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.


The Friday Five – the ones you’ve recommended to me


The most used shelf of cookbooks in my house


I love writing the Friday Five, and love cookery books, as I think is probably obvious by now! There are cookbooks everywhere in my house: the much loved, much used ones on top of the fridge; the two shelves in the utility room, plus a stack on the bench out there; the pile at the side (or on) the bed and then a few at the side of my writing desk.

So, it’s a fairly well known thing that there are lots of cookbooks in my house, so I love it when people talk to me about cookbooks they would recommend. These are the five that we’ve been talking about recently:

Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks


Lean in 15 from Joe Wicks the Body Coach


The conversation on this one started back in January with 4 then 6 or 7 different people in the office. Of course, at first it was all about the New Year’s resolutions, but interesting that nearly 8 weeks on, people are still following this and raving about the food. I’m told the recipes are tasty, filling and quick to do, and they are all looking incredible on it. If I can get past his incredibly irritating writing style (I mean, how old is he? Midget trees are broccoli, spears are asparagus) then there’s certainly some robust flavours to go at. Cheesy chorizo chicken and spinach seems to be a favourite amongst the team, so going to start there.


The Pressure Cookbook by Catherine Phipps


The Pressue Cookbook by Catherine Phipps


This one got so many recommendations from folks on Twitter, along with why I should give a pressure cooker a go. Let’s face it, I’m a child of the ’70s, the beast of a one that my mum had scared the pants off me with all that hissing and running it under cold water. And I’m really very fond of my slow cooker. But MFL has a fancy combined pressure cooker/slow cooker thing, so I thought I could give it a go before committing to the preferred pressure cooker (which appears to be the WMF Perfect Plus). We’ve already tested the risotto recipe, which was an absolute revelation. And I love Catherine’s writing style, as obviously written from a typical family kitchen scenario. Like she says, zen state of risotto stirring not often reached when hungry kids are circling.


A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones


A Modern Way to Cook


An old boss of mine stopped me to recommend this one, which I’d had my eye on. Focused on quick and easy vegetarian food for every night of the week, I would say this is perfect for family meal times whether you’re full time vegetarian or not. Recipes are broken down by time, and start at 15 minutes and under, as well as those that you can cook ahead and re-use during the week. When I’ve decided which cookbook to move out the house, then I am going to move this one in.


A Bird in the Hand: Chicken recipes for every day and every mood by Diana Henry


A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry


This one has so many fans, and been issued with plaudits of every kind, but it was good to hear from a regular home cook that was loving this. I really like Diana’s books and already have a few on the shelves, but think this one could well join them. I love the chapter titled “chooks, shoots and leaves: chicken salads” both for the title and because I love a good chicken salad. And dishes to warm and soothe sound right up my street. Poulet bonne femme or Mexican chicken and pumpkin with pepita pesto sound equally delicious and I could cook them up right now. It’s on the list.


The Modern Preserver: Chutneys, pickles, jams and more by Kylee Newton


The Modern Preserver


My preserving experience is a bit mixed, with my raspberry jam well loved (thanks to the Clinton Street Baking Company recipe) and my marmalade experience a one off. But I’m told this book might make me want to experiment a little further. The photography is truly stunning, and I could definitely be persuaded to ring the changes and try the Raspberry and Rose Petal jam for a change. One for the end of the summer perhaps when I’m working out what to do with the fruit glut.

What would you recommend for me? Did Santa bring you a new cookbook you’ve been trying out? I’d love to hear your recommendations, or even the ones to avoid in your view!


Did you survive Blue Monday? Try these if not


How did you get through Blue Monday

Yesterday was apparently Blue Monday.

I have no idea who invented this, and whether it was supposed to make us feel better. Or is it just going to make us feel bad by telling us that we should be feeling bad.

So, how will you make yourself feel better today?

For me, it’ll start with a darned good cup of tea. In fact I really should try and remember to get some Bellevue Belter in, as that’s the only tea better than Yorkshire Tea for me first thing in the morning.

It’s a working day, so perhaps we could scoot out to lunch as a team. We haven’t been to the Victoria so far this year, so probably about time.

Tuesdays mean a swim after work, which is sometimes hard to go and do, but I do feel better once I’ve done it. Hopefully I’ll come home and make something that feels good as well as taste good. Although to be honest, my fave would be scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

And then I think an early night, with a stack of cookbooks would be lovely. I think I’m missing out by not having Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand, and I’ve always loved Nigel Slater so a copy of A Year of Good Eating would be amazing too.

January is rubbish, so be good to yourself.


The Friday Five – springing into Spring cooking


We’ve had at least five sunny days on the trot, which most definitely makes it Spring in my book! Which does mean we can begin thinking about lighter cookery styles, so a few more warm salads and a few less casseroles. Need some inspiration? How about one of these?


Spring in Sicily


Spring in Sicily: Food from an Ancient Island – two things in one, cooking inspiration and beautiful local photography. An island of contrasts and many traditions, there is a broad spectrum of influences to give you many kinds of dishes. Sort of flavours that will definitely make you think sunny thoughts.


A Salad for All Season


A Salad for All Seasons – I really like Harry Eastwood’s books, although I don’t have this one, but I love the premise. In my book, salad definitely is for most seasons, although not when it’s a few bits of limp lettuce and a bit of tomato. This is definitely a book that makes salads into a meal in their own right, so perfect in my view for weather like this.


What to eat now


What to Eat Now: Spring & Summer – hard to believe it’s five years since Valentine Warner’s book was published, but I still think it would be a good book to support making great seasonal choices. I like that its other watchwords are simple, quick and easy, so inspiring and useful, makes it pretty perfect in my view!


A Paradiso Year


A Paradiso Year: Spring and Summer Cooking – I don’t own any of Dennis Cotter’s books, though obviously he’s very well respected. I love the idea of this being a personal journal, a saunter through Spring and Summer and picking up his favourite recipes along the way. Sounds a good way to spend some Spring days.


A Change of Appetite


A Change of Appetite: where delicious meets healthy – by comparison, I have quite a few of Diana Henry’s books, and her latest one does sound appealing. These are apparently the recipes when Diana fancies a change in eating habits towards a lighter, fresher way of eating. Whilst it’s not specifically about Spring, it has the right feel to it, and I know it holds huge appeal for me.

So here’s hoping that the sunshine continues for a few more days yets, and we can all enjoy some sunny cooking, eating and maybe even some eating outside. How nice would that be?