The Ten Best: Party cookbooks
Monday 13 December 2004
'No-Cook Cookbook' by Orlando Murrin (£16.99, published by Quadrille Publishing)
A year after it was published, I'm still recommending this book to anyone who has to entertain guests but lacks confidence. It's hard to get anxious about cooking when the recipe doesn't require you to do any, and so you are free to worry about other things - the kids, the drinks, the difficult uncle. Murrin's clever shopping tricks will see you safely through weekday menus too.
'The Constance Spry Cookery Book' by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume (£25, published by Grub Street Publishing)
The first edition of this encyclopaedic book was published in 1956 and, while some of the terminology may seem outdated, it's also imbued with practicality and frugality, from which us youngsters could do well to learn. Chapter one goes into wonderful detail on planning a canapé menu.
'Perfect Parties' by Alison Price (£14.99, published by Kyle Cathie Ltd)
The book to choose if you aspire to host an extravaganza. Price's esteemed catering company arranges the type of functions that take a lot of commitment, time and money - dreamlike weddings, celebrity-packed private dos and corporate occasions to wow clients. But even armchair caterers will find plenty of inspiration and useful counsel here.
'Diva Cooking' by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Jennifer Joyce (£14.99, published by Mitchell Beazley)
Don't be put off by the embarrassing title or migraine-inducing photography, co-author Jennifer Joyce is an accomplished teacher and her modern recipes, such as the spicy prawns with Moroccan tomato jam, are delicious. The book is crammed with tips and is strong on the benefits of advance preparation.
'Diffordsguide to Cocktails Volume 5' by Simon Newlyn Difford (£24.97, published by Sauce Guides)
Oh dear. I've just realised I've only got Volume 3, not the latest edition of this professional bartender's bible. Though, with 1,400 colour-illustrated cocktails to work through (including 200 that are made from a cabinet cleverly limited to ten spirits and liqueurs), I had not got to the point of missing the additional 100 recipes the new version contains. The clear photography and instructions make the mixologists' art crystal clear.
'Feast' by Nigella Lawson (£25, published by Chatto and Windus)
How often do you cook for 12 or more people? Not often, and that's why it's good on such occasions to have a book that will help you cope with the volume of food and work required. Lawson's trademark reassuring style is the icing on this delicious cake, tempting one not just to feast but to issue invitations more frequently.
'Party Food' and 'Party Drinks' (£9.99 each, published by Ryland Peters & Small)
Not books, but two smart collections of beautifully photographed cookery cards sold in little snap-shut packs. Simply pull out the recipes you want to make and enjoy the bench space you've just created in the kitchen. The recipes are a "best of" selection from the publisher's archives, including the work of skilled food stylists and authors such as Maxine Clark, Fiona Smith and Fran Warde.
'Living and Eating' by John Pawson and Annie Bell (£17.50, published by Ebury Press)
Take a relaxed approach to entertaining with this new paperback edition of a book designed to bridge the gap between how we eat on a daily basis, and how we entertain friends. Annie Bell's "To Begin" chapter features all the recipes you need for a gorgeously simple (and healthy) finger-and-fork affair, and the food styling is exquisite.
'Rita's Culinary Trickery' by Rita Konig (£17.50, published by Ebury Press)
I don't hold with Konig's advice of buying a takeaway curry and presenting it as your own work, least of all to the mother-in-law, but there are plenty of useful tips in this pretty book, designed to make entertaining easier for people who aren't keen cooks. Most importantly, it resurrects the idea that hospitality and kindness - not culinary dexterity - are the foundations of a good gathering.
'Lyn Hall's Cookery Course' by Lyn Hall (£25, published by Conran Octopus)
Lyn Hall hosted my engagement party with incredible flair in a tiny one-bedroom flat, proving that you don't need a huge kitchen to throw a successful bash. The "Entertaining" section of her book is concise but offers ruthlessly honest advice and instruction that I've seen nowhere else. Like Trinny and Susannah armed with a rolling pin.
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