My Favourite Cookbooks

Hello everyone I hope your week is going well : ) It’s so great to see the sun shining and after giving everyone the heebie jeebies with my memories of school post yesterday I thought I’d bring us all back to the comfort of food today and to the joy of cookbooks in particular.

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On my bookshelves

Cookbooks are unique pleasure don’t you think? To read them is to love them, to find calm, to feel inspired, to be transported, to another time, another season or another country.

All of mine are used and loved, have splattered pages and handwritten notes. I take them to bed, bath and garden. I read them over and over again and still find something new each time.

Below is a list of my favourites, a short list from a cast of thousands (about 25 I think) To make it on to the list the books had to do two things….

1. Be an entertaining read

2. Be used by me on a regular basis

1. Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry…

crazy water

At first hint of summer I’m reaching for this beautiful, mouth watering feast for the senses. I regularly cook a version of ten or more recipes from this plus it’s my absolute favourite cook book to read with its beautiful writing and transportative powers.

You will like this book if you like something different, the food of the Mediterranean, Turkey and Northern Africa, herbs, spices and fruit, exotica and something different but mostly easy too. Some really sensational ideas for summer dinners. I’ll be sharing my favourites in the coming months : )

2. Cook Simple by Diana Henry…

henry

Another Diana Henry book only this time it’s more simple fare, super fast and really tasty. You will like this book if you like classic food with a twist, one pot/dish dinners that are simple and easy to make especially if you’re under time pressure but still want to eat good home cooked food.

3. Everyday by Bill Granger

bill

Ah Bill…did you ever see his tv show? I’m always mesmerised by how white everything is. I used to say, ‘the white chef in the white clothes and white kitchen with the white children is on.’ Sunshine follows him I should think and his food is a bit like that too, really sunshiny, fresh, healthy and simple, nothing difficult to do.

Again I regularly cook versions of at least 10 recipes from this book.

You will love it if you like fish, veg, salads, tofu and healthy food that tastes great and is quick and easy to make. It’s a really nice read, family focused, warm and friendly, his passion for food shines through.

4. Leon Ingredients & Recipes

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I love the ingredients section at the start of this book where the authors talk about ingredients they love and why. The second half of the book is recipes with a focus on healthy food that tastes great. This is one of two Leon books I have and recently I heard the team behind Leon has devised the new compulsory cooking programme for school children across England which is really cool. Do any of my England based readers know their London restaurants?

You will like the Leon cookbooks if you like new ideas for easy to make healthy dishes with a good measure of ethics in food and ingredient chat.

5. Jane’s Recipes 

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First edition : ))

As you can see this is a big old photo album. I’ve had it for years. Any recipe I find in a newspaper, magazine or online that I try and like gets added to the album along with those of my own invention. It’s great because it helps me keep track of a greater variety of recipes, so now you know my secret : )

I add random pictures, cards and pictures the children make as well as notes of when I cooked each thing for the first time, what we were doing, cute things that people said…I do this in all my cookbooks though, I scribble notes everywhere linking the food to the dinners, parties and picnics of our lives. I often tell poor Shaylyn that this book is her inheritance.

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No pretty layouts or backgrounds here, nice yellowing pages though…
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To make my version of Mexican Tortilla Parcels gently fry an onion, add some tomato (from a tin is fine but drain well) and cook for a while before adding kidney beans & mashing gently. Add ground cumin and leaf coriander plus grated cheese. Add the mix to flour tortillas before folding over  and serve or fry the whole parcel in oil until crisp. Serve with sour cream…
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Memories & Inspiration
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Comfort food and colour
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Wisdom of the very young

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So that’s my short list and my secret to variety in food, which I absolutely have to have. I’d die of boredom otherwise. Other chefs, food writers I love include Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Hugh Fearnsley Whittingstall and Rick Stein. What chefs, food writers, cook books do you love or who do you love to cook and read most? Do you collect recipes?

8 Comments

  1. Smoke has started to belch from the lawnmower, even as a non driver I’m pretty sure that’s not a combustion engine at it’s happiest! And now I’m completely distracted by your blog as you’re on my fav. subject!

    I love my cookbooks (400 conservative estimate)!! I’ve my cookbook work horses, like your Delias, Nigellas & Jamies. Then you’ve your country speciality cookbooks. When I want to do something very correctly I go to Gary Rhodes. I buy Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, I find US cup measures baffling (3/4 cup of onion???) why not say 1 onion! 3 tablespoons of butter (does anyone actually put butter into tablespoons only to have to hoke them out again?) so I’m too scared to cook from her books. I love Rachel Allen (if she could bottle her looks & complexion she’d make another fortune) & I’ve 4 Bill Grangers & have everything Hugh F-W has ever written or shown. My books are very precious & I know like a shepherd when 1 is missing! 🙂

    My fav. reads are books that combine food & life! Frances Mayes & her Tuscan books, I’ve mentioned before. But some of my very favs. Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797 – it’s written in ye olde English, but you quickly get used to it.
    Dusty Wesker’s Cookbook – A great read about what it’s like to live lurching from royalty cheque to royalty cheque in her marriage to playwright, Arnold Wesker. How she takes on whole theatrical groups and theatres and caters for her large Jewish family.
    Chocolat – Joanne Harris (I have Ms Harris’ French cookbook which is also beautiful)
    Food of Love – Anthony Capella

    My absolute & dearest is my Gran’s pre-war cookbook, a companion guide to her new fangled cooker. You wouldn’t really want to cook from it, or all the recipes & notes she made (Giblet pie anyone?), but it’s a fascinating read.

    Oh dear, but you did ask? Now excuse me whilst I extinguish my lawnmower!

    1. Oh Kerry what a collection! It sounds utterly spellbinding. I don’t know how you get anything done! I will definitely be adding some of these to my next book order. I see I have a lot of catching up to do : )

  2. By the by Jane, one of my fav. films is on tonight. The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & her Lover. I can’t believe the colours since they’ve remastered it, I’d an old VHS of it, then the video died. It’s my ultimate foodie film, not one to have on if the kids are around though! Very dark & very decadent!

  3. Film 4 at 10.50pm.

    A stellar cast of Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Tim Roth etc.. Please don’t watch it if you’re easily offended or of a delicate disposition! But if you love it, you will love it forever! God help me, I even bought the soundtrack on cd!!! It’s Tom Parker-Bowles’ favourite film too! Which is the closest I will ever get to having anything in common with the royal family! 🙂

    1. I’ve seen a bit before but will check it out properly tonight! Not easily offended I don’t think! Love Helen Mirren and Adrian does too but then he likes older women : )

  4. Yes, even when they don’t it’s funny how many men make an exception when it comes to Helen Mirren!
    There’s Dame Mirren & Honor Blackman and they just keep getting better!

  5. Hey by all means the best recipes are the old ones for me! My mums Home economics book from school is a treasure. But J’s nana gave me a big collection of recipes when I married,( I think it was so I would fatten him up a bit) and by all means it is working!!!!! These are super little reads and cut outs, real solid cooking tips and techniques! And because I know they were all used in generations before us, it makes cooking them seem a little more special.I love your photobook idea, I am struggling to keep them all sorted in a boxfile! Thanks for tip!

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