5 Classic Christmas Cookbooks

Last week I posted my festive reading list. If you missed it, you’ll find the link here. It, therefore, seemed only fair that I’d also give you a list of festive cookbooks.

So, without further ado, here are my favourites. There are 5 – and a book about Christmas food in Paris that isn’t really a cookbook.

As an aside, the titles on this list haven’t changed since I wrote this post last year. I have, however, updated it and tossed in a couple of recipes for good measure.

Delia Smith’s Christmas

This book was first published in 1990, and I bought my copy not many years after that. To say that it’s a classic would be a massive understatement. If you have just one Christmas cookbook on your shelf it should be this one by Delia or Saint Delia as I like to refer to her.

savoury pinwheels

The Christmas cake that I make year after year comes from this book – as does the savoury pinwheels we have every Christmas morning and the little sausage rolls. I also particularly like the chapter on chutneys, preserves and pickles – perfect for leftover ham, turkey and pork pies.

While I’ve never prepared them for Christmas dinner, her Brussels Sprouts with Riesling and Bacon and Parmesan Coated Parsnips get made at least once each winter in our house.

I giggled when I read the recipes at the end of Jenny Colgan’s “Christmas At “The Cupcake Café” and she included Delia’s Christmas cake. It really is that good. You’ll find the recipe here.

As well as being a recipe book it’s also a Christmas handbook – full of Delia practicality, hints and lists – that takes you from prep beginning in October all the way through to Boxing Day leftovers.

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook

This is a massive doorstopper of a book full of Jamie’s trademark rustic styled food pics and plenty of variations on the base recipes. That’s probably the thing I love most about a Jamie book – the way he provides an idea plus gives you potential jumping-off points to amp it up even more.

I turn to this book when I’m after ideas for veggies, sides, canapes and ideas of things to do with leftovers. Jamie can turn a parsnip or a sprout into an event.

My faves in this one are his Pommes Anna, the Red Onion Gratin and the glazed carrots with thyme, caramelised garlic, bay, clementine and honey (although given that it’s the wrong time of the year for clementine, I use orange).

Pommes Anna

An absolute must for your Christmas bookshelf.

Oh, and if you want more Jamie, he even has a Christmas podcast.

Nigella Christmas

The sub-title says it all – Food, Family, Friends, Festivities.

Given that Nigella has included a Christmas chapter in most of her books I have to admit that I assumed that this book would be simply an amalgamation of all of those recipes in one place. I assumed wrong. This book is huge and the recipes are all new.

Of course, given that Nigella generously shares so many recipes on her webpage you could just as easily grab many of these from there, but to do so would be to miss out on the experience of this book – and Nigella cookbooks are more than recipes.

From think-ahead Christmas preserves to casual suppers, seasonal baking, Christmas parties, the day itself and leftovers, Nigella has you beautifully and ever so gloriously covered.

These star-topped cranberry mincemeat tarts are fresh, fruity, slightly boozy, and small enough that you won’t feel guilty having more than one. You’ll find the recipe here.

Don’t, however, overlook the Christmassy chapters in her other books. If you do, you’ll miss out on treats such as clementine cake (How To Eat), snow-flecked brownies (Feast), parmesan shortbreads (Nigellissima) and cider and 5 spice bundt cake that smells and tastes like Christmas would smell and taste if it were a bundt cake (Simply Nigella).

Fortnum and Mason – Christmas & Other Winter Feasts, by Tom Parker Bowles

Okay, this one was an accidental iBooks purchase that found its way into my digital trolley when I wasn’t looking – it could have happened when I was drooling over the Christmas windows in F&M’s Instagram feed last year.

Written by Tom Parker-Bowles (one of those Parker-Bowles) to a (very) large extent, this is a tad how the other half lives, but that’s true to their brand and to be honest, as an unashamed addict of their teas I’m the last person who should be complaining about this. 

To read this is to be immersed in an almost dream-like fantasy of the perfect English Christmas. It’s an England of grouse, goose and game; of potted stilton, Bramley apples and clementines. It’s also an England of sage toad in the hole with pigs in blankets and onion gravy or marmalade and almond tart.

Sure, in some ways it’s a (not so) thinly disguised advertisement for the F&M produce hall, but to be honest that doesn’t worry me. In fact, it helps illustrate the fantasy a tad more for me. Speaking of illustrations, they’re gorgeous.

What I love is that it’s beautifully written, is peppered with stories of Christmas traditions, history and rituals and shares some recipes from the Fortnum’s restaurant. Plus, the marmalade bread and butter pudding is good at any time of the year. Why wait for Christmas?

The Christmas Chronicles, by Nigel Slater

This is a book of words, stories, and notes. And that’s what I love about a Nigel Slater kitchen diary – which is, essentially, what this is – I get so tied up in the reading that the cooking comes secondary. Of course, it doesn’t have to, but this is the kind of book where you’re in the middle of something else and think “why don’t I make that ricotta and filo cheesecakey thing? The one where the pastry shatters everywhere?”…or something like that.

Slater writes about traditions, Christmas markets, Christmas windows, the smells, the feels, the tastes, the memories from the first sign of winter all the way through to February. It’s gorgeously, evocatively, sumptuously written – and I’m absolutely in love with it. I just know that I’ll read it from cover to cover again before Christmas.

As for Slater’s food? It is, as always, a simple set of ingredients, thoughtfully put together and rarely pretentious.

And for an extra treat, there’s a podcast where Slater reads from the book. You’ll find it here or search iTunes. I defy you to listen and not be spirited away to a winter wonderland. I could listen to Nigel Slater all day. Sigh.

The Scottish have an equivalent to Hygge – that Danish lifestyle word that evokes everything snuggly and comfortable. It’s “coorie” as in “coorie doon” or snuggle down. The Gaelic term is Còsagach. That’s what listening to Nigel Slater read this book is like. I’ll leave that one with you.

A Paris Christmas, by John Baxter

This isn’t a cookbook as such, but it is a book about Christmas food.

I bought this one in the second-hand section of Shakespeare & Co in Paris. After browsing in the shop we sat outside in the sun and had a coffee and watch the crowds across in Notre Dame. It was when I was coming out of the poky little toilet afterwards that I saw it and, at 5 euros, snapped it up immediately. I think I read somewhere that John Baxter – an Australian who married a Parisian – lives somewhere around the Left Bank not far from Shakespeare & Co…although that’s by the by.

Essentially this book follows the author as he plans and sources the ultimate Christmas feast for his extremely fussy French family. Along the way he tells a story of tradition, produce, with a few non-recipes woven into the words. Just beautiful.

The books I’d like to see under my tree on Christmas Day…

As for the books that are on my drool list? I’m glad you asked. Let’s just say that if Santa drops any of these down the proverbial chimney, I’ll be a happy woman:

  • Rick Stein’s “Secret France”
  • “Aran” by Flora Shedden 
  • “The Little Library Year” by Kate Young. I love this idea that brings together my 2 loves: books and food. Young cooks dishes inspired by the books that she reads. I think I might just steal borrow the concept for blogs in 2020.
  • “Sour” by Mark Diacono
  • Jamie Oliver’s “Veg”
  • “Baan” by Kay Plunkett-Hogg
  • “Greenfest Autumn- Winter” by Nigel Slater
  • “East” by Meera Sodha
  • “A Basket By The Door” by Sophie Hansen
  • “Time” and “Gather” by Gill Meller

What about you – do you have a favourite Christmas cookbook?

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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

10 thoughts

  1. Would you believe that I don’t have not even one Christmas recipe book! Shock and horror! This is a fabulous resource Jo! I love this post and in fact will share it on my FB page. Now I want all those books! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    1. It’s a fabulous dish with roast meat… Potatoes, butter and rosemary – what could possibly be wrong with that?

  2. Thank you for sharing such a diverse range of cookbooks, Jo. Nigella and Jamie are long term favourites but it was great to learn a bit about chefs like Nigel Slater.

    SSG xxx

  3. I love Nigella’s Christmas, it’s one of my all time favourite cookbooks. Jamie’s Christmas is on my wish list, I’ve heard great things about it. Now I feel a bit hungry!

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