All I want for Christmas is a new cook book

The Art of the Cheese Plate - Tia Keenan

The Art of the Cheese Plate - Tia Keenan - Credit: Archant

A round up of the year’s best cook books, in time for Christmas shopping

The Art of the Cheese Plate - Tia Keenan

The Art of the Cheese Plate - Tia Keenan - Credit: Archant

The art of the cheese plate by Tia Keenan (Rizzoli)

In this game-changing book by New York cheese chef Tia Keenan, cheese is paired with potato crisps, goats’ cheese with matcha marshmallows, blue cheese with smoked chocolate chips, baked Camembert enrobed in Greek kataifi (a shredded pastry). It gives recipes for crazy chutneys, and explores the state of American artisanal cheese making. This is not the cliché ridden rusticity of usual cheese tomes. Inspiring and visually stunning.

Seven Steps to Happiness

Seven Steps to Happiness - Credit: Archant

Seven steps to happiness by Stella Newman (Headline)

Not a cookbook but a novel in the spirit of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Local author Stella Newman, from Belsize Park, has written her fourth tale about love and food. Whizz through this witty and intricately researched insider’s look at the food world. Intelligent chicklit with an appetite.

The Ethical Carnivore

The Ethical Carnivore - Credit: Archant

The ethical carnivore by Louise Gray (Bloomsbury)

To my mind, the most important book of this year is by Louise Gray, former environment correspondent for the Telegraph. For a period of 2 years, she was determined to only eat meat or fish from an animal she had killed herself. This is a brave, intimate, visceral and heart-wrenching account of what it means to take a life. It opens up essential questions on the ethics and provenance of the food we eat. It’s also a lively read - not a turgid do-gooder exercise.

Squirrel Pie

Squirrel Pie - Credit: Archant

Most Read

Squirrel Pie by Elisabeth Luard (Bloomsbury)

Beautifully written tales and illustrations from award-winning veteran food writer Elisabeth Luard. Each chapter recounts a foodie journey from forest (Maine), island (Crete), river (Danube) or desert (Gujurat). You can dip in and out or gobble down the whole thing in one go.

Land of Fish and Rice

Land of Fish and Rice - Credit: Archant

The land of fish and rice by Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury)

Fuschia Dunlop went to China to train as a chef, learning fluent Chinese and how to expertly wield a cleaver along the way. This book explores a lesser known Chinese cuisine, more subtle and seasonal than Cantonese or Sichuanese. Jiangnan is the titular ‘land of fish and rice’, which includes the coastal province around Shanghai, rivers and lakes. I’ve tried some of the recipes in this book, and they all work.

The Cardomom Trail

The Cardomom Trail - Credit: Archant

The Cardamom Trail by Chetna Makan (Mitchell Beazley)

I don’t usually hold with reality show contestants but Chetna Makan, a graduate of The Great British Bake Off, has talent if this gorgeously photographed, richly styled cookbook is anything to go by. She creates a fusion of British traditional baking and Indian spices. I want to bake it all.

Miso Tasty: The Cookbook

Miso Tasty: The Cookbook - Credit: Archant

Miso Tasty by Bonnie Chung (Pavillion)

Miso is one of my favourite ingredients in both sweet and savoury dishes, acting as instant ‘umami’ deliciousness. Bonnie has written 60 recipes, from the simple sweet white miso grilled aubergine that some might recognise from Japanese restaurants to a miso cheese toastie. She takes you through all the different types of miso from rice to barley, from white to red. For the adventurous cook.

101 Chillies to try before you die

101 Chillies to try before you die - Credit: Archant

101 Chillies by David Floyd (Octopus)

As a chilli-head, I love this informative little book, which arranges chillies in order of Scoville ratings, from sweet and mild to super hot. Good stocking filler or dad present.


Oranges - Credit: Archant

Oranges by John McPhee (Daunt Books)

A reissued paperback classic by American journalist John McPhee, this is an absorbing reportage on the orange business. This ranges from interviews with orchard owners to the history of the fruit, its journey to America and how concentrate overtook fresh. This may sound dull but McPhee obtains sparkling quotes from his interviewees, such as ‘the sex life of citrus is something fantastic’.


Persepolis - Credit: Archant

Persepolis by Sally Butcher (Pavillion)

The fifth book from one of my favourite food writers, the owner of Persian corner shop ‘Persepolis’ in Peckham, flame-haired Sally Butcher. The recipes are creative and easy, even humorous (chip stew!). The tone is irreverent but practical with nuggets of cultural information from the fertile crescent.

Book for msmarmitelover’s next supper club 26th November: