Food for thought: Our top 5 cookbooks for 2019

05 February 2019


When did cooking become so cool?

Turn on the TV on any given night and you’d be unlucky to be spared the nail-biting pressure of MasterChef or the wrath of Gordon Ramsay. Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll and celebrity chefs, its new rock stars.

Cookbooks too have gone from dog-eared paperbacks to glossy coffee table masterpieces, each page dripping with glorious photography, cool design and beautiful locations.

So, as you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to choose just five books. But our dedicated foodies have come up with a fine selection, offering something to delight and inspire every amateur chef - from swanky London vegetarian, to authentic southern (as in South Island) Italian.

As they say, it’s all about presentation. So, without further ado, we’re thrilled to present our top 5 cookbooks for 2019.


Our pick for adventurous vegetarians:

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

By Yotam Ottolenghi

A collection of 120 vegetarian recipes from London’s Yotam Ottolenghi, featuring zesty flavours and unexpected combinations.

Pity the poor vegetarian. For decades they have been the butt of jokes at barbecues and an afterthought on restaurant menus. But finally, vegetarianism has cast off its hippie sandals to become accepted - cool even. And this book by London superchef Yotam Ottolenghi, is definitely the latter.

In 2002 Israeli born Ottolenghi founded his deli, Ottolenghi, in London’s ritzy Notting Hill. The deli quickly gained a cult following due to its inventive vegetarian dishes, featuring unorthodox flavour combinations and exotic ingredients such as rose water, za'atar, and pomegranate molasses. Since then, Ottolenghi has expanded his empire to include four London restaurants and a weekly column read by foodies all over the world.

While not a vegetarian himself, Ottolenghi’s vegetable recipes are wholly original and innovative. Plenty brings together 120 of his best, featuring middle eastern flavors and unique combinations that will delight vegetarians and carnivores alike.


Our pick to reignite your Italian passion:

Francesca’s Italian Kitchen: Delicious Italian Recipes Made in New Zealand
By Francesca Voza and James Stapley

Pizza, pasta, yadda, yadda. If you think you know Italian, this is the book for you.

If you’ve been to Christchurch or Wanaka, you’ll probably have heard of Francesca Voza, or at least, the restaurants that bear her name. Francesca's Italian Kitchen serves authentic Italian food that’s a welcome departure from the predictable menus of most Italian restaurants. And right from the exquisite front cover, this cookbook promises to be something special. 

There are around 80 recipes featuring delights such as lamb shoulder ragu, and roasted pork hock with a cannellini bean salad. There are still the obligatory sections on pizza and pasta, but the difference lies in the choice of flavours and a focus on fresh New Zealand ingredients. Business partner, James Stapley of Whare Kea Lodge fame, contributes with the writing and preparation of the recipes.

Beautifully laid with gorgeous photos from Italy and Wanaka, Francesca’s Italian Kitchen is a great book for both beginners and seasoned cooks, covering the basics, ingredients and tips to creating that authentic Italian flavour.


Our pick for Junior masterchefs:

Good From Scratch Kids Cookbook
By Michael Van de Elzen

Get the kids started with this fun and easy book and soon, they’ll be cooking for you.

Ah, children. Devils to feed and demons let loose in the kitchen. But fear not, because Food Truck’s Michael Van de Elzen is out to change that. For his fifth cookbook, he’s pulled together his favourites - simple, healthy and delicious recipes in a format that encourages kids to try new foods and gain skills and confidence in the kitchen.

As the title suggests, the recipes all stem from Van de Elzen’s `Good From Scratch' philosophy - essentially that food is at its best when you know what all the ingredients are. This cookbook for kids covers all the essentials; from kick-starter breakfasts, lunch box fillers and after-school snacks to simple yummy dinners, sweet treats and party food.

The recipes are designed around ingredients that don’t cost a fortune or require hours of prep time. Each one comes with guides for age appropriate tasks, safety guidelines and good food practice.

The Good From Scratch Kids Cookbook will get your children thinking about making healthy food choices, without giving up on taste.


Our pick for broadening your horizons:

Feast: Food of the Islamic World
By Anissa Helou

Award-winning chef Anissa Helou shares an extraordinary range of recipes and stories from throughout the Muslim world.

With all of the terrible things going on in the news, it’s easy to forget that some of history’s greatest achievements in art, science and architecture have come from the Islamic world. Anissa Helou’s new book, Feast, was born out of a sense of disturbance she felt seeing Muslims portrayed in the media. “Through this book, I wanted to open up a world people might not know, in a positive and approachable way,” she says.

Feast is a big book, with over 300 recipes from Arab, Persian, Mughal and North African cooking. The dish on the book’s cover, kebab karaz, consists of ground lamb meatballs cooked in pitted sour cherries and pomegranate molasses. It comes from Aleppo, a city left in ruins from the Syrian civil war. As Helou describes it, “The food culture of Aleppo is probably the most interesting of the food cultures of the Middle East.”.

This sense of history and culture is what sets Feast apart from the many other middle eastern cookbooks.  Recipes for bread, rice, meats, fish and sweets are imbued with history and brought to life in stunning photographs. Feast is a brilliant addition to the culinary canon, featuring some of the world’s most inventive cultures and peoples.

throughout North Africa, the Middle East and far beyond.


Our pick for modern kiwi classics

Always Delicious: Favourite recipes from the New Zealand Listener
By Lauraine Jacobs

Lauraine Jacobs is one of New Zealand's best loved food writers, known for her work with Cuisine magazine and her long-running food column in the New Zealand Listener. Over the years, she has published more than 700 recipes in The Listener and in Always Delicious, she has chosen 100 or so that are simple to make and highlight the best of New Zealand’s seasonal fresh ingredients. Always Delicious has six sections with an emphasis on vegetables and healthy choices. Highlights include buttery braised fennel, cheesy cauliflower and leek bread pudding and salmon and cucumber green curry.

With beautiful photography from Liz Clarkson, this is an elegant and inspiring cookbook. As Lauraine Jacobs says, “I hope some of these recipes will have you energised to get into the kitchen, be excited about cooking, and really enjoying delicious food.”