For all of the doom and gloom in the world, January 2021 carries with it a sliver of hopefulness, a soupçon of positivity (please let it not be crushed…). So while most of what’s going on is largely out of our hands, it is within our power to approach the new year with pragmatism, optimism, and an arsenal of cookbooks to nourish us beyond just dinner.

So, scrap the food denial, and consider tackling your concerns around your meat consumption, health, or impact on the planet, and get reading one (or all) of these.
Here are three cookbooks to peruse and cook from if in 2021.

Eat To Save The Planet by Annie Bell
With a title like Eat To Save The Planet, the aim is straightforward, bold, and admittedly a little overwhelming. However, as Bell quickly makes clear, the aim is not to terrify, but to help us all tool up in the fight to protect the environment, in a way that involves us eating healthily and sustainably.

Her answer is the Planetary Health Diet, which recommends “how much of each food group we should eat”. She calls it a way of eating that goes “beyond good nutrition, that treats our health and the environment as a common agenda. It tells us how we should eat not only to maximise our own good health, but also to halt the steady degradation of the planet at the same time.”

While plants make up the bulk of the collection (there are strong Mediterranean diet vibes), this is not a veggie/vegan cookbook. Instead, writes Bell, “meat, fish and poultry are to be savoured as a treat, a luxury to be spun out with other ingredients.”

Cutting food waste and making the most of everything we have in the fridge is also paramount, she explains, hence her ‘riches from the rubble soup’ which will clear out any leftovers. She dedicates a whole chapter to ‘one egg’ dishes (the Planetary Health Diet suggests a 13g serving of egg per week, per person), like leek and Emmental scrambled eggs, while there’s many a stew and curry to linger over (scallop tikka sounds particularly good) and all-in-one roasts and pies (the Irish stew pie is very intriguing).

The Fitness Chef: Still Tasty by Graeme Tomlinson
This book is trying to steer us away from traditional, “confusing” and “forbidding” diet books, in favour of education, finding nutritional balance, and reducing the numbers of calories in your favourite foods so you can eat them regularly but still reach your weight, fitness and health targets.

Surprisingly fun for a cookbook called Still Tasty. There are full-on fry-ups, a towering sausage and bacon breakfast roll, and salted caramel porridge for breakfast, myriad cheese toasties for mains, alongside a coronation chicken baked potato, and pizzas galore, as well as cheesecake and tiramisu for dessert. It’s all rather decadent, despite being slimmed down on the calorie front.

Be More Vegan by Niki Webster
There’s nothing militant about Webster, Be More Vegan is presented as a gentle guide to help ease you into a life of veganism is increasingly of interest to you – even if going vegan just one day a week is something you’re considering.
“Remember, nobody’s perfect and you don’t need to be completely vegan to make a change, but if you’re thinking about it, why not start by trying out some of my easy vegan favourites?” she writes genially. She also addresses many of the concerns around veganism (questions on ethics, the environment, and the health impacts), but maintains a fun, approachable and encouraging tone that’s quite uplifting in a cookbook.

Really rather yummy sounding. Going big on recognisable veg, and keeping it fairly light on meat substitutes, Webster’s food is super colourful and enticing, and pretty indulgent too (take the gooey chocolate cake with Biscoff frosting, and the slab of Millionaire’s shortbread, laced with dates). We could also eat the bean chilli nacho platter and summer rolls all day.