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Christmas cookery books

27 November 2020

Comfort and adventure are both found on the kitchen axis, says Simon Walsh

More book covers in the gallery

More book covers in the gallery

DAME Mary Berry has National Treasure status. Simple Comforts is billed as “120 heartwarming recipes from my brand new BBC series”. It’s clear, clever, and eminently cookable. Everything from one-pot dishes to larger bakes takes in weekend specials, feeding a crowd, salads and sides, and cold and hot puddings. There are plenty of classics, many with a twist, and it all feels like food you would be happy to cook and eat. Her “prepare ahead” advice is particularly good. A perfect gift.

Skye McAlpine grew up in Venice, and that formative experience shines through A Table for Friends. We may have to wait a while before we can use her tips at the back for scaled-up meals (cooking for 4-6, 8-10, 12, 20, or more) but this is a crisp, modern, and elegant book with enticing photos. She gives personal stories and serving suggestions. Dishes like pot-roast beef and ossobucco with sage and lemon, roast-chicken recipes, pastas, numerous toothsome puddings — all appeal. It is cultivated, straightforward, and a delight.

skye mcalpineA Christmas cake from A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

“My kitchen is the axis of family life,” Claire Thomson says in her introduction to Home Cookery Year. Bright and fresh, colour-coded by season, and subdividing more than 200 recipes into treats, celebration feasts, budget, from the larder, light lunches, leisurely weekend, and midweek supper, it is a brilliant compendium. Little intros on the recipes give insight, and the photos add to the happy reading. For novice cooks and old hands alike.

Elisabeth Luard’s Preserving, Potting and Pickling is not so much about stocking the store cupboard as it sounds. She has travelled extensively throughout Europe to compile this fascinating and intelligent tome on how we bottle and store things, and then use them in cooking. Unusual and interesting recipes give a new take on soups, bakes, and stews, to name a few, and all illustrated with her own paintings and sketches. Well worth having.

For anyone who found the food to be a memorable aspect of their Holy Land pilgrimage, Falastin, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ottolenghi), is a postcard home to “the food, people and stories of Palestine”. More than 100 recipes are interspersed with sensitive articles on the food culture there (olive oil, breads, tahini, fishing in Gaza, refugee-camp cooking in Bethlehem) and the photos by Jenny Zarins are travel-journal standard. It is possible to get most Middle Eastern ingredients nowadays for the unusual flavour combinations here. Delicious and not too complicated, it’s an armchair and kitchen escape.


Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts
Mary Berry
BBC Books £26
Church Times Bookshop £23.40


A Table for Friends
Skye McAlpine
Bloomsbury £26
Church Times Bookshop £23.40


Home Cookery Year
Claire Thomson
Quadrille £30
Church Times Bookshop £27



Preserving, Potting and Pickling: Food from the store cupboards of Europe
Elisabeth Luard
Grub Street £25
Church Times Bookshop £22.50



Falastin: A cookbook
Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
Ebury Press £28
Church Times Bookshop £25.20

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