cooks and restaurant enthusiasts. For those simply in search of a practical recipe book that will be put to regular use, look elsewhere. 

Cuisine: American/Progressive
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

Cook from this book
The Whole Bird
Fish and Chips
Peaches ‘N’ Cream

The Hand and Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge

Hand and Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge

What’s the USP? A brief history of and recipes from the world’s only two Michelin starred pub.

Who is the author? Chef Tom Kerridge has recently become known for his dramatic weight loss and series of diet-friendly TV shows and books including Dopamine Diet, Lose Weight and Get Fit, and Lose Weight For Good. His real claim to fame however is as proprietor of The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the only two Michelin starred restaurant in the world. He also runs The Coach, The Shed and The Butcher’s Tap in Marlow, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London and The Bull and Bear in Manchester. He is also the founder of the Pub in the Park, a touring food and music festival. Earlier in his career, he worked for such British restaurant luminaries as Gary Rhodes and Stephen Bull in London and David Adlard in Norwich.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a chunky introductory section telling the story of the pub, chapter introductions and full page introductions to all of the recipes, making the book a very enjoyable read. As a restaurant nerd, I would have loved to have read about Kerridge’s career before opening the Hand in 2005. As a good proportion of the book’s audience is bound to be professional chefs who would be equally interested to read about Kerridge’s rise through the ranks to stardom, it seems something of a missed opportunity. We can only hope there’s an autobiography in the works.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Specialist ingredients in the book include Alba white truffle oil, agar agar, foie gras, squab pigeon, caul fat, veal tendons, Sosa Airbag Pork Granet, Sosa Antioxidant gel powder, meat glue, lamb sweetbreads, pig’s head and trotter and meadowsweet among others. There are plenty of far more mainstream ingredients too, although if you are going to go to the trouble of attempting these recipes you’ll want to head to your butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer rather than rely on standard supermarket gear.

What’s the faff factor? If you want to prepare a complete dish with all it’s  various elements – for example lemon sole grenobloise made up of stuffed lemon sole, brown butter hollandiase, brown bread croutons, confit lemon zest, crisp deep fried capers and anchovy fritters – then you need to be prepared to put in some serious kitchen time. For many home cooks, probably the best way to approach the book is to pick and choose between the constituent parts and either make a simplified version of the dish with just the key elements or take the recipe for a garnish, such as the famous Hand and Flowers carrot that’s braised in water, sugar, butter and star anise, and use it to accompany something simple like a roast, grill or stew. The good news is that many of the recipes for the individual parts are relatively straightforward and it’s the quantity of constituent elements that make cooking a complete Hand and Flowers dish daunting for non-professionals.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes?   There are the usual suspects such as a  squeeze of lemon, sprig of thyme or half an onion (how big is an onion? How long is a piece of string?) and one dish calls for meat glue but gives no quantity. However, you should have no problems with the vast majority of the recipes.

How often will I cook from the book? Will you be knocking up a torchon of quail with crispy quail leg and verjus everyday? Probably not. But you might well find yourself making the ‘Matson’s sauce’ (a ‘super-posh’ chip shop curry sauce named after Kerridge’s favourite fish and chips shop) that goes with it pretty regularly. Ambitious home cooks will find much to inspire them, and may well turn to the book  when planning a celebratory meal, a dinner party or just to indulge in a weekend of hobby cooking. But as previously noted, a close reading will reveal a treasure trove of sides and sauces, as well as some achievable main elements that will ensure the book won’t permanently reside on your coffee table and will get regular use in your kitchen.

Killer recipes: Smoked haddock omelette; crispy pigs head with black pussing, rhubarb and pork crackling; fish and chips with pea puree and tartare sauce; halbut poached in red wine with bourguignon garnish; slow cooked duck with duck fat chips and gravy; braised shin of beef with roasted bone marrow, parsnip puree and carrot; sweet malt gateau with malted milk ice cream and butterscotch sauce.

What will I love? If you know the pub, you’ll be glad to see all the classic dishes have been included and that the book’s claim to be a definitive collection of the pub’s recipe is an accurate one. At over 400 pages, the book has a pleasing heft, the design is colourful yet classic and elegant, and the food photography by Cristian Barnett is simply stunning.

What won’t I like so much?  If you’re after more of Kerridge’s diet friendly fare, you are definitely barking up the wrong butter, cream and foie gras-laden tree.

Should I buy it? If you are a fan of Tom Kerridge’s restaurants and want to challenge yourself in the kitchen, this is the book for you. It will also be of particular interest to professional chefs.  

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Cook from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Slow cooked duck
Vanilla crème brûlée by Tom Kerridge

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen by Maura O’Connell Foley

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen by Maura O'Connell Foley

What’s the USP? Recollections from a pioneering Irish chef and restaurateur with 250 recipes that span her 60 year career in hospitality.

Who is the author? Maura O’Connell Foley’s career in Kenmare, County Kerry began in 1961 with Agnes, the first tea shop she ran with her mother, and continued with The Purple Heather Restaurant and Piano Bar, The Lime Tree Restaurant and  Packie’s (named after O’Connell Foley’s uncle). With her husband Tom, she continues to run Shelburne Lodge, a converted mid-18th century Georgian farmhouse which she restored over a five-year period and which she opened as a guesthouse in 1996. 

Is it good bedtime reading? A forward by Irish celebrity chef Derry Clarke of L’Ecrivain restaurant in Dublin and a lengthy introduction and cooking notes by O’Connell Foley are supplemented by introductory essays for each of the eight recipe chapters. They include breakfast, starters, fish (O’Connell Foley’s ‘real love’ which is reflected in her extensive notes on the subject), meat, vegetables, desserts and baking, sauce, stocks and staples and dinner parties. Each recipe has its own introduction that includes useful and interesting background information or cooking tips, so there is plenty to keep you informed and entertained.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? O’Connell Foley says that it’s ‘vital you aim to source the best ingredients, especially if you want the best outcome’.  So that means eschewing the supermarket and heading to your local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer if you are fortunate enough to have such things in the 21st century. Otherwise, the pandemic has opened up access via the internet to highly quality ingredients usually reserved for restaurants, but they come at a price. You’ll probably need to forage for your own elderflower heads to make gooseberry and elderflower compote for breakfast, and unless you live in Ireland you’ll need to find an online supplier for Gubeen Chorizo (or just substitute your favourite brand), but that all said, you should have no problem getting you hands on most of what you need to cook from the book.

What’s the faff factor? The wide variety of recipes means you can go from the plain sailing rocket, pear and blue cheese salad with toasted walnuts and apple and walnut dressing or a classic moules mariniere to the more demanding baked fillet of turbot en papillote with salsify and red wine sauce.  

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Very few complaints here. Weights and measures are supplied for nearly every ingredient including herbs, although ‘a few sprigs of thyme’ does crop up once or twice in the book and of course there’s the old ‘juice of a lemon’ classic (why does no one give ml quantities for lemon juice? I know, I’ve said that before in other reviews). Methods are detailed and well written so you won’t find yourself up a blind alley halfway through cooking a dish.    

How often will I cook from the book? With 250 recipes to choose from, My Wild Atlantic Kitchen offers something for pretty much any occasion. Irish classics including brown soda bread, colcannon, beef and Guinness casserole and traditional Irish stew, cooked in a sealed pot and made with waxy potatoes only to avoid mushiness, (‘Irish stew is a broth with solids, like a bouillabaisse’, states O’Connell Foley) are all present and correct.

But there are plenty of influences from around the globe too, most noticeably France with dishes such as a Normandy-style chicken Valee d’Auge made with apple brandy, cider and apples, and brochettes de fruits de mer with sauce choron. The vegetables chapter with dishes like gratin of leeks or roast fennel will come in handy for when you need inspiration for a mid-week roast or grill, and the baking chapter with sweet treats like Tunisian orange cake will fill up a weekend when you fancy spending a bit of extra time in the kitchen.  

Killer recipes: See above but also Drop Scone Pancakes with Dry Cured Bacon and Apple Syrup, Confit of Duck Leg with Pear and Ginger Salad and Twice Baked Hazelnut Goat’s Cheese Soufflé.

What will I love? Norman McCloskey’s beautiful landscape photography, the book’s timelessly stylish design, the illustrated dinner party menu suggestions and the vintage restaurant menus.   

What won’t I like so much? The indexing could have been a bit more accurate – for example, Irish stew doesn’t appear at all in the index (and yes I checked ‘I’ for Irish, ‘S’ for stew, ‘L’ for lamb and ‘T’ for traditional). 

Should I buy it? The recipes are great, the book looks fantastic and you’ll learn about an important piece of Irish restaurant history too. My Wild Atlantic Kitchen is one of my favourite books of the year and I bet it will yours too.   

Cuisine: Irish/International 
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

Cookbooks for Christmas 2020

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It’s been another golden year for cookbooks. Well, 2020 had to be good for something.  With the shelves already groaning with countless thousands of food and drink related books, we should have reached saturation point long before now, yet somehow, food writers and chefs keep coming up with new and exciting ways of exploring and revealing the culinary world.

This year, when time seems to have stood still while simultaneously slipping through our fingers, I’ve been truly grateful to read a recipe that has inspired me to get in the kitchen and create a memorable moment, salvaging something tangible, yet transitory from these bleak months.

At their best, cookbooks capture the knowledge, expertise and passion of talented and dedicated people who, as well as making a few quid, want to share their hard won wisdom. There are plenty of examples of just that in our selection of the best of the year.

Cookbooks are the things of delight. Bound slabs of paper and ink that bring only joy. After all, what ill can come from Bill Granger’s scrambled eggs made with 300ml of whipping cream? (Let’s not dwell on health issues here, and besides, the recipe feeds four. I didn’t eat it all myself and anyone that tells you different is a liar.)

They spread the gospel of enlightenment through flavour, a scripture of nourishment and indulgence. So why not share the good news with family and friends this year and buy them a lovely new cookbook or two to add their collection, and if you click on the ‘Buy this book’ link in each of the reviews to make your purchase you’d really be helping us out. So, without further ado, please open you copy of The French Laundry, Per Se on page 230 and let us now recite our saviour Thomas Keller’s recipe for Paupiette of Dover Sole. Amen, and Merry Christmas to one and all.

Our highest rated cookbooks of 2020

The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller
The French Laundry Per SeWhat the publishers say: 
Keller opened Per Se in New York City in 2004, and since that time, the French Laundry and Per Se have become inextricably linked, influencing each other’s evolution through the exchange of chefs and ideas. A lot has changed in 20 years, and the recipes and techniques featured in The French Laundry, Per Se will delight and inspire professional and home cooks as only those in Keller’s books can. Here, he and his chefs offer meticulous, in-depth recipes for both beloved and iconic dishes–Salmon Cornet, “Peas and Carrots,” and Butter-Poached Lobster, for example–as well as essays of reflection, notes on the restaurants’ daily operations, information about farmers and purveyors, and lessons for young chefs the world over. In addition to more than 100 recipes, a basics chapter featuring such revelations as Parmesan mouse, tomato water, and a variety of stocks not only give readers insight into the foundations of these groundbreaking recipes but can also be used to elevate the food of any home cook. Full review coming soon

Buy this book
The French Laundry Per Se by Thomas Keller
£60, Artisan

Australian Food by Bill Granger
Australian Food by Bill Granger
The sheer variety on offer including braised lamb ragu with tagliatelle and pecorino and green herb risotto with raw summer salad makes Australian Food a pandemic kitchen panacea but Granger’s skill as a creative chef and recipe writer, honed over more than a quarter of a century, ensures it will have enduring appeal.
Read the full review here

Cuisine: Australian/International
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Australian Food
£20, Murdoch Books

Home Cookery Year by Claire Thompson
Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson
What the publishers say: Home Cookery Year is the new essential kitchen bible, year-round and every day. Claire Thomson writes foolproof, imaginative recipes to please the whole family – as a professional chef and mum of three, she understands what it’s like to whip up tasty, crowd-pleasing dishes in minimal time at the end of a busy working day. 

What we say: One of the most exciting books of the year as a decidedly understated title. Claire Thomson’s book avoids laboured gimmicks or even niche cooking themes, seeking instead to simply provide a wealth of tantalising, achievable dishes for everyday life. An absolute must-have, the sheer variety of dishes on offer here would allow you to survive the next twelve months on this book alone. A Home Cookery Year year, if you will. Read the full review here

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Home Cookery Year: Four Seasons, Over 200 Recipes for All Possible Occasions
£30, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
Falastin
The recipes are uniformly enticing and well written, the articles are informative and fascinating, the book is beautifully designed and the location and food photography by Jenny Zarins is gorgeous.If you’re already a fan of Tamimi and Wigley (and Ottolenghi of course) there is just no way you won’t want to add this terrific book to your collection. If you are just getting into Middle Eastern cooking then is a great place to start. Read the full review here

Cuisine: Palestinian/Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars
Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

The Hand and Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge
Hand and Flowers Cookbook by Tom KerridgeWhat the publisher’s say:
The Hand & Flowers is the first (and only) pub in the world to acquire two Michelin stars. At this relaxed and accessible dining space in the heart of Buckinghamshire, Tom Kerridge serves up innovative, sophisticated dishes that masterfully reinvent and elevate British classics for the twenty-first century.

The incredible new cookbook presents 70 of the best dishes that have ever appeared on the menu, including Roast hog with salt-baked potatoes and apple sauce; Slow-cooked duck breast, peas, duck-fat chips and gravy; Smoked haddock omelette; Salt cod Scotch egg with red pepper sauce and picante chorizo; and Chocolate and ale cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream.

What we say: You’ll be glad to see all the classic dishes have been included and that the book’s claim to be a definitive collection of the pub’s recipe is an accurate one. At over 400 pages, the book has a pleasing heft, the design is colourful yet classic and elegant, and the food photography by Cristian Barnett is simply stunning. If you’re after Kerridge’s diet friendly fare, you are definitely barking up the wrong butter, cream and foie gras-laden tree, but if you are a fan of Tom Kerridge’s restaurants and want to challenge yourself in the kitchen, this is the book for you. It will also be of particular interest to professional chefs. Read the full review here.  

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Home Style Cookery by Matty Mathseon
Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson
At 368 pages, Matheson has packed a lot in and pretty much delivers a dish for every occasion, drawing on a wide range of global culinary influences in the process.  Matty Matheson is one of the most exciting and original voices to have emerged on the cookery scene in the last five years or so. His first book was a must buy. This one is even better. Read the full review here

Cuisine: Canadian/International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

The Rangoon Sisters by Amy Chung and Emily Chung
Rangoon Sisters
What the publishers say: The Rangoon Sisters is a celebration of the incredible food and flavours that are found throughout Myanmar, including over 80 evocative recipes that have been made easy and accessible for the modern home cook by supper club extraordinaires Emily and Amy Chung. 

What we say: It’s a real pleasure to find a cookbook that hones down on a cuisine that will be unfamiliar to many British tongues whilst still remaining entirely accessible – right down to sourcing your ingredients. The result is a book that has seen as much use in our kitchen this year as any other, filled with irresistible flavours and unending inspiration. An unprecedented joy, with a killer mango and lime cheesecake recipe to boot. Read the full review here

Cuisine: Burmese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
The Rangoon Sisters: Recipes from our Burmese family kitchen
£20, Ebury Press

Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End by Magnus Nilsson
Faviken 4015 Days
Erik Olsson’s photographs that span the life of the restaurant provide a visually stunning counterpoint to  Nilsson’s recipes, stories, anecdotes and musings. Who would want to read a book about a closed restaurant? When it’s somewhere as remarkable as Fäviken, and written by someone as talented as Nilsson, who wouldn’t?
Read the full review here

Cuisine: Nordic
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End (FOOD COOK)
£45, Phaidon

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen by Maura O’Connell Foley
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen by Maura O'Connell Foley
What the publishers say: A compilation of Maura O’Connell Foley’s favourite recipes created throughout her career in Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland spanning over six decades and is a comprehensive collection capturing over 250 recipes.

The book features stand-out dishes from the first tea shop she and her mother, Agnes, opened in 1961 to The Purple Heather Restaurant and Piano Bar, The Lime Tree Restaurant, Packie’s and Shelburne Lodge which she continues to run today with her husband Tom. Recipes  include Drop Scone Pancakes with Dry Cured Bacon and Apple Syrup, Confit of Duck Leg with Pear and Ginger Salad and Twice Baked Hazelnut Goat’s Cheese Soufflé.

What we say:  The recipes are great, the book looks fantastic and you’ll learn about an important piece of Irish restaurant history too. My Wild Atlantic Kitchen is one of my favourite books of the year and I bet it will yours too.

Cuisine: Irish
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 
(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

Sun and Rain Ana Ros
9780714879307
Roš‘s lack of any formal culinary training has led to a highly individual style based on the abundant natural larder of the extreme north-west of Slovenia which she transforms into eye-catchingly plated dishes such as marble trout roe with rosa di Gorizia chicory and yeast. Sun and Rain is a comprehensive look at the life, culinary philosophy, and cooking of a remarkable figure in the modern culinary scene. Read the full review here.

Cuisine: Slovenian/Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy the book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Big names guaranteed to please 

Cook Eat Repeat by Nigella Lawson
Cook eat repeat by Nigella Lawson

What the publishers say: Cook, Eat, Repeat is a delicious and delightful combination of recipes intertwined with narrative essays about food, all written in Nigella’s engaging and insightful prose. Whether asking ‘What is a Recipe?’ or declaring death to the Guilty Pleasure, Nigella’s wisdom about food and life comes to the fore, with tasty new recipes that readers will want to return to again and again including  Butternut with Chilli, Ginger and Beetroot Yoghurt Sauce; Brown Butter Colcannon; Spaghetti with Chard and Anchovies; Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce; Beef Cheeks with Port and Chestnuts; and Wide Noodles with Lamb in Aromatic Broth. This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book
Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, recipes and stories.

£26, Chatto and Windus

Flavour by Ottolenghi
Ottolenghi Flavour
What the publishers say: Ottolenghi FLAVOUR combines simple recipes for weeknights, low effort-high impact dishes, and standout meals for the relaxed cook. Packed with signature colourful photography, FLAVOUR not only inspires us with what to cook, but how flavour is dialled up and why it works.

What the critics say: The result, in typical Ottolenghi fashion, is multi-step, multi-ingredient, and multi-hued recipes whose promised flavors leap from the page — from cabbage “tacos” with celery root and date barbecue sauce to saffron tagliatelle with ricotta and crispy chipotle shallots. Chipotles and other chiles are actually in abundance here… thanks to Belfrage’s roots in Mexico City. Those flavors, as well as those from Brazilian, Italian, and multiple Asian cuisines (spy the shiitake congee and noodles with peanut laab), unite with the usual Ottolenghi suspects — za’atar, star anise, harissa, labneh — to make Flavor worth the look, even for the home chef who already has Plenty and Plenty More on the shelf. (Eater) This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book
Ottolenghi FLAVOUR
£27, Ebury Press

7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week by Jamie Oliver
7 Way by Jamie Oliver
The publisher says: Jamie’s looked at the top ingredients we buy week in, week out including chicken breasts, salmon fillets, mince, eggs, potatoes, broccoli and mushrooms. Jamie will share 7 achievable, exciting and tasty ways to cook 18 of our favourite ingredients, and each recipe will include a minimal amount of ingredients with everyday options from both an ease and nutritional point of view. With everything from fakeaways and traybakes to family and freezer favourites, you’ll find bags of inspiration to help you mix things up in the kitchen. This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book

7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week
£26, Michael Joseph

Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain
Nadia Bakes
What the publishers say: Our beloved Bake-Off winner has created your ultimate baking cookbook to help you conquer cakes, biscuits, traybakes, tarts and pies, showstopping desserts, breads, savoury bakes, and even ‘no-bake’ bakes – all with her signature mouth-watering twists.

What the critics say: Whether you’re a baking novice or fit for the Bake Off tent, Nadiya pitches this cookbook in a really accessible way, with plenty of her down-to-earth guidance so that anyone can cook from it, whatever their skill level. (The Happy Foodie) This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book
Naydia Bakes by Naydia Hussain
£22, Michael Joseph

The Great British Bake Off: Love to Bake by The Bake Off Team
What the publishers say:
Pop round to a friend’s with tea and sympathy in the form of Chai Crackle Cookies; have fun making Paul’s Rainbow-coloured Bagels with your family; snuggle up and take comfort in Sticky Pear & Cinnamon Buns or a Pandowdy Swamp Pie; or liven up a charity cake sale with Mini Lemon & Pistachio Battenbergs or Prue’s stunning Raspberry & Salted Caramel Eclairs. Impressive occasion cakes and stunning bakes for gatherings are not forgotten – from a novelty frog birthday cake for a children’s party, through a towering croquembouche to wow your guests at the end of dinner, to a gorgeous, but easy-to-make wedding cake that’s worthy of any once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Throughout the book, judges’ recipes from Paul and Prue will hone your skills, while lifelong favourites from the 2020 bakers offer insight into the journeys that brought the contestants to the Bake Off tent and the reasons why they – like you – love to bake. This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book
The Great British Bake Off: Love to Bake
£22, Sphere

All Rounders

Take One Tin by Lola Milne
take-one-tin
What the publishers say: Quick, easy and environmentally friendly, tinned foods have many of the benefits of fresh, plus can also be used to create delicious, versatile meals without breaking the bank. With just a few ingredients from your storecupboard topped up with some fresh extras, you can create simple speedy suppers, tasty take-to-work lunches and even impressive dinner party desserts, including a hearty Flageolet Bean & Artichoke Gratin, a spicy Sri Lankan Mackerel Curry and a fruity Peach, Mango & Passion Fruit Pavlova.

What we say: Published with almost suspiciously good timing, Take One Tin was the best storecupboard cookbook on the shelves by the time lockdown hit. Using accessible ingredients and simple recipes, Lola Milne allowed readers to knock up some unexpectedly delicious meals from the tins already on their shelves. 

Best for: Tier 3 Families and Survivalist Recluses
Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book 
Take One Tin: 80 delicious meals from the storecupboard

Table Manners by Jessie and Lennie Ware
Cover of Table Manners by Jessie Ware and Lennie Ware
What the publishers say: Cooking through Table Manners is like having Jessie and Lennie at the table with you: brash, funny and full of opinions. In true Ware style, their cookbook is divided into Effortless, A Bit More Effort, Summertime, Desserts and Baking (thanks to Jessie’s brother Alex), Chrismukkah (Christmas, Hanukkah and celebrations) and, of course, Jewish-ish Food. These delicious, easy dishes are designed for real people with busy and sometimes chaotic lives with the ultimate goal of everyone eating together so unfiltered chat can flourish. 

What we say: The Table Manners cookbook manages to capture everything that makes the podcast so appealing. For every ounce of personality, there is an equal measure of pure, unfettered passion for food. As well as being an above-average entry in the popstar cookbook sub-genre, Table Manners features enough recipes drawing on the Wares’ Jewish background to ensure it works wonderfully as a casual introduction to the cuisine. 

Best for: Food Podcast Fans
Cuisine: European/Jewish
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Table Manners: The Cookbook
£22, Ebury Press

For the food (and wine) nerd in your life 

Coconut and Sambal  Lara Lee
What the publishers say: Coconut & Sambal reveals the secrets behind authentic Indonesian cookery. With more than 80 traditional and vibrant recipes that have been passed down through the generations, you will discover dishes such as Nasi goreng, Beef rendang, Chilli prawn satay and Pandan cake, alongside a variety of recipes for sambals: fragrant, spicy relishes that are undoubtedly the heart and soul of every meal. 

What the critics say: London chef and food writer Lee brings an intimate knowledge of Indonesian cuisine to this stunningly photographed debut collection of recipes gathered from the author’s Indonesian grandmother and from cooks Lee met traveling through the island nation… This sumptuous collection is perfect for home cooks and armchair travelers alike. (Publishers Weekly) This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book
Coconut and Sambal by Lara Lee
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

The Whole Chicken by Carl Clarke
The Whole Chicken Carl Clarke
What the publishers say: Carl Clarke has garnered the reputation from his industry peers and the general public alike as an authority and advocate on cooking ethically reared chicken. What he doesn’t know about chicken isn’t worth knowing, from brining and seasoning to poaching, grilling and frying.

What we say:  The Whole Chicken is rich with globally inspired recipes that will mix up your usual roster of chicken dishes. Clarke writes passionately and unpretentiously in a book that is as fun to look at as it is to cook from.
Read the full review here

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Beginner to confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
The Whole Chicken: 100 easy but innovative ways to cook from beak to tail
£22, Hardie Grant

Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
Stark is no ordinary Michelin-starred restaurant. Ben Crittenden converted a sandwich shop in Broadstairs and, working alone in a tiny kitchen, serves creative tasting menus to a dozen customers a night. It’s fitting then that Stark is also no ordinary cookbook. In addition to the recipes, 42 of them inclduing Hake, mushroom, dashi,  the extraordinary story of the restaurant is told with breath-taking honesty.  Read the full review here.

Cuisine: Progressive British
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

A Purnell’s Journey: There and Back Again by Glynn Purnell
Weighing in at 6.5kg and standing over a foot tall, Glynn Purnell’s third book is a lavish production. The book follows Purnell’s route to Michelin success in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre along with a selection of Purnell’s restaurant’s ‘greatest hits’ including monkfish masala with red lentils, pickled carrots and coconut garnish that ably demonstrate the chef’s knack for creating memorable dishes that stand the test of time. There and Back Again serves up a generous enough helping of amusing anecdotes and stunning visuals to justify its hefty price tag.  Read the full review here

Cuisine: Progressive British
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
A Purnell’s Journey
£85, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon: There And Back Again: A Purnell’s Journey

The Pie Room by Callum Franklin
9781472973610
What the publishers say: Calum knows good pies and in his debut cookbook, The Pie Room, he presents a treasure trove of recipes for some of his favourite ever pastry dishes. Want to learn how to create the ultimate sausage roll? Ever wished to master the humble chicken and mushroom pie? In this collection of recipes discover the secrets to 80 delicious and achievable pies and sides, both sweet and savoury, veggie and meat, including hot pork pies, cheesy dauphinoise and caramelised onion pie, hot and sour curried cod pie, the ultimate beef Wellington and rhubarb and custard tarts.

What we say: For many casual home cooks, pastry represents the last great mountain to climb. Franklin’s book explains the basics brilliantly, but allows for the reader to progress quickly to more interesting and tantalising offerings. Whilst the book doesn’t exactly promise to turn you into the master of elaborate decorations that Franklin is, it does provide a wide variety of unmissable dishes that will appeal both to beginners and confident pastry-wielders alike. Read the full review here

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Dirt by Bill Buford
If you’ve read and enjoyed Buford’s previous books, Dirt will not disappoint. If you’re unfamilar with French cuisine, this is an excellent introduction to the subject and even if you’re a Francophile, you will almost certainly learn something new. Buford may be guilty of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the book (actually, there are kitchen sinks) but it is nevertheless an extremely readable book, albeit one that will probably appeal most to the food and restaurant nerds among us. Read the full review here

Cook Book Review rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Dirt: Adventures in French Cooking
£16.99, Johnathan Cape

For Vegetarian, Vegan and Plant-based cooks

Vegetarian Silver Spoon
Vegetarian Silver Spoon
There’s a homely feel to recipes such as chard and chickpea soup with tofu; buckwheat lasagne with broccoli and eggplant-tomato strudel. Lesser known ingredients such as black chickpeas (used in a salad with apple and Jerusalem artichoke) will invigorate any cook’s interest in meat and fish-free cooking, making The Vegetarian Silver Spoon a valuable addition to their cookbook collection. Read the full review here

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
The Vegetarian Silver Spoon: Classic and Contemporary Italian Recipes (FOOD COOK)
£35, Phaidon

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson
Vegan Japaneasy
What the publishers say: Believe it or not, Japanese cuisine in general is actually quite vegan-friendly, and many dishes can be made vegan with just a simple substitution or two. You can enjoy the same big, bold, salty-sweet-spicy-rich-umami recipes of modern Japanese soul food without so much as glancing down the meat and dairy aisles. And best of all, it’s super-easy to make! In Vegan Japaneasy, Tim Anderson taps into Japan’s rich culture of cookery that’s already vegan or very nearly vegan, so there are no sad substitutes and zero shortcomings on taste. 

What we say: Tim Anderson continues a run of excellent Japan-centric cookbooks with this excellent vegan title. The rare sort of vegan cookbook that will be just as welcome with meat-eaters as with the intended audience, Anderson fills up on umami-rich, impossible-to-resist dishes. The French Onion Ramen is one of our recipe highlights of the entire year. Read the full review here

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Restore by Gizzie Erskine
Restore
What the publishers say: Using the principles of eating seasonally, less meat and more plants, eating root-to-shoot or nose-to-tail, and using clever techniques to maximise flavour, Gizzi will give us recipes that don’t compromise on flavour or satisfaction, but which are better for us, and the planet. Thoughtful, insightful, but above all a delicious collection of recipes that show how good food doesn’t have to cost the earth. 

What the critics say: An important read in the current climate, Gizzi Erskine’s latest book offers thought-provoking and insightful commentary on the issues surrounding the way we farm, cook, eat and shop, and how we can restore the earth, and our bodies, with food. As always, Gizzi’s recipes are creative, seriously satisfying and packed full of flavour. Think marmite, onion and roast root vegetable stew with cheesy scones, korma wings, wet and wild monkfish kievs and black pepper crab. (BBC Good Food) This book has not been reviewed by cookbookreview.blog.

Buy this book
Restore by Gizzi Erskine
£26, HQ