The cookbooks we've been loving during lockdown

Cheesecake from Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull, one of the year's best-selling cookbooks.
Cheesecake from Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull, one of the year's best-selling cookbooks. Photo: Emily Weaving

Beatrix Bakes, the blueprint to great baking by Natalie Paull of North Melbourne's tiny but mighty Beatrix, has been one of the smash hits of lockdown. Published by Melbourne-based Hardie Grant Books in March, it's now in its fourth print run after selling out all over town.

Hardie Grant Books' publishing director Jane Willson says while the book has resonated with Beatrix devotees, it's also struck a chord beyond that. "I know several people who are in the process of cooking their way through it. When everything feels bleak, I guess baking is solace."

Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull.
Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull. Photo: Hardie Grant Books

Tim White, of specialist bookshop Books for Cooks at Queen Victoria Market, says aside from Beatrix Bakes, sourdough baking titles such as James Morton's Super Sourdough and Vanessa Kimball's The Sourdough School have sold well, bouncing back recently after a lull when Melbourne briefly reopened.

The pandemic prompted many publishers to postpone cookbook releases until September or later, at a time when many people were cooking at home more than ever. 

Hawksburn bookseller Corrie Perkin says one of the few new releases, Falastin from Ottolenghi's executive chef Sami Tamim and Tara Wigley, has walked out the door at My Bookshop by Corrie Perkin. "It's the cookbook that sustained us through winter."

Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley.
Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. Photo: Ebury Press

Perkin says many customers have used lockdown as an opportunity to teach children to cook or polish skills that had previously terrified them, such as pasta or pastry-making, and White reports an upswing in sales of books on DIY cheesemaking, preserving and fermenting.

Vegetarian and vegan cookbook sales have also lifted, with White saying customers are looking for budget-friendly recipes and Perkin saying people have been concerned about health and eating well.

Hardie Grant's analysis shows the best sellers have been anything to do with carbs or nostalgia. "We're not selling any books on molecular gastronomy," says White. "It's all about comfort food."