Last minute cookbooks

It’s the 11th hour. Almost literally.

If you’re one of those people who’s thinking, I really should get up out of bed and go buy some Christmas presents, well here’s my brief Top Five Cookbooks of 2012 to guide your way through those last minute Christmas shoppers.

1. The Ard Bia Cookbook

…and not just because I co-wrote it with the inimitable Aoibheann MacNamara of Ard Bia in Galway. I genuinely love the restaurant’s imaginative mix of wholesome, Irish and exotic flavours, and the fact that these are doable restaurant dishes. Plus I also love love love Cian McConn’s series of photos of Ard Bia staff and friends which punctuate the book (that tattooed lady on the cover is the lovely Giusy) as well as Eimear McCormack’s beautiful hand-drawn illustrations. But then I would say that.


2. The ICA Cookbook

…and not just because I edited it. (Yes there is a pattern emerging here but I’m about to change theme, don’t worry.) Made up of the beloved, treasured, never-failed-me recipes of over 40 ordinary ICA members, this cookbook is for all of those people who can’t stomach another idealised aspirational lifestyle cookbook making us feel guilty about taking an hour to cook what apparently should only take 30 minutes. These ICA recipes (from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association) are real recipes, from real women, and while making shepherd’s pie with a tin of oxtail soup may not be for everybody there’s enough variety within the book to have something for everyone.

3. The Cake Cafe Bake Book

…and not just because The Cake Cafe is one of my favourite Dublin institutions from one of my favourite Cork women. Teaming up with her good mate & designer extraordinaire Niall Sweeney, Michelle Darmody turned down a publishing deal and decided to go it alone with this gorgeous little collection of some of her favourite baking recipes. The result is totally unique and a whole lot of fun to flick through, let alone bake from. It’s sleek size makes it a perfect stocking filler too.

4. The Saba Cookbook

…and not just because proceeds go to The Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin and to The Thai Red Cross Society. Head chef Taweesak ‘Tao’ Trakoolwattana is a great teacher, as anyone who has been on one of his Thai Cooking Day with Fabulous Food Trails will know. That patience in explaining his native Thai cooking to an Irish audience comes through in this beautifully produced cookbook, as does restaurateur Paul Cadden’s passion for the Thai cuisine that has become so much a part of his life.

5. How to Write About Food

…and not just because it’s written by my one-time  desk buddy, FOOD&WINE Magazine editor Ross Golden-Bannon. Okay it’s not actually a cookbook and you can’t buy it in a bookshop, but RGB’s kindle/ipad-friendly ebook would make a great stocking filler for that food blogger or aspiring food writer in your life (if that’s you, get hinting fast!). Ross has gathered all the things he wished food writers knew, peppered with his trademark humour, and put it all together in this handy little collection of the Top 50 Bloopers to Cross an Editor’s Desk. You can buy it on Amazon here:


So there you have it. There were loads more great books too – Let’s Go Disco, The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook and Catherine Fulvio’s Eat Like an Italian for starters. But it really is the 11th hour, so you’d better get going!

Happy Christmas… and happy cooking!

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