Every September sees a wave of tempting new cookbooks hit the shelves, but with my own bookshelves already fit to bursting, I don’t have room for any more. After all, just how many Korean barbecue plates have I whipped up this year? One. How many winter-themed treats from the GBBO contestants have I produced for unexpected guests? None. So, while not every cookbook has to be thoroughly cooked from (much joy is brought from simply flicking through for inspiration), future additions to my collection need to be useful. I’ve spent six weeks examining and actually cooking from this year’s September newbies and these are the books that deserve a place on my shelf.
Who doesn’t enjoy the colourful cacophony of flavour that is Yotam Ottolenghi’s food? Since arriving on the scene with his own particular brand of Middle Eastern mezze a decade or so ago, we have become more familiar with the ingredients he uses and readier than ever to embrace veg-centric eating. So now, with a good two-thirds of the recipes vegetarian, many of them requiring fewer than 10 ingredients and even more of them for those short on time, this latest offering SIMPLE feels more usable than, say, Jerusalem. Use it to make dips you didn’t think possible for snacking, show off to your mates with lamb and pistachio patties with sumac yoghurt sauce (eight ingredients only!) and get to grips with cauliflower like only Ottolenghi can. We love.
GOOD FOR: Vegetarians, healthy eaters, lazy weekends in the kitchen
A tome of cookery knowledge from celebrated food writer Sybil Kapoor, this book is designed to make you think of food – and of eating – differently. Divided by chapters devoted to the senses, you can choose either to treat this simply as a stunning collection of global recipes or you can get to grips with the kitchen theory behind each section and see how it alters your perception and subsequent enjoyment of the recipes. Learning the principles behind what makes a dish delicious will propel your kitchen prowess to new heights, and dishes like authentic lamb rogan josh and saffron rice make the process a pleasure.
GOOD FOR: Experienced cooks, adventurous eaters, anyone stuck in a culinary rut
You won’t hear a bad word about Sir Jamie from us and this book signals a triumphant return to his Mediterranean comfort zone, with the book to accompany his series trundling around Italy. With none of his usual constraints on timing or number of ingredients, here Jamie’s love of Italian food is evident, with scores of tempting antipasti, then a small peek at pasta, before heading into the rustic, achievable recipes passed down from nonna to nonna that leap off the page, begging to be made. The agrodolce-inspired chicken bastardo was a particular favourite, 20 cloves of garlic and 20 chillies and all…
GOOD FOR: Jamie Oliver devotees, Italophiles, Sunday lunching with a difference
MOB Kitchen’s snappy genre of 60-second-recipe videos are a big hit on social media, but somehow I hadn’t seen them so was recipe-testing blind. Self-taught cook Ben Lebus’ concept is simple, tasty food that feeds four for under a tenner and, spoiler – my family loved it. From zingy Thai curries to beer-braised pork tacos to weekend breakfast staples, this book has something for everyone, whatever the level of kitchen confidence or dietary requirement. And you’d never believe you were eating on a budget either.
GOOD FOR: Busy families, flatmates, friends or batch-cooking
I feel Ella comes in for an unfair amount of flak and this book goes some way towards undoing the clean-eating nonsense that surrounds her. The intro confesses she believes her past eating was too regimented and this was down to her trying to manage her immune disorder with food. She’s relaxed a bit now and, although this book is vegan, the recipes are approachable, inexpensive and pleasingly carb-heavy with a healthy dose of gluten. Dishes are big on flavour and we found the best way to use this book was to prep a few different recipes that take your fancy and keep them in the fridge to mix and match for different meals. Highlights include the tomato fennel soup with a delightful smoky chipotle flavour and her Sri Lankan curry.
GOOD FOR: Anyone looking to eat more veg, singles, meal-prep fans
In an Instagram-fuelled world of exotic ingredients and the pressure to spend more – “eating less but better” – it’s easy to forget the pleasure of thrifty cooking. For some, thrift isn’t a choice, but a necessity, as author and poverty campaigner Jack Monroe knows too well. This book, then, is a bible for those looking to break the monotony of beans on toast when times are tight, anyone turning towards meatless cooking and people keen to learn new tricks with their store cupboard. Filled with glorious – and super-nutritious – soups, stews and bakes that feel like a cuddle, there’s also a healthy smattering of show-off food and proper decadence; Double Chocolate Guinness Brownies, we’re looking at you.
GOOD FOR: Students, batch-cooking fans, veggies and vegans
With a career spanning 50 years, Prue Leith, of the eponymous Leith’s School of Food and Wine (it spawned Gizzi Erskine, Diana Henry and many more), is to be sat up and listened to when she releases her first cookbook in 25 years. From the classic French gourmet cooking she was originally known for to up-to-date fusion food, economical fridge-forages and Bake Off-worthy puds in between, this book really does cover all angles. Despite her background, she’s not one for a lot of fuss, so every recipe is achievable for even the most basic of cooks and you’ll be preparing impressive dinner-party-worthy dishes in no time at all. Start with something, like the wholesome white bean stew with porcini, and work up to the truly celebratory apple caramel cake.
GOOD FOR: Novice cooks, wannabe hostesses, people-pleasing
A treat of a book if ever we saw one, from the indulgent French toasts we’ve come to expect from Chrissy to deeply flavoured beef rendang and many an inspired cheese toastie (the jalapeno-crusted one is a winner), this perhaps isn’t one for day-to-day recipes if you’re hellbent on healthy eating. Rather, this is a gorgeous book for laid-back weekend cooking and joyfully celebrates food, family and tempting – yet approachable and familiar – ingredients to provide nourishment of the senses from cover to cover. The ridiculously gorgeous photography of Chrissy’s family, complete with dogs, is a bonus.
GOOD FOR: #foodporn fans, the mildly hungover, weekend cheats