Cooking the Books

 5 cookery books to give to family and friends this Christmas. 

Gifting a book this Christmas is tempting because it seems quick and easy but it’s probably just as hard to get it right as buying my chic daughters something to wear. Will it be liked or put to one side only to reappear in a pile for the charity shop sometime in March? Don't make the mistake of picking up a title from the promotions table as you walk through Waterstone's or browse best sellers on-line - both likely to be more miss than hit.  Most of us love cookery books to pore over, ones which have a big dollop of style and beauty about them. I love to be transported to another place or to a different lifestyle and feel the excitement of making life lovely. I also want to hear the voices of the cooks, their stories, jokes and tips and want to feel inspired to make something new. So here are my 5 recommendations which will make magic in the kitchen all year round. I've been really pleased with the food I've cooked from all of them I promise. 

Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite is the third of Gizzi Erskine’s cook books and I like it the best. Now here’s a great bedtime read offering inspired recipes with a big focus on health and wellbeing. She is a strong advocate for the 80/20 rule - healthy foods for 80% of the time and anything you want to treat yourself to for the remaining 20%. There’s quite a bit in her book about eating raw foods and there are lots of main courses like chipotle chicken and a seriously tasty French fish stew. For weekends you’ll find some yummy cake recipes which are easy to follow. 

My second recommendation is Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. It’s not newly published but is a great favourite of many people I know. This is a great family cookbook which everyone can use; the recipes are colour coded and honestly easy to make.  Her food is Mediterranean in style and there’s a nice mix of everyday and special occasion cooking.  Her most recent book Limoncello and Linen Water features recipes and a dreamy lifestyle from her adopted home in Tuscany. 

If the person you’re buying for loves Italian food you could consider The Tucci Cookbook by Stan Tucci whom you will recognise from his film roles, (The Hunger Games, Julia Child’s husband in Julie & Julia and many more). The recipes themselves are both accessible and authentic and the wine pairings should appeal to any serious foodie. His most recent book The Tucci Table is worth a look too. 

A brilliant new cookbook with families in mind is The Five O’ Clock Apron by Claire Thomson, a chef and parent who succeeds in suggesting meals in minutes that both children and adults will love. This is an empowering book that showcases freshly prepared food that children love to eat and even help to prepare. I loved the chicken and bean paella which transfers to a adult supper dish with no trouble at all. Not so focussed on healthy options though. 

My favourite from this selection of favourites is A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones. It has changed the way I think about vegetarian food for ever. There’s a huge number of recipes which you can serve with grilled meat or fish if you wish but centre stage is the marvellous combination of vegetables such as her hearty cassoulet or wonderful sweet potato and lentil pie. She is expert at mixing spices which makes her food taste new and exciting. Her chapters on desserts and cakes suggest alternatives to butter, refined sugar and even eggs so the healthy cooking box gets a huge tick too. Highly recommended.

Look up the titles and cooks on line, the British ones all have websites, blogs and IG accounts to give you more information. 

JB October 2015

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