A book is for life not just for Christmas


2020 What a year its been; its been one that has seen an evolution in the cook book department. Who could have foreseen a worldwide pandemic coming and throwing everything, including the world of cookbooks, into chaotic extraordinary realignment?  Major new cookbooks scheduled to be published were postponed. Despite all this, its been a hell of a year for cookbooks. With more of us spending more time at home, cookbooks that normally gather dust have been given an airing. With the help of online aspiration (Instagram, podcasts, Tik Tok cooking demos and cook along  Zoom sessions) we addressed the conundrums of quarantine cooking head on and were reminded that recipes aren´t defined by their medium. However after a day of staring at, talking into and being talked at by a screen, it can be more than comforting to avert one´s eyes from modern technology to the relative tranquility of the paper page. From bread making to bean soaking and sourdough starters we mucked through with what we already had on our bookshelves. Mas and grandmas answered our questions on things as simple as boiling water and baking bread and mastering the dark art of meringue making. Cooking has shown a trend to more traditional ways of doing things. Lots of joyous forgotten family recipes have found their way out of cupboards, trunks and attics. How many of us have cook books on our Christmas shopping list? With life making it more difficult to browse in bookshops it is sometimes difficult to commit to a purchase. One should ask oneself a few questions here that perhaps are answered online when shopping from sites like Amazon. Here one can read customer satisfaction reviews before making a purchase.
If you’re going to buy a cookbook, you want it to be not just one you really, really want, but one you really need. Not one you buy on a whim, flip through a few times, and then languishes in a pile somewhere gathering dust. Another way is to test drive a cookbook before buying it by borrowing a copy from the library. If you find yourself renewing the borrowing date, it has to be a sure sign that this is a book for you. A cookbook collection should be a like a treasured record collection, something you’ve carefully amassed, curated (even sometimes been painfully forced to cull) over many years and that you’re proud to display, and provides you endless enjoyment and inspiration. Cookbooks are an investment…. both cost-wise and space-wise. Think of all those shoe boxes crammed with tearsheets from newspapers and
magazines, and handwritten copies of recipes that friends had given you.
Here’s a list of my 15 favourite most thumbed through cookbooks, plus one that I think  only relevant to include from my Amazon wishlist. These are the ones that I use over and over again and that I think are worth gifting – to yourself or to a deserving person in your life. The choice of choosing from over 300 cookery books that now comprise my collection was tough, but I got there in the end. I wonder just how many of these you already know, will hit the spot, or you already have in your own collection?

The Cook’s Companion
Stephanie Alexander

Why I think this is my most practical cookbook: If you ever find yourself holding an ingredient in your hand wondering what on earth to do with it, turn to the Cook’s Companion. Cooking doyenne Stephanie Alexander’s 1192-page tome is usefully organised A-Z by ingredient. Each ingredient has a description and preparation notes, followed by a series of practical, interesting and delicious recipes incorporating that ingredient. So comprehensive and practical is this book, if I had to think of one tactic to guarantee a win on Masterchef, I’d memorise the Cook’s Companion …. all, um, 1192 pages?

Sydney Food Bill Granger
Why I am inspired by this book:
"Someday he'll come along The man I love." In terms of food we need a culinary muse and this is what Bill Granger´s recipes give one. To me, this the first book by Bill Granger, Sydney Food, is still his best and contains many of the early recipes from his iconic restaurants. Sadly it’s very hard to get hold of new these days. So my other recommendations would be Bill’s Food and Simply Bill which are full of recipes of a similar style which I also very much enjoy. I’ve always admired Granger’s talent for stripping a dish back to its bare essentials, while losing none of its appeal in the process.This is something i share in my cooking. In fact, the simplicity of his food and recipes are their appeal. the focused flavours, unfussy preparation and a minimum of ingredients required. He also has true knack for understanding the Australian palate and what antipodeans love to eat at a certain time of the day, and there’s no more apt a title for this book than Sydney Food.

Appetite Nigel Slater
"If you decide to go through life without cooking you are missing something very, very special. You are losing out on one of the greatest pleasures you can have with your clothes on." Nigel Slater

Why I feel so attached to this book: I love Appetite, it is sort of rambling thesis on what to do with...a pork chop or variations thereof, with pasta etc. Proper things you want to eat ,not ridiculously impossible recipes. Also a good equipment section. Appetite is not about getting it right or wrong; it is about liking what you cook. Slater covers the philosophies of cooking, the basics to have on hand, and detailed descriptions of necessary equipment and ingredients. He tells you which wok to buy (the cheap one), and why it can pay to flirt with the fishmonger. There are sections on seasoning, a good long list of foods that pair well, and a large collection of recipes for soup, pasta, rice, vegetables, fish, meat, pastry and desserts. I also like Slater´s Real Food, which is the one with 8 sections on things he really loves - sausages, chicken, ice cream, chocolate, cheese and can't remember the rest. I Think Appetite just has the edge for me though I think I prefer Real Food. Oh I don`t know, can´t decide on this one, pass.

India
Cyrus Todiwala OBE

An invaluable guide to the creative possibilities of contemporary Indian cooking: Cyrus Todiwala OBE is the proprietor of the two critically acclaimed restaurants - Cafe Spice Namaste and The Parsee. In this book the renowned chef and restaurateur presents novices and enthusiasts alike with a vibrant tour-de-force of Indian cooking. Packed with both innovative and traditional recipes, the book introduces many of the major cuisines within the Indian sub-continent, offering a taste of many unique cooking skills and techniques. Cyrus Todiwala's book is an invaluable guide to India's variable cuisine. The author explores major cuisines within the Indian sub-continent, offering readers a taste of many unique cooking skills and techniques. This book is full of both traditional and contemporary recipes and offers a wealth of easy to follow recipes.,Placing the dishes, their preparation and cooking, in their regional and cultural context, Todiwala presents over 100 easy to follow recipes, from superb chutneys and relishes to incredible desserts. Combining classic techniques and flavourings with unexpected ingredients, the author guides you step-by-step through the creation of unusual and exciting Indian meals, whatever your level of knowledge or existing culinary ability.  

Simple
Yotam Ottolenghi

Simple Yotam says: .... and the book is exactly what he says "SIMPLE.This is one of those rare cookbooks where I want to cook almost everything. I love the fact that each dish can be made in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients, in a single pot, using pantry staples, or prepared ahead of time for brilliantly, deliciously simple meals. Yotam Ottolenghi is a person who has changed the way I think about food. Difficult to categorize, his style works on the premise that food is all about flavour and unorthodox combinations.I am completely biased as I think Yotam Ottolenghi is currently the most influential food writer, recipe developer and chef. His name has become synonymous with a style of food that beloved fans instantly recognise. I use this over and over again.I loved his first book, Ottolenghi the cookbook ,but always found it quite complicated with respect to the ingredients, so this his seventh I find his SIMPLE approach a joy.

S: Short on time
I: Ingredients less than 10
M: Make ahead
P: Pantry-led
L: Lazy day dishes
E: Easier than you think
 
 
 

Thai food David Thompson
Why this is the definitive guide to cooking real Thai food at home:
If you are looking for the authoritative guide on how to prepare proper Thai food then I would say look no further. After having originally given this as a gift to my father -in- law who loved Thai food I finally reclaimed it when he admitted to finding it a tad too difficult to find the necessary ingredients. This is the only criticism of this tome, the inclusion of a number of hard-to-find ingredients.But then again if you have a sense of adventure, a trip into the unexplored local community can not be a bad thing.You should be ok if you have either an asian/international/large supermarket nearby. Most of the time, the large majority of ingredients will revolve around galangal/palm sugar/tamarind etc, but I generally found that more often than not it was just one ingredient that ended up being hard to source; 'hydrolysed lime water' being one such memorable culprit! Years of owning this book  have induced a myriad of 'oohs' and 'aahs' as I´ve enjoyed applying myself to creating a myriad of authentic Thai dishes cooked at home.
If you are looking for a very simple introduction to Thai cooking (and just want to whip up a quick Thai green curry), then this is probably not the best place to start, as many of the recipes involve some quite specific and time-consuming preparation. On the other hand if you want the "real Thai",
this is the first and only book on the subject I have found that is fantastically well researched and actually explains Thai cooking methods in detail with a bit of history too.

Culinary artistry Dornenburg and Page
How this book has become an essential part of my cooking:
In Culinary Artistry Dornenburg and Page provide food and flavour pairings as a kind of stepping stone for the recipe-dependent cook...Their hope in their own words is that "once you know the scales, you will be able to compose a symphony".This is probably my most used cookbook. I bought it on a trip to in New York back in 1996 the year it was published. The rest is history. What I love about this book is the fact that it can give you a framework on which to build your own food style. What food goes well with say lamb? it’s in here.T his book enables one to translate a particular vision to a plate. It helps select and pair ingredients, and how flavours are combined into dishes, dishes into menus. One of my favourite research tools that I use when developing recipes/meals.

How to be a domestic goddess Nigella Lawson
Why this is a stalwart in my kitchen:I can count the number of baking books I own on one hand.The one I refer to all the time is the classic baking bible by Nigella Lawson. It is quite simply the best baking book I've ever owned. Oh. My. Gosh. This is the definitive baking book for me. Nigella is not a "chef"--she is a home cook, just like me, like most of us out there. Everything comes out as it should do, it's very encouraging and quite an entertaining read anyway. What I really like about this is that it is a wonderful and truly usable book.This sits alongside my well-thumbed Elizabeth Davids as an essential reference. I  am not a baker but the recipes Nigella provides are all workable and well within my level, which is not very experienced. The recipes always come out as they should do, and taste delicious, it also doesn't tend to go for lots of unnecessary ingredients or faff. This is a stalwart in my kitchen. Sensible, practical, no nonsense advice from the queen of all baked goods. If you could give this book more than five out of five I wouldn't hesitate.
 

The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking Marcella Hazan
This is the Bible of Italian cooking: O mia cara Marcella! Thanks to this woman I will never eat bottled tomato sauce again! Her pesto and Bolognese recipes are amazing and have become staples in our house.If you only have room for one Italian cookbook on your shelves, this is it! A classic that all those interested in Italian cooking should have on their shelves.
Like many others, this is the book that truly taught me the basics of Italian cooking.
This book is what I consider one of the essential reference texts for anyone who is serious about the culinary arts. I have learned almost everything I know about Italian food from this book...and I'm still learning from it after thirty years on! You won't find a
better cookbook about classic Italian cooking than this one.
This is widely considered to be the definitive Italian cookbook, by a woman considered to be the Julia Child of Italian cooking. If you think your pasta sauces are good, make hers and stand astounded. If you think you have a handle on making pasta, pizza, gnocchi, soups et cetera, let her school you.
If you want to eat really, really well every night, then work your way through this cookbook.

There are some extraordinary dishes in this book that you have most likely not had before and will cherish for all your years as a cook and food lover. A great book for a beginner or an expert cook or anyone in between. One for the ages of your kitchen.

Preserving Oded Schwarz
What I like about it:
Apart from my mother, I don´t know how I would have got through life in the kitchen without this tome.If you've never preserved food, or even if you are a "preservationist" at heart like me, this book shows in pictures and clear instructions how to preserve just about everything under the sun....by method..not food. It explains how to preserve food PERIOD, not just how to can.There are explanations for pickling, preserving in oil, ketchup, chutney, dehydrating fruits, veggies, and meat, curing ham, salting fish, curing sausages, making pate, potting, salting, jam, curd, jelly, fruit cheese, and candying. You name it.It provides professional techniques, and informs of all the correct equipment needed. Schwartz, very thoroughly covers the entire umbrella of "preserving". I also liked that the recipes were very international with spicy harissa paste or cheese in oil.

And now for my wishlist item:

The Oxford Companion to food Alan Davidson
Why I really need this book:
Already a food writing classic, this Companion combines an exhaustive catalogue of foods, be they biscuits named after battles, divas or revolutionaries; body parts (from nose to tail, toe to cerebellum); or breads from the steppes of Asia or the well-built ovens of the Mediterranean; with a richly allusive commentary on the culture of food, expressed in literature and cookery books, or as dishes peculiar to a country or community. There's nothing else like it. It's an encyclopaedia of food that manages to be both erudite and witty and utterly engrossing. If you haven't come across this book yet, you're missing out like me.I am told one needs to exercise a stern discipline  when using The Oxford Companion to Food for reference purposes. A clear warning should be printed at the beginning advising those who consult it that whole mornings can easily be frittered away, as the reading of an entry relevant to one's topic of research leads fascinatingly to a chain of others, not quite so pertinent ... The Companion remains an erudite and essential volume for anyone seriously interested in food. No, my special mastermind subject is not food, but I feel as a food blogger i will be even better informed by having this volume at my side.

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