Take the stress out of festive shopping this year; Deputy Editor Amanda David picks five of the best cookbooks for those hard-to-please people on your list.
1. For the Foodie: Three by Selin Kiazim
Three looks at the magic elements that make a plate of food truly come into its own: acid, texture and contrast — the fundamental building blocks that will transform a modest dish into the star of the show.
Selin Kiazim, chef-director of Oklava in London's Shoreditch, gives you the know-how on how to use ingredients from the store cupboard or fridge and combine them in a way that elevates every single element. Whether you want a simple midweek meal or a centrepiece to blow your guests' socks off, there's something for all occasions.
"The idea behind Three is simple: to share with passionate fellow cooks the foundational tools I use on a daily basis, at home and in my restaurants, to create my dishes. My hope is that home cooks will use the three building blocks of acid, texture and contrast to turn good dishes into knockout dishes, and become more intuitive and playful cooks in the process."
2. For the Bake-Off Fan: Bad Girl Bakery by Jeni Iannetta
Jeni Ianetta's fabulous book is full of tried and tested recipes from the Bad Girl Bakery in the Scottish Highlands, so all those gorgeous cakes and goodies that fill the counter and beg to be bought as a 'bad girl' treat can now be made in your own kitchen. Cupcakes, cookies, muffin and traybakes, achievable special occasion cakes and some savouries too, plus vegan options and tips on icing for beginners, this would be a stylish gift for anyone keen on baking at any level.
For Jeni, baking is about the occasional indulgence that’s worth it. It’s about baking being a process that brings you joy. These aren’t recipes with hundreds of steps, requiring loads of specialist kit; it’s about baking with the best ingredients, and recipes that celebrate texture and flavour and are inspired by home baking techniques. They are do-able, fast, with simple steps and tricks that yield the tastiest results and look great without hours and hours of work.
There are so many recipes in here I want to try - Crème Brûlée Cupcakes, Cardamom & White Chocolate Sticky Buns, Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies - but honestly, this book had me at chapter one: 'Cake for Breakfast'. And after all, we all know Bad Girls make good cake.
3. For the TikTok generation: Poppy Cooks by Poppy O'Toole
TikTok star and potato ambassador Poppy O'Toole isn't just a pretty face; she's a professional chef who has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens and found a new passion for teaching others following redundancy due to the pandemic. Her natural, informal style and sense of fun make this a perfect book for beginners or students leaving home for the first time.
'Whether you're completely new to the kitchen or looking to elevate your basics with clever tricks, my step-by-step guidance will help you nail delicious food every time. As a chef with over ten years' experience in professional kitchens, I've done the years of training so you don't have to.' 'It's okay to make a few mistakes along the way, and together, we'll help you fix them and achieve incredible results at home. I am passionate about the importance of great food at home, every day – it's what we all deserve. This is not just the food you want. It's the food you need.'
4. For Travel & Culture Buffs: Macedonia by Katerina Nitsou
Macedonian cuisine is a rich mosaic of influences from the Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as Kosovo to the north, Bulgaria to the East and Greece to the south. Macedonia: The Cookbook is a love letter to Macedonian culture and a cuisine deeply rooted in its land and traditions.
Chef and food writer Katerina Nitsou shares over 100 mouthwatering recipes, from the spicy grilled peppers that grace every table to cool cucumber Tarator soup; hearty pork rib & butterbean stew to chicken pillar; coiled filled pastries and breads to pear strudel. If you're sick of staycationing and long for the experience of a delicious traditional meal in a foreign land, then grab a copy of this, get cooking and flick through the author's childhood memories and photographs as the scent of stuffed peppers or bourek fills your kitchen.
With beautiful photography of the food, people, and landscapes of Northern Macedonia, it’s a celebration of a fascinating and diverse country and welcome escapism.
5. For the Takeaway Fan - 30 Minute Mowgli by Nisha Katona
Mowgli restaurants are loved for their food menu that’s big on flavour but also light and healthy. In this follow-up book to the best-selling Mowgli Street Food the same philsophy applies, but this book is aimed at home cooks with busy lifestyles. Spice-packed, punchy, fresh and Indian-inspired, the dishes in this book are created from accessible ingredients, many that you probably already have in the cupboard or fridge - perfect for a cheaper, healthier 'fakeaway' night.
Passionate about food waste, Nisha Katona, TV chef and founder and creator of the Mowgli Indian restaurants, shares the dishes she cooks at home - over 100 recipes that help families cook quickly but also more economically. There are old favourites such as Chicken Dhansak and Tandoori Lamb Chops, more unusual dishes like Mowgli Coleslaw Chicken Bowl and Gingerbread Lamb Steaks and even some pasta dishes in the chapter called 'Ma, Look Away!". Unlike some cookbooks promising speedy suppers that seem to think you have a sous chef to chop, peel and slice all your ingredients, these are genuinely achievable in half an hour.
[Items in this article may have been gifted to Chatting Food. No financial payment has been made to feature in this article, and entries to the feature are made independently by members of the Editorial Team. This page contains affiliate links and we may receive a small commission for purchases]
Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Freelance food writer, copywriter and blogger Amanda David is dedicated to sharing news about London’s restaurants, bars, events and general wonderfulness. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
She has also just launched a new website, A Cook's Bookshelf, reviewing cookbooks old and new, with side-by-side photographs of recipe illustrations next to her home-cooked version.
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