29 December 2021

These are the hidden gems of 2021’s cookbook scene

29 December 2021

New cookbooks were one of the things that brought us joy in 2021. The best were packed full of delicious ideas and, if you missed out, grabbing hold of one now and riffling through its pages might be the most inspiring way to begin 2022.

Cookbooks got really fun in the past 12 months. On first look, Max’s Picnic Book by sandwich-maker extraordinaire Max Halley (co-authored with Ben Benton), doesn’t make much sense – it’s filled with goofy imaginary picnic menus for the likes of Mary Berry, Hunter S. Thompson, Ringo Starr and Debbie McGee. But delve further and it’s packed with inventive picnic ideas that will blow your mind.

Rapper and presenter Big Zuu’s cookbook, Big Eats, has heart, punchy recipes and a lot of roux (he is the king of a good roux), while TikTok chef Poppy O’Toole released her debut cookbook, Poppy Cooks – a delicious, practical and uplifting manual to cooking great, reliable staples that will see you through life.

Recipe collections have also increasingly come with a conscience. Ripe Figs by Yasmin Khan is as much reportage on the refugee crisis affecting the Eastern Mediterranean as it is a cookbook. One: Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones focused on cutting kitchen waste and stretching veg to its full potential, while One Pot: Three Ways by Rachel Ama elevated vegan food and helped busy people maximise leftovers.

Some huge names took it upon themselves to make home cooking comforting and easy too. Rome-based Rachel Roddy solved many a weeknight supper dilemma with An A-Z Of Pasta; Rick Stein opened up about what he eats day-to-day in Rick Stein At Home; Gordon Ramsay translated his live lockdown cook-alongs into full-on family cookbook, Ramsay In 10; while the legend that is Claudia Roden returned with the triumphant Med: A Cookbook.

Here are three more cookbooks you might have missed, that really do deserve your attention…

1. Sugar, I Love You by Ravneet Gill (Pavilion, £20)

For starters, we urge you to follow Ravneet Gill on Instagram (@ravneeteats), where if she’s not pouring ganache from a height, she’s sharing lovely videos of her grandmother Biji. Sugar, I Love you is a technicolour follow-up to her debut cookbook The Pastry Chef’s Guide, and it’s excellent.

Gill, a Junior Bake Off judge, shares stories from her life and family alongside “knockout recipes to celebrate the sweeter things in life” – like her cherry lemon pie (a riff on a tart she once ate at an Italian airport), custard-filled brioche cubes (so elegant), and the most perfect Basque cheesecake (burnished magnificently).

The recipes are infinitely fun, and Gill – who also runs online cookery school, Damson Jelly (damsonjellyacademy.com) – cajoles you happily into making everything from ice cream to soufflé. She is the definition of a rising star.

2. Your Home Izakaya by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, £25)

A decade ago Tim Anderson won MasterChef, and since then the Wisconsin-born chef has become a restaurateur (Nanban, his Japanese soul food venture, has two outlets in London) and cookbook author. Your Home Izakaya was put together during lockdown (which he writes movingly and wittily about in the intro), and it’s a guide to turning your home into a social and welcoming Japanese-style ‘drinking-and-dining den’.

He outlines snacky ‘light and fresh’ dishes, as well as ‘bold and burly’ plates of food you can throw together when friends arrive, to pair with cocktails and sake (there’s a drinks section in the back). Get to grips with crispy cheese and onion gyoza, potato salad with ramen eggs, sake-steamed clams, fish finger hand rolls, sashimi and cabbage – and impress every person who turns up at your door.

Anderson makes food incredibly exciting and entertaining – this might just be his best cookbook yet.

3. At Home by Monica Galetti (Aster, £20)

It’s a simple premise: chef Monica Galetti’s favourite recipes for friends and family – and it is just so well executed, a sense of calm and ease seems to permeate every page.

The MasterChef judge and restaurateur has split the book into relatable sections, like ‘weekends’, ‘chilled out breakfasts’ and ‘the perfect Sunday’, and adds inspired twists to classics (such as her eggs Benedict with sriracha hollandaise). She presents really inventive, doable dishes that take on her Samoan and New Zealand roots and make you ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

The hot-cross-bun bread and butter pudding looks ridiculously good, we could eat the sweetcorn crumpets for days, and the Parmesan scone loaf is such a brilliant idea. We can see this book becoming a household staple.

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