I have a lot of cookbooks. And I mean A LOT. I use them mostly for reference and inspiration rather than for following the recipes and I’ll never stop buying them. Some are proper bedtime reading!
These are some of my favourites and most referenced. I make no apology for the state of my books. They’re for looking at and cooking from, not looking pretty on the shelf or being pristine clean!
My hero. I could watch this man on TV all day every day (sometimes I do!). My father and I play a drinking game with his shows sometimes – have a drink every time something that he says could be innuendo – “I love to bite into a nice juicy sausage” – that sort of thing. Childish – I’m aware, but fun nonetheless. You’ll be hammered halfway into one show, you have been warned.
In addition to his cookbooks, Nigel wrote a great autobiography – Toast: A Story of a Boy’s Hunger which my whole family read – I’ll leave you to read it and figure out why the content made for some awkward family discussions about the content (referred to in some of my circles as a ‘Black Swan’ moment)! This was also made into a TV drama for BBC1 in 2010.
As a further aside, the comedian Miles Jupp wrote and starred in a radio show called In and Out of the Kitchen which aired on Radio 4. Which definitely is absolutely not a pastiche of ol’ Nige (it is). Totally worth a listen and they made the first series into a BBC4 TV series too. Also worth seeking out.
The Kitchen Diaries, The Kitchen Diaries II and A Year of Good Easting: The Kitchen Diaries III – Foodporn at its finest. I read these like novels. Over and over.
Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food – my kind of recipes, a handful here, a dash there.
Appetite – One of my first true foodporn books
Real Food – The second.
Oh Nigella. How the wheels have come off. It’s very difficult to watch you anywhere near icing sugar or flour nowadays. You’ve never really been a woman of the people, with your gold covered chocolate beans and chilli-fairy-light lit pantries of wonderment, but once upon a time, I aspired to be you, denim jacket and wooden spoon licking seductiveness and all. Now I pity your lack of gluten and sad drawn pallor. Your early books however are a thing of joy and you will continue to form the basis of most of my baking for the rest of my life. So I’ll let you off for the piousness of ‘Simply Nigella’ and continue to worship at your old alter of butter and sugar.
How to be a Domestic Goddess – Cakes, so many cakes
How to Eat – Basics like lemon curd
Feast – Many of the great Christmas recipes come from here
Nigella Bites – Again, light basics
Kitchen – A little more of a comprehensive tombe
Thomasina won the first of the rebooted Masterchef series in 2005 and has gone on to set up Wahaca, a chain of ‘Mexican Market’ casual restaurants – they are slowly spreading around the UK. Think of it as Mexican tapas. The pork pilbil tacos are amazing and its one of my favourite places to take visitors for something a little different but still stupidly good value. The books are full of fresh and light recipes and whilst the ingredient lists can be quite long, I’ve had quite a lot of success in reducing the amount of chilli varieties in a recipe and adapting them to my store cupboard ingredients.
Another old favourite. It’s hard to remember a time when Jamie wasn’t ubiquitous on our screens but it was only in 1999 that he debuted his first show ‘The Naked Chef’ and although its hard to comprehend now, I think it’s worth remembering how he helped to change TV cooking – before him, it was all Delia Smith in her studio kitchen or Gary Rhodes, Keith Floyd or the Two Fat Ladies running around on location. Jamie brought a bish-bash-bosh youth approach to cooking and quite pukka it was too.
I have very few good words to say about the later books and 15/30 minute meals books. And if anyone finds a side of salmon for a fiver, please let me know! *Heads off to buy a sausage roll and turkey twizzler in defiance*
The Naked Chef – Back when Jamie Oliver wasn’t a pompous do-gooder, he actually wrote great everyday recipes.
The Return of the Naked Chef – I watch the accompanying TV show for these books and have to remind myself how truly ground-breaking they were.
Jamie’s America – I’m obsessed with US food. What can you do. Except actually this is more immigrant food than true US food but by far the best of JO’s post Naked Chef.
Bake Off Winners
The Great British Bake Off. What an annual delight. So English, so twee and yet, so eminently watchable. An annual roster of identikit contestants morph into people you root for as the weeks go by. You start to hold your breath when cake towers are moved, share the disappointment of the underset jellies and weeping icing and place bets on who’s getting that weeks star baker award. My distain for Paul Hollywood; his pompous self worth and burnt bread is well known, so I counter my giggling at Mel and Sue’s soggy bottom innuendos with shouting abuse at PH. Its an emotional rollercoaster truth be told but I still can’t wait for the next series.
Oh and back to the point, some of the winners seem to be truly lovely people who you want to succeed and have, between them, produced a number of lovely books. These are the ones I’ve purchased to date.
A classic lady with a classic repertoire.
Complete Cookery Course – My first bible. I’ve moved on to study at the temple of Nigel Slater, I’ll be honest, but I have to credit this book as one of the reasons I cook and bake. The egg and bacon pie was a staple of my early cooking years but be warned, the American Brownies recipe simply doesn’t work – but it tastes good!
Just beautiful books – I don’t think I’ve ever actually cooked from them but I love to flick through.
Now I’ve met Dan and his husband at a Band of Bakers event a couple of years ago but as I didn’t know who he was (I do now, he’s the baker’s baker and former guardian columnist) and my friend who dragged me over to meet him became so star-struck she couldn’t talk, I don’t like to talk about the world’s most awkward meeting much!
Short and Sweet – A fairly recent edition to my collection but I’ve only heard amazing things from fellow bakers. Oh and there is a buttercream icing somewhere in Dan’s repertoire that involves condensed milk and foodgasms.
Be-Ro Flour Home Recipes – A classic – for scones and pastry and proper basic recipes. And awful 70s food photography.
The Dairy Book of Home Cookery – recommended by the Andersons. This is to them what the Be-Ro Flour book is to my family.
The National Trust – Complete Traditional Recipe Book – I’m not terribly into traditional hearty British fare but when I need a sausage plait recipe, this is where I look.
Classic Chinese Cuisine – I don’t think its easy to make Chinese food at home to taste anything like at a Chinese takeaway (unlike Indian which is easy to do) but the recipes in this book are as close as you’ll ever get. Totally unassuming and picked up in a cheap book shop many years ago, I’d hate to be without it.
Weight Watchers – Carefree Cooking – Another classic book from my childhood – the only recipe I ever used was for Scotch pancakes (as adapted in Scotch Pancakes with Bourbon, Peach and Ginger Compote). It was worth sourcing a copy from Amazon just to find this!
Momma Cherri’s Soul in a Bowl Cookbook – American Charita Jones first featured on an early series of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” in 2005 and had great initial success with Gordan loving her food and helping her to effectively manage a ‘Soul in A Bowl’ concept of traditional American sold food served as a platter. Momma Cherri expanded to a bigger premises but this ultimately failed in 2009. She occasional pops up on TV – on Saturday Kitchen etc. Regardless of her dodgy business acumen, her cookbook is one of my favourites for simple US grub.
Bill Granger – Everyday – Whilst its my natural instinct to punch such smiley and happy people straight in the face, I have to admit that Bill’s aussie, and therefore often Asian, inspired simple and light recipes are a delight. Apparently the scrambled eggs at his restaurant Granger and Co are the best in the world. Obviously I think mine are the best in the world but I’m willing to be converted sometime.
Wagamama Cookbook – For good, basic Japanese food. And now I’ve found it, the Chilli Ramen Sauce recipe which inspired the sauce for my Tangy Japanese Style Sweet Chilli Salmon with Sticky Rice, Ginger Pak Choi, Garlic-Soy Aubergine and Chilli Prawns.
The St. Michael All Colour Cookery Book – More awful photography but a staple of my childhood (containing an excellent flapjack recipe). I recently ordered an old copy for myself off of Amazon. Just for nostalgia reasons.
The Little Book of Lunch: Recipes and Ideas for the Office Packed Lunch – Not my book I have to admit but my housemate’s. However flicking through it seems to have some lovely lunch ideas with transportation and storage properly taken into account.