From big names to bakeries: Diana Henry picks the 20 best cookbooks to buy this autumn

A pile of this autumn's latest cookbooks
Many of the biggest names are absent, but Diana Henry finds that this year’s pre-Christmas culinary reading list is no less attractive for that, nor less packed with delicious and inspiring recipe ideas Credit: Haarala Hamilton

It’s that time of year again: the season publishers put out their biggest cookbook titles in the hope of great sales between now and Christmas. The market has slumped somewhat and there are fewer big-name titles than usual this year (though Rick, Nigel and Jamie all have books out). Instead, there are more books with a tight focus (what might have been called “niche” in the past), about specific regions, ingredients or flavours. Bring it on: books such as those by Mark Diacono, on sourness in cooking, and Catherine Phipps, who focuses on leaves, are worth their weight in gold.

If you’re longing for good food reads, rather than recipes, Jeff Gordinier’s Hungry, an account of four years travelling with Danish superstar chef René Redzepi, is fascinating (all the more so because Gordinier’s marriage was falling apart so he just let himself be sucked into a mad world between Mexico, Copenhagen, Australian and the Bronx). I also loved Charlotte Druckman’s Women on Food, a volume by and about just that. Some of the best American writers are in there, but there’s an interview with Nigella Lawson, an essay by Bee Wilson and commentary from Ruby Tandoh, should you care for a British fix.

I’m surprised that my two top cookbook titles of the autumn are from restaurants. But they offer much more than recipes; they have a philosophy and an outlook on life as well as cooking that inspires.

The Lost Orchard and Pasta Grannies

PASTA GRANNIES

by Vicky Bennison (Hardie Grant, £20)

Bennison, a British food lover who lives in Italy, started a YouTube channel, Pasta Grannies, five years ago to record the culinary wisdom of Italian grandmothers (because who knows more about making pasta than nonna?) More than 200 nonne later, the channel is thriving and Bennison has turned the expertise of these grannies – and their recipes – into a book. From pillowy gnocchi in the north to orecchiette in the south, this is a chronicle of a way of life as well as a cookbook. Heartwarming. Out Oct 17. Pre-order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

THE LOST ORCHARD

by Raymond Blanc (Headline Home, £20)

An oddity, as, although the recipes are lovely (Mirabelle clafoutis, pear and ginger pudding), they’re not really the point. This is more about Blanc’s love of orchards and how he established one in England and one in France. It’s also a guide to the varieties of apple, pear, fig, quince and stone fruit he has planted. It could overwhelm, but Blanc has chosen a sensible number of varieties to focus on, offering tasting notes and history for each. As useful for gardeners as for cooks. Out Nov 14. Pre-order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Greenfeast: autumn, winter and The Little Library Year

GREENFEAST: AUTUMN, WINTER

by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, £22)

The most admirable thing – among many admirable things – about Nigel Slater is that he keeps doing his own thing; he never chases cool ingredients or clever techniques, but eats, thinks about flavour, and makes whatever he fancies. He is an honest cook. His recipes in this volume are less rich – less cream, less butter – and more pared back than they were a decade ago; you can see that he’s travelled a lot in the Nordic countries and in Japan. Puddings in a vegetable book are unnecessary, of course, but I’m glad he’s given us some. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

THE LITTLE LIBRARY YEAR, SEASONAL COOKING AND READING

by Kate Young (Anima, £25)

I was a big fan of Young’s first book, The Little Library Cookbook, as it’s about my two loves – fiction and food. I’m even keener on her second. Young has chosen books to read over the year and created recipes inspired by them – there’s wonton soup with Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, elderflower ice cream with macerated strawberries for Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, and ginger-beer ham in brioche buns inspired by F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. A deeply personal book written in a sincere voice; reading it is like talking to your best and greediest book-loving friend. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Zaika and The Book of St John

ZAIKA

by Romy Gill (Seven Dials, £20)

Gill become well known for her cooking at her restaurant in Bristol (though she’s now given that up to concentrate on writing). Her recipes are a mixture of dishes from her home – she moved here from India in the early 1990s – and dishes that she’s created with British ingredients. Baby aubergines with coconut and dill, green mango curry, elderflower pakoras – it just doesn’t occur to you, as you leaf through this book, that the recipes are vegan. Along with Meera Sodha’s East (see overleaf), Zaika will make it much easier to cook for vegans if you’re not one yourself. Zaika means flavour, and that’s what Gill is about. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

THE BOOK OF ST JOHN

by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £30)

An unutterable joy from the team behind one of the most influential and important restaurants in Britain. Henderson and Gulliver – the food and booze-loving duo behind St John Bar and Restaurant and St John Food and Wine – have been championing nose-to-tail eating and respect for British dishes and ingredients for 25 years. This is much more than a book of recipes, though (glorious though they are). It’s also about the importance of the table, of feasting, of friendship, of the white cloth napkin on your knee. And it sings of simple but wonderful pleasures: a bacon sandwich and a glass of cider, a doughnut and a glass of champagne. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Aran and Sababa

ARAN

by Flora Shedden (Hardie Grant, £22)

I don’t need another baking book – I have shelves of them – but as soon as I got my hands on this I took it to bed and wallowed in the beauty of Flora Shedden’s Scottish bakery, Aran (Scottish Gaelic for bread). The book, as well as the bakery, perfectly reflects Shedden’s style (pared back Nordic and full of flowers). As well as bread and cakes there are recipes for other Aran fare, such as tarts, cordials and preserves. Out October 31. Pre-order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

SABABA

by Adeena Sussman and Michael Solomonov (Avery Publishing Group, £28.05)

My favourite American cookbook of the season, Sababa (the word is Hebrew-Arabic slang meaning ‘everything is awesome’) is full of recipes that Sussman produces in her Tel Aviv kitchen. There are some traditional Israeli dishes, many with twists and some entirely new creations. Mushroom arayes (basically fritters) with salted lemon puree and honey-harissa, olive oil challah bread, Turkish coffee-rubbed steak – I want to cook them all. I started leafing through this book at 10pm the day I got it and was still sticking post-it notes all over it at 2am. For lovers of simple food (there’s nothing cheffy here) and big flavours. Out now.

East and Dishoom

EAST

by Meera Sodha (Fig Tree, £20)

I’m slightly cheating by squeezing this in as it came out in August but I’m in awe of Sodha’s ability to deliver ever more dishes – most of them with Asian flavours – that are vegan and vegetarian and yet never feel austere. From a roasted version of aloo gobi to mouth-numbing noodles with chilli oil and red cabbage, there isn’t a dish in here I don’t want to make. If anyone can really change the way we eat – getting us to cut down not just on meat but on dairy produce too – it’s Sodha. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk

DISHOOM

by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir (Bloomsbury, £26)

The book of the hugely popular restaurant, this love letter to Mumbai is beautifully produced (gorgeous location photography; a fold-out map of the authors’ favourite places to eat in the city). The recipes are straightforward and the book is structured around meals taken across a day in Mumbai, everything from midmorning snacks of keema puffs to late night “tipples” (who could resist a Taj Ballroom Toddy?). Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Rick Stein's Secret France and The Food of Sichuan

RICK STEIN’S SECRET FRANCE

by Rick Stein (BBC Books, £26)

Stein’s recipes work. I don’t know who chooses the recipes with him but the best thing about his books is the selection process. There are lots of classics here – chicken fricassee with morels, for example – but also dishes you might never have heard of (Rhone mariners stew with anchoiade). A love of French cooking has been slowly creeping back. This book will encourage you to fully embrace it. Out October 31. Pre-order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

THE FOOD OF SICHUAN

by Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury, £30)

I missed this when it was first published – almost 20 years ago - so am thrilled to see an expanded and updated version of what has become a classic. Sichuan is where Dunlop – a major expert on the cooking and culture of China – started her culinary journey (she studied at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine) and there’s no better guide to the complexities of the region’s food. Her work is scholarly but accessible and her instructions clear. Want to make your mouth burn with the perfect maipo tofu? This book is for you. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Veg and Cannelle et Vanille

VEG

by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, £26)

Oliver is on a mission to get us to eat more vegetables and he looks set to make an impact as this book is already a runaway bestseller. He has tried hard to ‘keep it real’ – there aren’t many unusual ingredients – and offers a lot of vegetarian versions of familiar dishes such as stroganoff and moussaka. It is, as he says himself, a book full of good food that ‘just happens to be meat-free’. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

CANNELLE ET VANILLE

by Aran Goyoaga (Sasquatch Books, £28.01)

Goyoaga, a self-taught photographer and cook from the Basque country, found fame through her Instagram account and her blog, cannellevanille.com. Her recipes are gluten-free (she’s intolerant and has been gluten-free for 10 years now), and even though I don’t need gluten-free recipes I nevertheless buy her books. Her food is direct and simple and her photography is stunning (so textured that staring at the pictures is almost as good as eating her food). There are excellent baking and preserving recipes here, as well as dishes for every meal. Worth buying just for the recipe for one-bowl apricot and olive oil cake. Out October 7. 

Leaf and When Pies Fly

LEAF

by Catherine Phipps (Quadrille, £25)

Phipps is curious, scholarly and greedy – requisites for writing great cookbooks. We’re lucky that she tackles single subjects (her last book was on citrus fruit), venturing into labyrinths that lead to surprising facts and observations and truly terrific recipes. She then stands by your side and talks to you as you cook. Leaves, in this book, aren’t just salads and cabbages but also herbs, fig and vine leaves. I’m enamoured of the yogurt cake with strawberries, lemon verbena and lemon thyme, and the white cabbage, crab and chervil salad. There’s some lovely evocative writing in the short essays dotted throughout. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

WHEN PIES FLY

by Cathy Barrow (Grand Central Publishing, £24.13)

There’s been a spate of pie books in the last year or so and many are disappointing (they just don’t explain things well enough, particularly the cornerstone of pie-making – pastry). I recognised a firm, guiding hand and a sure voice as soon as I started to read this. There are traditional pies, small ‘hand pies’, and some knockout pastry recipes (caramelised onion and cheese dough and buttermilk pie dough to name but two). The book is American but includes metric conversions. A book for happy weekend afternoons in the kitchen. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Sour and Quality Chop House

SOUR

by Mark Diacono (Quadrille, £25)

This isn’t as niche as it sounds. Fermented foods (not that that’s all you’ll find in here) are on the up, so a book that explains how to make kombucha and kimchi, and also how to harness sour ingredients such as buttermilk, tamarind and passionfruit juice, is timely. The recipes – raw rhubarb and radish salad, lime pickle chicken, roast apricots with pomegranate molasses and fennel crumble – are crying out to be made. and there’s just the right balance of recipes to sour cooking know-how. If you’re interested in flavour (and what cook isn’t?) you’ll consume this in eager and mouth-puckeringly tart bites. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

QUALITY CHOP HOUSE

by Sean Searley and Dan Morgenthau Will Lander (Quadrille, £30)

For me, it’s a toss-up between the St John book and this one for top position this autumn. They’re both restaurant cookbooks (not usually my thing as they’re so often not home-cook-friendly), but the recipes here are doable and totally seductive (don’t you want to make pastrami cured salmon and fig leaf ice-cream, not to mention the pair’s much loved melting confit potatoes?) Regulars of the London restaurant – and I am one – will spot recipes for all the dishes they love to eat here. The book marks the restaurant’s 150th anniversary and this is as much a homage to the place as to the food. The photographs convey the soul of the place. A stunner. Out November 14. Pre-order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Cook House and Alpine Cooking

COOKHOUSE

by Anna Hedworth (Anima, £25)

Anna Hedworth did what many people dream about – she left her regular job (as an architect) and, taking a huge risk and with no experience whatsoever, opened a restaurant and became a chef. At first it was in a shipping container, then The Cookhouse moved to a lovely airy warehouse space in a quiet area of Newcastle. The place exudes all the warmth and care Hedworth lavishes on it. This is the inspiring tale of how she did it, with recipes for the food – imaginative, modern, ‘on trend’, without being rootless or discordant – that is cooked there. Slow roast beef short ribs with treacle and smoked sugar, hawthorn berry chutney, cherry shrub? Yes please. Out now. Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

ALPINE COOKING

by Meredith Erickson (Ten Speed Press, £30)

This is big, bold, gloriously old-fashioned and the perfect title to snuggle up with to dream about the skiing holiday you can’t afford. Written by Meredith Erikson, who co-authored the books from Montreal restaurant, Joe Beef, it isn’t just a coffee-table book, though. Erikson is a cook and spent seven years – often via funicular – researching dishes from the mountains and ski resorts of France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. If you long for fonduta, goulash, tartiflette and strudel, all you need is here. Out Oct 15. Pre-order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.

Diana Henry’s latest book, From the Oven to the Table, is out now, published by Mitchell Beazley (£25), available for £20 from Telegraph Books