Food & Drink

From James Martin to the Hairy Bikers, 3 top cookbooks to buy now

Celebrated chef and TV personality James Martin (Hannah McKay/PA)
Celebrated chef and TV personality James Martin (Hannah McKay/PA) Celebrated chef and TV personality James Martin (Hannah McKay/PA)

This is the best time of year to discover new recipes.

As the days get shorter and colder, a glossy new cookbook – and all the food-related inspiration that comes with it – can be just the thing you need.

And there are plenty of new releases to sink your teeth into – whether you want to transport yourself to a sunnier country, settle down with some comfort food – or even get a head start on Christmas shopping.

Some of the biggest names in food – including chef and former Saturday Kitchen presenter James Martin, BBC stalwarts the Hairy Bikers, and cult restaurateur Russell Norman – have new cookbooks out – and this is what you can expect from each of them…

1. James Martin’s Spanish Adventure by James Martin

James Martin
James Martin (Dan Jones/PA)

If you were captivated by James Martin’s 20-part ITV series taking a culinary tour around Spain – from the Michelin-starred restaurants of San Sebastian to the local markets of Santiago de Compostela – you’ll want to pick up the accompanying cookbook.

One of Martin’s favourite areas in the country is Toledo, “A special ancient city right in the middle of Spain”, he notes. “It’s famous for great produce including game, saffron, honey, olive oil, garlic and the list goes on.”

Yorkshire-born Martin says he first fell in love with Spanish food when he came to London as a young chef, and wanted to dedicate this book to the cuisine because he “wanted people to know about the people, the fantastic variety of landscapes, and the spectacular produce available”, he says.

“They have the best markets in Europe and the range of ingredients is fabulous – the seafood, the meat, the vegetables and the fruit.”

In the cookbook, Martin highlights that Spanish cuisine is far more than just paella and sangria. There are plenty of recipes for traditional dishes – including tapas bites, croquetas, empanadas, Seville pork with patatas bravas and burnt Basque cheesecake – as well as classic Spanish ingredients (such as chorizo, olives and plenty of seafood).

While Spain is predominantly known for meat and fish, Martin also shows some of the beautiful ways the country uses vegetables too – such as a dish for deep-fried aubergines drizzled with honey and served with a tomato sauce, and salt-baked celeriac with new potatoes and salsa.

James Martin
James Martin (Quadrille/PA)

(Quadrille, £27)

2. The Hairy Bikers’ Ultimate Comfort Food by Si King and Dave Myers

It’s hard to believe Dave Myers and Si King – otherwise known as the Hairy Bikers – have been on our screens for nearly two decades, with their first BBC show airing in 2004.

They’ve written plenty of cookbooks over the years – dedicated to everything from Mediterranean food to curries – and their latest is all about comfort food. In the introduction, the duo think back to what comfort food meant to them growing up – for Myers, it’s a classic chip butty, and King picks out his mother’s curries and casseroles.

British classics like these permeate the book – including beef and barley stew, sausage rolls and lemon drizzle cake – but there’s a definite international flavour, with dishes inspired by Myers and King’s travels all over the world. Think soba noodles with miso mushrooms, Szechuan lamb bao buns, chipotle prawn tacos and more.

While comfort food might make you think of heavy, rich dishes you want to curl up in the winter with – and those recipes are represented – there’s also a wider picture of ‘comfort’ and what it means throughout the year. Lighter recipes such as the teriyaki chicken salad and Spanish-style roasted vegetables with halloumi will bring just as much joy in the summertime.

The Hairy Bikers' Ultimate Comfort Food by Si King and Dave Myers
The Hairy Bikers' Ultimate Comfort Food by Si King and Dave Myers (Seven Dials/PA)

(Seven Dials, £25)

3. Brutto by Russell Norman

Russell Norman
Russell Norman (Jenny Zarins/PA)

Russell Norman’s debut cookbook, Polpo, won the Inaugural Waterstones Book of the Year back in 2012, and anything the London restaurateur has done since has always been hotly anticipated.

For his latest cookbook, Norman has turned his sights on Florence. Named after one of his London restaurants, ‘brutto’ is the Italian word for ugly, and references the Italian expression, ‘brutto ma buono’ – ugly but good.

Tuscan cuisine is known for meat, offal, game and beans, Norman explains in the introduction – and these are all represented in the cookbook, albeit with a few more veggie options than you might seen in a traditional Florentine kitchen.

You’ll learn a lot about food in Florence from Brutto – such as the city’s passion for wine bars, where antipasti such as coccoli (fried dough balls served with prosciutto and soft cheese) and deep-fried courgette flowers are served.

Some of the recipes are Italian classics you’ll know about – such as tagliatelle with ragu and asparagus risotto – and others are more unusual, deeper dives into Italian cuisine – think Florentine-style fried chicken or an oven-baked spinach dish cooked with eggs, cream, Parmesan and a dash of nutmeg.

Tuscan food is largely known as peasant food – meaning it’s relatively cheap and easy to make, while still being packed full of flavour.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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(Ebury Press, £32)