Our top 10 suggestions for Christmas reads

Monday, November 26th, 2007

It’s nearly Christmas – and that means the publication of a plethora of new cookbooks as well as the resurfacing of a few old favourites.

Whether it’s the memoirs of bad-boy chefs dragging themselves up by the bootstrings from poverty and disfunctional families to greatness, the latest in chic cookboks or foodie fads, observations of the British over their lunch or an in-depth examination of a particular cuisine, there’s something here for every cook and food fan.

These titles are brought to you courtesy of Foyles Bookshop, which is offering online discounts on many titles as well as free post and packing on all UK orders over £10. See each entry for details.

  • Playing with Fire – Gordon Ramsay. Here it is from the horse’s mouth: “In the beginning there was nothing. Not a sausage – penniless, broke, fucking nothing – and although, at a certain age, that didn’t matter hugely, there came a time when hand-me-downs, cast-offs and football boots of odd sizes all pointed to a problem that seemed to have afflicted me, my mum, my sisters, Ronnie and the whole lot of us. It was as though we had been dealt the ‘all-time dysfunctional’ poker hand. I wish I could say that, from this point on, the penny dropped and I decided to do something about it, but it wasn’t like that. It would take years before the lessons of life, business and money began to click into place – before, as they say, I had a pot to piss in. This is the story of how those lessons were learned.” Priced at £14.43, a saving of £4.56.
  • Nigella Express – Nigella and her style of cookery have earned a special place in our lives, symbolising all that is best, most pleasurable, most hands-on and least fussy about good food. But that doesn’t mean she wants us to spend hours in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove. Featuring fabulous fast foods, ingenious short cuts, terrific time-saving ideas, effortless entertaining and easy, delicious meals. Priced at £15 – a saving of £10.
  • White Slave: The Autobiography – Marco Pierre White. He survived the intense pressure of hundred-hour weeks, developed his own style and struck out on his own. At Harveys in Wandsworth, which he opened in 1987, he developed a reputation as a stunning cook and a rock ‘n’ roll sex god of the kitchen. But he was also a man who might throw you out of his restaurant, and his temper was legendary, as younger chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal would find out when they worked for him. Read the full story, in his own words. Priced at £15.20, a saving of £4.80.
  • The River Cottage Fish Book – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher. More than just a cookbook, this beautifully produced volume in three parts promotes a total understanding of British fish, from their natural habitats to what sauce they go best with to how to respect their seasonality, in keeping with the River Cottage ethos. Priced at £25.50, a saving of £4.50.
  • Time to Eat – Gary Rhodes. This book is organised on the basis that you need to know roughly how long a meal takes to cook before you start preparing it. The recipes at the beginning are the ones you’ll knock together in a few moments. The deeper into the book you get, the more time-consuming they become. Priced at £19, a saving of £6.
  • The Moro Cookbook – Samantha Clark, Samuel Clark and Pia Tryde (photographs). The Moro restaurant was born out of a desire to cook within the wonderful tradition of Mediterranean food, and to explore exotic flavours little known in the UK. It is one of the most talked-about books of recent years, of which Nigella Lawson said ‘This is the book I’ve been waiting for.’ Priced at £11.40, a saving of £3.60.
  • Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen – Julie Powell. This has become a cult classic of food writing. Pushing thirty, living in a rundown apartment in Queens and working at a dead-end secretarial job, Julie Powell is, in a word, stuck. In her desperate search for an escape, she comes up instead with The Project – a deranged assignment, to take her mother’s dog-eared copy of Julia Child’s 1961 classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and cook all 524 recipes. Priced at £10.99, free post and packing in the UK.
  • Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser. A meticulously-researched and brilliantly-written polemic against the fast-food industry and the far-reaching effects it has on all aspects of society. Schlosser makes a case that is impossible to ignore and difficult to refute; the conclusion after reading this is that eating fast food is simply unconscionable. But can we rise to his challenge? Priced at £6.83, a saving of £2.16.
  • Eating for England – Nigel Slater. Food is something that was once never discussed in polite company, but now we are now obsessed with it. This is an entertaining, detailed and somewhat tongue-in-cheek observation of our food, our cooking, our eating and how we behave in restaurants. Priced at £12.91 – a saving of £4.08.
  • You Are What You Eat – Gillian McKeith. The author brings together the advice and the real-life stories from her prime-time Channel 4 television series to create a 10-step diet makeover for all. Priced at £11.39, a saving of £3.60.

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