What we've been cooking: the most useful cookbooks of 2019

I've decided, at this point at least, that in 2020 I might keep a record of every meal I cook and eat. If Nigel Slater can chronicle his daily dishes, why can't I?

But what did I cook in 2019? You know I can't really cook without a cookbook so here are some of my favourite recipes of the year.

Cookbooks make the perfect last-minute Christmas gift idea. I've been known to give them complete with little labels, suggestions of what recipes you can cook me.

So this summer, hit the kitchen and cook up a storm.

Veg: Easy and Delicious Meals for Everyone by Jamie Oliver, Penguin, $49.99

Veg: Easy and Delicious Meals for Everyone by Jamie Oliver, Penguin, $49.99

Veg: Easy and delicious meals for everyone

Jamie Oliver, Penguin, $49.99.

Lots of people jumped on the vegetable bandwagon in 2019, including Jamie, but while some took it all a little seriously, the Naked Chef lost nothing of his humour and charm in this book. He doesn't push the plant-based philosophy, this one just gets us thinking about ideas for meat-free days that are full of flavour and surprises.

What we've been cooking: Tomato and spring veg frittata: because dinner is only a carton of eggs away.

Good for: Jamie fans, this is his 23rd book. And it's a good one.

Healthy Slow Cooker

Ross Dobson, Murdoch Books, $35.

Everyone's favourite set-and-forget device gets a healthy makeover with recipes you'll want to cook again and again. We love Ross Dobson and this collection of his favourite family pleasers, packed with veg, using smart carbs and with lots of flexibility for when you need to cater for those with dietary restrictions, is a refreshing take on the versatile appliance. Mine was on the kitchen bench for half the year..

What we've been cooking: Bolognese with big pasta: revelation of the year is that you can make spag bol in the one pot.

Good for: Slow cooker fans who need a break from curries and stews.

More: More recipes with more veg for more joy, by Matt Preston. Plum, $39.99.

More: More recipes with more veg for more joy, by Matt Preston. Plum, $39.99.

More: more recipes with more veg for more joy

Matt Preston, Plum, $39.99.

Preston wants people to cook from his cookbooks and you'll be opening this one again and again. Salads, ideas for the barbecue, pasta and rice, and the unbeatable tray bake. We love it because there's a section for meaty add-ons and recipes full of colour and flavour.

What we've been cooking: Avocado and friends, full of coriander, cherry tomatoes, avo and chilli butter roasted corn. Summer on a plate.

Good for: fans of the big fella who are looking for something different.

Images and Text from Three Veg and Meat by Olivia Andrews,Photography by Phu Tang, Murdoch Books RRP $39.99.

Images and Text from Three Veg and Meat by Olivia Andrews,Photography by Phu Tang, Murdoch Books RRP $39.99.

Three veg and meat: flip the balance on your plate

Olivia Andrews, Murdoch Books, $39.99.

You know you should be eating more healthy veges - but sometimes you prefer burgers, nachos and chicken schnitzel to salad. So how do you get the dietary balance right without sacrificing flavour? Olivia Andrews has taken all your favourite dishes and magically flipped the balance to more veg and less meat. Some great family favourites with a twist, the kids will never notice.

What we've been cooking: Butter-nut chicken, takes the curry favourite and mixes it up with less chicken and more vegetables.

Good for: Carnivores who are having trouble with the eat more vegetables ethos.

The Weeknight Cookbook

Justine Schofield, Plum, $34.99.

Take the stress out of weeknight dinners by letting a well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer do the work for you. With nothing more than some pasta, some frozen peas and a little mint from the garden, you'll whip up dinner in no time. Full of easy hacks for delicious meals that don't skimp on flavour. Set yourself a challenge to not shop for a week and you'll be surprised by what you can come up with.

What we've been cooking: Pork and peanut butter hokkien noodles, with the perfect and easiest homemade satay sauce we've found.

Good for: Anyone who keeps forgetting to stop at the supermarket on the way home.

Cover of Family, Food and Feelings by Kate Berry, photography by Kate Berry, published by Plum, RRP $39.99.

Cover of Family, Food and Feelings by Kate Berry, photography by Kate Berry, published by Plum, RRP $39.99.

Family, Food and Feelings

Kate Berry, Plum, $39.99.

So much more than a cookbook, Kate Berry splits the year into four school terms, terms full of instantly recognisable parenting moments and advice on how to deal with them, be it negotiating blended families, having those difficult conversations or tackling book week. There are also delicious seasonal recipes for dinners and after-school snacks kids can make themselves, plus some new ideas for using those last black bananas in the fruit bowl.

What we've been cooking: Stuff from the fridge and rice: because we all get tired by the end of the week, even the veges in the fridge.

Good for: a mum with school aged children who might need to be reminded she's loved.

The Edible Garden Cookbook & Growing Guide, by Paul West. Plum. $39.99.

The Edible Garden Cookbook & Growing Guide, by Paul West. Plum. $39.99.

The Edible Garden Cookbook and Growing Guide

Paul West, Plum, $39.99.

We're still suffering from the River Cottage bug, and here Paul West shows us how a meaningful life is one built around food and community. The book is full of ideas to show how easy it is to grow and cook some of your own food, no matter how much space you have. As well as family friendly, produce-driven dishes that are bursting with freshness and flavour.

What we've been cooking: Crispy carrot and spring onion fritters: been experimenting with a lot of fritters in 2019, these ones were a great hit.

Good for: anyone who wants to make a connection between the product and the plate, and that should be all of us.

Venetian Republic

Nino Zoccali, Murdoch Books, $49.99.

A fascinating insight into how this serene, safe-haven city of canals came to play a defining role in shaping the cuisine, culture and architecture of her Mediterranean neighbours?. Part culinary journey, part cookbook, rich and evocative recipes and stories from one of Australia's most awarded chefs and restaurateurs. These are recipes steeped in history; dishes from the days when Venice was a world power.

What we've been cooking: Croatian blackberry crumble: the most scrumptious, most simple dessert we've cooked all year.

Good for: Those of us who dream of far away places.

A Basket by the Door: Recipes for Comforting Gifts and Joyful Gatherings by Sophie Hansen, Bloomsbury, $39.99

A Basket by the Door: Recipes for Comforting Gifts and Joyful Gatherings by Sophie Hansen, Bloomsbury, $39.99

A Basket by the Door: Recipes for Comforting Gifts and Joyful Gatherings

Sophie Hansen, Murdoch Books, $39.99.

Nothing says "I love you, I've got you and I'm here" better than a parcel of food you've taken the time to make, wrap and deliver. So, season by season, Hansen offers up recipes to cook for loved ones who might be moving house, busy with a newborn, celebrating a milestone, recovering after illness, grieving, or just in need of a little love and appreciation. A Book about friendship, connection and heartfelt country hospitality made edible.

What we've been cooking: Honey-roasted vegetables with orangey hummus: a simple meal on its own but has become a barbecue staple.

Good for: Those who love sharing food with people they love.

Eat Drink and Still Shrink

Michele Chevally Hedge, PanMacMillan, $34.99.

Like us all, Michele Chevalley Hedge wants to be able to eat delicious food, enjoy the odd glass of pinot and still feel great. Here she draws on all the latest research and many years' experience as a nutritionist to provide a solution that works for the average busy person who wants to be healthy. Part practical guide, part cookbook, there's life advice as well as yummy recipes.

What we've been cooking: Mexican Fish Bowl, think corn, black beans, avocado and freshly caught fish.

Good for: someone looking to make a fresh start in the new year but still have the occasional indulgence.

Recipe

Croatian blackberry crumble

In many parts of the world, fruit crumble desserts like this one are reserved for the cold of winter. Not in this case, as blackberries are at their best in summer, and this Croatian staple - another example of Slavic influence on the Dalmatian coast - is beautifully light and fantastic for summer.

Ingredients

Pastry:

150g plain flour

tsp baking powder

170g cold butter, diced

110g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

Blackberry filling:

2 egg whites

110g caster sugar

500g blackberries

seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tbsp icing sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. To make the pastry, mix the flour, baking powder, butter, sugar and egg yolks in a food processor until a dough ball forms. Turn out of the processor and set aside one-third of the dough to make the topping.

3. Grease a 20cm pie dish and firmly press the dough into the base and side of the dish to form a crust.

4. For the blackberry filling, whisk the egg whites and sugar into soft peaks. Fold in the berries, vanilla seeds and lemon zest and pour into the pie dish.

5. Crumble the reserved pastry dough over the top of the blackberry filling.

6. Bake the crumble in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until golden.

7. Allow to cool a little, then dust with icing sugar. This is beautiful with vanilla bean gelato or cream.

From Venetian Republic, by Nino Zoccali.

This story What we've been cooking: the most useful cookbooks of 2019 first appeared on The Canberra Times.