10 cookbooks that would make the perfect present this Christmas

Picture: Kerstin Rodgers

Picture: Kerstin Rodgers - Credit: Archant

Kerstin Rodgers, aka. Ms Marmite Lover, recommends her top food books as festive gifts with an eye to “good writing, original recipes and great photography”.

Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (Phaaidon £29.95)

Chef of northerly Swedish restaurant ‘Faviken’, Nilsson spent two years researching Scandinavian food, from classic ‘nordic’ recipes to popular fusion dishes such as ‘taco quiche’. His discourses on the history of Nordic food culture, dominated by bread until potatoes arrived in the 1800s, are fascinating. I’d like to cook: Pickled Herring; Saint Lucy’s Day Saffron Buns

Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus £26)

Judging by the cover where Nigella appears as a soft-focus Delia-type in a sensible cardigan I thought, ‘not another clean eating book’. But the first few pages put paid to that idea. Nigella doesn’t mince her words, sticking up for the non-puritanical enjoyment of food. Healthy recipes are Nigella’d – there is no self-denial here, only deliciousness. I’d like to cook: No Churn White Miso Ice Cream; Liquorice and Blackcurrant Chocolate Cake.

Spring by Skye Gyngell (Quadrille £25)

I’ve always been a fan of Skye Gyngell’s approach to cooking: her food is beautifully presented but not overly rigid and cheffy, with strong flavours and fresh ingredients. This is the story of Spring, the Somerset House based restaurant she created after leaving Petersham Nurseries.

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I’d like to cook: Spinach with Girolles; Candied Blood Orange and White Chocolate Nougat.

The DIY Cook by Tim Hayward (Fig Tree, £18.65)

I love Tim’s writing. It’s direct and funny with a refreshingly non-posh accent, most food writers being upper class. He’s basically a frustrated and slightly irreverent food history writer - the Clive James of food writing. He doesn’t believe in recipes, claiming that there hasn’t been an original recipe in decades, so this is more about the cooking process. Sometimes he doesn’t give quantities but ratios.

I’d like to cook: Banh Mi Baguette; Double Cooked Chip Butty.

Chicken by Catherine Phipps (Ebury 2015 £16.99)

Chicken was ‘rediscovered’ this year and readers may have seen Diana Henry’s beautiful book ‘A bird in the hand’. But there was another chicken book by respected food writer Catherine Phipps, which suffered for coming out after Henry’s book. You will find 200 tried and tested dependable chicken recipes from around the world, along with step by step photographic instructions on basics like how to joint a chicken. A kitchen shelf classic.

Eat Istanbul, a journey to the heart of Turkish cuisine by Andy Harris and David Loftus (Quadrille £18.99)

This duo are part of Jamie Oliver’s team. The recipes are clear and useful, demystifying some of the more unusual Turkish ingredients in the back of the book and Loftus’ photographs are expectedly brilliant.

I’d like to cook: Gozleme and Mastic ice cream.

Mamoushka by Olia Hercules (Mitchell Beazley £25)

I first noticed Olia Hercules (great name!) through her artfully composed Instagram pictures and no wonder! She’s a food stylist and ex-chef from the Ottolenghi stable. Olia is from Ukraine and if you thought Eastern European food was heavy and bland, containing mainly cabbage and beetroot, this charming cookbook will make you think again.

I’d like to cook: Moldavan Breads with Cheese and Sorrel.

Five Quarters by Rachel Roddy (Saltyard books £25)

This stocky volume is a comprehensive yet intimate look at Roman food in the working class district of Testaccio. It features tales and food from Roddy’s family life in Rome with her son and Italian husband. The writing beautifully describes a quiet domestic life centred around her kitchen, while the photography also by Roddy is reminiscent of Dutch interiors.

I’d like to cook: Roman style sweet and sour onions; deep fried apple or pear with pecorino.

Mexico by Margarita Carrillo Arronte (Phaidon £29.95)

A massive pink book with everything you could possibly want to know about authentic Mexican cooking with clear, simplified recipes and pictures. Arronte explains the differences between regions: the wheat bias of the North, which turns to corn as you cross the Tropic of Cancer, rather like the North/South = Butter/Olive oil divide within Europe.

I’d like to cook: Cheese Stuffed Ancho Chile; Chanterelle Stew.

Rebellious Spirits, the illicit history of booze in Britain by Ruth Ball (Elliot and Thompson £14.99)

Ruth is the originator of Alchemist Dreams, which makes bespoke liqueurs in magical glass bottles topped with a red wax seal. This book wittily explores the history of alcohol in the British Isles, from Scottish whisky to Irish poitin, from smuggling to the cocktail craze of the ‘20s and the obsession with gin ‘mother’s ruin’. In between the stories are both ancient and modern recipes for historic drinks.

Kerstin Rodgers blogs at msmarmitelover.comThe Underground Restaurant’s upcoming event:

MsMarmitelover’s New Year’s Eve supper club with Swedish chef Linn Soderstrom. 31st December. Tickets are £75.