Food & Drink: The best of the rest: volumes of good cheer

Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater (Michael Joseph, pounds 14.99). Easily my first choice for a simple, good, workable and readable cookery book to give as a present this Christmas. Mr Slater's forceful enthusiasm and lack of affectation (any man who is not afraid to say that bacon sandwiches are best made with 'plastic bread' has my vote) together with his lusty talent for the right, biteable idea ensure this is a book that will neither offend the seasoned cook nor inhibit the nervous novice, although the ideal reader is probably someone in between.

The format is simple: 350 recipes that take up to 30 minutes to make, expounded with directness and the sort of gleeful evocation that makes your stomach rumble. Grilled chicken with muscat wine and thyme, mackerel teriyaki, caramelised onion and parsley frittata: this is, as the title promises, real food, both substantial and satisfying.

Classic Foods of China by Yan-kit So (Macmillan, pounds 25). Yan-kit So's first book won both the Glenfiddich and Andre Simon awards for 1984 and established her as the foremost exponent of Chinese cookery writing in English today. This book, too, provides intensely pleasurable reading - about the history and traditions that have shaped the wide range of Chinese cooking - and offers a radiantly clear guide to the preparation of Chinese food which is at once understandable and inspirational for the Western cook.

Look & Cook series by Anne Willan (Dorling Kindersley, pounds 10.99 each). A new series which sets out to make cooking fear- and failure-free. The six titles in this batch tackle, respectively, Perfect Pasta, Chicken Classics, Meat Classics, Main Dish Vegetables, Chocolate Desserts and Fruit Desserts.

Ms Willan is the founder of the noted Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris and her output so far shows that she is a teacher to be trusted.

There is, surprisingly, a distinct naff tendency evident in the recipes included, particularly in the volumes on desserts (fruit salad served in a scooped-out melon shell, the old Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte) but this is more than outweighed by the careful depiction of technique and procedure. Any of these would be ideal for children eager to learn how to cook on their own.

The Feast of Christmas by Paul Levy (Kyle Cathie, pounds 9.99). The paperback of the Channel 4 series. The origins of what we have come to accept as Christmas traditions are considered in sprightly fashion and distinctly untraditional recipes - Ken Hom's Christmas Roast Duck Peking-Style, Claudia Roden's Moroccan Almond Snake - are offered alongside slightly more familiar fare. What sets it apart, however, is its entertaining historical approach, which snatches the story out from behind each seasonal ingredient.

Jane Grigson's English Food (Ebury Press, pounds 18.99) and The Best of Jane Grigson (Michael Joseph, pounds 18.99). Jane Grigson was working on a new edition of her 1974 title before she died, and the considerably revised and updated English Food, published posthumously, is a poignant reminder of her contribution to the subject. The anthology of her work is a must-buy for those who, inexplicably, do not feel the need to own each of her volumes

individually.

Dining With Proust by Jean-Bernard Naudin, Anne Borrel and Alain Senderens (Ebury Press, pounds 19.99). The great French chef Senderens provides the recipes, Borrel the sometimes precious narrative, and Naudin the grandiose photographs in this handsome coffee-table book, which rather enjoyably (if, at times, somewhat preposterously) luxuriates in the flavours and senses evoked by Proust's work and time. Have lunch with the Duke and Duchess de Guermantes or dinner with Robert de Saint-Loup: the perfect present for those whose tastes are of a literary bent.

Pacifica Blue Plates by Neil Stuart (distributed by the Airlift Book Company, pounds 15.95). Many of the ingredients in this ebullient American book might not be easily available over here, and our climate may not be best suited to the dishes but, for those who like reading cookery books rather than travel brochures (or, indeed, rather than travelling), this is the stuff of sunny escapism. Mr Stuart, a restaurateur in San Diego, has formulated what he names the Pacific Southwest style of cooking, which is roughly one part California, one part Mexico and one part don't-ask eclecticism. Caribbean crabcakes with sweet lime salsa, grilled seafood sausage with roasted garlic butter and grilled beef steak marinated in beer are some of the dishes you just might want to try, all the same. Puddings are excellent.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?