17 recipe books to satisfy your culinary curiosity

2020 has been the year that many of us have spent more time in our kitchens than ever before. Whether it was bread baking or pasta making, being stuck at home has awoken a new interest in cooking for a lot of people and ignited a renewed passion for food. If you’re looking to start or continue your culinary journey, you might want to pick up an exciting new cookery book… but with so many on the shelves, deciding which to buy can seem an overwhelming task. From books that transport you to another country, to books that encourage you to try new flavours or ways of eating, here are 15 cookery books to help you feel inspired.

Credited with putting Middle Eastern food firmly on the map, chef Yotam Ottolenghi may have made a name for himself creating deliciously complex dishes, but, as the title suggests, his latest book is all about simplicity. Featuring 130 new dishes, SIMPLE is packed full of inventive, flavoursome, yet hassle-free meals that will entice you into the kitchen. Bursting with beautiful photos, this veg-focused book features dishes like pasta with pecorino and pistachios, lamb with almonds and orange blossom, and baked rice with tomato confit and garlic. Just a quick skim through these glossy pages will show you why SIMPLE is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller.

If you like the idea of baking but are put off by the amount of ingredients you often need, Three Ingredient Baking is the book you’ve been waiting for. As the title suggests, each recipe in this book uses only three ingredients, making baking simpler than most of us ever thought it could be. From decadent desserts like dark chocolate and coconut Bounty bars, and Oreo fudge brownies, and fluffy scones and pastries that are perfect for afternoon tea, this book shows you how to make indulgent treats that are deceptively simple. Plus, there are plenty of savoury bakes and tasty bread recipes in here too. Because the recipes are so simple, they’re just as perfect for kids as they are for adults.

Few people don’t like Italian food – or visiting Italy – and if you were one of the millions of people who watched Jamie Oliver’s Channel 4 series Jamie Cooks Italy, this book is for you. In classic Jamie style, recipes are easy to follow, big on flavour and comfort, and will give you plenty of ideas for what to cook next time you have friends or family over (though there are lots of quick and easy meals that are perfect for one person, too). There’s plenty of pasta, of course, but there are also lots of other more unusual Italian dishes you might not be so familiar with. From mushroom bread soup to pot roast cauliflower and fennel roasted sea bass, you’ll be cooking up a storm in no time.

Fitness coach and TV presenter Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach) made a name for himself during lockdown with his online PE lessons for kids – but it isn’t just exercise he’s knowledgeable about. Joe’s 30-Minute Meals is a great-looking book that’ll show you how quick and easy cooking a delicious, yet healthy meal can be. The fitness angle is evident throughout the book (there are ‘carb-refuel’ meals for when you’ve worked out, and reduced carb meals for when you haven’t), so it’s ideal for anyone who’s trying to improve their fitness or lose weight. Recipes include things like bang bang chicken stir-fry or sausage and mushroom pie – this is quick, fuss-free food that makes you feel good.

If you want to get more creative in the kitchen, then Jesse Dunford Woods’ Modern British Food might be the cookbook you’re looking for. This is – according to Wood – iconic British fare that’s been tweaked – or in some cases, totally reinvented. From adding cream to scrambled eggs to squeezing citrus over halibut, this book is packed full of interesting ways to add a tasty twist to classic British dishes. There are plenty of innovative desserts, too (e.g. a black pudding made from chocolate!) and the tone of the book is funny and flippant. If you’re a fan of traditional pub grub but also like to put a new spin on your food, this book ticks both boxes.

If you’re not used to cooking with lots of spices, Indian cooking can sometimes seem a bit daunting – but it doesn’t have to be. In Masala, UK food writer Mallika Basu aims to make Indian cooking accessible, and using smart shortcuts and easy swaps, she thoroughly modernises this beloved exotic cuisine. There are plenty of easy ideas for weekday dinners, like mild fish curry, as well as exciting twists for the weekend, like spicy marinades to add to your roast dinner, or masala scrambled eggs with kale – a unique and tasty brunch. If you’ve ever wanted to cook wholesome, authentic Indian food quickly and easily, Masala will show you how.

The rise of the plant-based movement has been impossible to ignore, and Ella Mills (aka Deliciously Ella) has been at the forefront of it. This book isn’t just a Sunday Times bestseller – it’s also the fastest selling vegan cookbook of all time, and for good reason. Whether you’re thinking about moving towards a vegan diet or just want to cut down on the amount of animal products you eat, The Plant-Based Cookbook is packed with recipes that show you how versatile and indulgent vegan food can be. Brunch ideas include corn fritters with smoky beans and avocado mash, an aromatic Sri Lankan curry is the perfect winter warmer, and the fudgy brownies and almond Victoria cake will delight those with a sweet tooth. Using simple, nourishing ingredients, this book will change the way you view plant-based food.

Leafing through the pages of Home Cook is like taking a round-the-world trip from the comfort of your home. As the founder of Mexican chain Wahaca, Thomasina Miers is full of imaginative cooking ideas, and Home Cook features the best of them, drawing inspiration from Vietnam, the Middle East and Japan as well as Mexico. From an impressive seafood paella and Mexican crab mayo to home comforts like marmalade and poppy-seed muffins, this is a book with a recipe to suit everyone. There are also plenty of tips and tricks on how to make a Sunday roast the easy way, how to cook the perfect poached egg, and how to knock up super quick shortcrust pastry. Handily, each recipe includes a follow-up idea so you can make sure all remaining ingredients or sauces get used up.

Traditional Cooking of Ireland is a pure celebration of Irish customs and culture, and its 150+ recipes capture the unique flavours of Irish cooking. Beginning by tracing the history of Ireland over the past 9,000 years, this excellent book has chapters on dinners, soups, starters, meat, fish, vegetables and baking – it’s a bit of everything, and you may find you want to make it all! Starters include smoked salmon with potato cakes and Dublin Bay prawns in garlic butter, mains include seafood pie and beef and Guinness casserole, and desserts include Irish whiskey trifle. Containing lots of fascinating folklore and history as well as mouthwatering recipes, this is the ideal cookbook for anyone longing to visit the Emerald Isle right now.

Food has the power to transport you to a different time and place, and few books celebrate this more than How To Eat A Peach. More than a mere cookbook, this is also an evocative collection of recipes that paint a compelling picture of the author’s life. Since she was young, Diana Henry kept a menu notebook, and this book compiles the best of them. Curling up with How To Eat A Peach will send you to places you’ve never been, encourage you to celebrate the changing seasons, and spark cooking inspiration in an entirely unique way. Recipes include asparagus, peas and radishes with pistachio pesto for a starter, a crab, tomato and saffron tart for a main, and gooseberry and almond cake with lemon thyme syrup. A wonderfully nostalgic and beautifully written piece of food writing.

Nadiya Hussein has been very busy ever since she won The Great British Bake Off back in 2015. If you watched her BBC TV series, you might be interested in this follow-up book, which is packed with comforting dishes that will please every palate. There are chapters on quick dinners for tired nights, dishes that are designed to impress, and of course, a dedicated cake section. Expect fusion dishes like halloumi curry with coconut sambal, smoky spinach shakshuka, and grapefruit chicken stew, and also plenty of decadent desserts, including a mouthwatering peanut honeycomb banana cake.

If you love Spanish food – or dream of enjoying tapas on a sultry Spanish evening – then Sabor, the new book by renowned Spanish chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho, will help you recreate some of Spain’s most iconic dishes at home. As the chef behind upscale London restaurants Sabor and Barrafina, Mohacho knows how to knock up dishes that impress, but Sabor is more about the food she likes to cook at home – the simple but delicious food she grew up eating. Featuring dishes like Catalan cod salad, Arroz con Leche, and stuffed piquillo peppers, there’s something for everyone in this book – and, as winter draws in, there are plenty of dishes that will make those chilly UK nights seem a little warmer and that bit more exotic.

French food may not be as universally talked about as it’s been in the past, but this book will make you wonder why. In French Country Cooking, Mimi Thorisson winds back time with her charmingly traditional rustic French meals – and as a restaurateur who lives in a remote French village, she certainly knows her stuff. This is more than just a collection of recipes, this book is also an ode to the eccentric characters who inspire some of the featured dishes, and a celebration of a relatively untouched corner of France. Packed with gorgeous photos taken by Mimi’s husband, recipes include white asparagus soufflé, wine harvest pot au feu, salted butter chocolate cake, and plenty of quiches.

If you’re a bit of a perfectionist and always want to make sure you’re making the ‘best’ version of a dish, Completely Perfect is for you. Over the years journalist Felicity Cloake has tried and tested thousands of recipes, from Nigella to Delia to Heston, to see which version is truly the best, and in this book she collates the perfect version of hundreds of classic recipes. If you’ve ever wanted to know the secret of the perfect poached egg, wondered if washing mushrooms spoils them, or wished you could bake chocolate brownies that are perfectly squidgy, this book is for you.

Many of us are aware that we should try to eat more sustainably – but not all of us are aware exactly how we can do this. Eat Happy is focused on eliminating food waste and encouraging ingredient swaps to use up whatever food you have left in the house – all while never compromising on comfort and indulgence. Recipes take inspiration from all over the world (e.g. Tuscan bean soup with parmesan bites) but ingredients are simple, easy to find and inexpensive. There are chapters on hearty, healthy breakfasts, party food, snacks and baking. And with specific sections on batch cooking and how to cut down on food waste, you’ll learn plenty along the way.

If baking is the area of cooking you’re most interested in, you might want to check out Flour Water Salt Yeast, which is written by arguably the US’s most celebrated baker. This New York Times Bestselling book is packed with mouthwatering baking recipes, and there’s something for every skill level and schedule. Whether you want to bake artisan bread that’s beautifully crispy on the outside and soft and supple on the inside, or want to make pizza dough that’s the perfect firmness, this book will show you how. Featuring lots of accessible explanations of baking tools and techniques, Flour Water Salt Yeast demystifies the baking process and allows you to take your baking to the next level.

Jetting off to the sun soaked Caribbean may not be possible for many of us right now – but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the flavours of this part of the world into your own home. In Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen, Ainsley Harriott goes back to his roots to celebrate the rich heritage of these beautiful islands, and uncover the very best of Caribbean home cooking. From snacks like chickpea and plantain patties, mains like grilled chicken roti wrap with mango dressing, indulgent desserts like rum and raspberry crème brulee, and plenty of exotic cocktails (lazy man’s long island iced tea, anyone?), this great-looking book will transport you to the Caribbean via your kitchen. The official accompaniment to the ITV show of the same name.

Final thoughts…

Whether you’ve always enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen or can barely boil an egg, the good news is that it’s never too late to learn how to cook. Cooking should be a joy, a way to relax and unwind – not a chore – and one of the best ways you can ensure you enjoy the process is to feel truly inspired before you get your apron on. There’s a unique comfort in serving up a meal you’ve cooked yourself, whether it’s an elaborate three-course dinner, a simple soup, or some sweet treats for a Saturday afternoon. So before you head into the kitchen, you might want to take some time to figure out which type of cooking gets you most excited – and the books above can hopefully offer you a helpful  place to start.

For more culinary inspiration, why not check out the food and drink section of our site?

Have you read any great cookery books recently, cooked any new recipes, or discovered a new type of cuisine? We’d love to hear about your culinary adventures! Join the food & drink conversation on the Rest Less community or leave us a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “17 recipe books to satisfy your culinary curiosity

  1. Avatar
    SARAH BROWN on Reply

    GREAT to see plant-based truly scrummy vegan food mentioned – there are hundreds of great vegan cookbooks out there – highly recommend:

    BOSH! Healthy Vegan: Over 80 brand-new recipes with less fat, less sugar and more taste. As seen on ITV’s ‘Living on the Veg’
    by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby

    THEY HAS A SERIES ON SUNDAY MORNING EARLIER THIS YEAR, COOKING INCREDIBLE VEGAN FOOD – WOULD BE GREAT FOR YOU TO FEATURE THEM – YORKSHIRE LADS THROUGH AND THROUGH!!

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