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8 best winter cookbooks for warming, nutritious and delicious meals

In the colder months it can be tempting to fall into a cycle of unimaginative pastas and potatoes, but these recipes show that hearty doesn’t have to mean monotonous

Sophie Gallagher
Tuesday 19 January 2021 14:00 GMT
<p>We tried and tested books from TV chefs, podcasters, columnists and restaurateurs</p>

We tried and tested books from TV chefs, podcasters, columnists and restaurateurs

As the year progresses and the pandemic continues, we’re limited in the ways we can occupy our time and our minds – not least because the dark and cold winter months have drawn in.

One thing we all need to do – regardless of how much time or money we spend doing it – is keep ourselves fed. 

Whether you live alone or are part of a large family, everyone needs to be making nutritious and filling meals at home. Man cannot live by Deliveroo alone.

Winter is a time of hibernation and ingesting carbohydrates that satiate our bodies and our minds. What better way to spend time than by familiarising yourself with new recipes or new ingredients? Especially as it can be easy to slip into a routine of cooking the same things. 

Here we have rounded up a selection of the best winter cookbooks to keep you going through till spring with one-pot pastas, hearty stews, comforting childhood classics and enough baked goods to keep you occupied during yet another long weekend indoors.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we will never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

‘Towpath Recipes and Stories’ by Lori De Mori and Laura Jackson, published by Chelsea Green

Towpath recipes and stories – a book written by the owners of the canalside restaurant in east London – might seem an odd addition to a collection of winter cookbooks, given the restaurant itself is closed annually from November to March. But that is exactly what makes it so perfect. The food is designed to make you feel well-fed and comforted, whatever the weather.

With everything from simple taramasalata to an aubergine parmigiana or french onion soup (delicious – do try it), the strength of the recipes is matched by the eloquence of the writing that accompanies it.

The authors, Laura Jackson and Lori De Mori, are both so enthusiastic about cooking and hosting that it makes you feel enveloped in their passion for the business. They talk candidly about life on the canal throughout the year, from the first signs of spring to the fireworks of November. This is the kind of recipe book you want to snuggle up on the sofa with, as well as use in the kitchen.

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‘Fresh India’ by Meera Sodha, published by Fig Tree

Meera Sodha’s Fresh India isn’t just for accomplished cooks – Sodha, a food columnist at The Guardian, makes meals so accessible that they don’t ever feel a chore. The book is meat-free and uses plenty of store cupboard essentials in addition to fresh ingredients, which is great if you’re struggling to get to the supermarket regularly during lockdown.

Despite being a vegetarian book, meat-eaters will ignore it at their peril. Combining dahls, curries, pickles, breads, samosas and a whole buffet-sized range of foods, Sodha’s recipes can be for both everyday meals and special treats. Our favourite is the cauliflower korma with maharajh rice and mushroom walnut samosas. Or try the sticky mango paneer skewers for a delicious midweek dinner.

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‘Roasting Pan Suppers’ by Rosie Sykes, published by National Trust Books

Winter is the time for one-pot cooking – throwing all the ingredients into the oven and letting it cook while you curl up in front of the TV. But it is easy to constantly use this cooking technique in the same way. Rosie Syke’s Roasting Pan Suppers is the perfect book for helping get you out of a rut while ensuring you end up with a tasty, nourishing feast.

With 70 dishes to choose from, there is everything from simple sausage and beans to pea and artichoke risotto or an easy moussaka. We particularly loved the lamb steaks in mojo verde and roast potatoes – a great Sunday lunch option for when you want to hibernate while the oven warms the house.

Sykes helpfully breaks down the recipes by cooking time – under 30 minutes, under an hour, one hour and over an hour – so you can choose depending on whether you have a whole winter weekend to kill or just want something speedy on a plate after a long day at work.

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‘Ottolenghi Flavour’, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, published by Ebury Press

Best: For meals to impress

This book focuses on the things that bring out the best of a vegetable’s flavour: the cooking process, what you pair it with and knowing when to let it shine alone. And there are lots written about each of those three tactics, as well as on specific ingredients and their nuances. But there’s no reason to get bogged down in the alchemy of it all if you’re solely after hearty and offbeat dishes to help ramp up your veg game – just skip straight to those all-important recipes. Dishes take the form of riffs on classic meals (traybake ragu made with mushrooms, carrots, lentils and grains, and aubergine dumplings alla parmigiana) as well as novel, imagination-sparking plates like melon and mozzarella salad with kasha and curry leaves, and stuffed aubergine in a curry and coconut dal. All have the eyebrow-raising intrigue that we’ve come to expect from this Middle-Eastern chef.

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‘Happy Vegan Comfort Food’ by Karoline Jonsson, published by Pavilion Books

Even having this book on your bookshelf evokes feelings of winter, with the mustard-coloured spine and the inside cover featuring a double page of yellow autumn leaves and wild mushrooms. 

For most meat-eaters or vegetarians, the idea of buying a book specifically designed for vegans may seem strange. But Jonsson, who confesses she was “hungry for [her] first two years as a vegan”, cleverly addresses one of the biggest charges laid against vegan food; that it cannot be as filling as dishes with meat or dairy. 

The recipes featured in the book are all evidence to the contrary. We particularly liked the hearty ribollita, which was thick and warming, as well as the creamy mushrooms (sans cream) in a potato crust.

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‘Table Manners’ by Jessie and Lennie Ware, published by Ebury Press

Following on from the immense success of their Table Manners podcast, mother-daughter duo Jessie (also famous for her award-winning music career) and Lennie have ventured into the world of cookbooks. Their podcast is all about sharing their love of food with other celebrities, and now their kitchen has been immortalised in a book with over 100 recipes.

It’s mostly dishes they’ve served up to podcast guests (see the custard tarts they gave Nigella Lawson), and they are great examples of home cooking. The chapter titles give you an idea of what you’re going to get; effortless, a bit more effort, Chrismukkah and Jewish-ish food are all examples. We love that it feels like being invited round to a friend’s for dinner at a time when that isn’t an option. 

The turkey meatballs are a Friday evening favourite in our home. Need another reason to invest? It has a leopard-print inside cover.

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‘Cook, Eat, Repeat’ by Nigella Lawson, published by Vintage Publishing

Nigella finished her most recent book during the first coronavirus lockdown, so it feels very of the times. As with everything the UK’s own “domestic goddess” cooks, the recipes are simple but accomplished. They don't overwhelm with fussy ingredient lists or complex cooking techniques, but the result is delicious all the same. And a lot of this book is essay-based writing, rather than just lists of meals to cook.

So many of the recipes are perfect for winter – not least when chapter titles range from “a loving defence of brown food” to “Christmas comforts”. We spent a whole rainy weekend cooking things from it – the fish finger bhorta, tuscan bean soup and a melt-in-the-middle banana and chocolate dessert were all perfect for when it’s dark and dreary. This is home cooking at its very best.

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‘Greenfeast, Autumn/Winter’ by Nigel Slater, published by Harper Collins

Nigel Slater’s little orange bible is a homage to vegetables. As more people in Britain eat less meat, we love a cookbook that doesn’t present pages of food only suitable for omnivores. In addition, the tailoring of this Greenfeast for the winter months (there is also a spring/summer edition) means that it’s not just salads on offer – which are not enough to fill anyone up when it gets dark at 4pm.

Nigel organises his chapters according to cooking method (in a pan, on toast, in the oven) and each recipe is accompanied by beautiful photographs. Lots of the dishes focus on three primary ingredients (for example; mushroom, orange and breadcrumbs or parsnips, smoked garlic and feta), which makes them feel achievable on a cold evening when all you want is a warm bowl of food in your hands as soon as possible.

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The verdict: Winter cookbooks

Lori De Mori and Laura Jackson’s Towpath Recipes and Stories wins the best buy award for winter cookbooks because it not only serves up a range of accessible recipes, but you could read it from front to back, never cooking a thing, and still enjoy it. Both of the authors write beautifully, reminding us of the joy food can bring in dark (and cold) times, and reigniting our love for food.

You can also not go wrong with Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat, (there’s a reason she’s earned her crown) or Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast, Autumn/Winter, providing a catalogue of cold weather recipes you’ll want in your back pocket for years to come.

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