This year we’ve published more in-depth cookery book reviews on Kavey Eats than ever before, sharing a wide range of new titles with you. In today’s post, I’m pulling together a guide to 2020 cookbooks, plus a few favourites from the year before.
I hope you discover some great gift ideas for yourself, your family and your friends.
(Contents) This Year’s Books
Aegean by Marianna Leivatitaki | Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark | Carpathia by Irina Georgescu | Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee | Condiments by Caroline Dafgard Widnersson | Harumi’s Japanese Kitchen by Harumi Kurihara | Japanese Food Made Easy by Aya Nishimura | Meze by Sally Butcher | No Sushi by Andrew Kojima | Oats in the North, Wheat from the South by Regula Ysewijn | One Tin Bakes by Edd Kimber | Roasting Pan Suppers by Rosie Sykes | Simply by Sabrina Ghayour | The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland | The Loaf Story by Tim Hayward | The Whole Chicken by Carl Clarke | Vegan Japaneasy by Tim Anderson
(Contents) Non-Cookbook Food & Drink Titles
(Contents) Favourite Cookbooks from Last Year
Baan by Kay Plunkett-Hogge | Bazaar by Sabrina Ghayour | Crumb by Richard Bertinet | East by Meera Sodha | Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter by Nigel Slater | From The Oven To The Table by Diana Henry | Mandalay by MiMi Aye | Zaika by Romy Gill
This Year’s Books
Aegean by Marianna Leivatitaki
Marianna Leivatitaki, author of Aegean: Recipes from the Mountains to the Sea by Marianna Leivatitaki, spent much of childhood in her family’s seafood taverna on the Greek island of Crete. In Aegean she shares recipes from her homeland, focusing on the ingredients and food of Chania. The book is full of seductive photos not only of the food but of hot, dry Cretan landscapes and tables groaning with delicious dishes.
Read our full review of Aegean (plus three recipes from the book).
Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark
In Bitter Honey, Letitia Clark shares recipes and stories from the island of Sardinia, where she immersed herself in the culture and cuisine for over three years. While some Italian regional cooking is better known in the UK, the traditions and recipes of Sardinia are perhaps a little less so, and these dishes are what Clark brings to the table in this beautifully illustrated book. This may be a title best suited to experienced cooks who can read between the lines when some of the more complex recipes are a little vague, but there are plenty of simpler ones that are more straightforward.
Read our full review of Bitter Honey (plus three recipes from the book).
Carpathia by Irina Georgescu
Romanian food is not a cuisine that is widely known in the UK. In Carpathia Georgescu shares food from the heart of the country, giving it context with stories of her childhood, culinary heritage and traditions, and seasonal ingredients. Recipes are divided between food for sharing, breads and street foods, soups, main dishes, desserts, pickles and preserves, and drinks. The majority of the ingredients are familiar but used in less-than-familiar ways, alongside a few you may not have cooked with before. When making several of the recipes, our reviewer found that simple combinations of ingredients often created something far more complex and delicious than she initially expected.
Read our full review of Carpathia (plus three recipes from the book).
Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee
I’ve loved everything we’ve cooked from Lara Lee’s Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen, from the rich beef rendang to the fiery tomato sambal to the chicken nasi goreng to the roasted chilli coconut chicken. Each recipe works exactly as written and the flavours and textures are a delight. The book also gives a wonderful insight into the culture of Indonesia as much as the cuisine and the travel photography interspersed with images of the recipes, is hugely appealing. One of my favourites in a year of excellent books.
Read our full review of Coconut & Sambal (plus three recipes from the book).
Condiments by Caroline Dafgard Widnersson
Caroline Dafgard Widnersson is on a mission to encourage home cooks to make their own Condiments, and this book is dedicated to a wide range of them, divided into categories for Mustard, Ketchup and Mayo; Hot Sauces; World-Famous Sauces; Vinegars, Pickles and Preserves; and Spice Blends divided into wet and dry. Being able to adjust your favourite condiments to personal taste, or to cater for restricted diets, is a great reason to make your own, as well as knowing everything that goes into them.
Read our full review of Condiments (plus three recipes from the book).
Harumi’s Japanese Kitchen by Harumi Kurihara
Harumi’s Japanese Kitchen is the latest title from Japanese superstar food writer and television presenter, Harumi Kurihara, and is written specifically for non-Japanese cooks. Often hearing non-Japanese cooks dismiss Japanese food as too time-consuming or fiddly to make, Kurihara focused on showcasing straightforward recipes using ingredients that are readily available outside of Japan. Only a small selection of key ingredients is needed to create a wide range of delicious dishes.
Read our full review of Harumi’s Japanese Kitchen (plus three recipes from the book).
Japanese Food Made Easy by Aya Nishimura
We adore Japanese food, so Aya Nishimura’s Japanese Food Made Easy is one of a number of Japanese cookbooks we’ve reviewed on Kavey Eats this year. Most of the ingredients can be found readily in major supermarkets, and the few that can’t are available via online shops. You won’t need a huge stock cupboard to start cooking a wide range of delicious dishes, none of which are difficult or complicated. Styled by Nishimura herself, photography is bright and appealing, and I am drawn to virtually every recipe in the book. The introductory chapter on key ingredients is a great place to start, and the index is well organised.
Read our full review of Japanese Food Made Easy (plus two recipes from the book).
Meze by Sally Butcher
Meze: Snacks, Small Plates and Street Food from the Middle East is Sally Butcher’s latest cookbook, following on from Persia in Peckham, Veggiestan, Snackistan, Salmagundi, and Persepolis. Chapters include Nuts and Nibbles, Fishy Things, Meat On Sticks, Meat Not On Sticks, Hot Vegetarian Meze, Salads and Cold Meze, Mostly Carbs, Halwah: Sweet Treats, and Something To Wash It Down. Recipes introductions are varied, sharing everything from a dish’s history to the traditions associated with it to the story of where Sally first tried or who she learned it from. Food is vibrant, tasty and straightforward to make.
Read our full review of Meze (plus two recipes from the book).
No Sushi by Andrew Kojima
No Sushi tells the story of how Andrew Kojima came to switch from a career in finance to one in food, and eventually go on to open his restaurant, Koj Cheltenham (sadly now closed). The first half of the book is an autobiography of this journey, finishing with an introduction to key people, from staff to specialist food and drink suppliers, who contributed to the restaurant’s success. Next come recipes, most of them for small and simple dishes that can be combined into a grazing feast, as was so popular with Koj’s customer base. Reflecting Koj’s background and cooking style, there are some wonderful fusion dishes too, such as his Sticky Toffee Pudding & White Miso Butterscotch Sauce.
Read our full review of No Sushi (plus two recipes from the book).
Oats in the North, Wheat from the South by Regula Ysewijn
Belgian blogger, food writer and TV presenter Regula Ysewijn has had a fascination with British cooking since childhood, and has published a number of cookery books delving into the cuisine. In Oats in the North, Wheat from the South she focuses on the history, tradition and recipes of sweet and savoury baking from across the nation. We learn how regional baking has been influenced by the types of cereal grown locally, and the imports of ingredients such as sugar, spices, citrus, wine and more. The photography throughout the book is gorgeous and the recipes accurate and delicious. A super resource or gift for keen bakers, especially those who love to know more about the recipes they bake.
Read our full review of Oats in the North, Wheat from the South (plus two recipes from the book).
One Tin Bakes by Edd Kimber
If you’re a fan of baking and love reliable, well-written recipes for sweet treats, One Tin Bakes by the very first winner of The Great British Bake Off is for you. Every recipe in the book can be made in a single baking tray, meaning you don’t need a bursting cupboard of different sized ones. Recipes are split into chapters for ‘Cakes’; ‘Bars & Cookies’; ‘Pasties, Pies & Tarts’; ‘Desserts & No-Bakes’; and ‘Buns & Breads’, and the index makes it easy to search by ingredient as well as type of dish (such as cheesecake, pies, and shortbread).
Read our full review of One Tin Bakes (plus three recipes from the book).
Roasting Pan Suppers by Rosie Sykes
Roasting Pan Suppers is full of recipes for nourishing and easy-to-make comfort food than can be cooked in a roasting pan. Start-to-finish cooking times are provided, so you can easily pick recipes that work in the time you have. Try quick and tempting recipes such as Green Couscous With Prawns, and Cauliflower Kuku.
Read our full review of Roasting Pan Suppers (plus two recipes from the book).
Simply by Sabrina Ghayour
Like everything Sabrina Ghayour this book is colourful, vivcious and full of flavour! Her fifth cookbook, Simply focuses on recipes that can quickly and easily be thrown together to create food that is delicious, and perfect for anything from quick lunches and midweek dinners to entertaining friends. The maxim here is minimum effort for maximum reward. It’s the kind of book in which every recipe appeals, and you’ll find yourself bookmarking virtually the whole book.
Read our full review of Simply (plus three recipes from the book).
The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland
The debut cookbook by successful blogger and food writer Elly McCausland, The Botanical Kitchen focuses on key botanical ingredients such as leaves, flowers, seeds and berries, and explains how they can add flavour to a wide range of recipes. There is first an introduction to the history, folklore and usage of the spice or herb, followed by dishes that showcase its use. Recipes are easy to follow, achievable and appealing.
Read our full review of The Botanical Kitchen (plus two recipes from the book).
The Loaf Story by Tim Hayward
Loaf Story by Tim Hayward is part cookbook—part love letter to bread. A food journalist and broadcaster by trade (and now also a restaurateur, since buying and saving Cambridge institution Fitzbillies in 2011), this book gives Tim free rein to express his adoration of the much-loved but rarely eulogised food-stuff that is bread. The introduction not only puts bread in its rightful place, it also has a gentle dig at “bro bread” whilst walking us through the history of commercial, mass-produced bread and the importance of its role in feeding the masses. Recipes (for dishes featuring bread in all kinds of ways) are provided in prose, within their relevant chapter, then also in the more traditional recipe format at the end of the book. Chapters cover toast, fried bread, sandwiches, eggy bread, dipping bread, and even wet bread (think Panzanella and the croutons in French Onion Soup), and a few more categories besides.
The Whole Chicken by Carl Clarke
The Whole Chicken is the first cookbook from Carl Clarke, DJ, chef and joint founder of iconic chicken restaurant Chick’n’Sours in London. In this book he shares recipes for delicious, innovative dishes featuring chicken, as well as helpful techniques such as how to spatchcock or break down a whole chicken into portions, and methods such as brining, poaching, grilling and frying. Recipes are really varied, including Dorito-Crumbed Schnitzel, Re-imagined Chicken Kiev (with Thai-inspired flavours), and Chicken, White Miso and Truffle Pie.
Read our full review of The Whole Chicken (plus three recipes from the book).
Vegan Japaneasy by Tim Anderson
Vegan Japaneasy is the sister book to Tim Anderson’s Japaneasy, this time focusing on vegan cooking. Although Japan has a tradition of shojin ryori (the vegan cuisine of Buddhist monks), the population today is predominanyly omnivorous and it has been hard for vegetarian and vegan visitors to the country to find suitable food in mainstream food outlets. Sidenote: veganism is gaining popularity in Japan as it is in many parts of the world, so this is changing. Anderson starts by introducing a core set of ingredients such as soy sauce, mushrooms, sesame, and how to use them to make key sauces and seasonings that feature throughout the book. These are then referenced in the main recipes which cover Snacks, Small Dishes & Sides; Big Dishes; Big Rice & Noodle Dishes; and Desserts & Drinks. His writing is witty and irreverent; and the food always delicious.
Non-Cookbook Food & Drink Titles
The Philosophy of Cheese by Patrick McGuigan
I was immediately drawn to this charming little yellow book by its title, The Philosophy of Cheese. Author Patrick McGuigan provides an academically rigorous history of cheese making, by way of looking in depth at the origin and history of ten cheeses, and the references to them that have been discovered in historic literature. Though the content is dry, food and history nerds like myself will appreciate the historical insight into this most beloved foodstuff. Recommended as a great stocking filler gift!
Read our full review of The Philosophy of Cheese.
The Japanese Sake Bible by Brian Ashcraft
If you have an interest in learning more about sake, The Japanese Sake Bible by Brian Ashcraft is the book to buy. Ashcraft takes the reader through everything from the history of sake, to how it’s made, to understanding the terminology and the many different types of sake, to an in-depth look at the ingredients used, before moving on to enjoying the drink—what is good sake-drinkig etiquette, what are the key flavour profiles, and how can you best pair sake with food. Towards the end of the book is a buyers’ guide with reviews and tasting notes for over 100 sakes. The strength of this book over other titles on the topic is Ashcraft’s ability to deliver lots of detailed, and enormously interesting information in a wholly accessible and easy-to-read way.
Read our full review of The Japanese Sake Bible. [COMING SOON]
Favourite Cookbooks from Last Year
Baan by Kay Plunkett-Hogge
Born and brought up in Bangkok, Kay Plunkett-Hogge has spent much of her life in Thailand. Many who’ve met her call her ‘na farang hua jao Thai‘ – the foreign-faced girl with the heart of a Thai – testament to the depth of her connection with the country, its people and its cuisine. In Baan: Recipes and Stories from my Thai Home she shares the recipes she has learned, developed and perfected over decades. Baan is one of my favourite titles from last year, and one I absolutely recommend for your bookshelves.
Read our full review of Baan (plus three recipes from the book).
Bazaar by Sabrina Ghayour
Bazaar: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes is Sabrina Ghayour’s fourth book and her first foray into a cookbook of purely vegetarian recipes. The book is as stylish and colourful as Sabrina herself, with recipes and photography full of jewel colours and vibrant flavours. The chapters give insight into Sabrina’s love of feeding, divided into ‘Light Bites & Sharing Plates’, ‘Eggs & Dairy’, ‘Soups & Bowl Comfort’, ‘Pies, Breads & Pastries’, ‘Salads For All Seasons’, ‘Moreish Mains’, ‘Store-Cupboard Sustenance’, ‘Spectacular Sides’ and ‘Sweet Treats’. The book is bolstered too by a decent index, making it easy to find the perfect recipe to match what is languishing in your vegetable drawer.
Read our full review of Bazaar (plus a recipe from the book).
Crumb by Richard Bertinet
Subtitled ‘Show The Dough Who’s Boss’, Crumb by Richard Bertinet is the distillation of over 30 years spent as a baker, pastry chef and expert consultant for restaurants and food businesses. Hailing from Breton in France, Bertinet now lives in Bath where he runs his cookery school, The Bertinet Kitchen. There he teaches hundreds of eager amateur bakers how to handle dough every year. Indeed, my mum and husband have both attended one of his bread classes there. The strength of this book lies in Bertinet’s highly detailed instructions, explained with a clarity clearly borne of teaching students for so many years, and supported by excellent step-by-step photographs. We were thrilled to finally master the classic Breton Kouign Amman, a recipe I’ve longed to make at home for years.
East by Meera Sodha
Since it was published last year, I’ve seen so much praise for East by Meera Sodha, and so many people have raved about the recipes they cooked from it, that I had to get my own copy, eve if I’m over a year late to the party! The book brings together 120 vegetarian and vegan recipes from across Asia, from India to Indonesia, Singapore to Japan, by way of China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Sodha brings together the best plant-based dishes and ingredients from each cuisine. There are recipes like kimchi pancakes, swede laksa, dairy-free black dal, sweet potato momos, as well as fusion ideas such as salted miso brownies and no-churn Vietnamese coffee ice cream.
Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter by Nigel Slater
To be honest, I can’t imagine a book by Nigel Slater that wouldn’t become a favourite; we are huge fans of his writing style, his flavour and texture combinations, and the accuracy of his recipes—they work as expected and as described every time. Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter, published in October 2019, is a companion title to Greenfeast: Spring, Summer (which came out that spring) and focuses on the hearty, warming food that we all crave as nights draw in and the temperature falls. Recipes are divided according to how you might eat or cook them (in chapters such as “on toast” or “in the oven”) and named for the key ingredients featured in each. Another classic Nigel Slater book, this one is perfect for anyone who enjoys cooking and eating seasonally.
Read our full review of Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter (plus a recipe from the book).
From The Oven To The Table by Diana Henry
Like Nigel Slater, Diana Henry books are highly valued in our house for the accuracy of her recipes, and her knack for creating classic comfort-food creations that immediately become part of your regular repertoire. n her latest, From The Oven To The Table, Diana shares bung-it-in-the-oven recipes that are perfect for midweek, or for weekend cooking when you don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen. I recommend the toad in the hole with leeks and cheddar cheese, the roast lamb with apples, somerset cider brandy and cream, and the ginger-roasted plums with lime, rum and muscovado cream.
Read our full review of From The Oven To The Table (plus two recipes from the book).
Mandalay by MiMi Aye
It is my sincere belief that the surge in interest in Burmese cuisine here in the UK is in large part down to food blogger, writer and author MiMi Aye, who has been sharing insights into Burmese culture and cuisine for many, many years. Her first book, Noodle! was a huge success, but her second title, Mandalay: Recipes and Tales from a Burmese Kitchen, has been even bigger. I have never come across a cookbook from which people who buy it cook so extensively, cooking their way through recipe after recipe, with most becoming firm favourites. What I also love about the book is the beautiful introduction to Burmese culture, history and tradition, by way of MiMi Aye’s family, stories and photographs. Mandalay is a love letter to Burmese food and so much more. If you don’t have it, buy it! If you do, buy a copy for a friend!
Read our full review of Mandalay (plus three recipes from the book).
Zaika by Romy Gill
Having eaten at her (recently closed) restaurant Romy’s Kitchen, in Thornbury, I know first hand how deftly Romy Gill combines flavours and ingredients to create exceptional Indian food. In her first book, Zaika, Gill shares over 100 vegan recipes from India, including curries, and side dishes, breads, drinks, desserts. In her introduction she tells us about her childhood in West Bengal, and memories of watching her father grind the prices and prepare mixes which her mother would then use in her cooking. Because they worked in a town where workers came from across the country, Gill experienced the food of many regions, learning a much wider range of dishes than is typical for most. As her family rarely ate meat, she was tuned into a plant-based diet from the start. Some of the recipes are perfect for a quick midweek meal; others will suit a leisurely weekend of cooking.
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If you decide to buy any of these book after reading our content, please consider clicking through our Amazon affiliate links, located within the description of each book.
Kavey Eats received review copies of many of these books. With thanks to publishers 4th Estate, Away With Media, Bloomsbury Absolute, Conran (Octopus), Fig Tree (Penguin), Frances Lincoln, Hardie Grant, Kyle Books (Octopus), Kyle Books (Octopus) , Mitchell Beazley (Octopus), Murdoch Books, National Trust Books, Pavilion Books, Quadrille , Seven Dials, and Tuttle Publishing for review copies.
Thanks also to my team of cookery book review authors, Nicky Bramley, Jack Thomas and Emma Mykytyn.