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The Unity Books chart for the strange week ending 27 March: cookbooks

With the beloved bubble that is Unity Books out of bounds for the time being, the world’s top booksellers had nowhere to put their expert reckons. And we wanted to plug the big hole where the bestseller lists used to be. 

So today we kick off a weekly series: a wrap of 10 books that we and some of the Unity team – Chloe, Briar, Toyah, Daniel and Melanie – think are cool, on whatever topic or genre we happen to fancy that Friday. Totally divorced from sales figures and the publishing cycle. Just us, burbling away. Hopefully you’ll only have to put up with it for four weeks.

First up: the cookbooks that fill our cups. 

Cooking for Optimists by Nicole Stock 

From the author: “There isn’t any hyperactive fist-pumping about the magic of a slightly tweaked pasta recipe, but there is genuine, inspiring enthusiasm for the perfection of the crunch of pastry, or the wobble of a just-set ganache tart.” A picture-free delight full of totally ravenous content. It reads like a modern day Julia Child cookbook and guides you with as much seduction as Nigella. / Chloe Blades

2  A Modern Way To Cook by Anna Jones 

An excellent book to give others and yourself. Especially good to give to siblings interested in vegetarian recipes so that they’ll be inclined to test the delicious recipes on you. Personally recommend the unscrewuppable One Pot Kale, Lemon and Tomato Spaghetti to whet your appetite while in lockdown. / Briar Lawry

3  Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley 

Came out in January, not at all as dictatorial as it sounds. Healthy food that doesn’t waste bits like carrot tops or broccoli stems. No dieting nonsense. Not much meat; easy vege and vegan swap-outs. Lots of chunky soups and condiments and risottos. The recipes are easy and the ingredients are too, and just about every one of them has a note that’s like (I’m paraphrasing) “if you have leftovers just mix in some cheese and flour and fry it up in balls”. Yes please to fried cheese balls. See also, verbatim: “Any leftover plain roasted sweet potatoes can be crushed with a spatula then fried in ghee or oil until crispy on each side.” 

My favourites so far are the Chilli Herb Chutney – blitz great handfuls of coriander and mint with green chillis, ginger and honey – and Secret Veg Tomato Sauce, where you basically roast a bunch of whatever veges you have in a big dish with canned tomatoes, butter and herbs, then blend. Blending things is really good for drowning out the stir-crazed chatter of your children, by the way. / Catherine Woulfe

4  River Cottage Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

See above except with oodles of cosy Hugh puns and a recipe for pizza dough/flatbread that was the first thing I catered for when we started stocking up. Also can highly recommend the leek and white bean soup. / CW

The Food of Sichuan by Fuschia Dunlop 

Photographs, cultural history and spicy Mapo Tofu all bound together by Dunlop’s sparkling prose. Delicious. / Toyah Webb 

6  Ladies, A Plate: Traditional home baking by Alexa Johnston

Best ginger crunch you will ever make. Best Louise cake you will ever make. Best pikelets you will ever make. Chuck out the Edmonds book (do not waste your precious cinnamon on their recipe for hot crossed buns) and devote yourself to Alexa instead. / CW

7  Mediterranean by Susie Theodorou 

I am now a weekday pescetarian because of this book (and because the environment needs all the help it can get). The fish recipes require zero thought leaving me with enough brain space to decide “What red wine should I drink next?” and “Will it be Gypsy Kings or Zorba the Greek this evening?” I’ve used it nonstop since I bought it in January. / CB

8  The Savvy Cook by Izy Hossack 

A vegetarian staple for the budding chef and novice alike. Insta cooking sensation Izy Hossack shares her marvellous hacks to help stretch that weekly budget while dining in (self-isolation) style. / Daniel Devenney

9  Community: Salads, Sweets, and Stories from Home and Abroad by Hetty McKinnon

The Australian classic. Healthy happy folk. Coz, we’re feeling for our neighbours today. / Melanie O’Loughlin

10 Best Potato Recipes by Alison Holst 

Jane’s Potato Flan. Microwave Cubed Potatoes. Holiday Hash. Filo Surprise Packages. (The surprise is potatoes). / CW

We haven’t done publishers or RRPs because some of these books are pretty old and out of print and you’ll have to buy them secondhand once that’s a thing again. Some of the newer ones come as an ebook; we recommend heading to the authors’ websites. 


The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair.


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