Long before she became a finger- lickin’ television star Nigella Lawson’s ability to conjure tastes in vivid prose and her celebration of the pleasures of eating were known to readers of The Spectator as she was this magazine’s first restaurant reviewer. And it was the writing in her first book, How to Eat, with its confidential tone of voice, her larky attitude to cooking and eating, as well as brilliant, original recipes that brought her legions of fans. To them she became what Elizabeth David had been to their grandmothers. Nigella’s latest book, Feast (Chatto, £25), which arrives without benefit of a television boost, is another big, comprehensive book, its subject nothing less than ‘food that celebrates life’. It includes food for the great religious feasts (many faiths are included) when even the non-cook must wield the pans, to private pleasures — a midnight feast for the first time your lover stays the night — and simple pasta teas for children. There is also a poignant chapter on cooking for funerals. The recipes are terrific, I haven’t found a duff one yet; even the notorious chocolate orange cake works like a dream if you make it in a food processor, as she suggests. Her curry banquet to celebrate Eid (which marks the end of Ramadan) was easy to make and magnificent to eat, as were banana pancakes, and the ‘super juicy turkey’ should see off the sawdust-dry festive bird for ever. My only cavil is that while she exhorts one to plan for the huge occasion that induces ‘panic, weight of expectation and family tension’, she is short on logistics.
Equally wide-ranging and personal in tone is Falling Cloudberries (Murdoch, £25) by Tessa Kiros, whose family of keen cooks is a permanent presence in her book. With a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father, Kiros grew up in South Africa, then settled in Tuscany.