Delicious, instructive, and just plain beautiful: our top picks from a bumper year in food literature.

Another year, another bookshelf extension. What a year it’s been for food publishing. We learnt how to salad like never before with the folks from Very Good Falafel, how to sandwich two preparations of egg and call it a midnight snack with Brendan Liew, and we creamed butter, sugar, and whatever else Emilia Jackson told us was good and right in the name of better baking – and that was just the beginning.

A good cookbook can change your life: below, in no particular order, are our favourites of 2022.

Very Good Salads – Louisa Allan and Shuki Rosenboim
You know them for their Very Good Falafel, but this first book from Brunswick restaurateurs Louisa Allan and Shuki Rosenboim proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are also Very Good at cooking just about anything they turn their hands to. This book is all about Middle Eastern salads, but we’re talking salads of substance, and they’re organised by season, so you’ve got summery delicious things like cucumber, dates and pistachio and a killer watermelon fattoush, but the good ideas also roll right round into winter with whole cabbage stuffed with rice, a potatoes, black olives and zhough number, and a salad of lemon, mint and chilli flakes where the lemon is an ingredient itself rather than part of the dressing. It’s a brilliant first showing, full of things you can cook right this minute (plum, celery and lentils! asparagus, capers and preserved lemon!), as well as a few worthy of a weekend project (making couscous from scratch, and fermenting your own amba chief among them). Oh, and it’s all vegetarian, to boot. Very, very good.

Go-to recipe: tomatoes in pomegranate sauce

Get yours: Booktopia

Tokyo Up Late – Brendan Liew
Melbourne chef Brendan Liew says he wrote this book because his most memorable meals in Japan weren’t at three-star French-Japanese restaurants with starched white table cloths, or famous sushi counters where austere sushi masters stare you down. “It was the 1am visit after a 14-hour shift to a casual kushikatsu restaurant above a 24/7 discount store that served cheap draft beer and 200-yen panko-crumbed morsels … or maybe it was the simple pleasure of a konbini egg sando, that Japanese convenience-store classic filled with creamy mayo and egg white, half a boiled egg in the centre, its softly set yolk peeking out between the pillowy slices of shokupan bread.” You’ll find exactly that sort of deliciousness in these pages, filtered, albeit, through the lens of someone who cooks at Minamishima for a living. It’s a very good time: take it easy with a snapper fillet simmered gently in dashi and sake, or go all in with a masterclass in tonkotsu ramen.

Go-to recipe: konbini egg sando

Get yours: Booktopia

The Joy of Better Cooking – Alice Zaslavsky
“I’m here to tell you that you are already a better cook than you think you are,” writes Alice Zaslavsky in the intro to this hefty, colour-splashed offering. She takes the idea that perfect is the enemy of good – that the need to be great cooks can sometimes stop us just being good cooks – and frees us from its tyranny, taking us, small steps at a time, towards a tastier life in chapters given encouraging titles such as Slapdash, On Autopilot, Making the Most of It, Loosen Your Shoulders and Seriously Good Sweeties. Zaslavsky loves a riff, a discussion and a side note, so her recipe for loaded potato latkes (“a latke-rösti hybrid”, rather) also shares potato-selecting intel in her Sticky Spud Test, a Skills Spotlight on grating, and another on the art of flipping pancakes, frittatas, omelettes and their ilk, while her salt and pepper crème caramel flan (“salted, because it’s not 1989, people!”) provides a springboard for a discussion of the role of salt in desserts.

Go-to recipe: not-quite Niçoise

Get yours: Booktopia

First, Cream the Butter and the Sugar – Emelia Jackson
Speaking of Alice Zaslavsky, her blurb on the cover of this new book from her fellow MasterChef alum proclaims that “there’s no better hand to hold than Emelia’s to lead you to baking bliss”. And when the baking she’s talking about in First, Cream the Butter and the Sugar is whisky, orange and chocolate cheesecake (hello!), layered lamington cake (ahoy ahoy!) and pumpkin spiced mini cakes with pumpkin-seed caramel (ding ding ding!), the proof is, well, in the pudding. The very detailed step-by-step guides to techniques such as layering, icing and decorating cakes, replete with pictures of Jackson doing her thing with reassuring total composure, are an especially welcome touch. And did we mention there’s a whole chapter dedicated to choux, “the great pastry love of my life”?

Go-to recipe: “My go-to chocolate fudge cake with malted buttercream”

Get yours: Booktopia

Off to the Market – Alice Oehr
Whether she’s working in paper or pixels, Melbourne artist and designer Alice Oehr loves a snack. She has held solo exhibitions dedicated to cake, created art for the likes of Cibi, Beatrix Bakes and Baker D Chirico, and her work adorns many a book, not least Karen Martini’s new magnum opus, Cook. In this, her first book for children, she takes the reader on a weekly shop, walking them through the shapes and colours that make a trip to the markets such a treat for would-be cooks old and young, meeting peppery radishes, purple potatoes and learning fun facts about plums and bok choy and dragon fruit along the way. The art takes the graphics of fruit and vegetable producers’ boxes as part of its inspiration and makes for a feast of colour.

Get yours: Booktopia

Chinese-ish – Rosheen Kaul and Joanna Hu
It would’ve been an enormous year for Etta chef, food writer and all-round culinary icon Rosheen Kaul without releasing one of the decade’s most gleeful Chinese cookbooks, but release it she did, and to widespread joy and acclaim. Co-authored by Joanna Hu, whose illustrative prowess makes it one for the coffee table as much as the kitchen, Chinese-ish is filled with classic recipes from the Middle Kingdom and riffs thereon, but hits its stride when Kaul puts a more personal spin on things: case in point, a twice-fried hybrid of Nashville hot chicken and northeast Chinese spices dubbed Beijing hot chicken. The most fun you’ll have working with the flavours of the motherland this year.

Go-to recipe: Yunnan mashed potatoes

Get yours: Booktopia

Ela! Ela! – Ella Mittas
If you attended lunch and Ella Mittas didn’t cater it, did you even attend lunch? The eagerly awaited debut book from one of Melbourne’s best-loved and busiest itinerant chefs doesn’t disappoint: a collection of Greek and Turkish-inspired recipes she loves best, written with the rustic, community-focused context that give them heart. “Cooking well doesn’t need to be hard if you have good, seasonal flavour combinations,” says Mittas of the book, a sentiment that rings true throughout this affecting, vegetable-heavy traipse through southern Europe and her Greek-Australian family backyard.

Go-to recipe: spanakopita with home-made fillo

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Lune – Kate Reid
If you’re going to attempt to immortalise Lune’s runway-ready Vienosserie in a book, you’d better make sure that book dazzles as brilliantly as the pastry itself. Kate Reid’s 2022 debut does just that: an iridescent croissant shimmers over a matte black cover setting the tone for the world of baking bliss that awaits inside. Ownership of this book confers the codes to knock out some of the world’s most recognisable baked goods: from kouign-amann and pain au chocolat to croissants baked once or twice. We’re not going to lie: there are more straightforward ways to get your buttery fix, but there are likely none more satisfying. May your oven draw a daily queue.

Go-to recipe: croissant

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Mabu Mabu – Nornie Bero
“Help yourself” is how the title translates, a perfect expression of the invitation to learn more about the food of the Torres Strait Islands extended by Nornie Bero in her Melbourne venues, Mabu Mabu and Big Esso, and now in her first book. Bero, a Komet woman who grew up on the island of Mer, has a gift for presenting the flavours of the Strait (Indigenous, Asian, European and otherwise) and for telling stories of her life in the islands that’s entirely captivating, and paints a loving picture of her food-loving, fishing and foraging father along the way.

Go-to dish: spicy desert lime and watermelon salad

Get yours: Booktopia

Cook – Karen Martini
If 2022 was the year of the strong debut, let it also be remembered as the year Karen Martini dropped the mic with a 912-page doorstopper of homestyle excellence. Neil Perry called it “an encyclopaedia of all the classics”. Yotam Ottolenghi said “her recipes are precisely what I want to serve to guests at home”. We’re calling it a complete triumph of stocks and sauces, of pasta and risotto, of every vegetable, fruit, seafood, meat and sweet you could ever want to serve, with a cornucopia of comforting instruction and hard-won insight to boot. An instant classic.

Go-to dish: roast peaches stuffed with ricotta and chocolate, with crushed biscotti.

Get yours: Booktopia

Around the Table – Julia Busuttil Nishimura
Julia Busuttil Nishimura is queen of the dinner party. How many times have you been wowed by a dish at a friend’s table, and then told the secret: “it’s a Julia recipe”. With her third book, Around the Table, Busuttil Nishimura is bringing her classic simple-yet-sophisticated kitchen-table stylings to everyday recipes. Combining her strong connections to Japanese home cooking with her Mediterranean roots, the book is packed full of family-friendly recipes ranging from quick, flavourful meals for busy weeknights to simple indulgences for summer feasts. While it’s hard to choose a favourite, her maritozzi filled with orange-scented whipped cream and her egg sando made with shokupan and jammy boiled eggs will send you straight to the top of the pot-luck pecking order.

Go-to recipe: Temaki Party

Get yours: Booktopia

Looking for more books from your favourite Victorian food talent this Christmas? Head to Booktopia to discover a range of great recipes and stories to entertain and inspire you in the kitchen.