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Cookery: best books for Christmas

You only have to look at the groaning shelves of cookbooks in shops across the country to understand that this is a publishing genre in the rudest of health.

A glimpse at next spring's catalogues promises a further banquet of glossy celebrity titles, proving that print is set to remain the most popular medium for that fast-expanding consumer demographic, the home cook. Who could have guessed that television would become the unwitting saviour of the high street bookseller? But best not count our chickens.

This year has been extraordinary for the quality and range of lusciously produced books from a mix of male and female cooks, among them Jamie, Nigel, Hugh, Stein, Kerridge, Ottolenghi, Blumenthal, Mark Hix, James Martin, Claudia Roden, Allegra McEvedy, Lorraine Pascale and Rachel Khoo. My local city centre branch of Waterstone's has expanded its cookbook section to 18 wall cases and at least five free-standing displays. It pains me to say it, but among them are only two with a Scottish flavour, though they have been worth waiting for: Glasgow medical student and Great British Bake Off finalist James Morton's clever Brilliant Bread (Ebury, £20), a clear, expert guide from sourdough to yum-yums; and Edinburgh chef Tony Singh's delightful collaboration with Cyrus Todiwala for The Incredible Spice Men (BBC Books, £20). From ginger chicken escalopes to Victoria sponge with fennel, it is not as scary as it may sound. In fact, it is inspiring.

Definitely scarier is Michel Roux Jnr's authoritative The French Kitchen (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25). I tried a couple of his 200 purposefully laid-out and illustrated recipes based on classical French cuisine, from rustic to haute, and felt I could hear the MasterChef telling me I was doing it all wrong. His pissaladiere turned out well, but I am not so sure about the cou de canard farci. Certainly recommended for the serious cook looking to raise their game.

Like all good cooks, Simon Hopkinson appreciates the potential of the pre-prandial for kickstarting the appetite. His chatty, easy to follow Simon Hopkinson Cooks (Ebury, £25) presents thoughtfully devised menus for all occasions - and each one starts with a cocktail and nibbles. I particularly like his negroni with anchovies on toast, and margarita with braised lamb shanks and cucumber salad. Easily a classic in its own right.

The blokey style set by Jamie Oliver does not, sadly, always translate well. Food writer and blogger Simon Cave's Manly Food (Quadrille, £25) is aimed at "men who want to get their hands dirty in the kitchen". Its front cover features a butcher's cleaver, and there is a hangover cure called Oral Redydration Solution, which basically involves eating a banana and drinking some salty water. Appearances can be deceptive, though. His list of commands starts with "The first rule of manly food is flavour first. The second rule is flavour first", and he does have a point. Further pearls of wisdom are to be found throughout. Photography is close-up and crystal clear; the smoked ham hock and kedgeree are a case in point. I reckon the novice cook would need more of them, especially if contemplating the roast bone marrow.

Women, of course, have a much gentler approach to cooking, and who gentler than the legendary Elizabeth David? Her gorgeous book On Vegetables (Quadrille, £20) is a collection of her best and most-loved recipes, culled from her travels across Europe, and it serves as a reminder that she was championing fresh produce way before anyone else today.

They are presented in a variety of ways, from soups to small dishes; salads; as accompaniments to pasta, gnocchi and polenta; for cooking with beans, grains and lentils; and as main dishes in their own right. Glazed turnips, gnocchi verdi, baked fennel; all presented in a pleasantly authentic rustic style. An added extra are her highly informative travel essays. The one on potatoes is a triumph of understated humour. A class act.

We had to get on to baking at some point, and I am being deliberately judicious here by choosing food writer Rose Prince's lavender blue Pocket Bakery (W&N, £18.99), the result of an idea she had three years ago to start baking with her children and to sell bread from their home as a way of helping them earn pocket money and learn a lifelong skill into the bargain. It is now a thriving local bakery producing artisan baking and is headed up by her 17-year-old son.

The recipes here range from modern (non-sourdough) bread, rich (brioche) bread and through to all kinds of bakery, with detailed instructions. I love the look of sweet olive oil breads with wine grapes and anise, and chocolate paper pie with pears. More sophisticated than this refreshingly modest book might appear.

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