Cook books to keep coming back to


Growing up in a house overflowing with good cook books definitely encouraged me to start cooking a few years ago. I was definitely the kind of person who was way too scared to just open a fridge and make up something to cook, so having books overflowing with great ideas made it really easy to get going. After a while, most people end up with a few books/chefs that they can always rely on for food that suits them. I've put some of my favourites below. Add your own (or say if you disagree!).

Appetite by Nigel Slater (c.£20) - If you only want to buy one book to keep in your room during term then I would have to pick this. Slater wrote this 8 years ago, before it was cool for English food writers to base their books around a well stocked cupboard and seasonally changing fresh ingredients. He's a realist, so he certainly isn't against fast food, but he shows how that doesn't have to mean microwave food. Another section walks you through the ideal larder (probably a bit beyond the student bedroom, but definitely worth picking from), before he moves through 'some really useful stuff' (bread, sauces, soups), 'pasta and noodles', 'vegetables', 'fish', 'meat', 'fruit' and 'pudding'. Every section is about giving you ideas rather than dictating set recipes to you. Whether you're lazy or proactive, this book will get you doing a lot more in the kitchen.

Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson (c.£10) - voted the most useful cook book ever a couple of years ago...difficult to disagree. The book is sorted alphabetically by main ingredients, making it perfect to use if you're overloaded with anything in particular. Hopkinson consciously writes as a lover of good food rather than a professional chef so you can rely on him for practical yet delicious meals, whether standard options such as roast chicken or more unusual delicacies such as sweetbreads.

Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros (c.£20) - I'm not one who usually buys cookbooks based on their photos, but I could easily make an exception for this quirky book, which (if you can get over the pretentious name) is full of great recipes taken from all the countries to which the author is connected by family (Finland, Greece, Cyprus, South Africa and Italy). She has a cool Finnish take on roast potatoes (called Hasselback); her Moussaka recipe is the best I've found and if her marinated steak sandwiches don't get you salivating then you must be a vegan.

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (c.£20) - In the last few years he's become quite the celebrity chef, with continuous TV shows that I've never watched, but if you want to catch him at his most lucid (and appealing) then his Meat Bible is where it's at. He might have become a bit too omnipresent for people's liking (with books on kids cooking, fish and preserving as well as a mushroom book about to be published) but good meat is definitely his passion. Starting with his persuasive essay in favour of meat eating , he takes a holistic approach to the whole matter of meat: how to gauge its quality, how/where to buy it, before going through particular meat types (Beef, lamb, pork/bacon, poultry, game and offal) in great detail. Almost half the book is therefore more of a text book than a recipe book, but in the second half F-W gives you some definitive recipes split up by cooking technique (roasting, slow-cooking, fast cooking, barbecuing, preserving and meat thrift).


Apparantly "A Cranks is a

Apparantly "A Cranks is a little thing which starts a revolution"

Thanks for the knowledge!

Thanks for the knowledge!

Bread Books

The two books Crust and Dough by Richard Bertinet:
These are superbly simple and sensual books about bread. Excellent instructions (even comes with a dvd in each book) and photography. Emphasises the beauty of simplicity in bread.

The Bread baker's apprentice by Peter Reinhart:
In-depth instructions and discussion about bread. He takes a more scientific (and complicated) approach compared to Bertinet's books. However it will give you a deeper understanding provided you assimilate the information well. Nevertheless excellent, just not as approachable.


Cranks - The orginal and best vegetarian cookbook. Well over 25 years old now, but still absolutely relevant and amazing. It's packed full of wholesome hearty recipes. The range of salads is impressive, as are the cakes, breads and puddings. It contains most of the meals you'd expect to find in a vegetarian cookbook, as well as a lot of more unusual dishes. The recipes are very down to earth, focussing on making a dish great by virtue of it's main ingredients, rather than fancy presentation.

There are a number of later Cranks recipe books - "Entertaining with Cranks" is very good too, with more of a focus on food to impress.

You can pick up second hand copies of the original 1982 "The Cranks Recipe Book" for just a few pounds on Amazon. This book should definately be in any aspiring cooks cupboard, be they vegetarian or nor.

I've always been put off by

I've always been put off by the name (!) but will definitely check them out now.

McGee on Food & Cooking by Harold McGee...

If you want to know in real detail about ingredients, techniques and food science then this is the book to get. No "recipies" as such included, just information about pretty much any ingredient you could think of. Organised into chapters covering dairy, meat, vegetables and legumes to confectionary and alcoholic drinks. Also excellent sections on cooking methods.

It's not cheap at £30 so borrow or check it out at a library first but you'll probably end up buying it.

Cook books to keep coming back to two... Argh, too many "to"s

I'm definitely a fan of anything written by Nigel Slater, and Fearnley-Whittingstall is priggish but good. Speaking of people who wrote cookery books using seasonal ingredients before it was cool, I'd like to recommend Delia Smith to anyone starting off this year - like so many second year students, for example - with newfound access to a kitchen, a will to use it, but a lack of basic knowledge.

 Her basic book 'Complete Cookery Course' was written in the 70's, but bangs on about seasonality as if it were a product of the 00's. Each recipe is a well-known classic, or at least a serviceable meal option, and the basics are all there too - e.g. white sauces, gravies, pancakes; all the things you're supposed to just know how to cook, not learn, but which we all need help on. I've never had a recipe from this book fail, although some are a little boring and need adjusting.

 The best thing, though, is that this book was produced by the bucket-load, is in any good charity shop and will probably be in many parent's cupboard or bookcase.

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