Best comfort food cookbooks for delicious and familiar recipes

·8-min read
 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose. Smell the sizzling beef patty, the brioche bun releasing aromas as it chars, the delicious cheese oozing everywhere and the freshly cut salad. Is there anything more comforting?

When I think of my favourite things to eat, it’s hard not to choose comfort food. It encompasses the best, most delicious parts of food and is guaranteed to bring maximum joy to my stomach and heart. Think bowlfuls of pasta, creamy currys or decadent gravy poured over a Sunday roast: the list of comforting eats is never ending.

In a world of calorie counting, turning down chocolate cake because it’s “too naughty” or trying out another pointless fad diet, it’s easy to think comfort food is the enemy. However, comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy, especially if you make it at home.

We spoke to chef Charlie Bigham who’s been creating deliciously comforting, but also healthy, meals for over 25 years.

“There is truly nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal. When I think of comfort, I think of my classic Fish Pie or hearty Shepherd’s Pie, which you can share around the table with family or friends. Comfort doesn’t have to be unhealthy - use fresh ingredients, prepare food in small batches and devote love and attention to your cooking”.

There are also other tips and tricks for still enjoying comfort food whilst reducing its unhealthiness. For example, swap out deep fat frying food in oil for an air fryer that requires little to no oil. Equally, if you’re craving a Friday night takeaway, try whipping up a fakeaway instead - there are pizza ovens that will create perfectly crispy and delicious goods in just 60 seconds or curry recipes that only take 20 minutes of your time.

If you find dietary requirements and choices get in the way of you enjoying your once loved favourite foods then fear not as we have you covered! We’ve partnered with Bvrger - the brand new vegan burger restaurant in Spitalfields market - to bring you our weekly recipe right from their kitchen.

So scrap the concept of cheat day and start indulging in satisfying and nostalgic foods with these oh so comforting cookbooks.

Comfort MOB

Best for: pure joy

If you have any interest in eating, we bet you’ve seen at least one MOD cooking video pop up on your newsfeed. Comfort MOB puts all of these videos together to create a guide to pure gourmet joy. With old-school recipes like fish and chips and toad in the hole, you’ll be transported instantly to your childhood dinners (with an added bit of sophistication).

The recipes are affordable and achievable for all levels and in a matter of minutes you can rustle up the likes of Grilled Halloumi and Peach Burger - a light summery take on a comfort food classic. Is pasta your kryptonite? Learn how to make your own pasta and sauces to go with it like Ben’s Dad’s Puttanesca.

Buy now £13.99, Amazon

Leon Happy Fast Food

Best for: fakeaway food

Finally, a cookbook that helps us create food that’s delicious and good for you. Based on the company’s ethos of healthy fast food, this cookbook shares some of Leon’s most iconic dishes and puts genius spins on much loved comfort food such as a Courgette, Walnut & Mint ‘Cheese’ Toastie and a Paneer & Beetroot Wrap. The ingredient list is particularly helpful as you’ll know exactly what to fill your store cupboard and fridge with in order to make these fun recipes.

With 125  fresh, modern and innovative recipes covering breads, salads, grilled goods and sides there is something for everyone and every occasion. Most of these recipes are so quick to make they give fast food a whole new meaning. They’re ideal for after work dinner or feeding a whole family without being in the kitchen for hours. The colourful cover will also brighten up any kitchen or bookshelf.

Buy now £12.15, Amazon

The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Roast

Best for: creative Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch can be disappointing if you’re a vegan. Others tuck into hearty plates of food smothered in all manner of heavenly sauces whilst you make your way through a dry slab of nut roast. This is all about to change thanks to The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Roasts that provides plenty of delicious feast-worthy meals that will leave your non-vegan friends looking on in envy.

Not only are there nut roasts and Wellingtons a plenty, there are ingenious recipes that use fresh vegetables and grains to create show-stopping dishes.

The Smoky Jackfruit Seitan Brisket is a summer BBQ conversation starter, and the Creamy Cauliflower Bake with Caramelized Onions makes the perfect side to any roast dinner. There is also an array of surprisingly simple vegan sauces such as Red Wine Gravy and Brandy Peppercorn Sauce so you won’t have to suffer the indignity of dry food ever again.

Buy now £12.59, Amazon

The Modern Cheeseboard

Best for: stylish comfort food

Getting older, it has dawned on me that eventually I’ll have to enter the realm of sophisticated dinner partying and ditch the stale crisps and budget dips that have become a signature at all of my events. Enter the Modern Cheeseboard, a cookbook that will revolutionise your dinner party and make you the hostess with the mostess.

There are 40 cheeseboard ideas perfect for every occasion from cosy nights in to the perfect summer picnic. The layout of the boards are stunning and there’s plenty of room for creativity as you learn how to pair your cheese perfectly. Who knew salami and gouda were such a great pairing?

Our fave? The Birthday Board, which alongside an array of seasonal berries, bacon jam and honeycomb comes the centrepiece - a five tier cheese wheel birthday cake made from brie, camembert, goat’s brie and brillat-savarin.

Sweet dreams really are made of cheese.

Buy now £13.59, Amazon

Chinese Takeaway Cookbook: From Chop Suey to Sweet 'n' Sour, Over 70 Recipes to Re-create Your Favourites

Best for: homemade Chinese takeaway

Saving your pennies doesn’t mean compromising on your favourite takeouts. This book features 70 of the best loved dishes in Chinese cuisisne.

The food is super simple to make and inspired by Kwoklyn’s family’s Cantonese restaurant which he grew up working in. What’s more, most recipes in this book take 20 minutes or less so it should take you less time to whip up these dishes than waiting for a takeaway delivery to arrive.

Of course our absolute favourite dish was the easy (and relatively healthy) sweet and sour chicken that can be served on a bed of rice or with noodles. You can watch us make it at home here.

Buy now £15.00, Amazon

Perfect Pasta at Home

Best for: pasta

On tube carriagess, on buses; it sometimes feel like London is plastered in adverts for Pasta Evangelist, the pasta home delivery service. Now they’ve dropped a hot new cookbook which reveals how to make these comforting recipes at home in as little as 10 minutes. All 80 recipes star the brand’s namesake ingredient, which naturally makes this a must-have cookbook for pasta lovers.

We love how it’s split by the time it takes to cook the dish (10, 20 or 30 minutes) meaning you’ll find a recipe to suit quick easy dinners or show-stopping banquet feasts. If you have a bit of time, try making the lasagne. Our attempt came out beautifully.

We also tried making a four ingredient carbonara for an easy weeknight meal that transported us straight to the heart of Rome. Watch us give is at go here.

Buy now £13.99, Amazon

Magnolia Kitchen

Best for: sugar fix

Get yourself a show-stopping teatime treat from Bernadette Gee’s debut cookbook that features amazing cake recipes which will leave your guests fawning over your creations.

We found this book to be perfect for both novice bakers and master cake creators as the step-by-step guides are clear and there are a good variety of recipes perfect for every occasion - so no more pretending that the supermarket chocolate cake was homemade.

We adored the Raspberry White Chocolate Fudge for a quick but awe-worthy dessert and if you have some more time on your hands then the Signature Rich Chocolate Cake is a must: the beautiful flower and marble decorations make it almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Buy now £14.47, Amazon

Brunch the Sunday Way

Best for: brunch dishes

Written by the pioneering chefs behind London’s legendary Sunday Cafe, this cookbook features over 70 recipes that will elevate your brunch to a level you didn’t believe was possible.

This brunch bible has it all; simple staples, festive feasting and comforting condiments. We love the entire section that pays homage to toast and there are some impressively creative toppings from haddock rarebit to chilli avocado.

We tried the Courgette Fritters with Halloumi, Dukkah and Mint Yoghurt for an interesting take on hash browns as well as the Feta, Kale and Quinoa Omelette to spice up our morning eggs. Don’t forget to make any of the colourful and flavoursome smoothies - they taste as good as they look.

Buy now £11.95, Amazon

Dirty: Dirty Food For Your Filthy Chops

Best for: treat yourself meal

Grab the napkins, things are about to get messy. Plough into any of Dirty’s scrumptious 60 recipes featuring the most coma-inducing of comfort food.

Think classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Pizza Fries and a Lasagna Pie that will hit the spot - and then some. The pictures alone are enough to get your drooling but thankfully, it only takes 30 minutes to make these recipes so you won’t be waiting long.

Try the hasselback potatoes and dirty fries for the perfect BBQ sides.

Buy now £11.65, Amazon