Weighty matters: The best of this season's cookbooks

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The Big Fat Duck Cookbook

Chef: Heston Blumenthal
Price: £100 (Bloomsbury)
Weight: 10lb 14oz (4.94kg)
Value: £9.12 per lb (£20.24 per kg)

It's not just a cookbook. It's not just an art book. It's not just a record of the most innovative and exhilarating self-taught chef to have ever come from the UK. The Big Fat Duck Cookbook transcends all others because Heston Blumenthal transcends all others. Like him, it is curious, inspired, visionary, equally enabled by art and by science. A true original

Try this at home: Snail porridge, then chocolate wine – if you've a dehydrator, vacuum pump, Pacojet and centrifuge to hand

Verdict: The cookbook will never be the same again

A Day at El Bulli

Chef: Ferran Adrià
Price: £29.95 (Phaidon Press)
Weight: 6lb 15oz (3.15kg)
Value: £4.32 per lb (£9.52 per kg)

The greatest chef on the planet gets up, goes to work, turns savoury foam into Parmesan marshmallows, squirts soy spaghettini from a syringe, creates edible paper from hibiscus, blackcurrant and eucalyptus, feeds 52 people a dinner of 32 different courses, then goes home to bed. All in a day's work

Try this at home: Monkfish liver fondue with ponzu and white sesame-flavoured kumquat. I am joking, of course

Verdict: Won't help you cook a Saturday night's dinner party. Will help with the conversation

Byron: Cooking and Eating

Chef: Steven Snow
Price: £25 (Murdoch Books)
Weight: 3lb 14oz (1.7kg)
Value: £6.40 per lb (£14.70 per kg)

When he's not surfing, diving for abalone or standing on his head (yoga, apparently), hippy-go-lucky Aussie chef Steve Snow creates his own sunny brand of coastal cuisine with techniques and flavours pinched from all corner of the globe.

Try this at home: Pork, prawn and green mango salad

Verdict: The perfect antidote to a winter recession

The Complete Joël Robuchon

Chef: Joël Robuchon
Price: £25 (Grub Street)
Weight: 4lb 3oz (1.93kg)
Value: £5.97 per lb (£12.95 per kg)

The rest of the gastronomic world may play with nitrogen gas or conduct jolly television cook-alongs, but France's Joël Robuchon quietly issues a back-to-basics collection of 800 recipes for the home kitchen. No pictures, no gimmicks, just precise step-by-step instruction from a perfectionist chef. The man either has no imagination, or is the one, true sensible chef left on the planet

Try this at home: The perfect omelette

Verdict: Encyclopedia Gallictica

Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey

Chef: Greg Malouf
Price: £30 (Quadrille)
Weight: 4lb 6oz (2 kg)
Value: £6.85 per lb (£15 per kg)

Driven by his Lebanese roots, Melbourne-born Greg Malouf demystified Moorish and Middle Eastern cooking for a generation of Australians. Now he and writing partner Lucy Malouf turn to the rich but relatively unknown food of Turkey. This is more than a pretty travel guide – the recipes are just too do-able to be left sitting on the coffee table

Try this at home: Spicy liver kebabs with onion and sumac salad

Verdict: Makes up for having to cancel your holidays

The Clatter of Forks and Spoons

Chef: Richard Corrigan
Price: £25 (Fourth Estate)
Weight: 3lb 7oz (1.55kg)
Price per lb: £7.27 per lb (£16.12 per kg)

Like every Irishman, Corrigan's life could be a novel – "It was tough growing up one of seven children in the middle of bog land in County Meath, we didn't have the cash for electricity, but no one went short of anything." Instead, it's a cookbook, and a lovely one at that, with seasonal recipes culled from his childhood and London's famous Bentley's Seafood Bar & Grill

Try this at home: Roast wild duck with beetroot, toffee apple and pecan tart

Verdict: As the author says, "Not fancy food, just food that makes you want to eat it"

Alinea

Chef: Grant Achatz
Price: £35 (Ten Speed Press)
Weight: 6lb 10oz (3kg)
Value: £5.28 per lb (£11.66 per kg)

Named the most outstanding chef in the US in 2008 by the James Beard Foundation, Chicago-based Achatz's painstakingly innovative cooking (in spite of an ongoing battle with tongue cancer) has him ranked up there with Blumenthal and Adrià. Interesting, but I can't help thinking everything would taste better without all the Ultra-Tex 3, trimoline and xanthum gum

Try this at home: "Cold potato, hot potato": a hot potato, cube of butter, piece of Parmesan and slice of truffle suspended on a metal skewer over a paraffin bowl of chilled potato soup

Verdict: Great text for A-level science

Nigella Christmas

Chef: Nigella Lawson
Price: £25 (Chatto & Windus)
Weight: 1.75kg (3lb 14oz)
Value: £6.45 per lb (£14.28 per kg)

It was never going to be a demure, subdued affair, but even so, be prepared for rich slatherings of charm, seduction and royal icing as Nigella does Christmas – and Christmas lies back and laps it up. Her stockings are crammed full of glam festive recipes with a twist, gift-wrapped with generous, lively prose and gaily be-ribboned with kitsch-en tips

Try this at home: Wearing a fetching pair of reindeer antlers while reclining on a couch with a bowl of soup

Verdict: Carry on Christmas

Ripailles

Chef: Stéphane Reynaud
Price: £25 (Murdoch Books)
Weight: 4lb 15oz (2.24kg)
Value: £5.06 per lb (£11.16 per kg)

This is food that goes with red-checked tablecloths, lots of wine and drinking songs. Pig's cheeks and beans, andouillette sausages, tête de veau and tripe mingle with portraits of butchers, bakers, sausage-makers and wine-makers in an appropriately fat book stuffed with humour, charm and lots and lots of pork fat

Try this at home: Terrine de campagne

Verdict: For those with a big heart – and stomach, liver, snout and trotters

365

Chef: Gary Rhodes
Price: £25 (Michael Joseph)
Weight: 3lb 11oz (1.67 kg)
Value: £6.77 per lb (£14.97 per kg)

"One year. One Book. One simple recipe for every day" is a great idea. So why didn't they do it? Instead, 365 is conventionally grouped in chapters titled "Midweek lunch", "Afternoon tea", "Weekend eating" and so on, just like any other book. Recipes range from the useful (hot chocolate fondant) to the slightly dippy (mussels with Gorgonzola, grilled steak with prawn cocktail)

Try this at home: Black pudding with blue cheese, celery and apple

Verdict: Good for about 123 days of the 365

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