In the summer, when I wrote about the cookbooks that were really doing it for me, what all of them had in common was accessibility: a bit of an adventure, a little test of skills and easy-to-follow instructions resulting in flavoursome food. Selfishly, my goal was to edit my own bulging collection, maybe weed out the stuff that I’d never actually use and just keep the truly useful ones. Nice idea, but the trouble is this pre-Christmas period is jammed packed with a lot of new releases. How to decipher what’s worth owning?
If I’m honest, I’m a little sick of the ram-it-down-your-throat, ultra-healthy eating movement of this last year or two. I’ve always tried to eat well: a basic foundation of fresh food, mostly cooked from scratch and then I just add nice treats on top – that’s how I was raised. But if I’m in the mood for some fried food (God love fish and chips!), heavy stodge in the winter, red meat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol, then I’m going to have it. This is how most people I know tend to function.
So when it comes to the latest wave of cookbooks, I’m just not really feeling those who advocate extremely rigorous clean eating. This stuff might look nice on the page, but it feels like dieting in disguise and that’s not for me. And so I’ve had a root around, tried to select from those cooks and chefs who strike the right balance of nutritious, happy eating with food that will also bring you joy.
These are the five new cookbooks I will be cooking from this autumn and the ones that would make the loveliest gifts for the holiday season. Happy cooking!
Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food by Nigella Lawson (£26, Chatto & Windus)
I know she’s super glamorous and all that, but there’s something about Nigella that has always made me feel as if hanging out in her kitchen, while she and I raid her fridge for leftovers and laugh our heads off, might someday be a possibility. I love how she’s just a bit haphazard about process and presentation, but instead focuses on flavour and the way cooking, as well as eating, makes her feel. I also appreciate her refreshingly light touch when it comes to healthy eating – a term she hates, her low tolerance for clean eating and the like. She divides her chapters with ease: from Quick and Calm, for those moments when you need to throw something together, to Breathe, a collection of dishes for more involved cooking. This is the book that makes me want to spent time in the kitchen again.
Simply Nigella is available to buy now
My Life On A Plate: Recipes From Around The World by Kelis (£19.99, Kyle Books)
When this book came out in September, don’t think we weren’t all making milkshake gags at The Pool HQ. Totally obvious, but never not funny. And then I looked through this book properly and it turns out Kelis is a really talented woman. Man, she can cook. Her influences are lovely and somewhat unexpected: her mother is a cook from a Chinese-Puerto Rican background; her musician father is black and they raised her in New York. She also took a Cordon Bleu course a few years ago and is now a qualified chef. Put it all together and you have some pretty exciting flavours combinations. Chapters break down simply into appetisers (starters to you and me), soups and stews, sides and salads and so on. I’m a bit excited to try Pernil: Puerto Rican pork shoulder and her delicious-sounding selection of sauces.
My Life On A Plate is available now
Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver (£26, Michael joseph)
I think this might be King Jamie’s millionth book or something and I know, like admitting you’ve ever bought a Coldplay album, it’s not considered cool to like him, but I do. I think he’s great and his school dinners of years past and now his sugar crusades are, in my humble opinion, a very good thing. He’s not suggesting eliminating it from our diets, but educating parents and kids, and offering alternatives from time to time. Fair enough. Anyway, back to the issue at hand: his new cookbook is all about a food journey he’s been on of late. He’s consulted nutritionists, health and sleep experts, and then made eating well really accessible and very Jamie-like. Broken down into breakfast, lunch and dinner sections, recipes are unobtrusively good for you without you really noticing. That’s my kind of healthy eating.
Everyday Super Food is available now
A Year Of Good Eating: The Kitchen Diaries III (£30, Fourth Estate) by Nigel Slater
Aside from the fact it has a lovely fabric cover and is handily pocket-sized, the contents of this book – the third instalment of Slater’s Kitchen Diary series – is signature modest, warm, friendly, beautifully written and, above all, it makes me want to cook. That’s the whole point, right? Along with his notes, anecdotes and essays, Slater, of course, includes loads of great recipes, too. His weeknight suppers that are easily thrown together, such as red mullet and couscous, a chickpea, courgette and pepper stew and grilled lamb cutlets with crushed avocado, are perfect autumnal warmers. I’d be incredibly happy if someone bought me this for Christmas.
A Year Of Good Eating is available now
A Modern Way To Cook by Anna Jones (£25, Fourth Estate)
Full disclosure: we’re not exactly objective about Anna Jones here at The Pool. We all love her and she’s a regular contributor to our Food Honestly section. But, in all honesty, she is brilliant. This is how to do good, healthy vegetarian food without ever getting pretentious, preachy or annoying in any shape or form. I’ve cooked like mad from her first book, A Modern Way To Eat, am now on to the second and it’s a joy. Partly, it’s the recipes, which are totally delicious (the lentils with roast tomatoes and horseradish is big winner in our house) and partly it’s the way she speaks to the reader – like a mate you’d love to sit and chat with at the kitchen table. She’s divided her chapters into the time it will take you to prepare and cook, which makes life extra easy. Also, her ingredients aren’t horribly expensive and hard to get on with, which is always a bonus.
A Modern Way To Cook is available now