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

Vegetarian round up: The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year and Italy: The World Vegetarian

What’s the USP? Two USPs, actually! Having explored meat-free options from India and Japan with their initial installments earlier this year, Bloomsbury’s ‘World Vegetarian’ series takes its first step into Europe with Christine Smallwood’s volume on the food of Italy. Meanwhile, Nicola Graimes follows up 2015’s The Part-Time Vegetarian with a seasonal take on her flexitarian cooking.

Are they good bedtime reading? Once the recipes are out of the way, there’s not a lot of extra-curricular writing in Smallwood’s book on Italy. Like many cookbooks that form part of a larger series, this is a fairly utilitarian affair. This isn’t a book for reading over cosy winter evenings, but rather a practical volume you can take down from the shelf when you need dinner on the table in forty minutes.

The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year has a lot more to offer on this front – the division of a cookbook by seasonal availability has been something of a trend in the last couple of years, and lends itself brilliantly to vegetarian cooking (as Nigel Slater demonstrated with his brilliant Greenfeast books). So here we have practical advice about how best to utilise your freezer, how to minimise your food waste and, of course, handy lists of which vegetables are in season when.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? One of the most underrated elements of vegetarian cooking, I think, is that recipes are usually incredibly easy to source. Dishes rely on the flavours of the vegetables and the method of cooking to extract as much flavour as possible out, and as such rarely call upon more hard-to-source ingredients. Smallwood’s book, drawing as it does from a cuisine that has been so warmly taken in and appropriated by Britons, features nothing but instantly recognisable ingredients that can be found most anywhere you care to shop. Graimes might send you out into the world for hoisin sauce or silken tofu, but you’re not going to consider that much of a challenge, are you?

How often will I cook from the books? Both titles are filled with interesting and vibrant dishes – though Italy: The World Vegetarian probably has the upper hand on this front. Smallwood’s dishes are ready made for weeknight cooking, and you could easily find yourself picking out a simple but effective recipe from this book once or twice a week.

Graimes’ Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year asks a little more from the reader – both in terms of culinary skills and commitment of time to the dishes. The results are equally as tempting, though, so will likely find their way onto your dinner table a couple of times a month without any trouble.

What will I love and what won’t I love? For all of The World Vegetarian’s positives, the book is just a bit, well, drab. It’s hard to really put your personality into a pre-existing format – and in terms of Smallwood’s involvement this is much more ‘Gary Barlow takes over X-Factor’ than ‘Taika Waititi shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe’. We’re spoiled for vegetarian cookbooks at the moment, and sheer practicality isn’t necessarily enough of a selling point to really make a mark. This is something The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year understands – it’s significantly more vibrant, and the reader gets a much stronger sense of Nicola Graimes’ voice and personality. It’s also, dare I say it, more fun. The flexitarian options allow for the entire thing to feel more interactive, more of a loose guide than the overt instruction manual vibes of Smallwood’s book.

Killer recipes: Italy: The World Vegetarian’s highlights include Sciatt with Cicoria, Spicy Farro Soup and Assassin’s Spaghetti. The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year travels a little further afield to offer Sesame Empanada Pie, Mushroom Noodle Larb and Spiced Leek Flatbreads with Mint Aioli.

Should I buy it? Both will find a place on any vegetarian’s shelf. Smallwood’s entry to the World Vegetarian series is perhaps better suited for cooks seeking to expand on their own repertoire of dishes – though it’s probably the more useful of the two offerings, it lacks the pizazz we tend to seek in the books we give to others. The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year, however, has exactly that. It’s accessible and fun – and the flexitarian element means it will be equally loved by both vegetarians and those looking to cut their meat-consumption down in the future.

Cuisine: Italian/Global
Suitable for: Beginners/Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars/Three stars

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

Buy the books
The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year: Four Seasons of Flexitarian Recipes
£25, Nourish Books 

Italy: The World Vegetarian
£20, Bloomsbury Absolute

Cooking in Marfa by Virginia Lebermann and Rocky Barnette

Cooking in Marfa

Set in the Chihuahuan Desert, the Texan town of Marfa boasts a population of two thousand and occupies just over one and half square miles. Despite being 200 miles from the nearest commercial airport, its premier restaurant, the Capri has been featured in Vogue, the New York Times and Conde Nast Traveller magazine, which included the converted army airfield hangar in a list of the 34 most beautiful restaurants in the world.

Marfa was first put on the map by its thriving arts scene and Capri co-owner Virginia Lebermann initially intended it to be a cultural arts project, launching in 2007 with a gig by Sonic Youth. However, the arrival in Marfa of Inn at Little Washington-trained chef Rocky Barnette in 2008 led to the Capri’s rebirth as a restaurant focusing on the region’s distinctive natural larder.

Barnette’s cooking is the ultimate expression of contemporary Tex-Mex (a style that Lebermann says was created in Marfa in 1887 when Tula Borunda Gutierrez opened a restaurant using Mexican ingredients and ‘added to them to suit the taste of ranchers’) incorporating ingredients grown or cultivated in the local region including cacti, mesquite beans and dessert flowers as well as Mexican produce such as dried grasshoppers (chapulines) from Oaxaca and huitlacoche, a black fungus that grows on corn.

Although many of the 80 recipes in the book reflect the site-specific nature of the Capri’s menu, it doesn’t mean they are unachievable for UK-based cooks. You may have trouble finding fresh yucca blossoms to tempura, but online resources such as coolchile.co.uk means you should find nearly everything you need for dishes such as masa pasta ravioli with cured egg yolks and bottarga or tostados al carbon, made with activated charcoal and served with razor clams and chorizo.

The story of the Capri and the people behind it (who are as extraordinary as the restaurant itself) makes for fascinating and inspiring reading. In his introduction, three Michelin starred chef Daniel Humm of New York’s Eleven Madison Park calls the book, ‘a window into [Rocky and Virginia’s] creativity and passion’; it’s one that every curious cook will want to look through.

This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine

Cuisine: Mexican
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four Stars

Buy the book
Cooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You (FOOD COOK)
Phaidon, £35

Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

Falastin

What’s the USP? I can’t do better than quote the introduction: ‘This is a book about Palestine – its food, its produce, its history, its future, its people and their voices’. There are also recipes, more than 100 of them.

Who are the authors? You’ll know Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley from such books as Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. Tamimi co-founded the Ottolenghi restaurant empire. Wigely worked in publishing before joining the Ottenleghi test kitchen a decade ago.

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the short foreword by Ottolenghi and seven-page introduction, there are page-long introductions to each of the nine chapters that cover everything from breakfast to sweets as well as articles covering subjects including ‘The yoghurt making ladies of Bethlehem’, ‘Vivien Sansour and the Palestinian Seed Library’ and ‘The Walled Off Hotel, the seperation wall, and the Balfour balls up’.   

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? As has been noted before on this site, thanks in part to Ottolenghi, ingredients such as za’atar, Aleppo pepper, date syrup, rose harissa, sumac and labneh now seem quite commonplace, at least to the enthusiastic home cook. If you do have trouble tracking them down in your local shop, you can source them online from ottolenghi.co.uk.

What’s the faff factor? This is not restaurant cooking but on the other hand, these are not quick’n’easy one pot wonders either. You’ll be chopping, finely slicing, picking leaves, chargrilling, roasting, whipping, braising, frying, baking, blitzing, caramelising and making dumplings, dressings, and dips; soups, salsas, and sauces. Nothing however is excessively complex or beyond the abilities of your average keen cook.

Must cook recipes: spiced chicken arayes (pan fried pitta bread sandwiches); chilled cucumber and tahini soup with spicy pumpkin seeds; spiced salmon skewers with parsley oil; upside-down spiced rice with lamb and broad beans; sumac onion and herb oil buns; knafeh nabulseyeh (a sweet mozzarella, ricotta and feta kataifi pastry dessert drenched in orange blossom water syrup.

What will I love? Tamimi and Wigley have already proved beyond doubt that they are a class act and Falastin does nothing to alter that. 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. As is usual with the Ottolenghi family of books, there’s a code to access a fully illustrated and searchable database of all the recipes online (you can even print off a shopping list for each recipe) which is a very useful and fun bonus.

What won’t I love? I can’t believe you’re even asking this question, go to the back of the class.

Should I buy it? 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.

Cuisine: Palestinian/Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

Cook from this book
Sweet tahini rolls (Kubez el tahineh)
Chicken musakhan
Labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey and cardamom

Giffords Circus Cookbook by by Nell Gifford and Ols Halas

Giffords Circus

What’s the USP? Some people go to the circus for the clowns, some for the acrobats and their feats of derring-do. But if you’re headed to the traditional touring circus of Giffords, which performs across the Cotswolds and the South West of England each year, then you might well be going for the food.

For the last 17 years, Giffords has also been host to the UK’s only travelling restaurant. After each show, 60 audience members gather for a 3-course banquet that seems to carry all the wonder of the circus over into each dish. Here, then, is the Giffords cookbook; now you can create your own whimsical feast without having to worry about your children’s coulrophobia (that’s a fear of clowns, as if you couldn’t guess).

Sounds magical! Who’s the author? The circus’ founding matriarch, Nell Gifford has teamed up with the restaurant’s head chef, Ols Halas. Both get ample time to share their stories at the beginning of the book and, as you might expect, they’re pretty fun (it’s not often a chef’s background involves literally running way to join the circus).

Is it good bedtime reading? The reading is probably where Giffords Circus Cookbook is at its best. There’s an absolute tentful of writing here, from Marco Pierre White’s fawning foreword to the chapter introductions that offer insight both into the challenges of cooking in a travelling restaurant and of the inner-workings and community of a modern circus.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Nothing here is particularly unusual, though the recipes do tend to fall on the more luxurious end of the scale. You’ll want a good butcher at hand, and some of the ingredients (romanesco broccoli, activated charcoal and fresh truffles) are a little more Waitrose than Asda. It would be nice to see a cookbook knock up this sort of wonder and magic in their dishes using more down-to-earth ingredients, but I suppose that’s not the point, is it?

What’s the faff factor? Look, Willy Wonka didn’t build his chocolate factory in a day. It took bloody ages and required the slave labour of Loompaland’s indiginous people. So consider yourself lucky when your own slice of whimsy only needs a two-day brine beforehand, or perhaps necessitates the creation of a meringue (there’s a lot of meringue in here – apparently this is a staple of the circus diet).

What will I love? There’s an irrepressible joyfulness that runs throughout the entirety of the Giffords Circus Cookbook. Everything is bright, and everyone always seems to be having so much fun. It’s an infectious sort of a feeling, and reading the book makes you feel every bit a part of the mish-mash vaguely-Moominesque family of oddballs and misfits.

What won’t I love? The recipes aren’t organised in any sense that could be considered even remotely helpful. Instead, the eight chapters loosely tell the story of a season with the circus and might feature anywhere between one and nineteen recipes. Desserts are mixed in, and as such the panna cotta might be found next to the monkfish tails, the black forest trifle opposite roast guinea fowl. If you know what you’re looking for, you can dive right into the index – but for inspiration, it’s not particularly practical. But then, what part of ‘60-seat restaurant serving the clientele of a travelling circus’ suggested practicality to you?

Should I buy it? If you entertain regularly and want to inject a little bit of magic into your dinner parties, this cookbook is not to be missed. There isn’t much here for the casual, everyday cook – except escapism. And that’s always worth a look.

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

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Giffords Circus Cookbook: Recipes and stories from a magical circus restaurant
£27, Quadrille

Rye Crostata with Peas and Asparagus

235 rye crostada

Gluten-free
Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus resting time
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Serves: 6 to 8

To enhance the flavor of the sesame seeds, toast them, covered, in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat until they start to crackle, then transfer to a plate and let cool. For a vegan version of the recipe, replace the egg yolks with a heaping tablespoon of millet flakes.

  • 1¾ cups (220 g) farro (emmer) flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • Scant ½ cup (50 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon brown flaxseeds (linseeds)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) plus 3½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch asparagus, thinly sliced
  • 11/3 cups (200 g) shelled fresh peas
  • Scant 1 cup (200 ml) soy milk
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2½ tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • Salt and black pepper

In a food processor, combine the farro flour, all-purpose (plain) flour, sesame seeds, flaxseeds (linseeds), 3½ tablespoons of the olive oil, and a pinch of salt and process the mixture until crumbly. With the motor running, drizzle in 1/3 cup (75 ml) cold water and process until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (cling film) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) with a rack in the lower third.

In the meantime, in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the remaining ¼ cup (60 ml) oil over medium heat. Add the onions and asparagus and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peas and a scant ½ cup (100 ml) water and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle the vegetables with farro flour, drizzle in the milk, and stir.

Reduce the heat to low and cook the sauce for 5 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the lemon zest. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool. Add the egg yolks and stir to combine.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out two-thirds of the dough into a 2 mm-thick sheet and transfer it to a 9-inch (22 cm) round baking pan. Fill the crust with the vegetable mixture. Roll the remaining dough into a thin sheet and cut it into ¾-inch-wide (1.5 cm) strips. Arrange the strips over the filling to form an open lattice. Press the lattice strips against the bottom crust to seal, then trim the excess dough around the edges.

Brush the lattice with a little water and sprinkle with the sunflower seeds. Bake the tart in the lower third of the oven for about 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Read the review

Buy this book
The Vegetarian Silver Spoon: Classic and Contemporary Italian Recipes (FOOD COOK)
£35, Phaidon

Sweet tahini rolls (Kubez el tahineh) by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

286_sweet_tahini_rolls

The journey of these rolls can be traced through Lebanon to Armenia, where these kubez el tahineh come from. They are simple to make, impressive to look at and loved by all. They’re a particular favourite with kids. Eat them as they are, or sliced and spread with dibs w tahini, the Palestinian equivalent of peanut butter and jam, where creamy tahini is mixed through with a little bit of grape or date molasses (see page 336).

Keeping notes: These are best eaten fresh on the day of baking but are also fine for 2–3 days once baked, warmed through in the oven. They also freeze well, after they’ve been baked and left to cool: you can pop them into the oven straight from the freezer until warmed through.

Makes 10 rolls
Dough
1½ tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
110ml whole milk, lukewarm
300g plain flour, plus extra
for dusting
75g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil, for greasing
Salt

Filling
100g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120g tahini
Topping
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

First make the dough. Put the yeast, sugar and milk into a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes, until it starts to get frothy. Meanwhile, put the flour and ½ teaspoon of salt into the bowl of a freestanding mixer, with the dough hook in place. Mix on a low speed, then slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Add the melted butter and continue to mix for about a minute.

Add the egg, then increase the speed to medium and leave for 5 minutes, for the dough to get well kneaded. Using your hands, scrape the dough into a ball: it will be slightly sticky and elastic. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it a couple of times so that the dough gets well greased. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size. Put the sugar and cinnamon for the filling into a small bowl. Mix well to combine, then set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 35 x 50cm. Drizzle the tahini over the dough, then, using the back of a spoon or a spatula, spread it out evenly, leaving 1cm clear of tahini at both the shorter ends. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the tahini and leave for 10 minutes, until the sugar looks all wet.
Starting from one of the long sides, roll the dough inwards to form a long, thin sausage. Trim away about 2cm from each end, then slice the dough into 10 equal pieces: they should each be just over 4½cm long. Sit each piece upright, so that its cut side is facing upwards, then, using your hands, gently flatten out to form an 8cm-wide circle. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Transfer each roll of dough to a large parchment-lined baking tray, spaced 2–3cm apart. Brush all over – just the top and sides, not the base – with the egg yolk, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 18 minutes, or until cooked through and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside for about 20 minutes – you don’t want them to be piping hot – then serve.

Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Jenny Zarins

Cook more from this book
Chicken musakhan
Labneh cheesecake

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

 

Labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey and cardamom by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

323_labneh_cheesecake

Cheesecake is not, traditionally, a dessert eaten in Palestine, but all the ingredients are: the labneh and filo, for example, the nuts and floral orange blossom. The base was Noor’s idea: blitzing up the sheets of filo to make crumbs. Mixing this with the nuts calls baklava to mind. The result, we think, is distinct and special.

Getting ahead: If you are making your own labneh (which couldn’t be easier: it just requires getting organised a day ahead), then it needs to be made 1–5 days before using. To get the 500g of labneh required, you’ll need to start with 850g of Greek-style yoghurt, mixed with ⅔ teaspoon of salt (see page 48 for the recipe). The base and cheesecake are best baked the day before serving, so that it can chill in the fridge overnight. The apricots are best roasted and put on top of the cake on the day of serving. Once assembled, the cake is best eaten the same day.

Playing around: Rose water or vanilla extract can be used instead of the orange blossom water, if you like. If using vanilla in the filling, use 1½ teaspoons of vanilla paste or the scraped seeds of ½ a vanilla pod, in addition to the vanilla extract already there. Lots of other fruits – stone fruits or otherwise – work as well as the apricots here. Peaches, plums and cherries are also good, as are strawberries. As ever, with nuts, other nuts can be used apart from those we suggest: Brazil nuts, for example, or macadamia nuts. They both work well in any combination in the base: just keep the net weight the same.

Serves ten to twelve

Base
5 sheets of good-quality filo pastry (about 110g)
90g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
40g walnut halves
60g pistachio kernels
1½ tbsp plain flour
50g caster sugar
10 cardamom pods, shells discarded and seeds finely crushed in a pestle and mortar (or ¾ tsp ground cardamom)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp flaked sea salt

Filling
500g labneh (either shop-bought or 850g of Greek-style yoghurt, see headnote and page 48, if making your own)
500g ricotta
210g caster sugar
⅔ tsp flaked sea salt
5 eggs (2 whole, and 3 with yolks and whites separated: you will only be using the yolks of these)
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tbsp orange blossom water
1¼ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp cornflour

Topping
75g runny honey
2 tsp orange blossom water
40ml orange juice
6 cardamom pods, shells on, seeds roughly bashed together in a pestle and mortar
350g ripe apricots, stones removed, cut into 6 wedges
A small handful of picked mint leaves, to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform baking tin and set aside. To make the base, lay out one sheet of filo on a clean work surface. Measure out a third of the butter – this will be used for brushing the sheets – and set the remaining 60g aside for later. Brush the sheet until well coated, then top with the second filo sheet. Continue in this fashion until all the filo and butter has been used up, finishing the last layer with a coating of butter. Transfer the filo stack to a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes (or longer) before breaking apart into large shards. In two batches, place the shards in a food processor and blitz for about 10 seconds, to form fine crumbs. Place in a medium bowl, then add the nuts to the processor. Blitz for about 20 seconds, until fine but not powdery. Add the nuts to the filo along with the flour, sugar, spices, flaked salt and remaining two-thirds of butter and mix to combine. Tip the mixture into the base of the lined tin and press it down firmly and evenly so that the whole base is covered. Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the filling, clean out the food processor and add the labneh, ricotta, sugar and salt. Pulse for just a few seconds, to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, egg yolks (the spare whites can be saved for something else), orange zest, orange blossom water, vanilla extract and cornflour. Pulse for about 15 seconds, to combine, then pour the mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 60–70 minutes, or until the cake is beginning to take on some colour around the edges but still has a slight wobble in the middle. Remove from the oven and leave to cool at room temperature for an hour before refrigerating for at least 4 hours or (preferably) overnight.

On the day of serving, preheat the oven to 200°C fan and prepare the topping. Put the honey, orange blossom water, orange juice and bashed cardamom pods into a small saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. Cook for 4–6 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced by half and is beginning to form a thin syrup. Spread the apricots out on a parchment-lined baking tray, on their side, and drizzle over half the syrup. Bake for about 8 minutes, turning the apricots over halfway through baking, until completely softened but still retaining their shape. Remove from the oven and set aside for about 30 minutes, until completely cool.

Just before serving (or up to 1 hour, if you want to prepare ahead), release the cake from its tin and transfer to a round serving platter. Top with the apricots – there should not be any overlap – and drizzle with the remaining syrup. The bashed cardamom pods can be used for garnish as well – they look nice – but these are not to be eaten. Scatter over the mint leaves, if using, and serve.

Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Jenny Zarins

Cook more from this book
Chicken musakhan
Sweet tahini rolls

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson


Vegan Japaneasy

What’s the USP? Full Ronseal vibes here – Vegan JapanEasy is a cookbook filled with easy vegan Japanese recipes. I’m really not sure you need me to tell you that, actually.

Eesh. Sorry I asked. Alright then, who’s the author? Tim Anderson was the youngest winner of Masterchef when he and his Japanese-influenced dishes came out top back in 2011. Since then he’s opened his own restaurant – Nanban – and three vibrant Japanese cookbooks, including 2017’s JapanEasy. This, its vegan spinoff, is his fourth.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s definitely plenty to read in here. Of note are the usual pages detailing Japanese ingredients you’ll want to familiarise yourself with, punched up with useful ideas on each ingredient’s uses outside of Japanese cuisine.

Anderson writes lovingly and respectfully about Japanese culture and cuisine, and his occasional treatises on dashi or Japanese curry roux are always entertaining – as are his recipe introductions, which are occasionally longer than the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson’s whole thing is ease, and sourcing the ingredients is no different. Most ingredients are widely available but at worst will warrant a trip to an Asian supermarket. The recipes generally avoid any mock-meat and non-dairy cheeses as well, opting instead for light, delicious looking vegetable numbers.

What’s the faff factor? Do you really need to ask? Nothing in Vegan JapanEasy should throw the average home cook. That said, some dishes do require a little time or, in the case of the ramen recipes, a glut of ingredients – so not every dish is going to cut it for a weeknight dinner.

Killer recipes Teriyaki-roasted carrots; jackfruit karaage; kimchi miso hotpot; cauliflower katsu curry;  Japanese style celeriac steak; fridge drawer fried rice.

What will I love? Anderson’s non-pretentious approach to cooking means that not only does everything look delicious, it’s also tantalisingly do-able. Dishes like Pesto Udon are so simple, and yet so tempting, that there’s a good chance you won’t eat anything else ever again.

What won’t I love? The only slightly grating factor is Anderson’s fondness for ranking the ease of each dish at the bottom of the recipe. Given that ease is the premise of the entire book, it’s entirely unnecessary and instead ends up as a destination for some fairly poor dad jokes that wear thin pretty quickly: “the only cult I’d join is the Not Diffi Cult, and this recipe would be our Kool-Aid”

Should I buy it? In short, yes. Anderson’s book is as practical and imaginative as any other Japanese cookbook on the market. In fact, even as a meat-eater, Vegan JapanEasy has a more appealing range of recipes than the original carnivore-friendly JapanEasy title.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

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

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes
French Onion Ramen

South by Sean Brock

South Sean Brock

What’s the USP? A collection of Southern American recipes from one of the foremost modern exponents of the cuisine.

Who is the author? Chef Sean Brock is the founder of the awarding winning Husk restaurant group with branches in Charleston, Nashville, Greenville and Savannah. Since stepping down from his role as culinary advisor to The Neighborhood Dining Group’ that included Husk as well as McCrady’s, Tavern, and Minero, Brock has announced four new projects in Nashville: Joyland Audrey Red Bird and an unnamed project at the Grand Hyatt. Profiled in an episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table and featured in a season of the PBS series Mind of a Chef, Brock has established himself as the leading proponent of the culture, traditions and heritage ingredients of Southern cuisine.

Is it good bedtime reading? A 12 page introduction provides some background to Brock’s career and why he is so passionate about Southern cuisine; the ‘microregions’ of the American South (which, Brock says ‘has as many cuisines and comprises a region nearly the same size as Continental Europe’) and how key dishes such as shrimp and grits and cornbread vary from microregion to microregion. Additionally, there are articles on fireplace cookery; smoking; grilling; how to take care of cast iron pans; how to cook a pot of greens and fresh field peas or butter beans; an introduction to cornbread; how to make butter; preserving and canning, and how to make vinegar. So go ahead, take Brock to bed.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in America, you’ll be able to take advantage of the two page list of resources at the back of the book to track down the likes of Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice, Rosebank Gold Grits and Hominy Corn; Kenny’s Farmhouse Dry Fork Reserve Asiago cheese; sorghum syrup, seed and flour; Lindera Farms honey vinegar and Bob Wood’s country ham. If you’re outside of America, then you’ll need to do a little research to identify the best substitutions, but on the whole you should be able to cook the majority of the recipes in the book albeit not to Brock’s high level of authenticity.

What’s the faff factor? Recipes vary from a relatively straightforward chicken breast with black pepper and peanut butter gravy, or pork shoulder steak with grilled mushrooms, to shrimp and grits that requires the preparation of four other linked recipes: oven roasted tomatoes; braised fennel; pressure cooker grits and crispy pigs ears. You’ll also need to make your own crab roe bottarga if you want to make Brock’s recipe for grilled oysters with green garlic butter (although he does say you can substitute a good ready made mullet bottarga).

How often will I cook from the book? Once you’ve sorted out what ingredients you might need to either omit or find alternatives for, you’re sure to find yourself returning to the book often. There’s a fantastic recipe for fried chicken, a great cheeseburger, some amazing looking biscuits (the savory scones, not the one’s you’d dunk in your PG Tips) and lots of delicious salads like grilled asparagus and cracklin’ salad and sides such as charred corn or grilled carrots that will brighten up any meal. There’s also enough weekend projects including condiments, pickles and preserves to keep you going for months.

Killer recipes? See above, but also pork prime rib with mustard onions; pit cooked chicken sandwiches; bacon jam; pea and hominy succotash; blackberry cobbler, and buttermilk pie.

What will I love? The food, as photographed by Peter Frank Edwards, looks fantastic. At 376 pages, the book covers a lot of ground and is a great introduction to South American cuisine.

Should I buy it? Unless you already own Heritage, Brock’s first book, you probably won’t have a book quite like South in your collection. Although some of the recipes might seem to be covering familar ground, you’ll want to have Brock’s version of grilled chicken wings with a West African style BBQ sauce as well as to experiment with some of the more recherché dishes such as Lowcountry fish-head stew.

Cuisine: American
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
South
Artisan, £30