After doing quite a few cookbook reviews for The Independent, I decided to do a post here about 30 Best Cookbooks 2016. This is by no means an objective list, I’m just listing some of my favourite new releases of the year. I’m posting this now, just before people start thinking about Christmas, because I know lots of people like giving cookbooks as presents, so I thought a gift guide may be useful. I hope you find this post helpful in some way!
When selecting which books to feature, I made sure to look out for ones that had good options for special diets (dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan etc.) because that’s what my blog specialises in. But I also looked for budget-friendly and easy-to-follow recipes as well as anything innovative, original or generally inspiring!
The cookbooks listed here are in no particular order, and I’ve decided to split this post up into two parts because it was so long! You can read Part 2 here.
1. Cook Japanese At Home: From Dashi To Tonkatsu, 200 Simple Recipes For Every Occasion – Kimiko Barber
Japanese food may seem quite intimidating to make yourself at home, but, with the help of this book, you’ll be whipping up your own ramen in no time! Kimoko Barber rattles through all the basis of Japanese home cooking in this delightful book that features traditional recipes alongside more contemporary ones. I especially enjoyed the introduction, which explains the history behind Japan’s fascinating culinary culture.
In this spellbinding cookbook, Sumayya Usmani fuses her delicious recipes with delightful anecdotes about her childhood in Pakistan, offering an authentic snapshot in the cuisine of an often overlooked country. The book features a wide range of seafood dishes and meaty curries as well as a delicious array of vegetable dishes and salads, so there really is something for everyone.
Oskar Kinberg is head barman at Oskar’s Bar in the basement of Ollie Dabbous’ famous restaurant. I love this book for its arty photographs as well as the imaginative use of unusual ingredients including pea shoots, aloe vera, and olive oil. And no cocktail recipe would be complete without a witty name, of which this book boasts plenty.
4. Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings: Feasts and Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year – Gizzi Erskine
From Halloween parties to Christmas festivities and New Year gatherings, this latest release from British chef and TV personality Gizzi Erskine will have you covered throughout the entire festive period. I really like how she has included a helpful itinerary for planning your Christmas Day, as well as advice about how best to lay out your Christmas table and what to look out for when picking atmospheric candles and flowers.
I love how London-based chef Nina Parker provides a really fresh outlook on Italian cuisine, offering lighter, healthier and special diet-friendly options of popular classics. This wonderful book features many gluten-free sweet treats such as a delicious chestnut and banana bread, as well as a rich and indulgent dairy-free hot chocolate, alongside the chef’s own creations.
As the culinary culture of the United Kingdom becomes increasingly outward-looking, cookery books that celebrate the traditional cuisine of the British Isles are becoming rare. However, this book does just that, thanks to the 200 chefs from around the country that contributed recipes from their own regions. I was lucky enough to meet Gary Allen at this book’s launch party, the amazingly passionate and generous man behind the book, which was created for a great cause: all profits are donated to the charities Hospitality Action and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Joudie Kalla’s book is unique in its focus on the cuisine of her native Palestine. This is a delightfully escapist volume, which intersperses childhood anecdotes with a selection of delicious recipes to provide an authentic snapshot into Palestinian cuisine. I particularly like the inclusion of mouth-watering plant-based dishes such as the lentil and beetroot salad. The more unusual ingredients used in the recipes are explained in the introduction, which also includes recipes for homemade tahini and spice blends such as ras el hanout and dukkah.
Award-winning food writer Diana Henry continues to be a great source of inspiration, as she somehow manages to miraculously transform the most mundane, everyday foods into special dishes that you will want to make again and again. Look out for broccoli with harissa and coriander gremolata, and marmalade-baked fruit.
Although all of the recipes in this book are free from gluten and refined sugar, and most are dairy-free, I thought it was unique amongst other “healthy” cookbooks in that it combines many carnivore-friendly recipes such as Chinese duck bowls with am array of mouth-watering vegan dishes such as black bean shepherd’s pie.
If you’re in search of a Christmas cookbook, this one definitely won’t let you down! I love this 400-page-plus volume for the huge variety of dishes: there’s step-by-step recipes for different types of roasted meat with all the trimmings, edible gifts, fun drinks, shareable appetisers, and a fantastic selection of vegetarian and vegan options too. It also includes a plethora of imaginative ideas for using up those leftovers.
11. Miso Tasty The Cookbook: Everyday, Tasty Recipes With Miso – The Japanese Superfood – Bonnie Chung
A fascinating book by Bonnie Chung, chef and founder of the eponymous miso company, Miso Tasty. I particularly enjoyed the introduction, which explains the fascinating history of the ancient, umami-rich soybean paste as well as its different varieties and varying uses. I especially enjoyed this book because of its incredibly inventive recipes such as miso ice cream, roasted spicy miso cauliflower, and miso popcorn. You can find Miso Tasty’s products in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Former Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Chetna Makan’s debut cookbook showcases traditional, authentic desserts such as saffron rasgulla, alongside Eastern-inspired bakes such as pear and cardamom upside-down cake. Even the least adventurous cook will be inspired to start including chillies, turmeric and tamarind in their sweet treats!
Famous Danish food writer Trine Hahnemann shows us how to whip up some hygge-worthy comfort food. Despite what the title may suggest, this book actually features a wide range of healthy recipes alongside more indulgent ones. If you think you’ll be on a health kick come January, look out for fruity porridges and root vegetable juices. And even though Scandinavian cuisine is known for its fresh seafood and rich meat dishes, this book dedicates an entire chapter to plant-based dishes, including delicious vegetable soups and quinoa salads.
This book, by food blogger and entrepreneur Olivia Wollenberg, is a must for any keen baker, or really anyone with a sweet tooth. What really stood out to me is that although all the recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and refined sugar-free, a lot of the recipes are also nut-free too. Also unusual in the realm of free-from baking is that the majority of the recipes are budget-friendly and quick and easy to make – look out for coconut milk rice pudding, coconut butter flapjacks and peach crumble.
15. Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes – Dana Schultz
My favourite food blogger Minimalist Baker’s debut cookbook proves that vegan and gluten-free cooking doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive. I love this book for its inventive twists on delicious classics like pancakes, waffles, burgers and pasta dishes.
Thanks for reading! You can read Part 2 here.