Food Cookbooks you really DO cook from...

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Richard Zambuni, May 23, 2019.

  1. This thread is inspired by the discussion on the Jamie Oliver restaurant empire failure. So the question is, among the cookbooks you own, which do you actually turn to for recipes on a regular basis?

    For us it's quite limited, but Ottolenghi (2 different books - Jerusalem and another whose title I forget), Nigel Slater (Tender, Kitchen Diaries etc.), and some regional Italian books (by Valentina Harris) get used quite often. For specific recipes, I often just use the internet and surprisingly most of the internet recipes have worked perfectly well. I've also used the Forum's Martin Z's recipes now and again.

    As for the other manifold cookbooks that my wife owns (of the 'food porn' genre), I think David C is right that we've probably cooked just one or two recipes from them and never gone back.
    Antti Jokinen likes this.
  2. The most heavily used for me are

    Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Bible
    Ottolenghi (can't recall which)
    Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice

    So, it would appear, specific cuisines.

    I spend a lot of time on Great British Chefs but not sure how many recipes I have actually cooked from there!
  3. I’ve four Simon Hopkinson books which get used regularly although I’ve been using them that long I barely need them.

    Hugh F W’s three good things is very good for midweek teas after work.

    French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David is a very good reference point.

    Beyond that it’s mainly all web based such is the plethora of blogs out there at present.
  4. Every Grain of Rice and Bruce's Cookbook.
  5. Another vote for Nigel Slater, especially Appetite. It's lay out is a recipe with added suggestions and replacements so you can cook with what you have or fancy rather than an exact list of ingredients.

    Then there is Delia, Complete cookery course. It's was a gift from my mum to my wife on our first Christmas. We were surprised how much we missed it when it went missing, it was behind another book for six months! All the classics and cooking times etc.
  6. Nigel Slater - UK
    Food & Wine - USA
    Sale e Pepe - ITA
  7. The Aga cookbook.
  8. Good idea for a thread.

    Ottolenghi - Jerusalem and Plenty
    Ginger Pig Meat Book
    Madhur Jaffrey Curry Bible
    A pair of Rick Stein books I got years ago - one of the first presents my now wife gave me.

    But yes the internet is a mine if care is taken. I'm a fan of a blog called Veg Recipes of India at the moment.
  9. I think one retained recipe per cookbook is a very impressive ratio. I've got nowhere near that; A great recipe is not so much a set of instructions as an induction into an aesthetic(yes,I know).
    Really good recipe books in English are endangered almost to the point of extinction, killed on the one hand by stupid, stupid TV chef picture books and on the other by the dead hand of Phaidon, who scoop up potentially interesting projects and turn them swiftly into piles of steaming ordure.
    A good though not at all inflexible rule is to avoid any cookbook containing photographs. There is no greater admission of failure of the written word than the need to resort to misleading illustration. I do have hundreds of wonderful books, though. At the top must be Richard Olney's Simple French Food. By the very act of following one of the recipes therein one immediately understands something more than one did before, even if some of his methods are now a little outdated. Marcella Hazan's books are similarly instructive( I particular recommend Marcella's Kitchen, relatively little known but perhaps the best of all). Of the modern authors I particularly recommend Jakob Kenedy's two outstanding volumes;some of the great classics, such as the books by Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson, are more cultural stimulus than infallible instruction, but perhaps may be even more useful on that count.
    If I want to cook a new to me dish(a classic, not an improvisation that I can perfectly well do on my own) then I read ten or twenty versions and come to an understanding of what it is about; but I fear I could bore unhelpfully on this subject for hours, and I come more and more to prefer the excitement of great ingredients cooked quite simply. That is of course a matter of experience rather than recipes but having had an in depth involvement with recipes is probably an important part of that experience.
    And while these things are entirely a matter of personal preference I find the tiresome deployment of Pelion upon Ossa in which Yotam Ottolenghi persistently engages the very antithesis of what good cooking is about, though a good cook will of course turn out something nice to eat using his recipes.

    That's a brilliant resource for modern Indian cooking, and one has to admire the cunning which brings it to the top of any relevant search! I agree there's tons of good stuff on the internet, though as with the internet in general one has to know quite a lot already to sort the wheat from the very abundant chaff.
  10. They tend to be by scholar-cooks about cuisines I didn’t grow up with. The best stand as a form of anthropology as much as cooking manuals. Favourites include Diana Kennedy, Barbara Tropp, Elisabeth Luard, Paula Wolfert, Alice Waters, Claudia Roden and David Thomson. I think it’s no coincidence that almost all of them are by women.

    The only restaurant coffee table style books I’ve ever used repeatedly are the French Laundry one by Thomas Keller and Merchant House by Shaun Hill. The recipes are for the most part inspiring, accessible and actually work.
  11. The books I use the most are anything by Ricky Mohan (entirely Indian, mostly Northern) and the Casino Hotel Bangaram cookbook. Keralan food as I was served daily in their restaurants and exceptionally simple. Not freely available here though. That leaves an entire bookcase of now almost entirely unused books.
    Thom Blach likes this.
  12. YouTube :)
    Alex Lake likes this.
  13. Despite having 40 cook books I only use 3 with any regularity and these are as follows:

    Meat: The River Cottage
    Fish: The River Cottage
    The Geometry of Pasta: Jacob Kenedy (of Bocca di Lupo fame)

    The Meat River Cottage book in particular is an excellent resource
  14. I have shelf after shelf of cookery and food books, but actually rarely follow a recipe from any of them, using them mainly for reference and occasionally inspiration.

    La Technique and La Methode by Jacques Pépin are perhaps the most referred-to, especially if I'm dealing with something I don't cook very often.
    My two copies of the Readers' Digest's Cookery Year are well thumbed, the older one to the point of falling apart. I will often consult the Cookery Year in combination with a book, the title of which I forget, by Robert Carrier.
    Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail and the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's large Meat volume are also useful reference books.
    One of the most be-spattered books is, I'm not ashamed to admit, Delia Smith's One is Fun, which came out while I was at University, shortly after moving out of a catered hall of residence into bedsits. I haven't made it for decades now, but the clam risotto in that was a regular favourite. Hardly an authentic recipe (though more authentic than her more recent risotti she made in TV series). Perhaps I'll buy a tin of clams and make it again. Or maybe not.
    I have a couple of Sabrina Ghayour's books, and have occasionally followed recipes in them. They somehow seem more accessible than Ottolenghi.
    Two useful books I refer to when I feel the desire to recreate dishes I ate, or just heard about, in the 70s are an old Good Food Guide book with recipes from restaurants and Recipes from Country Inns and Restaurants, a collection of recipes from restaurants of the early 1970s, edited by Delia Smith. For similar purposes from the 1980s, Kit Chapman's two Great British Chefs volumes are useful, though it is sometimes obvious that the featured chefs may not have given up the entirety of their secrets.
  15. Not a book, but I increasingly turn to the Guardian’s “How to cook the perfect...”
    Seafood Paella and blini( not together) spring to mind as recent examples.
  16. Agreed. That really is an excellent series.
    Andy Leslie likes this.
  17. Yes, Felicity Cloake has done the cooking public a great service. It's fantastic having references to several recipes in one place, a judgment about what the best features are of each, and set out in a way which doesn't mean you need to accept everything she said but can also make your own judgment.
    Will Taylor likes this.
  18. I admire, and have used on numerous occasions, her recipe for the perfect Black Forest Gateau!
  19. I find it varies from the good to the seriously bad, depending on the sources she has consulted.For a seriously bad column look at the most recent one on fresh pasta.
    It does seem to me a rather plagiaristic way of making a living but I am probably old fashioned.
    Chris Davies likes this.
  20. It is also fireproof, as I discovered by leaving it on a low gas flame overnight.
  21. I find one either uses a cookbook quite often, or not at all. Amongst the 'winners' are:

    - all of the Fuschia Dunlop books (she's basically taught me to become a decent cook of Chinese food, which is amazing)
    - Hummingbird Bakery and Nigella Lawson for baked stuff
    - The Geometry of Pasta (by the chef of Bocca di Lupo, excellent pasta sauce recipes)

    I've also learned a decent amount from Ruhlman's 20 and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat - without following the recipes themselves though.

    Online, Felicity Cloake has a number of excellent recipes (but I don't use her cookbook much at all), and I can't speak highly enough of Serious Eats, especially for meat-focused cookery like steaks and BBQ.
    Chris Davies likes this.
  22. Hee hee :)

    I don’t know about its fireproof qualities (although from years of investigating fires I know that it is difficult to burn a stack of tightly-packed paper) and I did wonder whether these Reader’s Digest books might be regarded as rather infra dig in Forum circles, but our copies of both volumes are among the most well-used of all of our cookery books. The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Cookery by Ann Willan is also a very useful guide to ingredients and techniques.

    Another particularly well-used book of ours is Alastair Little’s Keep It Simple.

    I might do a list of other favourites after examining the book shelves.
  23. I can't cook but have been happy to buy Susan, who is a wonderful cook, any book that she felt might helpfully extend her repertoire.
    The first in 1969 was a Robert Carrier paperback which provided some memorable dishes but has long since disintegrated.
    Purchases then tended to follow the Chefs in whose restaurants we regularly enjoyed some great dishes. As a result we have some of Prue Leith's including more recently the Cookery Bible.

    2 by the Roux Brothers: New Classic Cuisine and At Home with the Roux Brothers followed by 3 by Michel Roux Sr: The Collection, Sauces and Desserts and 3 by Michel Roux Jr: The French Kitchen, A Life in the Kitchen and the Le Gavroche Cookbook - all are still used for occasional special dinners.

    5 by Raymond Blanc but it is the slimmest of the 5, his Foolproof French Cooking, which is most consistently pulled out of the rack in the kitchen.

    Nico Ladenis's Nico still provides some of our favourite special dishes and one, a starter, will be cooked this Saturday evening as part our at-home family celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. Roux recipes will provide the main and dessert. Susan is at Borough Market as I write this.

    I hope the deliberately eclectic wine list from the cellar lives up to its promise.

    Susan also still uses George Blanc's Simple French Cooking [Recipes from my Mother's Kitchen] despite the fact that our single visit decades ago to his 3* restaurant in Vonnas was disappointing although admittedly not for gastronomic reasons.

    Perhaps surprisingly the single Heston Blumenthal At Home book continues to provide a couple of special treats while, maybe unsurprisingly, the Gordon Ramsay book, A Chef for All Seasons, is hardly ever opened.
    Two other unused books are Your Place or Mine by Jean Christophe Novelli - a chef whose food we enjoyed over 20 years ago but whose book was overcomplicated - and Food for Thought by Alan Murchison whose food we enjoyed when he was at L'Ortolan.

    There are 3 Jaime Oliver books: The Naked Chef, Jaime's Dinners and The Return of the Naked Chef which still provide enjoyable meals alongside two of Gino d'Acampo's books: Hidden Italy and Gino's Italian Coastal Escape.
    There are of course many others that are almost never looked at but all the above with the exception of two identified continue to have some value and use.

    OTOH our age is the clearest pointer to the choices outlined above and yet is also a reason why some of the most exciting dishes are no longer regularly cooked. What was a genuine passion has been something we are now both usually content to allow others to provide while finding more simple things done well rewarding enough.
  24. Like many here I have lots of books and many are referred to infrequently. The ones that get a regular delve are all ingredient-focussed, I guess as a consequence of being vegetarian and mostly eating seasonally. So, these are all well-thumbed:
    Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book & also Fruit Book
    Lindsay Bareham's Big Red Tomato book, also her onion/allium book.
    Chez Panisse Vegetables & also CP Fruit.

    Particularly now we're growing lots more fruit & veg the (happy) challenge is to make the best of, say, the tomatoes when there's a sudden rush of ripe fruit and these are all really useful.
  25. Stuff the cookery books — have a splendid evening on Saturday, Nigel! Congratulations to you both :)

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