My Top 5 Christmas Cookbooks

I’m very honoured and excited to share this guest post by my wonderful husband David. As you can see from the title above, David is sharing his top 5 Christmas cookbooks. And I can honestly say that David’s (always growing) cookbook collection is definitely an amazing sight! If you’re looking for a specific recipe, he’s most likely got it! I could honestly get lost for a good few hours in all those books, and still have loads left to look through. If you follow David on Instagram, (highly recommend that you do) you may have already seen some of the beautiful and delicious bakes on his feed. So without further ado, I hand you over to David.

I own over 200 cookbooks, so it’s no surprise there are a fair few Christmas ones amongst them. Amazon boasts some 40,000 results when searching for ‘Christmas cookbooks’. That’s pretty impressive for something that, let’s face it, lasts only a few days each year.

In this blog post, I’m going to share my five favourite Christmas cookbooks. Was it easy to choose just five you may ask? Actually it was, because these are the ones I return to year on year. Sometimes I ‘mix and match’ each Christmas and cook from a range of different books, and other Christmasses, it can be fun to cook everything from the same book. They all offer a plethora of options guaranteed to provide everything you need for a Christmas feast.

Published in 2017, Nigel Slater’s inimitable no-nonsense approach to Christmas will appeal to even the most fearful of Christmas cooks. Over the past 30 years, Slater has written some 20 cookbooks, made 10 television series and won over 15 awards.

One of the reasons I like The Christmas Chronicles is that it’s so much more than just a cookbook. Slater writes:

This is the story of my love for winter, the scent of fir and spruce, ghost stories read with a glass of sloe gin, and beeswax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling.

The book is written in chronological order taking the reader on a journey from 1st November to Candlemas on 2nd February. There’s just so much to love about this book, and it’s hard not to sink into a pit of nostalgia as Slater’s writing evokes memories of winters and Christmasses past.

There are lots of seasonal recipes for both food and drink covering the winter season as well as the Christms period itself. When it comes to Christmas Day, Slater is a keen advocate for cooking as much as possible in advance. Gravy and brandy butter can both be made the day before, as can his preferred vegetarian option of Parsnip Loaf with Rosemary and Mushrooms (p. 334).

Slater’s preferred Christmas Day meal is goose, but he also gives recipes for the traditional roast turkey and trimmings. He also gives recipes for leftovers including a Goose (or Turkey) Broth with Butter Beans and Thyme (p. 372). But who could resist his giant pig in blanket, Cumberland Sausage, Dates and Pancetta (p. 365)?

The recipes are all straightforward and easy to follow, but the book’s real selling point is the writing itself; the memories, the tales and the tastes of all things wintry.

If you’re after a ‘bible’ for your Christmas cooking, then this is it. Darina Allen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School has spent a lifetime working in the food industry and is described as Ireland’s best-known food ambassador. A Simply Delicious Christmas has been in print for over 30 years, and my edition, published in 2014, was released to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Everything you need for Christmas is included. Over 100 recipes are divided usefully into nine chapters covering: soups and starters; main courses; vegetables; sauces and accompaniments; yummy leftovers; desserts; cakes, bakes and treats; entertaining; and edible presents.

One of the great things about this book is that as well as giving recipes for all the traditional Christmas foods, Allen also gives some adventurous alternatives, for example, Spicy Roast Turkey with Banana and Yoghurt Raita and Jewelled Rice (p. 72) and Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Pork with Apple and Plum Sauce (p. 102). This means that the book is great for new cooks and seasoned adventurers alike.

I really like the fact there is a whole chapter dedicated to leftovers. Boxing Day Pie (p. 173) and Roast Goose, Pearl Barley and Pecan Salad (p. 181) means nothing goes to waste. I can highly recommend her Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts (p. 177), a long favourite on Boxing Day in this house.

Let’s say you don’t own any Christmas cookbooks and want something which covers everything you need: this is the one.

As I write this post, Christmas at River Cottage has only been out a couple of months, but it’s already proving a favourite. This is a great book if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, dare I say a more ‘modern Christmas’.

As well as the recipes themselves, the book also gives useful advice for the festive season, including tips for reducing plastic use. I have to say, I was drawn in by the scrumptious photos in this book; shall we start with the Sausage Rolls on p. 144, or the Curried Potato Tart on p. 214? Everything looks mouth-wateringly delicious.

The first chapter, titled ‘Planning Ahead’ is especially useful as there are plenty of ideas for edible presents which can be made well ahead of time. Christmas Glutney (p. 32) is a good way to use up autumn squashes and pumpkins, and it’ll keep for a year or more. Marrow and Chilli Relish (p. 31) is another great idea of something which could be made ahead and given as a Christmas gift.

This is definitely a book I’m going to be returning to next year.

Where would Christmas be without Delia? Delia Smith’s Christmas is a classic. Whilst a new and expanded version has been published in recent years (Delia’s Happy Christmas), I still like my battered old copy, published in 1990 to accompany the BBC series of the same name. It’s long out-of-print, but you can pick up second-hand copies fairly easily for a few pounds.

All the classic Christmas feasts are covered: roast turkey and all the trimmings; Christmas pudding; Christmas cake; and mince pies. There is also a useful chapter on canapes and nibbles, with a selection of menu plans for different types of Christmas celebration and party.

There are two things I like most about this book. Firstly, there is a whole chapter dedicated to a vegetarian Christmas, something which seems to be curiously absent from more modern Christmas cookbooks. Delia’s Cheese and Parsnip Roulade with Sage and Onion Stuffing (p. 96) is a great alternative for Christmas Day. Secondly, there is a chapter dedicated to the last 36 hours leading up to Christmas Dinner itself. It’s a great guide if you’ve never cooked Christmas Dinner before, especially for a crowd.

A classic.

I have to confess, of all the Christmas cookbooks, I was initially drawn to this one because of its beautiful illustrations drawn from the work of Edward Bawden. Nevertheless, Christmas & Other Winter Feasts is a fabulous cookbook too, with recipes drawn from the kitchens of Fortnum & Mason.

The book is broadly divided into three sections covering late-autumn, Christmas, and New Year. Who could resist Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Honeycomb (p. 29) for a Bonfire Night treat? One of the things I like about this book is that many of the recipes can be used all year round so it doesn’t have to be a book you get out for a month and put away for the remainder of the year.

The book even gives recipe ideas for Christmas Day breakfast: Truffled Scambled Egg (p. 143); Spiced Granola with Apricot Relish and Coconut Yoghurt (p. 145); and Highland Scramble (p. 147). As well as the classic Christmas turkey or goose with all the trimmings, why not try Portobello Mushroom Wellington (p. 167) as a vegetarian alternative?

There are plenty of recipes for leftovers too including Turkey, Red Cabbage and Chestnut Pie (p. 239) and Sage Toad-in-the-Hole with Pigs in Blankets and Onion Gravy (p. 235). Is your mouth watering yet?

If you’re looking for a Christmas cookbook to give as a gift, I think this one is ideal. I’m very definitely keeping it to myself though!

Do you have some favourite Christmas cookbooks?

Or maybe you have a cookbook that you love to get out at Christmas? Let us know in the comments.

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