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Cookbook Conundrum, Which Books to Give as Gifts this Christmas


Theoretically cookbooks are an easy win as a Christmas present.  Even if your recipient never ever cooks from the darn thing, much pleasure will be gained from drooling over the lovely pictures.

But surely, you would like your giftee to actually cook from the book you’ve given them? Too many cookbooks contain convoluted recipes with hard to find ingredients and require the use of obscure kitchen kit.  Not all of us want to bankrupt ourselves and spend 6 hours in the kitchen just to cook one flipping recipe.

Well here are 5 great cookbook gift ideas for Christmas, all of which contain recipes that are inspirational, but simple, and don’t involve too many ingredients.

1. Nigella Lawson ‘Simply Nigella’

Nigella always seems to know how to conjure up unusual, gorgeous flavours with the laziest of efforts.  And she does it yet again with ‘Simply Nigella’.  The idea behind this cookbook is to strip things back to basics and tap into the rhythms of our cooking lives, with recipes that are uncomplicated, relaxed and delicious.

Simply Nigella’ is by no means a clean eating book - there is plenty of classic Nigella naughtiness and gluttony in the form of chocolate liquorice cake and chocolate cookie dough pots.  But there is a definite leaning towards more wholesome offerings, with on trend healthy eating ingredients making an appearance, from matcha, kimchi and miso to chia seeds and avocado.  However it’s all done with Nigella’s distinctive flourish and irreverence.  Some of the ‘semi healthy’ delights include miso salmon, matcha cake with cherry juice icing, cauliflower & cashew nut curry, sweet potato macaroni cheese and chai muffins.

Ultimately it’s a really straight forward cookbook with dishes that are easy to throw together and comforting and uplifting to eat.


2. John Whaite ‘Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients’

John Whaite was the winner of bake off in 2012 and he’s gone from strength to strength ever since, he’s now written four cookbooks and runs a beautiful cookery school in the Lancashire countryside.  The premise of ‘Perfect Plates’  is that all the recipes contain just five ingredients (although basic ingredients like oil, butter and seasoning don’t count as an ingredient).

The recipes, as well as the stunning accompanying photos, are decadent, inspired and fabulously creative. And bonus, it’s easy, fun cooking.

If you’re looking for lazy weekday dinners, John has quite a few up his sleeve. There’s the fried gnocchi and mushrooms with crispy fried sage which is just gorgeous buttery naughtiness! And then there’s the ham and fennel pasta made with cream - ingredients that are just lovely together – the subtle fragrance of the fennel with the strong meaty ham and cream in the background work so well.

And when you’ve got a bit more time, why not wow dinner guests with ox cheeks in port with parsnip mash? And for dessert serve up chocolate fudge cake made with condensed tomato soup. It’s sounds bizarre, but try it, you’ll be amazed. And it’s ridiculously easy to make.


3. Nigel Slater ‘Eat’

‘Eat’ is bursting with beautifully simple and quick-to-cook recipes, in fact in total it contains 600 easy recipes and ideas for midweek dinners.

Nigel’s introduction in the book sums up what  ‘Eat’ is all about: ‘sometimes, we just want to eat...... This little book is for those times. The recipes here are straightforward and within the grasp of most of us. I would like to think that many of them will work for those who have never cooked anything in their lives. It is not a book of detailed, obsessively honed directions. Sometimes cooking is about the classics, but it should also, surely, be a light-hearted, spirited affair, alive with invention, experimentation, appetite and a sense of adventure.'

From sizzling chorizo with potatoes and shallots; to sharp and fresh green soup,  Vietnamese-inspired prawn baguettes and one-pan Sunday lunches, this cookbook will have something for everyone.


4. Katriona MacGregor ‘Healthy Speedy Suppers: Quick, Healthy and Delicious Recipes for Busy People’

This is absolutely what is says on the tin. If your giftee needs quick, simple and deliciously healthy recipes, ‘Healthy Speedy Suppers’ will inspire anyone who feels too tired or busy to cook at the end of the day. Katriona MacGregor started her Speedy Weeknight Suppers column for The Telegraph online in 2013, after returning to London office life caused a slump in her diet.

Resolving to break away from eating ready meals and cheese on toast every night, she began developing recipes that took no more than 40 minutes to make, were packed with good quality, wholesome ingredients, and tasted fantastic. And she’s well and truly succeeded.


5. Anna Jones ‘A Modern Way to Cook’

Anna Jones trained as a chef with Jamie Oliver at Fifteen.  She’s a vegetarian and passionately believes that meatless cuisine can be exciting.  ‘A Modern Way to Cook’ really delivers. Anna’s recipes are simple to make but somehow exotic, surprising and healthy.

Her curry leaf and smoky celeriac pilaf is a real winner, it’s like a vegetarian kedgeree - spicy, fragrant and unusual. And try the lentils with roast tomatoes and horseradish -  a plate of multi-flavoured, multi-textured deliciousness!  The wholesome earthy lentils provide the base to sweet squelchy roast tomatoes with creamy horseradish for a kick and garlic and thyme breadcrumbs for crunch.

And if you’re bored of your breakfasts and fancy a reboot, Anna does a superb Nordic breakfast bowl. A slow cooked porridge with grated apple, almond butter, raisins, coconut yoghurt and all manner of nuts and seeds.  

And for the ultimate healthy nibble Anna’s salted almond butter choc bars are quite something. Think really fresh tasting bounty bars, but better for you.

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