Eat our words: Growing appetite for healthy eating cookbooks 

The publishing world has taken notice of an appetite, in all senses of the word, for cookbooks that help time-pressed readers to produce healthy and nutritious meals simply and quickly. Clodagh Finn samples some of these inspiring reads
Eat our words: Growing appetite for healthy eating cookbooks 

In more specialised fields, there are more cookbooks than ever to help you make more wholesome choices for better health. Picture: iStock

There was a time when it was easy to separate so-called ‘healthy eating’ books from mainstream offerings but that is no longer the case as health and nutrition have become guiding principles in so many of this year’s books on food.

The publishing world has taken notice of a general appetite, in all senses of the word, for cookbooks that help time-pressed readers to produce healthy meals simply and quickly. Those twin aims permeate Neven Maguire’s Midweek Meals (Gill Books, €22.99), for instance, although there is also a section called ‘low and slow’ which catered for the boom in cooking during the country’s first lockdown.

What is interesting in the famous TV chef’s latest book, apart from the usual focus on local and in-season food, is the inclusion of a vegetable content symbol with each recipe. Alongside the icons for prep and cooking time, there’s a drawing of a tiny carrot to indicate how much veg goes into each recipe. It’s not entirely scientific — there is only one setting, ‘loads of veg’ — but its inclusion reflects a growing desire among consumers to increase the amount of vegetables in their diet.

Speaking of veg, in Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press, €27) the famous chef, with co-writer Ixta Belfrage, offers guidance and lots of inspiration on how to turn ordinary vegetables into extraordinary food.

Sustainability, an increasingly popular theme, suffuses the recipes, essays, and wonderful illustrations in Rory O’Connell’s gorgeous book The Joy of Food (Gill Books, €24.99). His love of food and where it comes from jumps off every single one of the book’s beautifully produced pages.

Another exquisite volume that was several years in the making comes from the expert pen of Galway chef JP McMahon. The Irish Cookbook (Phaidon, €35) is a stunning volume. Some 500 authentic home-cooking recipes celebrate the quality and variety of Irish ingredients, from oysters and seafood to beef and lamb and wild forest food, berries, and oats, over thousands of years.

He urges us to take our heads out of the sand and embrace the food treasures that make our island unique — a wonderful message not only for Christmas but for the year ahead.

In more specialised fields, there are more cookbooks than ever to help you make more wholesome choices for better health.

The unstoppable Happy Pear twins David and Stephen Flynn are back with another book Vegan Cooking for Everyone (Penguin Ireland, €22) which does exactly what it says on the cover. Its 10 chapters cater for new or wannabe vegans with step-by-step guides and for more seasoned vegans with over 200 plant-based recipes, from coconut granola for breakfast to creamy broccoli pie for dinner.

For those who hope that food will help them to tackle, or at least ease, a health complaint, there is nothing like Ella Mills to provide inspiration. The 29-year-old is hailed globally as the champion of plant-based food but she got there after a long, hard journey with ill-health.

She hit a mental and physical low nine years ago when she was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, a condition that left her with chronic pain that was not helped by a prescribed list of medications the length of her arm.

Deliciously Ella Quick and Easy jacket.jpg
Deliciously Ella Quick and Easy jacket.jpg

She changed her lifestyle, introducing a range of measures including a wholefood, plant-based diet. Ella Mill’s sixth book Deliciously Ella Quick & Easy (Yellow Kite, €25) is filled with recipes designed to make plant-based eating less intimidating.

For another really inspiring read, you can’t do much better than Trisha’s Transformation (Gill Books, €19.99), the uplifting book by Cork-based chef Trisha Lewis who got tired of hating who she was so she decided to change it.

She gave up smoking, joined a gym, and started to transform her diet, documenting her journey on Instagram and gaining 90,000 followers in the process. In her bestselling book, she shares the recipes and tips that led to an eight-stone weight loss.

As a chef — she is head chef of Jacobs on the Mall in Cork — her mission was to maintain the flavours she loved while losing weight. For anyone who is worried about overeating this Christmas, think about embracing her particularly season-appropriate mantra: You can beat the bulge and still indulge.

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