Kerri Jackson dons her imaginary apron and picks out the best cookbooks for Christmas.
Cookbooks are an excellent and easy last-minute gift idea for any foodies in the family. Plus they're the gift that keeps on giving ... in the form of tasty snacks and meals.
What would Christmas be without Jamie Oliver in your stocking? Oliver's latest offering, Jamie's 30 Minute Meals (Michael Joseph, $65), is a series of quick, complete meals including main dishes, sides, drinks and desserts. It's filled with pictures illustrating different steps rather than just the final product, and for the most part ingredients are easy to source.
Recipe pick: Steak sarnie with crispy new potatoes, cheesy mushrooms and beetroot salad.
It's not a popular view with boys, but I much prefer Nigella Lawson in print than on screen - far less over-emoting and purring. Her latest book, Kitchen (Chatto & Windus, $75), the companion to the recent TV series, is divided into "Kitchen Quandaries" and "Kitchen Comforts" - food to help you feed unexpected guests or last-minute "bring a plate" problems, and food to feed the soul as well as the body.
And it's all pretty delicious.
Without the eyelash-batting and roving camera angles, you remember Nigella is queen of creating masterpieces straight from the pantry quickly and with little effort.
Recipe pick: Flourless chocolate lime cake.
And then there's Heston's Fantastical Feasts by Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury, $28.99). Based on the telly series of the same name, it finds Blumenthal recreating famous tales through themed dinners. A full-size candy house, Hansel and Gretel-style, anyone? It's not one your nan's going to cook from at home, but the sheer whimsy makes it one of my favourite cookbooks of the year.
Already featured in these pages and highly recommended are Fresh by Peter and Anne Blakeway ($49.99) - all about making the most of New Zealand's finest, freshest ingredients; Annabel Langbein's The Free Range Cook ($59.99), also themed around fresh, seasonal produce; and Martin Bosley's spectacularly produced self-titled recipe collection (Random House, $90) from his eponymous Wellington seafood restaurant.
Made by Hand (Penguin, $52) by Julie Le Clerc puts the emphasis on freshness, but also on eating as much unprocessed, simply prepared food as possible. The recipes here include gluten-, wheat-, dairy- and egg-free options, but with the emphasis still on flavour. Le Clerc also includes tips on gardening, recycling and creating a "natural pantry".
Recipe pick: Fragrant rice picnic pies.
The second book by Jo Seagar based around her north Canterbury cooking school, It's Easier Than You Think (Random House, $49.99), is all about keeping things simple. As Seagar describes it in her introduction: "The food is simple, old-fashioned and up-to-date. Homely, with a certain style." She works her way through breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, treats and baking, and includes a useful section on food labelling.
Recipe pick: Butternut pumpkin and rocket cannelloni with tomato cream sauce.
Most of the Kiwi cooks mentioned here also make an appearance in Comfort: Food For Sharing (Random House, $45), an anthology of recipes from some of the country's best-known cooks that's focused on family meals and food you can make as gifts.
Edited by Lauraine Jacobs, its contributors include Peta Mathias, Ray McVinnie, Allyson Gofton, Al Brown, Tui Flower, Mark McDonough and Lois Daish. Proceeds from the book go to Starship Children's Hospital.
Recipe pick: Allyson Gofton's tandoori burgers with chilli salsa.
Native ingredients such as kawakawa, horopito and pikopiko have been making their way back into NZ cuisine in recent times, largely thanks to the influence of chef Charles Royal. Now Royal has released Cooking with Charles Royal (Huia, $45), which details how to find, harvest and prepare tasty indigenous ingredients. Great for cooks wanting to try something new.
Recipe pick: Rainforest stir-fry.
The word "Persia" conjures up exotic images of spices, rosewater, pistachio nuts and the hubbub of open-air markets. No wonder, then, that Saraban by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant, $79.99) had me spellbound from its opening lines. Anyone who's eaten at Greg Malouf's MoMo restaurant in Melbourne will know his food is incredible, but though the book is full of recipes, it's also a stunning photographic love letter to Iran and a travelogue to boot.
Recipe pick: Spiced roast lamb with pumpkin and sultanas.
Earlier this year, Copenhagen's Noma topped the San Pellegrino World's Top 50 restaurants list - beating the likes of Ferran Adria's El Bulli and Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck. Now comes the first comprehensive cookbook by Noma's star chef, Rene Redzepi. Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (Phaidon, $82) is for the committed foodie who wants to know where Redzepi's inspirations come from. As well as offering beautifully shot recipes (some more complicated than others), the book documents the restaurant's rise, Redzepi's life and his relationship with his suppliers.
Recipe pick: Wild berries and sweetcorn icecream.
Far more user-friendly for the home chef is India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant (Phaidon, $82). It claims to be the only book on Indian food you will ever need and that is very likely right. With more than 1000 recipes, the book guides you though the basics and history of Indian cuisine, with vital information on ingredients, techniques and utensils. It's one of the most comprehensive Indian cookbooks ever produced - and one I'm inspired to sit down and read cover-to-cover.
FEED THE FAMILY
The Aussies behind the hugely successful 4 Ingredients series of no-frills but super-useful family cookbooks have teamed up with self-help guru Deepak Chopra. 4 Ingredients: Fast, Fresh and Healthy (Penguin, $26) by Kim McCosker, Rachael Bermingham and Chopra is based on the notion of "we are what we eat". It makes use of modern nutritional science and Ayurvedic medicine to create more than 100 recipes - all still using just four ingredients. Perfect for cooks wanting to make healthier home meals.
Recipe pick: Indian chickpea and potato patties.
The very idea of a cookbook based around the eating habits of vampires - teen-angsty ones or otherwise - could very easily be icky. In fact, Love at First Bite by Gina Meyers (not to be confused with Twilight author Stephanie Meyer) is a collection of recipes inspired by the books - from Bell's Lasagne to Harry's Famous Fish Fry and Mushroom Raviolis.
The production's a little low-spec in parts and some translation of Americanisms is needed, but it's fun and not a bad way to get your teens into the kitchen cooking basic comfort foods - especially if they're planning a Twilight-themed party. From amazon.com
Who's Cooking Tonight? by Claire Gourley (Penguin $36) is a cookbook for teens by a teen. Based on Gourley's blog, itsmyturntocooktonight.com, the book features tasty, healthy recipes packed with fresh veges (created with the assistance of Claire's mum Glenda, a home economics teacher). The book's layout is sharp and practical.
Recipe pick: Best-ever bacon and egg pie.
Blokes apparently need their own cookbooks, and they must contain ingredients like beer and red meat. And if they include recipes for stuff they have hunted and gathered themselves, so much the better.
Try The Lad's Chef Cookbook, (New Holland, $49.99), by Bobby Jewell. It's aimed at every lad whose culinary skills need a brush-up, from those fresh out of home to those looking to expand their repertoire, and covers everything from budget basics and barbecues to hangover cures and romantic dinners. There's even a few fashion tips.
Recipe pick: The excellent Mussels Without Thinking.
And then, of course, there's The Great Blokes' BBQ Cookbook (Penguin, $45) by Kim Terakes. He's an Aussie, mind, but the book is nicely tailored to the Kiwi barbecue and includes a good tools guide as well as tips for preparation and cooking. The recipes are innovative but accessible and cover every kind of barbecue food you can think of.
Recipe pick: Paella.
There's nothing to say girls can't also use the excellent wee Kiwi Sizzler Smoking Book (David Bateman, $29.99), by Chris Fortune, but smoking food seems to fall into the same man-zone as the barbecue. In this brilliant how-to guide, Fortune offers basic tips on getting started, different types of smokers, smokes, storage, and marinades - and, most importantly, a trouble-shooting guide.
Recipe pick: Hot-smoked chocolate and red wine.
The New Zealand Vegetable Book (Hyndman, $24.99) is part-recipe book, part-vege encyclopedia, covering almost every type of vege you can find here - either in the garden or specialty stores. It comes with nutritional and growing information, storing tips and serving ideas. Perfect for unveiling new summer salads.
Recipe pick: Caramelised roast salad.
The Cook's Herb Garden Revisited and The Cook's Salad Garden Revisited make a great combo gift for hungry gardeners or green-thumbed cooks (Craig Potton, $45 each). Both are good, basic guides to growing salad veges and herbs and include delicious, easy recipes as well.
If you've been salivating over our excellent pavlova tips and tricks this week, you may also wish to try Pavlova (White Knights, $25) by Genevieve Knights.
Recipe pick: Jelly tip pavlova roll.
Simon and Alison Holst are Kiwi classics themselves, so it seems fitting their new book is a collection of their favourite dishes. The recipes in My Own Kiwi Favourites (David Bateman, $34.99) are straightforward, with easy-to-find ingredients. Perfect for parents needing to refresh their family menu without blowing the budget - plus there's room to write in your own family favourites.
Recipe pick: Spinach and feta pie.
For more Holst home favourites, try 100 Favourite Ways with Chicken (Hyndman, $24.99) which pretty much does what it says on the tin.
Recipe pick: Chicken and mushroom dumplings.
Also worth a mention are Fish 'n' Chips: the Great NZ Feed by Kevyn Male (New Holland, $34.99) and Maggi Kiwi Backyard Cooking (Random House, $24.99). The first features a few recipes for batters and fish pies, but is really a photographic tribute to a tasty slice of Kiwiana. The second is an excellent no-fuss, well-priced book.
What to Cook and How to Cook It (Phaidon, $67), by Jane Hornby, is one of those cookbooks you're not sure how you've managed without. With more than 100 recipes, it's an all-encompassing guide to good, basic dishes, from breakfast to birthday cakes. For beginners or anybody wanting to expand their repertoire.