Confessions of a cookbook addict

collection of cookbooks

Today I was back on BBC Radio Derby talking about cookbooks and how certain celeb cookbooks can sit there untouched because the recipes can seem daunting. I know the amount of cookbooks here run in to triple figures. Some are husband’s, some I’ve brought, some have been given to me and some have been sent to me by publishers. I’m not the kind of person that the survey mentions who finds cookbooks daunting, if anything I find them a challenge. Come on I’m married to a man who has built a pizza oven and tandoor in the back garden out of junk. The hurdle of having to make a vacuum chamber so he can make Heston’s Black Forest Gateaux from In Search of Perfection is not going to faze him.

However I do understand how people can find recipe books daunting. There is a particular cookbook *cough* Jamie’s 30-min Dinners *cough* of which I find the recipes superb, but very difficult to follow. There is almost too much information in the recipe meaning that the most important information can easily be missed. Too often recipes for those who don’t have the confidence to cook are long-winded when they could be significantly shorter, or is it because certain cookery skills we take for granted are not common to everyone and need to be spelled out.

In interview I was also asked if technical terms can be confusing to the uninitiated and if you really needed to know these fancy words to cook well. At this point thank goodness it was radio. My face was a picture when asked if I knew what a ballotine was. I do but had a total mental block and all I could see in my head was a certain Dragon from the Den and yes I also forgot that chiffonade was relating to thinly cut flat herbs and vegetables and not related to fluffy chiffon cakes. I think I redeemed myself with the umami and cartouche explanation.

I would guess about 1/3 of the cookbooks I own have ‘celeb chefs’ as their authors. Some of these cookbooks are big favourites of mine. Nigella gets mixed press, but I do love her recipes as they always work for me and are down to earth. Mr Ramsay however… I was given about 4 of his books a few years ago and I don’t think I’ve cooked from any of them. Next time you’re near a charity shop look at the cookbooks. I would bet your bottom dollar there is an untouched cookbook there by Gordon Ramsay and most likely one by Ainsley Harriot.

So which celeb chef cookbooks do you love and which cookbooks are sitting on the shelf gathering dust?



47 thoughts on “Confessions of a cookbook addict”

  • I’m a Nigella fan, and the same about Gordon Ramsey. I love reading Nigel Slater but rarely cook anything from it. Jamie’s 30 and 15 minute meals are good, but I’m contemplating giving away Italy and Dinners – again, never cook from them.

  • Ahh, no idea what cartouche is. Those are tough questions to be asked on radio. I’m not generally a fan of celebrity cook books as I view them as a gimmick, but I do like Nigel S and Nigella. Is Dan Lepard a celebrity? His Short and Sweet is one of my favourites. Spin offs like the River Cottage handbooks are really good, but none of them are actually written by celebrities.

    • I’m a huge fan of the River Cookbooks. I’m one of the rare people who didn’t quite get Short & Sweet. I borrowed it from the library and soon took it back surprising given how much baking I do.

  • Nigella is my heroine. So many recipes turn out wonderful from her books. I’ve tried the odd one from Hugh FW and Delia, with success too. Won’t touch Jamie though, I abhor his politics.

  • Tana Ramsey gets my vote, I have four of hers. Great family recipes which can be poshed up for a dinner party or thrown together for a mid week meal. Some “family” recipes are a bit out there, bacon muffins freshly made for breakfast with a quail’s egg in the top? It’d be lunch by the time I’d get to eat! Easy to follow recipes though with logical steps that match how I cook and prep along the way. But as with most cookbooks the oven goes on far too early! I don’t like Delia’s How To Cheat though as it’s a bit pretentious, I just use her principles to store cupboard cook, though I draw the line at bought frozen mashed potato!

  • Quickly goes to look for celeb cookbooks on my shelf……..none! About 30 cookbooks and not one by a celeb. I think perhaps it puts me off. I do want Rachel Khoo’s book though so I can pretend I am her ;)

  • I live in France (but am from a stone’s throw of Derbyshire originally)… and i’d just like to say that translations of cookbooks are rarely a success. Perhaps I should add that I’m a pro translator (not of cookbooks) and a passionate cook, so I’m picky.

    Case in point – one of Jamie Oliver’s books that has been translated into French. Seriously, it just does.not.work. There are translation errors, things missing, products that just aren’t the same…

    This has taught me, in fact, not to buy translated bookcooks in general, or to treat them with suspicion. I actually dread to think how awful some of the great French chefs’ recipes are when massacred by some translators.

  • Hi Jules, I adore Nigella mainly because she is my favourite food writer. She just is so good with words. I am not a celeb cook book fan but am addicted to charity shop cook books, mainly retro but in recent times I have found so many goodies for next to nothing. One of the best books I have read is Rococo’s latest chocolate book and also Mission Explore full of fun food news for adults & kids alike.
    I do need to get some River Cottage books too and also love all the Donna Hay for visual inspiration even though I am useless at food styling!

  • I love 30 min meals for the challenge (can I do it) and then remake quite s few things. Dan is brilliant. Not getting on with Paul Hollywood I’m afraid. M Roux best yet tho

  • Delia has to be my most used celeb books, followed closely by Jamie, but I’ll seek inspiration and ideas from anywhere. I think The Silver Spoon is possibly my favourite cookbook of all time – it is a book entirely devoid of ego

  • I love my James Martin books and use them all the time, also really like Rick Stein…Jamie Oliver’s haphazard approach just doesn’t work for me, nor does Gary Rhodes’s super precise method. My latest favourite is Paul Hollywood’s How to bake

  • I really enjoy your blog. I found it googling for a baked doughnut recipe and became hooked – I will definitely be a regular reader.

    I am a cookbookaholic – last year I had a bit of a clear out of some I had as a teenager and now never use, and have cut them down to around about 130. Most I consider to be inspiration rather than sticking absolutely to the recipe, but I do like Nigella and often go back to Delia (although she annoys me on tv). What I love most are the cookery books I inherited from my grandmother; they fall open at her favourite recipes and the pages are marked with splashes of sauces and cake mix…and every now and then I come across a 30 year old shopping list tucked in the pages.

  • Jamie Oliver every time! Followed closely by Nigella, HFW and Ina Garten. All of whom inspire me to cook. Book I refer to for basics – Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.

  • Cook book addict here and yes – even though I many – Nigella and Jamie are well -thumbed (apart from Nigella’s Kitchen which seems to have marked a downward spiral). Tamsin Day-Lewis is my most used author – not very s’leb but she’s been on the telly (and her brother is an A lister). Don’t have anything by Gordon and threw Tana Ramsey’s book out within a week – previously uncountenanced. I do cook from the Roux Brother’s cook book – the earliest celeb chefs and Raymond Blanc has doable recipes. Like you I won’t be stopped by lengthy or slightly difficult (like a challenge) but can’t do fiddly or over-complicated. Just remembered Hugh FW – his books are fantastic.

  • I also love Nigella and have lots of her books. She’s been there for since I started learning to cook, and has always been reliable. I own two of Jamie’s books, but never cook from them – though I do sometimes look up his recipes online and find they work really well. Similarly I don’t own any Hugh FW books, but I’m working my way through his recipes on the Guardian website! But the most surprising one was a Gordon Ramsay book called ‘Healthy Appetite’, which I picked up in a charity shop. I don’t really know why I bought it, because I didn’t really expect to like it, but actually, it’s really good. Lots of delicious, quite easy recipes. I’m pretty sure he didn’t really write it – there’s quite a long list of other people who were involved in various capacities! But I don’t really mind, because it’s a good book.
    PS I’m totally going to try and slip the word ‘cartouche’ into conversation tomorrow!

  • I didn’t know what a cartouche was – you learn something new every day! I’ve made a couple of Jamie recipes that haven’t worked – I don’t think his publishers proof them very well – and since then have used them for inspiration rather than directly following the recipes. Ditto my hummingbird Bakery book. My all time favourite recipes are by David Lebovitz – they just always seem to work.

  • I have Michell Roux which I like. Just got Raymond Blanc and not tried yet. I cannot get on with Jamie Olivers’s 30 minute meals and gave that one away. I like Ainsley Harris and, of course, Delia.

  • I keep resolving to use my cookbooks more but it isn’t happening, but I do keep buying more. I’ve got quite a few Jamie Oliver books and they are great but none of the 30 min / 15 min books. My Gordon Ramsay Sunday Lunch book is unloved, I cooked one thing from it and just didn’t get on with it, and it was a bit of a boring book. My most used are the River Cottage Veg Book (inspired by ‘argh my husband has decided to be veggie!) and Jamie at Home book. Love Nigella’s books too, I have the Nigella Kitchen book but I haven’t used it much, but good food porn.

  • My favourite cookbooks are Mary Berry’s and the Good Housekeeping – they are both bibles and I almost always find what I’m looking for there!

    I’ve got ‘Fast Food’ by Gordon Ramsay which I never use because the recipes never seem to work! I love Gordon on TV though.

  • There are no Ramsay books staying in this house, and I’m not sure I’d keep the Rick Steins either. There’s plenty of Delia, Nigella & Nigel, some Hugh FW. I like Jamie’s British cookbook, but my go to is still Tamasin Day Lewis’ Kitchen Bible. If you’d like a Silver Spoon, happy to give you mine. I’ve cooked from it once, it’s now a book end.

    Oh, & I couldn’t not mention Short & Sweet, which I love, and then there’s an ancient BeRo baking pamphlet. Must make some Australian Crunch soon!

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