A big new recipe book is always welcome at the start of a new year – what with our collective resolutions to eat better, make more effort, get out of our cooking ruts, etc etc. This one, Allegra McEvedy’s Big Table Busy Kitchen, fits the bill perfectly, because it’s wide ranging and perfect for every day cooking and eating, rather than about anything too rarefied or one-off. It’s the ultimate family cookbook and was written when the home-made recipe book compiled by McEvedy’s mother was lost forever. That book had been Allegra’s most precious possession, not only because it was enormously useful and well put together, but because it had a hugely important symbolic value too. McEvedy’s mother died when Allegra was 17, and so the book, with its tatty orange cover, and bulging with favourite recipes clipped and annotated from newspapers and magazines, was a trigger for many happy family memories, and especially of mother and daughter cooking together. McEvedy now has her own small daughter and this book is the chef’s culinary legacy for her. The good news is that we all get to share it. After all, McEvedy reasoned: if this recipe book was published, it couldn’t ever be lost or destroyed. And so the book is a mixture of family favourites, her own greatest hits, her best ever finds, brilliant ways to transform leftovers (it’s particularly good on this), insider tips, advice, and good honest basics made extra tasty by someone who is a trained and experienced cook as well as a busy mother. The recipes in it are great, and cover everything from the basics (shepherd’s pie, lasagna, crumble etc), to more refined dishes such as sea bass baked in herbs and salt, beef Wellington, Vietnamese pork belly with pickled veg, and pear Tarte Tatin. But it’s all the other stuff in it – the advice (how to make sure a green soup is always vibrant, how to tell if you steak is done to your exact liking), the appendices (detailing how to cook every kind of basic thing, such as omelettes, braised cabbage, home made chips etc), and the writing in general (McEvedy’s voice manages to be both intensely personal and calmly authoritative at the same time) that make this book an essential addition to any kitchen, especially one with its own big, busy table.