Each December for the last three years on the trot we’ve appeared on The Last Word – Matt Cooper’s Today FM drivetime show – sharing an annual list of the best cookbooks of the year. Always a joy, a delight and a privilege to be asked (and asked back!), we thought we’d share and elaborate on them here too – as sometimes the confines of a radio slot means we can’t include every single pick we had! Plus, you have a list you can tick off, or to send as a gentle nudge to those asking what you might like to receive as a gift this festive season…
This comes with a light caveat, which should be implied but we’ll say it anyway: these are our own personal picks –– there are many other wonderful cookbook and food/travel books that have been published this year, but the ones we’ve chosen are ours alone. But, in saying that, we think they are a great reflection of the place we’re all at right now, there’s a sharp emphasis on local Irish writers and we’ve also tried to demonstrate a little bit of diversity where possible… so, here goes! Note: You can use our affiliate links via Amazon to purchase some or all of these books, for which we will receive a very tiny commission. As ever, we truly appreciate little acts of support, but our focus is to shout about the authors here, not to make coin off the back of them 🙂
Cornucopia Green Cookbook, Tony Keogh & Aoife Carrigy
Gill Books*, gillbooks.ie €30 on Amazon [AFFILIATE], also on offer on kennys.ie for €20 *we were sent a press copy by the publisher
Winner of the An Post Book Awards 2019 Cookery Book accolade, this is a tome to vegetarian and vegan cooking from one of the finest purveyors of such in Dublin. Cornucopia has been a stalwart, set on Wicklow Street, for over 30 years of service and is a beloved, and now fairly expansive, plant-focused cafe with a permanent queue. Their dishes are hearty, healthy and nourishing, and you wouldn’t miss the meat, but this cookbook is a more elegant take on their cafe classics, compiled by executive chef Tony Keogh and the kitchen team alongside editor Aoife Carrigy.
Everything from make your own crackers and dips to curries, stews and desserts –– we particularly enjoy the section on basics and sides, which is a great overview to plant-based cooking that even meat eaters should delve into because it’s all about necessary skills and basics. Cornucopia’s Green Cookbook is the perfect thing to have in someone’s arsenal if they want to eat more plant-based or try going vegan. It’s the hearty, less faffy tonic to the endless beautiful-woman-holding-vegetables-on-cover cookbooks that have staged a coup on bookshop cookery sections over the last number of years.
Super Food in Minutes, Donal Skehan
Hodder Books, RRP €24/£20 on Amazon [AFFILIATE] or Eason
Patrick received Donal’s latest book – his NINTH! – as a gift from a friend who was working with him on his recent debut course as McGuire Programme instructor in Cork in October. So thoughtful and so spot on, because we would have got it for ourselves anyway –– Donal’s books work. They just work. We think we have every single Donal Skehan book and they never disappoint, they’re always fresh, inviting recipes full of colour with easy-to-follow steps and an accessibility that other cookbooks lack. Call Donal what you like, but he’s making books for the masses, which will actually be used, rather than appointed on a shelf gathering dust, and his recipes are forever approachable and accessible, especially as he finds himself more and more time-stretched, in demand and juggling family and work life.
We’d wager that this is the writer who typifies how our generation (in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties) cook at home. They want less meat, higher quality, global inspiration, quick, hearty, wholesome but beautiful-looking dishes, and Donal nails that brief, book after book. Even in the introduction, Donal writes: “this book is dedicated to our brilliant online community of home cooks, who cook these recipes with such enthusiasm and passion.
Recipes we adore the sound of, on flicking through a few times: Mongolian Beef, Brown Butter Sprout Salad (Christmas side, anyone?), Sticky Marmalade Pork, and as there’s a prominence of Harissa in many of the dishes –– everything with harissa in it!
Where The Wild Cooks Go, Cerys Matthews
Particular Books*, available from Amazon [AFFILIATE] €30 in Dubray; on kennys.ie for around €22 *we were sent a press copy by the publisher
Remember Cerys Matthews from Catatonia? The Welsh rock chick-er-turned-country/folk musician and popular BBC radio presenter? Well, she’s travelled the world exploring culture through both music and food, and written a book that combines both, with short story and poetry. For those global-minded, and interested in experiencing cultures through their food and song or, indeed, experiencing other corners of the world from within your own four walls, this is a unique and incredibly engaging new book. We’ve loved her music for long, but this book has slipped under the radar this year for some reason and we’re making it a point to lift it back up –– this is a real wildcard this Christmas.
From the Deep South to India and Japan, travels through the Mediterranean hotbed of France, Italy and Spain whilst also naturally Celt-centric with lots of Welsh, Scottish and Irish inclusions, each chapter travels to a different culture, community and location. Through song, quote, tidbit and information, you get to learn about different cultures and then try their recipes at home in this incredibly well-rounded book. Pick a cuisine or a people you’re particularly interested in, and start there.
Clever Batch, Susan Jane White
Gill Books* gillbooks.ie €25 available from Amazon [AFFILIATE] and currently on offer on kennys.ie for around €18 *we were sent a press copy by the publisher
Susan Jane White is an incredible food writer. She’s emotive, entertaining and sneakily educational. Never ramming notions or ideals down your throat, embracing goodness, without appearing preachy, which is a rare quality and peddling beautifully crafted verse by the bucketload.
After Extra Virgin Kitchen and The Virtuous Tart, Clever Batch is SJW’s third book and is the perfect accompaniment to a busy life with a veracious love of food. This book is about brilliant, wholefood batch-cooking, recipes to save on time and stock up your freezer for the manic, fast-paced lifestyle we all seem to lead, being time-poor but permanently lusting after delicious dishes.
From SJW herself: “this is a fun blueprint for readers who struggle with everyday meals” and it’s chock full of little kitchen hacks, ways of throwing an extra pop of flavour into recipes (flavour grenades, to you and us), plus cooking ahead and batch cook recipes which are simple, delicious, wholesome and extremely effective. Her writing alone makes it a beautiful book to own, and she just makes recipes come to life through the written word. A beautiful, beautiful book.
Burren Dinners, Trevis L. Gleason
O’Brien Press RRP €25, available at Eason/Dubray, also on special less than €20 right now from kennys.ie
Award-winning author Trevis L. Gleason is a lot of things. A chef, a consultant but we believe him to be an expert curator. What he does is he curates, compiles and collects community elements to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. A Dingle local, he’s already wowed the food world with Dingle Dinners, now he’s done the same loving treatment to another hotbed community that shines a light for Irish food –– The Burren area around Co. Clare.
He’s asked renowned chefs and artisan food producers of one of Ireland’s most famous foodie destinations, The Burren, to share their recipes, experiences, memories and secrets in this new book. Influenced by their rugged surroundings, local ingredients and generations-old passion for communal dining, the leading voices in the Burren share recipes for their most treasured meals. From everyday favourites like smoked haddock and potato chowder, farmhouse lamb and barley stew and Doolin bog pie to special-occasion dishes like roast Glencarn suckling pig with herb and apple pan sauce, Folk Festival jambalaya and Irish whiskey and sherry trifle, these creative, passionate and hard-working lovers of food offer us a small taste of this uniquely beautiful and intriguing place. If you’re heavily into Irish food, this is one corner of the country that’s killing it and this is an emblem of the area.
GIY’s Know-It-Allmanac, Michael Kelly, Muireann Ní Chíobháin
Available on Amazon [AFFILIATE], €23 from Eason, and on offer for less than €20 from Kennys.ie or direct from GIY where you can also pick up seeds and equipment!
This one is for the little ones. The smaller people in your life who might be at an impressionable age where you can help them to learn more about where food comes from, how to grow it and develop a deeper, much-needed connection to the land. Follow the narrator’s story, month-by-month in an adventure of where food comes from and what it’s all about! Self-published by Grow It Yourself – which in this day and age is a HUGE, laudable, almost unheard of undertaking! – this larger-than-life book also features the most gorgeous, colourful illustrations from superstar illustrator Fatti Burke. We’d love you to support Mick and everything Grow It Yourself as a movement is doing, as we’re big fans and supporters of them ourselves. If you want to hear more, listen to Michael Kelly and Karen O’Donohoe on the Grow It Yourself episode of our podcast Chew The Fat.
The Tipperary Food Tour, Tipperary Food Producers
Available via TheAppleFarm for €8.95 (plus p+p) *we were gifted a copy for their press launch
“Hop on board for a delicious adventure!” Another pick for the littler ones is this beautifully designed book (illustrated by Fiona and Derry Dillon) produced by the organisation of Tipperary Food Producers, led currently by Con Traas, the well-known ‘Apple Farmer’ in Tipperary. The aim is to help educate, increase awareness and understanding of how food is produced, where it comes from and what provenance and artisanal produce is. Good nourishing food information is gleamed by experiential learning, and in the locality of Tipperary they have also invested in a workbook that goes alongside this book, as well as a Virtual Reality element. They see this as a stepping stone to possibly taking this national, and it’s already been a huge hit in Tipperary, and though it’s based around the ‘Premier County’ it’s applicable to kids across Ireland, and beyond.
Greenfeast, (Spring, Summer; Autumn, Winter) Nigel Slater
4th Estate/Harper Collins*, RRP £22, available on Amazon [AFFILIATE] A/W | S/S or €25 in Dubray, both on offer for less than €20 on Kennys.ie *we were sent a press copy by the publisher
A shelf lays bare – no matter how many titles appoint it – without some of Nigel Slater‘s writing. Every single page, recipe or dish is an ode to ‘a couple of great things, together on a plate’ – mini acts of culinary wizardry. There are some things, some flavour combinations or ingredient mash-ups that will *only* work when Nigel Slater decrees so, and we’re not ones to argue with that. A truly inspiring cook and writer, with every publication he produces he continuously captivates and inspires us, for one.
Continuing the green theme throughout this year’s round-up, everything in this pair of books – yes, it’s a mini series, split down the calendar year in a duo of seasons – is vegetarian, hence the name. Greens, plants, roots, tubers and vegetables in their many varied forms take centre stage here, and to wheel out a tired, bored turn of phrase, you honestly wouldn’t even miss the meat. Recipes we love the sound of include: Butternut, Breadcrumbs and Curry; Fennel, Peas and Halloumi; Potato, Tomato and Horseradish; Chocolate dulce du leche with Cantucci.
From The Oven To The Table, Diana Henry
Mitchell Beazley, available on Amazon [AFFILIATE] €28 in Dubray Books and £22 in Waterstones
Like Nigel, we’re (thankfully) never far from a new Diana Henry book, and 2019 is no exception as we have another publication from her very hands. We’ve said before doing this review that Diana Henry is the food writers’ food writer, she’s a culinary storyteller but among the most practical yet adventurous cooks around, and she makes you feel that you can do it too! ‘It’s not rocket science’ is kind of the sentiment that runs through her books, so NEWSFLASH: YOU TOO CAN BE DIANA HENRY.
This book is practical without ever feeling like a checklist type of read. The oven is the epicentre of the kitchen, isn’t it? So don’t be a slave to it –– command it pwoerfully, and in this cookbook every recipe is designed to be cooked in the oven, and brought straight to the table. Perfect if you’re hob is out of action, you’re trying to impress guests but you’re not overly confident in the kitchen, this is for you. Flavours will wow, ingredients will take you by surprise, and if you’re unsure, the humble chicken thigh is given an entire chapter. As great for mid-week can’t-be-bothered, inspiration-needed dinners as it is for lavish, slow-cooked weekend feasts.
One Pot Feeds All, Darina Allen
Kyle Books, available on Amazon [AFFILIATE], €19.99 on Eason or £20 (international edition) from Waterstones
The Doyenne of Irish food, Darina is a single-name icon at this stage and hailing from the Mecca that is Ballymaloe House and Cookery School. From the words-cannot-do-justice influence of the lateMyrtle Allen, now Darina alongside her daughter-in-law Rachel Allen and her brother Rory O’Connell, make up the royal family when it comes to both cookery schools and writing or broadcasting about Irish food.
We all grew up knowing the name Darina and watching her on our screens or snapping up copies of her cookbooks over the years, and in her latest she’s simplified everything to one big pot, pan, tray or sheet. One receptacle, shall we say, to make cookery simple, seamless and straightforward (and try to minimise the wash-up!). You can never divorce Darina from her educational approach, so this is a hands-on, how-to as much as it is an inspiration for dishes; chapters are divided into food groups and there’s everything from breakfast to desserts, with lots of global dishes too.
Ireland, The Best: 100 Places, John McKenna & Sally McKenna
guides.ie, €20 + special bundle offers that tie in their other books too! Also available on Amazon [AFFILIATE]
John and Sally are synonymous with Ireland and its food history, current state and indeed have one eye on the present and another on the future. But to cover all-island as they so effortlessly, seamlessly and inspiringly do, you bet they’ve beaten the path to uncovering the best. Widely known for their plaques, to-the-minute recommendations and their Sunday Times Best Of lists, this publication takes a slightly more all-encompassing steer: skilfully narrowing Ireland down to the 100 best places to see, and eat and drink along the way.
Perfect for the travel lover (and whom loves travel who doesn’t adore food, too?) this is something to keep in the car or on the coffee table to plan future trips around this marvellous country. Maybe someone close to you has returned home from being abroad and has a voracious appetite to rediscover their homeland. This book focuses less on the tourist trail and more on the hidden gems, plus hole-in-the-wall spots to eat and drink nearby from the pair’s own personal experience –– ideal for the foodie traveller.
Keep Calm and Fanny On, Kevin Geddes
RRP £19.99,Waterstones & Amazon [AFFILIATE]
A look through the ages of the unique spirit that was Fanny Cradock who captivated (and terrified) the housewives of the 60s and 70s with her stern delivery and classical French training at every turn. A biography from Kevin who has blogged at Keep Calm and Fanny On for years in homage to Cradock’s somewhat unorthodox ways.
Someone who’s into food, celebrity chefs (of which she was the original) and food history, this is a gift perfect to curl up with on an armchair this Christmas season. Released this year on the 25th anniversary of her death, it even features contributions from the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Esther Rantzen, Prue Leith and Diana Henry, as well as her former assistants and family, so you know its packed full of juicy tidbits about a character who was exactly that –– a complete character, but there’s a lot more to Fanny’s story than meets the eye…
If you want to treat embark on one of our own personal annual Christmas traditions, watch Fanny Craddock Cooks Christmas – the mini-series of which is up on YouTube.
Black and White Cookbook, Clonakilty Food Co.
Available exclusively from shop.clonakiltyblackpudding.ie (€15)
Black and White Cookbook is the first from Clonkality Food Co, those Cork-based purveyors of pudding and it features a mixture of both in-house recipes and recipes derived from a number of food writers, chefs and home cooks the length and breadth of Ireland (including us – so, of course, we want to support them as they’ve supported us this year with this opportunity). If you ever thought pudding was the preserve of breakfast time, think again. This ‘superfood’ has been whipped up in many different novel, unique and delicious ways, from breakfast through to supper –– and you’ll never be stumped for pudding recipe inspiration ever again! Maybe a nice stocking filler?
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books/Penguin Random House, Available on Amazon [AFFILIATE], Eason, Dubray and on offer on Kennys.ie too
We admire Rick Stein as a chef and all he’s achieved, but we believe he has come into his own with his travel productions. His explorations of food via travel is exactly how we travel ourselves, and his TV shows are always a joy to watch. His latest book delves into all things Gallic, and follows similar explorations in the likes of India, Spain, Mexico and the wonderful Venice to Istanbul.
What we love about this book is that it’s truly regional, and we’ve spent quite a bit of time in the smaller cities and exploring the regionality of France over the last couple of years. From the Franche-Comté/Jura region by the Switzerland border to the Provençal vineyards, right across to the Pas de Calais coastline.
Counter Culture: The Sheridans Guide to Cheese
Transworld Ireland , €19.95 from Sheridans.ie (and browse around, adding more to your basket while you do so!)
Now, this isn’t new. So this may seem erroneously placed within this list, but hear us out: we’ve included this Sheridans book because to our shame it’s only this year that we managed to get our hands on this. WE KNOW. The bible of cheese, both Irish and international, this delves into the world of cheesemaking and is both a reference book and something you can read cover to cover in one sitting, featuring tasting notes, wine and flavour-pairings as well as delicious recipes to help you appreciate every cheese you try.
Essential for the cheese-loving foodie in anyone’s life, whether a novice or a connoisseur, Kevin and Seamus Sheridan – the deities of Irish cheese retailing – in collaboration with esteemed writer and critic Catherine Cleary, penned this tome and our book shelves are all the better for this now being on them. A marvellous book from a game-changing, enterprising family. If there was one recommendation, from past publishing, that we would recommend investing in for yourself or as a gift this year, it’s this.