What’s on Your Festive Table this Year?

Six more weeks to go…. as my stress level rises with the growing list of things-to-do-before-year’s-end, so does my excitement and anticipation for the festive season.  For me, year’s end is the delicious time of year – a whirlwind of catch-ups and family birthdays as well as Christmas and New Year – all made more memorable with delicious and plentiful food.  No matter what your cultural or religious traditions, it’s a great time to wind down and catch up with loved ones – and the following books will provide food inspiration whatever the occasion.  Of course, half the fun in entertaining is browsing cookbooks and choosing the right dishes….

Jamie’s Christmas by Jamie Oliver

It has taken Jamie Oliver seventeen years of fine-tuning to achieve the recipes worthy of his “epic” Christmas cookbook. He’s planning to do only one Christmas cookbook, so he wants to do it right.  Jamie’s Christmas is not just a collection of recipes – it is a manual that aims to guide and reassure.  There are plans, tips and shortcuts to minimise the stress of entertaining a crowd. Besides show-stopping mains and desserts (for vegetarians and vegans as well as meat-eaters), there are extensive chapters on sauces, salads, sweet treats and edible gifts.  Happy days!

Celebrating Christmas by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Antipodeans looking forward to a summery Christmas (think fresh seafood, juicy mangoes and ripe cherries) are forging a new style of Christmas feasting.  And the Test Kitchen of the Australian Women’s Weekly – synonymous with foolproof recipes – is ready to guide you with step-by-step instructions.  Celebrating Christmas has everything from menus to drinks, and ideas for decorations and leftovers.  There are recipes for both casual and formal occasions including brunches, lunches and dinners.  Whether you prefer a traditional or modern gathering, Celebrating Christmas has great ideas for you.

Basics to Brilliance by Donna Hay

The premise of Basics to Brilliance is, well, brilliant.  Take some basic recipes – and Donna Hay is here to show you how they should be done – then expand your repertoire by learning some variations with wow factor.  Thus a plain grilled steak can be transformed into beef skewers with a fresh and zingy chimichurri sauce.  This formula is a great way for beginner cooks to experiment and gain confidence, while giving experienced cooks fresh ideas.  Basics to Brilliance offers lots of inspiration for both home cooking and entertaining.

Appetites: a Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain with Laurie Woolever

Age and parenthood are mellowing Anthony Bourdain (just a little), and his latest book, Appetites, reflects this life stage.  It’s a collection of family-oriented recipes that should appeal to even the fussiest of youngsters.  The dishes range from scrambled eggs to Italian, Malaysian and Korean classics, striking a good balance between comforting and exotic, and reflecting Bourdain’s extensive travels.  Add some irreverent commentary and a cover by Ralph Steadman (known for his work with Hunter S. Thompson) and the result shows that Anthony Bourdain hasn’t lost his gonzo cool.  

The Cook’s Table by Stephanie Alexander

For many people, food forms an integral part of memories and traditions – whether it’s birthday cake or greasy fry-ups – and Stephanie Alexander is no exception.  In The Cook’s Table, Stephanie has arranged 130 recipes into twenty-five themed menus, such as “A Jamaican Jerk Party” and “Autumnal Italian Lunch in a Suburban Farm”; which are based on memorable occasions throughout her long and celebrated life.  Stephanie’s reminiscences encourage us to reflect on our own special foods – while she also invites us to create our own memorable occasions, through sharing her delicious dishes with our families and friends.

Cocktails for the Holidays: Festive Drinks to Celebrate the Season by the Editors of Imbibe Magazine

If you want to host a gathering but don’t feel like cooking, how about a drinks party instead?  Get great ideas on stylish and seasonal drinks in Cocktails for the Holidays.  Fifty recipes compiled by the award-winning Imbibe magazine cover any festive events from breakfasts to nightcaps.  From classics to the drinks du jour, and from hot toddies to sparkling punches, these drinks just shout festive cheer.

About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a newly-qualified librarian working in a public library. As a book- and library-lover from way back, she finds nothing better than being surrounded by books and other library-lovers! Karen’s past lives as a law graduate, corporate warrior and research scientist continue to inform her wide-ranging tastes in reading material, with her favourite genres including historical fiction, fantasy, food writing and popular science.