This is a repost of a blog from a couple of years ago – still relevant as Christmas cookbooks are not a huge field.
This cookbook review is a bit different. I’m going to do Christmas cookbook reviews of three popular foodies – Jamie, Delia and Nigella, no second names needed. It’s a bit of a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise to help you see which might be the one for you.
If you are the kind of person who likes to both get ahead and also to try new things, then a Christmas cookbook will be your friend – read on to see just how good a friend.
Buy this if – you’re not a pure traditionalist, have a few good mates coming around for Christmas and would like to party rather than be the festive kitchenista.
This book is an absolute delight. I always look for a cookbook that makes me want to get into the kitchen and start cooking right away. I had already cooked some of these recipes last year but found loads more that I want to try immediately – and I definitely won’t wait for Christmas to start.
The book is laid out in very clear chapters – starters, main, veggie and vegan, and so on. Potatoes get a whole chapter of their own – and why not! There are two chapters that I didn’t really love – Incredible Leftovers was one of them. I just can’t get past the Bridget-Jones-Turkey-Curry vibe of Christmas leftovers. The other chapter that didn’t do it for me was Super-Fantastic Salads, I just can’t get into salad as a Christmas thing. That’s just a niggle though – the rest of the book is full of amazing ideas.
The good – easy to source ingredients, easy to follow instructions, pointers on how you can get ahead or make easy changes to the recipe, great photos from David Loftus as well as a selection of Oliver family photos.
The less good – because this is 2020 and we are in the middle of a pandemic, the fact that most of the recipes are for 8, 10 or 12 people might be a bit of a pain. We’re expecting a much smaller crowd for dinner this year so any of the recipes I use will have to be cut down. Even the Veggie/Vegan recipes are for 8 people or so, not ideal if you’re just looking for something that’ll cater for your veggie brother and his girlfriend.
Buy this if your new in-laws are coming to dinner and you want to impress with your traditional Christmas skillset, as well as fill them up with some great grub.
This is Delia, so it’s super organised – it’s the only cookbook I have that has encouraged me to add ingredients ‘ticking them with a pencil as you go to make sure nothing gets left out’. It aims to get you Delia-level organised with a 36hr Countdown chapter that will take some of the ‘what should I be doing now’ stress away. There’s also a chapter called Last-minute Christmas, but if you find yourself here you have probably already failed the Delia test (maybe go back to Jamie or onwards to Nigella instead, they’re probably less judgey) .
As you would expect, all the traditional recipes are really well covered, with some of the recipes unchanged for decades. They work, why change them? There are some twists. Creole Christmas Cake, pg 30, is largely fruit, alcohol and sugar held together with the minimum of flour.
Delia’s plan is timed for a lunch at 2.00pm – to be honest we’re still passing out cocktails at that stage so I’ve had to add four hours to all the suggested timings when I take her advice.
The good – lots of practical advice. If you’re a Christmas Dinner novice you’re in good hands here. It will work for the big day itself even if you decide to pass over all the stuff that needs to be made in November.
The less good – I suppose its strength is its weakness, it is super traditional. Having said that, going back to it for this review has revived my interest in making some stuff that I usually buy, such as mincemeat.
Buy this if you have an open house from the beginning of December until New Year and are looking for hassle free ideas to keep people fed and watered.
The first chapter in the recipes part of this book is called ‘The More the Merrier’, and it starts with cocktails – what’s not to love!! The vibe in this book is totally around entertaining big gangs of party goers. Apart from cocktails, there are loads of canapés and ideas for ‘mass catering’ that would work at any time. For years now Nigella’s Rocky Road from her Christmas book has been my go-to recipe for bake sales and other ‘bring a cake’ situation at all times of the year.
As far as the main event goes there is a step by step guide (like Delia it is timed for a lunchtime meal not evening dinner, but unlike Delia the day begins at the more civilised time of 10.00am). This was the first cookbook dedicated to Christmas that I ever owned and I went full on festive-kitchen goddess that year. I made my own mincemeat, cranberry sauce from scratch, I even brined my Turkey.
The good – this book is fun, lovely to look at with photos by Lis Parsons, and might tempt you to try something new this year, and next!
The less good – the notes I made on some recipes suggest that the ‘makes approx’ is very approximate – Christmas Chutney (pg 235) says it should make 2.2 litres, I noted that it made just 1.5 litres. Cranberry Mincemeat (pg 189) came up short too.
So – that’s the verdict. But why would you even buy a cookbook for just one meal a year? Well, apart from covering everything from party food to cocktails, the books that feature in this cookbook review have many recipes that can work at any time of the year.
Click the links above to see any of the books in Amazon.