Do you think Santa reads blogs? Yeah, I’m not sure he’d have time to either…
But just in case one of the elves is trawling the blogosphere, I thought I’d share with you 10 of my favourite cookbooks from this year. And share my Christmas cookbook wishlist too…You never know who’s reading. I also have some news but more on that later…
My aim is to give you some inspiration for your own Christmas shopping and/or your own wish list. After all, if you’re anything like me, there won’t be many gifts that you’ll get excited about thank new shiny cookbooks with gorgeous photographs.
10 favourite cookbooks from 2012
1. Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
As I mentioned recently, this is the first cookbook that has ever inspired dinner 4 nights in a row. Most of the recipes fall into the 5-ingredients category, so they get a tick for simplicity. And of course there’s plenty of veg and healthy options.
2. The Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater
I didn’t even know my favourite food writer had put out a new book, until I happened to see it in a bookstore at Kings Cross / St Pancras station in London. I hesitated to get it, knowing I’d have to lug it around with me but my Irishman stepped in and I’m so glad he did. Slater is someone who just keeps getting better and better. I’ve enjoyed this second installment of the kitchen diaries even more than the first, and have bookmarked to try practically every second recipe. If you’re more of a DVD person, I’ve been watching Slater’s ‘Simple Suppers’ series and really loving it.
3. Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables by Matt Wilkinson
I love everything about this book: the title, design and of course the vegetable-focused recipes. Some are a bit ‘cheffy’ as one expects from a chef-written book. But there are enough simple and creative new ideas to keep most home cooks happy and interested.
4. Cumulus Inc. by Andrew MacConnell
If I had to choose a favourite Melbourne restaurant, Cumulus Inc would win. I’ve managed to find an excuse to eat there every trip I had to Melbourne in recent years. The Cumulus recipes tend to be on the ‘cheffy’ side, so it’s the type of book I turn to when I’m looking for inspiration for a dinner party. Not for quick midweek meals.
Everything I’ve made has been excellent. My only gripe is that the desserts are super complicated. I was lucky enough to have a long boozy lunch at the house of some friends who also have the book and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in recent times.
5. Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
I love Heidi’s blog and I love her books even more. I found her latest offering even more inspirational than her first with some really creative vegetarian ideas that had me thinking ‘I wish I’d thought of that’.
6. Bourke Street Bakery by David Allam
Just as I tend to find an excuse to visit Cumulus Inc in Melbourne, I usually end up at Bourke Street Bakery when I’m in Sydney. This is my go-to book for anything indulgent and un-waistline-friendly. Or when I’m looking for a fix of gluten and sugar. I’m trying their Christmas cake recipe this year. Love that the first step is to soak dried fruit in brandy for 6 weeks.
7. Arabesque by Claudia Roden
I’ve learned so much from all of Roden’s books, starting with ‘A New Book of Middle Eastern Cookery’. But it’s Arabesque that I keep coming back to. Divided into Moroccan, Lebanese and Turkish recipes I adore her simple approach to these ‘exotic’ cuisines.
8. Seven Fires by Francis Mallman
We love cooking with fire in our house and the Argentinian grill-master has inspired more meals than I care to think about. His burnt carrot salad is still on high rotation and of course a barbeque wouldn’t be a barbeque without his fabulous chimmichurri. I’ve even started growing oregano in the garden so we’re always ready to make a batch.
9. Heston at Home by Heston Blumenthal
One of my Christmas gifts from last year. Heston is about as far as you can get from ‘simple’ cooking, so there aren’t many recipes I was keen to try. That being said, I do always learn so much from watching or reading Heston. A good one for the food nerd in your life.
10. My Grandmother’s Kitchen by Laura Clarke & Clarie Wallace
Last (by no means least) on my list is this touching book self-published by my lovely friend Laura. It’s one of those books that makes you feel better when you see it sitting on your book shelf. I love it equally for the stories of all the grandmothers included in the book and their family recipes.
My 2012 Christmas Wishlist
1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
I love the Ottolenghi approach to cooking and am still wishing they’d open a branch of their fabulous London restaurants here in Cooma (just putting it out there). I also love the cuisines from the Middle East so am sure that I’ll find plenty to enjoy about this book.
2. Movida Cocina by Frank Camorra
A few weeks ago I cooked dinner for some friends inspired by the first Movida book. It was such a success that I can’t wait to dig into some new Spanish-inspired recipes. If you’re ever in Melbourne, and now Sydney, it’s worth making time for a meal at one of the Movida restaurants but the next best thing is pouring over the books.
3. What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies
Easily my favourite blog in the whole world when it comes to food photography. Although to be honest, I haven’t ever cooked any recipes. This is a book that is all about marveling (and drooling) over the pictures of the food. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with that.
4. Charcuterie by Jane Grisgon
After taking a class at the Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania, last year, my Irishman and I were lucky to meet some like-minded charcuterie fans who live not far from us. This year we formed a ‘secret sausage society’ and have been experimenting with making our our salami, proscuitto and chorizo. Loads of fun and I’m always on the lookout for new ideas.
5. Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer by Maynard Davies
Our most recent batch of bacon from the ‘secret sausage society’ ended up being way too salty. I’m hoping this book will help us reach homemade bacon ‘nirvana’.
NOTE: All the links above are affiliate links so if you do end up making a purchase you’ll be supporting Stonesoup. Thanks!
And the news!
I’m super excited to announce that 2013 is going to be a big year for Stonesoup! Penguin Books are publishing my new proper, physical print book…
‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘.
Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing more details in the new year!
5-Spice Chicken Salad
Takes about 10 minutes.
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe in The Kitchen Diaries II.
This is the type of thing I love to have for mid-week meals. It’s quick and warming enough to feel like a real dinner but not heavy at all. Chinese 5-spice isn’t something I cook with very often, but whenever I do I really love it. In Australia it’s available in supermarkets. In other parts of the world you might need to track down a specialist spice merchant or an Asian grocery store. It keeps for ages so it’s worth any hassle.
enough for 2:
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice
1-2 small red chillies, chopped
450g (1lb) chicken thighs fillets or breasts, sliced into thumb sized pieces
4 handfuls washed salad leaves
1. Pop a frying pan or wok on a medium-high heat.
2. Combine 5-spice, chilli with 2 tablespoons of oil (I used macadamia but any neutral flavoured oil is good) and a little salt. Toss chicken to coat in the oil.
3. Cook chicken for about 2 minutes on the first side.
4. Turn and cook, covered for another 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
5. Remove from the heat and squeeze over some lime juice.
6. Divide salad between 2 plates. Top with hot chicken and serve with lime on the side.
vegetarian – replace chicken with slices of halloumi.
vegan – try Chinese 5 spice tofu.
different meat – pork fillets or firm white fish will also be great. Adjust cooking time accordingly.
can’t find Chinese 5-spice? – make your own. Combine 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground star anise, 2 teaspoons ground cloves, 1.5 teaspoons ground fennel seeds, and 0.5 teaspoons ground black pepper. Keep leftovers in a glass jar or ziplock bag.
different greens – play around with the salad leaves, St Nigel used snow pea sprouts as well as the salad leaves. Steamed bok choy would also be lovely.
more saucey – make a lime ‘aioli’ by stirring the zest of a lime and a crushed clove of garlic into some good quality mayo.
Video version of the recipe.
Since this is the last Stonesoup post for the year, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to you for reading Stonesoup this year. It really means a lot to me.
I wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and all the best for the new year ahead.
Stonesoup will be back on the 8th January,
ps. Do you have any favourite cookbook discoveries? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.