Friday, 2 January 2015

My favourite cookery books of 2014

My blog does has a few cooking ideas, but is mostly taken up with London's great and good (I tend to leave out the more mediocre).  A lot more of my time is spent in the kitchen though, sometimes testing out my own ideas, but usually working my way through recipe books.  The tiny flat converted lift is very handy as a cooking bookshelf.  I buy a lot of books, with a slightly irrational fear of never being able to able to work my way through all the plates I want to recreate.

Some books I return to time and time again. Some are very dependable, recipes always working.  Some are disappointing, with failures after careful recipe following (I think I can spot the ones who don't fully test). 

I’m finishing 2014 and starting the new year with a list of my favourites.  It's made up of my top books from this past year and the ones I go to for certain types of recipe, plus a few mentions for my all-time favourite writers/books.  I'm planning a bit of a blog break at the start of 2015, with a few new ideas/projects to keep me busy into the new year (do still keep an eye on my Instagram in the meantime).

The restaurant cookbooks: My most used restaurant book is probably the Polpo book (especially great for simple yet still impressive cicheti and salads).  I haven't tried as much (newer to my shelves) from the Bocca dI Lupo book, but will be going to it for Italian recipes (so far the beef and black pepper stew is brilliantly hearty, the celeriac, pecorino and pomegranate salad fragrant and refreshing, and the little baci biscuits something to make time and time again with any leftover egg whites).  I have always loved the Moro books (do make their tagines), and the Morito book of 2014 is no different – you can recreate the dishes from the tapas restaurant offshoot next door (my favourite is the beetroot Borani dip, along with the slow-cooked leeks with yohurt).  Similarly fragrant is the Honey & Co book - everything has turned out truly delicious, with warm, often wrily funny introductions.  Try the bouikos (little feta Balkan pies) and look out for their baking book in 2015 (their cakes are some of the best).                                                

The health conscious for a January detox: I might give in to a fad or two; my cupboards definitely include coconut oil, spirulina, and maca powder, with a Nutribullet on the side (it has mainly produced brown sludge juices). The Hemsley & Hemsley book has probably been one of the most talked of healthy eating books of last year (I like some of the ideas, but some haven't turned out delicious). I really loved Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite – light, beautifully spiced recipes with lots of vegetables, fish and hearty whole grains.  Definitely one of my most used of 2014.

The always seasonal, and lovingly written: Nigel Slater is my favourite food writer, so his Kitchen Diaries needs a mention as one of most turned to.  Both the first and second are his cooking (and a little garden) diary of the year, recipes by date through the seasons – it’s a beautiful read, and I love the styling/photography.

The lesser known, but excellent: Not one of the most publicise, but The Italian Cookery Course is a completely invaluable guide through the cuisine (the Caldesi family also have a cookery school).  It’s full of recipes, with very good pasta sauces and fabulous breads (do try the Ligurian focaccia, stuffed with melting cheese).  Similarly, One by Florence Knight (of Polpetto) doesn’t seem to have had as much championing as deserved – it is a really lovely book, and I like the chapters split by ingredient (ketchup includes a very good beetroot chocolate cake).

The vegetarian, but really just brilliant no fish/meat books: Yotam Ottolenghi followed Plenty with Plenty More (his other books, both Ottolenghi and especially the newer Jerusalem are brilliant too).  More punchy flavour combinations, many heady with spice and herbs, that just happen to be without meat and fish (many would work really well alongside too). Another great book from 2014 is Anna Jones A Modern Way to Eat, her vegetarian book including lots of hearty salads and healthier baking.

The baking books:  Over the last few weeks Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann has been put to good use – I love the seedy, grainy breads and crackers, lots sourdough and rye, many sweet things with spelt (my favourite), rather than prissy, fussy cakes.  If I am feeling like something a little fancier, my new Patisserie Maison book from Richard Bertinet (including the slightly time-consuming, but ultimately worth it Bouche de Noel from last week).  My absolute baking bible has to be Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet - you must buy if you bake, the results are never short of fantastic (including lots of savoury baking along with the sweet and sticky).

There are many more I could talk about, but I’ll leave it at that for the moment.  I’ll still be cooking my way through an ever-expanding pile in this new year.  Happy 2015.