Although we live in South East Queensland, when I think of Christmas cooking and Christmas tables my mind turns to the northern hemisphere.
It stands to reason then, that the food I read about and the recipes I want to cook are also from that part of the world – although on Christmas Day itself we have a mix of traditional roasts and fabulous Queensland seafood.
As for my favourite Christmas cookbooks? These are the ones I turn to – and a few new books that I’m suspecting will become favourites too.
Delia Smith’s Christmas
This book was first published in 1990, and I bought my copy not many years after that. To say that it’s a classic would be a massive understatement.
The Christmas cake that I make year after year comes from this book – as does the savoury pinwheels we have every Christmas morning and the little sausage rolls. I also particularly like the chapter on chutneys, preserves and pickles – although the piccalilli I made this year didn’t come from this book.
In a way, it’s like a Christmas handbook – full of Delia practicality and lists – that takes you from prep beginning in October all the way through to Boxing Day leftovers.
Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook
I’ve bookmarked a couple of new recipes to try over the next few weeks, but I turn to this book when I’m after ideas for veggies, sides, canapes and ideas of things to do with leftovers. Jamie can turn a parsnip or a sprout into an event.
This is a massive book full of Jamie’s trademark rustic styled food pics and plenty of variations on the base recipes. That’s probably the thing I love most about a Jamie book – the way he provides an idea plus gives you potential jumping off points to amp it up even more.
An absolute must for your Christmas bookshelf.
The sub-title says it all – Food, Family, Friends, Festivities.
Given that Nigella has included a Christmas chapter in most of her books I have to admit that I assumed that this book would be simply an amalgamation of all of those recipes in one place. I assumed wrong. This book is huge and the recipes are all new.
Of course, given that Nigella generously shares so many recipes on her webpage you could just as easily grab many of these from there, but to do so would be to miss out on the experience of this book – and Nigella cookbooks are more than recipes.
From think-ahead Christmas preserves to casual suppers, seasonal baking, Christmas parties, the day itself and leftovers, Nigella has you beautifully and ever so gloriously covered.
Don’t, however, overlook the Christmassy chapters in her other books. If you do you’ll miss out on treats such as snow-flecked brownies (Feast), parmesan shortbreads (Nigellissima) and cider and 5 spice bundt cake (Simply Nigella).
As an aside, I have Nigella’s How To Eat on my Christmas list. I’ve been reading Nigella since she used to write for British Vogue and yet somehow I’ve never bought myself this book – or seen it in second-hand shops. That situation needs to be rectified.
Fortnum and Mason – Christmas and other Feasts, by Tom Parker Bowles
Okay, this is one of two newbies to my shelf and I have to admit that I haven’t yet made anything from it. It’s an accidental iBooks purchase that found its way into my digital trolley when I wasn’t looking – okay when I was drooling over the Christmas windows in F&M’s Instagram feed.
To a large extent, this is a tad how the other half lives, but that’s true to their brand. To read this is to be immersed in an almost dream-like fantasy of the perfect English Christmas. It’s an England of grouse, goose and game; of potted stilton, Bramley apples and clementines. It’s also an England of sage toad in the hole with pigs in blankets and onion gravy or marmalade and almond tart.
Perhaps it’s because we’re planning Christmas in The Cotswolds next year or perhaps I’m in the early stages of imagining a Christmas novel, but the illustrations and the words really set my imagination flying. Come the new year I’ll be scouring Booktopia to see if I can get a hard copy of this one – purely for research, of course.
The Christmas Chronicles, by Nigel Slater
This is a book of words, stories, and notes. And that’s what I love about a Nigel Slater kitchen diary – which is, essentially, what this is – I get so tied up in the reading that the cooking comes secondary. Of course, it doesn’t have to, but this is the kind of book where you’re in the middle of something else and think “why don’t I make that ricotta and filo cheesecakey thing? The one where the pastry shatters everywhere?”…or something like that.
It hasn’t been out for long and I could only get a digital copy to read on my laptop, but it’s one that I’ll be putting an order in for the hardback version of – again, it’s for research purposes. In fact, I think the dogs in my Christmas novel might just be named Nigel and Nigella. Too much?
A Paris Christmas, by John Baxter
This isn’t a cookbook, but it is a book about Christmas food.
I bought this one in the second-hand section of Shakespeare & Co in Paris. After browsing in the shop we’d sat outside in the sun and had a coffee and watch the crowds across in Notre Dame. It was when I was coming out of the poky little toilet afterwards that I saw it and, at 5 euros, snapped it up immediately. I think I read somewhere that John Baxter – an Australian who married a Parisian – lives somewhere around the Left Bank not far from Shakespeare & Co…although that’s by the by.
Essentially this book follows the author as he plans and sources the ultimate Christmas feast for his extremely fussy French family. Along the way he tells a story of tradition, produce, with a few non-recipes woven into the words. Just beautiful.
The books I’d like to see under my tree on Christmas Day…
The cookbooks on my Santa list this year are:
- Cellar Bar, Guy Grossi
- How to Eat A Peach, Diana Henry
- Simple, Ottolenghi
- How To Eat, Nigella
- Time, Gill Meller
- First, Catch, Thom Eagle
- Completely Perfect, Felicity Cloake