Having lived in England for the past 15 years, I now feel more British than ever (despite being an American from Minnesota). Over the years, I've developed a bit of a taste for British food and drink and I've since become fond of afternoon tea and the joys of sipping a warm cuppa on a grey, drizzly day.
In my pursuit of all things foodie and fabulous, I recently came across the Flavours of England cookbooks, which feature a variety of recipes focusing on English cuisine. Two favourites inlcude Flavours of England: Afternoon Tea and Flavours of England: Suppers & Snacks, both by authors Gilli Davies and Huw Jones.
Flavours of England Suppers & Snacks and Flavours of England: Afternoon Tea by Gilli Davies and Huw Jones, published by GRAFFEG are available from Wordery.
Although I didn't really start appreciating good wine untiI I was in my 30s, I now consider myself to be a bit of an oenophile and I'm always looking to improve my wine knowledge. While in my 20s I was more focused on the quanitity of the wine I was drinking rather than the quality, these days, I'm definitely more focused on finding and appreciating a nice tipple.
As many people know, the wine world has a reputation for being a bit stuffy, so it's great to come across a book that is not only accessible for any wine fan, but is playful in its approach. Big Macs & Burgundy Wine Pairings for the Real World by Vanessa Price with Adam Laukhauf, is focused on the more unusual wine pairings that people likely wouldn't think to pair. From Cheetos paired with Sancerre to Honey Nut Cheerios with Mendoza Chardonnay, Vanessa recommends a variety of weird and wonderful combinations to tantalise the tastebuds.
The key to pairing wine with foods is to get the perfect balance of acid, fat, salts and minerals to unlock the best flavours of both the food and the wine. For more novice wine connoisseurs, Vanessa also provides some helpful tasty tips to get you started on your journey to tasting like a pro.
We think this book is nothing short of genius, and it will certainly give you the ability to impress your friends with your wacky pairings knowledge at your next dinner party!
Big Macs & Burgundy Wine Pairings for the Real World by Vanessa Price and Adam Laukhauf is published by Abrams Books. Available from Amazon.co.uk for £15.39.
The Forest Feast Mediterranean is an absolutely gorgeous cookbook compiled by Forest Feast blogger Erin Gleeson, who is the author, illustrator and photographer behind the book. With its beautiful cover featuring an Italian beach and artistic illustrations of fruits and flora, you know that the contents within are going to be just as alluring.
The cookbook was inspired by Erin’s family’s travels in Europe and the amazing meals they enjoyed while travelling in France, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
The stuff of bucket list dreams, their 3-month travel itinerary chalked up a selection of iconic destinations including: Barcelona, Spain; Antibes, France; Liguria, Italy; Sicily, Italy; Lisbon, Portugal; The Algarve region in Portugal and Madrid, Spain. Of these, I’ve had the fortune of visiting Barcelona, Sicily, Madrid, and The Algarve and I can vouge that the local cuisine in all of these places is superb, so I can understand why Erin felt compelled to capture every tasty morsel to bring a flavour of her adventures back home.
Combining lovely illustrations alongside stunning photos from each of the destinations they visited, it instantly transports you to the Mediterranean. Bursting with more than 100 vegetarian recipes covering everything from small plates to pasta to vegetable sides to drinks and desserts, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Although I enjoy eating meat, I do think it’s important to make an effort to reduce my meat consumption (both for my health and the environment) and this book has given me lots of inspiration on how to jazz up vegetables to create mouth-watering dishes that are both beautiful and delicious. All of the recipes within the book serve 4-6 people (unless otherwise noted), so they are perfect for meals with family or friends.
My favourite food recipes within the book (which to be honest was difficult to choose as I loved pretty much everything), included the Seared Fennel and Clementine Salad, the Winter Caprese salad and the Honey and Balsalmic Green Beans. For drinks, I loved the Grapefruit & Thyme Aperol Spritz and the Lavender Lemonade, both of which would be great on a hot summer’s day (not that we’re going to be having a heatwave anytime soon in November, but hey, we can dream).
This is a fabulous book for those who love travel and Mediterranean cuisine. With its gorgeous pictures and illustrations, it would make a lovely gift any foodie is certain to love.
The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson is published by abrams & chronicle books and is available at Amazon.co.uk (£26.99).
The best cookbooks and cocktail books to give to your favourite foodies this Christmas
For all of the foodies on your list, nothing beats a gorgeous cookbook. We've rounded up our favourite cookbooks that would make the perfect gift for any gourmand.
Season: Big Flavours, Beautiful Food by Nik Sharma
The Cook's Atelier: Recipes, Techniques, and Stories from Our French Cooking School by Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini
Jakarta Bites: Exploring Vibrant Street Food from the Heart of Indonesia by Petty Elliott
Cocktail book review: Bourbon Bartender: 50 Cocktails to Celebrate the American Spirit by Jane Danger, Alla Lapushchik
So, what exactly is bourbon? Bourbon is whiskey produced in the USA that is made from fermented mash of 51% corn, with 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof), stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.
“It’s robust sweetness and underlying bit support a body of invigorating spice, tangy citrus, and energizing bitterness. It’s big bold notes of vanilla, cinnamon and stone fruits eagerly romp with other ingredients. It likes nothing more than to tumble into a glass with a few mixers.”- Clay Risen
Bourbon is the perfect companion for cocktails, whether it be a Southern classic such as the Julep (mint leaves, bourbon, demerara syrup), a Silver Whiskey Sour (bourbon, demerara syrup, lemon juice, orange juice and egg white) or a New York Sour (bourbon, simple syrup, lemon juice and a red wine float made with dry red wine). Being a child of the 80s, I couldn’t help but love the cocktail Guns N Rose (bourbon, apricot brandy, lime juice, orange juice, sparkling rose), which is the ultimate summer cocktail with a kick.
For those who like their cocktails hot, why not give the Minnesota Breakfast a whirl? Given it’s my home state, I’ll certainly be trying this cocktail made with bacon bourbon (yes, that’s a thing), spiced rum, Benedictine, maple syrup (another favourite ingredient), hot water, butter and cinnamon. If that doesn’t warm your cockles, I don’t know what will!
The book has gorgeous cocktail photos throughout alongside fun facts and quotes. I particularly enjoyed these cracking quotes:
Hollywood legend Ava Gardener – “I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.” A pretty decent philosophy in my estimation, with the exception of the cigarette.
Comic W.C. Fields – “Once during Prohibition I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” We can sympathise.
We also liked that the book included recommendations for where to find the best bourbon bars in the States. I’ll be sure to visit the Butcher & the Boar the next time I’m in Minneapolis but sadly, I’ve just missed out on the Whiskey on Ice Festival, which was held in Bloomington, Minnesota on the 21 April.
With a wealth of innovative bourbon recipes, some classic and some new, it’s a must-read book for any bourbon lover.
Bourbon Bartender: 50 Cocktails to Celebrate the American Spirt by Jane Danger, Alla Lapushchik foreword by Clay Risen is published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Available online and at all good bookshops or at Amazon.co.uk for £16.99 (hardcover).
Cooking with Love by Keith Squires
When I was last in the Caribbean on a press trip in Antigua, one of the greatest pleasures was eating freshly caught fish every day, all of which were lovingly prepared in inventive sauces.
So, I was intrigued to read Taste of the French Caribbean by Chef Denis Rosembert, a cookbook which is packed with fish recipes and well-known Caribbean classics - jerk chicken, anyone?
Chef Denis was born in St. Lucia and started his cooking career at the age of 15 as an apprentice at Holiday Inn Hotel in St. Lucia. His head chef saw his potential and recommended that he move to London to further his career, and he was transferred to the Swiss Cottage Holiday Inn in London.
After stints at several restaurants across the UK, he opened his own restaurant Chez Denis, which is now based in Norwich and focuses on the eclectic cuisines of Africa, Europe and Eastern India, which make St Lucian food so unique.
Recipes within the cookbook include soups, fish dishes, meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, sauces and desserts. All of the recipes are fairly simple and easy-to-follow, which is great if you're not a skilled chef! Favourite recipes included:
Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup; Curry & Coconut Soup; Barracuda Cajun Style; and Monkfish Coco.
Be warned though, cooking these recipes will have you yearning to visit the Caribbean! I for one, am already planning my next escape.
Taste of the French Caribbean by Chef Denis is published by Clink Street and is available from Amazon.co.uk (£25.00 for a hardcover).
Buy your copy here:
This Gatsby-esque cocktail book by Salvatore Calabrese, one of London's most respected bartenders, is packed with 249 pages of cocktail delights. From the origins of the term 'cocktail' (named in 1798 in Britain) and later defined in an American publication in 1806), you'll find a wealth of intriguing information on the history of cocktails as well as modern trends.
"A sense of romance and intrigue surrounds the word 'cocktail'. It conjures up images of smoky speakeasies, gangsters and their associates, beautiful women in silk gowns, and gravel-voiced sirens crooning Cole Porter tunes..." - Salvatore Calabrese
From essential ingredients to top tips and techniques, including rules on shaking cocktails (fill 3/4 of the shaker with ice and 'shake it like you mean it' to 'wake up' the drink), it goes beyond the general information found in more mainstream cocktail books.
Interestingly, this book highlights the great bartenders and barflies of years gone by (predictably including Ernest Hemingway and Ian Fleming), both of whom have had a profound effect on the way we drink today.
Each of the 215 cocktail recipes within the book is accompanied by a dazzling image and easy-to-follow instructions, making cocktail making a breeze. Quite simply, it's a sensational book any cocktail aficaniado is certain to appreciate.
This gorgeous cocktail book by Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger & Alla Lapushchik is a must-have for any cocktail lover. Coming in at a weighty 229 pages, it's a hefty book of cocktail fabulousness that would look great either proudly displayed on one's bar or coffee table.
Cuba - A unique cocktail history...
Cuban cocktail culture became stronger after Prohibition in the States in the 1920s, despite the challenges of the broader political and economic difficulties. Today, the cocktail culture remains just as strong, with bartenders taking great pride in their cocktails, many of which have withstood the test of time.
Making your own cocktails at home...
This book shares everything you need to get started making Cuban cocktails at home including: techniques, barware, glassware, ingredients and recipes for syrups and infusions.
All of the recipes are easy-to-follow and include a lovely historical anecdote and beautiful photography, which instantly transports you to Cuba.
Having had the pleasure of visiting Cuba a decade ago, I read the book with great nostalgia, and I am already planning my next visit to this beautiful island! In the meantime, I'll have to make do with enjoying a delicious Hotel Naticonal in my London abode...
A food obsessive and trained cook who started under the tutelage of Clarissa Dickson-Wright, Katriona MacGregor recognised how easily we forget the importance and ease of eating well day-to-day as even she, in the throngs of a full-time job, resorted to ready-made meals.
Her book Healthy Speedy Suppers: Quick, Healthy and Delicious Recipes for Busy People is a collection of recipes that are low in wheat and dairy, focusing on replacing processed carbs for wholemeal where possible. Despite being more healthy, it doesn't make the recipes any less delicious - it simply showcases good quality whole foods that are paired intelligently.
Dishes are categorised into soups and salads, poultry, meat, fish, grains pulses and vegetables, and dips sauces and dressings for easy navigation and for those restless nights where you know what sort of thing you’re hankering for but you need that bit of inspiration. It’s refreshing to flick through a cookbook where everything seems so accessible and un-daunting and it’s even more refreshing to discover that you’re not void of the endless ingredients needed to make it. She advises you stock your cupboards with the staples so that a red lentil and chicken saag, is only three fresh ingredients away.
Recipes span several cuisines and all seasons, touching on such diverse dishes as roast carrot tomato and dill soup, squid and courgette salad with chorizo, pheasant coconut and tamarind curry, one-pot chicken with bacon leeks and peas, venison sausage with kale and red wine, sea bass ceviche with chicory, stir-fried beef with peppers, smoked haddock and gruyère omelette and a broad bean and freekeh risotto.
I recently made the lamb leg with bashed peas and a tomato and mint salsa, a Sunday evening dinner for one, and it just summed the book up for me – quick and easy to cook, full of wholesome ingredients, while still feeling like a treat.
Healthy Speedy Suppers by Katriona MacGregor is published by Nourish, an imprint of Watkins Media Limited, and is available from Amazon.co.uk for £13.51 (hard cover).
Cookbooks and Drinks books
We love cooking and enjoying cocktails and there's nothing better than discovering new recipes, which is why we've rounded up our favourite cookbooks and cocktail books from around the world.