Cookery books for Christmas
I have 346 cookery books. I know this because, in the interests of journalistic accuracy, I have just counted them. Within the week, I’ll have another because yesterday, when I was shopping for Christmas, I stumbled upon a book I must have. It’s called Altitude and it’s a collection of cold weather recipes. The photography is wonderful, but really, it’s the concept of the book, and all that cream and cheese, colliding with Christmas that got me. I would love to post a photo of it, and give you more details. But, I spotted it in the Royal Horticultural Society shop at Wisley for twenty quid, and thought I’d get it much cheaper on Amazon. I was a fool. It does not appear to be on Amazon. Though, as a side bar to this conversation, who knew there where so many books on High Altitude cooking? It’s astounding. Now I am faced with the trial of heading out in the car for an hour to get this book. I need it. I probably won’t cook from it straight away. but I long to curl up by the fire and read it from cover to cover.
It is no wonder that I have so many cookery books – in truth, the wonder is that I don’t have more. I seem to remember that Nigella Lawson’s collection runs into the thousands. We share a late-night Amazon habit, it is true, but she has rather deeper pockets than me. Most of my books were free, sent to me when I was making cookery programmes. It’s very hard to turn down a freebie, and although I have given away, gifted and dumped a great many, I am still left with…well, 346. As a television producer, the question I’m most often asked is “Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?”, followed by “What’s (insert name of current tabloid darling) really like?” and then “What do you think of Jamie/Nigella/Hugh’s new cookery book?” Really, you wouldn’t believe how many people love cookery books.
Which brings me onto Christmas. Tis the season to be merry, and if you’re a publisher, to bring out as many cookery books as humanly possible. I wouldn’t buy many of them. Not at all. However, if you’re buying a book for someone who doesn’t really cook, but loves watching cookery shows, then by all means order in the latest Jamie, Nigella or Gordon (hey job done – happy recipient), but if you want to buy a cookery book which will be loved, used and covered with food stains, then I have a few suggestions.
Best Cookery book for a Foodie: If your beloved is a self confessed foodie and seriously into food porn, then I caught a glimpse of Philip Howard’s new book yesterday The Square Volume 1: Savoury and urge you to buy it. First of all, it looks astounding, and secondly Phil Howard can cook like an angel. There are around 150 savoury recipes in the book, and each has a beautiful photograph to accompany it. This is the book to give someone who loves a project (ME – if you’re listening, dear family and friends), and has good basic technique. I can imagine setting aside an afternoon over Christmas while everyone else is watching Back to the Future, and coming up with an extraordinary dish.
The Square Volume 1:Savoury
Best Cookery Book for a man: Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. It’s a bit chilly for Barbecues at this time of year, so I suggest you get your man into bread making. It’s astounding how much they like it. Really, even my husband who over the years has been cowed (by me, I admit it) into all but giving up cooking, really loves making bread. And I really love eating homemade bread, so clearly this is A Good Thing! Again, this book is packed full of pictures. Interestingly, there are many more pictures than in Paul’s previous bread book, perhaps his publishers think he’s worth the investment these days! There is a lot of detail and explanation, and gently leads the reader by the hand through basic loaves to much more ambitious projects.
How to Bake by Paul Hollwood
Best Cookery book for a cook: Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. My most-used cookery book. Ever. Falling Cloudberries looks divine, it will make your heart leap with joy when you see it, and her slow cooked “leg of Lamb with oregano and lemon” is the perfect family Sunday lunch. This is the cookbook I return to time and time again.
Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros
Leg of Lamb with oregano and lemon
3 ¾ pounds leg of lamb (on the bone)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 ½ tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large potatoes
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C/425 degrees F/Gas 7. Rinse and trim the lamb of excess fat and put it in a large baking pan. Rub the lamb all over with the lemon juice, season well with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the oregano, crushing it between your fingers to cover the meat. Dot the butter over the top. Pour 1 cup of water around the lamb and drizzle the olive oil around it as well. Bake for about 15 to 30 minutes on each side, until it is browned all over.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-size pieces. Scatter them in the baking pan around the browned lamb, add some salt, and turn them over with a wooden spoon to coat them in the juice. Add a little more water if it has evaporated. Cover the baking sheet with foil, decrease the heat to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/Gas 4, and bake for 2 ½ hours or so, turning the lamb over at least once during this time and tossing the potatoes. If the lamb isn’t browned enough, remove the foil for the final 30 minutes of cooking. Serve warm on a huge platter with a salad or some simply cooked greens. This is also nice with some tzatziki on the side.
—From Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros/Andrews McMeel Publishing
Oh yes! And here’s a link to her site so you can experience the gloriousness of her other books. So pretty, so delicious www.tessakiros.com