Every gentleman should know how to cook. That’s an indisputable fact we’ve long maintained. But more to the point, every gentleman should know how to cook seasonally. It’s no use dubbing yourself an excellent chef if you whip out a winter specialty in the middle of July, or if you’re still preparing spring dishes long after the ingredients have ceased to be in peak, seasonal form.
That’s why we’ve curated some of the very best cookbooks you could hope to have on your kitchen shelf this summer. Make sure they don’t spend all their time on the shelf, though; you’ll want to whip up more than a few of these delightful recipes. They’re all perfect for summer; and they’ll all do you proud at any al fresco lunches or dinner parties you’re looking to host over the next few weeks.
For dishes geared towards your every mood, try Crave
Who wrote it: Food writer Ed Smith; if you’ve ever chuckled away at the renowned food blog Rocket & Squash, you’d have been reading the witty, lyrical writing of Ed. Equally, if your kitchen shelf currently stocks cookbooks On The Side or The Borough Market Cookbook, you’ll already be highly familiar with Ed’s work.
What type of cuisine: Inspiration appears from every conceivable cuisine; and seasonal food plays a crucial role. But what sets this book apart is the fact that each dish is paired with your mood; with the idea being that each mood results in a different craving. A bit like those fortune teller fish that curl up in your hand, but for those with an appetite. Genius.
The best recipe: Well, that really depends on your mood. But the sun’s out, and we’re feeling bright and chirpy today: so we’re going to opt for the fermented and fresh tomato salad with feta. Just the thing for when ‘both sun and cook are already smiling.’
For a barbecue 101, try Cooking on the Big Green Egg
Who wrote it: James Whetlor; if you’ve already delved into his award-winning book Goat, you’ll know that he is a trusted authority not just on meat, but also on ethical produce and farming culture. Now, the net of his expertise has widened even further: Whetlor is an undisputed authority on all things barbecues.
What type of cuisine: It seems almost too obvious to say BBQ food — but if the past year has shown us anything, it’s that nothing is obvious. With that in mind, we can therefore confirm that this book does, indeed, delve into everything you could possibly need or want to know when it comes to a session at the BBQ: from oven roasting, baking, grilling, cooking directly on the coals: and much, much more.
The best recipe: We’d have to say the pork belly. Sure to be a centrepiece at any barbecue you’ll be hosting this summer, it’s a sophisticated meal that’s always guaranteed to appease the hungry hoards.
Cooking on the Big Green Egg
For a multitude of exotic dishes, try Kricket: An Indian Inspired Cookbook
Who wrote it: The inimitable Will Bowlby, of course — who else? Presumably you’re familiar with his story by now, but we’ll fill you in just in case: having started his career in Mumbai, he then launched Kricket in a shipping container in Brixton when he was 26 — that’s right, the force of culinary nature that is the Kricket we all know and love today.
What type of cuisine: Would it be too obvious if we said Indian? Presumably, yes. But what may not be as obvious is the many and varied Indian influences that appear in the book, from Goa, to Bombay, to Hyderabad. With modern, seasonal ingredients, there are more than 80 recipes of the very best that Indian cuisine has to offer.
The best recipe: Without a doubt, that would be the Grilled Sea Bream with Coconut and Coriander Chutney. Sea Bream is just the thing for summer; it’s light enough for a swelteringly hot evening, and positively melts in the mouth. Plus, it’s tried and tested that Indian cuisine fares more than well in hot climates…
Kricket: An Indian-Inspired Cookbook
For the ultimate seasonal fare, try Home Farm Cooking
Who wrote it: John and Catherine Pawson, together with Alison Morris: the very definition of a ‘dream team’. John has a background as a prominent architectural designer, known for his clean lines and minimal aesthetic. This book was shot at the couple’s family home in the Oxfordshire countryside: Home Farm, on the edge of a Cotswolds hamlet.
What type of cuisine: Inspiration is taken from all over the world: but the keyword here is seasonal. The 100 recipes are organised by season (so once summer’s over, you’ll be able to move swiftly on to autumn; it’s a versatile wonder), and it collects together the recipes that John and Catherine love to eat most. Each dish is a reflection of life at the farm itself, and it’s presented exactly as it would be if you were invited to Home Farm for a meal. In other words, the book takes ‘home cooking’ to a new, stylish level.
The best recipe: That would have to be the Elderflower and Raspberry Jelly (for a summer recipe, of course — ask us again in autumn, and we may have a different answer…). Elderflower encapsulates summer, and raspberry is just the thing to cleanse the palate at the end of a long, luxurious al fresco dinner.
Home Farm Cooking
For fresh, wholesome food, try A Love of Eating
Who wrote it: Lucy Carr-Ellison and Jemima Jones. Those names may well ring a bell, and for good reason; if you’ve ever paid a visit to Wild by Tart restaurant in Eccleston Yards, you’ll have dined at the restaurant founded by this powerhouse duo. As well as having founded the Mayfair restaurant, they also run a boutique catering company (Tart London); and thanks to their cookbook, you can bring their mouth-watering meals to your terrace this summer.
What type of cuisine: Their inspiration is taken from all over, really; you could be cooking spiced Goan baked eggs one day, and smoky fish tacos the next. But what you really need to know is that this book is all about bold, bright colourful food that utilises the freshest ingredients in the freshest, most wholesome way.
The best recipe: That would be the White Chocolate, Cardamom and Raspberry Tart. We’ve already waxed lyrical about the benefits of raspberry as a summer fruit; and the cardamom will bring a subtle hint of the exotic to the perfect summer dessert.
A Love of Eating
For simple meals with a sprinkling of stardust, try Marcus Everyday
Who wrote it: We’re guessing you’ve figured that one out by now: but if you’re still in any doubt, you can rest assured that this book comes to us courtesy of the culinary king that is Marcus Wareing. We’re sure you’re all familiar with Marcus’ world-renowned work in the fine dining industry by now, but here’s a quick reminder in case you need it…
What type of cuisine: Once again, it’s international fare — so there should be something for everyone. Moreover, it’s international fare with a sprinkling of Michelin-starred magic. That doesn’t mean it’s out of your reach, though, if you consider yourself a humble amateur cook: it’s packed with handy resources like the Garden Patch, or ways to thoroughly treat yourself when you’re ‘Home Alone’. In short, it’s international fare for every possible occasion.
The best recipe: We’re spoilt for choice, really; but at a push, we’d have to say the Barbecued Lamb Ribs with Chimichurri Sauce. We have no doubt you’ll be hosting (or attending) many a barbecue this summer, and this is a failsafe crowd-pleaser if ever there was one. And if you don’t consider yourself au fait with barbecues, you’ve got James Whetlor’s book to get you started. Easy.
For the last word in fish, try Prawn on the Lawn: Fish and Seafood to Share
Who wrote it: Rick and Katie Toogood: the powerhouse duo behind the Islington restaurant Prawn on the Lawn, and Padstow-based Prawn on the Farm. Rick was born on the Channel Islands and was always surrounded by fish; his mother trained at Cordon Bleu, and passed on her passion for fish to her son. He and Katie found inspiration everywhere they went; and the resulting cookbook is the go-to guide for your fish needs this summer.
What type of cuisine: Well — fish. Fish from everywhere, of all sorts; with options including Cold & Hot Tapas, together with drinks pairings and classic cocktails with a twist. Fancy a Smoked Haddock Scotch Egg with Romesco Sauce? Or possibly a Shellfish Stew with Parsley Oil; or maybe some Crab Stuffed Courgette Flowers? The Toogoods have you sorted.
The best recipe: Again, we’re hard pushed to name just one. But if we were cooking a fish-inspired dish tonight, we’d have to go with the Szechuan Prawns. They’ll make the perfect start if you’re looking to host a three-course al fresco meal; otherwise, they’re just the thing for a lunchtime centrepiece — with a freshly made salad and a glass of rosé. Naturally.
Prawn on the Lawn: Fish and Seafood to Share
For unfailingly healthy options, try Happy Food
Who wrote it: Bettina Campolucci Bordi; in other words, one of the most trusted authorities on vegan food around. If you’re experimenting with veganism or simply looking to be a little healthier, Bettina is the one to go to: because it’s her fervent belief that veganism and healthy eating don’t have to be a chore. Quite the opposite: hence, Happy Food.
What type of cuisine: International, once again (the very best type of cuisine, in our opinion); and all, needless to say, vegan. Ranging from Hearty Buckwheat Waffles, to delectable Korean Pancakes, to luxurious Hazelnut Bites: you can indulge whilst knowing that you’re doing your body a favour. And if you’re looking to extend your healthy lifestyle into the autumn, Bettina’s new book, Celebrate, comes out this September…
The best recipe: The Multi-Vegetable Paella and Avo Aioli. Hands down. We’ve already discussed at length the benefits of paella as a summer dish — it really is one of the most seasonal main courses you could hope to find just now — and this is paella packed to the brim with health, nourishment and mouth-watering flavours. What more could you want?
For sophisticated modern dishes, try Dabbous: The Cookbook
Who wrote it: There’s a chance the name may have already given this one away. If you’re familiar with the indubitably excellent Hide Restaurant, you’ll know exactly who penned this phenomenal cookbook — but we’ll fill you in for anyone who’s feeling a tad bewildered. Ollie Dabbous is the mastermind behind this particular book; the very same Ollie Dabbous could fairly be described as one of London’s most exciting and talented chefs, the man behind the Fitzrovia restaurant of the same name and who, together with Hedonism Wines, opened the Michelin-starred Hide in Mayfair. Plus, he’s got a second book coming out, titled Essential; you’ll want to get your hands on that one, too. Trust us.
What type of cuisine: It’s split into seasons; so you’ll naturally want to start with Summer, but you’ll find yourself whipping this book off the shelf all year round. The dishes are blissfully light and unfailingly modern; and their detailed aesthetics make a sharp contrast to the industrial, minimalist decor of the Dabbous restaurant.
The best recipe: We couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t mention strawberries somewhere in this homage to the cookbooks you should buy this summer: and, luckily, Dabbous’ ‘Mara des Bois Strawberries; Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream’ is one of the best recipes featuring strawberries you’ll find anywhere around. Tahitian Vanilla has a notable marshmallow element to it; and Mara des Bois strawberries have a blissfully floral aftertaste. Just the thing for those long summer afternoons.
Dabbous: The Cookbook by Ollie Dabbous is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £50. Available now.
Essential by Ollie Dabbous will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing on September 19 2021, priced £30.
Dabbous: The Cookbook