Recipe Books for the Weekend
Years ago, before marriage and kids (and in the days when my weekends often passed in a blur sandwiched between epic after-work drinks on Fridays and a crippling case of Sunday night anxiety, I came across Tamasin Day-Lewis’ book “Weekend Food”. Fairly small and modest-looking compared to a lot of cookbooks, I bought it on a whim, mostly because of its comforting tagline of “Cooking to come home to”.
I took it home, read it cover to cover on a dark and rainy London evening, and ended up having a little love-at-first-read moment. This was a weekend cooking philosophy I could get behind: “You want simple, easy, fabulous food that doesn’t mean you will be in the kitchen all the time.”
These days, my life is pretty different to when I first read that book. More suburban, more full of children, less hectic in pace but with the added chaos of family life. And in the course of the pandemic, it has been sadly empty of weekend guests round the table. But my love for the concept of making weekend food a little more special has never wavered.
COOKBOOKS FOR ENJOYING WEEKEND FOOD
There are plenty of recipe books devoted to weekend food, each with their own twist on what the weekend – and weekend eating – means to them. But it’s still Tamasin’s no-nonsense but wonderfully evocative words that remain my favourite. Her description of the excited weariness at the end of a long week says it all: “Friday night, that longed for semi-colon to the week , is where the weekend starts, full of anticipation and promise, full of exhaustion, the longing for a good drink, a magical dinner, TIME, someone else to take over.”
The Best Weekend Cookbooks
Over the years I’ve built up a decent collection of weekend-themed cook books, so here are my favourites: some old, some new, all full of good ideas:
Tamasin’s Weekend Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis
Probably still my favourite, as much for the writing as for the food. It balances ambitious recipes alongside plenty of simple ones for all points of the weekend. The food photography is pre-Instagram unfussy and there are lots of pictures of Tamasin looking delightfully stern as she digs up vegetables and bustles around her country kitchen. Proper old-fashioned weekend vibes – love it.
The Lazy Weekend Cookbook by Matt Williamson
The Lazy Weekend Cookbook is like an invitation to slow down and appreciate your precious time off with some fantastic ideas for the entire weekend. Matt Williamson is a veteran restaurant chef so there are a few fancy recipes in here, but mostly it’s full of easy-to-follow home cooking ideas and some classic weekend treats. Laid-back photos add to the relaxed feeling of the book. Definitely a must-have for the cookbook shelf.
The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes
The Sunday Night Book is another charming little book based on a concept I’m passionate about: that Sunday evening should not be allowed to be curtailed or spoiled by anxious thoughts of Monday morning. Its subheading is pretty self-explanatory: “52 short recipes to make the weekend feel longer”. Rosie Sykes writes a spot-on intro where she describes the Sunday night fear as “a social construct dictated by empty streets, empty pubs and closed curtains”, before going on to start her book with an entire chapter dedicated to things you can eat on toast. Simple, soothing, and just the antidote to that low spot on Sundays.
The Weekend Chef by Catherine Fulvio
The Weekend Chef has a celebratory tone to it that I love. Catherine Fulvio is quite reverential about the weekend and its opportunities for slower cooking and getting together. There are lots of recipes in here for family gatherings and having friends over so it’s a good one if you’re regularly cooking for a crowd. It also has a great curry section! A jolly, family-friendly, all-rounder of a weekend cookbook.
Weekend Baking by Sarah Randell
Rare is a weekend in our house without a bit of baking. If you’re looking for a family-friendly baking book, this is full of ideas for making something delicious with the kids. With classics, twists-on-classics, and new ideas to try, you’ll find something you want to make every time. It’s got great photography and the recipes are easy-to-follow. Another must-have for the bookcase.
Rick Stein’s Long Weekends by Rick Stein
In true Rick Stein style, this is as much a travel book as a recipe book, with a great little travel section full of recommendations at the back. I bought it because I enjoyed his accompanying BBC series so much, and I highly recommend that too. Full of beautiful images from all over Europe, Long Weekends is a collection of recipes from 10 different countries, based on what Rick likes to cook at the weekend. But it’s also his ode to the delights of a long weekend city break away from home, and it’s a lovely read.
Mary Berry’s Family Sunday Lunches by Mary Berry
No cookbook list would be complete without an entry from Mary Berry. The queen of family cooking in my opinion, her recipes are among the most reliable out there – plus she includes Aga cooking times for those who have one. Full of classic roasts and contemporary informal recipes, the book also teaches us all Mary’s tips and tricks for preparing ahead of time so you can be ready well in advance. A great weekend cookbook for busy Sundays with friends and family.
Saturday Pizzas by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen
This book, from the famous Ballymaloe cookery school in Ireland, celebrates the idea of Saturday pizza-making, and who can disagree? Not just recipes, but a complete technical guide to making the best pizzas you can. Geek out on the all the dough facts while contemplating which delicious topping recipe you’re going to choose. A properly mouth-watering book.
Something for the Weekend: With Eight Around the Table by Ruth Watson
Ruth Watson, of Hotel Rescue TV fame, brings us a weekend cookbook in her famously straight-speaking style. The focus here is on stress-free entertaining options and not getting so frazzled in the kitchen that you end up producing something like a “blasted to buggery” pheasant for your guests. With lots of tips for cooking for a crowd without running yourself ragged, the recipes are reliable and there are plenty of kitchen tips and tricks too. Thoroughly useful for avoiding hosting disasters.
Jamie’s Friday Night Feast Cookbook by Jamie Oliver
Confession: I haven’t always had success with Jamie Oliver’s books (15 Minute Meals was a complete disaster in my opinion) BUT I enjoyed the accompanying TV show for this one, and it has some really great entertaining recipes in it, with Jamie’s customary big, bold flavours combined with lots of celebrity endorsements. A fun book, with lots of recipes for all tastes, and a must for Jamie Oliver fans.
And finally – one still to come which I’m excited for and am going to buy whenever it’s released:
The Weekend Cook: Good Food for Real Life by Angela Hartnett
I’m a big Angela Hartnett fan and her new book is due out in 2022, according to Amazon – presumably due to social-distancing restrictions of the pandemic. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for this one!