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  • Susan Low

My top cookbook picks

Spring & summer 2024, Part 1

Along with more rain than the country really needs, this spring has brought a profusion of excellent cookbooks. Anyone who follows me on Insta or this blog knows that I’ve been away (read my postcards from Bali and Sydney for the deets). Which means that I have had a lot of cookbook catchup to do on my return.


So here, later than I’d like in some cases, are just some of the books that have been whetting my appetite since I’ve been back.


Keep and eye out for Part 2, coming soon(ish).



Good French food never really goes out of fashion, as any London-based restaurant-goer will know (witness newly opened Joséphine from Claude Bosi and the return of Michel Roux). That’s also the reason why my French cookbook collection continues to grow, even though I ran out of bookshelf space long ago. But I did make space for this one.


Rosa Jackson was born in Canada but has been writing about French cuisine for some three decades, including as a restaurant critic for Time Out Paris back in the day – which is when our paths first crossed. Rosa moved to Nice about 20 years and runs a hands-on cookery school in the Old Town called Les Petits Farcis (named after the famed stuffed vegetables; see bottom right of pic below). What she doesn’t know about the food of her adoptive city isn’t worth knowing.

Written during lockdown when her school was closed, Niçoise has been lavished with attention and care. It takes you straight to the city’s food markets and restaurants and introduces you to restaurateurs, bakers, winemakers, food producers, market stallholders and local chefs – some of whom have contributed recipes.


It’s a substantial tome. All the classics – pissaladière, salade Niçoise, asparagus mimosa, those stuffed vegetables, and Rosa’s gorgeous strawberry cream tart (and loads more) are within these pages, with lashings of historical detail. Pictured above are some of Rosa’s recipes cooked by the chefs at Toklas restaurant for the spectacular spread put on for the book launch.


Read this book, cook the recipes, and you’ll almost (almost) be able to feel that southern sunshine.


Nicoise: market-inspired cooking from France’s sunniest city is out now, published by Norton.



More of the good stuff from France…

If, as I strongly suspect Carolyn Boyd does, you make your travel plans around your stomach’s desires, this is the book you’ll need if a trip to France is on your agenda. Which it doubtless will be after reading Carolyn’s debut title.


And, really – cathedrals and castles are nice enough, but can they compare to, say, the glories of Breton butter, zesty lemons from Menton or the cheesy, potato-ey richness of a good truffade? This book explores the glories of France’s street food, its cheeses and saucisses, its classic dishes, local specialities and its produce from sea, farmland, vineyards and orchards. There are also a few surprises: rooftop farm produce from Paris’s 15th arrondisement, French-African cuisine from the Château-Rouge and Goutte d’Or districts of that city, and edible violets from Toulouse. I also learned more about tielle Sètoise, octopus and tomato pie, which I tasted for the first time last year on a visit to the seaside town of Sète (that’s it in the pic below).

As befits a journalist who earned her (baguette) crust at France Magazine for almost a decade, Carolyn really knows her stuff. I didn’t previously know that there’s an ‘AAAAA’ certification for andouillette producers; to be awarded membership, their sausage must be blind-judged by a jury of butchers, food critics and chefs. (Better them than me is all I’m saying…)


Dotted throughout are simple recipes for courgette and cheese madeleines, flognarde à la pomme Limousin (a caramelised apple batter cake) and the like. It’s a delicious exploration of regional French cuisine. I’m going to pack this book in my suitcase next time I travel to the other side of the Channel – and I recommend you do the same.


Amuse Bouche: how to eat your way around France is out on 6 June, published by Profile Books.


Cold Kitchen

After reading – and becoming utterly engrossed in – Caroline Eden’s three previous books, I’d learned what to expect: luscious prose and a sophisticated melding of travelogue and history, people and places, all brought together in one magical stew.So I knew this would be a book to savour slowly like any good meal.

The arrival of my proof copy happily coincided with my own all-too-infrequent travel opportunities, and it was somehow fitting to be reading of Caroline’s sojourns through Uzbekistan, Turkey, Poland, Georgia and Ukraine while I was hoiking myself through airports. This book kept me sentient during lengthy layovers, and I had the rare opportunity to read it in (almost) one fell swoop.Unlike Samarkand, Black Sea and Red Sands, in which food and recipes are placed at the centre of the table, Cold Kitchen is a travelogue and memoir with recipes attached.

The central conceit is a powerful one – that the kitchen is a portal that can take you anywhere and everywhere, “offering opportunities to cook, imagine and create ways back into other times, other lives and other territories,” as she writes. Who needs a flying carpet anyway? And so the reader comes along for the ride, past minarets and domes, onboard clattery Russian trains, to banks of wild garlic on the River Tweed – and always back to her cold Edinburgh kitchen, where the stories begin and end, and where there’s always an edible treat to be found there.

This is honest, insightful, writing of the sort that’s all too rare – the sort where you reach the end all too quickly.

Cold Kitchen: a year of culinary journeys is out now, published by Bloomsbury.


Wild Figs & Fennel

The mark of a good food book? One that takes you from dreary, grey, soggy-round-the edges London and delivers you to a faraway place, one scented with salty air and wild figs, and that bathes you in near-forgotten sunlight. In this case, that’s Sardinia, the subject of Letitia Clark’s latest cookbook. Born in England and now resident in Sardinia, Letitia is one of those writers that I’ve not quite been able to decide about: is she a brilliant writer who cooks well; or a great cook who can really write?

Does it really matter? I think not. Fact is, this is a book that you will want to spend time with, whether that’s on your sofa or in your kitchen. The chapters open, fittingly enough, in spring: “April can be the cruellest month; breeding blossom sprays of fragile white hope and then battering them with wild winds,” she writes. I love the picture that she paints of everyday life in her rural village, the ingredients that mark the changing seasons, the annual celebrations, and the portraits of the people who keep local traditions alive. I want, someday to meet Mauro, who makes Sardinia’s signature Vernaccia di Oristano, who is described as having a “fierce and fundamental” love for his wine.

Easier, perhaps, is to busy myself in the kitchen, putting together recipes such as broad beans, bottarga and ricotta; or linguine with garlicky greens, egg and lemon. Or maybe something sweet – her walnut and honey cake, maybe, which looks simple (even for a non-baker like me) but that I know will taste divine.

Wild Figs and Fennel: a year in an Italian kitchen is out now, published by Hardie Grant.



Georgina’s recipes are always a joy to cook, and her books a joy to read – her previous book, Nistisima (2022) is one of my all-time favourites.

Youvetsi, tserepa, pastitsio, melitzanosalata, lots of ways with orzo and halloumi, and sweet treats including baklava buns... Greekish is filled with dishes from her Greek-Cypriot background and I want to cook them all (I’ve earmarked a ridiculous number with Post-It notes).

Ive made a couple of dishes so far – green gigantes with leeks (which I spiked with a handful of wild garlic) and spiced lamb chops with houmous. Up next: lamb shank fricassée with preserved lemon and filo-wrapped feta with spiced honey. Yep, these are dishes you could describe as ‘highly cookable’. These are recipes that taste of summer, even if the weather is (still) stuck in cold mode.

Greekish is out now, published by Bloomsbury.

More reviews coming soon!

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