Christmas = Cooking. Here are the books you NEED. [Part One]


Happy Christmas one and all!

I hope you are all having a marvellous time filled with sparkling festivities and recovering from the scrumptious indulgences of Christmas day.

The family LOVES Christmas!
The family LOVES Christmas!

I’m raring to go for another afternoon filled with overflowing plates and bottomless glasses to properly get into the spirit of things, but seeing as it is Boxing Day and the shops were teeming with bargain-hunters, I thought it would be a good time to bring your attention to some of the best titles that you need to get in your kitchen, if Santa hasn’t delivered them already…

First, I need to say a huge Christmas thank you to Anna and Catherine of Vintage and Michael Joseph who sent over a selection of their finest cookery books of the year and which I am very excited to share with you. Thank you both!

I think this captures the heart of Christmas dining…

Now, I have a LOT to say so this will be best done in at least two parts. Prepare yourself. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce my first two titles! The theme of this post is INDULGENCE – something which, in my #GreatestGift feature, I found to be at the heart of the festive season and a concept which could not be captured more perfectly than in these two books. IMG_6085

The first of these is a Christmas classic – Nigella Christmas from the kitchen goddess that is Nigella Lawson. I cannot believe this came out way back in 2008. This book has become such a household staple for the festive season it seems like it should have been published yonks before then! But it definitely was not too soon for the book to make its appearance as part of the completely rebranded collection of Nigella’s books. I’m sure your original copies are all looking a bit dog-eared and worn like mine! So introducing this glitzy edition to my kitchen shelf was a sheer delight – and this is before opening it!IMG_6086

As always, Nigella captures the spirit of cooking (especially at Christmas) – sharing with family and friends, but I for one can get very stressed in the kitchen when the pressure of feeding multiple people starts to rise. When it’s cooking for one, presentation isn’t the be all and end all, let alone the flavour. Suddenly, with expectations running high, Christmas doesn’t seem so exciting and fun, in fact, it becomes a manic time dashing from pot to pan in a kitchen that inevitably feels too small for the multitude of dishes that need completing. So when I see chefs on television, gracefully whipping up the next tasty treasure, sometimes I feel reality has been pushed aside in favour of viewers’ admiration and awe. Here, Nigella really steps up to the table. OK, there are many images of the beautiful lady smiling warmly with a mixing bowl or mouth-watering platter as if it took no trouble at all, but her approach to arguably the most food-reliant holiday of them all is practical whilst maintaining that Christmas sparkle we all crave.IMG_6087

This is a book you need to study in advance to garner its full rewards, so bear in mind for next year. Nigella offers a host of ideas with super useful tips for planning the full Christmas spread. She injects the excitement that one should enjoy in the preparation for the season’s mass of catering, and with her canapés, cocktails, traditional turkey and stuffed rolled pork alongside her incredible Christmas pudding and array of cakes set to reach your table, how can you restrain that eager squeal?! One of my absolute recipes is her chilli jam – not only does this make a gorgeous homemade gift, but I personally see them as a light display waiting to happen. Weave some fairy lights around that jar pyramid and guests will be marvelling at the vibrant tones and flecks of chilli. I want to make that right now. TO THE SHOPS.IMG_6088

Christmas may have passed but there are plenty of festive feasts ahead and this is the book that I recommend to get those relatives gasping in amazement at your wonderful celebratory spread.IMG_6089

Talking of gasps, I HAVE to mention Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook, Comfort Food. If you’ve seen a copy (hopefully your own – if not, you’ll be wanting one soon…!) then you must understand. With gloriously stunning photography on every other page, you’ll be drooling in no time and will have a list on the go of which meal to make. Winter is the time to hit these 100 ultimate recipes – temperatures have dropped, rainy walks don’t appeal so it’s an ideal opportunity to tackle the kitchen to create an indulgent masterpiece for friends, family or (go on) just yourself.IMG_6084

Leave that Ben & Jerry’s tub in the freezer for darker times, roll up your sleeves and prepare for an experience that, although time-consuming, will totally be worth it as you take a mouthful of Jamie’s classic shepherd’s pie or the most incredible beans on toast I have ever seen. With each page you’ll smile to yourself and reach to the nearest person to exchange nostalgic memories of those scrumptious childhood dishes. Forget the salads, these are indulgent meals of which the scales need not know – they are for enjoyment and, well, comfort!


This is Jamie’s SIXTEENTH book so I’d say he’s a master of understanding our hearts and stomachs when selecting recipes and this book undoubtedly proves his judgement and talent. I could kill a bowl of his chicken tikka masala right now – a curry after all those roasts? YES PLEASE. Whether you’re looking for a pick-me-up or simply want to succumb to your guilty pleasure, this is the book for you. Put aside an afternoon this holiday and prepare for a truly special dish.IMG_6092

If you are thinking about the calories… well, I don’t know why you’re reading this particular post. BUT let’s just say you are ready to face them, Jamie’s Nutrition Team have collated all the relevant info you need into a colourful section at the end of the book – if you just glance, it makes for a delightful gallery of the dishes. Beware, if you look closer you may be reaching for the nearest stick of celery. As I said, this book isn’t about watching your waistline – it’s all in the enjoyment of sneaking that extra mouthful, just because you can’t help it!


I can’t imagine you’ve reached this point without dying to try one of these recipes so here’s a sneak peek of a couple from each. How about Jamie’s Winter Nights Chilli? You will need most of the day though… it takes SIX hours! If you want to keep in the festive spirit, Nigella’s Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake is a charming bake for the table – make sure you get that tin!

I think this is enough excitement for now. I’m sure, despite the feasts of Christmas and Boxing Day lunch, you’re all feeling ready to try one of these recipes. Hit the shops now and get your copies to join me in a glorious cooking experience. Let’s face those resolutions in the New Year… there’s still time to indulge!IMG_6079

My next post will focus more on baking with the hit book from Ruby Tandoh and a charming gem for any fans of afternoon tea – and just to keep the festivities alive, there’s an adorable Christmas cupcake book that you’ll be cooing over in no time. Ooooh, and I cannot wait to share the Hemsley + Hemsley Art of Eating Well with you – it’s perfect for your new 2015 eating transformation!

Until then, hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

– Franny

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