2 December 2015

London Review of Cooks 2015

Posted by Gayle Lazda

You clearly all need some encouragement this year, as the bestselling book from our Food & Drink section by a country mile is Jay Rayner's My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways to Have a Lousy Night Out, which isn't a cookbook at all. Read on for a good number of ways to have a jolly night in.

To start the round-up: the national treasures of the cookery world that more or less get a mention every year. Yotam Ottolenghi's latest collects recipes from the more upmarket end of his empire, Nopi. It's even more complicated than your average Ottolenghi book, which he admits in the introduction, but the recipes are beautiful, and if you've flicked through the Plenty books and lamented the lack of animal flesh, this is the Ottolenghi book for you. Nigella, Jamie and Rick all had books this year as well, but – predictable as ever – my favourite is Nigel Slater's latest addition to his Kitchen Diaries, now in (sort of) pocket-sized form. It's everything you expect from Nigel – quick, simple, swimming in cream – and most importantly, contains a recipe for Sunday breakfast Toad-in-the-Hole, which just makes me want to die of happiness.

Our favourite debut cookbook this year came from Chris Honor, who runs the worst-kept secret in North London, Chriskitch of Muswell Hill. His brilliant collection of recipes focuses on fresh, seasonal flavours, and has served as one of the Cake Shop's inspirations this year. Having schlepped up to Muswell Hill on a fact-finding mission, and having extensively sampled Terry's interpretations of Chris's recipes, I can heartily and honestly endorse both café and book.

The best vegetarian offerings came from local favourites as well this year: two of London's best vegetarian restaurants, Vanilla Black and Mildreds, published their own cookbooks, and about time too. Honourable mention also goes to the entirely non-local Crossroads; the first cookbook from the Los Angeles-based restaurant makes vegan food look so good, I'd be happy eating it for the rest of my life.

From the local to the international, which has been very strong this year: Phaidon have continued their campaign to bring Mexican cuisine to the world, with the beautiful Mexico from the Inside Out and the very jolly Tacopedia; Olia Hercules's Mamushka shone a light on the largely unexplored world of Ukrainian cooking; but it's Nordic cuisine that really caught my eye this year. Phaidon gave it the encyclopedic tome treatment, à la The Silver Spoon, with Magnus Nilsson's The Nordic Cookbook, and Darra Goldstein gave us Fire and Ice, a beautiful overview of the classic Nordic cooking (which also contains a recipe for glögg that Terry may well be making use of at a late shopping evening in the not too distant future…)

I haven't mentioned pickles yet at all in this list, so to rectify that may I recommend Kylee Newton's The Modern Preserver? Kylee was our expert judge at this year's London Review Cake Shop Pickle Competition, and with good reason: this book covers the whole range of preserves – from jams, through vinegars, to curds and fruit cheeses – with a fresh, inventive twist.