Tom Parker Bowles and Olly Smith: Food books of the year and best bottles for giving

Festive gift ideas from YOU Magazine’s brilliant food critic Tom Parker Bowles and wine expert Olly Smith.

Tom’s food books of the year

If there’s ever been a year to appreciate a glut of food titles, it’s 2020. It was difficult whittling down to a shortlist of just eight. Good recipes are essential, but so is good writing, and a distinctive voice. I want a book I’ll return to until the spine is creaking and pages splattered with oil.

Nigella Lawson’s COOK, EAT, REPEAT
Nigella Lawson’s COOK, EAT, REPEAT is intensely personal, gloriously readable and lyrically written. It’s festooned with Post-It notes, thanks to endless recipes I want to cook. Who could resist chapters such as ‘A is for Anchovy’. My book of the year.

Caroline Eden’s RED SANDSInspiring in a different way is Caroline Eden’s RED SANDS, a glorious, beguiling, beautifully written Central Asian melange of travel, history and recipes. It whisks you to the Kyzylkum Desert, drinking tea with smoky shaslik skewers and fresh baked non flatbread.

THE PIE ROOMCalum Franklin is executive chef of London’s Rosewood Hotel and author of THE PIE ROOM, a pastry-topped masterpiece. Gaze at his magnificent creations, then follow his no-nonsense recipes. A flour-dusted love story.

INDIA by Roopa Gulati.Moving from meat to all things vegetarian, and the first in the excellent World Vegetarian series: INDIA by Roopa Gulati. Learned, exhaustive and in pretty much endless use. (The same is true of its sibling title, Italy by Christine Smallwood.)

ZAIKA: VEGAN RECIPES FROM INDIAZAIKA: VEGAN RECIPES FROM INDIA Yes, Romy Gill’s recipes are all vegan, but this is so much more than your average vegan tome. This is a book for all lovers of Indian food: a pure Punjabi gem.

Lara Lee’s COCONUT & SAMBALI love Lara Lee’s COCONUT & SAMBAL, a deeply personal journey around the Indonesian archipelago, scented with lemongrass, chilli and tamarind, with a heart of fiery sambal. Evocative and enlightening.

OATS IN THE NORTH, WHEAT FROM THE SOUTHIn OATS IN THE NORTH, WHEAT FROM THE SOUTH, Regula Ysewijn blends history and recipes in the most delectable way, with traditional cakes, buns, pies and tarts. A British baking bible.

IN BIBI’S KITCHENFinally, IN BIBI’S KITCHEN, by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen: stories and recipes of grandmothers from eight East African countries. A fascinating, heartfelt and inspiring introduction to cuisines I know embarrassingly little about.

Drinks: Olly’s best bottles for giving

Always go iconic with gift bottles, and let character be your guide. By selecting intense flavours, your generosity goes further since smaller servings can be shared between several people. For value, M&S has Port Reserve Special Decanter NV (20%) for £12. Or for a mega-splurge, sip back an entire century with Hermitage 1920 Grande Champagne Cognac (43.5%) from, £1,085.62. Save a drop for me!

(20%), £18, M&S stores only. A gin liqueur that lights up with gold leaf? As festive as it gets – and tasty too!

QUINTA DO NOVAL TEN YEAR OLD TAWNY PORTQUINTA DO NOVAL TEN YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT (19.5%), £24.99, Waitrose. A classic to serve chilled with Stilton and a festive treat alongside mixed nuts.

VIN DE CONSTANCE 2017 KLEIN CONSTANTIAVIN DE CONSTANCE 2017 KLEIN CONSTANTIA (14%), £48.59, The best sweet wine in the world for the price. Electric apricots, liquid excellence.

HERMITAGE PROVENANCE 10 GRANDE CHAMPAGNE COGNACHERMITAGE PROVENANCE 10 GRANDE CHAMPAGNE COGNAC (40%), £53.40, Warming and rich as a golden flame, this Cognac is pure Christmas spirit.

2015 BLANC DE BLANCSWine of the week 2015 BLANC DE BLANCS (12%), £59, Elegant box, terrific fizz with complexity and finesse. British bubbly at its best. Top gift!