Christmas Cookbook Reviews

I’ve already admitted to a bad cookbook habit so it won’t come as a great surprise I have several Christmas cookbooks. I thought I’d review my three general Christmas cookbooks.

  1. Delia Smith’s Christmas
    Delia Smith Christmas
    Delia Smith’s Christmas is my oldest and most well thumbed Christmas cook book. It was the book I used every year to get turkey cooking times and after an unsuccessful attempt with classic mincemeat that went off I subsequently always used Delia’s method of melting the suet. The red cabbage recipe is a classic and whilst I’ve never used Delia’s countdown religiously it has always been useful guidance.
    In the past I’ve made the roasted red peppers stuffed with fennel which was good and I make the mushroom risotto from this book regularly. I made her venison casserole this year and will be making that again. There are still many recipes in this book that I’ve never tried. I have often thought I must try her Irish coffee pudding so this time I really will make a note to make it soon.
    It contains all the information you might need for successful food at Christmas. Recipes as well as lists, timings and advice. She includes several interesting vegetarian options for Christmas dinner. Justifiably a classic, some recipes may look almost retro but all look good.

    The book is spit up into the following chapters:
    Lists and More Lists
    All kinds of Christmas Cakes
    Talking Turkey…and Geese and Hams
    Christmas Puddings and Mincemeat
    Preserves, Pickles and Chutneys
    Christmas on Ice
    Canapes and Nibbles
    A Party Selection
    A Vegetarian Christmas
    Ducks, Geese and Game
    Roasted Meats and Cold Cuts
    Winter Vegetable Dishes and Salads
    Christmas Desserts and Sweet Dishes
    Homemade Sweets and Chocolates
    The Last 36 Hours
    Supper Dishes and Left-overs
    Mail Order and Home Delivery Suppliers (curiously old fashioned these days)
    More About Turkeys

  2. Nigella Christmas
    Nigella Christmas

    I like the Nigella Christmas cookbook, it conveys her love of entertaining combined with a ‘don’t stress it’ approach. Although even with my tendency to feed anyone who comes through the door I found the idea of a ‘Welcome table’ groaning with food just to greet anyone who turned up odd. One of my criticisms with this book is its footprint. It is too big to hold easily (in my opinion large format cook books only work if they are slim enough not to be too heavy). A number of the recipes in this book have appeared in previous Nigella cookbooks and it  contains at least one spectacular failure – I tried her gingerbread stuffing the Christmas after I got this book and threw it away after one taste. Aidan  made her yule log which was nice but nothing spectacular.
    That said I make her spruced up vanilla cake from this book several times each year, it’s a very easy cake to make before visiting family and friends and is always well received as it looks special and tastes nice. Browsing through the book for this review I noticed she includes some nice ideas for winter dinner party meals that are not christmassy so I’ll try a couple more recipes before I put this book away for the year.

    The book is organised as follows:
    The More the Merrier Cocktails, Canapes and Manageable Mass Catering
    Seasonal Support Soups, Salads, Sauces and Serve-later sides
    Come On Over…Stress free suppers
    The Main Event
    Joy to the World Christmas Baking and Sweet Treats
    All Wrapped Up Edible Presents and Party Preserves
    A Christmas Brunch for 6-8
    A Bevy of Hot Drinks
    Dr Lawson Prescribes…

  3. Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas
  1. Sarah Raven Complete Christmas

Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas is the most inspirational book, with stunning photographs. Sarah’s planning for Christmas includes flowers and starts in September! It is the sort of book which makes you wish you had a large well stocked garden and lots of free autumn weekends to potter around since at least half of the book is floral and foliage decorations for christmas and there are a number of edible gift recipes. Although the recipes look lovely I’ve only made the christmas pudding ice cream so far which was delicious. I suspect if I didn’t already have Delia’s book this would be my guide to making Christmas dinner as it is thorough without being over complicated. This book is split into the following sections:

Planning Ahead which includes forcing bulbs for Christmas as well as homemade chutneys.
Decorations which includes ideas for decorating your Christmas tree and making wreaths
A Christmas Party which has more flowers and lots of canape recipes
Christmas Eve Recipes from breakfast through light lunch to 3 course dinner
Christmas Day How to do all the essentials including roast goose with interesting ideas and variants for basics such as stuffings
Boxing Day Lots of interesting ideas for using up leftovers
New Year’s Eve with winter dinner party recipes

Cookbook Review – Jamie Oliver The Return of the Naked Chef

The Return of the Naked Chef was one of Jamie’s early cookbooks and I’ve owned it for years. I made a few recipes successfully but then started to only cook old favourites from the book. After starting to blog how I get on with new recipes I’ve become much more adventurous in trying new recipes so I returned to this book. Some recipes such as his Salmon with Proscuitto and lentils and spinach had become favourites that I had often cooked over the years. His basic risotto instructions were a revelation and his prawn and pea risotto is so good I’ve resolved to try growing peas again (I was less keen on his garlic risotto).  His style is very chatty which I like.

This would be an excellent cookbook for someone starting to get into more serious adventurous meals and is the book that tempted me to buy many more Jamie Oliver cookbooks.

It is split into the following chapters

  • introduction
  • make life easy
  • potty about herbs
  • morning glory
  • tapas, munchies and snacks
  • simple salads and dressings
  • soups and broths
  • pasta and risotto
  • fish and shellfish
  • meat, poultry and game
  • vegetables
  • bread
  • desserts
  • bevvies
  • stocks, sauces, bits, bob, this, that and the other

I’ve tried the following recipes from this book

  • pan-toasted almonds with a touch of chilli and sea salt
  • pappardelle, spicy sausage meat and mixed wild mushrooms
  • tagliatelle with saffron, seafood and cream
  • farfalle with Savoy cabbage, pancetta, thyme and mozarella
  • risotto – various
  • prawn and pea risotto with basil and mint
  • tray baked cod with runner beans, pancetta and pine nuts
  • roasted slashed fillet of sea bass stuffed with herbs, baked on mushrooms with salsa verde
  • fantastic fish pie
  • salmon fillet wrapped in prosciutto with herby lentils, spinach and yogurt
  • baked jerusalem artichokes breadcrumbs, thyme and lemon
  • mashed veg

And with the exception of the garlic risotto I’d make all of these again and again.

Cookbook Review – Avoca Cafe Cookbook

It took me a little while to start using the Avoca Cafe Cookbookregularly, I’d browse through it and see lots of lovely recipes then go to another of my cookbooks and make something familiar again. As you’d expect from a cafe cookbook a lot of the recipes are suitable for when you want a nice lunch. Whilst some of the recipes are very simple a number reflect the fact that when we’re eating out we often want to try something more special and complicated than we would make for ourselves at home. (I’m hoping Chicken, asparagus and ratatouille pancake stacks are on the menu next time I go to Ireland as I’ll be searching out my nearest Avoca cafe). The soups and salads in particular are lovely and well worth making the effort for weekend lunches. I’ve now made the roasted carrot and red pepper soup a number of times and taken the Tuscan bean soup to work in a food flask. Their broccoli and chicken gratin is one of my all time favourite meals. The Avoca carrot cake recipe is by far the most popular post on my blog! I have still only made a tiny fraction of the recipes in this book (list of recipes in the book below with the recipes I’ve tried highlighted in bold), I plan to try many more.


Green bean and Coconut
Courgette and Almond Tomato,
Celery and apple
Tomato and Red Pepper
Tomato, lentil and orange
Roasted Carrot and red pepper
Petit pois and mint
Baked Garlic and Onion Cream
Cauliflower cheese
White winter vegetable
Aztec corn
Mixed Mushrooms
Spiced lentil and bacon
Tuscan Bean
Parsnip, Rosemary and Olive
Sweet Potato and Lemongrass
Potato and Fennel


Carrot and Courgette
Carrot with roasted sesame seeds
Beetroot, Almond and Yogurt
Cauliflower, broccoli and roasted monkey nuts
Broccoli, feta, hazelnut and cherry tomato
Potato and mint
Roast herb potato with balsamic vinegar
Moroccan Couscous Chickpea,
Bulgar and wild rice salad with cumin
Chickpea, chilli and coriander with banana and mango
Spinach, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan, Pine nuts and Pasta
Smoked bacon, blue cheese and pineapple pasta
Tuna, fusilli, mixed pepper
Kilmacanogue curried rice
Triple rice salad with sesame dressing
Oriental bean sprout and egg noodle
Red cabbage with bacon and red onion
Butterbean, smoked bacon and garlic
Avoca three-bean
Summer fruit salad

Fish and chicken

Fish Pie
Smoked Salmon frittata
Salmon and Leek tart
Herb crusted Cod
Asian-style crabcakes with fruit chutney
Salmon and smoked trout terrine
Chicken, asparagus and ratatouille pancake stacks
Baked chicken with plums, ginger and soy
Baked chicken with Parmesan and wholegrain mustard
Chargrilled breast of chicken with celeriac mash and roasted cherry tomatoes


Beef and Guinness stew
Braised beef in orange sauce
Pepperpot beef
Kilmacanogue meatballs with herb and tomato sauce
Avoca’s shepherd’s pie
Baked lamb with cumin, cardamom and coconut milk
Baked lamb with oven-roasted Mediterranean vegetables
Avoca’s Irish stew
Santa Fe pork stew
Pork and chicken terrine
Normandy pork
Spanish pork
Lakeshore pork

Vegetable Main Courses

Potato and celeriac gratin
Leek, blue cheese and rocket frittata
Spinach omelette
Spanish omelette
Tuscan pizza
Open pizza sandwiches
Raised Mediterranean vegetable pie
Mediterranean tart
Sun-dried tomato, olive and riicotta stuffed baked potato
Mediterranean lasagne
lentil and nut loaf
spinach, roast pepper and tomato roulade
ricotta and sweetcorn roulade
Piperade tartlets
Aubergine, feta and poppy seed tart
Caramelised onion and three-cheese tart
Spinach, pecan and blue cheese pies
Asparagus, smoked bacon and Gruyere quiche


White yeast bread
Brown bread
soda bread
fruit soda
Multiseed brown bread with fruit
Tomato, cheese and black olive bread
Banana bread

Teatime and Desserts

Avoca scones
Avoca brown scones
Apple streusel biscuits
Italian chocolate fridge biscuits
Bir’s biccies
Musesli biscuits
Chocolate hazelnut cookies
Gerties shortbread
Baked Cheesecake with lemon topping
Karen’s mango and raspberry cheesecake
Carrot cake
Chocolate orange cake
Strawberry meringue roulade
Chocolate roulade
Mixed berry tiramisu
chocolate and amaretti mousse
Pecan and maple tart
Lemon tart with caramelised strawberries
Caramelised rhubarb and custard tart
Hazelnut and plum tart
Moll’s Gap apple pie
Mixed berry Normandy tart
Chocolate and raspberry tart


Pink grapefruit marmalade
Seville marmalade
Rhubarb and ginger jam
Wicklow raspberry jam
Apple chutney
Tropical fruit chutney
Lemon curd
Mustard, mayonnaise and Greek yogurt dressing
French dressing
Rosemary, garlic and chilli oil
Spiced vinegar

Cookbook Review – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

It feels like I’ve baked lots of recipes from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible however when I looked at the list of contents I realised how many more I still have to do (list of recipes in the book below with the recipes I’ve tried highlighted in bold).

Everything I have tried from this book has tasted lovely, been easy to make and had good clear instructions. There has been the odd quirk with things like icing quantities and Mary makes smaller biscuits than I do – could be why she is tiny and I’m not ;). For one or two recipes I prefer someone else’s (Nigella’s banana bread) but if I didn’t have much time to mix up the cake I’d always make Mary’s. Other recipes like her walnut teabread and choc chip cookies I don’t believe can be bettered. Mary’s traybake section is superb and a great idea if you have a number of hungry teens to feed, want to take cakes into work or bake for a fete. It’s a shame there aren’t photos against each recipe. Given the book is about as large a cookbook as can easily be handled I think I’d have preferred less recipes and more pictures.

Although this book would be perfect for a novice baker it also has a number of more ambitious recipes for the experienced baker. Every serious baker should own a copy of this book and If you’ve not done much baking before and only want one book on baking buy this one.

Madeira Cake
Large all in one Victoria Sandwich
Coffee Victoria Sandwich
Chocolate Victoria Sandwich
Swiss Roll
Lemon Swiss Roll
Chocolate Swiss Roll
Maple Syrup Cake
American Apple and Apricot Cake
Coffee and Walnut Sponge Cake
Cappuccino Cake
Battenburg Cake
Lemon Yoghurt Cake
Old fashioned Seed Cake
Carrot Cake
Cranberry and Apricot Fruit Cake
Rich Fruit Cake
Quick Boiled Fruit Cake
Jane’s Fruit Cake
Boozy Fruit Cake
Pound Cake
Frosted Walnut Layer Cake
Crunchy Top Lemon Cake
Double Orange Cake
Marmalade Cake
Strawberry Dessert Cake
English Cherry Cake
Traditional Parkin
Classic Sticky Gingerbread
Iced Gingerbread with Stem Ginger
Almond Spice Cake
Sticky Ginger and Orange Cake
Wholemeal Ginger Cake
Apple and Cinnamon Cake
Cut and Come Again Cake
Ginger Cream Roll
Death by Chocolate Cake
Mississippi Mud Pie
Dark Indulgent Chocolate and Walnut Brownies
Chocolate Chip Brownies
Chocolate Rum Cake
Chocolate Mousse Cake
Very Best Chocolate Fudge Cake
Almond and Chocolate Chip Cake
Date and Chocolate Loaf
Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake
Fairy Cakes
Iced Fairy Cakes
Eccles Cakes
Butterfly Cakes
Apricot Swiss Cakes
French Madeleines
English Madeleines
Chocolate Chip American Muffins
St Clements Muffins
Blueberry Muffins
Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake
Classic Rich Christmas Cake
Victorian Christmas Cake
Fast Mincemeat Christmas Cake
Buche de Noel
New Year Tipsy Cake
American Chocolate Wedding Cake
Tiny Fruit Cakes
Easter Simnel Cake
Sponge Christening Cake
Doboz Torte
Gateau Saint Honore
Wimbledon Cake
Gateau Moka aux Amandes
Lemon Griestorte
Swiss Wild Strawberry and Walnut Cake
Basic all in one Sponge Traybake
Ice Lemon Traybake
Iced Chocolate Traybake
Coffee and Walnut Traybake
Devonshire Apple Cake
American Spiced Carrot Traybake
Sultana and Orange Traybake
Lemon Drizzle Traybake
Cherry and Almond Traybake
Treacle Spice Traybake
Gingerbread Traybake
Ginger and Treacle Spiced Traybake
Date and Walnut Traybake
Marmalade Traybake
Fast Flapjacks
Fork Biscuits
Melting Moments
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lime Lattice Cookies
Double Chocolate Cookies
Shrewsbury Biscuits
Dorchester Biscuits
Cornish Fairings
Yorkshire Gingernuts
Lavender Biscuits
Oat Rounds
Muesli Cookies
Rich Cheesy Biscuits
Cheese Straws
Viennese Fingers
Petits Fours aux Amandes
Chocolate Ganache Petit Fours
Almond Tuiles
Sugared Pretzels
Easter Biscuits
Anzac Biscuits
Brandy Snaps
The Very Best Shortbread
Bishops Fingers
Special Shortbread Biscuits
Millionaires Shortbread
Apricot and Walnut Sandwich Bars
Date and Cherry Butter Bars
Bakewell Slices
Chocolate Crispies
Mini Cakes
Mini Jammy Cakes
Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Biscuits
Banana and Chocolate Chip Bars
Oat and Sunflower Squares
Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Marble Cake
Bunny Rabbit Birthday Cake
Coconut Pyramids
Little Gems
Iced Animal Biscuits
Gingerbread Men
Tarte Tatin
Glazed Lemon Tart
Glazed Fruit Tartlets
Filo Apple Strudels
Lemon Cream Tartlets
Frangipane Tartlets
French Apple Tart
Deep Treacle Tart
Austrian Apricot and Almond Tart
Chocolate Eclairs
Danish Pastries
English Muffins
Quick Granary Rolls
White Cottage Loaf
Crown Loaf
Cheese and Celery Crown Loaf
Honey-Glazed Walnut Bread
Farmhouse Brown Seeded Loaf
Walnut and Raisin Loaf
Irish Soda Bread
Focaccia Bread with Onion and Balsamic Topping
Mushroom and Garlic Stuffed Picnic Loaf
Sultana Malt Loaves
Bara Brith
Iced Apricot Fruit Loaf
Banana and Honey Teabread
Crunchy Orange Syrup Loaves
Banana Loaf
Carrot and Orange Loaf
Walnut Teabread
Pineapple and Cherry Loaf
Cherry Loaf Cake
Courgette Loaves
Orange Wholemeal Victoria Loaf
Borrowdale Teabread
Bath Buns
Very Best Scones
Special Fruit Scones
Cheese Scone Round
Potato Scones
Cheese and Olive Scone Bake
Drop Scones
Orange Drop Scones
Singin’ Hinny
Griddle Scones
Welsh Cakes
Rock Cakes
Wholemeal Sultana and Apricot Rock Cakes
Coburg Buns
Hot Cross Buns
Sultana Streusel Buns
Classic Apple Pie
My Mothers Bread and Butter Pudding
Baked Apple Lemon Sponge
Sticky Apricot Pudding
Treacle Sponges
Creme Brulee
Banoffi Pie
Pecan Pie
Basic White Meringues
Strawberry Pavlova
Strawberry Meringue Nests
Raspberry Meringue Roulade
Lemon Meringue Pie
Hazelnut Meringue Cake
Apricot and Almond Meringue Gateau
Coffee and Banana Vacherin
Hot Chocolate Souffles
Hot Lemon Souffle Pudding
Baked Alaska
American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake
Chocolate, Brandy and Ginger Cheesecake
Angel Sponge Cheesecake
Continental Cheesecake
American Cheesecake
Austrian Curd Cheesecake
Buttermilk and Honey Cheesecake
Easy Lemon Cheesecake
Apricot and Orange Cheesecake
Key Lime Pie