From romantic cookbooks to recipes from Millennial kitchen stars to hand-drawn encyclopaedias, we've got the perfect Christmas gift guide for those who love cooking and those who live to eat.
Provence To Pondicherry: Recipes From France And Faraway
Author: Tessa Kiros
Tessa Kiros is the queen of romantic cookbooks. This latest is a book that romances food and travel, and French colonialism. It’s a charming book straddling East and West – you can’t help falling in love. Laid out like an antiquated book, photos of food and markets are interspersed with places, creating a mosaic of colours, food and life. It draws you in with its colour treatment – deeply nuanced, moody and rich, like a Frida Kahlo or Gauguin painting.
The story starts in Provence and traces the steps of French expansion to – what are now dependent territories or former colonies – Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry, Reunion Islands and back to Normandy in northern France. The recipes capture a slice of how French colonisation impacts the gastronomic landscape of each of the countries.
In Guadeloupe, a ratatouille Creole and bananes flambees au rhum. In Vietnam, bo bit tet (steak frites) and chicken liver and pork pate. In Pondicherry, appams (from crepes?) and potato and onion curry – they are rather more resistant in India, and Kiros found it hard to see any influence left by the French on the food; it is more a subtle combination of spices and chilli, and the use of certain French cooking techniques.
In La Reunion the French influence is more palpable: Canard a la vanille (vanilla duck), gratin de papaye vert (gratinated green papaya) and the spicy rougail in its many incarnations.
Back in Normandy, where the French ships set off from to explore the New World in the 17th century, it is interesting to see the reciprocal influences on local cuisine. So the journey comes round circle, where it starts from Provence, whose capital port city Marseille was a major gateway for the French empire to North Africa and the Orient for the exchange of spices and produce. – Julie Wong
Patisserie At Home
Author: Melanie Dupuis & Anne Cazor
Publisher: Harper Design
What happens when you a pair a pastry chef and a molecular gastronomist together on a cookbook? You get one heck of an educational ride! Melanie Dupuis (the pastry chef) and Anne Cazor (the molecular gastronomist) have come up with this really pretty book that isn’t just nice to look at – it actually teaches you everything you need to know about basic pastry elements like caramel, pastry cream, ganache, shortcrust pastry, choux pastry, croissant dough and so much more.
The book is beautifully presented with lots of pictures, infographics, step-by-step pictorial guides and illustrations to help readers really get to the bottom of how to make great pastry and why certain elements react the way they do.
If you’ve ever wanted to master pastry on an in-depth scale, this is the book to get. Trust me, your pastry will thank you for it. – Abirami Durai
Author: Dorie Greenspan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Dorie Greenspan is to cookies what David Beckham is to football. Both are legendary. Greenspan is a much vaunted cookie mistress who has won four James Beard Awards and has had two books on The New York Times bestseller list. She has come up with hundreds of cookie recipes, including the much-heralded World Peace cookie.
This book celebrates yet more of her delicious cookie creations, so you’ll find recipes for her lucky charm brownies, her newest chocolate chip cookies (she has an old one, too!), Princeton gingersnaps, classic jammers and lots of other sweet temptations. The pictures are spectacular and so mouth-watering, you’ll feel hungry even if you start reading the book on a full stomach.
The cookbook does a fantastic job of shining a spotlight on Greenspan’s large cookie repository and, to a larger extent, her bubbly personality. Oh, and there are lots of useful tips about tools, storage and other baking must-haves to help you along the way.
This is – and I cannot emphasise this enough – an essential addition to your cookie library. I guarantee total satisfaction and zero remorse. – AD
Everything I Want To Eat: Sqirl And The New California Cooking
Author: Jessica Koslow
Publisher: Abrams, New York
Jessica Koslow has a restaurant in California called Sqirl. It’s pretty popular, so much so that queues and celebs (like Busy Philips and Dave Franco) are a frequent occurrence. Oh, and Koslow was named online restaurant guide Eater LA’s Chef of the Year.
The cookbook represents everything Sqirl stands for, being filled with quirky, inventive recipes. So you’ll make all sorts of discoveries in this book like squid toast (yes, it’s a thing), sorrel pesto rice bowl, ganache and nut butter toast, strawberry, rose, geranium jam and cardamom doughnut-ish tea cakes. Everything looks and sounds really interesting and is complemented by out-of-this world gorgeous pictures (especially the dessert chapter) that you’ll spend hours poring over.
Koslow does name-drop quite a bit, often talking about chefs like Mark Bittman and Hugh Acheson saying such-and-such a thing about her food, but that’s actually clever marketing on her part (although she does mention A LOT of names). Probably the only slight negative about the book is the length of the recipes, which often have lots of instructions and sub-recipes on totally different pages.
But if you’re looking for an out-of-the-box cookbook with creative (often healthy) recipes, this fits the bill to a T. – AD
Taste & Technique
Author: Naomi Pomeroy
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
If you are a home cook ready for the next big step, this book will get you there – faster. Naomi Pomeroy has been there: she learnt how to cook from books (by Charlie Trotter, Alice Waters, Gray Kunz, Madeleine Kamman) and went on to open four restaurants.
She digested the French technique and rebirthed it as her own new baby, soft and warm, gurgling with pleasure. She comes from a food- and rock and roll-loving French mother and learnt how to make soufflé aged seven. Impressed? Proven – there are four recipes for fabulous-looking soufflés in Taste & Technique and the picture of her cheesy French onion soup will make you drool.
But she’s no French snob, having grown up in Oregon in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and makes soulful sauces like a hazelnut Romesco from pantry staples. Her food is modern French with an inventive spirit – homey atas food that calls out to the gourmet, like a new potato salad with fava beans and morels, butter poached halibut, and buttermilk black pepper ice cream. – JW
Author: Alex Hely-Hutchinson
Publisher: Square Peg
Around London, Alex Hely-Hutchinson is known as the “posh porridge” champion; 26 Grains is also the name of her shop, a number she is drawn to. In the book she features nine grains, which are “enough to broaden your horizons without overwhelming your store cupboard”.
She revels in the hominess of porridge as the ultimate nostalgia food but takes inspiration from her time in Denmark. “The Danes do porridge properly,” she says. Apart from oats, they use ancient grains like spelt and barley, topped with fragrant Nordic spices. At her shop she changes the menu according to the season to use only the best quality fruit in season. The recipes straddle every-thing from breakfast, lunch and dinner to desserts and things to have on hand in the larder.
Examples of her sexy porridge: Miso rice porridge with mango and hazelnuts; millet, spinach and cheddar muffins; and – my favourite – coconut and butter squash curry with black sticky rice.
For those into whole grains and healthy food, this is your new bible. Not to mention it is almost meat- and wheat-free. – JW
Author/Illustrator: Julia Rothman
Publisher: Storey Publishing
There are many reasons why you may want this book – even if you’re well over your teens. It’s pretty, witty, arty and fun. It’s like peeking into a foodie’s hand-drawn and hand-written scrapbook made on an expedition around the world. In other words, it’s a mini illustrated food encyclopaedia.
What it lacks in depth is surely made up for in breadth – it covers a surprising amount of stuff and points out the curious and trivial, like who puts banana sauce on French fries and how they have Rolexes for breakfast in Uganda. Do you know what’s an affineur? Transhumance? Pasta filata? Clue: they are all found under the topic Curd Nerdisms. The book even weaves in a bit of science – like what happens when you pop corn.
This book is meant to inspire you to experiment with cooking more, be curious about what you’re eating, and go on more food adventures. An aspiring MasterChef Junior participant would be grateful for this. – JW