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Christmas cookery books: Flora Shedden, Angela Hartnett, Jeremy Lee, Ben Mervis, Ameer Kotecha

25 November 2022

Simon Walsh chooses a range of cookery books for every palate

PERHAPS inevitably, this is the year of lockdown cookbooks. The food writer and baker Flora Shedden has produced Supper, born of long stretches of cooking at home for her partner and making it more than just a meal. There is a gamut of options here, from eating alone to mass feasts. Novel recipes, such as barley risotto, squash-and-sage flatbreads, baked apples, and pine-nut crumble, show European and Eastern influences, all with a chatty style and appetising photos by Laura Edwards. There is plenty to enjoy and spend time with.

Angela Hartnett takes a similar tack with her part-memoir The Weekend Cook, this time celebrating her close crowd in the London Spitalfields community (who often cater for one another and share dishes) with “all my go-to recipes that have served me over the years when cooking for friends for fun at home”. Strong on pasta and her Italian background, the book also has hearty soups, street-party food, recipes from friends, lamb shoulder with tomatoes, chocolate mousse, and even Lockdown Sourdough — lest we forget!

Jeremy Lee is a quiet legend who reinvented the restaurant Quo Vadis, in Soho. Covid turned his flat into “a field kitchen . . . poring over cookbooks and notebooks”. The fruit is Cooking, a deeply personal, beautifully written, and handsome book that is an instant classic. Fans of Elizabeth David, Simon Hopkinson, or Henry Harris, or anyone happy in a kitchen, will love it. He divides his chapters by food type (blood oranges, potatoes, wild garlic . . .) and has sections on essentials, tips, and sweet things, too. Arty photographs by Elena Heatherwick enliven them, along with John Broadley’s illustrations. It is a joy to read and cook from.

Lee also writes the foreword to The British Cookbook, by Ben Mervis, which is an amazing achievement of 550 recipes, collating the British Isles’ food culture in a fabulously luxurious and yet practical volume from Phaidon, the Larousse publishers. Even basics are covered (an omelette, bangers and mash), and it is worth it for the baking sections alone. With two ribbons, a map, timings, and shots by Sam A. Harris, the whole thing is lightly scholarly, totally accessible, and a remarkable spanning of generations, regions, and ingredients.

Ameer Kotecha is a bright young diplomat who came up with the idea of The Platinum Jubilee Cookbook (as well as the pudding competition). Conceived to mark Her Late Majesty’s 70 years on the throne through celebrating “gastrodiplomacy” — dishes cooked in and by our embassies around the world —the book comprises varied recipes from embassy staff, using local ingredients (such as lemongrass, pandan, and gin-cured salmon), portrayed in classy photographs by David Loftus. With pithy articles by Kotecha on Foreign Office culture, missions, stories, and British products throughout, it is now a unique testament to an extraordinary reign.


The Revd Simon Walsh is a Church Times cookery writer.


Supper: Recipes worth staying in for
Flora Shedden
Hardie Grant Books £22
Church Times Bookshop £19.80


The Weekend Cook: Good food for real life
Angela Hartnett
Bloomsbury £26
Church Times Bookshop £23.40


Cooking: Simply and well, for one or many
Jeremy Lee
Fourth Estate £30
Church Times Bookshop £27


The British Cookbook: authentic home cooking recipes from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland
Ben Mervis
Phaidon £39.95
Church Times Bookshop £35.95


The Platinum Jubilee Cookbook: Recipes and stories from Her Majesty’s representatives around the world
Ameer Kotecha
Jon Croft Editions £30
Church Times Bookshop £27

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