My Favorite Cookbooks of 2020

By Mieke

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed I am a bit of a cookbook hoarder. So inspired by Meike I thought I’d try something a little different and post a list of some of my favorite cookbooks.

It’s impossible for me to list all my favorites, so let’s leave it at a my current top 7. I plan to post lists of favorites by genre and topic and the year I’ve read them in future as well.

Nigel Slater – Appetite

Appetite was the first cookbook I bought for myself.

There are a few reasons I love this book. Not only does Nigel tell you to keep some Smarties in your larder, because everybody loves Smarties, but he focuses on sensory ques in cooking. The feel of food, the smell, how something is supposed to look before the next step. This is a far more useful way to describe cooking than timings, because there are so many variables involved (I’ve caved to the pressure of rough timings alongside sensory cues for my recipes). His writing is comforting and make any recipe seem doable, which is why I own most of his books, this being the most stain-covered one.

Appetite also offers 3 to 5 variations on each recipe in the book. These variations help you understand how recipes work and which flavors and textures go together. This is what has made Appetite foundational for my cooking. I rarely cook from it now, but the way I approach cooking and recipe writing all start here.

You can find all of my Nigel Slater-inspired recipes here.

Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables

Unfortunately as it turns out Lucky Peach was not a happy place. And now as I read some of the older copies I own, I can tell it was all a lot more bro dudey than I recalled (or maybe I was more bro dudey when I first read them). Still, when I got my hands on my first copy there was nothing more exciting because up until that point I didn’t know food writing like this existed.

I have almost all the issues and all the books. While the issues are harder to get a hold of now, some of the books are quite easy to find and out of all of them I think Lucky Peach presents Power Vegetables gives you the most bang for your buck. The photography is amazing and the recipes are all accessible and easy to follow, with LOADS of flavor. A lot of them are vegan rather than vegetarian. Something I still find lacking in a lot of other veggie oriented books that either lean heavily on cheese (and I love cheese, just not for every meal) or promote diet culture. Power Veg does none of this, but it does leave you feeling hungry and ready to use more veg.

You can find some recipes from Lucky Peach presents Power Vegetables here.

Ed Smith – On The Side

I found On The Side in the discount isle at the American Book Center in The Hague. Intrigued by a book consisting of just side dishes, I bought it on impulse. This book has been my steady compatriot ever since. I don’t know why there aren’t more books on side dishes, at the same time this might be the only one you’ll ever need.

Every recipe includes tips on what to combine them with and how to combine them with other recipes from the book to make a full vegetable forward meal. Not only that, there are not one but three (THREE!) indexes allowing you to browse recipes based on your main, based on what veg you want to use and based on time.

Any time I want to stop doing the same ol’ same ol’ with my veg or starches or have a vegetable leftover that I just don’t know what to do with anymore, I just plonk open this book and it’s got some good answers ready and waiting for me. I previously shared a peppercorn and lime rice recipe from On The Side here.

MiMi Aye – Mandalay

I’ll concede I haven’t cooked from Mandalay a lot yet, mainly because I’ve spent most of this year working on my own book, but the recipes I have cooked were stellar and have made me even more brazen with both my use of MSG and fish sauce.

The reason I love this book is because all the recipes sound amazing, comforting and vaguely familiair to someone with Indonesian roots. MiMi has written a (for me at least) very relatable personal history on growing up in a diaspora, with all the different foods at home from whatever is the norm in the country where you live, hunting down ingredients and travelling ‘back’ (something that wasn’t part of my upbringing) that that entails.

In that sense, it touched my soul. I’ve cooked two or three recipes from it so far and they were all surprisingly easy, earthy and more-ish. If you follow MiMi on social media sometimes she’ll sell batches of Mandalay with little drawings in them and if you’re a nerd like me they really are worth the wait. Mine has a drawing of an MSG-panda.

Vanja van der Leeden – Indorock

The Dutch interpretation of Indonesian food had been at a standstill for decades. Fed by nostalgia for our former home, or our grandparents’ homes (as in my case), what we were eating was a maybe 30’s to 40’s Dutch colonial interpretation of Indonesian food, with the kind of tweaks a diaspora makes when ingredients can’t be found.

Vanja traveled through Indonesia as it is now and brought back its current flavors, adding in some of her own ideas and preferences. In Indorock she highlights the many chefs, restaurants and people she met during her travels. Wat really finishes it off for me are seemingly small small but crucial touches like explaining the difference between ‘Indisch’ and Indonesian and using current Indonesian spelling for foods, rather than Dutch colonial spelling that is still in use here.

You can read more about Dutch colonial history and why people like Vanja and myself ended up here while you nosh on Vanja’s bubur ketan hitam recipe.

Unfortunately for now Indorock is only available in Dutch and German, it really deserves an English and Indonesian translation but if you are curious about Indonesian food, Lara Lee’s Coconut&Sambal is another amazing book, with photography and styling by my favorite team. With it’s US release it’s making all the best cookbooks coming out this fall-lists and rightly so.

Kris Yenbamroong – Night+Market

Another book I haven’t had much time to cook from yet, Kris Yenbamroong’s Night+Market is such a well written and joyful read. Kris not only celebrates his grandmother and parents, who launched the first Thai fine dining restaurant in LA, but also highlights the regional character of Thai cuisine where usually all Thai recipes are lumped together.

Combine this wonderful personal history, with a deep knowledge of cooking, the ability to translate this to useable and workable recipes for home cooks, wine parings, props to everyone who works alongside him or has shared recipes with him and I really think Kris has written a cookbook the way it ought to be. Just reading it alone leaves you happy, better informed and hungry to share a meal.

Margarita Carillo Arronte – Mexico The Cookbook

Though a bit clinical in nature I have an unhealthy obsessesion with the Phaidon country series, if I have to pick one however I think Mexico The Cookbook is the one to beat.

While with some of the others I drown in the multitude of recipes, this book (with it’s gorgeous cut out dust cover) is particularly well-structured which makes it a lot easier to find recipes you want to cook, or maybe I just really love Mexican food. Either way I cook from this all the time and a lot of the recipes have become staples for me. There’s a bean salad with mushrooms and cheese that’s really good and I’m really hoping to share the tres leches cake recipe from this in the near future.

That’s it. My top 7 favorite cookbooks minus all the others I love. What are your favorite cookbooks? Let me know in the comments!

Join the Conversation

  1. Nikki says:

    Sold! I want them all, loved reading the reasons why. It’s sometimes so hard to choose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Dorothy Porker © Copyright 2024. All rights reserved.