As I said in my “Everyday Cookbooks” roundup on Monday, it looks like a fair number of us will be spending more time at home, at least in the first half of 2021 and with more time at home brings
- More meals to cook and
- More time to explore more complex recipes (for adults) or to spend cooking with your kids (if “I don;t have enough time to cook with my kids” is the reason you give yourself, right now you’ve probably got more time on your hands than you know what to do with! So get cooking!).
In today’s post I’m sharing four recently-released books that are what I’d call “specialty” cookbooks – for people interested in a certain niche of recipes – all four very different but with more time, maybe you want to explore something completely different next year?
The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook
Ok, so I know Christmas is over but are you one of those people like me who feels a little melancholy after “the day” is over? Are you also someone who is sad that there are no more seasons of Downton Abbey? With this stunning book by the fabulous Regula Yeewijn, you can relive the magic of the season at Downton all year round. A cookbook and a coffee table book all in one, this “features a collection of traditional British holiday recipes, from appetizers to desserts, that were popular during the Edwardian period.”
In terms of recipes, you’ll find Soups, Fish & Shellfish, Meat, Game & Roasts, Meat Pies & Savory Puddings, Sides & Vegetables, Sauces, Savories (these are like hors d’eouvres), Desserts and Sweets as well as Drinks. Everything you need to recreate a sumptuous Edwardian feast at home!
This meticulously-researched book sets the scene for the era in the Introduction, and throughout as Ysewijn shares stories about British Christmas traditions as well as anecdotes from all seasons of Downton. With gorgeous colour photos of many of the recipes and still photos from the show, this book is just as at home as a fancy coffee table book as it is on the kitchen counter. Recipes are intertwined with quotes from the series and useful information (either historical or practical) about the recipes/ ingredients. This book will appeal to Downton fans but also to those interested in British history and British food – it’s such a treat on so many levels!
Can’t get to your favourite restaurants to enjoy dishes you wouldn’t tackle at home? Cooking Meat: A Butcher’s Guide to Choosing, Buying, Cutting, Cooking and Eating Meat is the perfect addition to your cookbook collection. If you are like me, when you eat out, you choose dishes you wouldn’t normally prepare at home but since many of us can’t eat at restaurants for the forseeable future, we’re having to get satisfy our food cravings ourselves. But what if you’re not that experienced in the kitchen? Or are afraid of ruining an expensive cut of meat? Cooking Meat is for you!
According to the publisher “Inside are more than 120 recipes, from childhood-inspired favorites, like Meatballs, Crispy Baked Chicken Wings, and Memphis-Style Barbecued Side Ribs, to classic comfort food, like Fried Chicken and Steak and Ale Pie, and from elevated cuisine like Duck Confit and international favorites like Lamb Biryani, to simple pared-back dishes like Roasted Fresh Ham. Also included are step-by-step basic butchery techniques, as well as detailed methods for meaty challenges like stuffing your own sausages, cooking a flawless steak, carving poultry, making bacon, and (the number one question a butcher is asked!) roasting the perfect chicken. With a master guide for every common cut of meat, along with the best cooking methods to pair with them (from roasting to braising to grilling to sous viding to pressure cooking), Peter gives you the tools to determine what type of meat you want to cook, and how to get the best results every time.”
With chapters on Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Beef, Game, Offal, Sausages, Charcuterie & Meat Pies, Family Feasts, Side Dishes and Basic Pantry Items you can make yourself (think BBQ sauce, salsas, stocks, marinades), there really is something for everyone, whether you’re carving your first chicken or making your own sausages!
Sanagan (of the famed Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Toronto) makes everything about this book accessible – from his clear, concise writing style to the fabulous images for each recipe, step-by-step photos and diagrams (essential for understanding cuts of meat) as well as useful glossaries of terms you might not be familiar with (do you know your offal?). While it may be a hefty tome of a book (nearly 400 pages), it’s very approachable.
If you’re shopping small and local these days and buying your meat from a butcher instead of a supermarket (and even if you aren’t), this is a fabulous primer to help you choose what to buy and know how to cook it. It will be my reference book for meat going forward. Highly recommended.
Kid in the Kitchen
I’m always on the lookout for great kids’ cookbooks so I was interested to check out Melissa Clark (of Dinner in French)’s latest, Kid in the Kitchen.
From the publisher: “These recipes are fun, insanely delicious, and will help you become a confident cook. There are tons of tips and tweaks, too, so you can cook what you want with what you have. Make amped-up breakfasts, sandwiches that slay, noodles and pasta for every craving, plus sheet pan dinners, mix and match grain bowls and salads, one-pot meals, party classics, and the richest, gooiest desserts. This is the fun, easy way to awesome food. Melissa will explain the most helpful kitchen tools and tips, from the proper way to hold a chef’s knife to why you need a Microplane grater right now. She’ll even clue you in on which recipe rules you can break and how to snap amazing food photos to share!”
Cooking isn’t about getting things perfect – it’s about having fun (and licking the bowl) while you do it!
So says Clark in the introduction – starting out as she means to continue in this fun, practical book full of tasty recipes kids will want to cook! With 10 Tips for How to Cook any Recipe (including Onion and Garlic Prep), The 20 (or So) Tools to Cook Almost Everything, a Kitchen Decoder (glossary) and, yes, even tips for how to Insta Your Dish (!) at the front of the book, kids (and their parents) can tackle the recipes with confidence and knowledge.
Recipes include Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches, Snacks, Noodles & Pasta, Sheet Pan Meals, Grain Bowls and Salads, Fun Food (parties), One-Pot Meals, Breads, Sides and Sugar Time (sweets) so it covers any meal you could possibly think of or want to cook with (or without!) kids!). The layout is bright with lots of white space and easy to follow (recipes have numbered steps). Most recipes fit on one page (or on a double page spread), most recipes have photos to accompany them and there are loads of tips and tricks for success for each recipe (as well as tweaks, ways you can personalise the recipes).
I love this book and how it caters to kids’ tastes – more sophisticated than many people give them credit for – and their skills – kids are so capable if you just give them a chance! Wh can’t kids make Challah from scratch? Or a layered birthday cake? Or a whole roast chicken? Or ramen? This book is full of inspiration for kids and their parents (honestly, it’s food that everyone will enjoy!) and if you’re new to cooking with your kids it will provide an excellent vehicle for you to get started – have your kids choose something they like the look of and then follow Clark’s suggestions of reading the recipe, checking you have all you need (ingredients and equipment) and start with one simple recipe. And go from there. Yes, it takes longer to cook with kids but the more you do it, the more efficient it will be. Teaching kids to be self-sufficient in the kitchen is worth the time it takes in the beginning.
Cooking from Home
Dara Sutin, head of the Cooking from Home team, was my food stylist on In the French kitchen with Kids so I knew that any project she was behind would be meticulously executed, gorgeous and practical. Cooking from Home is all that and more:
100% of all proceeds [from the book] will go to Not9to5, a non-profit organization mobilizing mental health and substance use resources for hospitality, food and beverage industries.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Sutin, like many food creatives, suddenly found herself with a lot of time on her hands and, like many of us, threw herself into cooking and baking. As she says in her introduction, “The pandemic had swirled up an entire online community of food-lovers, uniting over the comforts of cooking and baking through online tutorials and recipe swaps. In a unique way, the many months at home forced even the hardest skeptics to try their hands at a new skill, giving rise to cooking as a form of therapy during an increasingly stressful time.”
Sutin finds cooking both soothing and distracting (qualities we all need in a hobby these days!) but also points out that in times of crisis, it’s incredibly important to look after your physical and mental health, especially if your job has been affected by said crisis (the entire hospitality industry). Over the course of a few months, Sutin gathered over 30 recipes from talented chefs and food writers and compiled them into one gorgeous e-book (apparently hard copies coming soon!).
“There are recipes for every moment and every mood. Celebrating an isolation birthday? There’s a decadent chocolate cake for that. Feeling overwhelmed and tired? Try your hand at a comforting soup. Filled with classics and recipes to inspire, we’ve got you covered.”
If you’re purchasing Cooking from Home, you’re not only doing yourself some good but helping Not 9 to 5, a non-profit providing education and support for mental health and substance abuse in the food and hospitality industries, which will according to Sutin “build a stronger community of human connection and support in an industry that feeds us all. “
This is a gorgeous book with both illustrations and photos and includes useful information about how to stock your pantry (during a pandemic and otherwise!), information about measurements and how to chop certain foods – all laid out in an accessible format that’s easy to follow. Chapters include recipes for Snacks, Versatile Veggies, Meat & Fish and Sweet Endings and contributors include chefs, food writers, caterers, food stylists, food educators, recipe developers and more. It’s your chance to cook restaurant style food at home and do some good at the same time.
A wonderful, bright spot in what was otherwise a pretty awful year, Cooking from Home is a fabulous snapshot of a moment in time many will want to forget but many will choose to remember as a time when everyone came together to help each other out.
Buy Cooking from Home here.
What about you – what new cookbooks are you drawing inspiration from?
Disclosure: I received copies of The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook, Cooking Meat and Kid in the Kitchen for review purposes from the publishers. I purchased Cooking from Home for myself. I was not asked to write about these books and am not being compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own
Please note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This post also contains affiliate links from The Book Depository. This means that if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!
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