Choose a Food Book for Christmas
Favourite books about food and cookbooks for Christmas. Some are new this year, others are classics you might have missed. We’ve chosen our favourites, they are tried and tested. It is not all about cookbooks, it’s about food books that will feed your soul, or whisk you away to a different land.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed, please check them out on social media. These are some of the finest people I know.
Danielle’s Recommended Books
Many of the books I have recommended were originally reviewed for Netgalley – I love the chance to be the first to read a great book.
The Lea Wilson family set up the Halen Mon salt company 20 years. The family has collected together a fabulous array of recipes in their first cookbook.
The recipes are so fresh and vibrant and each one I try is a joy.
They emphasise that learning how to use salt properly makes the difference between a good and a great chef. Their love of their ingredient comes through with warmth and love.
Alex Renton has written the first official book from BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme. Drawing on the programme’s archive and his own extensive knowledge of food and culture. Discover the unexpected stories of 13 key staples including spice, oil, cocoa, bread and tomatoes.
Alex writes so beautifully. This is a book for any food lover. There’s also a lovely touch of humour. I frequently found myself exclaiming out loud as I discovered a fascinating fact.
It’s a book to dip into on a day when you need a pep. You’ll soon be revived.
This is my bread book of my year. When you are an experienced baker, you never want to stop learning. This book really hits the spot.
New techniques, tips and recipes are introduced. Some are tricky but are well worth the challenge for example the Kubaneh in the photography. I am working my way through it and enjoying every moment.
The book was published in 2016, but I only discovered it this year. Highly recommended.
Fiona’s Book Choice
Fiona Green, The Itinerant Baker runs a sourdough bakery in Bathhurst, Australia focusing on wheat breads, spiced buns, European ryes and spelt. I met her online when she sought some advice on baking in her Rofco oven.
Over to Fiona: Ginsberg gives us access to worlds of process, taste and culture in this cookbook.
I love how well-balanced the introduction and history is to the wonderful recipes. And the recipes really are amazing.
Rye bread is deep in so many cultures and has so many facets depending on the control of temperature and hydration- that’s the art of bread right there.
His bread adventures and humour come out lightly in the descriptions at the top of each bread: about how he likes to pair them, the flavours and texture, or how he was gifted the recipe. I love the feeling of all these wonderful breads just waiting to surprise, delight and teach me even though I’ve been baking out of it for years.
Follow Fiona on Instagram – the Itinerant Baker
Paul’s Choice of Books
I met Paul Couchman – the Regency Cook online on Twitter, then spent a wonderful morning with him exploring the Regency Town House in Brighton where he set up the Regency Kitchen. It is such a fascinating place, and the kitchen is full of warmth.
Over to Paul:
These are all really crackers. I buy a lot of food books and these are my real favourites this year.
The Bloomsbury Cookbook by Jans Odaatje Rolls
This is about the Bloomsbury group but really centres on the farmhouse where many of them lived which isn’t far from me near to Lewes. I bought the book while I was camping in the grounds of Firle Place and we walked to Charleston and I devoured it in the tent. Food, history, art and waspish upper-class humour.
The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo.
Twenty six fruits, from the poisonous to the explosive but infused with personal narrative. Sweetness with stings. This book was on my wishlist too – Danielle
The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs.
An 1840s recipe book and its author Eliza Acton are brought alive through carefully researched food history.
Follow Paul on Twitter – The Regency Cook
Steph’s Book Choice
Steph is one of the wonderful Baking Babes, a group of female bakers, and helps host Bread Chat. She is always our go to person if we want to know how to make something better. She is a freelance home economist and cookery school tutor.
Spice Mark Diacono
Having read and enjoyed Sour by Mark Diacono I knew Spice wouldn’t disappoint. With some focus on the usual store cupboard spices, Mark brings in other spices that some may not have used before such like grains of paradise and tonka bean.
The book takes you through the origins and uses of spices in marinades or rubs, then he
rewards you with over 100 recipes from around the world, some of his own but also with guest chef recipes.
It’s a great point of reference for both accomplished cooks as well as beginners and sits proudly on my bookshelf. Follow Steph on Instagram Steph.Clubb
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The Wonky Stove Recommendation
Anisa is an Instagram friend. I think we first met in connection with Becky Hadeed’s wonderful The Storied Recipe Podcast. Anisa’s food photographs are simply gorgeous and guaranteed to brighten up your day.Huge thanks to Anisa for giving me permission to use her photograph for this blog post.
Anisa: If there is a single book that I can revisit consistently for inspiration and laughter, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is that book. Absurdity from start to finish; the Devil arriving in Moscow, to talking black cats, bureaucrats and ample social commentary applicable beyond the Soviet Union, Bulgakov set to satire.There, between black magic and strange characters, is sprinkled in very real and delicious food. Food that is described by someone who understands its importance to an audience familiar with it and possibly to an audience curious to try.
Within the strange world of The Master and Margarita the food remains untouched by absurdity. It reflects the opulent past of Tzarist Russia and food of the Soviet proletariat. Nourishing bowls of fiery borshch, snifters of brandy, glasses of wine, herring, and côtelette de volaille (Chicken Kyiv), the availability of the highest quality fish in Moscow (despite it being an inland city) all make appearances throughout the book.
Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kiev and wrote this book during the Stalin era. The book was banned in the Soviet Union but is currently available world wide. A piece of literary history that is delicious and filling.
Follow Anisa on Instagram – The Wonky Stove
Sonya’s Book Choice
I first met Sonya at a Real Bread Campaign conference. We subsequently both became Real Bread Campaign Ambassadors. Sonya is one of the wonderful Bread Babes, co host of Bread Chat and runs Greenfield Bakers baking in a wood fired oven in Lincolnshire. She and her daughter recommend this book:Eating to Extinction, Dan Saladino 2021
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Saladino explores human history, trade and culture through food cultures and communities across the world. His focus is on the diversity and traditions of cultivation and foods which are being lost due to current global food production methods.
This is a fascinating and powerful book. It is wide-ranging in terms of geography, history and in the range of foods at risk. Saladino details each food mainly from his personal encounters with producers and cultivators.
The descriptions of landscapes and cultures alongside the look, smells and tastes of the foods themselves are captivating. The hard truth of the loss of habitats, for example, for the Hadza honey-gatherers in Tanzania, the damage to the forests of Tian Shan, Kazakhstan and the risks of monoculture for bananas and chocolate, are set against the re-discovery of Perry pears, terracotta wine pots and cheese-making techniques. The book balances reflection with a clear message to seek out diversity in foods and to consume it to support a biodiverse future.
Recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about food history, biodiversity, diverse food cultures and small-scale production.
Follow Sonya on Instagram – Greenfield Bakers
My Wish List
My daughter and I each have a black cat. They, of course, rule our lives and we are very fond of them.
I’m sure you’ll remember the wonderful Kim-Joy from Great British Bake Off. This coming March she is releasing a book “Bake me a Cat”. So a perfect book for us. It can be pre-ordered
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My second recommendation is Dark Rye and Honey Cake – Festival baking from the heart of the Low Countries – which will launch in February 2023.
This promises to be a real feast. Regula Ysewijn author of many highly regarded books introduces us to food traditions in the Low Countries and in particular, her birthplace Belgium. This will be for both food historians and cooks and includes a whole year of festive recipes.
Find out More
Discover previous recommendations:
Links go to Amazon where I earn a small fee. Of course, seek out your local bookstore too.