Our pick of the best cookbooks and some exclusive recipes too. Well, it is Christmas and all
We've really been very good, Santa ...
1. Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect
Best for: the perfectionist
They say: "Imagine Mary is in your kitchen with you, sharing her tips and tricks – the secret of crisp pork crackling, how to make featherlight fruit muffins, and the key to a super-crunchy crumble topping."
We say: Anything homemade is pretty special in our book, but if trying isn't good enough for you, get Queen Bezza's new bible. It ain't just baking – there's starters, mains, soups, salads – all with heaps of step-by-step pics so you really can't go wrong. *crosses fingers*
Fave recipe: steak and Guinness pie
2. Jamie's Comfort Food
Best for: The world and his wife
They say: "The ultimate weekend cookbook, this is about good-mood food that’ll put a massive smile on your face ..."
We say: Another victual bible from foodie-warrior Jamie (just how many of these can he bash out?), Comfort Food is indeed full of lip-smacking recipes to cheer you up and get you through winter. With the likes of peanut butter & jelly brownies steer clear if you're on a January purge ...
Our fave recipe: next level steak & onion sandwich
3. Chocolate at home: Will Torrent
Best for: Committed chocoholics who actually like making their own truffles
They say: "Will has written a book to demystify the art of cooking with chocolate, from simple bakes to sophisticated desserts. Torrent has icing sugar in his veins!"
We say: Whatever they say, most of these recipes aren't all that easy. What they are though is worth the effort. You might have to get hold of ingredients you've never heard of (turbinado sugar, anyone?), or order online (that's you, pistachio paste), but with lush photography and inspiring recipes, it's a book to treasure for sure.
Fave recipe: Hard to pick. Chocolate and chestnut roulade, gingerbread hot chocolate, banoffee mud pies ... OK, if we have to – how's about this chocolate pizza?
4. Montezuma's chocolate cookbook: Simon & Helen Pattinson
Best for: Chocoholics with less patience
They say: "Marvellous, messy, melt-in-the-mouth recipes!"
We say: A magical mix of both straightforward and slightly-more-tricky recipes, all utterly scrummy. They'll be fighting over this one.
Fave recipe: Dark chocolate risotto (heaven in a bowl)
5. Gluten-free Christmas: Hannah Miles
Best for: Gluten-free feasters – d'oh!
They say: "Delicious cookies, cakes, pies, stuffings and sauces for the perfect festive table. Indulge in all those previously forbidden treats."
We say: If you've been gluten-free for a while, you've probably got a repertoire of Christmas recipes set to go. If you've recently become intolerant (or know someone who has) this book's a cracker.
Fave recipe: dill and mustard blinis with smoked salmon (it's not a party without a pancake)
6. Party-perfect bites: Milli Taylor
Best for: The hostess with the mostest
They say: More than 100 ideas for delicious bite-size morsels that add style and taste to any party
We say: If you think you're not the type to swan around making your own canapés, this book might just change your mind. Ranging from the easy-peasy (beetroot hummus) to downright difficult (pickled mackerel sushi), super-indulgent (frangelico truffles) to recklessly ambitious (squid ink crackers), most of these nibbles can be supersized so your culinary endeavours reap greater rewards.
7. Mug cakes: Mima Sinclair
Best for: Students
They say: "Make a cake in a mug, in a microwave, in less than 10 minutes with simple ingredients you don't even have to weigh out"
We say: A fun little book we'd gladly find at the bottom of our stocking; it's truly amazing what you can nuke up in a microwaveable mug. If cakes are this easy to make, you might find yourself eating one every day of the week.
Fave recipe: Christmas cake in a mug (oh yes you can!)
8. Fresh spice: Arun Kapil
Best for: Adventurous foodies
They say: "Spice expert Arun Kapil sets out the building blocks of spice knowledge to help you cook creatively. 'Spices should add clarity, so that the taste sparkles on your palate. It's a kind of food alchemy'." (If you say so ... )
We say: Stuck in a food rut? Sick of staring at that cupboard of unused spices? Kapil's Ottolenghi-style approach is guaranteed to shake things up – you'd better not be scared of long ingredients lists, though.
Fave recipe: Caribbean Christmas cake (boozylicious)
9. Patisserie made simple: Edd Kimber
Best for: Thinking of entering the Bake Off?
They say: "Edd Kimber has made everyone's favourite French desserts and pastries accessible and easy-to-make," says American-born French pastry king David Lebovitz.
We say: Ever dreamed of making your own croissant, gateau opera or croquembouche? Now you can. No really, you can. There's nothing pretentious about GBBO star Edd, who happily shares his skills. How refreshing.
Fave recipe: milk chocolate and hazelnut praline bûche de Noël
10. Baked occasions: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Best for: People who like BIG cakes with plenty of attitude (and buttercream to boot)
They say: "Honey, don't open this book unless you are prepared to drop to your knees and beg somebody to make you every one of these recipes!" – Whoopi Goldberg
We say: Matt and Renato are without doubt Brooklyn's bad-boy bakers. These cakes are naughty. There's one to celebrate nearly every event of the year, plus quite a few 'occasions' you wouldn't have thought of: Elvis' birthday? World Nutella Day?? Ah well. Any excuse to have cake and eat it.
11. Nigella Christmas (republished: same book, new cover)
Best for: Anyone who wants to nail Christmas
They say: "Easy-to-follow recipes and reassuring advice with every recipe you could wish for..."
We say: If you haven’t already got Nigella’s Christmas, chances are you'll want it. There's well and truly every Christmas recipe you’ll EVER need, (we're talking hundreds here), and from pomegranate vodka to the ultimate Christmas pud, they're all pretty good – if you can cope with endless pics of Nigella nibbling pigs in blankets, gazing longingly at the turkey etc.
Our fave recipe: Ultimate Christmas pudding (honestly the best we've ever tried)
12. Gail's artisan bakery cookbook: Roy Levy and Gail Mejia
Best for: Cutting back on an expensive bakery habit
They say: "Our cookbook isn’t about following a recipe for the perfect loaf or cake. It’s about unleashing the creativity within each of us as a home baker, in the comfort of our own homes."
We say: It's easy to spend a lot of time (and money) in Gail's, (London's much-loved posh-toff bakery), so we're pretty relieved they're sharing a few secrets. Yes, you now have the recipe for those impossibly decadent pecan brownies and their legendary carrot cake. If you've ever tried them, we need say no more.
Fave recipe: leek and goats' cheese picnic loaf. Comfort food at its best.