my favourite cookbooks of 2011
2011 is not quite over but I think we have seen the major releases in cookbooks this year that we should expect. If you’re planning on buying the foodie in your life a recipe book, here’s what I would be asking for!
2010 was an embarrassment of riches in the cookbook market; to be honest this year wasn’t quite as bountiful. Nevertheless there are plenty of gems to be had. Here’s a rundown of what I consider to be my absolute favourites of this year.
3. The Good Cook – Simon Hopkinson
This was a real joy to discover. Simon Hopkinson, someone I was only passingly familiar with, popped up week after week with relaxed, homely, but gobstoppingly good food. Nothing was difficult, nothing was pressured but everything was tasty without feeling stodgy. The presentation was fresh and geek that I am giggled at the use of QR codes for the recipes. All the recipes are winners.
And on another note: I really want Simon’s kitchen, replete with adjacent sofa for reading while your sponge rises.
If there’s an unconfident cook you know this would be a great gift, with recognisable but foolproof dinners.
Standout recipe: Lamb breast with onions
2. Ginger Pig Meat Book – Tim Wilson & Fran Warde
This book had a unique criteria for selection in this list. My Dad flicked through it, raised his eyebrows and said “can I borrow that?” and took it home to read cover-to-cover. Not like my Dad at all.
He enjoyed the same things that I did in it: part recipe book and part autobiography, this lovingly prepared tome covers the trials and tribulations of raising livestock. There’s so much humanity in every page you really feel for Tim and Fran as they lose another animal to the ravages of nature and disease.
If that doesn’t do it for you then the recipes will. Proper farmhouse fare treating each animal and each cut with the respect they know it deserves. Casseroles, roasts, stir-fries… all very approachable.
This book also features one of my favourite things: those diagrams that tell you where all the cuts of an animal are from, with dotted lines criss-crossing the beast. I think they’re fascinating.
Standout recipe: Pork in milk
1. Heston Blumenthal at Home – Heston Blumenthal
It could never really be anyone else. My mild Heston obsession peaked this year with both meeting the man himself and then the arrival of this beautiful book. It’s a huge great heavy thing, not easy to read in bed I can tell you (yes, I read it in bed, so what?).
Even though it bears the title “at home” most of the recipes are still quite involved and still multi-stage. Nothing however is insurmountable and thankfully laid out in a clear and achievable way. He admits some things do need a lot of investment but reading the method thoroughly reveals insight. None of it feels extraneous and calling on Heston’s detailed research yields incredible results on the plate. With flavour combinations you’re not familiar with and processes that feel odd at the time, this is a real way to genuinely improve your daily techniques in the way you approach cooking. From chicken and potatoes, from triple-cooked chips to porridge, from sweets in a jar to dry-ice ice cream, all the Heston classics are here plus new delights.
The best parts are the long chunks on Heston’s thoughts about a subject, such as fish, desserts and the long evangelising essay on the benefits of sous-vide (which I would love to have at home – just waiting on Argos to do an Anthony Worral-Thompson branded one).
One slight quibble is if you are a Heston-maniac many of them will feel familiar and almost reprinted but the comprehensiveness of the collection make them apt. To be without them would feel lacking.
In short, it’s a great collection of articles with moments of brilliant inspiration from the chef that most inspires me. Fantastic.
Standout recipe: Pea and ham soup
That was really difficult to choose my top 3! What cookbook did it for you this year?