The Friday Five – the best cookbooks of 2016 around the world


Your own library of cookbooks


It’s no secret that I love cookbooks, and I love to give cookbooks as gifts. With so much choice though, it can be completely overwhelming, which is why those best of lists are so helpful. My only challenge is that they can be a little bit samey, from the same voices. So, I’ve looked a bit further afield to see what publications around the web have offered their readers, and taken my choices from there.


Better Baking: wholesome ingredients, delicious desserts


Better Baking by Genevieve Ko – from the Washington Post’s list, starting off with a baking book, but one that focuses on different flours, fats and sweeteners. A Melting Walnut Snowball sounds like perfect Christmas baking to me. Good to see some UK talent makes the list, including Chetna Makan and Diana Henry. Was also a close run thing to make this entry Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, as I do love these two. Maybe order both?


Food52: a new way to dinner


Food52 A New Way to Dinner – up to Canada now for this list from the Ottawa Citizen. Again, good to see Diana Henry on the list, but I’ve chosen this one from the team at Food52. This is to tackle weekday dinners, the just feed us all now kind of dinners. Each of the sections gives you the recipes and the shopping lists, and gives you weekday choices, many that riff one off the next so you can always work out what to do with leftover ingredients. Great for busy working people who like to cook for themselves.


Meathead: The Science of Great Grilling


Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling – this one comes from Wired’s list of cookbooks of 2016, not a publication I would have expected to have this feature but a really interesting list if you’re looking for books that do the science of cooking as well as tasty dishes. If you’ve got a really keen grillmaster or mistress to buy for, this book would up their game to a whole new level, not to mention giving them some new recipes to go at. Expect a lot of conversations about the benefits of reverse searing.


All Under Heaven


All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China – as you might expect from the Bay area, this is a fabulous book of Chinese recipes from across this huge country, written by a San Francisco based food blogger and writer. From the San Francisco Times list, this is described as detailed and academic, hefty but a pleasure to read. Definitely one for those who love their Chinese food authentic and varied.


An: To Eat


An: To Eat – finally, from Gear Patrol’s list, comes this exploration of Vietnamese cooking from Helene An. Exploring her family’s story through cooking, this gives over 100 recipes including things like oven-roasted lemongrass chicken and slow roasted pork shoulder. In fact all the books on the Gear Patrol list were a bit different and, with the exception of Tim Anderson’s book, not ones that I’d come across before.

So, some different choices, some different lists and possible extra brownie points on Christmas Day. Or some extra books on your own bookshelves. I consider that a win either way.


My fail safe cookbooks to gift to anyone


I love cookbooks, as many areas of my house would testify. And my favourites are well thumbed, and probably covered in cooking stains, which to me is the badge of a successful book. I’ve also given quite a number of cookbooks to other people over the years, and I know which ones people come back to tell me they’ve used, even if they were reluctant cooks and bakers.

So these may not be the newest, flashiest or cheapest books on the shelves this Christmas, but these cookbooks are ones that I think earn their keep year after year, and every home should have some if not all of them.


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard

I’ve given quite a number of copies of this over the years, because it’s my favourite baking book. It’s also crammed full of incredible recipes, brilliant technique and great photos, written in a way that just makes you want to get into the kitchen straightaway! I love Dan’s writing, and his recipes, and I love to share this book.


River Cottage Family Cookbook - great gift for learner cooks


The River Cottage Family Cookbook

This is a great book for people with kids who want to cook, as it’s written in a way that’s really accessible for kids to read and follow, but not in a patronising way. It’s also great building blocks of cooking so allowing them to move beyond the basics and produce “proper” meals. It’s also a great book for those who say they don’t know how to cook.


The Social Bite Cookbook


The Social Bite Cookbook

I give this one because it’s a good cookbook that does good too. I love Social Bite, think it’s the most fantastic busienss, and I am so pleased to see them going from strength to strength, allowing them to do more good work. Look, if George Clooney thinks it’s a good thing, who am I to argue? If your Secret Santa budget is £10, spend it on this.


The New English Kitchen


The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince

The subtitle to this is how to make your food go further, and I think that the year ahead could be a tough one, and that we might all be tightening our belts just a bit further again. I fell in love with this book whilst on holiday this year, and just think it’s one that you’d end up dipping into time and time again, particularly when trying to work out what to do with leftovers, or stretch a piece of meat to cover more than one meal, or more people. Not short on taste or interesting recipes, I think it’s a keeper.


Star Wars Cookbook - for great food in this galaxy and beyond


The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookies Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes

Ok, this one is a bit of stuff and nonsense, but it is Christmas after all, and I know that this book is always a winner with anyone with even a passing love of Star Wars. I’ve bought more niche cookbooks over time, but none more loved or laughed over than this one. Love seeing people’s faces when they open this one.


So, these are my fail safes, that I think you can gift to just about anyone and be sure of a winner for them, and also for when they start cooking and baking from them. I’d love to know what your go to books to gift to someone else are, and why. And what’s the best one that you’ve ever received and would not now be without?


The Friday Five – great cookbooks for great dads


To finish off this year’s round up of great gifts for Dads, then these are 5 cookbooks that I think Dads might relate to and want to get into kitchen and start getting stuck into.


Bake It Yourself by Richard Burr - great cookbook gift for a food lover with a baking habit


BIY: Bake It Yourself by Richard Burr

Richard is one of my favourite non-winners of Bake Off, who could forget him and his pencil stuck behind his ear? Not to mention some incredible bakes. A good mix of sweet and savoury bakes, for every level of baker. Pencil not provided.


Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys - a great cookbook gift for a food lover with a big appetite

Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn

I’ve cooked from this one, and it’s both great for feeding men, but also I would say could be the sort of robust dishes guys like. It’s not a dumbed down cookbook for men, it’s about great flavours but without necessarily being over-complicated, a recognition of the way most of us, men and women, cook for our families. I like this one a lot.


Tom's Table: My Favourite Everyday Recipes - great cookbook gift for a food lover with a taste for robust food

Tom’s Table: My Favourite Everyday Recipes by Tom Kerridge

I really like Tom Kerridge, doesn’t matter how many Michelin stars he has, he is still refreshingly down to earth and remembers how we cook in our own non-professional kitchens. What I like is that he brings in appropriate shortcuts from the pro kitchen to help take your home cooking up a level, without it getting over-complicated or stressful. Because it’s all about the taste, and everyone sitting down to some great grub.


Low and Slow: How to Cook Meat - a great cookbook gift for a food lover with a lot of patience


Low and Slow: How to Cook Meat by Neil Rankin

Couple of my favourite things going on here. I love slow cooked meat, and think it’s an appealing subject for a book for meat lovers. This is about taking something and treating it lovingly for a long period of time and watching it transform. Slow cooked brisket is one of my favourite things ever. And also it’s good to see a new book from Neil Rankin, one of those chefs who flies a bit under the radar.


The World of the Happy Pear - a great cookbook gift for a food lover


The World of the Happy Pear by David and Stephen Flynn

Just to balance out the meat from the previous title, then this is the latest offering from the Flynn brothers. Owners of the legendary Happy Pear Cafe in Ireland, they continue on their quest to show that vegetarian food is endlessly varied, packed full of flavour and simple to prepare. Well, they’re looking well on it and the recipes sound delicious too. I’m up for a grilled halloumi burger anytime.

So, five varied titles for Dads, hopefully not playing too much into male cooking clichés. If the dad in your life has a favourite cookbook then I’d love to hear about it, please leave me a note in the comments.





Meals in minutes with a muffin pan


Muffin Tin Meals In Minutes


I meant to write about this book for Christmas, as actually I think there comes a point in the holidays that you just really want quick and simple. I think after 9 nights of cooking for 5 of us, I was certainly there. Though I did get one night away from the kitchen, with a dirty burger stop at the OK Diner which was fab.

But, back to the book.

This is a great idea, quick meals that cook in a muffin pan. I think it’s brilliant for families, and quite often for cooking with the kids, as most things are relatively simple. In fact, baked eggs couldn’t be more simple, as it literally is eggs baked in their shells. I prefer the next few which are proper baked eggs, which again is simple, tasty, quick and easy.

Once you move on from breakfast, then there are things like Chicken Pot Pies and Lasagne Cups. What I love is that these are quick and easy, both to make and to serve. They’re a bit like posh finger food, perfect for when you just all want to sit around the fire rather than up at the table.

There are sweet things too, like mini pineapple upside down cakes and brownie pinwheels. Then there’s a whole section on things specifically to cook with kids.

Look, this is not advanced cooking or things that you might not be able to just knock up anyway, but I thought it was a fun idea for a book, and I could imagine picking this up from time to time when time was short and we just wanted something easy, or if my nephew and niece were coming as I think they would both enjoy the prep and the eating.

Written by Melanie LaDue and published by Race Point, this is currently £12.99 at Waterstones.


My cookbook challenge


And no, the challenge is not to not buy any more, but it is to make more of the ones I’ve got. And probably I should add to it not get any more but that’s not the main purpose!


The shelf of most used books in my house. My gifts to myself.


I do have a lot of cookbooks, and that’s after a major clear out. It’s not deliberate, but I still have over 50 books on the shelves. So my plan is to cook a recipe from one each week. My only rules for myself are that it can’t be something that I’ve cooked before, as for a big chunk of the books on the shelves then I have cooked something from them. I just don’t think I’ve done enough.


The ones from the side of the bed - love my cookbooks


And yes, there are still a few on there that I’ve not cooked from at all. There’s plenty of variety up on these shelves, including Christmas and Halloween ones, so should be able to cover any eventuality.


The bottom shelf in the utility - can you have too many cookbooks?


I’m starting this week with The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales by Lindsay Bareham. I really like Lindsay’s writing style, and the idea behind this book of all the different cooking pots and utensils. I’ve made the classic fish pie with parsley sauce and I think that’s it. I’m going to make the Sri Lankan Ginger & Lime Chicken Curry, as MGG has also challenged me to come up with the best chicken curry that she will love. Which means flavour not spice.


The other utility room shelf - another shelf of cookbook love


I’m quite looking forward to it, if only because it will mean getting books back down the shelf and having a read of them to find a recipe to try. And I’m looking forward to trying some new stuff, and challenging myself should be fun. Maybe I’ll end up with a new favourite cookbook, or maybe I’ll end up with some empty space on the shelves.

Where should I go after The Trifle Bowl? Open to suggestions!



The cookbooks that earn their keep


Over the year I’ve written 25 Friday Fives about cookbooks, so 125 different cookbooks, plus one or two other posts about different books, so probably about 135 in total. Which is probably about the same number as around the house here, though not the same 135!

But like most of us then not all 135 have got used! In fact I would say probably not even a quarter. But these are the ones that have definitely not been stuck on the shelf, and are unlikely to be in 2014 either:


Tamasin's Kitchen Bible - this one earns its keep time and time again


Tamsin’s Kitchen Bible – this is just always going to be one of my go to cookbooks. This year I’ve consulted it for sweet and sour pork stir fry, carrot soup, and for Hollandaise. The last one not so successfully, but think that was operator error!


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever


Short and Sweet– still loving this book, still working my way through it. I tested the bread recipe against a Paul Hollywood one. I know which is my favourite.


Jamie's Great Britain


Jamie’s Great Britain – I am not a huge Jamie Oliver fan, in fact this is the only one of his cookbooks that I have. But what I’ve made from this I’ve loved. Earl Grey tea loaf, lightly spiced kedgeree, Empire roast chicken, warm crispy duck salad…all lovely, and perfect for sharing with friends.


Arabesque by Claudia Roden - great cookbook to gift to a food lover who loves sunshine flavours


Arabesque – I cook from this whenever I need sunny tastes, or there is a plethora of pomegranate in the house.


Everyday and Sunday


Everyday & Sunday – as you’d expect with recipes from Riverford, I turned to this one to work out what to do with odd things or gluts from the veg box. I’ve done beetroot tzatziki, roasted cauli with chorizo and capers and chermoulah chicken. I can imagine there’ll be some more from here next year too.


Kitchen by Nigella Lawson


Kitchen – I was always Team Nigella, and never more so than this year. I’ve of course continued to cook old favourites from Domestic Goddess, but Kitchen was new to the shelf. It’s been great for good dinners for MGG and I, so simple things like Crispy Chicken Cutlets, barbecued beef mince and Korean keema. My kitchen has been my happy place, I hope it can be for others too.

Williams Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking – this was a gift along with my slow cooker, both of which have got a lot of use. I’ve surprised myself with the dishes I’ve turned out.

Pinterest – ok, I know not a cookbook, but I’ve probably used Pinterest as a recipe resource more than any other book on the shelf. Which seems a bit nuts with all the cook books, but has revealed some gems. There was the Apple and Cream Cheese Bundt Cake, pimping up breakfast with Peanut Butter Bacon Pancakes, an American style supper with Chicken Pot Pie with Bacon & Cheddar dumplings, and then the deliciousness that was Balsamic Beef.

So, looking forward to more cooking in the year ahead, although unsure which cookbooks will be spending more time off the shelf than on. What would be off your shelf? Always love a good recommendation!


Get your recipes published this Christmas


Photobox cookbook layouts -the ultimate cookbook gift for the food lover


Sorry, not a post on the quick way to get a deal with Random House, but a really great and unique gift to make and give. I’ve been doing photobooks for the grandparents for 11 years, and noticed my regular supplier now has some great layouts for cookbooks too. So you could transform all those well loved family favourites that perhaps exist on scrappy bits of paper into a proper looking book.

I can imagine this being a lovely family thing, if you’ve collected recipes from around family and friends as you could include their photos. If you’ve got a family member moving away from home for the first time, this could be a collection of their favourites, or just a collection of the easiest ones to make in one pan on one ring on a student budget for example. And it’s not just a Christmas thing, I can imagine doing this for a neighbour who was moving away, to perhaps all put in one recipe for them to remember you by, or that had been served at particular get togethers.


My books have usually come from Photobox, and I have always been really happy with them. Their versions run from 26 to 100 pages, and start at £32.99 plus delivery. A new one on me is Blurb, and this might be your route to self publishing, as not only can you buy it as a gift but you can have your book on their site for others to buy. Their prices seem to start at £7.95 for a small format soft back book.

This is not a last minute gift, and they do seem to always take me more time than I think they will, but I always think it’s worthwhile. And this really does take personalised gifting to a new level on the book front.


The Friday Five – Reigning Cookbooks


I love a good vintage cookbook, if only as a document of social history, but sometimes I even cook from them. So, as we celebrate Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne, here’s five that span that glorious reign.


The Busy Girls' Cookbook - perfect gift for a food lover who likes it vintage


The Busy Girls’ Cookbook – see, not much changes, multi-tasking was going on then, just with less gadgets to help out. Although cooking with a cigarette in hand is generally very frowned on these days! I’d really like this one, sort of hits those real 50s housewife fantasies into a cocked hat, as this wasn’t for the woman who had all day!


Venus in the Kitchen - great gift for a food lover who likes it vintage


Venus in the Kitchen: Or Love’s Cookery Book by Norman Douglas – who knew? Saucy cooking in the 50s! Whatever next? Wonder if this one made it onto the shelves at Buckingham Palace?


The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen - Great gift for food lovers who like it veggie


The Moosewood Cookbook – onward to the Silver Jubilee, and the year that Mollie Katzen’s classic book was first published. I have the later edition, but this is a great book, even if from the US. I can imagine that it fitted right into 70s sensibilities, although her nut loaf is far from boring!


Cooking for Your Freezer by Mary Berry - great gift for a food lover who likes it retro


Cooking for Your Freezer by Mary Berry – this is a cookbook of my childhood. Just looking at the front cover makes me nostalgic, not only for the book but for those big family parties when this sort of food came out. My mum embraced the cooking for your freezer principles, and if I go through her cookbook shelf, I bet this is still there! And thanks to a charity booksale, it’s now on mine as well.


Jamie's Great Britain - great gift for a food lover who likes it British


Jamie’s Great Britain – one to bring it right up to date. I don’t really love Jamie Oliver books, but I was lent this one, and I’ve loved the dishes I’ve cooked from it. Empire Chicken and Earl Grey Tea Loaf alone make it worth the space. I think some of these we’ll be cooking for quite some time.

Whatever you’re doing, or not doing, over the Jubilee long weekend, I hope great food plays a part in your plans. Happy cooking and eating!


The Friday Five – Which cookbook presents am I jealous of?


I asked on Twitter earlier in the week (in a very nosy way) what cookbooks did everyone get for Christmas, just to see what was interesting, what was popular, and what I wish I’d got! Not that I’m complaining, having had five fabulous new additions to my bookshelf (shelves, to be fair). But from the responses I got, these are the ones I’d be dropping hints about:


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard - my favourite baking book ever


Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard – this got quite a few mentions, and some very positive feedback. I know I’ve been debating this one, and think on the basis of these comments, this should be here. Great for breads, cakes, anything on the baking front, but not overwhelming. One of those that you actually could work through from start to finish, and it not be a year’s project.

Giorgio Locatelli Made In Sicily - a gift of a cookbook for a food lover who loves every aspect of Italian food

Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli – I’m including this because it makes me think of sunshine, and I need that more than anything. I love Giorgio and the way he cooks, and the way he talks about food. I also don’t own any of his cookbooks, so this seems like a good place to start, as it’s a different slant on “Italian” cooking.



Jamie's Great Britain - a gift of a cookbook for a food lover looking for a new slant on British food


Jamie’s Great Britain – this got a few mentions, as I’d probably have expected. But I do think this will be a year of Britishness, in no small part down to the Olympics and Jubilee, and Jamie’s got the flags waving already. Even if he has got a British restaurant to promote, I do think it influences and reflects the zeitgeist. Being Jamie, it has good spins on old classics, and I’m sure would turn out dishes that were real crowd pleasers.


Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomaina Miers - a gift of a cookbook for food lovers looking for a real taste of Mexico


Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers – not a new book, and not one that I need as I bought it when it first came out, but it’s one I love. If your view of Mexican food is based on Chiquitos and M&S Tex Mex, then you need this book and to cook from it. Fresh flavours, exciting flavours, something to pep the taste buds up after the excesses of Christmas and in the dark days of January. Would recommend this one.


Eat Me Cupcakes and Other Fabulous Bakes - a gift of a cookbook for a baking food lover


Eat Me! The Stupendous, Self-Raising World of Cupcakes and Bakes According to Cookie Girl– of course I don’t need another baking book, but when did need come into it? This was recommended, particularly for the cookie recipes. I’m replacing cupcakes with cookies this year, so think this could get plenty of use.

So, five to think of (or at least four for me) and a bit of an update for my wishlist. What did you get and love, and would you add anything new to your wishlist now, based on what others had?


Who, or what, is on your top shelf?


I’ve been busy reorganising the kitchen, which of course meant a lot of cook books being moved around. And then my faves moving back into the kitchen, on top of the fridge. So, what’s up here? And why are they here?

What cookbooks are on your top shelf, your go to books?

The River Cottage Meat Book – because this is not a vegetarian household. And we once needed to butcher half a cow.

How to be a Domestic Goddess – there are so many food stains on this book, MGG and I bake from this all the time. And perfect comfort food as well. Love this book.

The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook – not one of my purchases, but I’ve used it a couple of times for good, old-fashioned weekend meals. Call it nostalgia, but this book seems to have tastes of my childhood in it. Will try a few more, it may move out the kitchen then!

Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible – this one will never leave my kitchen. Whatever you want to cook, there’s a great starting point in here for every kind of occasion. The recipes are great, the writing is engaging, and I want to cook everything in here, at least once. However, I have no idea why on earth this is so expensive, as the cheapest one on Amazon is £52! I certainly didn’t pay that for mine. So, if you ever spot this in a charity shop, buy it!

The River Cottage Family Cookbook – brilliant to let your kids loose with, and great for comfort food. A theme appears to be emerging!

The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World – I cook from this one a fair amount, Faux Pastor being my go to leftovers recipe. Great ideas for kids, and even for cooking when I’m on my own as all the recipes are really quick. Looking forward to courgettes returning so we can do courgette hummus again!

Arabesque by Claudia Roden – I love this book, and will be working through this during this year. Love the flavours of the Middle East, and the things I have tried from this so far have been delicious. It’s fantastic reading, as well as great for cooking from.

Jamie’s America – this one is awaiting the return of barbecue season. I did cook from it last summer, it’s got one more season in the kitchen to earn its place. Otherwise it’s with the other Jamies in the utility room!

The Book of Tapas – ssshh, I was bought this one, it wasn’t really on my wishlist, more one to start a post on here. Not loving it. It’s under notice.

Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course – every home should have one!

Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache – I do love this book, from the beautiful photography to the fantastic recipes. The chocolate beetroot brownie is often requested.

Delia Smith’s Winter Collection – this is due a swap anytime soon with the Summer collection. May well be over 15 years old, but I still cook from these now. Still with very tasty results.

How to Eat – if you could only have two cookbooks, surely this and Tamasin’s would give you just about everything you ever needed? Again, a very stained and creased book, much loved!

Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers – this is another of my books for pushing along my cooking ability and repertoire, and I have loved what I’ve made so far. But I’ve not made enough, so it’s staying put. Just need to stay off the tequila!

The Silver Spoon – love Italian food, thought I’d love this. Not cooked from it since it arrived over a year ago. But it stops other books falling down the gap.

So, a few favourites, a few to push my cooking along, and a few that might get pushed along. Love to know, which are the books you keep closest to hand, and why? And I’m the only one who needs to do more editing out?