As we edge ever closer to Christmas, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks published just in time for the festive season. They are penned by a mixture of aspiring chefs and seasoned cookbook writers, packed with gorgeous photos and immensely cravable dishes, so I’ll devote this column to my 10 of my favourites and a very difficult choice that was…


David Tanis’s “Market Cooking. Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient” published by Artisan, is definitely one of my new ‘go to’ books; I find David’s recipes irresistible and simply have to buy every new cookbook he produces. David, who was head chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkley for 25 years is a gifted cook and tantalizingly talented tutor.  He cooks the sort of food that I really love to eat, honest creative and deeply flavourful.

In Market Cooking, David is encouraging those of us who do a weekly supermarket shop to change our ways. Do as he does, and discover the magic of shopping every day at a Farmers Market or a local shop, without fixed ideas, chose the freshest, most beautiful produce and cook it simply- sound familiar…..?

David lives in downtown Manhattan, not far from the Union Square Market in Greenwich Village. I’ve chosen his version of the Roman classic,  Cacio e Pepe, to share with you, it’s one of my favourite pasta dishes of all time.


Who doesn’t love Nigel Slater and his homey comfort food. “The Christmas Chronicles” published by Fourth Estate also gives us a glimpse, in fact more than a glimpse of Nigel’s childlike love of Christmas, frost and tinsel, baubles and plum pudding……love this quince and cardamom mincemeat.


Rick Stein is back on the road again. Many of you will be watching his latest TV series on BBC2, “Road to Mexico” published by BBC Books – get the book too….

Rick has got the uncanny knack of creating dishes that best illustrate a taste of that place, some classics, some with appealing twists on the originals. So many good things,  love the Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado.

Georgia, close to Russia, is high on my “must see” list of countries so I keep a keen eye on Olia Hercules. Her new book “Kaukasis” is enchanting, a journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan and beyond. She’s a born story teller and her recipes are deeply tempting. So difficult to choose ….try this comforting Khingal, one of Olia’s favourites.


“Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love”- what an irresistible title. Giorgio Locatelli, another of my favourite chefs also feels strongly that home cooking is by far the most important type of food. His latest book is packed with lots of Italian influenced gems that you’ll long to cook – Giorgio makes it all sound so effortless but as ever, the magic of simple food is in the quality of the ingredients.


Nigella’s new book, “At My Table”, a celebration of cooking at home, published by Chatto and Windus is another gem, written in beautiful prose by someone who truly loves to cook and has an extraordinary way with words. You’ll love the Beef and Aubergine Fatteh recipe, so fun to share.

Everything Helen James touches is chic, stylish and comforting. She epitomizes sophisticated Irish hygge. Look for her new book “A Sense of Home: Eat – Make – Sleep – Live”….. all kinds of brilliant tips for natural cleaning products, household management tips and inspiration for your own home as well as some recipes you’ll definitely want to try.


Award winning food write and broadcaster Tim Hayward’s “The Modern Kitchen: Objects that Shape the Way We Cook, Eat and Live” is definitely for the food geek in your life. In his latest book Tim features 70 carefully chosen kitchen implements and explores the history, beauty, aesthetics and functionality of each piece. A fresh approach, intriguing entertaining and beautifully written. Published by Quadrille.


“The Gannets Gastronomic Miscellany” by Killian Fox, and published by Mitchell Beazley is a collection of fascinating, funny and unexpected facts about food and drink. Going beyond the usual food fixations, the book is presented in a fresh, visually inventive style that will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in food.


Few outside Caís, the Irish Farmhouse cheese makers association and the cheese industry will know the name Bronwen Percival but cheese-lovers and microbiologists make a note….. Bronwen’s book “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese”, co-authored with Francis Percival is a very important work for all of us who know the value of good dairy and love it. Bronwen is a founder of Microbial and head cheese buyer at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London – a present for the cheese lover in your life.


Giorgio Locatelli’s Carta di muscia with bottarga and lemon

This is one of the shortest recipes in Giorgio’s latest book and one of the most delicious. Carta Musica is crisp, paper thin, Sardinian bread and I always have a couple of packets in the cupboard to make snacks or just nibble. It is particularly sublime paired with bottarga (dried mullet roe). It’s a totally delicious combination.

Serves 6 as a starter

12 carta di musica
120g (4 ¼ oz) bottarga
1 lemon, halved

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Put the sheets of carta di musica one on top of each other on a baking tray and put them into the oven for about 1 minute, until they turn golden in patches.

Remove from the oven and spread out the breads on a large board.

Grate the bottarga over the top and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little olive oil and black pepper.

From Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love” published by Fourth Estate


Rick Stein’s, Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado

serves 4 as a starter

12 x 10cm corn tortillas

250g (9 oz) white crab meat

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 green seranno or jalapeño chillies (seeds in), cut in half and sliced

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 little gem lettuce, finely shredded

2 limes cut into wedges

2 avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced

small handful of coriander, chopped



Warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan, in a microwave or in the oven.

Combine the crabmeat with the mayo.

Pile the crabmeat, chillies, tomatoes and lettuce on to the tortillas and top with lime wedges, slices of avocado and chopped coriander.

Season with salt to taste.

From Rick Stein’s The Road to Mexico published by BBC Books, photography by James Murphy.

David Tanis’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) has lately achieved mythic status, which is a bit surprising considering it’s so basic. You can get it in any restaurant in Rome, but it’s really a home dish. The trick is getting the pasta to finish cooking properly in the creamy sauce, which is just pasta water, butter, and cheese. The more peppery, the better.

Makes 2 servings


Cook  225g ( ½ lb) linguine extra al dente (this is crucial) in well-salted water.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat and add ½  teaspoon coarsely crushed black pepper.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan, along with ½ cup of pasta water and a good pinch of salt.

Stir constantly, keeping the liquid at a rapid simmer; the pasta will begin to wilt in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, add 2 cups grated pecorino, and stir until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

From David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.


Nigella’s Beef and Aubergine Fattah


This is a subtly textured, richly flavoured arrangement of toasted pieces of flatbread topped with meaty aubergine and beef, a garlicky tahini-yogurt sauce, red pepper flakes, pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts and fresh shredded mint. I think of this rather as a refined, Middle-Eastern form of nachos.


Serves 4–6


For the base:

4 (approx. 250g/ 9oz), Pitta breads,  split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles


For the topping:

500g  (18oz) Greek yogurt

5 tablespoons (75g), Tahini, at room temperature

1-2 lemons to give 3 tablespoons of juice

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, to taste


For the aubergine-beef layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small (approx. 125g) onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 (250–300g/ 9oz-11oz) aubergine cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin –

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus more for sprinkling

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

500g (18oz) minced beef  


To sprinkle over:

125g (4½ oz) Pomegranate seeds

50g (2 oz) Pine nuts, toasted

1 tablespoon mint


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.


Spread the pitta triangles out onto a large baking sheet and toast for 10–15 minutes, or until they are crisp. You don’t need them to colour, but if they do just a little here and there, that’s not a bad thing. Set the pitta triangles aside for the moment.


Beat the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes together in a heatproof bowl that will later sit over a saucepan. Taste to see if you want any more salt. Put to one side while you cook the aubergine-beef layer.


Warm the oil in a wide, though not deep, heavy-based saucepan or casserole and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, over a medium/low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and carry on cooking it, still stirring occasionally, until soft and a pale caramel colour. This will take another 4 minutes or so.


Turn the heat up to medium, tumble in the aubergine cubes and stir well to mix with the onion. Stay by the hob as you will need to stir frequently, and cook them for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.


Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each of Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes and, now over a high heat, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour. Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat while you return to the tahini-yogurt sauce.


Pour some just-boiled water into a fresh pan, enough to come about 3cm up the sides, and put over a low heat. Sit the bowl with the tahini-yogurt mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.


Now for the grand assembly: arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large round plate (I use one of about 32cm in diameter). Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yogurt-tahini sauce.

Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper (or paprika, if you’re using that) to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves.


Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

Extracted from AT MY TABLE by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus  Copyright © Nigella Lawson 2017. Photograph copyright © Jonathan Lovekin.


Olia Hercules’s Khingal


We often perceive comfort food as something lovely yet also a little bland, unassuming. It may not blow our minds with flavour, but it gives us that feeling of safe satiety. When I tried khingal in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, it was a complete revelation to me. It did all those things that comfort food does, except it also made my eyes widen as my mouth was filled with firm pasta, crispy aromatic lamb and milky, but also oh so fresh, sauce. And then there is the butter. Pasta, spice, butter, crispy meat bits, yogurt, herbs – this dish has every single component that makes me feel safe and yet also titillates my senses, what I imagine a perfect marriage may be like.


Serves 8 as a starter

1 large egg, lightly beaten

60ml (4 tablespoons) water

200g (7oz) plain flour, plus extra if needed and for dusting

100g (3½oz) clarified butter, or 60g (2¼oz) unsalted butter and

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for cooking the onions

300g (10½oz) coarsely minced lamb

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 onions, thinly sliced

200g (7oz) natural yogurt

1 garlic clove, finely grated

a little milk or water

1 tablespoon chopped coriander

1 tablespoon chopped dill

½ teaspoon ground sumac

sea salt flakes and freshly ground

black pepper

To make the dough, mix the egg and water together in a bowl, then gradually add the flour (stop if the mixture seems to be getting dry) and knead the mixture in the bowl into a dough. You should end up with a firm, elastic pasta dough, so knead in more flour if it feels too wet. Cover it in cling-film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 15–30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F), Gas Mark 3, ready for keeping the lamb and onions warm.


Heat half the Clarified Butter or half the ordinary butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. When really hot, add half the minced lamb – you want the meat to be crispy, so overcrowding the pan is not an option here. Fry it without disturbing it too much until it starts crisping up. Add half the spices and some seasoning and cook for 1 minute, then pop into a heatproof bowl and keep warm in the oven.


Repeat with the second batch of meat.

Don’t wipe out the frying pan but add some more butter or oil and cook the onions gently until they become deep golden and luscious. Be patient – it will be worth it. Season them too and add them to the lamb keeping warm in the oven.


Roll out the pasta, either by hand or using a pasta machine, but not too thin – about 2mm (1/16 inch) thick – as you want a little bit of a bite here. Then cut the pasta into 3cm (11/4-inch) diamonds. You can let them dry out slightly while you rustle up the yogurt sauce.


You can leave this sauce simple – just mix the yogurt with the garlic and a tiny bit of salt, adding a little milk or water to loosen it up. I also like adding the chopped coriander and dill to it, as well as dusting the whole dish with sumac at the end.


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and drop in your pasta diamonds. They will be ready within 2 minutes. Check they are cooked by tasting one when they float to the top.


Drain them quickly and layer with the meat and onions, drizzling over the yogurt sauce as you go.



Tip Sometimes I stir a little bit of brown butter into the yogurt. Don’t judge me.

From Olia Hercules “Kaukasis” published by Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.


Nigel Slater’s Quince and Cardamom Mincemeat (without suet)

I feel a little sorry for those impervious to the charm of a mince pie. I want to offer them something. Calling the recipe that follows ‘mincemeat’  is stretching it a bit, but it still contains the fruits and spices of the original (many early recipes include quince in place of apple), and it smells like the classic as it cooks. But it has another appeal, that of no suet, or indeed fat of any kind. Think of it as Christmas jam. The colour is gold rather than black. It is rather good with cheese too, in the way a slice of Cheshire is good with fruit cake. Oh, and can I suggest grinding the cardamom seeds at the last minute the ready-ground stuff loses all its magic.


Makes3x 400g jars

100g (3½ oz) caster sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

juice of 1 lemon

500g (18oz) quinces

8 pods green cardamom

1  teaspoon mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

200g (7oz) golden sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

200g (7oz) currants

200g (7oz) dried apricots

100g (3½ oz) light muscovado sugar

100ml (3½fl oz) brandy or quince liqueur


You will also need 3x 400g jam jars, sterilised.


Put the caster sugar into a medium-sized saucepan, add the water and bring to the boil.

Pour the lemon juice into the syrup.

Peel the quinces, cut them into quarters, remove the core, then lower them into the pan. As soon as the syrup comes back to the boil, lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan with a lid and leave for forty minutes, or until the quinces are soft but far from collapsing. Take off the heat.


Break open the cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds and crush them quite finely, using a pestle and mortar or spice mill. Put them into a capacious saucepan with the mixed spice and ground cinnamon.

Add the golden sultanas, raisins and currants, then roughly chop the dried apricots and stir them in.

Pour in 400ml of the quince cooking liquor and add the brown sugar. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for twenty minutes.

Cut the quinces into small dice and add to the mincemeat. Pour in the brandy or liqueur, simmer for a further five minutes, then spoon into sterilised jars and seal.

From Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, published by Harper Collins

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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