This weekend The Observer published a list of the top 50 cookbooks ever. Compiled by regular Observer Food Magazine contributors and a host of well known chefs, it made for interesting and (as many books in the selection I had never heard of and I am always open to a new cookbook suggestion) potentially expensive reading.
Now, I’ve just moved house and can frequently be found gazing at the lovely new space I created to host my own collection of cullinary tomes. Decided to put this gazing to good use, follow The Observer’s example and list my own favourite cookbooks.
The Observer’s aim, it seemed to me, was to recognise a selection of ground-breaking/original/esteemed publications. Fair-do’s. My list is a bit different. The following ten cookbooks might not in some cases be unique or critically admired and they really don’t make for a spectacularly exciting list but they have been my most used, most beloved cookbooks in recent years. And that’s what I wanted to share with you.
1.) Real Fast Food – Nigel Slater
Novel sized, unfussy and without pictures, this was one of my first cookbooks and it is still a firm favourite. So many simple ideas. If I find myself with the bare minimum in my cupboards/fridge or if I’m a bit tired or if I can’t remember how to make the perfect omelette (I forget), this is the book I turn to.
2.) Leith’s Vegetarian Cookbook
It’s like the Mary Poppins’ bag of cookbooks. Every time I open it, I find something different and delightful. Huge. Encyclopaedic. Classy.
3.) The Essential Madhur Jaffrey
There are larger Madhur Jaffrey books (including the fab World Vegetarian) but I really like this little book. It has all her classics along with some staples and stunning side dishes.
4.) Jamie’s Dinners – Jamie Oliver
I don’t actually use this cookbook very much any more as I know lots of the recipes by heart. It had to be on the list though. David gave me this for our first Christmas as a couple and many of the dishes have become staples in our household. The pasta recipes in particular are spectacular.
5.) Kitchen Diaries – Nigel Slater
Nigel? Twice?! Well, yes. He’s wonderful. I gave this book to a friend of mine in Finland last time I visited (three years ago) and when I returned this summer it was still sitting on her bedside table. Before going to sleep each night, she reads what Mr Slater made on that day of the year. I’d do the same but my own copy is splattered with a vast variety of liquids, crumbs and gloop. Think it smells a little too, so much has it been used.
6.) Roast Chicken and Other Stories (1&2) – Simon Hopkinson
Simon Hopkinson disappointed me greatly with his vegetarian cookbook. It was so utterly bland. Yet, both of his Roast Chicken books are fabulous so I forgive him always. Everything I’ve made from them has turned out perfectly. Possibly because his instructions are so meticulous.
7.) Cafe Paradiso – Dennis Cotter
Not an every day cookbook. This is the book I cook from when I have a whole afternoon to potter about in the kitchen. There are some cracking basic recipes but my favourites are the stylishly fussy dishes with multiple elements and paragraph sized names.
8.) Everyday – Bill Granger
An Aussie Jamie Oliver, I think. Big flavours, easy recipes and big on the inclusion of vegetables. Again, many of his recipes I know by heart and are eaten frequently in this house.
9) The Cook’s Companion – Stephanie Alexander
Another Australian. An enormous book featuring all of the most common main ingredients in a cook’s kitchen. Endless recipes under each section and, rather cleverly, a list of other ingredients that compliment the featured food.
10.) Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook
I’d love to visit Sarah Raven’s garden sometime. She grows the most amazing fruit and veg. Her cookbook is based around the seasons and the produce from her garden. The pictures are beautiful and the recipes make me want to cook for others.
What are your favourites?