Book of the Season
Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook
‘Out of Many, One People’ is Jamaica’s motto, writes Melissa Thompson, and this book brings that saying to life – through food. Thompson was brought up in Dorset and made her first trip to Jamaica, her father’s home island, as an adult. She evocatively describes her early sense of yearning for a place she didn’t yet know, and how food can connect people across time and place.
Motherland is, in part, a beautifully eclectic collection of recipes that reflect the African, Asian, Indigenous and European roots of Jamaican food. Yet Thompson doesn’t flinch from writing about the harsh realities of Caribbean history, the horrors of the slave trade and indentured servitude and the long-lasting legacy of colonialism. A powerful, thought- provoking book. Available from Bloomsbury (£23.40). Photographs by Patricia Niven.
Recipe we can’t wait to make: Grandma’s curry chicken
We didn’t know that … The fruit ackee was brought to Jamaica from West Africa on a slave ship in 1778.
Pierogi: Over 50 Recipes to Create Perfect Polish Dumplings
This is a book about Polish dumplings, of course, but it’s about so much more. Zuza Zak deliciously weaves together history, food culture and politics with stories of her homeland, interspersed with more than 50 regional recipes for pierogi of all shapes and sizes, and for all skill levels. (If you’ve never made dumplings before, this book will tell you everything you need to know.) Erudite but highly readable, it’s a book to tempt anyone to look into the delights of dumpling making. Published by Quadrille, available from World of Books (£12.99). Photographs by Ola O Smit.
Recipe we can’t wait to make: UFO dumplings with crispy bacon bits
We didn’t know that … Potatoes only became an indispensable part of the Polish diet in the 17th century.
Butter: A celebration
A dozen chapters, each dedicated to a different use for (and reason to love) this transformative foodstuff. “Butter is about taste and pleasure,” writes Olivia Potts, then proves the point with diverse sweet and savoury recipes (all crave- worthy), alongside butter-based staples such as hollandaise and puff pastry.
Among the pages you’ll find anecdotes, historical nuggets and admirable calls to action – Potts talks about the importance of buying good quality butter from welfare- minded farmers, and argues for an end to the tired ‘butter/ fat is bad for you’ myth. Published by Headline Home, available from Waterstones (£26). Photographs by Matt Russell.
Recipe we can’t wait to make: Hawaiian butter mochi cakes with rosemary
We didn’t know that … Kouign amann, that famous buttery cake from Brittany, literally translates from Breton as ‘buttery cake’.
Spice: A Cook’s Companion
Mark Diacono’s latest book is filled with recipes that are simple to make, yet give you that ‘Wow, I made this…’ feeling of accomplishment when you tuck in. It will teach you fresh uses for old standbys (cumin, black pepper) and is likely to introduce you to a few new spice-cupboard friends as well (verbena berries, kokum).
A book to cook from as the nights draw in, to fill your kitchen with the warm scent of spice. Published by Quadrille, available from WH Smiths (£23). Photographs by Mark Diacono.
Recipe we can’t wait to make: Ethiopian doro wat (spiced chicken stew)
We didn’t know that … The author tells us that Ramses II, the Egyptian pharaoh, had his nostrils filled with black peppercorns when he was laid to rest.
Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking
The Pasta Grannies YouTube channel has 880,000 subscribers and this second book by Vicky Bennison brings together the most popular recipes the Italian nonnas have shared. It’s about preserving traditions and local recipes, but also throws a rare spotlight on the signore – women of a certain age who so skilfully roll, fill and cook a diverse range of dishes. If your heart needs warming as much as your belly needs filling, this book will provide sustenance by the brimming bowlful. Wonderful stuff. Published by Hardie Grant, available from Waterstones (£22). Photographs by Lizzie Mayson.
Recipe we can’t wait to make: Cortale bean and pasta soup from Calabria
We didn’t know that… To find the best dried pasta, look for the words ‘extruded through bronze dies’ and ‘dried at low temperatures’ on the packet.
The British Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking Recipes from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland
Sometimes it takes an outsider to make you appreciate what’s in front of you – perhaps right on your dinnerplate. Ben Mervis was born and brought up in Pennsylvania and has been living in the UK since his university days. He did a stage at Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, has been a researcher for Netflix’s Chef’s Table series and launched food and culture magazine Fare.
His approach to British food – which he so evidently takes great pleasure in eating and cooking – is the opposite of jaded. There are no faint apologies, no snickers at ‘spotted dick’ or sideswipes at deep-fried Mars bars. Mervis is a student of British history and consulted an impressive phalanx of food historians and food writers in his research on the 550-plus recipes in the book.
The book examines the history and traditions of British cuisine with fresh eyes and makes space for contemporary British dishes such as jerk chicken and chicken tikka masala. The reader comes away with a newfound understanding and appreciation of the wonderful nuances of good British fare. Published by and available from Phaidon, £39.95.
Recipe we can’t wait to make: Yorkshire parkin
We didn’t know that… Macaroni with cheese has a surprisingly long history in Britain. A recipe can be found in The Forme of Cury [sic], a cookbook published in 1390.