Chances are that along with a multitude of other people, you decided that this was the year you were going to cook more healthily. Or become a vegetarian. Or perhaps be more adventurous in the kitchen. Whatever your foodie resolutions, these are the books to help you up your game and make those resolutions a reality…
Combining culinary influences Jerusalem’s Muslim, Jewish, Arab, Christian and Armenian communities, this is my go to for fragrant, comforting dishes that can easily feed a crowd. In fact, what all of these books have in common is that they facilitate a style of entertaining that is laid back and invites everyone to get hands on with their food.
My go to recipes: Mejadra, and Lamb Shwarma. Serve with warm homemade flatbreads and a crunchy veg salad with lots of fresh herbs and a spiky dressing.
I have gifted so many copies of this book after my sister got herself a copy and started cooking up a (very delicious) storm. Packed with flavour, the recipes are an authentic and colourful celebration of vegetarian Indian cuisine and could convert even the most sceptical of carnivores.
My sister’s go to recipes: Moong Dal Tarka, which she serves with brown rice and an array of ‘sprinkles’ – thinly sliced red onion, fresh coriander, crispy onions, toasted almond flakes, chopped fresh chillies, and mango chutney or sour lime pickle. – so that guests can customise their bowl. And ‘The Queen’s Bombay Nuts’ are perfect for keeping on standby instead of the usual kettle chips and hummus offering.
If anyone is going to get you out of your comfort zone and cooking with flavour combinations that are new to you, it’s Olia Hercules. From Armenian soup with lamb and prune meatballs, to beetroot salad with garlic, walnuts and prunes, Mamushka and Kaukasis both focus on food from Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and beyond. The regions covered have such a rich food history, and the recipes and writing in both books bring this alive in such a delicious way. Try the ‘champagne’ tomatoes – fermented tomatoes that fizz in your mouth!
My go to recipes: Pressed Georgian Poussin, and radish and tomato salad (Mamushka) and Shakh Plov (Kuukasis), and amazing dish of rice, chicken and dried fruit cooked in a lavash parcel.
I first discovered Emiko via her incredible Instagram feed, and was so enraptured by her Italian life and the food she created that I couldn’t resist this book when it came out last spring. Filled with stories aabout living and eating on Tuscany’s lesser-known Silver Coast, this is the kind of book I will take to bed with me and read like a novel, falling asleep with dreams of mushroom-studded woodlands and sparkling fish-heavy seas in my head. With plenty of quick ‘throw together’ recipes, this is the book I turn to for the kinds of lunches that look effortless because they are.
My go to recipes: Boiled Eggs with Anchovy Sauce (trust me, soooo good in the summer with some radicchio and crusty bread for wiping your plate), and Tagliolini with Chickpeas.
Another book that I came to by way of an enticing Instagram feed swiftly followed by an overwhelming desire to visit the restaurant. I managed to get my hands on the book long before I got my mouth to the restaurant, Two endeavours that were totally worth the effort. In booth the book an the restaurant, you’ll find simple plates with influences stretching from Scandinavia to the Middle East. Incredibly simple recipes that let quality ingredients shine, this is not a book for those seeking to learn new techniques, but rather one for reminding you of the joy in seasonal ingredients presented without fuss or frippery. It really is the wisdom of simple cooking.
My go to recipes: Pickled Rhubarb (serve it with slow roast pork), Shaved Courgette with Pecorino, Lemon & Capers or the Spring Vegetable Fritters (I LOVE fritters!).
I hope some or all of these help you ring the changes in your kitchen, and let me know below of any books that have lifted you out of a cooking rut, I can always do with an excuse for more cookbooks! x
Image: Lauren Bamford