Simon Walsh selects the  pick of this year’s new cookery books


Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book (Grub Street, £16.99) was first published in 1970 and Grub St has done a great service in a golden jubilee reprinting. With Delia Smith writing a foreword and other writers such as Simon Hopkinson, Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater commending, you know it’s worth having. The weights and measures are helpfully in imperial with metric in brackets, and they are solid, non-nonsense recipes, some a little dated now but almost all have stood the test of time. They are varied and eminently cookable. Every kitchen should have a copy on the shelf.

Fittingly, for the way Yotam Ottolenghi is regarded as a high priest of the kitchen, his latest tome Flavour (Ebury Press, £27) has two satin ribbons like a missal. He writes clearly and with confidence, and this book is all about vegetables. If we mostly consider them boiled or steamed, occasionally fried, roasted or baked, then this fascinating foray into the various ways veg can be played with is a revelation. It’s very modern and metro with good articles introducing the sections (Process; Pairing; Produce). Adventurous and quirky cooks will love it. The rest of us will find something to deploy an unusual ingredient or cheer up an old favourite.

Calum Franklin must be the prophet of pastry. He runs The Pie Room (Bloomsbury, £26) at London’s Rosewood Hotel on High Holborn and this book-homage is his testament. It’s a bit nerdy but never boring and everything is covered from suitable kit to tools and techniques. His insight hums and buzzes through the recipes, everything from snacks and starters to grand party pieces, accompaniments and sauces. Everything you would expect is there, the combinations are truly tempting, and it is handsomely presented – even with a ribbon marker.

The culinary publishing gods have given us Larousse Patisserie & Baking (Hamlyn, £45). ‘Bake Off’ continues to grip the nation and this beautiful volume in Nile-blue slipcase and aqua-marine covers (ribbon markers of white and sky blue) is a definite gem for the cakes and gâteaux enthusiast. It’s heavily French but there are things like brownies and banana bread, churros and Scotch pancakes. Brilliantly laid out with sumptuous, quality photographs for each recipe, some are even step-by-step (such as Baked Alaska). A gorgeous gift for anyone.

Perhaps 2020 will go down as the year people embraced sourdough bread at home, finding self-sufficiency in cultivating their own dough. Sourdough Mania (Grub Street, £20) by Anita Sumer is the definitive guide to all this and more. First published in her native Slovenia at the end of 2017, it has marshalled a global movement with meetings and a rich social media presence. It’s probably the only book you need on sourdough, and goes beyond bread itself to include pastries, biscuits and cakes, and other uses such as binding, thickening and batter. There’s a recipe for Hot Cross Buns and the prologue by a writer from Carinthia entitled Bread, a gift from God notes how the ‘sign of a blessing is still often practised during bread making. The right hand makes the sign of the cross while the litany “Holy Cross of God” is recited before beginning the work”. Many kitchen tables have come to feel like altars during lockdown with bread reminding us what we have to share and what forms us as the body of Christ. This is a great book, and for the faithful who yearn for the sacramental bread of life, it points to so much more.