Add culinary flair to your festive gatherings with a little help from the experts.

In a typical year in the UK, three quarters of people spend time at Christmas with family. Because last year was as quiet as can be, it’s even more likely that this one will be a bonanza for you and your loved ones. Which means you’ll want to take some serious care with the catering.

As Nigel Slater so beautifully writes: ‘The flavours of winter come at us like paper-wrapped presents in a Christmas stocking. Gingerbread biscuits with icing like melting snow; steaming glasses of ‘glow-wine’; savoury puddings of bread and cheese; and a goose with golden skin and a puddle of apple sauce. Winter is the time for marzipan-filled stollen, thick with powdered sugar, pork chops as thick as a plank and rings of Cumberland sausage sweet with dates and bacon.’

We defy you not to feel inspired now. So stick on some carols, treat yourself to a fat new book dedicated to the season of glorious gluttony and prepare to cook up a storm. Here, we’ve picked out 10 of the best.

Christmas At River Cottage By Lucy Brazier

Hot off the presses, this brand-new tome by Lucy Brazier and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is just what you need to get you in the mood for merriment. Each recipe – whether it is an elevated classic or a cool new concept – is rooted in the River Cottage principles of sustainability, seasonality and tradition (and makes you yearn to spend Christmas in an idyllic rural retreat). Buy it here.

A Table For Friends By Skye McAlpine

While this elegant, life-enhancing book isn’t specifically about Christmas, its every page is devoted the bonhomie of the festive season. Surely we can all find space in our yuletide menus for such treats as McAlpine’s winter fruit and mascarpone tart or her tagliatelle with gorgonzola? Her table laying tips won’t go amiss either. Buy it here.

Vegan Christmas By Audrey Fitzjohn

This collection of fabulous plant-based recipes is selling like hotcakes, so snap one up – whether to give as a gift or for your own shelves. Can you imagine how much the vegans in your life will love you if you make them blinis with faux caviar followed by mushroom Wellington on the big day? The author, Audrey Fitzjohn, is a super chic mother of two, who lives in Paris and sprinkles style over all her Christmas endeavours. With her book in your life, you can too. Buy it here.

The Christmas Chronicles By Nigel Slater

Few people love Christmas like Nigel Slater loves Christmas. This charming book, published in 2017, contains all the wisdom you need to make yours an extra-special one this year. Slater says of The Christmas Chronicles: ‘With recipes, fables and quick fireside suppers from November to early February, I take you through my essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year and everything you need to enjoy the winter months.’ Buy it here.

Delia’s Happy Christmas

Over the years, Delia Smith has dictated the timings of Christmas dinner in countless British households. Her Classic Christmas Cake recipe has been in print for over 40 years – and her word is pretty much gospel. You will be in the safest hands with her comprehensive, traditional and utterly comforting guide to entertaining at Christmas. Buy it here.

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook

A family man to his core, Jamie Oliver knows how to do Christmas with a flourish. His Christmas Cookbook is stuffed with brilliant recipes for canapes, the main event, drinks, edible presents and leftovers. Best of all, his signature energy and jollity are abundant throughout. He says of the book: ‘You’ll even find candid family snaps peppered throughout – it’s a really nostalgic compendium. Everything we all love about Christmas, in one place – solid recipes, no mucking about, the greatest hits. I had one chance to get this right and I’m really proud of it.’ Buy it here.

Kitchen Essays By Agnes Jekyll

This enchanting little book – by Lady Jekyll, a famous hostess and essayist of the 1920s – probably won’t get the turkey cooked or the ham glazed with the efficiency of the esteemed writers above. What it will do is give immense joy to anyone who reads it. Buy it for yourself; buy it for every homemaker you know. Then grab a cup of tea and a mince pie and head straight for the essays entitled A Winter Shooting Party Luncheon, Country Friends to a Christmas Shopping Luncheon and Christmas Cheer. You will see instantly why India Knight calls the book: ‘Beautifully written, sparkling, witty and knowing and an absolute delight to read.’ Buy it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
November 2021

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.