An illustration showing a grandmother cooking with two young children, dressed in Christmas jumpers and a paper crown. The workbench they are using is also the spine of a large cookbook.
Reading lists

Cookbooks that make for special gifts

Beautiful books to delight every kind of food lover, from beginner cooks to seasoned pros, wine enthusiasts to amateur mixologists and more.

If you're on the lookout for gift inspiration for the foodie friend in your life, you've come to the right place. Whether you're shopping for beginners just starting to cook for themselves, seasoned pros looking for a challenge or even wannabe mixologists looking to learn the art of the cocktail, we've got plenty of recommendations.

So, from modern classics to new releases, we've rounded up cookbook inspiration for every type of home cook and food lover. 

For the cook that wants simple, fuss-free recipes

Who you're buying for: A complete beginner, or someone short on time.

Rukmini Iyer's Roasting Tin series has become something of a phenomenon in recent years. Featuring easy one-tin recipes with concise ingredient lists, these books are perfect for starter cooks or those short on time and space. For the vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian in your life, The Green Roasting Tin will offer meat-free inspiration for every day of the week.

National treasures Nadiya Hussain and Mary Berry both have new cookbooks out this year: Nadiya's Fast Flavours is full of mouthwatering meals with bold flavours that don't require hours spent in the kitchen, while Mary Berry's Love to Cook is infused with her love of simple home cooking and fresh ingredients that feed that both body and mind.

Finally, Sam Sifton's No-Recipe Recipes shows that one really (no, really) doesn't need a recipe. With beautiful photographs throughout, these informal recipes will help both the novice and the advanced cook get comfortable with the act of improvising in the kitchen.

More recommendations: Big Zuu's Big Eats, The Cornershop Cookbook

For the cook who feeds the masses

Who you're buying for: Someone who's always feeding a crowd, or the person who loves to batch cook for the week ahead.

After almost two years of pandemic living, being with loved ones has never felt so important – and what's better than coming together over a meal? Jamie Oliver's Together features over 120 stress-free recipes that can be grouped into three-course menus or enjoyed individually.

Ainsley Harriet and Rick Stein are back this autumn, too. Ainsley's Good Mood Food is all about food that makes us happy, from lighter fare to more indulgent recipes. After spending much of his life travelling in search of the world's best food, Rick Stein at Home takes us into his own kitchen, where Rick celebrates some of his favourite ever meals, all perfect for sharing.

Created by the superstar team at the Ottolenghi test kitchen, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love is packed not only with gorgeous recipes but plenty of hints and tips to allow you to make these dishes your own. These recipes can be put together and grouped however you want, allowing you to whip up a vibrant spread and feed a crowd without too-much effort.

More recommendations: Green, Falastin

For the adventurous cook

Who you're buying for: The home cook who loves a kitchen project.

Meera Sodha's East is full of hearty meat-free recipes from across the Asian continent; while nothing in here is technically too complex, those who love a weekend spent in the kitchen will find plenty to keep them occupied, from a caremelised onion and chilli ramen to salted miso brownies and more.

The person that really got into baking over the pandemic might appreciate Baking School, from the people behind the world-famous Bread Ahead Bakery in Borough Market. This book is a one-stop shop for everything you need to master bread and pastry at home.

For anyone who wants a serious culinary challenge, both Nanban and Chiltern Firehouse have much to offer, from Nanban's ramen noodle recipe to Chiltern Firehouse chef Nuno Mendes' contemporary creations such as crab doughnuts and frozen apple panna cotta.

More recommendations: Insects, The Forager Handbook

For the cook who wants to perfect the classics

Who you're buying for: Someone who wants to improve their technique and get comfortable with the fundamentals.

What do we mean when we think of food classics? Perhaps, for some, a roast chicken springs to mind. For the friend that's looking to perfect theirs, along with other staples from potato preparations to fish cooking, Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories should be their go-to manual.

Or maybe you know someone who'd § to start at the very beginning? For many, all roads lead to Julia Child. First published in 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is the classic guide, covering everything from the perfect omlette to more involved dishes like boeuf bourguignon. Also from the 1960s is Claudia Roden's A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. It's the book that chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi turn to for inspiration and without Roden we might not be so familiar (nor fond) of foods like hummus and tahini here in Britain.

At this point, a curry might as well be a national dish. Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Easy Vegetarian includes over 200 recipes from across India, and shows that cooking authentic Indian food at home doesn't have to be hard at all.

More recommendations: How to Cook, Completely Perfect

For the cook looking to recreate restaurant favourites at home

Who you're buying for: The food lover who wishes they were dining out every night of the week.

The Book of St. John is as much a manifesto as cookbook: inside are seminal recipes as well as menu suggestions, wine pairings and a look at the zero-waste ethos of the restaurant. River Cafe 30 is a celebration of 30 years of this iconic establishment; it includes previously unseen archive images and other ephemera in addition to 120 classic Italian recipes.

Hunan, another legendary London restaurant, is known for its emphasis on sharing small plates. This glossy cookbook includes 70 Chinese recipes that capture the essence and soul of this unique restaurant.

From one end of the UK to another: Mother India, a hugely popular group of Indian eateries that started life in Glasgow, is often ranked among Scotland's best restaurants. Mother India at Home includes the restaurant's favourite recipes, adapted specifically for home cooking, as well as the story behind owner Monir Mohammed's culinary journey. 

More recommendations: NOPI: The Cookbook, Sabor

For the cook with a sweet tooth

Who you're buying for: The baking enthusiast, or dessert lover.

How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson's classic baking bible, has helped many connect with the joys of baking, and is a must for every food-lover's bookshelf.

Known for using less-processed ingredients like wholegrain flours, unrefined sugars and seasonal fruits The Violet Bakery Cookbook brings together wholesome yet indulgent recipes which show that baking doesn't need to be a chore.

From modern classics to new releases: social media sensation Jane Dunn is much-loved for her easy, customisable bakes, and Jane's Patisserie contains 100 recipes for cakes, cookies and more.

Or, for fans of iced treats – think ice cream, sorbet and granita – La Grotta Ices contains 75 recipes that capture sunlit flavours created with pure natural ingredients.

More recommendations: The Marshmallowist, Crumb

For the amateur mixologist

Who you're buying for: the party-starter.

For those who love “to cocktail” – a verb coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1928 – both The Spirits by Richard Godwin and The Alchemist Cocktail Book offer crowd-pleasing recipes, from classics to newer innovations, that will help any amateur mixologist up their cocktailing game.

Teetotal drinkers or anyone on a break from the booze needn't miss out as Clare Liardet's Dry contains plenty of non-alcoholic tipples that make the most of flavoursome mixers, fragrant syrups and alcohol-free spirits.

Finally, Wine Grapes is an indispensable (and indisputably beautiful) ode to these hallowed fruits, and covers everything a wine lover, expert or student needs to know about them.

More recommendations: The Alcorithm, The Seedlip Cocktail Book

Illustration of a family sitting around a large book of The Thursday Murder Club

Christmas Gift Guide

Image: Bianca Bagnarelli for Penguin Random House

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