with chef's cookery books and
television-related titles, all seemingly selling like hot cakes. Recipes are returning to full-bodied flavours, while influences from around the world are being subverted into delicious new dishes. And photography is losing its soft focus in favour of vibrant realism. In other words, you may find it difficult to resist so many wonderful new books.
Delia's How to Cook, Book One
by Delia Smith
BBC Books, pounds 16.99.
Even if you never watch television, you cannot fail to notice the towering white piles of Delia Smith's latest book. It is a Nineties version of her Complete Cookery Course and leads the reader gently through the pleasures of cooking with different staple ingredients such as eggs, potatoes and rice. The recipes are surprisingly homely: for example, green parsley mash, pork sausages braised in cider with apples and juniper, and fresh coconut layer cake. All Smith's fans will want to buy this book. After all, everyone will soon be talking about their problems with toast now that Delia has admitted to cutting wonky slices of bread that burn in the toaster.
Gammon & Spinach
by Simon Hopkinson
Macmillan, pounds 25
Anyone who has ever cooked one of Simon Hopkinson's recipes will know that his food tastes gorgeous. It might be a simple fennel salad with lemon and olive oil, or a time-consuming Provencal fish soup, but it is always worth the effort. This latest book is a compilation of his favourite recipes from the pages of this magazine. It is supremely confident, bursting with enthusiasm for subjects that have become politically incorrect with more squeamish food writers. Only he vividly evokes the pleasures and horrors of jugged hare, or explains how to skin a freshly killed eel for Anguille au Vert. He dedicates a chapter to potted and cured meats, another to preserved fish, and yet another to offal. The more you look, the more you will find you want to cook. It is definitely going to be a splattered, battered but much-loved kitchen book.
How to Eat: the pleasures and principles of good food
by Nigella Lawson
Chatto & Windus, pounds 25
Lawson's first book is elegant, amusing, personal and very Vogue. In theory, it is divided into various culinary occasions such as Weekend Lunch, Dinner and Feeding Babies & Small Children, but you soon find yourself pleasantly lost in Lawson's world. The recipes are modern and sophisticated - quince poached in muscat, tarragon French roast chicken or Proust's madeleines - although you will also find Marmite sandwiches and fairy cakes in the children's section.
Easy Family Dishes: a memoir with recipes
by Ken Hom
BBC Books, pounds 17.99
This is not a typical Chinese cookery book. There are no glossy pages, no photographs of fabulous finished dishes and no menus for Chinese banquets. It is based around Ken Hom's memories of growing up in poverty in Chicago in the Fifties and Sixties and makes fascinating reading. He examines the evolution of immigrant Cantonese cooking in America at the same time as giving the reader dozens of tempting recipes: chopped pigeon in lettuce leaves, for example, and pork dumplings and lemon chicken. His recipes are based on the everyday cooking of his mother and neighbours as well as the local restaurants he worked for and ate in. His instructions are so clear and reassuring that one immediately feels like setting to in the kitchen. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
by Madhur Jaffrey
Ebury Press, pounds 25
Fifteen years ago, Madhur Jaffrey rescued vegetarians from a depressing diet of mung beans with her book Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. This latest book has nearly 600 pages of closely printed type and is packed with information. The recipes cover everything from risi e bisi (risotto with peas) to banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes). That said, it is not a book you can easily dip into; its denseness somehow makes it difficult to skim for ideas. You really need to sit down and study it to understand its potential for enlivening your diet. Judging, though, from the recipe for cauliflower stir-fried with ginger and coriander that I tried, your efforts will be well rewarded.
by Donna Hay
Merehurst, pounds 14.99
Donna Hay is a contributing food editor for Australian Marie Claire and has only recently published her first book, The New Cook, in Britain. This second title is published in the same well-designed, glossy paperback format, with the same scrumptious Pacific rim recipes. Each chapter begins with the basics, followed by recipes, before giving some aspirational menu suggestions such as "picnic at the polo for eight", or "the boss's dinner for six". Despite the fact that I know I am not going to make dim sum for six or give a coffee party for 12, I love this book. The photographs are stunning, the recipes all look delicious and you can indulge in true culinary escapism.
Paul Heathcote's Rhubarb & Black Pudding
by Matthew Fort
Fourth Estate, pounds 20
Chef's cookery books are appearing by the truck-load in shops. Most are co-written and concentrate on the personality or philosophy of the chef. Rhubarb and Black Pudding, however, bucks the trend. It was conceived as a partnership between Heathcote and the writer Matthew Fort, both of whom have strong links with the Ribble Valley, home to Heathcote's cooking. The book is divided into the four seasons; Fort introduces each section with descriptions of local life and profiles of various food producers before Heathcote follows with his tempting modern British recipes. Although these are presented simply, they do require a certain amount of culinary knowledge. "Roast saddle of rabbit filled with herbs and wild mushrooms, with fondant potatoes, glazed carrots and red wine and mustard sauce" is more likely to be cooked for a dinner party than supper, but what a glorious dinner.
Nigel Slater's Real Food
by Nigel Slater
Fourth Estate, pounds 18.99
Gloomy, depressed friends should be given a copy of Nigel Slater's latest book. Written to accompany his television series of the same name, it has a slightly different tone from his other books in that the spoken voice is a little more apparent, but these recipes are the ultimate in comfort food. Each chapter accompanies one of the programmes - for example, Sausages, Chicken or Ice-Cream, but contains far more recipes than were seen on TV. Thus, under Garlic, you might find crisp fish with garlic, chilli and basil, or a flageolet salad, as well as the Sugar Club chef Peter Gordon's grilled scallops with sweet chilli sauce. And Slater thinks nothing of including recipes for chocolate cornflake cakes alongside white chocolate cardamom mousse. All look simple to make and will appeal to every level of culinary abilityReuse content