Cookbooks & Food Books of the Year: 2023

For seven years now (2017201820192020, 2021, 2022, 2023) we’ve been honoured to appear on The Last Word with Matt Cooper on TodayFM here in Ireland to round up the best cookbooks and food writing every December in advance of the Christmas rush. Each year it seems to get more and more difficult than the last to whittle it down and for this year’s appearance we did a SOLELY Irish round-up –– we didn’t include any international titles for the first time.

Naturally, in a fast-paced radio slot we can’t delve into endless detail, include every pick or share links or images, so this megapost is always the definitive accompaniment –– an enhancement of what we introduce on-air plus ones we didn’t get a chance to mention or which didn’t fit the brief or time limit. From cookbooks and handbooks to food memoirs and miscellanies, each year it’s a perfect excuse for us to deep dive into the last 12 months of food publishing and see what sticks out! Once again we’ve kept it to fifteen top titles to recommend, over half of which are debuts from first-time authors and ten of which are Irish which is incredible, another strong year for Irish food writing. Let’s delve right in…

Note: Links to most of these books are Affiliate Links [#AF] which means that if you click-through and purchase any of these titles directly from our site we earn a tiny percentage commission. We love to support cookbook authors year-round and especially profiling their published work at Christmas, so to help us continue taking the time and effort to compile these annual lists and support them we’re so grateful for you supporting us in your shopping — even in the smallest ways. This megapost always takes quite a bit of work to do, and we don’t earn off this, so if we can earn a tiny commission off a couple of orders it goes a long way –– it doesn’t add anything to your basket, we get the commision as a percentage of your sale from the online retailer.

Blasta Books, Series 2 (2023):

Soup (Blanca Valencia, Dee Laffan, Mei Chin), Tapas (Anna Cabrera & Vanessa Murphy), Wasted (Conor Spacey) & Masarap (Richie Castillo & Alex O’Neill)

Published by Nine Bean Rows Books | Order the whole series via blastabooks.com

Game-changing, industry-shaking and visionary despite their small stature and price point, Blasta Books continue to reign dominant as THE first word in food publishing in Ireland right now. Of course, the award-winning first series of quarterly titles in 2022 (of which ours was the sophomore) are hard to beat but Kristin Jensen has done the damn thing once again –- four more excellent pint-sized cookbooks on niche topics with new authors to tempt everyone and to flesh out their personal Blasta collections. Gotta catch ’em all…

  • Blasta Books #5: Soup by Blanca Valencia, Dee Laffan and Mei Chin
  • Blasta Books #6: Tapas by Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy
  • Blasta Books #7: Wasted by Conor Spacey
  • Blasta Books #8: Masarap by Richie Castillo and Alex O’Neill

Naturally we were the most excited about our dear pals Anna and Vanessa for their Tapas book as we’ve long wished to have their words in print to have and to hold and we think they are just amazing at everything they turn their hand to, on and off the restaurant floor. Also long-awaited as been Bahay’s debut in publishing with Masarap. Alex and Richie have been killing the street food game with their Filipino-Irish flavours for several years and have made such a splash with so many supporters and customers so Masarap (tagalog for ‘tasty’, just like ‘blasta’ is the same as Gaeilge) is the perfect first collection for them and as the newest in the line-up we’ve been poring over it most recently planning what to make!

Each Blasta Book is A5-sized, €15 and specifically-themed on a subject, style of cookery or cuisine, with around 30 unbeatable recipes apiece and all richly illustrated by talented artist Nicky Hooper, instead of full colour photography. Blasta as a concept is small but incredibly mighty, showcasing emerging voices telling stories and sharing skills that deserve to be heard –– but ’til now have never been published (each Blasta author has to be a first-time author) because the big beasts of tired ‘ol publishing never offered the platform. Each quarterly book is truly a dazzling debut and Jensen, who was disheartened by being told she was focusing on “too niche”, has since re-appropriated that phrase and wears it like a badge of honour and a call to action: “To niche!”

Together as a series this is perfection but each individual book is equally perfect as a stocking filler. The full collection is especially special for those based internationally who might not know much about the landscape of Irish food or Irish food writing and could happily delve into the voices of modern Irish food with Blasta Books. Why not back-date and give the gift of the originals, too? The 2022 series in full. ALSO, if you’re looking for a subscription-style gift for that special someone why not pre-order the 2024 batch? Every couple of months a new title will land at their doorstep… this is the gift of food writing that keeps on giving.

Which Recipes do we suggest?

  • From Soup: Colombian ajiaco (pg10), moqueca baiana (pg 38) & watercress soup w poached egg (pg 60)
  • From Tapas: croquetas + variations (pg 12-15), pulpo a la Gallega (pg 26, cover star) & Spanish omelette (pg 37)
  • From Wasted: piccalilli (pg 15), banana skin chutney (pg17) & carrot scotch eggs (pg 32)
  • From Masarap: adobo (pg16), Filipino 4 in 1 (pg 22), satti na curry (pg 28) & lechon kawali (fried pork belly, pg 34)

Flavour, Mark Moriarty

Published by Gill Books | order here (#AF)

The debut from top young chef Mark Moriarty was cookbook of the year winner at the recent An Post Book Awards. Mark’s first cookbook bridges the gap between the chef’s pass and the home kitchen counter across more than 100 recipes. Familiar to audiences from his various TV shows and as an ambassador for M&S Ireland, this debut is all about “the skills” applied to luxury, comforting home dishes. There’s a certain element of trust required where chefs write cookbooks and Mark always has sturdy, sturdy, sturdy recipes, applying cheffy know-how to classic, home-cooked comforts.

It has great fundamentals and basics at the beginning – roasties, mash, chicken breast, piece of white fish – and then it gets progressively more advanced towards the end with the likes of Beef Wellington. Who is this for? The skilled home cook in mind who is a dab hand in the kitchen but always looking for cheffy flair and inspiration.

Which Recipes do we suggest?

  • Steak au poivre pg 94
  • Chicken and leek pie pg 122
  • Porchetta pg 130
  • Beef wellington pg 142
  • Chocolate soufflé in a cup pg 175

The Gathered Table (various), Gather & Gather Ireland

Published by Nine Bean Rows | Order here (#AF)

The Gathered Table: A Taste of Home is a collection of 55 recipes contributed by bakers and butchers, farmers and food champions, producers, shopkeepers and chefs from across Ireland. Compiled by Gather & Gather, whose ethos surrounds food bringing people together, and captured breathtakingly by award-winning photographer Katie Quinn, this is a book with a good cause at its core. All proceeds from this book go to Peter McVerry Trust and is a wonderfully thoughtful gift. After all, home is where the heart is, especially at Christmas, so this is really an amazing book with so much heart.

A larger size on premium paper with hardback cover, this really is an ideal coffee table book and conversation starter. The very bones of this book is about what home means, feels and looks like, through the medium of what you cook there, from breakfast to dessert and chapters split up by main protein, this is comfort food for a great cause.

Which Recipes do we suggest?

  • Sally Barnes Cullen skink pg104
  • Ahmet Dede whole spiced lamb shoulder pg96
  • Dvir Nusery’s batata sofrito pg66
  • Gareth Mullins’ beef & Guinness pie pg34
  • Eoin Cluskey’s batch bread pg12
  • Sticky coffee pudding by yours truly pg144

Home Kitchen, Donal Skehan

Published by Yellow Kite | Order here (#AF)

Can you imagine this is Donal Skehan’s 11th (!!) cookbook? It’s also maybe his most personal to-date, which traces his move from west coast American back to the east coast of Ireland. A love letter to Los Angeles in many ways, this book begins with a long personal essay about the difficult move and everything LA gave to him and his young family. It being one of the world’s best food cities – which he says himself in this recent Sunday Times Ireland interview Patrick did with him – it’s easy to see how it’s inspired his style and with that level of delicious inspiration why wouldn’t you have this at arm’s reach on your shelf?

Of course, this being Donal Skehan, his signature brand of flavour-forward, globe-traversing and frankly gob-smackingly delicious recipes are present and correct as ever. Who does Donal write for, we keep asking ourselves with each new book he writes, and while we think he captures a very diverse, far-reaching audience we really do think right now he’s writing for his own cohort: busy professionals, maybe with young kids too, who have global tastes and need constant recipe inspiration, both for weeknight meals and weekend feasts. Family life is literally etched all over in the graphics, coloured-in headings and typewriter lists

Which Recipes do we suggest?

  • Pressure cooker Pho pg88
  • Joy on York Dan Dan noodles pg 108
  • Family style focaccia pg 134-7
  • Chilli oil noodles pg 196
  • Spice bag chicken buns pg 202
  • Rhubarb white chocolate croissant bread pudding pg 218
  • Bananas foster pg 248

Butter Boy: Collected Stories & Recipes, Paul Flynn

Published by Nine Bean Rows | Order here (#AF)

If you love proper food writing you’re going to adore this from esteemed chef Paul Flynn of The Tannery in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Twice the chef-in-residence as the weekly recipe writer for The Irish Times, for his most recent tenure Flynn found himself willing us all through the unusual climes of a global pandemic with wit, delicious inspiration and engaging storytelling.

The man, the chef, the legend, he needs no introduction, really, being a staple on TV for the last decade or two and never far from the newspapers. In his 150 articles for the IT between 2019 and 2022 he managed to include 450 recipes and both the writing and the recipes are compiled in Butter Boy. This is as much a book to curl up in bed with as a nighttime read as it is to cook from. Paul does both so well –– a funny, witty and sharp writer and an exceptional cook and recipe writer. We’ve had a manic year and have only dipped in and out of this thus far but THIS is the book we’re going to poring over in those quiet moments over the Christmas break.

Which Recipes do we suggest?

  • Crab Claws with Orange, Pomegranate and Rosemary Butter (pg 39)
  • Roast Pork Shoulder with Hoisin (pg 229)
  • Leg of lamb pissladière (pg 565)
  • Turnip Tortilla (pg 17)
  • My Tarte Flamiche (pg27)
  • Baked Cavanbert with cider-roasted turnip and black forest ham (pg 476)

Irish Kitchen Cocktails, Oisín Davis

Published by Nine Bean Rows | Order here (#AF)

When you can capture Oisín Davis‘ unique passion and energy for great spirits and producers onto the page it’s a sin not publish. A long-time advocate for Irish spirits producers and a complete energiser bunny of the drinks industry, his debut drinks book is a perfect little bar cart companion. Petite in size and well-laid out, across 60 recipes Davis takes your hand through cocktails ranging from punch bowl and blender to after-dinner drinks or last-minute sips for unexpected guests, all the while using everyday kitchen equipment and peppering Irish producers across the lot.

Often cocktail books are soulless, boring and rigidly stuck to classics, Oisín injects personality into every glass. Who is this for? Well, it’s actually aimed perfectly at both the amateur cocktail maker and the connoisseur because it offers such variety, simple, streamlined steps and equipment and is written conversationally so is super approachable as both a learning tool and a reference book. The definition of a cool companion at a cocktail bar.

Which Recipes do we suggest?

  • White negroni pg 45
  • Bertha’s Rickey pg 46
  • Mrs Doyle’s iced tea pg 57
  • Hot buttered Irish rum pg 85
  • Belfast coffee pg 149

An Alphabet of Aniar, JP McMahon

Godot Press | Order from aniarrestaurant.ie

This is one of the most unique restaurant books of 2023, and we’re still amazed we’ve never eaten at Aniar even though we have this and JP McMahon‘s massive tome The Irish Cook Book (Phaidon). JP has distilled much of the ethos, approach, iconic dishes and flavours of the last twelve years of Aniar in this A-Z of his fine dining kitchen’s approach. This is for sure for the food nerds amongst us (which we are firmly in the group of) and is a “reflective companion piece” to his weightier tome documenting Irish cuisine through the ages to the present day, this has distilled the most important aspects of Aniar into one neat little self-published book. There’s not really recipes as such, it’s more writing short essays on A-Z topics but is peppered with small suggestions, like hazelnut miso (pg 96), 3-2-1 pickles (pg 198) and whey sauce (pg 216).

Comfort Eating, Grace Dent

Published by Guardian Faber | Order here (#AF)

First came the popular Guardian-produced, award-winning podcast, now cometh the accompanying book. We’ve long adored, frankly, everything Grace Dent does, she’s up there with Nigella Lawson in the camp stakes, ditto the glam ones, and we love how she purrs at her guests and slinks into the MasterChef UK dining room like culinary Catwoman every year. Then, there’s her writing –– she may just be our favourite UK food critic to read each week. In the new book, Grace proudly flings her kitchen cupboards open to shine a light on those secret snacks and naughty nibbles we all adore so much, inspired by her munching in between interviews on the podcast. Part memoir (paying tribute to her parents) and part interview series, this is a funny, unfussy, honest and, frankly, fulfilling book bursting with comfort food tales, secrets and anecdotes.

National Dish, Anya Von Bremzen

Published by Pushkin ONE | Order here (#AF)

Seeking to dispel the eternal cliché of “you are what you eat”, Anya Von Bremzen trots across the globe to try to determine what exactly makes a ‘cuisine’. It’s a little Eat Pray Love in the best possible way, tracing her travels through Paris, Istanbual, Tokyo, Naples, Oaxaca, Seville and New York City. This is beautifully-written, a gorgeous story book peppered with food and interesting personalities with dashes of history and a lot of keenly-researched arguments for who owns what, where things originated from and what exactly are the confines of a cuisine, from pot au feu and Escoffier to mole, maize and mezcal. Patrick flew through this on the cruise we were on in early October and it was the perfect poolside read.

Spice Box, Sunil Ghai

Published by Penguin | Order here (#AF)

Ireland’s favourite Indian chef Sunil Ghai, owner of Pickle and Street restaurants in Dublin and Tiffin in Greystones, has published his long-awaired debut cookbook on Indian cuisine, written with Editor Kristin Jensen. This is super accessible, taking the mystery out of creating authentic Indian dishes at home. If you’ve ever eaten at any of Sunil’s outlets you know how incredibly tasty his food is so we’ve been salivating over every page and recipe. Of course, Spice Box includes the biryanis and butter chickens but is much more diverse than that, showcasing the true power of spice across 100 recipes.

Which Recipes do we Suggest?

  • Indian spiced scotch eggs (pg58)
  • Lucknowiraan (braised spiced leg of lamb, pg86)
  • Aloo masala (Bombay potatoes, pg 168/9)
  • Whole chapter 7 on chutneys and raita
  • Star anise ice cream (pg 256) with turmeric poached pears (pg 246)

BAO, Erchen Chang, Wai Ting Chung & Shing Tat Chung

Published by Phaidon | Order here (#AF)

If anything this is a restaurant manifesto. Only a restaurant group so hyped and so iconic that started from street food remarked by one dish and branded by one single image (the Lonely Man eating his steamed bun) could produce such a narrow subject book but it’s bloody brilliant as a loyal fan to get to sink your teeth definitively into it.

Bao in London is more than a restaurant group, it’s about art, design, community and history, and this book delves into all the above with personal photos, family stories and essays about their world of food. Rather than an identikit chain, Bao is a stable of different styles of Taiwanese cafe-restaurant-bars with different levels of comfort food made cool. From Borough to Soho, King’s Cross to Fitzrovia, most of the chapters are simply earmarked by each different style of restaurant they have created and within that the signature dishes.

There’s a drinks chapter and a larder chapter plus it begins with history of the brand and delves into the intricacies of its approach. You really need to have been to Bao to appreciate this book, but if you’re counted amongst their legions of loyal fans, this is a must on your shelf to recreate their iconic dishes.

Which Recipes do we Suggest?

  • The whole early chapter on Bao
  • Taiwanese fried chicken (pg 92)
  • Tainan style beef rump noodles (pg 187)
  • Eel and smacked cucumber (pg 197)
  • Lu rou fan with egg and fish floss rice (pg 199)

Paradiso, Dennis Cotter

Published by Nine Bean Rows | Order Here (#AF)

30 years of iconic vegetarian restaurant Paradiso in Cork city looks good on it and owner Dennis Cotter’s fourth book declares “this is us now”, the manual for today, a glance at the past and the building blocks of the future. It’s got a sub-title ‘Recipes and Reflections’ and is exactly that, offering really beautiful ideas and inspiration for all but for mostly the experimental plant-curious cook. Especially those who are nifty in the kitchen and consider themselves a bit semi-professional, this is as much a manual with an expansive chapter on core elements, or building blocks of modern vegetarian cookery, with things like “crunchy stuff, fried things, pickles, hot sauces, dressings, oils and butters”, not to mention an entire chapter on potatoes. The recipes are maybe erring away from the everyday and more designed to dazzle and excite with inventive, restaurant-quality dish ideas.

It’s a beautifully crafted A5-sized book, from the thickness of the pages to the heft of the hardback and the stunning food styling and photography. If you’re into Nigel Slater, the way he writes, the way he puts flavours together, this is for you and also a gorgeous gift idea for a book full of WOW vegetarian dishes for that particular person in mind.

Which Recipes to cook?

  • Aubergine, black sesame yoghurt zhoug fried capers (pg 42)
  • Romesco romanesco (finally a differentiation of similarly named things on the one plate!, pg64)
  • Black garlic and rayu dressed tofu (pg94)
  • Potato pave caper dillisk aioli (pg118)
  • Strawberry and elderflower pavlova (pg136)
  • The Entire core elements chapter

Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Slow Cooker Book, Nathan Anthony

Published by Penguin | Order here (#AF)

A bestseller from Northern Ireland-based @BoredOfLunch influencer Nathan Anthony, this debut book (though he actually split one book into two and published a similar air fryer cookbook at the same time) zones in on a key piece of kitchen kit: the slow-cooker. All calorie-counted and conscious (for those who follow popular slimming plans, for example), Nathan’s style is easy, accessible and showcases familiar dishes aimed at home cooks who need more ideas and confidence in the kitchen.

These recipes promise tenderness and flavour while also being easy and affordable and while they may be a little too simple and basic for some it’s a handy one to have on the shelf for no-fuss cooking, particularly if you’re looking for homemade recreations of takeaways (we can’t handle the phrase fakeaway, sorry, never) Whether for those already devout to slow cookers or those taking their first steps into slow cooking, this is really approachable and simple.

Which Recipes to cook?

  • Spiced beef brisket (pg 42) + mulled wine brisket (pg 176)
  • Tuscan chicken (pg 117)
  • Duck cassoulet (pg 169)

Made in Taiwan: Recipes and Stories from the Island Nation, Clarissa Wei with Ivy Chen

Published by S&S/Simon Element | Order here (#AF)

Ever since we first stepped foot in Taiwan five years ago we’ve been fascinated with its food culture, iconic dishes and ingredients. This island nation has a unique history, delicate microclimates, intricacies in its flavours and a combination of ancient and modern. We left the island very much understanding the different between China and Taiwan and that extends deep into their respective cuisines too, even if one doesn’t recognise the sovereignty of the other.

This is an in-depth exploration of the vibrant food and culture of Taiwan with beautiful essays, over 100 recipes and gorgeous photography by the Taipei-based duo of food journalist Clarissa Wei and cookery tutor Ivy Chen. It really is a love letter to Taiwan, past, present, future. For us this is a personal inclusion into this guide because opening those pages transports us back to a place we adored exploring and would love to get back to, but we’d recommend anyone with an interest in cuisines from this part of the world who wants to delve in and understand more, this is the book for you.

Which Recipes to cook?

  • Scallion pancakes, Cong You Bing (pg 49)
  • Peddler noodles (pg 92)
  • Fried shrimp rolls (pg 104)
  • Coffin bread (pg 112)

The Irish Beef Book, Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness

Published by Gill Books | Order from jameswhelanbutchers.com here

A tenth anniversary reprint from this big bruiser of a cookbook, who knew there were so many varied and delicious ways to celebrate beef? Intrinsic in Irish cuisine, who better to pen the original Beef Book in 2013 than Mr. James Whelan Butchers himself, fifth generation master butcher Pat Whelan. He originally wrote this book with food writer and critic Katy McGuinness and this fresh re-print gives their efforts a new lease of life for a whole new audience, while sales of the book support two very deserving charities: Cork Penny Dinners and the Capuchin Homeless Charity in Dublin.

Split into steaks, roasts, classic dishes, quick, slow dishes, then burgers, pizza & pasta, pies and finally other bits, this is the definitive culinary guide to Irish beef. Demystifying the intricacies of this type of meat, Pat’s knowledge of animals and butchery makes this as much educational as it is entertaining while those little insider butcher tips ensure success across different cuts and methods of cooking. If you have a specific cut of beef, if you have bought a load of it from a farmer and kept it in your freezer or you buy beef all the time and want some new ideas this is for you.

Which Recipes to cook?

  • Beef rendang (pg 112)
  • Irish beef check lasagne (pg 192)
  • Beef and crozier blue pie with suet crust (pg 204)
  • Savoury mince on beef dripping fried bread (pg 228)

Check out our previous years’ food book round ups: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019

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