It was a fantastic year for cookery, with the triumphant return of Nigella Lawson and the continuing excellence of Yotam Ottolenghi meaning there was a book for every palette. With Christmas but a few moments away, if you are still hunting for that perfect present, you cannot go wrong with a cookbook. Even if they never cook a single recipe, the likes of Anna Jones have succeeded in creating a well-being tome rather than a list of recipes, which will be enjoyed by anyone.
If you want to know about Lawson's latest concoctions or are interested in Rick Stein's travels around the Mediterranean Booker, check out IBTimes UK's pick of 2015's finest food books.
Following her marriage break up, the celebrity food writer has focused on comfort foods
Lawson's How To Eat was a cookery classic but with Simply Nigella, she may have written its equal. She reveals she has experienced low moods but says: "I still needed to bring food to the table." Simply Nigella emphasises fortifying dishes. She adds: "I had to cook myself strong." Some recipes have been criticised for over-simplicity - notoriously her avocado on toast - but don't be put off. Dishes often include chickpeas, sweet potatoes and roasted garlic, plus pickled vegetables (her new craze), notably the Korean fermented cabbage staple kimchi. A highlight is oxtail with toast and smoky salted caramel sauce, and don't miss the chocolate cake complete with edible rose petals.
This hot new talent from the Ukraine is busy bringing Eastern European food to our tables
Hercules introduces us to a previously little known food culture. Her book celebrates her ethnic background and the dishes she grew up eating in Southern Ukraine, cooked by a series of wise and powerful women she calls her "mamushkas". She has an impressive professional pedigree, as a protege of flavour-of-the-decade star chef Yotam Ottolenghi. But just this once – in these incorrigibly hipster times of ours – her recipes are genuinely authentic and artisanal, heavily based on family recipes. Forget the regional stereotypes of fatty, overcooked dishes: recipes on offer include garlicky poussins with plum chutney, sorrel-infused green borscht and the intriguing (and rather scary sounding) vanilla wasp nest buns. It is no surprise she shares her surname with a mighty god from ancient Greece.
Discover the recipes behind Nopi restaurant's finest dishes, courtesy of the head chef
Scully is head chef at Ottolenghi's well-known Nopi restaurant. He has teamed up with his boss to publish a collection of their best recipes. Scully excels at assembling diverse elements in bold ways. Maldon salt, tahini, preserved lemons and saffron are some of his staple constituents. But despite this apparent sophistication and complexity, none of the dishes listed out here is hard to prepare. If you find the ingredients too difficult to find, or too expensive, the glossary at the back offers more accessible alternatives. Standout recipes include the twice-cooked chicken, Urid Dhal cod (Ottolenghi promises this will more than satisfy your dinner guests) and vine leaf pie. On the drinks side, check out the sumac martini and spiced pumpkin cocktails.
Jones shows how meat-free meals can emphasise the delicious, rather than self-denial
Jones is touted as the "new Nigella"; certainly she is adept at offering up diverting recipes to the middle-classes. She trained at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, alongside everyone's favourite mockney chef. This follow-up to her debut, A Modern Way To Eat, is stuffed with variants on meat-free dishes. Jones maintains there is a way to eat healthily without missing out on the best of everything. She centres the book on swift-to-prepare everyday weekday meals, rather than lengthy gourmet extravaganzas. Her recipes are firmly fusion-inspired, with Californian and Scandinavian influences, and they will definitely give carnivores food for thought. Highlights include one-pot spaghetti with kale and cherry tomatoes – a 15-minute dish – Buddha bowls (which resemble a Massaman curry with tofu, brown rice and carrot pickle), and raw cookie dough bars.
Stein maintains the Eastern Mediterranean is best for the simple, hearty food he loves
This book accompanies Stein's latest television series. It is more than a cookery text, because along the way there are many enjoyable excursions into history and culture. The recipes are a genuine progression from his earlier Mediterranean Escapes. His basic ingredients are obvious enough: olive oil, tomatoes, red onions, wild oregano, lemons, sweet fish, lean lamb, wine, olives, capers and garlic. But Stein deploys them in fresh ways in a range of Albanian, Greek and Turkish recipes. Star dishes are Greek fish stew, Turkish lamb tandir and - from Albania - Bandit's Joy (fried potatoes with honey, lemon and nutmeg). On the dessert front, meanwhile, the fresh fig tart is a welcome surprise: very easy to prepare, and sumptuous and delicious.