Books Cookbooks Lists

Best Cookbooks of 2020

Recipes from the World of Tolkien by Robert Tuesley Anderson

Inspired by the Legends

The World of J.R.R. Tolkien is a treasure trove full of rare and wonderful eats. From Elven magical fare (like Lembas bread and Niphredil shortbread biscuits) to the Mulled Wines of Moria (we made a non-alcoholic version here that tastes just like the real deal). Middle Earth is a place of jewel-studded scones and rich flavors. Wonders for which we’ve, in no small part, got the Hobbits to thank who were foodies before that was even a thing! And I feel a sort of kinship with the Halflings whose celebration of life is inexorably tied to a celebration of food.

Recipes from the World of Tolkien includes over 75 mouth-watering recipes (inspired by the epic fantasy world) that will take you on a journey through Middle-earth! If you’ve ever wondered what a Hobbit, an Elf, or a Dwarf might eat in a day’s meals, this cookbook is for you! Whip up some tasty fare with recipes that cover all six mealtimes from the realm of J.R.R. Tolkien. Divided by the time of day (elevenses, anyone?) these recipes use modern ingredients and culinary techniques and are sure to satisfy Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves…and mortals too!

Advent by Laura Fleiter and Kerstin Niehoff

Make it a December to remember

This December, I’ve been consciously looking for ways to infuse our mundane routines with holiday feels, and there’s no more surefire way to do so than to engage the senses. Christmas lights on a dazzling tree, a house smelling of cinnamon and cloves. And taste! Maple syrup, gingerbread, dates, and cranberries, are just a few of the flavors inextricably tied to the holiday season for me. And if there is a book, just one, I have found that celebrates the Christmas season like no other, it’s Advent.

From a winter breakfast bowl with gingerbread cookie crumbs (healthy and so yum) to indulgently maple-roasted veggies with polenta. The authors have distilled the flavor of the holiday season into dishes that sing Christmas. This book is magic! And whether you call the Northern or Southern Hemisphere your home, Advent is a collection of recipes, crafting projects, made-by-you gifts, and simple yet stunning holiday decorations to share with friends and family. Many recipes are vegetarian, and quite a few are plant-based and gluten-free or can be easily adapted.

Find our more about Advent.

Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage, and Tara Wigley

Level up your vegetables

In our family, we’re crazy about vegetables. The cooked kind, those that can take center stage on a dinner plate. If you’re wondering how a vegetable can be the main event instead of the semi-unwelcome sideshow, Ottolenghi has got an entire series of vegetable-forward cookbooks, Plenty, Plenty More, and FLAVOUR (his newest!), ready to win you over to the rainbow side. And do let yourself be wooed; there’s an entire world out there of veg waiting to be discovered!

Ottolenghi’s approach is flexitarianism, and his appeal is to the widest group of vegetable lovers possible. There’s nothing you’re expected to surrender when picking up Flavour. You’ll find recipes that include meat and dairy and those that are vegan. The only thing true for all recipes, the veg is always the star of the show.

“If you want to win more people over to the veg camp, there is no worse way to go about it than to demand they go cold turkey.”

Yotam Ottolenghi

Flavour is all about understanding what makes veggies distinct and ramping up their flavor. It’s a next-level approach to vegetables that breaks down the fundamentals of cooking into three key elements: process, pairing, and produce. For PROCESS, Yotam and Ixta show how easy techniques such as charring and infusing can change the way you think about cooking. You’ll discover how to unlock new depths of flavor by PAIRING vegetables with sweetness, fat, acidity, or chile heat, and learn to identify the PRODUCE that has the innate ability to make dishes shine.

With main courses, sides, desserts, and a whole pantry of “flavour bombs” (homemade condiments), there’s something for any meal, any night of the week, including surefire hits such as Stuffed Eggplant in Curry and Coconut Dal, which has become a staple in our house that my husband treats us to once a week. Flavour is chock-full of low-effort, high-impact dishes and perfect for the relaxed cook.

A note for vegans: From the 100 recipes in this book, 45 are strictly vegan, and another 17 are easily adapted.

Find our more about Ottolenghi Flavour.

Cook Yotam Ottolenghi’s Stuffed Aubergines in a Curry and Coconut Dal tonight.

The Feel-Good Family Food Plan by Dr Joanna McMillan and Melissa Clark

Everything you need to feed your family well, every day

This cookbook has become our family go-to for healthy breakfasts and snacks. It’s food that’s easy to understand and prepare, and most importantly, it’s food that makes you feel good! There’s no feeling of lethargy, no dip in energy, and if you’re eating on the run or living on the go, those dips aren’t something you can afford. The Feel-Good Family Food Plan does the thinking for you, so you get delicious home-cooked food on the table, even on the most hectic work and school days. It’s a brilliant addition to any kitchen arsenal.

In our kitchen, page flags are like badges of honor, and no cookbook has received more than The Feel-Good Family Food Plan.

  • 60 WEEKNIGHT DINNERS the whole family will love. 
  • 4 weeks of MEAL PLANS take the stress out of shopping and cooking. 
  • Great ideas for getting the kids involved in the kitchen.
  • PLANT-RICH meals to encourage good eating habits for life. 
  • Ideas for FUSSY EATERS and getting kids to love veggies.
  • Quick HEALTHY BREAKFASTS, lunch boxes, and snacks for fuel on the run. 
  • Tips for savvy shopping, storing, and freezing.

A note for vegans and vegetarians: Vegetarians will find many recipes to choose from (we rarely eat meat and are thrilled with this book), but for a strict plant-based diet, there are few recipes here, and substitutions have to be made.

Dr Joanna McMillan is a PhD qualified Nutrition Scientist and Accredited Practicing Dietitian. Born in Scotland, she is now one of Australia’s favourite and most trusted health and wellbeing experts. Joanna is a regular on television, most recently hosting the ABC’s series Gut Revolution and Beating Diabetes; she is also a regular commentator on Channel 9’s Today Show. Co-author Melissa Clark is a professionally trained caterer.

Find out more about The Feel-Good Family Food Plan.

In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky

The definitive guide to making vegetables the centre of the plate

There’s something intensely satisfying about the bright colors and that flavor burst of in-season vegetables. Seriously, it’s time we stop relegating nature’s richest bounty to the sidelines and side dishes and delve into recipes that aren’t just more sustainable for the planet, better for our bodies, but straight-up mouthwatering and indulgent!

In Praise of Veg is a plant-forward (starting with the veg and building the dish from there) cookbook that celebrates fresh produce in all its glorious forms, from tubers, roots, bulbs, and stalks. If there’s some meat or fish, it’s a secondary element to the dish, with easy substitutions for anyone looking for full veg (swap mince for soy mince, a staple in our home). Color-coded recipe pages make it incredibly easy to find your way around this joy of a cookbook. So whether you call it an aubergine or eggplant, head for the purple section. Looking to hero sweet potato, butternut squash, or pumpkin, the orange section is your go-to. I love the simplicity of that. For those looking to sneak in a serve of veg (like zucchini, which isn’t a crowd-pleaser in our family), recipes like the Golden Bundt Cake are a marvel.

“It truly is a joyful volume with flavours as bright as its colourful pages.”

Nigella Lawson

Find out more about In Praise of Veg.

How to Raise a Loaf and Fall in Love with Sourdough by Roly Allen

All you need to become a master sourdough baker

A loaf of bread requires just four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and starter. It is perplexing (and, yes, disturbing) that the ingredient list on store-bought bread read like a chemistry lab. Factory-made bread is induced to rise chemically in a matter of minutes, a process that biologically takes hours, which makes the bread hard to digest. Artisanal bread doesn’t just taste better, it’s also a prebiotic and so good for our bodies’ microbiome and our gut.

Possibly, you weren’t looking for any of this information when your eye snagged this new accessible guide to bread baking by amateur baker Roly Allen. Which, by the way, is filled with even more fascinating facts and step-by-step guidance on the art of sourdough. But when I love to eat something, I love knowing it’s good for me too.

If you want to learn to bake bread without over-complicated recipes and pages and pages on kneading technique, then this book is for you. After all, a good loaf really is just about those four main ingredients (including welcome and tasty additions like nuts, olives, seeds, grains, cheese, fruits, and berries) and immersing yourself in the creative process of baking, of paying attention to the yeast, of being in the moment without distractions. There’s something incredibly zen about that.

Recipes include rye loaves, sourdough pizza, rolls, and more, as well as suggesting surprising flavors (think chocolate, tomato, olives, and linseed) to incorporate into your sourdough bakes. And you don’t need to be an expert baker to make your own sourdough at home. The small format and clear instructions make this the perfect baking guide for beginners.

Find out more about How to Raise a Loaf and Fall in Love with Sourdough.

Sweet Vegan by Nicole Maree

Indulgent, allergy-friendly, and cruelty-free

Looking for vegan treats that ooze, crunch, crumble, and melt just like their originals?

Think Jersey Caramels and Chocolate Brownies, Devils Food Cake and Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. Are you salivating yet? I had no idea how utterly simple whipping up a batch of egg-less meringue could be until Sweet Vegan. The secret? A tin of chilled, salt-free chickpeas (you’ll only use the water they come in called aquafaba). As well as adding over fifty recipes to your repertoire, Sweet Vegan has an entire guide dedicated to substitutes that will help you replace dairy, gluten, refined sugar, and nuts in any recipe you’re craving to recreate.

My go-to guide when I’m adapting a recipe.

Whether you’re vegan, have a food allergy or intolerance, or want to learn how to adapt your favorite sweets for friends with different dietary requirements, this book is for you. Let allergy-friendly cook and cruelty-free advocate Nicole Maree guide you to transform your kitchen from the inside out with recipes sure to hit your sweet spot.

Find out more about Sweet Vegan.

Whip up a batch of Nicole’s gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan CARTWHEELS.

Found some amazing cookbooks in 2020? Let me know in the comments below.

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