Recipe for a happy kitchen! Whet your cook’s appetite with this list of 2016’s BEST culinary titles


(Michael Joseph £26)

Jamie Oliver has been a mentor for an entire generation of young cooks who were inspired by his passionate belief that cooking with fresh ingredients could be tasty, fun and a bit irreverent. Here, he tackles that most daunting of culinary prospects: Christmas food.

‘Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful,’ he announces — a claim that might raise a hollow laugh from cynics.

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook (Michael Joseph £26)

But if you take his advice, plan ahead and delegate some of the hard work to friends and family, you might just find your Christmas turning out as jolly as the cheery photos of Jamie’s festive gatherings.

His mum, wife Jools and their adorable sprogs are pictured lending a hand to prepare such seasonal delights as cracker ravioli stuffed with chestnuts and ricotta, turkey wellington and Jamie’s mum’s retro trifle — a dayglo spectacular of trifle sponge, orange jelly, strawberry blancmange and tinned mandarin segments.


Rick Stein’s Long Weekends (BBC Books £25)


(BBC Books £25)

Rick Stein’s latest book is based around the appealing concept of a weekend city break.

His intention, he explains, is to inspire his readers to go to Bordeaux, Berlin, Reykjavik, Vienna, Bologna, Copenhagen, Cadiz, Lisbon, Thessaloniki and Palermo, because these are cities he loves, with culinary traditions as rich as their cultural life.

As a souvenir of your travels he suggests you bring back not knick-knacks or bottles of obscure liqueurs, but the authentic flavours of Portugal, Italy or Iceland.

With this in mind, he offers a selection of recipes to match the buzzy excitement of Friday night, or the relaxed ambience of a long Sunday lunch.

A Sicilian dish of pasta with cauliflower, anchovies, currants and pine nuts is a fine way to get the weekend started; Viennese Goulash with spatzle is a sustaining dish for Saturday dinner; and what better Sunday breakfast than cinnamon churros with spiced chocolate sauce?


Vegetables by Antonio Carluccio (Quadrille £25.00)


(Quadrille £25.00)

Chef, restaurateur and TV presenter Antonio Carluccio has written an entire library of cookbooks, and his latest volume has a distinguished ancestry.

As he explains in the introduction, in 1611, Giacomo Castelvetro, an Italian living in England, wrote The Fruit, Herbs And Vegetables Of Italy in the hope of persuading the British to eat more fruit and veg.

Four centuries later, Carluccio is on a similar mission with an appetising selection of recipes ranging from a rustic panzanella salad of toasted bread and tomatoes to a luxurious dish of truffled potato puree and Carluccio’s personal favourite, an intensely flavoured mushroom risotto.

Not that meat is overlooked: carnivores will relish a warming winter dish of sausages and borlotti beans or a Pugliese lamb and aubergine pie.

To follow, he suggests pistachio ice cream, with a tiny glass of a powerful home-made green walnut liqueur as a digestif.


The Indian Cookery Course by Monisha Bharadwaj (Kyle Books £30)


by Monisha Bharadwaj (Kyle Books £30)

The special relationship between British and Indian food has its roots deep in our countries’ joint history. But our passion for curry has not always been matched by our expertise in preparing it.

When Monisha Bharadwaj first came to England from Mumbai in the Eighties, she found the grocery shops offering mostly ‘parsnips, swedes and Brussels sprouts’, and she struggled to find the spices she needed.

Thirty years on, the ingredients for Indian food are readily available, and Monisha’s cookery course offers a ‘personal one-to-one lesson’ in creating the perfect Indian meal.

If further persuasion were needed, she points out that in India, ‘the highest demonstration of love is to feed someone’. A family that sits down to share her crisp garlic prawns, fragrant lentils with spinach or spicy, golden grilled cauliflower steaks with mint and coriander chutney will find that Monisha’s food satisfies more than just hunger.


Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi with Tara Wigley (Ebury Press £27)


(Ebury Press £27) 

It takes a while for a novel to earn the status of a classic, and the same is true of cookery books. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s first cookbook was originally published in 2008, and this revised edition reveals it to be one of those volumes that no serious food-lover should be without.

The two restaurateur-authors are endearingly self-critical in their introduction. Why, they wonder, did they ever think it a good idea to garnish everything with pomegranate seeds? And what’s with the picture of the (very sweet) dog that was always parked outside their Notting Hill deli?

But every recipe in this splendid book makes you want to get your apron on.

I have made their roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey and their superb meatballs with tahini and kosheri (lentils, rice and vermicelli) so often that my copy is covered in stains and splashes — the unmistakable sign of a true classic. 


Simple by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley £25)


Mitchell Beazley £25)

Everyone needs at least one cookbook that doesn’t demand top chef-style techniques, hard-to-source ingredients or elaborate kitchen equipment, but simply offers a selection of quick-to-make recipes that are exactly what you feel like eating for supper. Diana Henry’s Simple is that book.

‘There’s no one who can’t cook,’ she writes bracingly in her introduction, and this book will convince even the most reluctant cook that she is right,

Her uncomplicated but sophisticated dishes include linguine all’amalfitana — punchy flavours of anchovy, chilli, garlic and walnut — or a one-pot dish of Moroccan-spiced chicken with dates and aubergines, where you tip all the ingredients into a casserole and 40 minutes later a fragrant, nearly effortless meal emerges from the oven.

An almost instant pudding of hot cherries with grappa and ice cream is a stylish finish from this most appetising of everyday cookbooks.




(Penguin Fig Tree £20)

As a keen carnivore, I regarded Meera Sodha’s book of Gujerati vegetarian recipes with scepticism, finding it hard to believe that a meal without fish or meat could be truly satisfying.

But in a very short time, Sodha’s Fresh India has become one of our most-used family cookbooks.

The fragrant spinach, tomato and chickpea curry is a suppertime favourite, while the aubergine fesenjan with walnuts and pomegranate seeds, and the crisp and delicate fennel and apple chaat salad with caramelised almonds, have been elegant centrepieces of celebration lunches. The chestnut mushroom and walnut samosas vanish as though by magic.

This is real soul food: alongside beautiful photographs of the dishes are charming pictures of Meera’s grandma and mother, from whom she learned to cook. Every recipe is infused with the mixture of enthusiasm and precision that make this book as easy to love as it is to use.


PERFECT PLATES IN 5 INGREDIENTS by John Whaite (Kyle Books £18.99)


by John Whaite (Kyle Books £18.99)

It’s rare to find the great fashion designer, Coco Chanel, cited as the inspiration for a cookery book.

But former Great British Bake-off winner John Whaite has applied her dictum — that before you go out you should remove one item of clothing — to his cookbook, which limits its recipes to five main ingredients. Not that simplicity means austerity. Whaite’s menu begins with brunch ideas from the hearty (‘crashed’ breakfast eggs with peppers and sausage) to the indulgent (affogato monkey bread with coffee syrup and vanilla ice cream).

Everyday Plates include supper dishes such as mushroom and sage gnocchi, while Posh Plates offer such showstoppers as asparagus and leeks braised in Riesling and tarragon with prosciutto.




(Bloomsbury £26.00)

Yasmin Khan was born in Croydon, but her childhood memories are infused with the flavours of Iran, where her grandparents lived.

Iranians love to eat, and sharing food is part their culture. So for her debut cookbook, Yasmin travelled around Iran, exploring the riches of traditional Persian cuisine and discovering some intriguing modern twists along the way.

The Saffron Tales is a beautifully illustrated cook’s tour of a country whose love of food has survived conflict and turmoil.

Elegant, accessible recipes include a comforting onion soup said to cure broken hearts, chicken with walnuts and pomegranates, a winter salad of red cabbage, beetroot and dates, and a rose-scented Persian love cake guaranteed to win the heart of anyone who shares it.


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