It's that time of year when tempting treats and fantastic feast tickle our taste buds, so what better gift to get than a good cookbook?
The Ballymaloe Cookbook
By Myrtle Allen
In a sentence: The cookbook that began a food revolution.
Revised and updated, this anniversary edition celebrates 50 years of Myrtle Allen’s award-
winning Ballymaloe Restaurant. Revered as the most influential person in Irish food and hospitality, her classic collection has stood the test of time since it was published in 1977. Add in some new recipes and contemporary photography and you have the definitive Irish cookbook packed with classic recipes, traditional techniques and culinary heritage. A charming masterpiece.
Who’s it best for? Lovers of the classics.
Who won’t like it? Trend-obsessed fusion fans.
Three to try: Old-fashioned roast chicken; Cockles au gratin; Walnut meringue.
Gill & Macmillan, €27.99
Let’s Eat Meat
By Tom Parker Bowles
In a sentence: Recipes for prime cuts, cheap bits and glorious scraps of meat.
Despite the book’s name, award-winning food writer Tom Parker Bowles actually wants us to eat less meat, just better quality. With 120 recipes, chapters cover everything from Meat as Seasoning to Wild Meat and Offal, to a chapter on No Meat accompaniments (best enjoyed with meat, of course!) Tom’s writing is engaging, his recipes accessible to all levels and he gives as much attention to cheaper cuts as expensive beef or game. I'd happily cook my way through this book.
Who’s it best for? Anyone hungry, no matter what their ability.
Who won’t like it? Vegetarians, of course!
Three to try: Braised ox cheek pie; Chicken jungle curry; Spinach with potatoes and chorizo.
By Arun Kapil
In a sentence: Vibrant recipes for bringing flavour, depth and colour to home cooking.
Cork-based, Anglo-Indian Arun Kapil is the high-energy king of spice, plying his Green Saffron brand to some of the world’s top restaurants, as well as us mere mortals. Fresh Spice brings together his passion and knowledge, showing how the plainest of dishes can be transformed with some simple spice know-how. Viewing fresh, fragrant spices as everyday ingredients Arun’s recipes bring new zest to 120 recipes, covering everything from fried chicken to frittata, cauliflower cheese to curries. Beautiful images and lively writing complete the experience.
Who’s it best for? Confident cooks with time on their hands.
Who won’t like it? Novice cooks and those who think fresh means 12-month-old dried basil.
Three to try: Seven-pepper tuna with chickpea chips; Coconut mashed roots; Clementine, chilli and date chutney.
Food for the Fast Lane
By Derval O’Rourke
In a sentence: Recipes to power the body and mind.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this book is a cynical celebrity ruse. As someone who “likes to eat and train, not diet and exercise”, former World Champion hurdler Derval O’Rourke is an advocate for nutritionally-balanced eating. After her third Olympics in 2012 she took time out to attend a cookery school, and managed to run her fastest time in seven years shortly after that. Recently retired from athletics, she maintains that you don’t have to be an elite athlete to care about what goes into your body. Her recipes are easy and achievable with few ingredients and you don’t need cooking experience to figure them out.
Who’s it best for? Beginner cooks and fitness fanatics.
Who won’t like it? Couch potatoes and accomplished chefs.
Three to try: Joggers stew; Stuffed butternut squash; Chewy granola bars.
Gill & Macmillan, €19.99
By Jamie Oliver
In a sentence: 100 ultimate recipes – treat the one you love.
It’s hard to fault Jamie Oliver’s recipes. Down-to-earth and easy-to-follow, the Essex chef’s recipes always deliver faultless, and tasty, results. This new collection focuses on comfort classics, but trawls a global stage, bringing together curries, casseroles and basics like the Insanity Burger. Many of the dishes have novelty names – ‘No 1’ this and ‘Proper’ that – and while some dishes seem like fillers (Porridge, Bacon Sarnie) the extensive collection should push you to break out of your tired repertoire.
Who’s it best for? Family cooks and newbies looking to innovate.
Who won’t like it? Die-hard traditionalists.
Three to try: Huevos rancheros; Ossobucco alla Milanese; Chocolate celebration cake.
Low Carb Revolution
By Annie Bell
In a sentence: Comfort eating for good health.
When best-selling food writer Annie Bell dramatically lost her appetite for months she also lost weight. When her appetite returned, the weight crept back on, prompting her to review her diet. Cutting out bread, potatoes, pasta and rice she saw her weight drop, mood lift and energy levels rise. Determined to continue her love affair with food she created this delicious collection of 140 low carb recipes, including re-workings of traditional favourites and delicious comfort food. A balanced collection of tasty every-day dishes, it will help you cut out carbs painlessly, shed pounds and lift your energy.
Who’s it best for? Food lovers (and family cooks) who want to feel good without feeling deprived.
Who won’t like it? Anyone who thinks life’s too short to live without bread.
Three to try: Jerk chicken; Cottage pie with leek and cauliflower mash; Salmon pie with minted courgettes.
By Yotam Ottolenghi
In a sentence: Vegetables have moved from the side dish to the main dish.
Regarded as one of the most influential chefs of recent times, Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty changed the way everyone, especially omnivores, looked at plant and grain-based diets. Plenty More contains 150 more mouth-watering recipes with an emphasis on flavour and original spicing. Chapters are split into cooking techniques, like Grilled and Braised, and each mouth-watering recipe is accompanied by the most delicious photography. Ottolenghi’s not just a genius chef, his writing skills bring every recipe to life in a most engaging way.
Who’s it best for? Adventurous cooks and food lovers.
Who won’t like it? Anyone whose spice rack is gathering dust.
Three to try: Indian ratatouille; Courgette ‘baba ganoush’; Smoked polenta chips.
Ebury Press, €33.99
Mexico: The Cookbook
By Margarita Carrillo Arronte
In a sentence: 700 authentic recipes that capture the essence of Mexican cooking.
Forget your supermarket fajita kits and burrito bars, Mexico’s cooking tradition dates back 9,000 years and the Tex-Mex fare we know and love is a poor reflection of the real deal. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, one of Mexico’s foremost food writers, has assembled this wonderful and vast collection of regional recipes over 25 years and it’s served up in this handsome, easy-to-read tome. From street food to meat and fish dishes right up to dessert, this is an exciting compendium of a cuisine whose stature is set to explode globally in 2015.
Who’s it best for? Latin American fans and chile lovers.
Who won’t like it? Meat-and-two-veg fans.
Three to try: Crab-stuffed chiles; Pork and beans; Roasted tomatillo salsa.
Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect,
Step by Step
In a sentence: Brand new step-by-step recipes for the whole family.
It’s difficult to not like Mary Berry, the Bake-Off queen whose star continues to rises quicker than a perfectly fluffy souffle. Her books are beloved by food writers for their reliability. Put simply, Mary’s recipes never fail. Throw in the step-by-step formula of this new book and it’s like having her in the kitchen helping you out. Each recipe features a handholding ‘Key to Perfection’ section highlighting possible pitfalls and clever tips, including photographic guides to trickier techniques. With appetising recipes for every occasion, it’s a super book for a busy family.
Who’s it best for? Beginner cooks who want to widen their repertoire.
Who won’t like it? Accomplished, cheffy cooks.
Three to try: Spicy crab cakes; Steak and Guinness pie: Raspberry and apple muffins.
Dorling Kindersley, €29.99
The Extra Virgin Kitchen
By Susan Jane White
In a sentence: Recipes for wheat-free, sugar-free and dairy-free eating.
Fresh-faced and high energy, Susan-Jane White is the perfect advertisement for ‘eating clean’, something she began to do long before it was trendy. When 12-rounds of antibiotics failed to return her to good health she looked to her diet for answers, and embarked on a nutritional pilgrimage that netted incredible results. Not only did her ailments disappear but she discovered new reserves of energy. After eradicating energy-sapping ingredients like wheat, sugar and dairy from her diet she set about devising free-from recipes that tasted great and were wonderfully wholesome. A trip to the health food store is necessary to get the most from this bestseller, but once you’re stocked up you can look forward to healthy food, including plenty of treats, and a very welcome energy lift.
Who’s it best for? Guilty sugar addicts and those dealing with allergies, intolerances or poor energy levels.
Who won’t like it? Fast food fans and time-poor cooks.
Three to try: Rye banana bread with homemade Nutella; Fish fingers with beetroot ketchup; Smoked paprika maple mustard lentils.
Gill & Macmillan, €27.99