Darina Allen: The best new cookbooks just in time for Christmas

AS we edge ever closer to Christmas, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks published just in time for the festive season. 
Darina Allen: The best new cookbooks just in time for Christmas

David Tanis’s “Market Cooking. Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient” published by Artisan, is definitely one of my new ‘go to’ books; I find David’s recipes irresistible and simply have to buy every new cookbook he produces.

David, who was head chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkley for 25 years, is a gifted cook and tantalizingly talented tutor.

He cooks the sort of food that I really love to eat, honest creative and deeply flavourful.

In Market Cooking, David is encouraging those of us who do a weekly supermarket shop to change our ways.

Do as he does, and discover the magic of shopping every day at a farmers market or a local shop, without fixed ideas.

Choose the freshest, most beautiful produce and cook it simply.

David lives in downtown Manhattan, not far from the Union Square Market in Greenwich Village.

I’ve chosen his version of the Roman classic, Cacio e Pepe, to share with you, it’s one of my favourite pasta dishes of all time.

Who doesn’t love Nigel Slater and his homey comfort food.

“The Christmas Chronicles” published by Fourth Estate also gives us a glimpse, in fact more than a glimpse of Nigel’s childlike love of Christmas, frost and tinsel, baubles and plum pudding. I love this quince and cardamom mincemeat.

Rick Stein is back on the road again. Many of you will be watching his latest TV series on BBC2, “Road to Mexico” published by BBC Books – get the book too.

Rick has got the uncanny knack of creating dishes that best illustrate a taste of that place, some classics, some with appealing twists on the originals.

I love the Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado.

Georgia, close to Russia, is high on my “must see” list of countries so I keep a keen eye on Olia Hercules. Her new book “Kaukasis” is enchanting, a journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan and beyond. She’s a born story teller and her recipes are deeply tempting. Try this comforting Khingal, one of Olia’s favourites.

“Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love”- what an irresistible title.

Giorgio Locatelli, another of my favourite chefs also feels strongly that home cooking is by far the most important type of food. His latest book is packed with lots of Italian influenced gems that you’ll long to cook – Giorgio makes it all sound so effortless but as ever, the magic of simple food is in the quality of the ingredients.

Nigella’s new book, “At My Table”, a celebration of cooking at home, published by Chatto and Windus, is another gem, written in beautiful prose by someone who truly loves to cook and has an extraordinary way with words. You’ll love the Beef and Aubergine Fatteh recipe, so fun to share.

Everything Helen James touches is chic, stylish and comforting. She epitomizes sophisticated Irish hygge.

Look for her new book “A Sense of Home: Eat – Make – Sleep – Live” for all kinds of brilliant tips for natural cleaning products, household management tips and inspiration for your own home as well as some recipes you’ll definitely want to try.

Award winning food writer and broadcaster Tim Hayward’s “The Modern Kitchen: Objects that Shape the Way We Cook, Eat and Live” is definitely for the food geek in your life.

In his latest book, Tim features 70 carefully chosen kitchen implements and explores the history, beauty, aesthetics and functionality of each piece.

A fresh approach, intriguing, entertaining and beautifully written. Published by Quadrille.

“The Gannets Gastronomic Miscellany” by Killian Fox, and published by Mitchell Beazley is a collection of fascinating, funny and unexpected facts about food and drink. Going beyond the usual food fixations, the book is presented in a fresh, visually inventive style that will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in food.

Few outside Caís, the Irish Farmhouse cheese makers association and the cheese industry will know the name Bronwen Percival but cheese-lovers and microbiologists make a note. Bronwen’s book “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese”, co-authored with Francis Percival, is a very important work for all of us who know the value of good dairy and love it.

Bronwen is a founder of Microbial Foods.org and head cheese buyer at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London – a present for the cheese lover in your life.

Rick Stein’s Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado

Serves 4 as a starter

12 x 10cm corn tortillas

250g (9 oz) white crab meat

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 green seranno or jalapeño chillies (seeds in), cut in half and sliced

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 little gem lettuce, finely shredded

2 limes cut into wedges

2 avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced

small handful of coriander, chopped


Warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan, in a microwave or in the oven.

Combine the crabmeat with the mayo.

Pile the crabmeat, chillies, tomatoes and lettuce on to the tortillas and top with lime wedges, slices of avocado and chopped coriander.

Season with salt to taste.

From Rick Stein’s The Road to Mexico published by BBC Books, photography by James Murphy.

Giorgio Locatelli’s Carta di muscia with bottarga and lemon

This is one of the shortest recipes in Giorgio’s latest book and one of the most delicious.

Carta Musica is crisp, paper thin, Sardinian bread and I always have a couple of packets in the cupboard to make snacks or just nibble.

It is particularly sublime paired with bottarga (dried mullet roe). It’s a totally delicious combination.

Serves 6 as a starter

12 carta di musica 120g (4 ¼ oz) bottarga

1 lemon, halved

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Put the sheets of carta di musica one on top of each other on a baking tray and put them into the oven for about 1 minute, until they turn golden in patches.

Remove from the oven and spread out the breads on a large board.

Grate the bottarga over the top and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little olive oil and black pepper.

From Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love” published by Fourth Estate

David Tanis’ Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) has lately achieved mythic status, which is a bit surprising considering it’s so basic.

You can get it in any restaurant in Rome, but it’s really a home dish.

The trick is getting the pasta to finish cooking properly in the creamy sauce, which is just pasta water, butter and cheese. The more peppery, the better.

Makes 2 servings

Cook 225g (½ lb) linguine extra al dente (this is crucial) in well-salted water.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat and add ½ teaspoon coarsely crushed black pepper.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan, along with ½ cup of pasta water and a good pinch of salt.

Stir constantly, keeping the liquid at a rapid simmer; the pasta will begin to wilt in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, add 2 cups grated pecorino, and stir until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

From David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.

Nigella’s Beef and Aubergine Fattah

This is a subtly textured, richly flavoured arrangement of toasted pieces of flatbread topped with meaty aubergine and beef, a garlicky tahini-yogurt sauce, red pepper flakes, pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts and fresh shredded mint.

I think of this rather as a refined, Middle-Eastern form of nachos.

Serves 4–6

For the base

4 (approx. 250g/ 9oz), Pitta breads, split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles

For the topping

500g (18oz) Greek yogurt

5 tablespoons (75g), Tahini, at room temperature

1-2 lemons to give 3 tablespoons of juice

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, to taste

For the aubergine-beef layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small (approx. 125g) onion,

peeled and finely chopped

1 (250–300g/ 9oz-11oz) aubergine

cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus more for sprinkling

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

500g (18oz) minced beef

To sprinkle over

125g (4½ oz) Pomegranate seeds

50g (2 oz) Pine nuts, toasted

1 tablespoon mint

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan.

Spread the pitta triangles out onto a large baking sheet and toast for 10–15 minutes, or until they are crisp. You don’t need them to colour, but if they do just a little here and there, that’s not a bad thing. Set the pitta triangles aside for the moment.

Beat the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes together in a heatproof bowl that will later sit over a saucepan. Taste to see if you want any more salt. Put to one side while you cook the aubergine-beef layer.

Warm the oil in a wide, though not deep, heavy-based saucepan or casserole and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, over a medium/low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and carry on cooking it, still stirring occasionally, until soft and a pale caramel colour. This will take another 4 minutes or so.

Turn the heat up to medium, tumble in the aubergine cubes and stir well to mix with the onion. Stay by the hob as you will need to stir frequently, and cook them for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.

Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each of Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes and, now over a high heat, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour.

Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat while you return to the tahini-yogurt sauce.

Pour some just-boiled water into a fresh pan, enough to come about 3cm up the sides, and put over a low heat.

Sit the bowl with the tahini-yogurt mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.

Now for the grand assembly: arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large round plate (I use one of about 32cm in diameter). Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yogurt-tahini sauce.

Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper (or paprika, if you’re using that) to give a light dusting.

Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves.

Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

From At My Table by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus Copyright © Nigella Lawson 2017. Photograph copyright © Jonathan Lovekin.

Hot tips


Check out Storyboard, a simple café on Clancy Quay in Islandbridge, Dublin.

A short menu of delicious, edgy food, we loved the Squash and Toast.

Roast McNally’s Crown Prince pumpkin on Le Levain toast and tahini nut butter, with preserved lemon yoghurt, dukkah and pink onions.

I also tucked into a delicious smoked salmon, with ricotta and caper sourdough toast.

Serving breakfast and lunch from 8am to 3pm midweek and brunch from 10am to 3.30pm at the weekends. Contact hello@storyboardcoffee.com. Definitely worth a detour.


Ruth Healy’s Urru hampers have become seriously covetable.

They are updated seasonally to reflect what’s happening in the world of artisan and speciality food and deliver an up to the minute taste of Ireland, including a “New Best of 2017 Hamper for Food Enthusiasts”.

Phone Ruth at 023-8854731 or check out www.urru.ie.

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