Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best cookbooks of the year 2014, according to us at Bespoke Menu Design, are packed with this year’s biggest food trends. Emerging from their pages are trendy small eats from the Levant and Middle East to a healthy eating guide for gourmands. The hot baking trend takes a trip around the world, while dude food gets a head-nod with connoisseur comfort foods. And with an especial ingredient focus, two of our best cookbooks of the year big-up modest seasonings: in a kitchen-garden handbook to herbs, and a passionate paean to the chilli.
A selection of our best cookbooks of the year 2014
80 Cakes From Around the World by Claire Clark
Trends: pastry, pudding bars, baking, sugar, indulgence
Incredible international cakes from Claire Clark’s 80 Cakes From Around the World
I can’t believe someone hasn’t thought of this before, as it’s such a simple idea and truly inspirational. Pastry master Claire Clark explores baking traditions from every continent: from France to Ghana and Korea to Lithuania. Her confectionary and cultural journeys relate the cake’s story to its locale and baking lore: how Scotland’s Dundee Cake was confected for Mary Queen of Scots, and how Portugal’s nut-sumptuous Christmas cake migrated from France. Recipes range from the classic to the kooky: a Victoria sponge to a Peruvian sweetshop spectacular. It’s a lovely read, and makes the perfect gift for the ambitious home-baker.
The Herb & Flower Cookbook: Plant, Grow & Eat by Pip McCormac
Trends: seasonality, foraging, grow-your-own
One of our best cookbooks of the year 2014 – Pip McCormac’s beautiful garden compendium
An off-shoot of the “grow-your-own” food trend, edible flowers have been much desired this year. Pip McCormac reverses their relegation from mere garnish, with this kitchen-garden co Middle Eastern, Levantine, North African, small plates, sharing compendium, advocating the ways in which herbs and flora add aromatic and aesthetic substance to almost every meal. This delicately photographed love-song takes the reader on a day-long journey in meals, from morning breakfast to evening liquid refreshments. And features tips on tending to and flavour-matching herbs and British Isles flowers, that you can forage as easily as grow from seed. The rosemary-poached grapefruit looks particularly tempting.
Honeysuckle and blackberry cheesecake – a tempting recipe from Pip McCormac’s The Herb & Flower Cookbook
A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry
Trends: seasonality, light cooking, healthy eating, fusion, 3-4 ingredient dishes
One of the best cookbooks of the year 2014 – Diana Henry’s much-acclaimed A Change of Appetite
In this mash-up of big bursting flavours, every dish looks appealing, and a far cry from punishing health foods that disappoint the tastebuds. Diana Henry presents light, reviving dishes that are a delicate spectacle of colour and geographically eclectic, as her recipes for culinary wellbeing take on the energetic and aromatic foods of countries as diverse as Sweden and Georgia. Guided by the changing of the seasons, these revitalizing recipes let humble vegetables and grain take the lead. Each dish features just three or four primary ingredients, combined to coax out ultimate flavour, colour and simple goodness.
Chilli Notes: Recipes to Warm the Heart (not burn the tongue) by Thomasina Miers
Trends: fusion, East-meets-West, spices
A hot find for our list of best cookbooks of the year 2014 – Thomasina Miers’s Chilli Notes
‘Most people think about chillis in terms of heat and their capacity to blow one’s head off,’ says Miers in her paean to the meager in size but mightily flavoured chilli. Tracing a personal journey that naturally began in Mexico, her recipes traverse the world, demonstrating the sheer scope and versatility of the beloved spice. A primer on the spicy fruit, Chilli Notes shows there’s subtlety as well as taste-bud explosives to be had: ‘pep up a pile of silky aubergines’ or ‘add mysterious tones to molten chocolate’. For all the manifest wanderlust, these dishes are for real home cooking – demonstrated by exhilarating revamps of old favourites like her green-chilli gazpacho, a soothing but lively cleanser.
Cooking for Chaps by Gustav Temple
Trends: Luxe dude food, no-nonsense cooking
Jolly good! A humorous favourite in our list of best cookbooks of the year 2014
If P G Wodehouse had penned a cookbook it might have resembled Cooking for Chaps. Designed with style and delivered with dry wit, it serves up classics of British cooking with mischievous titles such as ‘The Cranachan Awakes’, ‘Game Old Bird’ and ‘Eggs Cumberbatch’. One of the best cookbooks of the year 2014, it’s gratifyingly evocative of a by-gone era, as you’d expect from the chaps at The Chap magazine, with particular attention given to the revival of those neglected “meals between meals”: think elevenses, afternoon tea, high tea and supper. Old favourite fad-free recipes include top-notch scotch eggs, 24-hour roasted cider pork belly (which first caught me eye), bangers in white wine and traditional devilled kidneys.
How do you like your eggs? Brilliantly aristocratic Eggs Cumberbatch
Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich
Trends: Middle Eastern, Levantine, North African, small plates, sharing, spices, slow cooking
A best cookbook of the year 2014 and firm foodie favourite, Honey & Co’s Food From the Middle East
Passion bursts from the pages of the long-awaited cookbook from the bustling Warren-street restaurant Honey & Co. Though taken straight from Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s Middle-Eastern restaurant, these dishes are social and familial, and fit right at home with family or friends. I love this approach to eating, based on 3 or 4 dishes made to share. The book positively encourages a laid-back enthusiasm from the diner – scooping, mopping and picking (often with fingers) to your heart’s content. In its pages, fresh fruit, herbs and vegetables are given the respect traditionally reserved for meat in Western culinary tradition, and it clearly details the accessible (rather than arcane) basics of Middle-Eastern cooking, with super-trendy pickling, preserving, mezze, slow braises and bread.
Duck & Waffle: recipes and stories by Daniel Doherty
Trends: Luxe dude food, fusion
Dude food goes luxe with Daniel Doherty’s Duck & Waffle cookbook
London’s tallest restaurant, at the summit of the Heron Tower in the heart of the City, has vaulting flavour ambitions – perfect for the City Boy with an internationally curious palate. These unapologetic, flavour-loaded recipes denote the City on overdrive: raring dude food with a shot of luxury, like their carpaccio paired with foie gras, beer-soaked chutney, pork-skin quavers with chilli cream cheese, and, of course, the duck and waffle. Head chef Daniel Doherty takes inspiration from around the globe, matching the airport-hopping City set’s tastes. Yet, there’s a particular gastronomic shout-out to the US – known for their penchant for high-end comfort food, Daniel teaches the reader to make indulgent desserts like the cherry-cola float, ice-cream sandwich, and peanut-butter macaroons.
Morito by Sam & Sam Clark
Trends: Middle-Eastern, Levantine, North African, small plates, sharing, spices, slow cooking
A lively pick for best cookbooks of the year 2014 – Morito by Sam and Sam Clark
This book of recipes has all the loud personality you’d expect from Morito, the buzzing Exmouth Market tapas bar and rebellious baby sister to Moro (the older Iberian-North African restaurant just next door). Run by chef couple Sam and Sam Clark, Morito has made its own name for itself, outgrowing its diminutive status and breathing life into these informal and joyous recipes – focusing on small plates for social Middle-Eastern, Levantine, and North African-style eating. I love their inventive seasonal versions of tabbouleh with adaptable ingredients: cauliflower in winter, pomegranate in autumn and cucumber in summer.
Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour
Trends: Middle-Eastern, Levantine, small plates, sharing, spices, slow cooking
A firm favourite on our list of best cookbooks of the year 2014 – Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana, photo credit: Roberta Britta
There is nothing forbiddingly difficult about these on-trend Persia-palate inspired dishes. Ghayour, who runs supper clubs in London, is used to diners’ interest in replicating her dishes at home, and she takes their lifestyles into account – encouraging switching and swapping ingredients for whatever you have in the cupboard. The recipes are modern and accessible without a liturgical list of ingredients that are onerous to find. Persiana expresses the cultural and culinary overlap of the regions near the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and blends traditions in Ghayour’s own playful way. I love her take on English classics, like the “Eastern Mess”: Eaton Mess with a rose-water twist.
A peek at a Persiana recipe – seafood and saffron stew
Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes by Tom Kerridge
Trends: Luxe dude food, modern gastropub, British, indulgence
All smiles – Tom Kerridge delivers fantastic fuss-free food in one of the best cookbooks of the year 2014
Classically trained but down-to-earth, Tom Kerridge elevates pub grub to Michelin standards, meaning the dishes in this no-nonsense cookbook are simple and impossibly well designed. There’s nothing light and frilly about them, with hearty classics like chicken kiev, burnt-onion ketchup, and Mum’s sausage roast. The writing is as no-nonsense as the cooking, with clear and practical instructions, perfect for a new starter in the kitchen. Refreshingly lacking in pretension, Kerrridge’s more-ish recipes for whole satay chicken and sticky drumsticks shout out to get stuck in.