Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Are Your Favourite Cookbooks?

Last year when I started writing my blog again after my baby was born I added a page to which I was going to write what books I was reading and add a review of those particular books. However as I look rather embarrassingly at the list, I am sad at the fact there are only 4 books listed on it! How pathetic when I have hundreds and hundreds of books!! Especially because on average I probably go through about 5 a month (whether it’s just flicking through them or sitting down and properly reading them). So I have made a firm resolution to myself that I will try harder to add more books to my list!! I can’t promise full reviews but sometimes it’s nice just to see the variety of cookbooks people have. As I use them I’ll try and write something just to give a little more insight with some trusty feedback!

If I’m being honest cookbooks really are an obsession of mine (which is what makes it even more frustrating that I haven’t got more books on my “What I’m Reading” page!). I would happily spend hours in a bookshop scouring over the cookbooks (which I have been known to do on many occasions, especially one of my favourite shops – Books for Cooks in Notting Hill). Whenever someone is stuck for ideas for Birthday or Christmas presents I always eagerly suggest vouchers so that I can buy myself some new books. Yes, despite owning hundreds it is always cookbooks that I want to buy and I am always just as excited to receive them as I was with the first few. (My 'wish list' currently has about 15 books in it!)

This Christmas I received three new books as presents – Ricardo: Meals for Every Occasion by Ricardo Larrivee; Vij’s at Home by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij (both books by Canadian authors/chefs) and How I Cook by Skye Gyngell (UK author and chef). On top of that since my New Year’s resolution is to buy at least one book a month I treated myself and got off to a good start by ordering a few more books that came out last year that I still had to get – Entertaining at Home by Rachel Allen, Jamie Does.... by Jamie Oliver, Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson and Tender Volume II, A Cook's Guide To The Fruit Garden by Nigel Slater.

Suddenly just like that I have added an extra 7 books to my already extensive cookbook collection (or library as it should really be called!). As I was waiting (pretty much by the front door) for my books to arrive I started to think about what I would consider some of my favourite cookbooks. Nearing an impossibility since I love so many of them I was thinking about what makes me love a cookbook.... is it the delicious sounding recipes that have me leaping into the kitchen, or the glossy perfect photographs that accompany them....or is it little stories and anecdotes that make the book? Probably for me it’s primarily the recipes followed very closely by the photographs. I know a lot of people just like text books but I can’t help but love reading a recipe word for word and gazing appreciatively with mouth drooling and tummy rumbling at the beautiful pictures. Also from a different standpoint I think having photographs really helps you understand the recipe as you can see what’s it’s meant to look like, even if your version doesn’t quite work out like that! A definitely helpful tool in the kitchen, especially for beginners.

So what I would like to know is, what are your favourite cookbooks? I would love to hear and if you have time let me know why you love that book (or books) so much? Is it one particular recipe that you like or several that you use? Is it a new book or a book that has been handed down to you and has been in the family for years? And while we’re here, are there any cookbooks that you have bought or been given and just hated? Maybe the recipes just didn’t appeal or you tried some and they were a disaster? Please let me know, I would love to hear!

(For a list of what's on my bookshelf this month, check out my 'What I'm Reading' page)


  1. My favourite is on mums shelves so I cant remember the exact title but its Madhur Jaffrey's vegetarian cooking. I have a few photocopies from it, the ultimate being Spiced Rice with Cashews. There's no pictures, some of the ingredients are tough to find here, and the quantities are always way too much for two and difficult to half... but the results are just delicious...
    The one I cant do with out would be the good old Be-Ro book! And my favourite of the moment is my Quorn recipe book - the recipes are all so simple, relatively speedy, and have all been a hit so far!

  2. Mmmm you can't beat Madhur Jaffrey! That's so cool that despite the fact there are so many downsides it's still one of your favourites! Just goes to show good recipes win every time. And as for Be-Ro - love it! Reminded me of the fact I used to have a Homepride set of Fred scales!! (I thought it was Be-Ro til I googled it!) Classics - my mum swears by books like that! Thanks for sharing Sarah x

  3. Appetite by Nigel Slater is my favourite - here is my post about it -

    I love your book shelf!

    I need to try to limit my books now because of lack of space. :-( But I'm trying to make more from the books I have - it is sad that I tend to stick to the same one or two recipes from each book.

  4. Fred Scales! I had them too!! Got a photy of me aged about 2 or 3 using them with granny :-) And I thought you'd appreciate the be-ro book, though the new version isnt nearly as good as mums old one, they've altered some of the basic recipes and not improved them...

  5. My favourite is Raymond Blanc Mange. It's the recipes that are top as they work every time. He also explains the chemistry behind it, another aspect I adore. I also love "Cuisine en famille" by Bernard Loiseau which is also for the recipes, although it's frustrating that there are no photos at all which is a shame. As you say, Lyndsey, it's also the photos that inspire us.

    Love the bending bookshelf, BTW. I'd love to get to the bookshop, Books for Cooks - I've heard it's brilliant.

  6. Oh where to begin! I used to be really strict as I don't have much space to store cook books and make myself get rid of one when I acquired a new one, but I stopped that a while ago and now they are just stacked up wherever I can find room. I'm very envious of your bookshelves. Hard to give a favourite but I got River Cottage Preserves, Nigel Slater'sTender vol 1 and Riverford cookbook for Christmas and I'm enjoying all of those. One of the books I use a lot (as a vegetarian) is Gaia's Kitchen by Julia Ponsonby - interesting recipes as well as basic ones that are all simple and delicious. I've not been to Books for Cooks either, but I will make it their one day.

  7. Thanks everyone - it's so good to hear what you love and why.

    Louise - I went to bed with Appetite last night. I had forgotten what a wonderful book it is. Unfortunately my heavy eyes got the better of me before I could read as much as I wanted but it's definitely going on my February bookshelf! I think it's very sensible (and budget friendly!) to stick to just a few books and use them well....I have a problem! Although I blame Mrs D, who got me started. Especially since she used to say, "if there is at least one good recipe that you will use from every cookbook then it's paid for itself!"....

    Jill - totally frustrated now as would love to read Raymond Blanc Mange....have looked on my shelves and it's not there which means it's either in a box in the crawl space (yes unfortunately there are several unpacked boxes as I ran out of room)or it's at my parents with remaining books!(Not because I own EVERY cookbook published, but because I know I have seen it and it's definitely one Mrs D would have bought!!) One to keep for the future I guess, when I have more bookshelves! As you noticed they are just a little full, just hoping the shelves are stronger than they look as that's not the only one that's bending!!

    Jill & Choclette, next time you're in Notting Hill you have to go to Books for Cooks - it has to be one of my favourite shops - small and cosy with a big comfy couch to sit on and read the books and a little coffee shop area in the back where they test out some of the recipes. Ahhh I miss it (and I've only been a few times!)Word of warning though, I'd be very surprised if you left empty-handed, so make sure you take your purse with you!

    Thanks again everyone!

  8. I'm not the most experienced cook in the world (as you are only too aware!!) so love good old Jamie Olivers ministry of cooking. Have done quite a few recipies and no disasters....yet!! Pick out some other books you think I'll like and I WILL read them when I'm out. xxx

  9. I'm a great fan of Elizabeth David and use her books a lot. Love Nigel's 'Kitchen Diaries' and 'Real Food'. Had Nigella's 'Kitchen' for Christmas and have made a few things. Also had 'Laduree Sucre -the recipes' and it's a really lovely book.

  10. Both Tender Volume I and II by Nigel Slater, I devoured the first book in less than a month front to back. Anything by Bill Granger or Nigella. And recently bought Sarah Raven: Food for Friends and family which is wonderful.
    Claire (Food4two)

  11. Thanks for sharing ladies! You certainly can't beat Elizabeth David & Nigel Slater - I love them both. I bought Nigella's Kitchen when I was home but unfortunately didn't have room for it in my you like it? Snowy, you have a great selection of books (I have a stiff neck now from staring at the pic on your blog seeing what you all had!)

    Claire, Im with you with Bill Granger and Nigella. I love Bill Grangers simple and no-nonsense approach and want to make everything he makes, and as for Nigella...well it's Nigella and I can't help but love her! Sarah Raven's new book is on my list to get this year - I have her other 2 books and I love them both!
    Thanks again for sharing :)

  12. My favourite cookbook is Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian. Every recipe I've tried so far has worked out well and tasted great.

  13. Your bookshelves remind me of mine - bending under the strain ;-)

    I love cookbooks and despite vowing not to buy any more, due to lack of space, I always find some excuse as to why I need it!! Am equally excited by a brand new crisp one arriving through the door, to a battered antique from a charity shop! There is just so much promise with a new book, almost more fun than Christmas morning!

    Hard to choose any firm favourites, mainly as some I have never followed a recipe from yet but used for inspiration countless times!

    The only book I really didn't rate was 'In 3 easy steps', yes its easy but only if you have a food budget of the royal family! And yet I still can't bear to part with it...

  14. It seems to be a huge thing with keen cooks that we NEED loads of cookbooks, and that we read them like others read novels! I tend to favour smaller, chatty books, though I do love the usual 'classics' too. My favourites are Laurie Colwin's two 'Home Cooking' books and Mary Norwak's 'Farmhouse Kitchen'. I also adore Malika Basu's 'Miss Masala'. Oh, the list goes on.... xx

  15. I completely understand how you feel! I have a gazillion cookbooks, but always want more, and I never seem to get round to posting proper reviews of the ones I'm reading, you'll get an idea of the scale of the problem here:

    ! :p ! But of all my hundreds of cookbooks there are three authors I turn to again and again - Nigella, Jamie Oliver & Nigel Slater. The beautiful photography in all their books inspires me as much as the writing.

    P.S. I'm not allowed in Books for Cooks. My wallet spontaneously explodes if I'm within 100 yards of it! :s

  16. Thanks everyone for responding - it's so lovely to get ideas from you all. Some of the books I have and have not been looked at for a while, some are firm favourites and some are definitely new suggestions which I always love!

    Emma - I had to laugh at your page of books that you have! It's amazing although I realised as I looked at it that I am just as bad! It's so nice to know though that there are other ppl just as addicted as I am! That being said I'm off to order a whole new batch - got to stay on top of my New Year's resolutions!! ; )

    I agree with you about Nigella, Jamie & Nigel - they are all top of my list as well - I think it's their relaxed easy approach to food that they always make look and sound so good - I can never resist. I've been so tempted to buy Nigel Slater's latest TV series on DVD but have so far managed to resist - everything he makes I want to eat!


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