It is the last day of November and, although I have already been listening to carols (choir oblige…) and thinking about cakes and mince pies, I have yet to buy one present. But, since all the food books of 2011 lists are starting to appear, here for example and here, I thought I’d throw my twopennorth into the stocking on the subject.
At the end of last Christmas I bought tons of books in the States and I can safely say that one of them shines out. Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan, though verbose in the extreme, is just full of ideas and inspiration and I really recommend it. For $40/£25 you get 300-odd pages of recipes and, though some of the measurements will need tweaking by the non-Americans amongst us, it is just a treasure trove of stuff. Whenever I’m stuck for something to cook, or just in need of a push to think of what’s next on the blog, I turn to this hefty tome.
My next suggestion, which will be no surprise to anyone who reads WTF regularly, is Bill Granger’s newest book, Everyday Asian. This is perfect for anyone who wants to get their heads round all sorts of delights, from Thai curries, perfect rice, Vietnamese salads or how to cook tofu. It’s really worth the cover price of £20 but, at only a tenner on Amazon, it’s practically a stocking filler.
For a vegetarian or someone who loves vegetables, treat them to Plenty. If I had lots of time and plenty (ha!) of mouths to feed, I’d be cooking from this every week. It’s groundbreaking, inspiring and, though heavy on the ingredients sometimes, I am always willing to buy a few more bits if the results taste as good as his does.
Cake- and bread-lovers will be thrilled by Short and Sweet; it’s just what you need to keep you warm as the snow starts falling and it’s £8.99 on Amazon! No wonder the publishing industry is doomed. And Made in Sicily will keep you warm in a different way, as you drool over the pictures and imagine your next holiday, enjoying gelati, cannoli, squid on the beach…
For anyone starting out in the kitchen, I think HFW’s River Cottage Everyday is both really accessible but also still interesting enough for the non-beginner. I like the fact that so much in it is simple yet different. And for those at the other end of the spectrum, the foodies that have everything, I’d say that The Modern Pantry cookbook is challenging enough for any budding Blumenthal.
My other personal favourites this year have been Peter Gordon’s Cook at Home and The Sweet Life by David Lebovitz. The former is not a 2011 book but it is an absolute classic of Antipodean inspiration and a brilliant bolt of sunshine in a northern winter. The latter is perfect for Francophiles and anyone who wants to discover why living in Paris is, and isn’t, all it’s cracked up to be. Oh and his blog is my favourite foodie one too.
My other kitchen discoveries this year have all been kit and not expensive kit at that. I can’t get over how good my Raymond Blanc professional frying pan is (easy to use and wash…a rarity) and am now coveting the chef’s pan. I will never use anything other than a rotary grater for cheese or electronic scales ever again. And, for tiny pressies these peelers are genius as are these Kuhn Rikon knives (though apparently you should never give someone you love a knife, anyone know why?, so you’ll have to buy them for yourself). Anything from Joseph Joseph is fab (and they’ve just opened a concession in Selfridges!), reusable baking parchment is cheap and brilliant and if you haven’t got an oven thermometer, just get one: it will transform your cooking life. Finally, having seen Bridesmaids, I want an ice-cream scoop for making cupcakes; how could I have missed that simple trick?
I would love to know which books and bits of kit you’d recommend, particularly if you’re outside the UK, so please do write to me if you have found any gems this year.