Florence’s Gift Guide #5: Beautiful Books

It’s official. I’m a book addict, but my favourites to receive as gifts are cookery and interiors books, the kind of coffee table beauties that are full of gorgeous imagery and inspiration. As many of these books are cheaply available online for around the £10 mark, I decided to forgoe a stocking filler gift guide and round up my favourite recipe and decor books that I’ll be giving and would like to receive this Christmas.

For Foodies…

  • I’m ALWAYS looking for recipe books that lean towards sharing food. I love having friends over but rarely make fussy food prefering big plate options, and one pot solutions that everyone can dig into. Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi looks like just such a book and is causing a real stir in the Christmas market this year so it’s on my lust-list.
  • I only discovered the Great British Bake Off this season and got totally addicted. Everyone loves Mary but it’s Paul’s critique and exacting standards that made me want this book. Paul Hollywood, How to Bake
  • I spotted this book on the shelf in the Bertinet Bakery in Bath. I mean, how could you not notice that stunning front cover image? I suspect this would be of the variety of cookery books that I buy mainly for the beautiful imagery, however there are many recipes that look do-able for the keen baker or wannabe pastry chef. Pastry, Richard Bertinet
  • If you’re a regular in the food section at book stores you might have seen Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros, an equally stunning book to this more recent release. I hesitated to buy her books before, fearing I wouldn’t want to attempt the recipes, instead just staring at the pictures, however this book focuses on Italian food – my favourite. Tessa now lives in Tuscany so my mouth waters at even the thought of what this book may contain and it’s more than pretty enough to display too. Limoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros.
  • Lastly, not pretty (what happened with this cover I don’t know as the styling of his books is usually fantastic,) and rather omnipresent this Christmas is Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. I have several Jamie Oliver books and they are without doubt the most relied upon and turned to books in my kitchen. For that reason this has to be a no brainer. Although I’ve heard 15 minutes is more than optimistic for some of the recipes and omits time-consuming prep, I know it would contain recipes that would become staples in my home.

For interiors addicts…

  • First up, Decorate Workshop: A Creative 8 Step Process for Transforming Your Home by Holly Becker. Holly’s second book, this one rather than telling you what to put in your decor projects, advises on how to approach re-decorating and designing your home. Many people struggle to translate inspiration into an actual room and this book shows you how.
  • American Modern, Thomas O’Brien. This book isn’t one you’ll find on the bestseller lists, but it was given to me by a friend and remains my favourite interiors book. With a thorough insight into many American homes in their entirety, I am always inspired when I flick through it’s pages.
  • Another older choice but still relevant, Domino: the Book of Decorating: A Room-by-Room Guide to Creating a Home That Makes You Happy, is perfect for the coffee table but full of inspiration. I bought a special edition Domino magazine whilst away and just loved the approach to design, decor and styling so have renewed interest in this book which is on this years Christmas list 🙂
  • If you have a friend who has just bought their first home or is in the midst of renovation project, Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love: is a great book. Full of DIY ideas from super bloggers Sherry and John Petersik who have documented their own renovations on the synonymous blog.

Readers, I would love for you to share any thoughts on my selection – do you own any of these books and are they a good gift choice or do you have any other suggestions to add to my list? Are you also coveting any of them?


Found: The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander.

Today’s Find, with its brightly coloured stripes, is a real ‘investment cookbook.’  The Cook’s Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen by Australian cook Stephanie Alexander, is the perfect gift because anything you could ever possibly need to know about food or cooking is in there.  When I mentioned it to Rebecca, she’d already heard of it and knew friends who had it… apparently it’s something of a cult item! We were given our copy as a wedding present, (my Great Aunt Anne actually sent ours from Australia – the package was about the size and weight of two bricks tied together) and with over 1000 pages of recipes, it covers every basic dish you can think of as well as more advanced cooking techniques and stacks of info about how to prepare various ingredients, how to match flavours, and what to cook when.

The Cook’s Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen by Stephanie Alexander

In the 6 months we’ve had ours, it’s become something of a touchstone for my cooking.  With it I’ve made the perfect white sauce for seafood, home made pizza bases and various desserts as well as using it as a reference for converting measurements and swapping herbs in recipes according to what I could find at ASDA.  Sure, I could have done all that on the internet, but a, I’m not allowed to put our laptop anywhere near water or foodstuffs, and b, it’s not as pretty.  Not to mention that the book has two ribbon bookmarks and is perfect for just browsing through for inspiration.  I think it would be a totally fantastic gift for someone moving out of home for the first time, too.  It’s not inexpensive (listed on Amazon for around the £80-£90 mark, although there are also some available second hand for less,) but it’s something which will last a lifetime.

Have you been converted to Stephanie Alexander? Or have another favourite recipe book with everything in it? Let us know!


Gemma C-S

Florence’s Book Club: Italian Home baking

This week, I’m going slightly off the beaten track with the book recommendations and shifting from fiction to food. You all know I love my food and so I love recipe books, particularly when they are as evocative as this one. Italy is one of my favourite countries, I love visiting there and it’s also hands down my favourite type of food, so when I flicked through this book several months back in WH Smith, I knew I was going to have to buy it.

Italian Home Baking: 100 Irresistible Recipes for Bread, Biscuits, Cakes, Pizza, Pasta and Party Food by Gino D’Acampo

The recipe book is full of baked recipes, so it naturally starts off with about a million variations on the humble loaf, from ciabatta to foccacia, stuffed, plain, with olives and sun dried tomato, there’s bound to be something to make you want to slow down and knead the dough for your very own masterpiece.

There are (Italian) cakes too but the book branches out a little further into recipes where baking is simply part of the process, like pizza of course, but also baked pasta dishes. Although I like Gino D’Acampo, I’ve never really loved him on TV, but the way he talks about family and the role of food within it is enough to make you go all Jamie over him, just like the Essex lad ‘sexified’ food, here’s an easy-on-the-eye chef with a tan and a twinkle straight from the Italian school of charm.

If you are a fan of Italian food or know someone who is, I would totally recommend it, I know many of the recipes will be gracing my table this summer.

Can you recommend any great Italian or other regional food cook books?


Italian Home Baking: 100 Irresistible Recipes for Bread, Biscuits, Cakes, Pizza, Pasta and Party Food by Gino d’Acampo available on Amazon for £9.99

PS Want to read more of Florence’s favourite cook books?

Florence’s Favourite… Cookery Books

This afternoon, I thought I’d try something new, another round up, but with some serious audience participation.

A little while a go I wrote about the Great British Bake-Off Cook book and a few readers mentioned that they would like to hear about peoples’ highest rated cook books. It made me think, a ‘favourites’ feature would be great… I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours 😉

So these are Florence’s Favourite (and recommended) top recipe books, please pitch in with your tried and tested favourites in the comments box. (I’m thinking they would also make great Christmas presents…)

Jokes about how to boil an egg aside, Delia’s how-to books are like a kitchen bible for me. Whenever I need to figure out a basic technique, am unsure of cooking times for a roast joint, or need a basic recipe, for meringue for example, this is the book(s) that I come back to time after time. I jest not when I say Delia even taught me to bake bread.

My favourite recipes are often sharing dishes. We regularly have friends over for casual meals in the week, nothing fancy, just one-pot-wonders that feed more than 2 of us anyway and make for a relaxed catch up. Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends by Rachel Allen, (I’d recommend Rachel’s Favourite Food equally) is full of them, along with occasion foods and menus for impressing your husband’s boss, light bites with girlfriends and Christmas foods. I’ll take her kitchen too.

No list of cookery books is complete without Jamie Oliver and Jamie’s Dinners is another of those well worn books in my cupboard that I turn to time and time again for recipes like Jools’ favourite Stew, Jamie’s Lasagne and Aubergine and Mozarella Pasta. Jamie’s Italy is also a favourite, mainly due to my obsession with Italian food.

Everyone has got it, but you can’t beat the Hummingbird Bakery book for baking. My sister thinks the recipes are a bit hit and miss, but every one I try comes out a cracker and it’s a go-to for desserts when we’re entertaining, as well as Sunday afternoon baking adventures.

These are not just the books I own, or have been given (I have tons more) but the ones I turn to day in day out and find reliable too. They come with Florence’s official seal of approval!

Do share your favourites and feel free to agree or disagree with my choices. I’ll look forward to finding some new favourites!


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