Food & Drink

18 gotta-get cookbooks for a way waaay cooler kitchen

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Chris Sayer
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18 gotta-get cookbooks for a way waaay cooler kitchen 5

These are the tomes you need to become a better chef, and a better person

A quick and easy way for a person to assess whether you’re a cool, decent, clever, nice and handsome guy, or a mouth-breathing space-wasting moron, is to judge you on the stacks of literature you have around your house. No no, it’s true. It’s fact. We’re calling it - fact. 

Got yourself a tower of modern classic fiction beside your bed? Hey, this guy I could talk to at length! Got yourself a pillar of brutalist architecture and stark black-and-white photography books on your coffee table? Oooh, this guy is cultured! Nice little pile of Viz comics leaning against your toilet? Hehe, this guy is fuuuuuuh-nny!

Then there’s the kitchen. A single soup-stained Jamie Oliver book and dog-eared BBC Good Food print-out won’t exactly set those first impressions ablaze, will they. Won’t spell out that you’re an adventurous, skilled and knowledgeable grandmasterchef, will they. 

But these will. These will do all that, and throw a handful of cool points into your pocket too. Ahead lay 18 incredibly awesome cookbooks, from some of the world’s most respected and raddest kings and queens of cuisine. Big, colourful, inspiring, spectacular pages of game-changing, life-enhancing, ready meal-slaying brilliance. Buy them all, pile ‘em high, make sure they’re on show, and maybe, just maybe, consider using one to cook your tea tonight…

1. Anna Mae’s Mac & Cheese

The original London macaroni and cheese dealers. The Mac Daddies, if you will. Anna Mae’s achieved their deserved legend status by cooking up carby golden goo in massive iron skillets, and throwing down a heavenly spectrum of toppings unto their holy mess, from chipotle to bacon, beef hot dogs to excessive extra cheeses. This is the bible that’ll show you their genius.

You’ll wanna try: The Don Macaroni recipe, in all its bacon fat and pesto glory, will make its way into your weekly meal plan, stat. 

Buy it here

2. Los Angeles Cult Recipes

Every single element of your life now has the claws of the “West Coast-inspired” prefix stuck hard into it. The music you listen to, the clothes you wear, the furniture you bought to deck out your £2000-a-month shoebox in zone 8, all tinged with California cool. Stands to reason, then, that doing the same to your kitchen would be a pretty, pretty good idea. And it is, with this love letter to all the iconic recipes that make the sprawling US city, and epicentre of the street food earthquake, so goddamn great.

You’ll wanna try: The actual In-N-Out Double Cheeseburger. Like, the actual one, from the actual burger mecca. It’s in here. The actual one!

Buy it here

3. The MEATLiquor Chronicles

Dead hippies for breakfast, chilli cheese fries for elevensies, chilli dogs for lunch, deep-fried mac’n’cheese for foursies, buffalo chicken burger for dinner, and a couple o’ fried pickles before sleepy time. This is life, now that this lives next to your oven. 

You’ll wanna try: The glowing hot, face-melting Bingo Wings. 

Buy it here

4. Berber & Q

berber & Q

We probably dream about getting feral with a Berber & Q Shawarma Bar stuffed pitta about three work lunchtimes out of five, each week. Every week. Yeah, it’s a problem. It’s a bit out of control. We’re hoping chef-founder Josh Katz’s first book might be the self-help guide we need to break the cycle. Help us, Josh. Help us.

You’ll wanna try: The Buttermilk Chicken Shish Kebab with Quick Lemon Pickle and Oregano sounds like a little life-changer. 

Pre-order it here (out 31 May)

5. Rene Redzepi: A Work In Progress 

You don’t read this trio for the recipes. You read this diary of arguably the greatest living chef for the best understanding and grasp of the creative process we’ve ever come across, and a totally real look at how hardcore restaurant life, especially one in an establishment as globally revered Noma, can be. Guy’s a genius, and a machine. A genius machine.

You’ll wanna try: You won’t. They’re insanely intricate and unobtainable. You’ll just look at the pictures. And that’s absolutely okay. 

Buy it here

6. Pizza Pilgrims: Recipes From The Back Streets of Italy

This, by the brothers who packed it all in to pursue the pizza dream, is the push you need to slam a P45 on your boss’s desk tomorrow, and follow your lifelong ambition of flogging freshly cooked goodness out the side of an MOT-dodging Citroen van. You’ll find slice upon slice of tasty, authentic ‘za here, all obtained during an epic 4,000km road trip around Italy.

You’ll wanna try: The Saltimbocca. It means pizza sandwich, and if someone could tell us why we haven’t been eating them all our lives that would be really great. 

Buy it here

7. Yardbird

yardbird

There’s a chicken in your fridge. You’re gonna do what you always do, aren’t you. You’re gonna predictably roast it/pray to heaven it’s cooked enough to not murder you with food poisoning. How…how about…you don’t… do… that? How about you take a cue from Hong Kong’s cult fowl outpost Yardbird and give it a yakitori send-off? The Japanese skewering technique is one of the healthiest, simplest and coolest ways to cook your bird, and this book, from Canadian head chef Matt Abergel, holds the key to nailing it.

You’ll wanna try: Whoa there, eager beaver boy. Pop the chicken down - you need to swot up on Tare first. This sweet and thick dipping sauce is one of the foundations of any yakitori house. Show it some respect. 

Pre-order it here (out 6 July)

8. Fire Food

Fire Food

Skateboarder, DJ, voice-over dude, Rad Dad and grandmaster of the grill, DJ BBQ is Jamie Oliver’s go-to guy for all things flame-cooked. Enlist his services for yourself with this, his second book of all things licked with fire.

You’ll wanna try: The Baby Back Ribs with Szechuan Mopping Sauce. If you read it without soaking your socks with drool, then you’re well weird mate. 

Pre-order it here (out 19 April)

9. Lisboeta

Scroll past this one nice and fast, before your overly familiar and chronically irritating colleague glances at your screen (again) and decrees to the entire building, “that’s about Lisbon! Aaah, Lisbon. I’ve been to Lisbon!”, and gives everyone a rundown of the 18 best tinned sardines he ate out there. Eurgh. Just know that this is by the incredible Nuno Mendes of Chiltern Firehouse (pow, quality) and celebrates the hearty and colourful cuisine of perhaps the coolest city in Europe right now.

You’ll wanna try: The steak-heavy Prego sandwich, which’ll transform your desk lunches forever.

Buy it here

10. Breddos Tacos: The Cookbook

The embodiment of the Great Street Food Dream, these guys. Chris Whitney and Nud Dudhia started their taco operation in a Hackney car park, and held on for dear life as a wave of success threw them into perma-spots in Soho and Clerkenwell, and up to the god-leagues with a cook-off at LA’s Tacolandia. Someone call Jon Favreau, we got us a Hollywood movie script to pitch! 

You’ll wanna try: The Baja Fish Tacos, all day, every day, thank you. 

Buy it here

11. Roots. 

Michelin-starred Tommy Banks, the Great British Menu-winning mega-chef, last year taught us ShortList lot about “Burocazade” - the dark art of dropping a Berocca in a Lucozade to cure a stinking hangover. So we kinda owe him. We’re kinda in his debt. But that’s not why we’re bigging up his debut book. Nuh huh. It makes the list on merit alone, thanks to a beautiful look at the ingredients he grows, forages and preserves through the seasons around his restaurant, The Black Swan in Oldstead, in North Yorkshire (also known as ‘the best fine dining restaurant in the world’). 

You’ll wanna try: The other thing he taught us - pre-mixing Marmite through your butter to streamline your toast-spreading time in the morning.  Absolutely definitely did not make into this book though, despite its Nobel Prize-worthy genius. 

Buy it here

12. Bone Daddies: The Cookbook

A banger of a book from the brothy boys behind London’s coolest ramen joint. Prepare to become an absolutely obsessed chicken stock nerdlinger.

You’ll wanna try: The hot-as-hell and blacker-than-Ozzy’s-underpants Prince Of Darkness ramen, assuming you have a deathwish. 

Buy it here

13. Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding

It’s from the guy behind London’s Bread Ahead, which is great, and deals in all things that are deliciously terrible for you, which is really great. Verdict: this is great.

You’ll wanna try: The Deep-Fried Sandwich has your name (and a code red heart-attack risk) written all over it.

Buy it here

14. Pitt Cue Co. - The Cookbook

If you worship in the church of BBQ and pray to the god of burnt ends, briskets and butts, consider this, from London’s flame-grilling and smoky pros, your holy scripture.

You’ll wanna try: The Burnt Ends Mash swiftly followed by - and the award for the greatest ever name for a dessert goes to - the Toffee Apple Grunt. 

Buy it here

15. The Nordic Cookbook

Watch Swedish gastro-maestro Magnus Nilsson’s episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix. Then throw a tantrum because you’ll never be able to get a reservation at his remote restaurant in the icy tundra of Åre. Then settle for hugging and kissing and worshiping his book instead.

You’ll wanna try: The Herring and Pickled Beetroot Salad, which is so Scandi you’ll practically earn yourself an honorary Swedish citizenship after making it. 

Buy it here

16. Red Rooster Harlem: The Cookbook

If you’re gonna do comfort food, make it southern American comfort food - the best of the best of the best belly-hugging, dopamine-spawning, aorta-clogging comfort food there is. And Marcus Samuelsson, Harlem’s powerchef, is the guy to do it with.

You’ll wanna try: The exact braised short ribs that Samuelsson served Obama when he visited his restaurant in 2011.  

Buy it here

17. Morito

Date night. Going well. Back at yours. A little hungry. You look at the half-eaten and now borderline deadly hummus, the tube of Pringles shards, and the possible Tracker Bar, can’t be sure. No. Not tonight. Not. Tonight. “I’ll just rustle you up some sea bass ceviche with seville orange,” you say. “I’ll fiddle together a little smoked aubergine with spiced lamb and chilli butter”. That’s you, that is. A king. A hero. A tapas master. And this is the book that got you there.

You’ll wanna try: The Broad Beans with Jamon - a stupidly simple little ripper of a dish. 

Buy it here

18. Caravan: All Day Dining 

18 gotta-get cookbooks for a way waaay cooler kitchen 3

London’s antipodean brunchlords have got every single waking hour of your day covered in this, a collection of recipes that helped the restaurant chain earn all its shiny awards. early coffees, Saturday eggs, lunchtime salads, meaty dinner stuff, after-hours cocktails, the lot. Best thing about it though? How blissfully chilled out the whole thing feels. 

You’ll wanna try: The Shakshuka Eggs is definitely the most tomato-spattered of all the pages in our copy at home. 

Buy it here

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