Bringing a book on holidays? Make it a cookbook
One of the joys of a self-catering holiday is the prospect of shopping at local markets where the produce always seems so much more inviting than it ever does in the supermarket back home. Those tomatoes! Those plums! Those apricots! That squid! All impossible to resist.
Bring a carefully chosen cookbook with you - either a hard copy or, more conveniently, a Kindle version - and the experience of recreating the dishes that you find in local restaurants will be so much more satisfying, and successful.
It's an opportunity to immerse yourself in the cuisine of the country that you are visiting, and probably to gain a fuller understanding of how the history and culture of the place have influenced the food that's eaten there. At the very least it's a chance to read those cookbooks that you've bought eagerly and then only ever flicked through, and pick out dishes that will remind you of fun and sunshine during the dreary winter months.
Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Boxtree, Kindle £16.14) will teach you to cook like an Italian. Bring it to your villa in the Tuscan hills and learn how to make proper ragù. You'll never buy pasta sauce in a jar again.
Siadatan is the man behind Padella in Borough Market and Trullo in London's Islington, and his book of the same name (Square Peg, £25) is an homage to the regional food of Italy in all its glory. Yes, there are recipes for pasta - pici with Parmesan, black pepper and golden garlic is one simple peasant dish from Tuscany - but there are also more sophisticated dishes, such as whole baked turbot with poached leeks and aioli that will help re- create the dolce vita dinner party back home.
Roddy's delightful book Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome (Headline Home, £25) is filled with recipes for "uncomplicated, direct and adaptable Italian family food that reflects the season". You don't, however, have to be ensconced in a beautiful villa in Taormina to appreciate the traditional Sicilian recipes - Roddy revels in the rudimentary facilities provided by the kitchen in her partner's grandmother's house in Gela, a working city just along the coast from that glamorous resort. Some of the recipes are tailored to Roddy's life in Rome, others to when she is cooking at her mother's house in Dorset. Resolutely un-precious, truly authentic, wholly seductive. Why not try some of the recipes (see right) today?
The hottest food destination in Europe, Lisbon is on every self-respecting foodie's bucket list. The restaurants there are so good - and such good value - that you'll be spoiled for choice while you're there and may not want to spend time cooking. So this is probably more a book to have waiting for you when you get home, and you're desperate to prolong the holiday feeling just a little bit longer. Amongst the recipes from Lisbon: Recipes From the Heart of Portugal (Hardie Grant, £25) that will bring you straight back are the ones for patê de sardinha (sardine pâté), served as an accompaniment to bread at the start of a meal in most restaurants, polvo assado (roasted octopus with smoked paprika, parsley and lemon) and - of course - pastéis de nata (custard tarts), the city's signature pastry.
The most famous come from Pastéis de Belém - where they are said to have been invented by a former monk in 1837 - but Rebecca Seal says she prefers the ones from Manteigaria in the Chiado district. When a fresh batch is taken from the oven, they ring a bell so that hungry passers-by can rush in and grab a box while they are still warm.
Greece: The Cookbook (Phaidon, £29.95) is a 700-plus-page doorstopper that may need a suitcase of its own, but it is a bible and the one to bring if you are serious about getting to grips with Greek food.
Located near the French border in Northern Spain, the area around San Sebastián (Donostia in the Basque language) is known for its concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants - Arzak, Elkano and Mugaritz are just three, while the city itself is famed for its pintxos (Basque-style tapas), small morsels of deliciousness that you'll find in every bar around every corner, fabulous seafood and rustic ciders. With a foreword by Juan Mari Arzak - the chef at the eponymous three-star Arzak - José Pizarro's third book, Basque: Spanish Recipes From San Sebastián & Beyond (Hardie Grant, €25) takes inspiration from traditional dishes and local ingredients, while applying a twist of his own. Pizarro's London restaurants - José and Pizarro, both in Bermondsey - are worth making a pilgrimage to at any time of the year for an authentic Spanish food experience. His previous books, Seasonal Spanish Food and Spanish Flavours, are equally good. In the pipeline is a book on the food of Catalonia. On holiday, go to the market and cook gambas a la plancha on the barbecue on the terrace; back home perhaps try the recipe for baked crab.
Nieves Barragán Mohacho
If the name of the author of Sabor: Flavours From a Spanish Kitchen (Penguin Fig Tree, £25), Nieves Barragán Mohacho, is familiar, that's because until recently she was the executive head chef at Barrafina in London, where she was awarded a Michelin star. Barrafina has three branches now, but it is the one on Frith Street in Soho that everyone knows, with its all-counter seating and an array of fish and seafood dishes that would make a grown woman weep at the elegance and simplicity of their execution. For lunch in your Spanish villa, try chicory, anchovy and salmorejo salad, and back home experiment with braised Iberian pork ribs, chorizo and potato stew, and clams in salsa verde. The chef's new stand-alone restaurant, Sabor, opens in London later this year.
Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking (Penguin, Kindle £8.99) and French Country Cooking (Penguin, Kindle £5.35) are the undisputed classics, and if you are heading off to a French villa and plan to do some cooking, then these are the ones that you absolutely have to bring with you.
American by birth but French in his soul, Richard Olney's The French Menu Cookbook (Collins, £3.32 Kindle) is the one to pack if your idea of heaven is lying in a hammock with a glass of wine reading about food. His prose is wonderful.
Modern and inspiring, Oklava: Recipes From a Turkish- Cypriot Kitchen (Mitchell Beazley, £25) from the chef at Oklava in London's Shoreditch comes endorsed by none other than Yotam Ottolenghi.
If you've returned from Mexico with a yearning to eat the vibrant and exciting food that you encountered there and are not going to be palmed off with a bog-standard burrito, Diana Kennedy - and her book The Art of Mexican Cooking (Clarkson Potter, £26) - is your woman. Thomasina Miers' Mexican Food Made Simple (Hodder & Stoughton, £22) is good too, though less learned.
Thompson is the undisputed master of Thai food. His book, Thai Food (Pavilion, £30) is the bible - although not one to bring with you given its heft. Better to have it waiting for you on your return so that you can re-create everything you ate and loved while you were away.