Our food critic picks the books that will endure long after the latest fads have fizzled and died, with this round up of the best cookbooks for 2021.
Any new book by the great Claudia Roden is cause for greedy celebration, and her latest, Med: A Cookbook, is no exception. I love her writing, her wisdom and her warmth. The recipes here are not only united by this great sea, but by a sense of purity, simplicity and the fundamental joy of food. (Ebury, £28)
Nigel Slater is another rare writer where the beauty of his prose is perfectly matched to the warmth of his recipes. A Cook’s Book is billed as the ‘essential Nigel Slater’. With recipes like ‘A cure for a cold, a hangover, everything really…’, as well as sections on crumbles and the roast potato, this is him at his most beguiling. (HarperCollins, £30)
You can always rely on Rachel Roddy and her deep knowledge of Italian food. An A-Z of Pasta is perhaps her best yet (and that’s saying something), as much work of reference as cookbook, filled with ‘Stories, shapes, sauces, recipes’. Writing to savour, recipes to delight. (Penguin, £25)
Max’s Picnic Book by Max Halley and Ben Benton is no normal outdoor eating tome, rather an inspired and rather brilliant collection of picnic ‘menus’ inspired by the likes of Hunter S Thompson, Genghis Khan and Amy Winehouse. The recipes are good too. A stone-cold (and sometimes hot) al fresco classic. (Hardie Grant, £16.99)
British artisan cheese had a tough time during the pandemic. So what better way to celebrate this great art than A Cheesemonger’s Compendium of British and Irish Cheese, written by Ned Palmer? Beautifully illustrated by Claire Littlejohn, it’s a modern cheese classic. (Profile, £14.99)
I love the cooking of Virgilio Martínez –who is one of Peru’s finest chefs – and The Latin American Cookbook covers well-known cuisines, as well as those smaller countries, often overlooked. It is fascinating, exhaustive and quietly essential. (Phaidon, £35)
Similarly evocative to Mandy Yin’s Sambal Shiok (see below) is Vina Patel’s From Gujarat With Love, a paean to the vegetarian cuisine of this western Indian state. It is the sort of vibrant, joyous book that you will return to again and again. (Pavilion, £20)
Tim Anderson’s latest book, Your Home Izakaya, is a tribute to that Japanese institution the izakaya, a mix between tapas bar and pub. Flavours often (but not always) tend towards the robust, salty and spicy. Anderson deftly captures the essence of the izakaya’s laid-back, ‘anything goes’ charm. (Hardie Grant, £25)
Ciudad de México is Edson Diaz-Fuentes’s love letter to his native Mexico City, one of the greatest eating places on earth. He takes us through a typical day, from chilaquiles verdes and breakfast huevos divorciados to late-night pibil ribs. It pulses with the greedy, glorious, intoxicating charm of this magnificent metropolis. (Hardie Grant, £26)
Sambal Shiok was by no means London’s first Malaysian restaurant (obviously!), but it’s certainly one of its best. Mandy Yin, the restaurant’s founder, has written a Malaysian cookbook that manages to be both authoritative and deeply personal, a chilli, curry leaf and lemongrass-scented delight. (Quadrille, £25)
Owen and Tom Morgan are the brothers behind Asador and Bar 44, restaurants with some of the best Spanish food in the country. Their first book, Tapas Y Copas, is every bit the equal of their cooking, filled with Iberian beauties, classic and modern alike, the sort of tome that becomes battered and splattered with constant use. (Poetry Wales, £25)
Finally, Chefs at Home, a book of recipes from Britain’s leading chefs (everyone from Jamie, Gordon and Heston to Angela Hartnett, Andrew Wong and Clare Smyth), written during lockdown, with all proceeds going to the brilliant Hospitality Action. Charity has never tasted so sweet. (Jon Croft, £26)
To order any of these books at discounted prices until 1 January 2022, go to mailshop.co.uk/cookbooks or call 020 3308 9193. Free p&p on orders over £20.