I want to start with one of my all-time favourite cookbooks that I bought this year. In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen is a wonderful homage to some of the greatest cooks in the world – grandmothers. Hassan takes us to eight African countries on the east coast of the continent through the eyes of Bibi’s (Swahili for grandmother), exploring each country’s rich culture and how it is translated through the words of grandmothers.
The book is organised by country, with each chapter starting with an introduction on each nation, it’s people, it’s language, it’s culture. But what makes this cookbook so worth owning are the interviews of the grandmothers that have shared their recipes and their stories. From Ma Halima’s Beef Suqaar to Ma Maria’s Xima, Hassan has brought together a wonderful anthology of recipes and stories of not only the Bibi’s but also her own – sharing with readers and food lovers alike that no matter whether you hail from Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar, or Comoros – food is a universal language to share love, culture, history, and passion with.
Sweet Savoury Spicy
My next recommendation is another favourite of mine: Sweet Savory Spicy by Sarah Tiong who explores the delicious world of Southeast Asian food – specifically street food. With recipes from Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and many more, the Masterchef Australia alumnus shares with us many of her own recipes and inspirations rooted in her own culture and others in the region. For her, authentic Southeast Asian food is street market food. With dishes such as Loc Lac Khmer (Cambodian ‘Shaking beef’ salad), Roti Canai (Malaysian Flatbreads) and Nasi Goreng (Malaysian fried rice), Tiong tantalizes out appetites with the great food that this part of the world has to offer. With recipes easy to follow and varied in their scope, this cookbook offers food lovers a chance to venture into a realm full of flavour.
Cook, Eat, Repeat
Finally, my last recommendation should come as no surprise – how could I possibly exclude the queen of the ‘meecro-wa-vay’ herself: Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat. I have to say, this is one of the most bizarre cookbooks I have ever read. But it is that outlandish charm that makes this cookbook into something worth having. The range and detail that Lawson has put in this book, offering many vegetarian and vegan alternatives makes Cook, Eat, Repeat that much more accessible. Alongside the recipes, Lawson offers something slightly more prosaic, with small sections of the book dedicated to what are essentially short essays on the pleasure and the practice of cooking. What strikes me the most about the tone, is the seemingly sporadic chapter topics: anchovies, brown foods, Christmas, rhubarb. But it is precisely just that, that makes this book a must have.
So, there you have it, my must have cookbooks of 2020. Despite this year being one that has seen so much separation, perhaps that gift of a cookbook will once again do something that we yearn for – to show our love through food once more.