My Top Ten Cookbooks
Nov 28, 2019
This is one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write. Yeah, yeah I know it sounds dramatic but to me it really is.
If you know me at all you know my obsession with cookbooks. I read them like novels. I love to get inspired by the recipes, learn a new trick or two, and most importantly read the stories behind the food. So you can imagine me trying to pick my top ten is my version of hell. Too many to choose from!
I thought about this alot and I really wanted to share books that have helped shape me as a cook and ones that fit with my philosophy on cooking; simple and approachable where the goal is really to be inspired to take what you learn and make it your own.
Because good cooking is simple - know how to use ingredients well, have confidence in your techniques and let your own creativity lead the way.
I like to think this list really shows that.
This one is probably my number one recommendation to anyone who wants to learn to be a better cook. If you haven’t watched her Netflix series, it’s worth checking out. And I promise you’ll want to be making some of the recipes after watching. The book is so thoughtfully written and simplifies cooking into four components. If you can master these you’re laughing in the kitchen. The illustrations are brilliant - breaking down so many different things from knife skills, to salad dressing ratios, to flavour combinations. The buttermilk roast chicken will change your life or if you’ve been scared of homemade mayo, you have to give it a try.
If you buy any book from this list, make it this one!
This was the first cookbook I bought for myself when I moved out on my own. Sally is a chef who experimented with altering some classic techniques and using them in a new, healthier way. This book is all about a healthy approach to food and cooking. No trendy diets (because those never last) just a way of eating that nurtures our bodies as well as our souls and senses.
It’s a great resource book with over 600 recipes; the sauces, salad dressings, rubs, flavoured oils and marinades section is probably my favourite. I have the pie crust and pizza dough recipe memorized and use them all the time.
Donna has been in my life since I first got into cooking many years ago. Her food is simple and the styling of all her books is beautiful. She has a way of doing just as this books says, taking the basics and making them brilliant. This book gives you tried and true recipes you'll want to master and lots of variations and flavour change ups so once you're confident in the basics you can make it your own. All of her books are stunning to look at and this one is no exception.
Jamie was my first tv chef crush. There have been a few more let's say that but he was the first for sure. I used to watch The Naked Chef religiously. Again, his approach to food has always been a simple one. Good ingredients, simple techniques and a lot of love. I have a few of his books as well, I picked this one because it’s focused on seasonal ingredients which is a beautiful way to cook.
He’s got some great tips from growing his own garden so if you’re looking to grow more of your own produce you’ll love this. A few favourites; strawberry halloumi salad, tomato salad, game ragu with pappardelle and the bakewell plum tart
The goddess herself. If Jamie was my tv chef crush, Nigella is definitely my girl crush. Also, I was clearly on a British kick in my early days 😉 Nigella has this relaxed way in the kitchen and much like me is about empowering you to follow your own instincts in the kitchen. She wrote this book while working her job as a journalist and still to this day will not say that she's a chef or even a cook. She loves to eat. It’s a good reminder that eating is one of the simple joys we have in life. She’s got such a passion for food and this book is about finding your own passion for food even in everyday life.
A fairly recent book that is absolutely brilliant. Lots of tips on how to be an inspired shopper, focusing on the ingredients and techniques to lead your cooking. I teach this concept with my students because as much as I think it’s great to be organized and do some planning, life is happening so it’s a great thing to be more confident in this approach.
Alison has such a laid back approach to cooking I feel like we could be best friends if we met…..one day! This book is close to the theme that mine will be; the recipes are meant to inspire you to get creative and adapt, switch up, or maybe not even follow it. She calls them ‘highly cookable’ and I couldn’t agree more. Casual, delicious food is where it’s at.
The soy brined halibut and buttered radishes with fresh za’atar are amazing. And if you make anything, you must try the salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread, like NOW!
I love books that simplify a sometimes complicated cuisine. You may have heard of his other books which are great, however most of the recipes are quite involved. This book is all about everyday cooking and showing you you can cook type of food you want in a simplified way and in under 30 minutes. His acronym for SIMPLE is genius:
S - Short on time
I - Ingredients 10 or less
M - Make ahead
P - Pantry led
L - Lazy day dishes
E - Easier than you think
Each recipe notes which of these are being used (most times more than one) so it helps even more with your planning and/or shopping. Try the orzo with prawns, tomatoes and feta or the pan roasted salmon with pine nut salsa.
If you don’t know the Smitten Kitchen
blog you should probably go check it out now. Another to add to the list of delicious food made simple. Amazon description really says it all with this one:
"...a happy discovery in the kitchen has the ability to completely change the course of your day. Whether we’re cooking for ourselves, for a date night in, for a Sunday supper with friends, or for family on a busy weeknight, we all want recipes that are unfussy to make with triumphant results”
I love the miso maple ribs or the romesco, chickpea and smashed egg bowl to name a few.
If you haven’t come across Food52.com
yet you should probably go check it out, like now! I warn you though you’re going to want to buy everything there. Not only do they have an amazing shop, the recipes and resources are amazing.
Kristen (an Editor at Food 52) has compiled a list of recipes that are as the title says, genius. Recipes get you thinking about using an ingredient in a different way or a different technique to completely shake things up. And because you know I believe cooking should be fun and interesting (no one wants boring food) but doesn’t have to be complicated, this book show is a perfect example. Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with butter and onion will blow your mind. Three simple ingredients makes the best pasta sauce you’ve had in a while!
Tell me which one you’re buying first!