Talking Cookbooks for Christmas: Simple, Gather, Jerusalem and more with Francis Nesbitt

It began on air with a chat about all things River Cottage. It continued with a chat about Food On The Edge. Today on the show I had a chance to catch up with Francis Nesbitt again, beating miserable traffic in Kilkenny to visit the studio and bring with him a small library’s worth of cookbooks to talk about heading into Christmas.

I’m a sucker for a good cookbook. I’ve got shelves full of them, piles of them read and dog-eared, piles of them untouched, but I’ll keep going back for more. I’m pretty sure Francis is in the same boat.

While I’ve listed most of the books below, if you’re a lover of food literature and you’re chasing some cookbook suggestions heading into Christmas, hit play (play in browser if you’re on mobile) below and enjoy the chat.

Cookbooks Featured

Here’s some of the books we chat through over the course of the clip above. Links to books will take you to Amazon. If you’re not an online shopper, get out into the fresh air and down to the local bookshop, no doubt they’ll be most able to stock them or order them in for you.

Diana Henry – Simple

Diana Henry - Simple

No-one is better than Diana Henry at turning the everyday into something special. Here is a superb collection of recipes that you can rustle up with absolutely no fuss, but which will knock your socks off with their flavour.

Gill Meller – Gather

Gill Meller - Gather

Gill Meller, chef at River Cottage, showcases 120 recipes inspired by the landscapes in which he lives and works. Featuring chapters on foods from the Farm (pork, dairy, honey), Seashore (crab, seaweed, oysters), Garden (tomatoes, salads, soft fruits), Orchard (apples, pears, quince), Field (rye, barley, wheat, oats), Woodland (mushrooms, damsons, blackberries), Moor (venison and trout), and Harbour (fish and seafood), Gather is a true celebration of British seasonal cooking at its best.

Yotam Ottolenghi – Jerusalem*

From recipes for soups (spicy frikkeh soup with meatballs), meat and fish (chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice, sea bream with harissa and rose), vegetables and salads (spicy beetroot, leek and walnut salad), pulses and grains (saffron rice with barberries and pistachios), to cakes and desserts (clementine and almond syrup cake), there is something new for everyone to discover.

*Not quite a book from 2016 (was a Book of the Year winner in 2013) but well worth the addition to anyone’s collection.

Mark Diacono – A Year at Otter Farm

A Year At Otter Farm

Mark Diacono (“a bloody good bloke”) shares his colourful, beautiful recipes, all brimming with flavour and with fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit – including a warm salad of Padron peppers, cherries and halloumi, a stew made from chicken, pork and borlotti beans, a curried squash and mussel soup, and cucumber ice cream, quince doughnuts and fennel toffee apples.

Niklas Ekstedt – Food From The Fire

Food From The Fire

Niklas Ekstedt is founder of Michelin-starred EKSTEDT, in Stockholm; a restaurant that cooks solely over Scandinavian wood to give the food a truly unique character. There are no electric ovens in their kitchens, and no gas burners, creating a back-to-basics analogue experience.

River Cottage A to Z: Our Favourite Ingredients, & How to Cook Them

River Cottage A-Z

With more than 350 recipes, and brimming with advice on processes such as curing bacon and making yoghurt, the secret of perfect crackling and which apple varieties to choose for a stand-out crumble, as well as sourcing the most sustainable ingredients, this is an essential guide to cooking, eating and living well.

More than anything, the River Cottage A to Z is a celebration of the amazing spectrum of produce that surrounds us – all brought to life by Simon Wheeler’s atmospheric photography, and Michael Frith’s evocative watercolour illustrations.

Olivia Goodwillie – Something In The Tin

(Currently out of print but may be available locally in Kilkenny)

Something In The Tin

This timely book is the culmination of over thirty years baking at Lavistown House. For years Olivia has been at the forefront of all things foodie in Kilkenny and now she has developed a further facet to her career, that of author.

As you would expect her recipes are clear & concise, easy to follow and well tried. The index runs from Almond Slices to White Chocolate Cookies and even tempts you into the art of yeast bread making. But there is also an element of quirky fun in the writing, she knows the pitfalls and leads you gently around them.

The book is beautifully illustrated with handpainted images by Kate Raggett of each delicious bake. The result is a gem of a book, easy to hold and work from as it lies flat whilst you create wonder in your kitchen.

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Ken McGuire

Broadcaster and sports writer at KCLR96FM; digital media head with a production eye on theatre, film and video; Read my Irish food blog, Ken On Food.

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