COOKBOOKS are the perfect last-minute Christmas gift because, really, who doesn't love adding to their collection?
Here are Weekend's suggestions for this year's 10 best.
FOR: THE COOKBOOK NOVICE
LANTERN COOKERY CLASSICS, LANTERN, RRP $20
After the huge success of Penguin's retro paperbacks comes this collection of cookbooks in
a similar style from Lantern (an imprint of Penguin). Each includes more than 60 recipes from Lantern's most popular food authors including Stephanie Alexander, Matt Moran, Kylie Kwong, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Maggie Beer.
They're about half the size of a standard cookbook, which makes them perfect for a seasoned collector who needs a secondary cookbook for the caravan or holiday house.
And at just $20 each, they're also ideal back-up presents for surprise Christmas guests.
ZUMBARONS, BY ADRIANO ZUMBO, MURDOCH BOOKS, RRP $25
Pastry chef Adriano Zumbo is the closest thing we have to Willy Wonka and Zumbarons does nothing to dispel this comparison.
Though Zumbo hit the spotlight courtesy of his croquembouche on MasterChef, his most sought-after sweets are his macarons and this book is his ode to his penchant for crazy flavours (satay macaron anyone?).
Though macarons can be fiddly to make, Zumbo's recipes are straightforward and a troubleshooting chapter covers all manner of potential disasters. For the young and young at heart.
FOR: THE GREEN THUMB COOK
THE LITTLE VEGGIE PATCH CO'S GUIDE TO BACKYARD FARMING, BY FABIAN CAPOMOLLA AND MAT PEMBER,
PLUM, RRP $45
Fresh and seasonal is the mantra of many home cooks and the easiest way to beat that drum is to grow your own.
Melbourne lads Mat Pember and Fabian Capomolla share their passion for edible gardens through their business, The Little Veggie Patch Co, and now in their Guide to Backyard Farming, they're spreading their word even further.
The duo offers monthly tips on what to plant, what to harvest and what to cook, so follow their guide and you'll know to plant tomatoes in November, harvest them in January and then how to cook a tomato tarte tatin.
Each month also has an activity, such as growing plants from cuttings, or a backyard farming how-to, such as making a window box.
FOR: THE TIME-POOR MUM OR DAD
JAMIE'S 15 MINUTE MEALS, BY JAMIE OLIVER, PENGUIN, RRP $50
Jamie Oliver's latest gem has topped the bestseller list since its release in October and will no doubt be under many trees on Christmas morning.
Sure, the 15-minute thing is hard to believe but, if you follow Oliver's rules and don't count the prep and cleaning-up times (even boiling the kettle needs to be done before the clock starts), chances are you really will whip up crispy duck parcels or a lamb tagine in a snap.
With more than 100 recipes in chapters covering everything from chicken and lamb to fish and vegies, there's plenty of choice - and, happily, this latest release is in a much simpler format to his first foray into speed cooking, Jamie's 30 Minute Meals.
If only the Christmas shopping could be done at a similar pace.
FOR: THE PASSIONATE FOODIE
JERUSALEM, BY YOTAM OTTOLENGHI AND SAMI TAMIMI, EBURY PRESS, RRP $49.95
Lauded as one of the cookbooks of the year, Jerusalem is the second collaboration between Israel-born, London-based uber chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and is an ode to the city where the two were born in the 1970s; Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west.
More than 120 recipes take inspiration from the duo's vastly different cultural and religious childhood influences yet happily sing to modern kitchens.
Think seafood and fennel soup, roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad, and a cardamom rice pudding with pistachios and rose water. Mouth-watering stuff.
FOR: THE GEN Y FOOD BLOGGER
WHAT KATIE ATE, BY KATIE QUINN DAVIES, PENGUIN, RRP $50
When a photographer-cum-food stylist turns her hand to recipe writing, it's a fair bet the cookbook will be a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach.
Katie Quinn Davies doesn't disappoint with her "good, honest home-cooked food" that will leave you torn between reaching for your camera or your food processor.
Quinn Davies, who honed her recipe and photography skills via her food blog (whatkatieate. blogspot.com.au), complements her recipes with mouth-watering produce shots and retro typography.
And though at first glance the recipes look oh-my-gosh stunning, a second look reveals they're mostly accessible for the home cook, particularly those who like to impress with a bit of Saturday-night bling without the stress levels going through the roof.
FOR: COOKS WHO LIKE TO LICK THE BEATERS
DESSERTS, BY BELINDA JEFFREY, LANTERN, RRP $50
Did you know it's easier to get bowls free of sticky batter with cold rather than hot water?
Or that a hair dryer is handy for creating shiny chocolate cake? Trivia compared to baking guru Belinda Jeffrey's recipes, but it's the little details here that attest to years of acquired expertise - and help create more confident, proficient cooks.
A logical successor to Jeffrey's Mix & Bake, Desserts heads straight to the end of the menu with instructions for indulgences ranging from the homely (easy berry crumble) to the traditional (Polish honey and spice cake) to twists on basics (coffee creme caramels, pistachio meringues).
And there are the chocolate puddings, without which no dessert book is complete.
FOR: THE CULINARY TRAVELLER
NIGELLISSIMA, BY NIGELLA LAWSON, CHATTO & WINDUS, RRP $49.95
Even if you haven't seen the BBC series that accompanies this collection of Italian-inspired recipes, you can't escape the honeyed tones of TV's favourite curvy cook.
"Nigella-ness" drips from every page. The chatty intros to each dish are full of tips and coy assurances that yes, it is OK to cut a few corners to save time (like using a ready-shaved but quality parmesan) or swap ingredients around.
Even the usually straight-laced instructions ooze with sensuality: the top layer of a lasagne is "runkled like a shar pei made of pasta".
It makes reading the recipes an intimate experience. Lawson doesn't promise complete authenticity - more the recipes of an Englishwoman who loves Italian food and whose style of cooking has been influenced by its traditions.
Nothing among the five chapters - Pasta; Flesh, Fish & Fowl; Vegetables & Sides; Sweet Things; and An Italian-Inspired Christmas - seems overly complicated, which makes it great for the home cook looking for a feast with minimum fuss.
HOME COOKING, BY VALLI LITTLE, ABC BOOKS, RRP $50
A great cookbook is all about fabulous images, right? Then look no further than the latest from Delicious magazine food editor Valli Little.
By the cover-worthiness of each image, you'd think hours of prep and cooking were involved, but a quick scan shows the recipes are approachable and achievable.
Each bright, tempting shot leaps from the page, willing you to get cracking in the kitchen.
The 120 recipes are divided into the four seasons and traverse the globe: beef tataki (Japan), scallops with pumpkin and sage burnt butter (France) or corn cakes with avocado and prawns (Mexico) that could be made as weeknight meals or for fuss-free dinner parties.
At the back of the book, you'll find "extras" - trusty recipes for basics such as pesto or five types of pastry.
FOR: THE COOKBOOK OBSESSED
ORIGIN, BY BEN SHEWRY, MURDOCH BOOKS, RRP $95Clear a space on the coffee table for one of the most stunning cookbooks of the year.
Melbourne chef Ben Shewry's Origin is part-memoir, part-photographic journey, part-cookbook and is an indulgent feast for the senses.
Shewry bares his soul and explains how the seeds of his cooking philosophy were sown during his childhood in an isolated corner of New Zealand and even reveals how in 2005 he was on the verge of taking a job cooking parmas at a Richmond pub when the opportunity at Attica presented itself.
Phew! Shewry's Ripponlea restaurant Attica is ranked No.63 in the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant list, and though many of the recipes in Origin are far too involved for the average home cook, true foodies will be fascinated to read about where Shewry's inspiration comes from and just how much effort goes in to each of his spectacular dishes.
Read more on the Herald Sun.