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Julia Platt Leonard’s favourite cookbooks of 2019

From a return to Provencal cooking to how to harness sourness, the subjects of this year’s cooking manuals picked up on the hottest food trends. Julia Platt Leonard with the ones worth the shelf space

Julia Platt Leonard’s favourite cookbooks of 2019

Josef Centeno, LA chef-owner of Baco Mercat puts Tex-Mex into a new light for us all this year with ‘Ama’ ( iStock/The Independent )

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Your cookbook shelf may be heaving with stacks of the things, but it’s time to make room for a few more. This year has been a bumper year in food writing.

Here’s our top 11 books of 2019 – it was that difficult to choose – to add to your collection.

Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking ​(Clarkson Potter, £27.50) is a standout cookbook from 2019. Toni Tipton-Martin draws on recipes from her African American cookbook collection (ones she explored in her James Beard award-winning book The Jemima Code) and adapts them for the modern kitchen. The recipes reflect not only the cooking of enslaved master chefs but also the cuisines of the African American middle and upper classes.

Caribbean roast pork draws inspiration from island flavours of ginger, allspice and rum, while braised lamb shanks with peanut sauce has echoes of West African groundnut stew. This is food with finesse, style and grace and is a long overdue exploration of the huge contribution of African American chefs to American cuisine.

Baan mean home and hearth in Thai and that’s what Kay Plunkett-Hogge delivers in spades in Baan: Recipes and Stories from My Thai Home(Pavilion, £20)​. Plunkett-Hogge was born and raised in Thailand and these are the dishes she grew up eating and cooking, plus ones she’s tracked down on her Thai travels.

She knows her stuff and expertly guides you through Thai ingredients and cooking techniques. Best of all the recipes are packed with flavour – I dare you to make her pad krapow moo (pork stir-fried with holy basil and served with a deep-fried egg) and not scarf the lot. But then that goes for every dish in this dream of a book.

Restaurant cookbooks are notoriously tough to pull off – what works in a professional kitchen might not back home. A noteworthy exception is Sardine: Simple Seasonal Provencal Cooking by Alex Jackson (Pavilion, £25). I would gladly eat Jackson’s apricot and brown butter tart every day.

The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic by William Lander, Daniel Morgenthau and Shaun Searley (Quadrille, £30), does the 150-year-old restaurant proud.

They’ve even generously shared their recipe for confit potatoes – a dish so popular it’s never been off the menu since first introduced in 2013.

“Entertaining” sounds intimidating but having people over doesn’t. That’s the idea behind Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over (Hardie Grant, £22) by Alison Roman, the New York Times and Bon Appetit columnist.

The recipes typically serve 4-6 people, can be doubled easily and don’t require you to spent the night physically attached to your cooker. Snacks like garlicky beetroot dip with walnuts keep hunger pangs at bay while crispy chocolate cake with hazelnut and sour cream brings proceedings to a close.

Roman writes with humour (check out “When things don’t go well”) and you’d – well, you’d like to get an invite to her place. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine.

Alison Roman’s recipes are made to share when having people over – not entertaining – they’re unstuffy and, most importantly, taste great

A new cookbook from Diana Henry is always a reason to celebrate and From the Oven to the Table ​(Mitchell Beazley, £25) is no exception. These are recipes where the oven does the work, often one dish or roasting pan-delights like butter-roast aubergines and tomatoes with freekeh and koch-kocha (an Ethiopian sauce with chilli, coriander, ginger and spices) or baked sausages, apples and blackberries with mustard and maple syrup. Lots of vegetarian inspiration with separate chapters dedicated to spring and summer and autumn and winter veg as well as one on grains and pulses. For the omnivore, the chapter on chicken thighs is worth the price tag alone.

Diana Henry’s latest book, once again focuses on ‘simple’ food, which she means aren’t technical, but still all about the flavour (Chris Terry)

What’s for dinner? Meike Peters’ has a few suggestions – in fact she’s got 365 of them. Her latest book (her first, Eat in My Kitchen ​[Prestel, £29.99] won a James Beard Award) is 365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking. Peters splits her time between Berlin and Malta so expect a fresh Med meets comfort-food vibe. Recipes are arranged seasonally with dishes like sticky banana gingerbread to brighten up dull February days and lemon butter chicken with peaches and rosemary for a sun-soaked meal in July. Inspiration to get even the most jaded cook back in the kitchen.

Think Tex-Mex cooking and you might think heavy on the beef, beans and cheese. But the food of Josef Centeno, chef-owner of award-winning restaurants Baco Mercat and Bar Ama in Los Angeles, California, is vibrant, fresh and gorgeous. It’s his take on the food he grew up with in Texas, like fideo (something between a soup and a pasta); his Grandma Alice’s chipotle chorizo; and carne guisada – slow-cooked and meltingly tender short rib served simply with flour tortillas. Now Centeno and co-author Betty Hallock bring these recipes to the page in Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen(Abrams & Chronicle, £21.99)​. The result is bright and refined but never fussy – Tex-Mex sunshine on a plate.

From the ‘Sour’ cookbook is this lime pickle chicken recipe

Almost everything we eat could do with a hit of something sour. That’s the guiding principle behind Mark Diacono’s new cookbook, Sour: The Magical Element that Will Transform Your Cooking(Quadrille, £25)​. While sweetness gives an instant hit of gratification, sour – whether it’s the mouth-puckering citric burst of sherbet lemons or a spoonful of yoghurt in a plate of Turkish eggs – brings balance, complexity and oomph to a dish. There are practical bits on fermented foods, sourdough, vinegar and dairy but it’s the recipes – photographed beautifully by Diacono – that will convince you that there is something magical about sour after all.

Leaf(Quadrille, £25)​ by Catherine Phipps is all about edible and aromatic leaves. It’s a big subject that covers everything from bitter endive to menthol-perfumed mint, and mild, buttery, bibb lettuce leaves – even the distinctive woody-pine flavour of rosemary. There are handy bits covering practicalities like storing leaves, drying herbs, flavouring salts, and curing vine leaves as well as imaginative recipes like gnudi with pea shoot salad and pistachio and herb vinaigrette, and basil and kaffir lime leaf cheesecakes. Beautifully written, meticulously tested recipes, and a clear love for the subject, make Leaf a winner.

Aran Goyoaga’s earliest memory is the aroma of cinnamon and vanilla – cannelle et vanille – in her grandparents’ pastry shop in a small Basque town. That memory was the inspiration for her blog and now cookbook by the same name. Dishes like chocolate, olive oil and citrus cake – salty, tart with a crunchy crust and brownie-like centre; buttermilk-brined roasted chicken; and parsnip and ginger cake with cultured butter and creme fraiche icing show a welcome simplicity and keen understanding of flavour combinations and cooking techniques. That the recipes in Cannelle et Vanille ​(Sasquatch, £30) are all gluten-free will be an added bonus to anyone who, like Goyoaga herself, is gluten intolerant.

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