Elfreda Pownall

The best cookery books of 2013

Nigel Slater’s books lead the field in cookery book design, but his latest, Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food (Fourth Estate, £26, Spectator Bookshop, £20), is the most beautiful yet. The size of a large paperback and twice as thick, the single word Eat is embossed in black on a mustard-yellow cloth cover. The

Homing instinct

For Jasper Conran the country is about ‘the scent of ripe apples or freshly-baked bread’, about grand houses that ‘sleep among ancient trees’, Morris dancers, Morris Travellers, tasteful cottages and ‘daffodils dancing in the breeze’. In his book Country (Conran Octopus, £50) there are some lovely interiors, though the most striking are those of his

Cookery nook

Delia Smith first published her recipe ‘My Classic Christmas Cake’ 40 years ago. Delia Smith first published her recipe ‘My Classic Christmas Cake’ 40 years ago. The cake re-appeared in 1990 in Delia Smith’s Christmas, and now pops up again unchanged in Delia’s Happy Christmas (Ebury, £25). Though some of her newer recipes reflect changes

Saints and sinners

With the publication of their Christmas cookery books, Nigella, Jamie, Delia and Gordon all have a brand image, or a halo, to polish. Nigella’s brand is greedy, kitsch, sexy and celebratory, and in Nigella Christmas (Chatto & Windus, £25) she has found her perfect subject. The book is fun, but it is also very thorough:

Cookery books for Christmas and for life

A good cookery book is for life, not just for Christmas. Fifty years ago many people had just one cookery book, and in Italy it would have been The Silver Spoon (Phaidon, £24.95). Now translated into English (with an appendix of recipes by modern celebrity chefs) it is the vast cookery book that almost every

A choice of cookery books

Let’s start in the garden. This year cookery writers are as happy digging and planting as slicing and braising. Sarah Raven is a great gardener and, on the evidence of her latest book, Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook (Chatto & Windus, £35), she’s a good cook too. This is a book for a lifetime of cooking:

Christmas cookery books

Last year Jamie Oliver was seen on television grinning with pleasure as a class of tiny Italian children accurately named every vegetable he held up to them. He later grimly despaired of finding a class of English children who could do the same. The parlous state of our food culture has been Oliver’s abiding concern

Chewing it over

Listing page content here I spent many of my school holidays with a kind great-aunt, a deeply religious maiden, most of whose friends were nuns. Beside my bed, as well as Lives of the Saints there was always her favourite book, Jottings from a Gentlewoman’s Garden. Not ideal reading for a nine-year-old, but how glad

Three star cooks

Going to Italy for his latest book, Jamie’s Italy, Jamie Oliver is, in a sense, coming home. Though he learnt to cook in his parents’ pub in Essex, all his early professional experience was in restaurants serving good, authentic Italian food. He worked for Gennaro Contaldi, Antonio Carluccio and, of course, at the River Café,

Food for plutocrats and the people

The New English Kitchenby Rose PrinceFourth Estate, £18.99, pp. 468, ISBN 0007156448 The Dinner Ladyby Jeanette OrreyBantam, £16.99, pp. 259, ISBN 0593054296 If a Martian were to read these three recently published cookery books, his postcard home would conclude that for Earthlings money is the root of all cooking. Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisine

Around the world in 18 cookery books

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

Receipts and recipes

The Pedant in the Kitchenby Julian BarnesGuardian Books, £9.99, pp. 96, ISBN 1843542390 ‘I haven’t cooked since the War,’ proclaims the Duchess of Devon- shire in the introduction to her Chatsworth Cookery Book. Though it was put to her that writing a cookery book was, in that case, ‘like a blind woman driving down the