We all have one person to buy for who is gloriously easy-to-delight, which is to say, the one who is reliably thrilled with a new cookbook. Never mind that they doubtless will be adding any new tome you give them to a collection that would rival The British Library for sheer number of books; the point is that they will be delighted and, thus, so will you. Nor does it really matter whether the recipient makes huge numbers of the recipes found within; after all, aren’t cookery books as much about devouring the beautifully presented contents with our eyes, as well any more literal scoffing? And since, amidst a long list of hard-to-buy-for folk, we appreciate our cookbook enthusiasts even more at this time of year, it is worth making double sure that you get them a good one.

These are our favourite cookery books of 2023 to buy this Christmas. A word to the wise: don’t be tempted to buy old classics. They will, almost beyond doubt, own multiple copies of them already.

Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many

Jeremy Lee
Cooking- Simply And Well

Beloved stalwart of the London culinary scene and chef-proprietor of Quo Vadis, Jeremy Lee – who cut his teeth with the legendary likes of Simon Hopkinson and Alistair Little before becoming a gastronomic legend himself – is a joy to spend time with through the pages of this book. To devour his writing is to bask in the wisdom and warmth of someone who truly understands food. It contains everything from sections on the usefulness of breadcrumbs to simple but delightful puddings to knock up at a moment’s notice (think peaches in wine with bay leaves). Photographed by Elena Heatherwick and illustrated by John Broadley, it is brimming with stories and full-to-bursting with joy. Buy it.

The Last Bite

Anna Higham
The Last Bite- A Whole New Approach To Making Desserts Through The Year

First of all, there is its delectable cover, which is enough alone to make us want to buy this book. And then there is what’s on the inside, which, in the case of Anna Higham’s latest, is page after page of sweet ode to the dessert in all its forms. If pudding is reliably your recipient’s favourite course of any repast, then do buy this book for them. An award-winning pastry chef, Anna Higham knows of what she writes, expertly she guiding us through the seasons, and with each one always adhering to her central belief: ‘First and foremost, make it delicious. Your goal is to make even those who 'don't do desserts' lick their plate clean – it has to be delicious from first to last bite.’ Yes please. Buy it.

Imad’s Syrian Kitchen

Imad Alarnab
 Imad’s Syrian Kitchen

The Middle East in 2023 is a region fraught with conflict, violence, natural disaster and tragedy. It is, then, more important than ever to celebrate its beauty, culture and traditions. Imad Alarnab is a chef from Damascus, Syria, a country still grappling in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake earlier this year. Since coming to London, Alarnab has opened a restaurant in Kingly court which goes by the same name as the book, and which GQ named its ‘breakthrough’ establishment of 2022. This book is his love letter to the food of his home country and, as goes the blurb, ‘Imad's Syrian Kitchen is a bustling, riotous tour through 120 traditional and adapted Syrian dishes that can be made in the comfort of your own home. Imad will introduce us to the delicious flavours and techniques of the Syrian kitchen, showing you just how easy this wonderful cuisine can be… This book is a celebration of how food has the power to bring people together.’ Hear, hear. Buy it.

Notes From A Small Kitchen Island

Deborah Robertson
Notes From A Small Kitchen Island

‘There are wonderful tales and recipes here, and lots of wisdom. It's approachable, anchored in real life and a joy to read. I want more.’ That’s according to the great Diana Henry and, given she’s a fan, how could we not be? Nigella, meanwhile, eulogised simply that she wanted to eat every single recipe in the book – and what higher praise can there be than that? Debora Robertson is a home cook and renowned food writer, and through the pages of this book, she tells us how even the most inauspicious of culinary beginnings need not deter aspiring cooks, such as she was once herself. Expect comforting recipes such as leek and ham hock steamed pudding, plum cake and advice on the best way to roast a chicken. For cooks who regard the kitchen as the absolute heart of the home. Buy it.

Nistisima: The Secret To Delicious Mediterranean Vegan Food

Georgina Hayden
Nistisima- The Secret To Delicious Mediterranean Vegan Food,

This winner of The Observer Food Monthly Best New Cookbook Award is a real treat. First things first: Nistisima means fasting food and refers the to the cuisine that would be traditionally eaten in Lent, when the Orthodox would eschew meat and dairy in favour of beans and pulses. These days, many of us do not need a fasting period to do so, as the once niche veganism gains ever more traction for the sake of the planet – and sometimes for the sake of our purse strings too. You don’t have to be vegan to love this book though; it helps immensely that the recipes, which Hayden draws from the history and culture around nistisimo cooking in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Eastern Europe, are extremely delicious. Think the likes of pumpkin, raisin and harissa pie and rizogalo rose rice pudding with roasted strawberries. A flavour-bursting delight. Buy it.

Time & Tide: Recipes and Stories from My Coastal Kitchen

Emily Scott
Time & Tide- Recipes And Stories From My Coastal Kitchen

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside. And even when we are not, we do enjoy eating as though we were. And who could possibly resist this soul-soothing book? As they say, ‘Emily’s recipes reflect the ebb and flow of daily life during the year; from breakfasts of overnight oats and buttery crumpets to lunches of sea-herb focaccia, and from suppers of Cornish bouillabaisse to desserts of treacle tart and bramble and peach crumble. Each dish evokes something inherently special to Emily and the culinary delights of Cornwall.’ So good, you’d have to be barely sentient not to want to dive deep into its pages. Buy it.

Harry Potter: Official Christmas Cookbook

Elena P Craig, Jody Revenson
Harry Potter- Official Christmas Cookbook - Official Harry Potter Cookbooks (Hardback)

If your cooking enthusiast also happens to be a Harry Potter fan, then allow this book to let them into the secrets of festive feasting in the manner of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Recipes include Professor Sprout's Superior Sprouts; Weasley Sweater Focaccia; and the Great Hall Floating Candle Cake. In short, these are fun ideas written chiefly with the idea of feasting in mind – after all, who puts on a spread better than Hogwarts? Buy it.

By Nancy Alsop
December 2023