Each vertebra of London’s enchanting restaurant scene is made up of the chefs who cook its food. Not all have put pen to paper, but some have written cookbooks which collate wonderful recipes, culinary wisdom and personal stories from their time in the kitchen and beyond.
Not only are they filled with recipes for your favourite restaurant dishes, but they provide a fascinating insight into the lives of these chefs, their culture and the journey of how they came to work in some of London’s best restaurants.
From fusion cooking, Malaysian pantries, seasonal desserts and everything in between, here are some of our favourite cookbooks by restaurant chefs.
Parsi – Farokh Talati
Written by the head chef at London’s St John, Farokh Talati, Parsi is a cookbook which provides a fascinating and thorough insight into Parsi cuisine - a glorious blend of Persian and Indian influences. Although Farokh is a professional chef, he has written Parsi with the home cook in mind, with invaluable and approachable notes on cooking techniques and tips including brining meat, pickling and spice guides. Although filled with over 150 recipes, Parsi is much more than a cookbook as it takes you on a cultural journey through the recipes Farokh was raised on, the dishes his parents ate in India before emigrating to the UK and present-day Parsi home chefs in Mumbai. Packed full of mouth-watering recipes from biryani stuffed quail to fragrant lamb stews and laced with beautiful images of Parsi libraries, places of worship, breakfast cafes and markets, it is a cookbook to be cherished.
'Parsi' by Farokh Talati, Bloomsbury, RRP £26.00, buy
Anna Higham – The Last Bite
Anna Higham’s debut cookbook, The Last Bite,guides you through seasonal dessert making and approaches sweet treats as you would savoury cooking. As former head pastry chef at London’s Lyle’s, Flor and the River Cafe, there is notable authority and expertise in Anna’s writing as she teaches you the how and why of working with fruits, grains, fats, and chocolate. It’s a gentle and beautiful read with a wealth of knowledge and love. From base recipes of classics including granitas, ice creams, caramels, pastries, and meringue, to explaining the fundamentals of seasoning, structure and texture, The Last Bite takes you on a seasonal journey from the first apricots of May through to the blood oranges of winter .
'The Last Bite' by Anna Higham, DK, RRP £22.00, buy
Ixta Belfrage – Mezcla
Mezcla, Ixta Belfrage’s second book, takes a creative and instinctive no-rules approach to fusion cooking, influenced by the flavours of Brazil, Mexico, and Italy. With previous experience at London’s Nopi and the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, Ixta has an infallible understanding of flavour. Mezcla strikes an impressive balance between comfort and familiarity with the unknown, unexpected, and completely bizarre. Case in point: her recipe for a giant focaccia cheese on toast with spring onions, honey and urfa chilli. From habanero prawn lasagne to curried cornbread or a bowl of coffee ice cream with Kahlua fudge sauce, Mezcla is full of versatile recipes for vegetarians, meat eaters, midweek dinners, and full-blown dinner party masterpieces. It’s the kind of cookbook which sits close to your stove forever, chock full of post-it note bookmarks and sauce-stained thumbprints.
'Mezcla' by Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, RRP £26.00, buy
Towpath: Recipes & Stories – Lori de Mori and Laura Jackson
The much-adored waterside eatery on London’s Regents canal has translated its magic into a cookbook. Written by Lori De Mori and Laura Jackson, the cookbook walks you through stories and recipes which mark the annual life cycle of Towpath, from opening its shutters in the spring to closing them in late autumn. The pages feel personal, with a sense of place, time and friendship that make the book feel incredibly meaningful. Woven together in seasonal chapters, it’s full of popular recipes made at the cafe, interspersed with endearing anecdotes. The recipes in this book are uncomplicated, honest and inviting, from summery plates of sizzling merguez piled on yoghurt flatbreads to autumnal bowls of roasted squash with chilli sage butter. It is a cookbook original, charming, and tasty in equal measure.
'Towpath: Recipes & Stories' by Lori de Mori and Laura Jackson, Chelsea Green Publishing Co, £27.00, buy
Sambal Shiok - Mandy Yin
Sambal Shiok is chef Mandy Yin’s debut cookbook and is a soulful tribute to Malaysian cooking. Having grown up in Kuala Lumpur, Mandy left her job as a corporate lawyer to run a Malaysian street food stall. Now a permanent restaurant, Sambal Shiok is a much-loved laksa bar in Highbury. Mandy does a great job contextualising Malaysian cooking within the book, explaining its influences from India, China, Portugal Spain, and the Netherlands, as well as teaching you the staples of a Malaysian pantry, from shrimp place to lemongrass. The book is filled with 90 recipes that resonate with Mandy’s upbringing, including favourites made at her London restaurant. It’s the perfect book to cook a Malaysian feast for loved ones, with great sharing recipes including a rich beef rendang, lemongrass roast chicken, and sambal mapo tofu.
'Sambal Shiok' by Mandy Yin, Quadrille, RRP £25.00, buy