In honour of it being World Book Day today and as a respite from school dressing up costumes, Jacqui and I decided to peruse our kitchen bookshelves and round up our favourite cookbooks.
Becca’s Favourite Cookbooks
Over the years as I’ve moved house and tastes have changed, I’ve pruned my recipe book collection pretty harshly, although there are still some that have stayed with me – including my handwritten exercise book from CSE Food and Nutrition with Mrs Glassman! This has recipes, minute by minute breakdowns of preparing a three-course meal and budgeting breakdowns as well as cuts of meat, scientific explanations of bread rising and gossipy notes when we maybe weren’t paying as much attention as we should. These days I tend to refer to just a handful of books regularly although will occasionally flick through others for a one-off dish or inspirations. I still buy loads though….
Delia Smith Complete Cookery Course is my absolute bible, I’ll check this bookmarked, stained and crumpled tome before Google. Given to me as a birthday present back in 1997 it’s still used weekly.
Nigella Lawson is a regular go to and I have all her books but the two most used are How To Be A Domestic Goddess and Nigella Bites. Her fairy cakes recipe is our house standard and the Granny Boyd biscuits are cookies in crack form.
Chrissy Teigen is pretty damn awesome at everything she does and her Cravings cookbook is no exception. The Shit On Toast section is just perfect. And the Fried Chicken Wings with spicy honey butter…..
Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes for the most unhealthy, sublime treacle tart ever. To give you an idea of how incredibly sinful this is, it contains almost 5000g of butter, 675g of golden syrup and 400ml of double cream – but there is bran in the pastry which balances it out a little bit.
Again I have all of Jamie Oliver’s books but the one I go back to the most is Jamie’s America, for the cowboy scrapple.
Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo is a recent purchase to widen my range of Korean cooking. It’s got a great breakdown of essential ingredients, all available here. If you’re Oxford-based, I’d highly recommend Seoul Plaza on Cowley Road for all your Asian cooking and perfect for stocking your freezer with quick cook dumplings. Far cheaper to buy your mirin, soy sauce, gochujang etc in bigger sizes here. you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll use it up.
The River Cottage Family Cookbook is great for getting my kids to decide what they’re cooking for that weekend’s dinner. Simple and straightforward instructions with both classic recipes and some more inventive dishes.
The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and its follow-up Cake Days also get a fair amount of use but my absolute bible is my very old, very dog-eared copy of Cakes & Cake Decorating by Rosemary Wadey. Published by St Michael, now M&S in 1982 this is another that’s stayed with me. From basic cake recipes, quantities for different size tins and some very dated decorations, this is a classic.
Jacqui’s Favourite Cookbooks
With a family consisting of me, two energetic hungry young boys and an ultra-fit long distance triathlete husband, it can be tricky to come up with family meals that suit everyone. I’m a fairly keen home cook and 99% of our meals are homemade. For the most part, I choose weekday meals that are quick and easy so they fit in around school runs, swimming classes, playdates and Bitten, but packed full of healthy ingredients. I’m a big fan of the BBC Good Food recipe archive, but I also have a trusty cookbook collection that I regularly peruse.
Jamie Oliver is hands down one of the most helpful chefs in my arsenal, and annoyingly rich af from over-commercialisation. His recipes are (mostly) quick, easy and not stuffed full of ingredients you’ll need an extra long shopping list for. His fish tray-bake from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals is the first meal that persuaded my eldest to eat fish, and his Save With Jamie book is packed full of good ideas for family meals that begin with a big hunk of meat and use the leftovers in creative ways to make extra meals.
While Joe Wicks – aka The Body Coach – may design recipes to get you lean and mean, many of his ideas are easily transferable to family life. Lean proteins with either reduced fat or reduced carb, but loads of flavour. As with Jamie, Joe’s recipes are quick, easy and low impact on the shopping list, with his recipes supposedly able to be cooked in 15 minutes. Lean in 15: The Shift Plan and Lean in 15: The Shape Plan have plenty of inspiration for meals that won’t leave you feeling stuffed.
I’m a big fan of Gizzi Erskine’s ethos when it comes to eating – eat healthy most of the time and allow yourself occasions to splurge, all the while packing in the flavours. I’m definitely more of a ‘live to eat’ than ‘eat to live’ person and I like ALL of my food to taste great. Gizzi’s blend of Asian, British and American flavours tick a lot of boxes for us and her cookbooks regularly inspire our weekly meal plans. Her chicken satay salad from Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite is a perfect dish for me, tried and tested are also the satay chicken rice bowl, roast duck noodle soup, and chicken with fattoush, yoghurt sauce and rose harissa from Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts.
When I was backpacking – pfft, who am I kidding – holidaying in Australia a number of years ago, my Aussie sister-in-law gave me a copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly Salads recipe book. I LOVE salads and all the many combinations they can mean. Packed to the brim with dressings, leaves, grains, proteins, toppings and more, I often go back to this oldie-but-goodie for inspiration.
Equally obsessed with all things Crissy Teigan, I’ve got a copy of Cravings too. Crabcake Benedict gets a regular outing in our house and I can’t wait to try her Garlic Grilled soy shrimp with her Mum’s hot green pepper sauce!
When Mr T gets his chance in the kitchen his ONLY cookbook is a good one. The Food of Thailand was a gift from his brother and includes one of our favourite cook at home Thai dishes, pork with garlic and pepper. The book is packed with classic Thai salads, curries and stir-fries, alongside snacks, street food and desserts. There are LOADS of recipes in here I want to make.
At the back of my shelf will always remain my own personal little cookbook, crammed with roasting timings, risotto rules, classic sauces and family recipes. Flicking through this is akin to browsing a family photo album, with each page tied to a memory.
What are your most used cookbooks?