Six cookbooks for comfort cooking

Here’s some advice: never underestimate the power of good comfort food when you’re feeling down. We’re talking hearty stews, crusty bread and the kind of baked goods that turn your whole kitchen into a sweet-smelling heaven.

The coronavirus lockdown across Australia forced us into our homes and, for many, into the kitchen to experiment with recipes and try our hands at something new. So, what kinds of comfort food were we all cooking during lockdown? And what were the big cookbooks that people were turning to the most?

If you are a social media follower, then it would have been hard to escape the perfect (and not-so perfect) loaves of bread that proliferated on Instagram, and an easy guide to sourdough baking was released just at the right time – How to Raise a Loaf. With more time at home, comfort slow cooking was back in a big way, thanks to Paulene Christie’s Slow Cooker Central: Ready, Set, Slow! and a book featuring every kind of chicken soup from all over the world, Chicken Soup Manifesto.

MasterChef Australia had a comeback too, bringing fan favourites from previous seasons back together, and this coincided with the release of a number of cookbooks, such as the aptly titled This is a Book About Dumplings from contestant Brendan Pang.

But when it came to sweets and comfort baking, Beatrix Bakes was undoubtedly the book with the buzz. And while all of those books are available to order now, a new book by the one and only Yotam Ottolenghi is imminent.

So scroll on down and see if any of these books take your fancy.

How to Raise a Loaf, by Roly Allen
Want to learn to bake bread without over-complicated recipes and pages and pages on kneading technique? This book makes the key techniques of traditional baking easy to understand, with step-by-step photo instructions and a simple overview of the magical processes that turn wild yeasts into a living baker’s starter, and a bowl of flour into a glowing crusty loaf. Recipes include rye loaves, sourdough pizza, grissini, rolls and more, as well as suggesting surprising flavours (think chocolate, tomato, olives and linseed) to incorporate into your sourdough bakes.

Buy it here (and check out a recipe for Overnight White Sourdough!)

Slow Cooker Central: Ready, Set, Slow!, by Paulene Christie
Paulene Christie has been busy in her kitchen testing, tasting and exploring the many surprising possibilities that slow cooking offers the home cook. The result is Ready, Set, Slow! – a collection of 160 all-new recipes that you and your family will love. Organised into easy-to-navigate headings that reflect the main ingredients, making it super simple to plan your family meals, this collection boasts delicious food for every occasion and flavours from all around the world.

Buy it here.

The Chicken Soup Manifesto, by Jenn Louis
This is a celebration of one of the most widely interpreted, humble and beloved dishes the world over – chicken soup. With more than 100 recipes dedicated to this one special meal, James Beard-nominee Jenn Louis shows readers how chicken soup is not only a source of heart-warming sustenance but a cure-all and the ultimate expression of love. With chapters broken down by region and country, The Chicken Soup Manifesto includes everything from Algerian Chorba Bayda, Colombian and Panamanian Sancocho and Thai Kao Tom Gai to Spanish Sopa de Picadillo.

Buy it here (and check out a recipe for Chicken Laksa).

This Is a Book About Dumplings, by Brendan Pang
Brendan Pang, as seen on MasterChef Australia, invites readers into the world of dumplings. Flavourful cooking was the centrepiece of Brendan’s childhood, and one taste of his grandmother’s pork wontons led to a lifelong passion for cooking and sharing dumplings. Brendan’s approachable recipes make it easy to craft amazingly flavourful professional quality dumplings. Readers will be equipped with all the tools required for making classic and popular dim sum dishes and mouth-watering soup dumplings.

Buy it here.

Beatrix Bakes, by Natalie Paull
Beatrix Bakes
embraces the unparalleled joys of baking seasonally and creatively. It invites you to choose your own adventure with unique features that inspire you to mix-and-match and create magic out of even the worst baking fails and to celebrate indulgence, slowing down and being in the (sweetest) moment. Nat Paull’s recipes are inspired by classics the world over, but they are irreverent too, and in this book she delights in showing readers that once they get the foundations right, the truest magic will come from a willingness to play (with the insurance of her many clever ideas and back-up plans in their apron pocket).

Buy it here (and check out a recipe for Chocolate Caramel Bars).

Ottolenghi FLAVOUR, by Yotam Ottolenghi, with Ixta Belfrage
Flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes are at the heart of Yotam Ottolenghi’s food. In this stunning new cookbook Yotam and co-writer Ixta Belfrage break down the three factors that create flavour and offer innovative vegetable dishes that deliver brand new ingredient combinations to excite and inspire. Ottolenghi FLAVOUR combines simple recipes for weeknights, low-effort high-impact dishes, and standout meals for the relaxed cook. Packed with signature colourful photography, FLAVOUR not only inspires us with what to cook, but how flavour is dialled up and why it works.

Buy it here.

Have you been spending more time in the kitchen? What are your new go-to recipes? Or have you been revisiting old favourites?

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