Journal

Christmas Gift Guide 2017: Books

1st December 2017

Words: Killian Fox, Adam Park
Photographs: Dan Dennison

Georgian poussin, Japanese whisky, and cooking explained in four key words: the food and drink books we’ve read and loved over the past 12 months, with an emphasis on titles written or recommended by Gannet interviewees. Most are from 2017 but there are a couple of classics here too… (See also: our favourite ingredients and kitchen objects of 2017.)

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat »
This is an extraordinary book which attempts, as Yotam Ottolenghi puts it on the front cover, to “summarize the huge and complex subject of how we should be cooking in just four words”: salt, fat, acid and heat. Whereas most cookbooks tell you what to do, this one tells you why – why you should salt water when cooking beans, or why butter should be cold when you’re making pastry for pie crusts. It’s a great demystifier and has changed the way we think about cooking. For a bit more context, see our recent interview with Samin.

Good Things, Jane Grigson »
We’ve had a lot of love for Jane Grigson in our interviews this year. Tom Jaine and Rachel Roddy both recommended the great English cookery writer’s Vegetable Book, Roger Phillips spoke highly of The Mushroom Feast, and for Diana Henry the cookbook “that’s completely falling apart and keeps losing its cover is Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book. I just love it.” For the purposes of this list, however, we’d like to pick Grigson’s wonderful 1971 book Good Things, a sparkling collection of columns from the Observer Magazine, as recommended by Rory O’Connell, who told us simply: “This is really important.”

The Way of Whisky: A Journey Around Japanese Whisky, Dave Broom »
Dave Broom, who we interviewed earlier this year, is one of our very favourite spirits writers. For this beautifully photographed travelogue, he travels east to Japan and asks “What makes Japanese whisky Japanese?”. The question provokes lucid insights on the approaches to craft and aesthetic in Japanese culture. It’s a funny and informative read, full of character and perfect for anybody with even a passing interest in the subject.

 

Kaukasis, Olia Hercules »
We loved Mamushka, Olia Hercules’s debut cookbook based on her food-filled family life in Ukraine. We love her second book even more. Kaukasis is based on Olia’s travels around Georgia and Azerbaijan, and thanks to the stories and recipes she’s gathered here – savoury peach and tarragon salad, poussin tabaka in blackberry sauce, plum fruit leather – this food-mad region has climbed to the very top of our must-visit list. The writing is warm and vivid and the photography by Elena Heatherwick is extraordinary. Plus, you’ve gotta love a book with a hangover chapter.

Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Tastebuds, Yemisi Aribisala »
We’re big fans of the essayist and food writer Yemisi Aribisala – we ran a Q&A with her earlier in the year – and her book, exploring the cultural politics and erotics of Nigerian cuisine, is terrific. “She’s writing about food in an interesting, new way,” says Zoe Adjonyoh.

Two Kitchens, Rachel Roddy »
Rachel Roddy’s first book Five Quarters, reporting on her culinary adventures in the Testaccio neighbourhood of Rome, was an absolute delight. It’s no surprise that her second cookbook, which extends the focus to her partner’s family home in Sicily, is just as appetising and vividly realised as the first.

Art of the Larder, Claire Thomson »
This endlessly useful book has been on pretty much constant rotation since we picked it up: it’s informative, friendly and – crucially – finds a use for all those odd tins and packets that have sat at the back of your shelf for aeons. It takes a fresh approach to a timeworn idea – dishes from the kitchen cupboard – and is packed with inspiration.

On The Side, Ed Smith »
Ed Smith, who blogs at Rocket & Squash, found a largely ignored niche with his debut cookbook – the humble side dish – and proceeded to fill it with ingenuity and flair. Asma Khan agreed. “This book really appeals to me as he has some inventive and delicious ideas,” she told us, “and I agree that the side orders should be accorded equal status as main dishes.”

The Modern Kitchen, Tim Hayward »
Few people are better qualified to write a book about kitchen objects than Tim Hayward. The author and broadcaster can talk for hours on a single implement, as we discovered recently while interviewing him for The Gannet, but he can also distill his abundant knowledge into an array of entertaining, page-long snippets. This handsomely produced book covers 100 key objects, from lemon squeezers to jelly moulds to springform baking tins, exploring their history, uses and the cultural meanings they’ve taken on over the years.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Zoe Adjonyoh »
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen started life as a pop-up in Hackney before taking root in Brixton, though it still pops up in other venues around London and beyond. Now it’s also the name of an excellent cookbook. It’s no surprise that its author Zoe Adjonyoh studied creative writing before turning her hand to Ghanaian cooking: this book is as much a life story as a recipe collection, delving into her heritage – Zoe was born in London to Ghanaian and Irish parents – with insight and humour.

We also really enjoyed Sabor by Nieves Barragán Mohacho, Feasts by Sabrina Ghayour, The Little Book of Brunch by Sophie Missing and Caroline Craig, Hibiscus by Lopè Ariyo and Chasing the Dram: Finding the Spirit of Whisky by Rachel McCormack. And – if anyone is wondering what to get us for Christmas – we’re looking forward to reading The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones, The Sportsman by Stephen Harris and Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.

And finally…

If you’re looking for “the perfect foodie stocking filler” (the Observer) that’s “perfect for the culinarily curious” (Diana Henry), look no further than The Gannet’s Gastronomic Miscellany by Killian Fox. You can pick up a signed copy right here.

See also: our favourite ingredients and kitchen objects of 2017.

Posted 1st December 2017

In Journal

 

Words: Killian Fox, Adam Park
Photographs: Dan Dennison

More from the Journal

The Restaurant That Wasn’t There & Other News – In this week's online round-up: the best food writing of 2017, the eventful marriage of ham and pineapple, and the lengths restaurants go to impress critics

The Best Food Writing of 2017 – The 25 articles, photo-stories, videos and podcasts that made the strongest impression on us this year

Win A Copy Of The Gannet’s Gastronomic Miscellany – We're giving away five free copies on Twitter right now

The Gannet Q&A: Claire Thomson – The chef & food writer on a high-speed pasta mission in Naples, the electric street food scene in Chengdu and an ingenious use for oyster shells