A Cookbook makes a great gift, but with so many to choose from which cookbook will spread the most cheer this Christmas? Luckily, we have a team of expert chefs in the #bmFamily💜💚. Here are their Christmas cookbook gift recommendations, some old and some new. You can get some great bargains by buying second-hand and with the money saved you’ll have enough left over to treat yourself to a cookbook too!
My favourite cookbook is by Mark Hix – ‘British Regional Food’: A cook’s tour of the best produce in Britain and Ireland with traditional and original recipes. This was the first book gifted to me while studying culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway college. I love the topics mentioned in the book, it’s very interesting learning more about regional produce and ingredients. The book introduced me to British favourite recipes when I was a young chef taking my first steps and learning my craft. The book was awarded to me after winning a competition where I had to produce a seasonal British recipe. The recipes are simple to follow and easy to make at home, not technical and with great photos. You can only buy it second-hand, but don’t let that put you off.
I have a few recommendations for different reasons.
- For the family that’s not too ‘cheffy’ – ‘The New Classics’ by Donna Hay or ‘The Pie Room’ by Callum Franklin. Recently published, it contains 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere!
- For Meat lovers- ‘Hog’ by Richard Tuner
- For chefs and serious home cooks – ‘The Hand and Flowers cookbook’ by Tom Kerridge, ‘Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter’ by David Humm, ‘Restaurant Nathan Outlaw’ (Restaurant Nathan Outlaw is the only fish restaurant in the UK to hold 2 Michelin stars) or any cook book by Thomas Keller.
But my favourite and strongest recommendation is ‘The Whole Fish cookbook’ by Josh Niland (it won 4 awards last year). It makes working with fish really easy and is simple to understand. It’s equally good for professional or home chefs. He shows you how to use the whole fish. It’s the first fish cookbook that I know of, that most chefs use. It’s easy to be intimidated by cooking fish, but he removes this by teaching about storage, boning, descaling and sustainability.
A great Christmas gift is ‘Out of my Tree Midsummer House’ by Daniel Clifford. This book is part autobiography, part cookbook. Daniel, a two-Michelin-starred chef and TV chef has written this really inspirational book, packed with classic recipes, honest anecdotes and stories from his 20 years in the industry. I have eaten at his restaurant, Midsummer House twice and both times it was the best meal I have ever eaten! His book covers his highs and lows in the hospitality industry and setting up his restaurant and what he learnt along the way! He talks a lot about customer service and attention to detail, this book would be great for anyone in the industry or keen home chefs.
I am recommending an older book that’s brilliant for cooks of all levels. Thomas Keller’s ‘French Laundry’ has great explanations and recipes, visually it’s also a lovely book. It’s suitable for everyone from high-end chefs to keen home cook. It has a really good foreword and introduction which is useful for non-professional chefs. The recipes are in-depth, but easy to follow and the photography is incredible.
Keller has also written ‘Bouchon Bakery’ and ‘Ad Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes’ suitable for everyday cooking. His latest book, ‘French Laundry, Per Se’ was published in October. A real treat (if a little on the pricey side) it has meticulous, in-depth recipes as well as reflection, notes on the restaurants’ daily operations, information about farmers and lessons for young chefs.
Top of my list is ‘Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking’ by Fergus Henderson. Fergus Henderson opened his restaurant, St John, in a former smokehouse near Smithfield meat market in 1995. At St John the emphasis is firmly on meat, so don’t buy this book for vegetarians. When I left college, it was all about fine dining and achieving Michelin stars. Then one of my colleagues took me to St Johns and it open my eyes wide! I had an epiphany and realised the best food was all about using British produce, using as much or all of the animal, keeping it simple but producing a stunning plate of food. It was amazing! ‘Nose to Tail Eating’ is suitable for anyone, packed with flavours, it’s easy to follow and even has simple ideas like Welsh Rarebit and Ketchup.
My second recommendation is ‘Dishoom’ by Shamil Sakrar. It is the first cookbook from this much-loved Indian restaurant. Containing great recipes, stories and lovely illustrations. Easy recipes to follow from fab curries and breads to the famous egg and bacon naan. What more do you need!?
My third recommendation is ‘Pitt Cue’. It’s a fantastic BBQ cookbook which has everything you need. From slaws, pickles, slow cooked meats, breads, ketchups, giant dirty burgers, bone marrow mash, and a, to die for, dessert of peanut butter, chocolate, oreo biscuit and raspberry sorbet! A real man-food cookbook!
My recommendation is ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain. It’s a ‘warts and all’ expose of the restaurant business. My Irish Sous Chef gave me his copy many years back when I was promoted to his position after he left the company. It’s a very truthful book. It’s part biography of Anthony’s restaurant career interwoven with cooking advice. There is a lot of dark humour around the madness of working in restaurants. He describes events like re-enacting the opening sequence of the film ‘Apocalypse Now’. He recreated the napalm blast by pouring brandy over the range so that it would ignite, sending flames through the kitchen! Obviously not something we do at bartlett mitchell. It’s very funny and a cookbook chefs will enjoy, I couldn’t put it down!
One of my favourite cook books is ‘Falastin’ by Sami Tamimi, it was published in 2020. Sami was Yotam Ottolenghi’s protégé and right-hand man. I’ve become massively obsessed with Palestinian cuisine and this is a book I haven’t manage to close since I got it! There are some modern and traditional dishes that have been brought right up to date. The recipes are healthy and delicious and much more than falafel and hummus! All the flavours are great and even if your effort doesn’t look like the picture, it will taste delicious. The recipes work and are fool-proof which is very important. It’s a clever skill, as a recipe writer, to achieve this. The baking and breads are excellent. The tahini and honey roll- Sami’s take on a cinnamon roll is legendary. I have eaten about 200 since March! I have lent my copy to my Dad and because of the lockdown I couldn’t take a photo of me with my book. The other book I recommend is ‘Thai Food’ by David Thompson. It’s deceptively simple title belies a classic Thai cook book. As well as recipes and menus, there is background on the role of food in Thai culture and society. Everything you need if you are keen on Thai food, from guidance on ingredients and explanations of the essential techniques of Thai cookery.
I recommend ‘Le Cordon Bleu’s Pastry School’: 100 step-by-step recipes explained by the chefs of the famous French culinary school. Compiled by amazingly talented chefs, it’s a practical a step-by-step guide on how to do everything pastry. It would be a brilliant Christmas present for anyone who loves baking. And it would be great for any keen Great British Bake-Off fans.
I recommend Tom Kerridge’s ‘The Hand and Flowers’ cookbook. The Hand and Flowers is the only pub in the world to have two Michelin stars. The book contains 70 of the best dishes that have ever appeared on the Hand and Flowers menu. The pictures are stunning and the dishes are inspiring. These Pub classics are simple but very precise with an attention to detail and a wow factor. There are really interesting flavours – one of my favourites is the stuffed red mullet with braised oxtail and beef and bay dressing. Some recipes are a bit of a challenge but lots are accessible to all levels of cook. Tom is incredibly talented, anyone who is in to food will love this book for Christmas.
I recommend Christina Tosi’s ‘Momofuku Milk Bar’. I’ve been inspired by her approach to using up leftovers. She shows how the greatest ideas can come from ingredients that are about to be wasted. Or what is available in a corner shop, late at night after a long shift in a kitchen! What about comforting and yummy cornflake-infused milk or Crack Pie with its buttery oatmeal cookie crust? Christina was always looking for something new and tried out her creations with other chefs as a team meal while she worked at Momofuku. This is a great book for people who want to bake quirky sweet treats that are fool-proof and fun!
I recommend ‘Happy Food’: How eating well can lift your mood and bring you joy by Niklas Ekstedt and Henrik Ennart. As well as beautiful pictures and impeccable Nordic cooking it contains really good recipes and fascinating facts about how you can eat yourself happy from within. There is a lot about gut health (very topical at the moment) and eating well for body and mind. The writers take their recipe inspiration from the Blue Zones – places in the world where people live the longest. With all that’s been going on this year this would be a lovely Christmas gift to lift moods and bring joy!
We hope you have enjoyed reading our chef’s Christmas cookbooks for cooks recommendations and they are helpful when choosing a thoughtful Christmas gift. I was so inspired I bought the Pie book for my father-in-law, the whole fish for my dad and Flastin for my daughter.