Long lists of ingredients – some familiar, some exotic; instructions on how to transform them into delicious treats; vivid and tantalising photographs and even an insight into other cultures and cuisines… I love cookery books!
I kinda, sorta agreed, about a year or two back, to a moratorium on the purchase of new cookery books. Of course, I found loopholes – finding bargains in second hand shops and boot sales, receiving them as gifts (it's no accident that my Amazon wish list is full of cookery book suggestions) and being sent them to review by kind publishers and PRs.
You understand, though, right? I mean, it's an addiction. I have to have them. I need to have them. My precious!
Here are twelve I've been enjoying using this year and eighteen (out of 100s) on my current wish list:
Twelve I have
The Ultimate Recipe Book
I've recently rediscovered The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen. Published by BBC Books in 2007, it's based on her popular Ultimate series in which she chose a classic recipe, researched variations, garnered advice from fellow industry experts and then experimented until she achieved her ultimate version.
The Scandinavian Cookbook
The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann is one of the front-runners in a growing library of books on this increasingly popular cuisine. Published by Quadrille in 2008, it presents the recipes by calendar month, leading us gently through a year of changing seasons and ingredients. The photography, by Danish photographer, Lars Ranek, really draws me in.
Ever a lover of cheese tarts, here's my post about the book and Trina's recipe for Swedish Cheese Tart.
Fifty Recipes To Stake Your Life On
Many know Charles Campion as a food critic but have forgotten that he was once a hotelier and restaurateur. Fifty Recipes To Stake Your Life On, published by Timewell Press, is both cookery book and culinary memoir and thus fulfils the role of entertainment as well as cookery book. His recipe for banana cake is my absolute favourite.
Real Fast Food & The Kitchen Diaries
I know, I know, that's two books but they're both by Nigel Slater so I'm listing them together! I really like Slater's approach to food – he clearly adores food but he's not a snob about it; he appreciates eating well but understands that people don't always want to spend hours preparing and cooking and he's very much a proponent of adapting a core recipe or idea based on what's in the fridge and store cupboard.
The Kitchen Diaries is half recipe book, half food diary. Presented seasonally, there are plenty of great recipes that fit the changing seasons and available ingredients. We have enjoyed making (and eating) a number of recipes from this book since we bought it a couple of years ago, so I'm resolved to rectify my omission in not having blogged any yet!
(Different editions of Slater's books are printed by a range of publishers).
Pascal Aussignac is the Michelin-starred chef proprietor of London restaurant, Club Gascon. Cuisinier Gascon, his first book, was published by Absolute Press in 2009. It's a really beautiful book, full of mouth-watering recipes and beautiful images, not just of some of the dishes but also of life in Gascony and I love how it celebrates the food traditions, culture and recipes of his home region. I made the braised ox cheeks Bordelaise earlier this year.
Eggs & Sauces
Michel Roux's Eggs, as you might expect, is a collection of classic egg recipes from omelettes, poached and fried eggs to sauces, custards and soufflés, the book provides a 100 recipes. I blogged baked eggs and scotch quails' eggs.
Sauces is, in some ways, an even better reference book, providing recipes and techniques for over 200 classic sauces. Roux has updated the 2009 edition to reflect today's tastes for healthier, lighter sauces without sacrificing flavour or texture. We were happy with the sauce suprême with sherry and mushrooms, which required a number of steps but was not difficult to achieve.
Hix Oyster & Chop House
Mark Hix' book, Hix Oyster & Chop House, was published by Quadrille a few months ago. Just the one recipe I've cooked so far, the Baked Parsnips with Lancashire Cheese, is enough to earn it a place on this list! I am also keen to try the shipwrecked tart, especially as I've had a pre-Christmas delivery of walnuts from my friends in Limousin.
Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles
I only started preserving last summer and now I'm somewhat addicted to making jam, pickles, ketchups and chutneys… I found the Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew a huge help on understanding the basic techniques and giving me a starting point for recipes. Published by Lorenz.
The River Cottage Meat Book
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Meat Book is a hefty tome. First, the book introduces you to meat – understanding it's provenance, the food chain and the impact of our own purchasing choices. This it does without preaching or patronising. Next comes guidance on how to cook, broken down by method (from roasting to slow cooking to preserving and more). Although I've read quite a bit of the first section, I want to delve more into the cooking chapters. Thus far, we've really appreciated the incredibly simple but tasty suggestion for leftover roast chicken croquettes.
The Billingsgate Market Cookbook
Written by C J Jackson, the Director of the Billingsgate Seafood Training School, the most useful aspect of The Billingsgate Market Cookbook for me is the reminders on exactly how to prepare fresh fish. Earlier this year, Pete and I learned how to scale, gut, skin, fillet and bone fish when we attended a course at the school and we bought this book as a primer on the skills we learned.
There are, of course, many more books on my cookery book shelf that I would happily recommend, but I have tried to focus on those I've used this year.
Eighteen I want
At Elizabeth David's Table
Elizabeth David is credited with changing the face of British cooking, introducing the nation to the delights of Mediterranean cuisine at a time when it was just coming out of a period of post-war austerity. This new collection of her recipes has been published on the 60th anniversary of her first cook book and, unlike previous titles, the recipes are illustrated with beautiful colour photographs. At Elizabeth David's Table: Her Very Best Everyday Recipes was published a couple of months ago by Michael Joseph.
Tender: Volumes I & II
Having grown more and more of our own vegetables over the last decade, we've just taken on a full size allotment plot. Now, more than ever, I think we'll be able to appreciate Slater's guides to eating vegetables and fruits, knowing that he also loves to grow his own. Volume I deals with vegetables and Volume II with fruit.
Of course, having enjoyed Eggs and Sauces (see above), I'd like to complete the set with a copy of Michel Roux's Pastry, published by Quadrille. I imagine this will be another great reference guide to all the classic pastry recipes, from choux to shortcrust.
Saraban: A chef's journey through Persia
The latest opus by Greg and Lucy Malouf, Saraban: A chef's journey through Persia, has just been published by Hardie Grant. I picked up a copy at a friend's house last week and suddenly a few hours had raced by and I was on page 135! The book is a work of art – large, coffee table format; rich and vibrant photographs, bronze metallic pages with intricate fretwork windows at the start of each chapter. In reading the opening chapters I learned more about the history, religions, culture and food of historic Persia and modern day Iran than I have from years of following news and current affairs. Then came shorter chapters relating the Maloufs' experiences as they toured the country. And of course, lots of recipes. I am hoping to get my hands on my own copy of this beautiful book soon so I can finish reading the text and try making some of the recipes.
As we're going to Lebanon in April, I am also hoping to pick up the Maloufs' previous book, Saha: A Chef's Journey Through Lebanon and Syria.
How I Cook
Although I don't have Skye Gyngell's first two books (A Year in my Kitchen and My Favourite Ingredients) I have flicked through both recently, at a friend's house. Gyngell is the renowned chef behind Petersham Nurseries Café and many friends have praised her recipes to me. All three of Gyngell's books are published by Quadrille. My friend had also just got Skye's latest book, How I Cook, published by Quadrille, as are the others and it was this third book that most caught my eye.
Roast Chicken And Other Stories & Week In Week Out
I've long been intending to get a copy of Simon Hopkinson's much lauded Roast Chicken and Other Stories, published by Ebury. Of course, I've tried his roast chicken recipe and am a convert to his instruction to liberally apply butter all over the bird. I'm also very tempted by Week In Week Out with stories about and recipes for 52 ingredients.
Around My French Table
Dorie Greenspan is well known for her baking books of which there are several. However, I first came across her name relatively recently, in blog reviews for her latest book Around My French Table, published recently by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In this book, Dorie shares more than 300 recipes that she enjoys cooking in her Parisian kitchen. From the reviews I've come across, I think there's an emphasis on French cooking but with forays around the rest of the world too – Dorie herself describes the collection as eclectic. However you describe it, it looks good!
I'm very lazy at heart so I can't resist a book based on the premise of reducing washing up! Clarissa Dickson Wright's Potty, published earlier this year by Hodder & Stoughton, shares 100 recipes that can be cooked in one dish. And of course, as I associate Dickson Wright with full flavoured, comfort food, I figured they'd all taste good too.
Ottolenghi & Plenty
Late to the party, I don't yet have Yotam Ottolenghi's first book, despite the uniformly glowing reviews from friends and critics alike. And yet, I'm already pining for his latest offering, Plenty (both published by Ebury). Known for his skill in transforming simple, fresh ingredients into something much more special, I'm particularly interested in his recipes for vegetables I normally don't love, like broccoli or beans. I like the reputation his recipes have for working well and faithfully recreating what he sells in his London shops.
The Essentials of Italian Cooking
Marcella Harzan's name comes up quickly in conversations about Italian cooking. Her 1990 title The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is due to be reissued next summer by Boxtree and I hope to pick it up then, if I haven't found a second hand copy of the original edition already. Fans tell me that the recipes are accurate, straightforward and authentic.
Cured: Slow Techniques for Flavouring Meat, Fish and Vegetables
It's one of those things I'm always meaning to try – curing my own meat and fish. (Not so fussed about the vegetables). Apparently, Cured: Slow Techniques for Flavouring Meat, Fish and Vegetables by Lindy Wildsmith is just the ticket, with informative text and helpful illustrations.
The Oxford Companion to Food
Every now and then I'll ask some obscure food question on twitter and wait for the replies to roll in. It's better than Google, as the twitter fooderati are a superb filter, resulting in the most useful or entertaining answers – usually a mix of both. A friend who often replies most helpfully has revealed her secret weapon as Alan Davidson's The Oxford Companion to Food, edited by Tom Jaine and published by OUP Oxford. This impressive encyclopaedia contains over 2,650 alphabetical entries on foods, cooking terms, culinary tools, countries and traditions plus biographies of chefs and cookbook authors. It's not a cookery book, but still, I covet it.
Forgotten Skills of Cooking
Speaking of tomes, Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking, published last year by Kyle Cathie, has over 700 recipes! Owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Allen is one of Ireland's best known chefs and TV food presenters. Her daughter-in-law Rachel Allen seems better known here, but Darina shares decades of skills and experience in this book. I love the idea of relearning forgotten cookery skills, from making one's own butter and yoghurt (my sister and I used to fight over the thick top layer of my mum's home-made yoghurt) to smoking fish and curing bacon.
My go to expert for macaron advice is the talented Edd Kimber (more on him on the blog soon) but until he writes his own gorgeous book, I've been lusting after a copy of Pierre Hermé's Macaron. This French language book was published by Agnès Viénot in 2008 – an English translation is apparently on the cards. (Both the macaron books I already own are in French too, so I guess I can dust off my language skills once again for Mr Hermé.
Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook
I am a fan of Alexander McCall Smith's series on The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I've been to Botswana twice (on safari) and been warmly welcomed, though never encountered anyone quite like Mma Ramotswe. I love Stuart Brown's idea to create Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook, based on this larger-than-life fictional force of nature. The recipes are apparently pretty good and interspersed with quotes from the book, suitable illustrations and sumptuous photographs of the food.