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Tis the season to impress — to push the boat out, to dust off the apron and don the role of culinary whiz once more.
Hosting can, unsurprisingly, fill even the most seasoned professional with dread. Is Auntie Carol vegan or not this year? Who’s drinking, who’s abstaining? Will there be a single boiled brussel sprout to appease the traditional sorts, or has all enthusiasm for Christmas customs deflated and suddenly all the guests want pizza?
From those leaving-work-early party nibbles night to a full-blown Christmas dinner and drinks, and with all the festivities in between, Britain's best chefs have long since written cookbooks for even the most amateur of home cooks to riff upon. No surprise, perhaps — it's a lucrative gig (look at Jamie, the top selling non-fiction author in UK history).
Here, we’ve distilled the best selection of cookbooks to see you through the season, from inspirational new recipe collections to old favourites, with recipes for everything from show-stopping party specials to simple salads with plenty more in between.
This is our rundown of cookbooks, some festive, some not, that each contain a glut of useful and inspiring recipes to see you through Christmas, and into culinary greatness beyond.
These Delicious Things
ClerkenwellBoy, Jane Hodson, Lucas Hollweg, 2023
A cookbook with a noble purpose at heart is just the kind of thing to get the soul warmed at Christmastime, with each sale supporting Magic Breakfast, a charity whose aim is to feed children living with food insecurity. Food content creator and consultant ClerkenwellBoy has led on creating this gorgeous new hardcover full of straightforward recipes from a collection of esteemed names in the world of food. From Stanley Tucci’s potato croquettes (a fabulous little party snack) to Joze Pizarro’s churros (an ideal after-dinner treat) these recipes are simple enough to be adapted to suit any festive party planned this season.
Nigella Lawson, 2008
Arguably Nigella’s finest cookbook, this classic, 15 years old this year, is a must-have for those looking to master a glut of traditional recipes. As ever, Nigella’s simple instructions and easy-to-follow recipes are paired with witty anecdotes, and wry observations but, at its heart, this book is just immensely usable. One for making the traditional, just properly.
River Cafe Cook Book Easy
Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, 2003
Perhaps not a particularly festive book, and hence ideal if you're sick of all the turkey, Easy is a great one to pick up to improve your home kitchen's output. As the title suggests, the array of easy recipes (including a vast number with just five ingredients) should help punctuate any dinner party this season. Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray seemed to make the pleasure of the table their guiding principle in this book and dishes like broccoli in red wine, slow-cooked pork shoulder and the most simple, gorgeous roast potatoes around make this an easy winner.
The Pie Room
Calum Franklin, 2020
Among the many festivities this season, a showstopper may be required. A piece of statement cooking that’s the culinary equivalent of telling your parents that you’ve reached adulthood. Who better than to guide through these potentially hazardous waters than Calum Franklin, the undisputed king of pies? Dishes like the dinner-party-ready sausage rolls are ideal for the season, as is the dauphinoise and onion pie — perfect for glamorising a plain side of tots. Not to mention the grand showstopping beef Wellington, which might just be the ultimate turkey alternative.
Gurdeep Loyal, 2023
Loyal’s debut offers a fantastic alternative for those seeking to add a little extra excitement to the holiday season. His stories are deeply personal, told throughout this intuitive, creative cookbook. Nothing here is too much of a stretch and in particular, the tikka-tempura scampi is an ideal dish to wheel out as a sharing starter or dinner party dish, and the hot curry crunch roasties are sure to take a traditional turkey up a few notches. Ending a meal with madeleines is always a good idea, but Loyal’s pistachio and sumac madeleines with rose milk jam are of special magnificence.
Recipes of Life
GIANTS / Praxis, 2023
GIANTS is a project funded and maintained by east London-based charity Praxis, who in turn have brought together a range of recipes from a handful of refugees and asylum seekers in this small but impactful book. Within each person is a story, and within each story, a recipe. Flavours from Belgium, Nigeria, Chechnya and Jamaica amalgamate in this useful book, with a handful of standout recipes ideal for using up festive leftovers (like the chicken and dumpling soup, simply sub out for turkey as needed) or for curing any Boxing Day blues (the alkaline soup is particularly restorative). For the big day itself, a grand celebratory fish pepper stew with scotch bonnet, jollof and plantain will add some fiery ceremony to the day. Each book purchased goes to support migrants and refugees in London.
Cooking: simply and well for one or many
Jeremy Lee, 2022
Who else but Jeremy Lee might create a debut cookbook that seems both long overdue and utterly timeless? His recipes are, as the name eludes, simple and particularly easy to dial up or down, depending on number of guests expected (or the requirement for leftovers the following day). Simple solutions like a duck pea and cabbage hash make for hearty winter warmers, while Lee’s profiteroles are effortlessly celebratory and sure to impress.
Delia Smith's Christmas
Delia Smith, 1990
Delia Smith, pictured at the top of this page in 1975 and above far more recently, has been writing about food and cookery since 1969 and her inaugural Christmas cookbook is a collection of fool-proof recipes designed to coax the most ignorant of ne'er-do-wells to domestic gastronomic successes. Expect properly classic stuff; gravy-making, Christmas puddings with glace fruits, roasted goose, sage and apple stuffing; this will likely be the book everyone’s mum used at some point or another to impress their own parents at Christmases past. Now it’s your turn.