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Essential recipes from Nigel Slater, Claudia Roden and Ottolenghi: the best food books of 2021 | Food

Med: a Cookbook
Claudia Roden
(Ebury, £28)
More than 50 years after her groundbreaking, genre-defining A Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden has produced another triumph that this time travels around the Mediterranean. The most revered of living food writers (by me at least) has relaxed. The recipes are simple and of course immaculate, the writing is effortless. Read and cook from it often. AJ
Buy it for adding to your Claudia Roden collection
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Nigel Slater’s A Cook’s Book. Photograph: PR

A Cook’s Book
Nigel Slater
(4th Estate, £30)
Subtitled The Essential Nigel Slater, this is 500 pages of new and revisited recipes, interwoven with writing that evokes a life’s work. Of course the words are as comforting as the dishes – there’s a definitive roast chicken with roast potatoes and roasting juice. If you were to only have one Nigel Slater cookbook in your life, this is the one. AJ
Buy it for reading aloud to yourself in the kitchen
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Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love
Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi
(Ebury, £25)
In 2020, most of us finally turned to that “one shelf in the pantry”, the one full of overlooked ingredients, and tried to make a meal. The shelves of Yotam Ottolenghi and his test kitchen team, led by Noor Murad, may have been better equipped than most, but in this guide to making the most of what you have, it’s inspiration that shines, rather than reliance on fancy ingredients. HO
Buy it for the tamarind mung beans with turmeric oil; the coconut dream cake people go (coco)nuts for
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The Arabesque Table
Reem Kassis
(Phaidon, £24.95)
The follow-up to her acclaimed debut The Palestinian Table sees US-based writer Reem Kassis deep in research, tracking the food of Arab cultures across countries, communities and history. Structuring the book by ingredients allows her to explore how traditional dishes evolve depending on what was available, and how new, cross-cultural recipes are born of modern tastes, particularly evident in her desserts. HO
Buy it for the many interesting seasonal fatteh – salads based on crisp pitta
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Vietnamese by Uyen Luu.
Vietnamese by Uyen Luu. Photograph: PR

Vietnamese: Simple Vietnamese Food to Cook at Home
Uyen Luu
(Hardie Grant, £22)
“The heart of Vietnamese cooking is … adapting to what is available,” writes Uyen Luu, who moved from Vietnam to London aged five and who has spent years recreating the food of her childhood with western ingredients. Hence the courgette flowers, Jerusalem artichokes and figs that crop up in her brilliant second cookbook, which highlights the simplicity behind Vietnam’s complex flavours. KF
Buy it for a novice cook keen to expand their repertoire
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Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich
(Pavilion, £26)
Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co dreamed of owning a barbecue restaurant long before he and his wife Sarit Packer finally opened their own – Honey & Smoke in central London. Their years of dedicated research across the Middle East spill over into this joyful book, which pays as much attention to grilling vegetables as to meat and fish. Helpfully, each recipe gives instructions for cooking without a barbecue. KF
Buy it for first-time grillers as well as fire-mad dads
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Sicilia
Ben Tish
(Bloomsbury, £26)
In his previous cookbook Moorish, Ben Tish – who runs the acclaimed restaurant Norma in central London – celebrated the north African flavours found in southern European cuisines. Now, in his evocative book on Sicily, he’s quick to locate Arab influences in a dish of sardines stuffed with almonds, anchovies, sultanas and preserved lemons, or arancini yellowed with saffron. His recipes inspired by this great culinary tradition are irresistible. KF
Buy it for anyone craving a bit of kitchen sunshine
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Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from the Eastern Mediterranean
Yasmin Khan
(Bloomsbury, £26)
Recipes can travel with us as well as nourish. In her third book, Yasmin Khan intersperses her takes on classic eastern Mediterranean dishes with personal recollections, musings on the meaning of home and borders, as well as the stories of immigrants, those who chose to make their homes in new lands, and those who had little choice. HO
Buy it for veiled rice, a Turkish wedding dish
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Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them
Dan Saladino
(Jonathan Cape, £25)
The Food Programme’s Saladino investigates endangered foods, whether that’s hong zui numoi, red rice grown in Sichuan, or murnong, a root foraged by Indigenous Australians. His journalist’s nose for a story lifts the book beyond the academic – the chapter on the middle white pig is a compelling strand of human/animal history that zooms from the neolithic era to 2019’s swine fever outbreak. MT-H
Buy it for anyone interested in the importance of food diversity.
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Sugar, I Love You by Ravneet Gill.
Sugar, I Love You by Ravneet Gill. Photograph: PR

Sugar, I Love You
Ravneet Gill
(Pavilion, £20)
Junior Bake Off judge and chef Ravneet Gill has come into her own with this bright and unabashed celebration of sugar. Recipes for “mistake” cake, apple and rosemary tarte tatin, and crunchy chocolate sandwich biscuits are interspersed with snips of useful advice and stories of the kitchens and people that shaped her, including her grandmother. MT-H
Buy it for LPC (Lazy Person’s Cake)
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An A-Z of Pasta
Rachel Roddy
(Fig Tree, £25)
The alphabetic format could so easily have been a gimmick, but in Rachel Roddy’s hands it becomes an inviting and generous way to celebrate the great Italian union of flour and water (or eggs), with all its attendant sauces. Carefully chosen recipes mingle with personal stories, expert tips and forays into gastronomic history, bolstering Roddy’s claim that, “pasta shapes are edible hubs of information”. KF
Buy it for the Italophile in your life
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Taste: My Life Through Food
Stanley Tucci
(Fig Tree, £20)
The actor Stanley Tucci is a famously charming man and in Taste, his belly-led memoir, he has written an utterly charming book. Happily, it is short on actorly anecdote and long on tips and recipes for the rustic pasta dishes that he grew up with as an Italian American in upstate New York, as well as the stories that underpin them. JR
Buy it for pasta lovers
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Bourdain: In Stories
Laurie Woolever
(Bloomsbury, £20)
It’s almost impossible to conceive of the past 20 years of food renaissance without Anthony Bourdain’s brilliant writing and documentary making. Woolever collaborated on his books, was his lieutenant during the later years of his life and since his death in 2018 has compiled the stories of 90 of his friends, colleagues and family. This unique oral history builds to a comprehensive portrait and an important emotional and psychological biography. TH
Buy it for a wannabe chef or writer
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First Put on Your Apron
Sally Clarke
(Sally Clarke Ltd, £30)
A culinary letter from the chef to her son Samuel and a manual for learning to cook and stand on your own feet in the kitchen. A book of food rules to live by: kitchen rules, shopping rules, simple rules such as how to crush garlic, even how to wash up. All recipes are rated according to the level of confidence needed to accomplish it well. AJ
Buy it for someone about to leave home

Chefs at Home
Various
(Jon Croft Editions, £26)
Top chefs share family recipes, many of which sustained them and their loved ones during lockdown. The Ramsays were apparently keen on chicken schnitzel while Paul Ainsworth’s simple cod piperade was his way of helping out local suppliers. All royalties go to Hospitality Action, which supports workers in the industry in need of a helping hand. GG
Buy it for dishes top chefs cook for themselves, as well as the cause
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Sea & Shore by Emily Scott.
Sea & Shore by Emily Scott. Photograph: PR

Sea & Shore: Recipes and Stories from a Kitchen in Cornwall
Emily Scott
(Hardie Grant, £26)
Scott has had quite a year, cooking for world leaders at the G7 summit – Boris, Biden and co had roast turbot – opening an acclaimed new restaurant in Watergate Bay and publishing her first cookbook. Enthralled by Cornish landscape and its produce – there’s a section on beach cooking – Scott leads you through the seasons, her emphasis on ingredients over frippery lending itself to the home cook. GG
Buy it for a kitchen companion to the the recent TV shows about the county
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The Modern Preserver’s Kitchen
Kylee Newton
(Quadrille, £22)
In her second book, New Zealander Kylee Newton presents inventive ways to use up your “condiment ghost town”; that uneaten chutney, or half jar of gherkins at the back of your fridge. Sauerkraut becomes a topping for celeriac and apple soup; tomato chilli jam a marinade for chicken wings; marmalade adds a sweet-bitter edge to steak and mushroom pie. MT-H
Buy it for the Kiwi burger – with pickled beetroot and a fried egg
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Crave
Ed Smith
(Quadrille, £25)
The word “crave” can carry the whiff of junk food devoured in times of stress or sadness. Ed Smith reframes it as the food our body – for any number of reasons – needs and wants. His introduction outlines six main “flavour profiles” we crave, including fresh and fragrant, chilli and heat, cheesy and creamy – and why. These flavour profiles become colour-coded chapters, their recipes precision engineered to hit their mark. Think three citrus salad; sriracha and lemon linguine with chilli pangrattato; cheesy polenta. CF
Buy it for the cook who craves order in the kitchen
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The Sweet Roasting Tin: One Tin Cakes, Cookies & Bakes
Rukmini Iyer
(Square Peg, £18.99)
Rukmini Iyer’s mantra is “minimum effort, maximum return”. The fifth book in her Roasting Tin series, is true to form; the recipes – such as the chocolate salted caramel muffins – are delicious yet unfussy with minimal washing up. Helpfully, at the start of each chapter Iyer sets out a simple template that can be adjusted for the gluten-free, diabetic and vegan. Delicious, and accessible. MT-H
Buy it for beginner bakers
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Chewing the Fat: Tasting Notes from a Greedy Life
Jay Rayner
(Guardian Faber, £6.99)
“The subject of what we eat is not just about how things taste,” writes Jay Rayner in his book of collected Happy Eater columns for OFM, where he demonstrates how wide-ranging food writing can be – from the role of food in post-conflict societies to cooking alone in an increasingly atomised Britain. But there’s plenty here to whet the appetite, beginning with his contention that it’s often the messiest, least Instagram-friendly dishes that satisfy most. KF
Buy it for the most opinionated food lover in your life
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