During the past 12 months we’ve shared 17 new cookbooks; of which 8 have become favorites. The favorites are the cookbooks I find myself coming back to time and time again, taught me something new, inspired me to try new ingredients and the ones with memorable dishes I keep remaking.
Below are my best cookbooks of 2020 and my favourite recipes from each. They’re listed in the order they were shared.
Tapas by Liam Tomlin
This cookbook is the second edition, with the first only being available for purchasing in his restaurants. Tapas is a visual feast of a cookbook and has foods with different tastes, textures and flavours. His flavour combinations are out of this world and the dishes that I’ve made, have been perfectly balanced. Most recipes do veer on the more technical side and require lots of time to make; but this cookbook gives you the chance to make restaurant worthy dishes at home.
Dietary notes: Most recipes use some form of animal proteins including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. There are plenty that are gluten free.
Best for: the home cook who doesn’t mind spending time in the kitchen and wants to impress.
My favourite recipe: Gyoza – the dipping sauce is unreal
Read my full review and get the recipe for the Mushroom Risotto here.
Tapas is available here
Mezze by Sally Butcher
Mezze was written by self-proclaimed accidental chef and accidental shopkeeper Sally Butcher. It was inspired by her husband’s Persian heritage and is a collection of Middle Eastern street food and meze-style recipes – dishes you would add to platters, that are easy to make and meant to be eaten at a leisurely pace. The recipes are fuss free and distinctly Middle Eastern and each comes with a story of its origin, which I loved reading. It’s become my go to for quick and easy dinners.
Dietary Notes: It is very meat heavy (with lots of lamb), however there is also an entire vegetarian section.
Best For: Those who love Middle Eastern Food and Flavours
Favourite Recipe: Mother in-law’s Tas Kebab
Read my full review and get the recipe for Hawawshi here
Meze is available here
Hummus to Halva by Ronen Givon and Christian Mouysset
Written by an Israeli and a French-Englishman, Hummus to Halva celebrates Levantine food meant to be enjoyed with friends and family, using pita as a utensil and hummus as a condiment. I love Mediterranean and Israeli food so it’s no wonder this made my list. It’s become a go-to guide for whenever I want an Israeli style dish. The recipes are easy to make and packed with flavour. It is more of a savoury cookbook and you’ll need to stock up on tahini.
Dietary notes: The vast majority of recipes are plant-based and although there is the occasional recipe that uses meat, dairy or eggs those could be easily switched out. There are also plenty gluten free options.
My favourite recipe: Green chilli sauce
Best for: Anyone who loves Mediterranean food and hummus.
Read my full review and get the recipe for their tabouleh here.
Hummus to Halva is available here
Flavour by Yottam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
Flavour is described as being the third cookbook in the Plenty series, and acts as continuation from his vegetable focused cookbooks Plenty and Plenty More. Flavour is heavily focused on vegetables and understanding what makes them distinct and how to ramp up their flavours using different techniques and combinations to create Flavour Bombs. It’s my most used cookbook and the reason I now use the word flavour bomb to describe any dish big on flavours. As much as I’ve gained from the recipes, reading the techniques and explanations has taught me much about different ingredients and what makes flavours pop. Most recipes do have long ingredient lists, feature ingredients that aren’t so easy to find and require time to make, but they’re well worth it for each bite that’ll hit your tongue.
Dietary notes: The focus is on vegetables so it’s plant based with the occasional dairy ingredient.
Best for: Vegetable lovers who want to learn new ways to cook them (or non-vegetable lovers that want to learn to love them)
Favourite recipes: slow cooked charred green beans and lemon and hibiscus sorbet
Read my full review here and get the recipe for the labneh and berry platter here
Flavour is available here
Everyone Can Bake by Dominique Ansel
Everyone can bake is written by the award-winning pastry chef known for his viral pastry inventions (the cronut and cookie cups), Dominique Ansel. The best way to describe it is It is akin to taking a masterclass on baking basics with Ansel. The book is a learning cookbook that teaches you basic recipes that form Ansel’s go-to bases. He teaches you the building blocks of baking, that once mastered, allows you to mix and match to create your own unique delicious creation. It is one of the few cookbooks I’ve read cover to cover as there are so many valuable tips throughout. As someone who enjoys baking, this cookbook has become my baking bible and a source of trusted go to baking basics like tart shells, pastry creams, classic cookies and cakes. The recipes are a mix between easy and difficult, but he walks you through each step, making it look achievable.
Dietary Notes: As a baking cookbook by a pastry King, you can expect all recipes to have sugar, butter and flour. However, he is French and his recipes are not cloyingly sweet, just sweet enough.
Best For: The baking enthusiast.
Favourite recipe: His tart shell and pastry cream are perfection, but the peanut butter crunch cake is the stand out “full recipe”.
Read my full review and get the recipe for his fruit tart here
Everyone Can Bake is available here
Quick and Easy by Delicious Ella
This is the fifth cookbook by Ella Mills and it focuses on recipes that are quick, easy and wholesome. Along with over 100 vegan recipes, Mills shares her own journey towards health and tips on achieving a healthy balance that is affordable and practical. What I love about her recipes is that whilst they are quick and easy, she builds in so much flavour creating meals that are flavour bombs. She also manages to create truly wholesome dishes that are delicious and taste indulgent proving that flavour and health can go hand in hand. I’ve made so many of her recipes and it’s the place I look for plant-based dishes and sides and salads that aren’t boring. It is a treasure trove of plant-based eats.
Dietary Notes: All recipes are vegan and most gluten free. The only allergy to look out for is nuts which feature in most recipes.
Best for: Those following a plant-based diet or wanting to incorporate more plants into their diet in an easy and delicious way
Favourite Recipe: Green quinoa risotto and the pulled aubergine dip
Find my full review and get the recipe for her pulled aubergine dip here
Quick & Easy is available here
Welcome to My Table by Siba Mtongana
Welcome to My Table is the first cookbook by Siba Mtongana who also hosts a Food Network show of the same name (and on which the cookbook is based). It features both everyday recipes and recipes for entertaining that look like they took hours to make but are whipped up fast using a lot of basic ingredients. Her recipes are fresh, colourful and loaded with fresh produce. She’s mindful of health and nutrition and you see that in her recipes, but she also holds by moderation which means a delicious dessert chapter. Her sides, salads and meat are perfect for oomphing up a braai. She also includes an entire chapter on classic South African recipes like braaied snoek, potjie, chakalaka, bunny chow, bobotie, pap and milk tart. It’s the cookbook that I’m planning on working my way through over summer with her sides featuring at every braai.
Dietary Notes: While the recipes include loads of fresh produce and greens, most include animal proteins like meat, poultry, fish and dairy. There are a lot of gluten free and Low GI dishes.
Best for: The person who loves to cook for a crowd (so many dishes are suited for entertaining) and someone looking for South African recipes with an updated twist.
Favorite recipe: Harissa Tabouleh
Welcome to my Table is available here
Weber’s Ultimate Braai Book by Jamie Purviance
Jamie Purviace is Weber’s Culinary Director and an accomplished chef who has written a host of best-selling cookbooks for Weber. His subject is grilling, and he has mastered the art of the perfect braai. This Ultimate Braai Book is a guide to braaiing that teaches you how to build the perfect fire and use different areas of your braai to achieve the perfect cook. He goes through every type of meat (except boerewors, although braaiing that is built into the DNA of every South African, no cookbook needed) as well as fish, vegetables, pizza and even cooking desserts on your braai. You can make an entire meal on your braai and he shows you how. While there are many good recipes and marinades, the how-to guides and instructions are really what I liked most, as the braai is definitely a cooking method I need to work on.
Dietary notes: Even with his chapters on veggies, sides and pizza it’s a braai book which means there’s loads of recipes for meats, poultry and sea food. Plenty dishes are gluten free and low-carb.
Best For: Those who own a Weber or want to up their braai game
Weber’s Ultimate Braai Book is available here
What was your favorite cookbook of 2020?
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Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.