I’m feeling a little smug, having just finished my Christmas shopping. This is extraordinarily organised of me, what with there being at least 28 hours to go before the shops shut up. If you’re more like the usual me, and still wondering when you’re going to fit in a spot of shopping, here’s some last minute ideas for Chrimbo books. Cookbooks make great gifts, if given to the right people. You know there’s a chance they’ll probably read some if not all of them, and you may even get to reap some of the awards in the form of a dinner invite. And for the others who never cook but prefer to be cooked for, or just want to think a little more about what they do eat, there’s some ideas here too.
Comfort & Spice: Recipes for Modern Living, Niamh Shiels (Quadrille)
From London-based Irish food and travel blogger Eat Like a Girl, this stylishly produced cookbook brings the likes of Waterford blaas (fluffy bread rolls), Japanese gravadlax, Turkish eggs and beet, beef and horseradish burgers to Shiel’s uniquely personal party. A cookbook with just the measure of personality lacking in so many glossy marketing-driven publications. This is food Shiels loves, for the kind of life many of us now live (ie involving quick suppers, late brunches and maybe even the odd feast of a dinner).
Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques, ed. Frederic Bau (Flammarion)
Only the ambitious will carry this luscious tome from the coffee table to the kitchen, but that’s okay. Gorgeous photos from Clay McLachlan, recipes from some of the finest chocolatiers and a foreword from French pastry chef Pierre Herme all make this ‘comprehensive cooking academy in book form’ (as its dust-jacket blurb aptly describes it) as much of a ‘how do they do that’ as it is a ‘how can I do that’. Delicious.
Tweet Treats, Compiled & edited by Jane Travers (O’Brien Press)
This cookbook was made to fill a stocking. With no recipe longer than 140 characters, Ms Travers has fit lots of ideas into a bijou little book. Marshmallow ice-cream, homemade mayo, halloumi and strawberry salad, sherried mushrooms on toast, granola, custard tart, Clonakilty pudding risotto… it’s nothing if not eclectic. And the proceeds go to Medecins Sans Frontiers.
Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen (Kyle Books)
This cookbook sets out to prove that “time-honoured ways are the best”, with over 700 recipes making up quite the convincing book of evidence. The hefty hardback is suitably weighty, being packed full of age-old food skills given a new lease of life. If you’d like to know how your grandparents might have smoked their own mackerel, cured their own bacon and or churned their own butter this is the book for you.
Killer a la Carte, Gerry Galvin (Doire Press)
Chef-restaurateur turned food columnist turned poet turned crime writer, Gerry Galvin’s first foray into thriller fiction is a thoroughly moreish romp from lavish restaurants to blood-stained crime scenes back to meticulously planned last meals. A bit of craic, but quite deliciously executed.
Ireland for Food Lovers, Georgina Campbell
Georgina Campbell’s latest book she makes a nod to the quiet revolution that has been taking place in Irish food tourism in recent years, and takes the story beyond the pleasures of eating out to include the joys of eating in when you know where to get great ingredients. A user-friendly guide to any kind of culinary romp throughout the island of Ireland: whose produce to buy and where to buy it, how to cook it or where to have it cooked for you, and even who to teach you how to cook it.
In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan (Penguin)
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” So starts Michael Pollan’s polemic on food, and it pretty much endeth there too. He does string out another couple hundred pages on the subject, but those seven words capture the simple logic of his argument. Pollan is a voice of great sense when it comes to our relationship with what we eat. This book has been around for a couple of years, but is still worth discovering.
Basket Case: What’s Happening to Ireland’s Food? Philip Boucher-Hayes & Suzanne Campbell (Gill & MacMillan)
Basket Case opens with a cosy little scene, the witnessing of a reveller doing a line of coke off a granite step in Dublin city centre. Welcome to Ireland as we were just before we tipped into the abyss of recession. The authors, both experienced broadcasting journalists with backgrounds in agriculture, ask how we ended up a nation where farming had become a dirty word and where we’d rather do drugs on the streets than live off the land. Their resulting book has been knocking about a couple of years, but it’s still well worth the read.