Top Cookbooks

In the run up to Christmas quite a few people have asked about which cookbooks I would recommend and with Jamie O’s 30-minute meals being declared the fastest selling non-fiction book I thought it was apt to share my top choices of cookery books. Some in my list were published this year and some have been long time favourites of mine. All (apart from 1) have pride of place in my kitchen and are aenthusiastically splattered with the remnants of dishes. A messy dog-eared cookbook is a sign of a great cookbook. Of course for food geeks like me the holy grail of cookbooks is an ancient copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which Hubs kindly gave me for Christmas last year, but these are not the easiest to come across.

For ease I have linked all the books to a well known online retailer, but they are all easily available from anywhere that sells books. A few of these books are currently for sale for bargain prices at The Book People

Darina Allen – Forgotten Skills of Cooking (2009) This monster of a book could quite easily be described as an encyclopedia of cookery. Full of lots of recipes including recipes things that have probably slipped off the foodie radar. We were lucky to pick up our copy up for the bargain price of £8 at a local discount bookshop.

Perfect for: keen cooks and people with an interest in classic cooking techniques.

Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 (2009) I love this bread book. Every recipe I’ve done from it has worked well and it’s one of the few bread books around that remains to be interesting, informative and not patronising. Interestingly they have brought out a US version.

Perfect for: both beginners and experienced bread bakers

Mark Diacono – Taste of the Unexpected (2010) Mark is Head Gardener at River Cottage and this book is all about not filling your veg plot with fruit and veg that is readily available but experimenting with more unusual plants like Egyptian Onions. The book not only has tips and advice about growing these unusual plants but also recipes for them.

Perfect for: keen veg gardeners.

Stefan Gates – Extraordinary Cookbook (2010) This is the 1 book on the list I’m yet to own, but I know it’ll be a fab book. Come on, if Stefan Gates can turn uninterested kids on to the wonders of food this book will be great. There appears to be two different covers for the book.

Perfect for: people who like to experiment and do something different in the kitchen.

Mallika Basu – Miss Masala (2010) I’ve been avidly following Mallika’s blog for years so when I heard she was releasing a book version of her blog I was very pleased. The book is down to earth and gives all the secrets of great indian cooking away. All the recipes I’ve tried so far has been superb with my favourite being the Murgh Makhani.

Perfect for: Indian food lovers, people who don’t have loads of time on their hands to cook good food.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – The River Cottage Meat Book (2004) I honestly believe this is the bible for meat. If we ever have a query about a piece of meat,be it how to cook it or what to do with it you can guarantee this book has the answer.There is various different covers for this book but inside they are the same.

Perfect for: carnivores, suitable for beginners all the way through to enthusiasts.

The Cookie & Biscuit Bible (2010) This book has been and gone over the years and is about to be republished again. Catch it while you can because it really is a great book. Has recipes for every type of biscuits & cookie you can imagine. I use this book a great deal in my classes because the recipes work so well. What is great is that the book has a section about baking for people with allergies.

Perfect for: kids who like to bake, baking fans,

Sarah Raven – Garden Cookbook (2007) I first bought this book as I was drawn in by the amazing photography, but it  has turned out to be an incredibly useful book in the kitchen. When ever I’m lost for inspiration with fruit or vegetable Garden Cookbook is my first call. I also love how it is set out in seasonal order. This book is to blame for us getting a bit obsessed with growing odd coloured vegetables. It all started with the purple sprouts!

Perfect for: grow your own fans, lovers of great photography, fruit & veg fans!

Nigella Lawson – How to be a Domestic Goddess (2003) This isn’t a book for healthy types. It’s all about comfort baking. If your squeamish don’t look at the amount of butter that goes into these recipes! A classic cookbook that was the first one I bought when we moved into The Cottage. It was this book that gave me the cooking bug. Nigella has brought out many cookbooks since releasing this one in 2003 but it is still my favourite. The brownies and banana bread from this book are the best.

Perfect for: any budding Domestic Goddesses/Gods, cake lovers

What cookbooks would your recommend for presents?

15 thoughts on “Top Cookbooks”

  • I have the cookie and biscuit bible, I bought it for a fiver in a discount bookshop in Brighton years ago. I also have it’s partner volume chocolate and coffee bible! They’re both chock full of stuff, to be honest I don’t think I’ve cooked anything out of either but they are excellent reference material if you are looking up recipes for fairly traditional things.

    • I think I picked mine copy for £5 from a garden centre! I haven’t seen the chocolate and coffee one. I like the technique bit at the beginning with the basic recipes.

  • I’ve got a really weird little paperback called the Christian Aid Book of Bread (which I think you can only get direct from Christian Aid) which is absolutely fantastic for bread.
    There’s nothing super-super clever but there are loads of different bread recipes (including lots from round the World) and, like your above, I’ve never tried anything that didn’t work first time.
    I can totally recommend it – and you’d be giving to charity at the same time :-)
    I also have the Michel Roux trio of Eggs, Sauces and Pastry, all of which I love and use all the time.

  • Love all of the above. Another of my favorites is the Ottolenghi books – Beautiful, simple dishes with beautiful flavors.

    I love cookbooks and think they make great presents for people who enjoy cooking.

  • Hi Jules,

    Great post. A few of my favourites in there, including obviously Nigella, which is well thumbed in our kitchen.

    It has got me thinking which are my favourite cookbooks, so expect a blog post from me soon on the subject!

  • Great list, Jules! Totally agree about the bread book, meat bible and Darina Allen. I’m hoping to get Taste of the Unexpected for Christmas. I’ve had a year of getting into Mexican cookery, and have stocked up on Rick Bayless books, thanks to Amazon.

Say hello!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.