The only thing worse than trying to work out what to buy everyone at Christmas is not having any wonga to buy anything with. Normally I like to give friends fancy cookery books. Not this year.

For one, they're too expensive. Under Pressure, the latest offering from Thomas Keller, The French Laundry supremo, is £50, and if you think that's bad, you could buy two of them for the price of Heston Blumenthal's latest tome, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, which is retailing at an eye-watering £100 - though both make Ferran Adria's A Day at elBulli look cheap at £29.95.

One questions the wisdom of releasing such extortionately priced books just as the recession gets into full swing. But price isn't the only problem. The recipes in all three are way over my head - and I consider myself a dab hand in the kitchen. Keller's book, for instance, expounds on the art of sous vide - sealing food in plastic and submerging it at exact temperatures for minutes or days.

Now, pre-microwave I was pretty handy at boil-in-the-bag cooking, but somehow, I don't think that's what Keller's getting at. The press blurb gives a clue to the method's complexity, describing the book as "a must for every culinary professional who wants a source of instruction... and for anyone who wants to experience the new ideas sous vide makes possible".

For people who'd end up making food no-one else wants to experience, more like.

I haven't seen a copy of Blumenthal's book yet and I don't want to - the very concept of molecular gastronomy causes me gastronomic distress - but I hear that its recipes are even more fiendish in their complexity, involving multiple stages and calling for petri dishes, dehydrators, cartouches and the like.

Like Blumenthal's book, Adria's tome (it weighs in at 600 pages) also demands specialist equipment, though its biggest crime is its banal yet exhausting expansion on Adria's cooking 'philosophy'. At one point it talks of the need for the best grapes to make a great wine. No shit Sherlock.

Not for me I'm afraid. All three will no doubt have their fans, but if this is the best the world's top chefs have to offer, give me Delia any day.