Check out the year’s best cookbooks for inspiration

Josh's Backyard BBQ

By Josh Emett

This is the book to take your outdoor cooking to a new level. Celebrity chef Josh Emett has come up with the ideal blend of family-friendly food and fresh ideas. It is filled with gutsy salads, original finger food and ways to make the most of meat, fish and vegetables and work your barbecue that bit harder. There's nothing too tricky or "cheffy", but if you're entertaining friends and family they will be impressed with the dishes you turn out. This lamb chop recipe is one for lovers of spicy food.

Lamb Chops with Home-made Harissa
Chops are, quite simply, great. Harissa works well with lamb, especially when sweetened with extra honey. If you have leftover paste, it will keep in the fridge for two weeks.
Home-made harissa paste:
150g red capsicums
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
20g garlic
1½ red chillies
Zest of 3 lemons
Juice of 4 lemons
50ml honey
25g coriander stalks and leaves
200ml olive oil
sea salt
12 lamb chops
coriander leaves to garnish

1. To make the harissa paste, char the capsicums on the barbecue until blackened and blistered. Place in a bowl, cover with cling wrap, and leave to cool to room temperature. Peel the blackened skin off and remove the seeds. Place the capsicums and remaining harissa ingredients, except the sea salt, into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for about 7 minutes, then season with salt. Remove from the heat, transfer to a food processor and blitz.

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2. Coat the lamb cutlets in harissa paste and marinate overnight.

3. Next day, heat the barbecue to 225C. Place the lamb on the barbecue and cook for 12-15 minutes, turning after 6 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes before serving with a garnish of coriander leaves.

River Cottage Light & Easy

By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury)

You can't have too many healthy everyday recipes at your fingertips and in his latest book, English cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall serves some crowd-pleasers. Steering clear of wheat and dairy, he shares 170 ideas for food that is wholesome, satisfying and delicious. Vegetables are the stars of many of his dishes so if you're a grow-your-own type, it will be perfect for helping guide you through produce gluts. He includes some great ideas for soups, salads and side dishes. This tomato soup is a breeze to put together and can be served chilled on hot days.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup
The creaminess comes from a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts, thrown into the roasting tin with the tomatoes. Once pureed, they produce a texture that is rich and sumptuous. The riper your tomatoes the better, but roasting will sweeten and intensify even less-than-perfect specimens.

- Serves 4

1.5kg tomatoes
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g cashew nuts, plus a few extra,
to finish (optional)
200ml light vegetable stock or water
A pinch of sugar (optional)
TO FINISH
Extra virgin hempseed or rapeseed oil
A dusting of paprika (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
1. Cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a large roasting tray - they should fit fairly snugly. Scatter over the chopped garlic, trickle over the oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, then scatter the cashews over the tomatoes. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy and perhaps a little charred in places.

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2. Scrape the tomatoes, cashews and all the garlicky pan juices into a blender. Add the stock or water and blitz to a puree. Pass this through a sieve to remove any pips and stubborn bits of tomato skin.

3. When you're ready to serve, reheat gently. You can add a little water if the soup seems very thick or the flavour is too intense. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and add a pinch of sugar if you think the tomatoey acidity needs tempering slightly.

4. Ladle into warmed bowls and finish with
a swirl of extra virgin oil, plus a few chopped cashews and a dusting of paprika if you
like, along with a generous sprinkling of pepper.

Variation
The chilled version of this soup is also good served cold. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, then finish with plenty of shredded fresh basil or mint leaves.

Movida Solera

By Frank Camorra & Richard Cornish (Penguin)

This gorgeous book is the next best thing to taking a journey through the Spanish region of Andalusia. It is filled with vivid photography, evocative food and travel stories.

The recipes include lots of peasant food, simple dishes made with the best ingredients and ideas inspired by food served in restaurants, bars, markets and home kitchens from Seville to Almeria. These spicy chickpeas are nourishing, straightforward to make and would make an ideal side dish or vegetarian main course. You could cheat and use tinned chickpeas to save time.

Spiced Spinach with Chickpeas and Pine Nuts
Andalusians love spice. Not spice as in chilli-hot, but spicy as in rich blends of exotic seeds, nuts and bark. One of the most potent relics of the Moorish culinary tradition in Spain is the spice stalls in the markets that are reminiscent of Arab souks. Here, spice traders sell ready-made mixes of spices, perhaps for snails, tripe, soup or stew. This fragrant recipe for spinach and pine nuts comes from Pacqui del Pinto, a trader who sells 120 different spices at the market in the Andalusian city of Antequera.

180g dried chickpeas
30g pine nuts
80ml olive oil
1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves,
but not peeled
2-3 slices two-day-old bread
Sea salt
1½ tbsp ground cumin
2tsp sweet spanish paprika
700g spinach leaves
1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight, then drain and rinse under cold running water.

2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the chickpeas and simmer until tender, then drain.

3. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

4. Pour the olive oil into the frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 2-3 minutes or until their skins have browned a little. Add the bread and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until crisp and brown, seasoning both sides with salt. Drain the bread and garlic on paper towels.

5. When the fried bread and garlic are cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of its skin into a mortar. Break the fried bread into small pieces with your hands, then add to the mortar a little at a time, pounding with the pestle as you go to make a rustic paste. Add the cumin, paprika and a quarter of the cooked chickpeas.

Season with a pinch of salt and grind with the pestle to make a rough paste - Andalusians call this a majada. Alternatively, blend the ingredients into a rough paste in a food processor.

6. Pour 1.5 litres of water into a large saucepan and add 2 tsp of salt. Bring to a simmer over a high heat then drop the spinach in and, once the leaves have wilted down, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice. Spoon in the majada and mix well, then add the pine nuts and the remaining chickpeas. Bring back to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Season with sherry vinegar and salt to taste and serve.

Food online

Cookbooks are addictive and there will always be a place for them on my shelves, but the richness of food information on the internet means fresh ideas for everything from seasonal produce to celebration food is only a google away.

At www.bite.co.nz you'll find the latest recipes from the Herald On Sunday, Viva and Bite magazines, plus a library of more than 8500 from home-grown cooks including Peter Gordon, Nadia Lim, Al Brown and Karena and Kasey Bird.

Fans of Jamie Oliver's style of food should check out his website, jamieoliver.com, where there are video recipes as well as lots of ideas for those with special diets.

Jamie is big on nutritional information and food that's healthy but will put a smile on
your face.

You can join the 10 million people who have downloaded his app, which is updated every fortnight with new step-by-step recipes and also includes a shopping list where you can cross off items as you put them in your trolley.

There's advice on growing food as well as eating it on Kiwi cook Annabel Langbein's website and readers can sign up to her community, where they can share their own recipes, chat with other foodies and win prizes.

Nigella Lawson's website includes a Kitchen Queries section where you can submit food-related questions and dilemmas and have them answered by a member of her team. New recipes are added regularly and there's an express section for the time-poor cook.

Busy Kiwi cooks searching for ideas for weeknight dinners might also want to check out local app Fast, Fresh & Tasty, which includes seasonal recipes with step-by-step instructions, plus a shopping list to help you gather ingredients quickly.
freshfastandtasty.co.nz

If healthier eating is your New Year resolution, the Foodswitch app will set you up to scan the barcodes of packaged foods with your smartphone and quickly get a clear idea of how high they are in fat, sugar and salt, plus suggestions for healthier alternatives. foodswitch.co.nz

And for those who find shopping for wine bewildering, the New Zealand Wine App will come to the rescue. Not only can you scan in the barcode from bottles to get tasting notes, reviews and food matching advice, but if you love a wine, you can save it to your favourites list so you don't forget its name.
nzwineapp.co.nz