Food & Drink Books of the Year

by Sali Earls

2012 has been a pretty good year for food and drink books. There have been plenty of TV tie-ins, which although may not appeal to the hard-core foodie, are a great way for people to develop their interest in food. We’ve also had something of a Scandinavian influx, with some brilliant books and recipes tantalising the taste buds of British home cooks.

We’re already looking forward to what 2013 has to offer, but here’s a roundup of our favourite food and drink books of the year.

These are listed in alphabetical order, and are not in any order of preference.

Drink Me Book Cover
Drink Me! How to Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine – Matt Walls
Quadrille Publishing, £12.99

This is a great book for the wine drinking newbie. As someone who buys wine based purely on the aesthetic appearance of the label, I most definitely fall into this category. This book, published as part of Quadrille’s “New Voices in Food” series, helps the uninitiated choose the right wine for pretty much any occasion, and then tells you how the get the best out of it.

How to Bake Book Cover
How to Bake – Paul Hollywood
Bloomsbury Publishing, £20.00

We’ve had something of a love affair with baking since the BBC’s Great British Bake Off first graced our screens three years ago, and this shows no signs of stopping with the publication of several baking books this year. Anyone who has seen Paul Hollywood in action knows what a stickler he is for precision and excellence, and that’s why this book made our list. Paul shows the relevant techniques before delving into classic and innovative baking recipes.

Hughs Three Good Things Book Cover
Hugh’s Three Good Things – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Bloomsbury Publishing, £25.00

The new book from TV favourite Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall sees him draw on his years of experience to develop a simple method for creating fool proof dishes. By combining three key ingredients in a recipe, the book provides a template for simple tasty dishes. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s enthusiasm is infectious, and the book will no doubt be under many people’s Christmas tree.

J Sheekey Fish Book Cover
J Sheekey Fish – Tim Hughes & Allan Jenkins
Preface Publishing, £25.00

J Sheekey has been a Covent Garden staple since the 1890s, and now the years of expertise and experience have been brought together in a great book which covers such diverse seafood as cod and razor clams, and includes J Sheekey’s famous fish pie. I’ve often had problems cooking fish properly, or knowing what to do with it so as not to mask the delicate flavour, but this book made the list as from the outset it’s obviously written by people who really know their stuff.

Kitchen Diaries Book Cover
Kitchen Diaries II – Nigel Slater
4th Estate, £30.00

Nigel Slater has long been a favourite of mine, and I’ve often pored over Kitchen Diaries since it was published in 2005. Working from notebooks and shopping lists, Nigel has created a book of over 300 recipes from simple salads, to indulgent pies. Many of these recipes featured in his successful TV series “Simple Suppers”, and whether or not you work your way through the recipes, Nigel’s approach, voice and writing style are wonderful.

Leon Book Cover
Leon Family & Friends – Kay Plunkett-Hogge & John Vincent
Conran Octopus, £25.00

This is the fourth book from London based healthy fast food chain Leon, and will no doubt be much used in my kitchen as time goes on. The book covers both feeding the family in a healthy way, whilst maximising the time available; and also taking a more leisurely approach to feeding friends and the very act of food bringing people together. The book covers everything from breakfast, lunch and supper, to special occasions and food nostalgia.

Lets Eat Book Cover
Let’s Eat: Recipes from my Kitchen Notebook – Tom Parker-Bowles
Pavilion Books, £25.00

This book is great fun and very informative. With some 140 recipes, Tom Parker-Bowles covers some of his favourite dishes including food from his travels and family meals. As a parent, I really appreciated the chapter covering food for small children. This is not only a good cookbook but also a great read.

Polpo Book Cover
POLPO – A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) – Russell Norman
Bloomsbury Publishing, £25.00

Reviewed by Jenny White earlier this year, POLPO looks set to be one of the books of the year. As Jenny said in her review, “One thing I can already say about this recipe book (and this is rare) is that all of the recipes I have tried so far look set to become family staples because they are so easy and rewarding.” The book covers the gamut of Venetian cuisine, including desserts and drinks.

Scandilicious Baking Book Cover
Scandilicious Baking – Signe Johansen
Saltyard Books, £25.00

Scandinavians love their baking, and Signe Johansen’s second book celebrates this to great effect in a lovely book that covers sweet and savoury baking for every season and occasion. From savoury muffins and scrumptious blueberry cake, to wonderful festive treats, this book really does have something for everyone and is written in an approachable easy style, and makes me want to do a whole lot more baking.

Spice Trip Book Cover
Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting – Stevie Parle & Emma Grazette
Square Peg, £20.00

This great new book accompanies the excellent series currently showing on Channel 4, and sees the authors embark on a voyage of discovery to show us the six key spices that we should be using in our recipes. It’s not simply a recipe book, as Emma Grazette also discusses the relative therapeutic values of spices. The book contains over 100 spice laden recipes that certainly tickle the taste buds including spiced lamb chops with chilli and cinnamon, and lime and chilli posset. Delicious and different.