Friday, 27 April 2012

My Top Ten Cookery Books

Today I bought a new cookery book.  Heaven knows I don't need one but that's never stopped me before and it didn't this time when our Book People rep came calling with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's latest offering.  Besides, it provided me with the perfect opportunity to publish a post I've been mulling over for some time now.

So here it is, my definitive(?) Top Ten Cookery Books

  1. Good Housekeeping -  This was one of the first cookery books I bought and its the one I turn to most often to find out how long to roast a joint, the ratio of flour to butter to milk in a white sauce or the correct way to sterilise jam jars.  It cost me 50p in an introductory offer to a book club in my final year at university and has been with me ever since.  It has lost both back and front covers and its pages are scuffed and stained, but I wouldn't trade it in for any other book.
  2. Real Food (Nigel Slater) - It's not just the recipes but Nigel Slater's attitude to food that appeals to me.  This is solid everyday cookery, the sort of food you would be happy to eat time and time again.  And we do!
  3. How to Eat (Nigella Lawson) - Nigella Lawson is another of my food heroes.  This is a chunky book and it took me a while to justify the expense.  But it's one I've never regretted.  It's the kind of cookery book I can sit and read just for the pleasure of the prose.  And as I read it I can hear her voice in my head.  Gosh, I must have been watching too much TV!
  4. The New Covent Garden soup Company's Book of Soups - We Scots are brought up on soup.  It practically runs in our veins.  I love it.  It's warm and nourishing and easy to prepare and is the perfect way to use up odd bits and pieces lying around the kitchen.  But sometimes it's good to start from scratch and boil up something special and this book has plenty to chose from.
  5. The Good Cook (Simon Hopkinson) - I've come late to Simon Hopkinson, through his recent TV series.  He came across as a gentle man and his recipes are a reflection of his manner.
  6. Indian Cookery (Savitra Chowdhary) - I inherited this book from my mother, although I have a feeling that it was my Dad who made more use of it.  I don't use many of its recipes but it's where I turn for a basic dhal and gajar halwa, my all time favourite Indian sweetmeat.
  7. Mediterranean Cookery (Claudia Roden) - I love the aromatic flavours of Middle Eastern food and Claudia Roden's book is a veritable feast for the senses.
  8. Delia Smith's Christmas (Delia Smith) - No list would be complete without a Delia Smith and this is my favourite.  In  years when I've opted for a traditional turkey dinner I've followed her countdown to Christmas dinner almost to the second.  And it's her mincemeat recipe every time!
  9. How to be a Domestic Goddess (Nigella Lawson)  Nigella's second appearance but as this is the book I turn to first when I get the urge to bake she deserves it.
  10. The Book of Children's Party Cakes (Ann Nicol) - From when they were old enough my daughters have been presented with this book a couple of weeks before their birthdays and asked to choose their cake.  Even the most complicated cakes are simple when you follow the instructions step by step.
So this is my list.  What about you?  Would any of these books feature on yours?  Have you any personal favourites to recommend?


  1. The river cottage veg book is actually one of my favourites! It's rare to have a book where so many of the recipes are really amazing. The squash and fennel lasagne is beautiful!

  2. Thanks Alice. I flicked through it in bed last night and made a mental list of recipes to start with. I'm hoping to find some that will appeal to my carnivorous daughter who remains to be convinced about vegetarianism.

  3. Jane Grigson's Vegetable book and her Fruit book and for that matter her Fish. Also Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking - use several recipes regularly (French Onion Tart is a favourite) - but also for the writing which is sublime - I read an extract at my grandmother's funeral. And last but definitely not least Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food which is part cookery book, part history, part autobiography and all marvellous.

  4. Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian is probably a good book for getting into veggie meals (we have the original) & have always found it to be a good book for learning the basics.

    Kay :)

  5. @Eliane
    I have Jane Grigson's daughter's Eat your Greens, which has come in very handy when my organic box throws up something I've never seen before. I've always meant to buy something by Elizabth David but have not yet got round to doing so. Thanks for the tip on Claudia Roden. I do enjoy a cookery book that is more than just a collection of recipes.

  6. @The Smiths
    Rose Elliot's Bean Book was my bible during my first years of independent living in London when I went through several vegetarian phases. I was also very fan of Sarah Brown (not the ex-PM's wife!)

  7. Gosh, my proofreading skills are very shaky today. Two typos in my last two comments. Apologies!