Ms Marmite Lover’s annual cook book round up

Picture: Kerstin Rodgers

Picture: Kerstin Rodgers - Credit: Archant

Kerstin Rodgers selects her favourite cook books to inspire your Christmas shopping

Junk Food Japan: Addictive Food from Kurobuta by Scott Hallsworth (Absolute Press)

Scott Hallsworth’s Marble Arch restaurant Kurobuta is delicious but expensive. This book is your opportunity to make his food at a fraction of the price. Australian Hallsworth spent six years at Nobu, where he fell in love with Japanese fusion cooking. Unlike most chef books, this one seems to be actually written by him. The punk styling can seem a little forced, (the man was born in the mid-70s) and there is a touch of macho Bourdainesque cursing but the recipes are do-able, creative, simple and alluring. He knows of what he speaks, recommending new season sushi rice (which needs less water than older rice). Energetic food photos by David Loftus.

Mountain Berries and Desert Spice: Sweet inspiration from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea by Sumayya Usmani (Frances Lincoln)

Sumayya used to live in neighbouring Queen’s Park before she bolted to Scotland. Her second book (her first ‘Summers under the Tamarind Tree’) focuses on desserts, exploring the landscape and ingredients of Pakistan, sandwiched between India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. Out of all the books I reviewed, this one had the most post-it notes stuck between the pages of recipes. I want to make Parsi wedding custard with rose petals and apricots, turmeric Jalebis, saffron caramels and poppy seeded cones of kulfi. Alluring styling, propping and photography by Joanna Yee.

Two Kitchens: Family recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy (Headline)

This book is even better than Roddy’s award-winning first book ‘Five Quarters’. This time she explores the food of Sicily as well as Rome, hence the two kitchens. Apart from the jarring cover, I love every page. Rachel’s recipes are very relatable; messy and homely, rather than the alien aspirational food of high end chefs. You feel like you can pick up the food and eat it. Her photographs are intimate and domestic with the casual chiaroscuro of family moments.

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Fress: Bold flavours from a Jewish Kitchen by Emma Spitzer (Octopus)

Emma Spitzer is an East Finchley food writer who was a finalist on Master Chef. This is a family cookbook, a genealogical tree adorns the introduction and her children feature in the photographs. She’s honest about her homely food: portions err on the generous and plating is something she struggled to learn on Master Chef. Her Jewish food hails from both traditions: Eastern European Ashkenazi and Iberian Sephardi including both smoked salmon schmear (love that word) and schupfenudeln (a potato noodle). Nice photography and styling by Clare Winfield’s team.

Wild Honey and Rye by Ren Behan (Pavilion)

Since the Polish diaspora moved to the UK, sparking a wealth of Polish corner shops, I’ve been interested in what you can cook with the intriguing ingredients. I’ve been waiting for a smart publisher to convert Ren’s food blogging into a book. It doesn’t disappoint. Born in England, her upbringing was traditionally Polish: going to church, visiting the Polish Ex-Combatants Club. But the recipes in this book are modern, lighter.

Appealing photography and styling by Yuki Sugiura and her team.

Belgian Cafe Culture by Regula Ysewijn (Luster)

There are no recipes in this gorgeously photographed and designed book by Pride and Pudding’s Regula Ysewijn who is also known as Flemish food blogger Miss Foodwise. Regula has been an Anglophile, recreating historic and regional British recipes. However (hugely disappointed by the Brexit result) she has turned her attention to her own culture, especially the beer, whether Trappist, lambic or gueuze. This book documents the “fragile heritage” of Flemish cafés which is in danger of being lost. These front room bars are run by housewives, now elderly and open only at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ysewijn describes the ‘zageman’, the savings cupboard, the dice and card games. Note the delightful touch of shiny ‘wet’ rings on the cover.

Mushrooms by Jenny Linford (Ryland, Peters, Small)

Veteran food writer Linford guides the reader through cultivated and wild mushrooms, meets growers, dips into the mysteries of truffles. My daughter wanted to steal the book; the recipes are exceedingly cookable. I want to make: truffled fries, mushroom paneer and pea curry and Thai mushroom soup.

The Almanac: A seasonal guide to 2018 Lia Leendertz (

This handy illustrated stocking filler was published by crowdfunding outfit Gardener and cook Lia Leendertz emulates the traditional annual almanac, a literary calendar. Next year I’ll be leafing through regularly to see the ingredient of the month, the moon phases, and planting and harvesting chores.

I’ll be hosting a Flemish Christmas supper club ’Sinterklaas’ on December 6 with Regula Ysewijn. Tickets £50