Last year, we collected together some of our favourite cookbooks - and we mused on how a great cookbook can be a trusted friend in the kitchen - but the style has to be right. Recently there have been a spate of programs on telly about how important diet is to, well, almost everything. But if you need inspiration about new recipes and ways of eating, how about a new cookbook for Christmas?
Here are our favourite cookbooks - and a few other creative endeavours - to give you the inspiration to try something new in 2016.
Nopi: The Cookbook – Yottam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully (£28)
Ottolenghi is possibly the hottest chef right now, with his unusual background for a chef, and his reputation of combining the best of Middle Eastern flavours: Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian, Israeli and Armenian. His is a positive story about a region of the world which has its fair share of troubles, and his cookbook 'Jerusalem' (with Sami Tamimi) is the closest a cookbook comes to a peace process in our opinion.
'Nopi: The Cookbook' includes over 120 of the most popular dishes from Yotam's innovative Soho-based restaurant Nopi. It's written with long-time collaborator and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully, who brings his distinctive Asian twist to the Ottolenghi kitchen. They range in their degree of complexity so there is something for all cooks. There are dishes that long-time Ottolenghi fans will be familiar with - a starter of aubergine with black garlic, for example, or the roasted squash with sweet tomatoes - as well as many dishes which will stretch the home cook as they produce some of the restaurant's signature dishes at home, such as Beef brisket croquettes or Persian love rice. It's inspiring and we have some signed copies in the shop.
The Book Of Spice – John O’Connell (£14.99)
Spices were once a rare and exotic thing with many varied uses. But now you pop to your local supermarket to get what you need, and we have perhaps forgotten what a marvel these things are.
The 'Book of Spice' introduces us to their properties, both medical and magical, and the fascinating stories that lie behind both kitchen staples and esoteric luxuries. Discover why Cleopatra bathed in saffron and mare's milk, why wormwood-laced absinthe caused eighteenth-century drinkers to hallucinate and how cloves harvested in remote Indonesian islands found their way into a kitchen in ancient Syria.
Spuntino: Comfort Food (New York Style) - Russell Norman (£25)
New York Cult Recipes – Marc Grossman (£20)
One of the great things about the shop is sometimes you get fantastic recommendations from customers - and 'New York Cult Recipes' by Marc Grossman is a wonderful collection of inspirational New York inspired food. From the Humble sunnyside-up egg (that’s fried egg to us) to Sloppy Joes and beautiful photography this is a small slice of the city that never sleeps.
This conversation came about because we have been recommending 'Spuntino', which is a totally fabulous collection of New York-inspired restaurant of the same name. Spuntino will take you on a culinary adventure from London to New York and back, bringing the best of American cuisine to your kitchen. The 120 recipes include zingy salads, juicy sliders, oozing pizzette, boozy desserts and prohibition-era cocktails. You'll get a glimpse of New York foodie heaven as Russell maps out his walks through the city's cultural hubs and quirky neighbourhoods such as East Village and Williamsburg, discovering family-run delis, brasseries, street traders, sweet shops and liquor bars.
We love New York, we love the inspirational food - so take a look at both these books for a great addition to your kitchen!
Hello Tokyo – Ebony Bizys (£14.99)
'Hello Tokyo' by Japanese blogger, crafter and designer Ebony Bizys is a cute and quirky guide to living a handmade lifestyle, inspired by Ebony's life in Tokyo. Capturing the charm, humour and originality of her eclectic and highly successful blog, Hello Sandwich, Hello Tokyo presents over 30 craft projects, as well as other tidbits and a peek into Japanese culture. Learn how to make hand-sewn cushions, charm necklaces, a memory walking book, corsages and a 'party-in-a-box' as well as handmade stationery including notebooks and envelopes, quirky post packages and gift tags, and much more.
Children’s Christmas Baking Kit – Usborne (£14.99)
Usborne have done it again with another brilliant cookbook for you littlies. This is everything they need to bake delicious cakes and biscuits for the festive season.
It comes with two cookie cutters and some specially designed cupcake cases and a book with twenty step by step illustrated simple Christmas recipes.
How To Knit – Mollie Makes (£16.99)
Ever wanted to knit but didn’t know where to start? Then this is the book for you, with basic patterns and easy step-by-step instructions you will be knitting before you know it and once you have mastered the basic two stitches you can make a gift for a loved one with patterns for a baby blanket, bouquet of woolly flowers or a cute bulldog puppy.
Bring your home up to date by making an on-trend footstool, plant pot or neon rug. Or wear your makes with pride - whether you go for a classic pair of socks, or a more daring pompom headband or loopy poncho. And if you want to know who knitted the little cat in the picture above - it was Julia in the shop!
Everyday Super Food – Jamie Oliver (£26)
Has there been one person who has had more of an impact on the nation's diet than Jamie? In 'Everyday Super Food', Jamie's done all the hard work for you - all you need to do is choose a delicious recipe, cook it up and, most importantly, enjoy it. Every meal in this book is a good choice that will bring you a step closer to a healthier, happier you.
The book is divided into sections by meals and each recipe gives you a breakdown of fat , sugar and calories etc so you can eat Smoothie Pancakes with Berries, Banana, Yoghurt and Nuts for breakfast, Tasty Fish Tacos with Game-Changing Kiwi, Lime and Chilli Salsa for lunch and Griddled Steak and Peppers with Herby-Jewelled Tabbouleh Rice for dinner, and still be healthy!
Handmade Christmas (£14.99)
Save money and have fun with this beautiful collection of Christmas makes. There are three chapters
covering a wide range of different crafting techniques - from papercutting and collage to embroidery and sugarcraft - with projects which take inspiration from different festive cultures and traditions. Start with Decorations, where you will find delightful ideas such as a traditional advent calendar and colourful embroidered Christmas stockings, brighten up your dinner table with tin candle holders that will glimmer and shine, and welcome carol-singers with a pretty wreath for your door.
The Hairy Bikers Blood, Sweat and Tyres: The Autobiography (£20)
Not quite cooking but they are possibly our favourite TV chefs and this is their new book about friendship, hilarious misadventure, love, life and family. From their humble beginnings in the north of England where they both had their own childhood challenges to becoming the well loved TV duo who have quite literally eaten their way around the world. Heart-warming and funny treat for any Hairy Bikers fan.
Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food - Nigella Lawson (£26)
Part of the balance of life lies in understanding that different days require different ways of eating...'. Whatever the occasion, food - in the making and the eating - should always be pleasurable.
'Simply Nigella' taps into the rhythms of our cooking lives, with recipes that are uncomplicated, relaxed and yet always satisfying. From quick and calm suppers to stress-free ideas when catering for a crowd, or the instant joy of bowl food for cosy nights on the sofa, here is food guaranteed to make everyone feel good. Whether you need to create some breathing space at the end of a long week, indulge in a sweet treat or wake up to a strength-giving breakfast, Nigella's new cookbook is filled with recipes destined to become firm favourites.
Simply Nigella is the perfect antidote to our busy lives: a calm and glad celebration of food to soothe and uplift. And the only thing better than that is a signed copy - so get them whilst we still have some!