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Diana Henry Selects the Best Cookery Books of the Year

Posted on 29th December 2017 by Martha Greengrass

The bestselling author of SIMPLE, Diana Henry, rustles up a table groaning with delights, rounding up the very best in food writing and cookery books of 2017. From store-cupboard suppers and kitchen staples to revolutionary inventions, meat-free feasts and warming comfort food classics it’s a selection with something to tempt everyone’s tastebuds.

Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

Along with many others, I’ve been waiting for an Ottolenghi book of sweet things for a long time and this volume completely lives up to my high expectations. The sweet section of professional kitchens – cakes and pastries – is where Yotam Ottolenghi started when he began to work in restaurants and for this book he has collaborated with Helen Goh, head of cakes, bakes and puddings at Ottolenghi. There’s plenty of familiar, comforting stuff, but it’s the more unusual recipes – kaffir lime posset with papaya, custard yo-yos with roasted rhubarb icing, Middle Eastern millionaire’s shortbread with tahini caramel – that makes this title stand out. I didn’t think I needed another baking book, but every cake and pudding lover needs this. 

£27.00 £22.00
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Features recipes containing fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings - including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom - to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream. This book also includes mini-cakes and cookies that parents can make with their children.
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The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater

The book to curl up with on the sofa as Christmas approaches. The recipes – as you would expect – are lovely, but it’s Slater’s appreciation of Christmas and winter that draws you in. He has a childlike sense of wonder about everything from the first frost to baubles and candles. There are short ‘essays’ – on the history of the Advent calendar and choosing Christmas trees, among others – which make this much more than just a cookbook. If you can’t think of anyone to buy it for, just get it for yourself. 

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From the BBC1 presenter and bestselling author of Eat, The Kitchen Diaries and Toast comes a classic new book featuring everything you need for the winter solstice. With recipes, decorations, fables and quick fireside suppers, Nigel guides you through the essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year, a perfect celebration of the traditions that make winter magical.
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At My Table by Nigella Lawson

Ms Lawson returns to the home kitchen with a book of eminently cook-able dishes (the chicken and pea tray bake will go straight into your ‘easy midweek dishes’ repertoire) and classics with a twist. What I most love about this book is that Lawson so obviously cooks these dishes a lot herself. Ease is key – there is nothing fiddly here – and her prose is as poised and elegant as ever. 

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*Selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in The Sunday Times and the Observer*'I'd happily cook from this book every night' Bee Wilson`Bursting with what will be instant Nigella classics - not to mention encouraging late-night visits to the fridge for leftovers.
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Kaukasis by Olia Hercules

A wonderful follow up to Hercules’s first book, Mamushka, this volume takes us beyond her home country, Ukraine, to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The food is glorious – Georgian food really is the culinary ‘discovery’ of 2017 – and the storytelling is a joy: emotional and sincere. One of the stand-out titles of the year. 

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From the winner of the Observer's Rising Star Award and Fortnum & Mason Debut Food Book Award 2016 comes a celebration of the food and flavours of the Caucasus - bridging Europe and Asia and incorporating Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran, Russia and Turkey.
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The Sportsman by Stephen Harris

Stephen Harris, chef and owner of the Michelin-starred dining pub, The Sportsman, has finally written the book I’ve been looking forward to for more than a decade. Harris is a chef (self-taught), but this is not a cheffy book, as it has recipes for the everyday – it will help you to produce perfect roast pork with apple sauce, for example – as well as the elevated (brill braised in vin jaune with smoked pork). You will learn how to be a better cook just by reading it; keep it by your bed first and then move it into the kitchen. In tone it’s simultaneously elegant and gutsy, with its restrained design, simple but beautifully composed plates of food and heartfelt essays on the area of Kent in which Harris cooks. 

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For home cooks, Stephen Harris, the chef at the UK's No.1 restaurant, The Sportsman, shares the age-old and modern techniques to perfect 50 British classics. The simple, stylish recipes in Harris's debut cookbook epitomize all that's great about British cooking, and showcase his pared-back style, while his personal writings and memorabilia provide rare insight into an extraordinary life.
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The Modern Cook's Year by Anna Jones

A big, beautiful hymn to vegetables, this is Jones’s best book to date: seasonal, wide-ranging, intelligent and delicious. Recipes are interspersed with spreads that give a simple starting point (such as a base for a vegetable soup) followed by ideas for how to build on that, so it is a book about how to cook as well as a collection of dishes. It feels like the work of a lifetime spent in the kitchen, and you could cook out of it for a lifetime, too. Not just a book for vegetarians, anyone would love this food. 

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An essential addition to every cook's bookshelf, The Modern Cook's Year will show you how to make the most of seasonal produce, using simple, hugely inventive flavours and ingredients. Divided into six seasons, Anna Jones's new book contains over 250 delicious vegetarian recipes interspersed with tips on everything from seasonal music playlists to flowers to look out for every month of the year.
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JapanEasy by Tim Anderson

Want to get to grips with Japanese food, but don’t know where to start? Tim Anderson is American but he knows his stuff: he studied Japanese, lived there, and runs a Japanese restaurant in Brixton, London. And he really wants you to love Japanese food as much as he does. Enthusiastic, friendly, straightforward, this book guides you through sushi, tempura, ramen and lots more. It’s also beautifully photographed and – thank goodness – doesn’t feel at all like a ‘how to’ guide. 

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Easy peasy authentic Japanese dishes for home cooks. JapanEasy is designed to be an introduction to the world of Japanese cooking via some of its most accessible (but authentic) dishes. The recipes here do not 'cheat' in any way; there are no inadequate substitutions for obscure ingredients: this is the real deal.
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Comfort: Food to Soothe the Soul by John Whaite

Whaite, a former GBBO star, really does understand how important food is in making you feel better. Food, for him, is all about emotional impact and this is his response to the ‘clean eating’ trend. The recipes – divided into chapters with titles such as ‘something sticky’, ‘something pillowy’, ‘something tender’ – make you want to plan a whole weekend at home, just cooking. Midnight French toast with blueberry and treacle sauce; Cumbrian sausage with Lancashire ‘aligot’; crab and sriracha mac ‘n’ cheese? My soul feels soothed just by reading the titles. A cookbook with a whole lot of heart as well as great recipes. 

£19.99
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Comfort food is enjoying a renaissance as people start to shy away from exclusion diets and `clean eating' and embrace the balance of nourishing homemade meals. With the concept of hygge emphasising the importance of enjoying the sensual, warming things in life, cosy cooking has taken on a new life. John's collection of enticing recipes will have you cooking up a comforting feast in the kitchen.
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The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

An absolute treat for lovers of fiction and food. Kate Young – a food writer and London-based supper club host – has created recipes inspired by books (mostly novels). Part of the delight is in seeing what Young has come up with: kedgeree is inspired by The Camomile Lawn, coconut shortbread by Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent and mint juleps by The Great Gatsby. Books with this theme either end up with recipes that you don’t want to cook (because they’re written by readers, not cooks), or prose you don’t want to read (because they’re written by cooks, not writers). Young is a cook, a reader and a writer and this is one of the most delightful books of the year. 

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A gift of a cookery book with over 100 delicious recipes taken from the author's favourite works of fiction. From Before Noon breakfasts and Around Noon lunches to Family Dinners and Midnight Feasts, The Little Library Cookbook captures the magic and wonder of the meals enjoyed by some of our best-loved fictional characters.
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Home Cook by Thomasina Miers

When reviewers put together their books of the year it’s very easy to forget the volumes that were published in the spring, but I’ve probably cooked more out of this book in the last twelve months – and looked to it for inspiration – than any other. Miers is very good at combining a few interesting flavours with something workaday (such as chicken thighs) to produce a great supper. This is the perfect book for those who have to cook for a family and are stuck in a rut. Full of great do-able ideas. 

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And every recipe includes a follow-up meal idea so that ingredients or sauces can be repurposed and your week and your food shop get that little bit easier. Bursting with imaginative ideas, big flavours and personality, Home Cook includes 300 recipes and beautiful photography throughout.
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The Art of the Larder by Claire Thomson

Many have tried to write this kind of book – one that is based on what’s in your cupboard and freezer – but Claire Thomson, a chef and mother of three, has really pulled it off. It’s a store cupboard book for our times, as it assumes you have a well-stocked and global larder. The dishes – Turkish eggs with yogurt, dill and brown butter, carrots slow-roasted with garam masala, sardines with preserved lemon and chilli sauce – are modern and interesting and, well, just a bit different. You do have to be prepared to be adventurous, though. With this book, and an open mind, you could really shake up your everyday cooking. 

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150 dishes that offer affordable everyday meal solutions, all with storecupboard basics at their heart. Food writer Claire Thomson takes you through the essentials, from flours and grains, to pulses, pastas and spices, as well as dried fruits, nuts and seeds for instant dessert or breakfast solutions.
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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Most cookbooks aren’t about teaching you how to cook – they are sets of instructions on how to turn out particular dishes – and those that purport to ‘teach’ cooking tend to be rather dry. But Samin Nosrat – an American who learnt how to cook at the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in San Francisco – brings cooking down to the four essential elements in the title and makes you really consider the fundamentals. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking read, but there’s no sense that you’re being talked at or lectured to: Nosrat is your friend in the kitchen and the tone is warm and accessible, though mercifully not cute. Of course no book can teach you how to cook – you can only become a good cook by doing it – but this is a great volume to have by your side as you learn or, indeed, improve. Intelligent, generous, kind, a small masterpiece. 

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A beautifully illustrated and visionary New York Times bestseller that distils decades of professional experience into just four simple elements - and will set you free from recipes forever
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Citrus: Recipes That Celebrate The Sour and the Sweet by Catherine Phipps

Citrus fruits have a fascinating history and lemons, in particular, are utterly indispensable in the kitchen, but I’ve never really found a cookbook that explores them so thoroughly (or so deliciously) as this. The dishes here – blood orange meringue pie, vin de pamplemousse, grapefruit and gin granita, salmon tiradito – are terrific; Phipps has a great palate and I always have faith in her recipe testing. She is very good, too, at trying to pin down the effect of various citrus juices on other ingredients. And how could you not love a book that has a section entitled ‘Citrus Economy and the Savoury Preserve’? A book for the thinking cook. 

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Citrus fruits are the most exiciting family of ingredients with which to cook. They satisfy almost every part of the palate - sweet, sour, bitter, and umami-enhancing, how many other foods are as versatile and transformative? From the smallest squeeze of lemon, to the zing of lime zest, citrus fruits are almost magical. No longer seen as exotic, th...
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On The Side by Ed Smith

It’s amazing that nobody has written this – a book mainlining the side dishes to serve with hunks of protein – before, as it’s amazingly useful. You can choose what will go with your roast leg of lamb yourself, or refer to the sections where Smith offers help on what will work with what (in this case, flower sprouts with anchovy butter, baby aubergines with chilli and oregano, butter beans with sage). If you’re one of those people who can never think beyond boiled carrots and broccoli, this book is for you. Sides will never be the same again. 

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Our side dishes have the potential to be as inspirational as the main event itself. In fact, they're often the best bit! A revolutionary cookbook with 140 recipes that move the humble side dish to centre stage. Complete with a recipe directory that will help you find the perfect accompaniment, whatever your cooking, On the Side will brighten and invigorate every meal.
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Syria: Recipes from Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi

I must admit I have only just discovered this – one of the joys of looking through a year of publishing – and it is both delicious and heartbreaking.  The authors have collected recipes and stories from Syrian women who hold on to their culture (and to comfort and hope) through food, despite everything that is happening in their country. A reminder of just how important cooking is. 

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Friends and passionate cooks Itab and Dina met Syrian women in the Middle East and Europe to collect together the very best recipes from one of the world's greatest food cultures. They spent months cooking with them, learning their recipes and listening to stories of home. A celebration of everything that food and memory can mean to an individual, to a family and to a nation.
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The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

Memoirs with recipes are hard to pull off – many are faux-bucolic and mawkish – but American Emily Nunn is an excellent writer, as well as a big food lover. The Comfort Food Diaries recounts her journey to pull her life around after her brother committed suicide and her partner walked out on her… and Nunn hit the bottle. That sounds bleak, but Nunn is honest, brave, funny and greedy as she looks for comfort – and the meaning of comfort food – while travelling across America visiting friends and family. By the end, you want to hug her and cook her dinner. 

£12.99
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In the tradition of Elizabeth Gilbert former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn chronicles her journey to find comfort in the face of loss through travel, home-cooked food, and the company of friends and family. With the biting humour of David Sedaris and the emotional honesty of Cheryl Strayed, Nunn delivers a moving account of her descent into darkness and her gradual, hard-won return to the living.
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