A couple of weeks ago Radio 4’s The Food Programme had an excellent discussion about some of its contributors’ favourite cookbooks from 2015 – you can listen to the item here. I thought I’d list mine too, a) because I am a cookbook obsessive and b) because my relationship with them has changed since moving to Suffolk – no more corner shops or late-night supermarkets – and I have to organise myself and decide what to cook well in advance if I want to avoid STARVATION. Also, the recipes need to really work. And, obviously, be family-friendly and not a monumental faff to make. Here are the new books that I use constantly, in no order (pic is of them sitting right next to me right now, like pets):
Homemade Takeaways by Rob Allison: no more late-night supermarkets, and no Deliveroo, either. But it doesn’t matter, because this marvellous book makes recreating all those takeaway favourites a complete cinch (and with better ingredients rather than indeterminate “meat”). Brilliant idea, but more to the point brilliant execution. Everything is easy to make and tastes delicious, whether it’s a prawn curry, pad thai or US-style mac and cheese. It covers Indian, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American and British food. Invaluable.
A Modern Way To Cook by Anna Jones: I can’t *bear* the “clean eating” people – they make me want to mainline carbs before falling face down into a pot of fondue (mmm, fondue). The joylessness! Awful, and quite troubling actually. But anyway: Anna Jones is a genius, and the fact that most of her recipes are good for you, vegetarian/vegan and bursting with healthiness is incidental. Well, I’m sure it’s not incidental for her, but it’s incidental if you are just a person who likes delicious food. I haven’t made a single thing from here that I haven’t liked.
The One-Pot Cook by Hattie Ellis: This is an utterly brilliant family cookbook. Delicious, easy, thrifty recipes that cook in one pot. If that sounds slightly dull, it really isn’t – they are modern, intelligently thought out recipes from all over the globe. Make sure you read the little boxes and sidebars, which often tell you useful things about changing the recipe, padding it out, or what to use if you haven’t got the exact ingredients. Fantastic book.
Ditto Diana Henry’s A Bird In The Hand, which wins the award for Most Splattered, which as anyone knows is the greatest accolade.
Back to the ‘I want to eat Chinese/Malaysian/Vietnamese/Thai/Korean/Japanese food right now and there’s no Chinatown’ quandary. For these particular needs, I really love Chinatown Kitchen by Lizzie Mabbott, who blogs so brilliantly. This book takes all of the South East Asian ingredients you like the look of but aren’t especially sure what to do with, and tells you how in mouth-watering detail. Fantastic recipes that work, and you can obviously stock up on ingredients online.
I also love Simply Nigella. I feared she’d gone all ‘take one kale’, but this fear was unfounded, and as ever some of her recipes – a chicken with bitter orange and fennel tray bake, a lamb stew with a goat’s cheese and thyme cobbler topping – already feel like old friends. And I love Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries III, for the recipes, the eating, the writing and the fact that it isn’t too big to read in bed.
Related: I’ve recently bought a slow cooker – one of these – and it has transformed my cooking life. Slow cooker cookbooks that are exciting rather than being lists of stews, and make you want to make the things rather than rolling your eyes at the idea of slow-cooking pasta, are few and far between. Shining like a beacon of eating goodness is Miss South‘s Slow Cooked, which would be on the above list except that it was published in 2014. Don’t let that stop you.