Preparing and sharing food is an important part of many festivals, and Christmas is no exception. Celebrate the culinary side of Christmas, whether you prefer a traditional meal with all the trimmings, or something different, more modern or casual. Here’s some delectable inspiration from our best-loved cooks; from guidance on how to host your first Christmas lunch, to the perfect gift for your foodie friend, or a bit of indulgence for yourself, these are books that will entertain, delight and inspire:
First up, two trusted guides to help you achieve a stylish and delicious feast, year after year. For those who prefer their recipes to be detailed and precise, you’d love Delia Smith; Delia’s Happy Christmas will show you, in meticulous detail, how to cook all the traditional Christmas dishes. For those who prefer a more relaxed vibe and modern flavours, look to Jamie Oliver – he also loves the classics, but he’s not afraid to take shortcuts, and he offers a big range of alternative options, including vegetarian and vegan dishes. Both Jamie’s Christmas and Delia’s Happy Christmas are much more than just a collection of recipes – they are complete how-to guides, and include planning tips, shopping lists, decorating ideas, and recipes for gifts and for leftovers – in short, everything you need to help you survive and succeed at entertaining during the entire holiday season!
Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh
This latest book from Yotam Ottolenghi – co-written with pastry chef Helen Goh – makes an indulgent gift both to yourself, or to a loved one. Sweet is a book about baking, desserts and confectionery, based on the delicious offerings in Ottolenghi restaurants. Honouring Helen Goh’s Australian background, many of the recipes are inspired by Antipodean classics, including pavlovas, Anzac biscuits and even a coffee-flavoured “Ottolenghified” Eskimo Pie. The recipes are supported by extensive notes on ingredients and cooking techniques. Sweet is also about the celebratory joy of sharing sweet treats – so browse here for your showstopping dessert for Christmas Day, ideas for food gifts, or for the perfect cake or biscuits to make your home super welcoming.
In our current obsession with everything Scandi, there’s curiously little attention on one Swedish icon – Smorgasbord. This tradition – of a table laden with good breads and savoury toppings for DIY open sandwiches – is perfect for relaxed holiday entertaining. Johanna Kindvall’s guide includes recipes ranging from perennial favourites such as rye bread, chicken liver pate and Swedish meatballs, to contemporary and seasonal specialties such as elderflower cured trout and butter-fried mushrooms with walnuts. There are also recipes for pickles, sauces and infused aquavit liqueurs. Get some healthy and elegant ideas for an everyday lunch, or for a feast!
I’ve already mentioned The Christmas Chronicles in my blog post about Creating your own Christmas Traditions; but I love this book so much that I am including it again! The Christmas Chronicles is Nigel Slater’s love letter to winter – the crisp cold air, the cosiness indoors, the food and festive traditions at that time of the year. Arranged like a diary (from early November to early February), each entry is a mix of anecdote, recipe and folklore – there’s interesting stories on candles, and pantomimes, and (of course) an extensive discussion about plum pudding. Fascinating and curiously intimate, The Christmas Chronicles will take you to a sparkling wintery Christmas, wherever you are in the world.
Baking cookies and biscuits are part of the Christmas traditions of many countries, and a Cookie Swap / Exchange is a fun way to meet up, share and have fun. Have each guest bring a batch of cookies, enough to share with everyone. At the party, sample the treats, mix and match the cookies and provide pretty packaging, so that everyone leaves with a beautifully wrapped cookie assortment. The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook offers large-batch recipes perfect for sharing. With recipes for goodies including blondies, chocolate crinkles and apricot almond squares, it offers plenty of inspiration for hosting your own Cookie Swap.
So you had a great time last night at your end-of-year work do, but now you are feeling a bit under the weather. And 25 of your relatives are coming for a “casual” pre-Christmas catchup. The Hungover Cookbook (or rather, The Hungoevr Cookbook) promises to help you perk up, ready for another day – and another drink. Drawing on the wit and wisdom of P.G. Wodehouse, Milton Crawford classifies hangovers into six different types, before prescribing appropriate cures – actually quite delicious-sounding recipes including lemon pancakes and breakfast burgers – to suit each type. And for those who really can’t manage more than a phone call just now, the author has thoughtfully offered a range of takeaway suggestions in addition to recipes.