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Tender and Jamie’s America

Tender by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, $59.99)

Jamie’s America by Jamie oliver (Michael Joseph, $75)

These two top British cooks are hardly cut from the same flaky pastry but their shared dedication to making food and eating it jumps alluringly from the pages of these equally mouth-watering books.

Nigel Slater has a huge following but much less of a TV presence than Jamie oliver, although he has been around for much longer and describes himself as an amateur cook who flees from “celebrity cheffery”. His column in The observer is now in its 18th year and his autobiography, Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, was a bestseller.

His food is very simple but delicious and I fell in love with him years ago after trying his perfect roast potato recipe (hint: parboil the potatoes first). In the hefty Tender, he tells the story of converting his tiny London garden into a vegetable patch. Each vegetable has a chapter, and each chapter has tips for growing, storing and cooking the veges, plus gorgeous recipes.

What I love about this book is that if you look in your fridge and there’s one aubergine sitting there, you can just look up “aubergine” and see what Nigel would do. Plus it’s so beautifully written that every sentence is itself like a juicy little morsel.

While not quite the late-night read that Tender is, Jamie’s America is nonetheless every bit as inspiring and filled with his trademark joie de vivre – plus photos that will have you licking your chops. Long curious about the USA and its vittles, Jamie unearths edible gems in New York, Louisiana, Arizona, Los Angeles, Georgia and the Wild West.

Part travelogue, part love letter and part photo exhibition, Jamie’s America opens the way for curious cooks everywhere to try the likes of peach cobbler, sweet tamales, grits, fried chicken, gumbo, chilli cheese cornbread and all those things you’ve heard of but never seen up close. Worth it just for the Amazing Date Shake (20 dates and 250ml milk) alone.

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