December is a time for 'best of' lists. So here is a list of my absolute favourite books on food and cooking.
December is a time for 'best of' lists. So here is a list of my absolute favourite books on food and cooking. Just in case you are looking for ideas to treat yourself or a loved one to a book for the kitchen (and beyond).
Note: I prefer to link to the authors website rather than to a 'buy now' from one of the world's largest corporations link. Consider buying from your local book store or the alternative independent online service bookshop.org
Anything by Nigel Slater
I always turn to Nigel Slater, again and again. He loves cooking for journey as much as the result, and his writing is as delightful as it is delicious, all the while remaining completely unfussy. Getting hold of his first book 'Real Fast Food' way way back was a revelation: at last a food writer who wrote about food how I thought about it! He calls himself 'a cook who writes'.
I particularly love Appetite and his very first book, Real Fast Food. His autobiography Toast makes for a delightful read too.
Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
This is the book that will help you understand how and why cooking works like no other. In a way, the only cook book you'll ever need: once you understand what you are doing you will never need a recipe again. Samin's ingenious style stirs up equal measures of joy and respect and will make you see any time spent in the kitchen in a completely new light. Empowering, inspiring and infectious.
Btw, the book was also turned into a 4part Netflix series, with Samin travelling the world for a close encounter with these for elements of cooking.
The Flavour Thesaurus, by Niki Segnit
A mind boggling treasure trove of ingredient combinations, from the very obvious to the very strange. Answers (almost) all the questions of 'what goes with what' that you can possibly have. An ingenious idea of a book.
Her more recent Lateral Cooking is also a based on a similarly original idea: mapping out the sometimes astounding transformation of dishes across genres and traditions - one tweak at a time. Compelling and impressive.
Anything by Anna Jones
Anna Jones is a master of vibrant and colourful vegetable cooking, and her writing makes both great reading and great eating. She also encourages experimentation with brilliant visual 'templates'. On my bookshelf I have A Modern Cook's Year (bought twice, after the first copy was pinched by my mum!) and I'm looking forward to the forthcoming One Pot, Pan, Planet in the spring.
Two Kitchens: 120 Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy
This is a book of stories and recipes intertwined, sprinkled with Italian mama kitchen wisdom. Italian home cooking for everyday as its most down to earth - an absolute joy!
A Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander
This classic book is more of an extravagant tome considering the size and price tag, but it's a fantastic resource to learn about ingredients, covering the what, how, when, where and with what - from aubergines to vanilla and beyond.
She has also written a 'smaller' (and cheaper) book for 'beginners' of a similar concept A Cook's Apprentice, and I just discovered the original book has been condensed into an app - I haven't tried it yet, but knowing the book it seems like a snip at the price.
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by Michael Pollan
Science, history, enthusiasm, curiosity and the occasional recipe: this inspirational book has it all. If this delightful book doesn't inspire you to spend more time in the kitchen you are probably a lost cause.
Spoon-Fed: Why almost everything we've been told about food is wrong, by Tim Spector
Delivers exactly what the title promises, demolishing most of the food myths . Written by Professor Tim Spector this is essential reading: accessible, engaging and eye-opening, even if you have never been interested in nutrition.
The Food Fix by Mark Hyman
Written by a medical doctor who uses food as frontline medicine, this one is all about what is wrong with food and the food system, and how to fix it - one bite at a time. What and how we eat, cook, and shop has wide-reaching implications, and, as thoughtfully argued in this book, sits at the very the root of all modern man-made maladies - from public health epidemics to social inequality and environmental destruction. An eye-opening deep dive into the, unseen unsavoury and damaging workings of the food industry, and what we can do about it (hint: cook more!)