If you are looking for a Christmas gift for a budding chef, or need some inspiration here are some of my favourites, and all are a joy to cook from.
The Seafood Shack
Kirsty Scobie and Fenella Renwick
Kitchen Press: £20
A trip to Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands last September and a visit to the Seafood Shack, I knew there was something special going
on up there. I wasn’t prepared though to want to cook every recipe in their award-winning book, which to date is quite a few.
Kirsty and Fenella set up the Seafood Shack in 2016, out of frustration at the serious lack of seafood available to eat in their hometown in north-west Scotland. There are wonderful stories about the people and the area, but the magic of the book is the innovative and imaginative, well-written recipes with straightforward explanations of any techniques. The Seafood Shack is a classic in the making.
My favourite recipe: haddock wrap with lemon mayo.
Good for: all levels of cook.
Preserving, Potting and Pickling
Grub Street: £25
This book is so seriously lovely, even if you never cooked from it you would not be disappointed. Elisabeth Luard is not a celebrity or a chef, but one of Britain’s most highly respected food writers and illustrators; there are no photos in this book, just Elisabeth’s beautiful drawings.
She has raided the store cupboards of Europe and brought together between the covers of the delicious book, recipes for pickles to jams, bottled sauces to potted and dried meats, directions for drying and storing vegetables, pulses, herbs and fungi. There is even a chapter on First Aid with some rather lovely lotions and potions. Here is a book that you will dip in and out of for years to come.
My favourite recipe: lotions and potions.
Good for: anyone who loves a well-stocked larder.
The Batch Cook Book
This lovely book from renowned food writer and photographer Sam Gates tackles the modern-day dilemmas for those of us who lead busy lives; how do we eat better, stress less and reduce waste.
This unique book covers batch or advanced cooking and shows how by planning, you can reach for a delicious, home-made dish and ditch the dubious leftovers. There are over 70 recipes from base sauces to breakfast, lunches, dinners and puds for when you have the time to cook, to eat when you don’t.
My favourite recipe: slow-cooked mustard and maple pulled pork.
Good for: busy people.
Ebury Press: £27
Ottolenghi, a chef-writer so famous he no longer needs to use his first name, and his new book focus on, you guessed it, flavour. Assisted by Ixta Belfrage, a talented chef from his test kitchen, he generously shares the credit for the book with her.
The pair sweep you through an incredible array of vegetable recipes with every page offering an abundance of flavours, texture, colour and taste, global influences and daring adaptations of classic Italian dishes. With glorious images from photographer Jonathan Lovekin, this was a ride I did not want to get off.
My favourite recipe: spicy berbere ratatouille with coconut salsa.
Good for: vegetarians and adventurous cooks.
Easy Vegan Bible
Hardie Grant: £22
This bright, beautiful tome of a book comes packed with an astonishing range of recipes for anyone following a plant-based diet, or who simply wants to eat less meat.
There are many preachy, worthy books on veganism out there, but Yorkshire-based Katy has this whole subject nailed in a refreshing, approachable and appealing way. She tempts with beautifully written and easy to follow recipes for a vast range of meals, all wrapped up with glorious photography.
My favourite recipe: a 30-minute dahl recipe.
Good for: healthier eating.
The Curry Guy Bible
Hardie Grant: £25
Yorkshire-based writer-cum-chef Dan Toombs, aka the Curry Guy, is something of a celebrity over on social media which bears testament to his popularity. The “Bible” is a compilation of his favourite recipes from previous books and a selection of new, bringing together 200 Indian restaurant and takeaway classics to cook at home.
I had to wrestle this book from my husband, and it is easy to understand why. There are great intros on the origins of dishes and detailed easy-to-follow recipes to cheer on any cook from the beginner to expert.
My favourite recipe: tandoori lobster.
Good for: curry lovers.
Oats in the North, Wheat from the South
Murdoch Books: £25
The intriguing title of this book refers to the climate of Britain and the effect this had on food from the North with its rougher, wetter weather and the drier, warmer south. Regula takes us through those landscapes and their resulting bakes with 100 detailed, intensely researched and beautifully written and photographed recipes.
From bread, biscuits, cakes and tarts to pies and pastries, the recipes evoke nostalgia and a need to rush to the kitchen and bake. I do have an issue with this gorgeous book; the Yorkshire Curd Tart needs more currants to be the authentic tart of my childhood. Otherwise, it is fabulous.
My favourite recipe: pork pies.
Good for: all bakers out there.
Christmas with Kim Joy
Hardie Grant: £22.99
Now here’s a book to bring joy to everyone in these strange times from one of Bake Off’s favourite finalists, Kim Joy, who also happens to live here in Yorkshire. Even the cover of this colourful, fun book will make you smile.
All brightly coloured and full of the cleverest bakes, there is something in here for everyone and at whatever level of baker you are. But all the fun and cuteness does not mean this isn’t a serious, professional book.
The recipes are meticulous, her hints, tips and step-by-step images detailed to make it so easy to understand. Kim Joy’s personality is also what makes this book shine. What a pity it is only for Christmas.
My favourite recipe: reindeer Bakewell tarts.
Good for: everyone.
Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots
This enchanting book is for anyone who likes the idea of growing vegetables but is short on space and who also loves to cook. Aaron Berteisen is the vegetable gardener and cook at the historic house Great Dixter. The gardening section is extremely detailed and informative and covers growing and caring for most vegetables and fruits.
In the cooking half, there are wonderful, approachable, comforting recipes from Aaron’s friends and gardeners around the world all bursting with goodness from all that home-grown veg, herbs and fruits. Even if you haven’t grown the ingredients, the recipes are still temptingly delicious.
My favourite recipe: preserved lemons.
Good for: gardeners and cooks.
Baking at the
20th Century Café
Artisan Books: £27.99
Be warned, this is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a stunning book that will melt the hearts of anyone who hankers after taking their baking to dizzy heights and is willing to put in the work and dedication. All that said, it may be aspirational but in parts it is also approachable; not all recipes are as long as the three-page, delicious walnut apricot torte.
Michelle is a hugely respected owner and pastry chef of the wonderful 20th Century Cafe in San Francisco. A chef working at this level was never going to write a beginner’s book. If this is the year you took up baking during the lockdown, this is not the book for you.
My favourite recipe: the three-page
Good for: advanced bakers.