“Cooking is not something you do, and then it’s finished with. It is a thread woven through our lives, encompassing memory, desire and sustenance, both physical and emotional. It can never be an end in itself. We return to dishes we love, not just because they mean something particular to us, but also because our hands feel comfortable preparing food that is familiar”
As we wind down the year, it’s time to look back at the new cookbooks we shared and more specifically the cookbooks that we keep coming back to week after week after week. These are our best (new) cookbooks of 2021, the ones that have inspired meals, ingredient sourcing and provided recipes we keep on rotation.
Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson
More than just a cookbook, Cook, Eat, Repeat is a book about food – the memories and rituals we create around it, the comfort it brings and how recipes tell stories. It’s a celebration of food and food writing at its best. It’s a cookbook that begs to be read cover to cover. I found myself making dishes based not on the picture but rather her descriptions. There are recipes in this cookbook that have become staples – I buy red cabbage purely to make her pickled cabbage and have her fermented hot sauce in my fridge at all times. This cookbook is well worn with plenty food stains, a testament to how much I’ve used it.
Dietary notes: There’s a mix of everything in this cookbook – animal proteins, dairy and produce so you’ll be able to find something no matter your dietary preference.
Best for: Anyone who loves food and food writing and of course Nigella. There’s a nice mix of simple and more detailed recipes to appeal to all levels of cooks, but nothing too intimidating.
My favorite recipes: Pickled Red Cabbage, fermented hot sauce, burnt onion and aubergine dip and one pan chicken with apricot harissa and sweet potatoes.
Read my full review and get the recipe for the Gluten Free Banana Bread here
Curried by Cariema Isaacs
Curried is an ode to curries and the many forms they take on and the many cultures they come from. It includes her own pantry staples that she uses to make the curries and loads of curry intel. It is the ultimate curry cookbook and the one I go to whenever I want a curry – be it chicken, meat, fish or veg. The flavours are phenomenal.
Dietary Notes: While there are plant-based curries that use legumes or tofu, the majority of recipes do contain animal proteins. Most recipes are however gluten free or can easily be adapted to being so.
Best For: Those that love spice and curry.
My favorite recipes: Thai red beef stir-fry, cod fillets with ginger and coconut curry (I always use hake instead of cod), Cape Malay flaky roti.
Read my full review and get the recipe for the Thai Red Beef Stir-fry here
The Pasta Man by Mateo Zielonka
This is the first cookbook by Mateo Zielonka, or “The Pasta Man” as he’s known on Instagram. In it he provides a crash course into the art of pasta making, from ingredients to equipment to basic recipes. Then things get fun as he shows you how to make the colorful and creative pasta dishes he’s known for. It’s my go-to pasta cookbook that I use alongside watching his Instagram feed which often has him demonstrating how to do different pasta shapes. It will make you want to make pasta from scratch.
Dietary Notes: There’s a little bit of everything. In the basic pasta recipes he includes both a vegan and gluten free pasta dough and in the main recipes he provides recipes that are vegan, vegetarian and ones that include seafood or meat.
Best For: Anyone who wants to learn how to make pasta at home
My favorite recipes: Mallareddus alla vodka and pappardelle with cavolo nera
Read my full review and get the recipe for the Mallareddus Alla Vodka here
Simply Seasonal by Ilse van der Merwe
Simply Seasonal is a vibrant recipe book inspired by nature’s bounty and the seasons. Recipes are categorized by seasons and feature produce specific to the four seasons of the year. The recipes are fresh and vibrant, and I turn to it whenever I need something fresh and easy.
Dietary Notes: There’s something for everyone. She does focus heavily on fresh produce but includes different proteins. However, most would be able to be switched out.
Best For: Those who want to cook seasonally and want to eat more fresh produce.
My favorite recipes: Aromatic marrow bone and vegetable soup and steak with chimichurri sauce
Read my full review and get the recipe for the roasted butternut and red onion pasta with feta, herbs and almonds here
Vietnamese by Uyen Luu
Uyen Luu started cooking as a way to recreate her mother’s dishes when she left home. That became a career and Vietnamese is her second cookbook. She wants to help people cook Vietnamese with ease and pleasure and this cookbook does exactly that. It’s filled with vibrant and fragrant recipes that give you a taste of Vietnamese food in your own kitchen. The recipes range from easy to more complex, but she breaks it down so it seems manageable. Whenever I’m looking for something different, this is the cookbook I open.
Dietary Notes: There is a lot of animal proteins in the recipes, but it is largely gluten free.
Best For: Those that love Vietnamese cuisine or like learning about different cultures through food.
My favorite recipes: Ginger chicken, banh mi and the chicken, marrow, ginger and pumpkin noodle soup.
Read my full review and get the recipe for the Banh Mi here
Chasing Smoke Around the Levant by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich
Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant is written by the husband and wife duo behind the well-known London restaurant, Honey & Smoke. It’s their fourth cookbook and themed around Middle Eastern foods cooked completely on the grill. It combines recipes with food and travel writing and makes you want to pick up and go on a food tour of the world. While all recipes are made over a fire, they do give directions for cooking in the oven or the stove.
While this is the cookbook I turn to whenever I want a new braai idea (and my cookbook of this summer), I’ve made a few of their recipes in the oven/stove when I’ve wanted a middle eastern flavored dish and they’ve all been a hit.
Dietary Notes: They split the book by ingredients and include an entire chapter dedicated to fruits and vegetables. So while the book is heavy on the animal protein, that first chapter has so many different and unique plant-based dishes good for a braai. Most recipes are gluten free.
Best For: Those who love Middle Eastern flavours and cooking over fire!
My favorite recipes: Chicken and Swiss Chard Fatayar.
Read my full review and get the recipe for the whole burnt aubergine with egg yolk, tahini and chilli sauce here
Shelf Love by Ottolenghi
Shelf Love is the first cookbook in the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Series. It is a collaboration between Yotam Ottolenghi and his supporting team of chefs that make up the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen. The recipes reflect each of their own cultures and food loves, from Middle Eastern flavors to baking to the latest trends in food and flavor. It draws inspiration from those forgotten ingredients found in your pantry and the back of your fridge. It is simpler than his cookbooks, but the recipes still have that unmistakable Ottolenghi flavour.
Dietary Notes: This is heavily plant-based but does include the occasional animal protein.
Best For: Anyone who has random ingredients they bought for one recipe they don’t know how to use up.
My favorite recipes: Sweet potato shakshuka and rice koofteh in spiced tomato sauce
Read my full review and get the recipe for the sweet potato shakshuka here
What was your best cookbook of 2021?
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.