Monday, December 15, 2008

Books for Cooks, Eaters and Drinkers

Mon 15 Dec 2008

The chances are that, by now, you've either finished your Christmas shopping or you're facing the next week or so with an increasing sense of dread.

I've already done some of the work for you by suggesting places to shop. Now, I'm raiding my bookshelf to offer up a list of my favourite books, in case you need last minute inspiration. I have linked through to Amazon, but I'd also urge you to pay a visit to any local bookstores and charity shops. The chances are that, by browsing, you'll find something far more interesting than anything I list here.

If you need to buy for someone showing an interest in wine, but not delved too far into wine geekdom, I recommend Oz Clarke's Introducing Wine. It covers a lot of information but in a chatty, approachable and, most importantly, memorable style.

For the fully matured wine geek, my favourite book (at the moment) is The World Atlas of Wine, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. The current edition has the green cover, and the book covers the wines of the world by focussing on geography. Maps and wine all in one book!

Eating wise, my personal all time favourite book is Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. It's chatty, focusses on seasonal eating and the majority of the recipes are low fuss affairs. It's size might make it intimidating for the novice cook, but all you should need to do is point such a person in the direction of the chocolate brownies ...

In terms of self promotion, you should all be buying The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook, and heading straight to page 146 where you can make my recipe for Japanese style duck breasts! Other than my excellent recipe this book will highlight just how many Fairtrade ingredients are available and what you can do with them.

As far as I'm concerned, the best part of any cookbook usually has something to do with cakes and puddings. If a book is ONLY about puddings ... what can go wrong? For the aspirational cook, look no further than Gordon Ramsay's Just Desserts. Most of us will recognise James Martin as the King of Puddings and the desserts in his Desserts book cover very solid territory: I've not had a single duff experience from this book.

I also love the two Marcus Wareing books I have but if I had to choose one it would be One Perfect Ingredient. I received this as a review copy and promptly made about two recipes a week from it for about a month.

Finally - for the very serious, the one book that should be in everyone's collection is Larousse Gastronomique. It's not called an encyclopaedia for nothing. Just make sure the recipient has suitably sturdy bookshelves!

Finally - some quick non-book gift ideas. Threshers are re-running the 40% off promotion. This time you have up until 31 December to redeem this voucher and it includes sparkling wine. Last time round I picked up a bottle of Moët & Chandon 1999 vintage Champagne for around £30 (normal retail price over £40). Not only should this sort any panic present buying but it will serve you well for New Year's Eve. Remember that these vouchers are redeemable at stores that are part of the Threshers family, such as the Wine Rack and Victoria Wine.

And, if the guest recipient is based in West or North Yorkshire, Karen at The Wine Academy will be more than happy to provide gift vouchers for either WSET courses or the 'Just for Fun' events.

Best of luck with the gift buying!
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