Really wonderful cookbooks that you’ll actually use

May 21, 2021

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

How many of us have a bookcase overflowing with cookbooks gently gathering dust? I must admit I have a few. But how many of them do we actually use? Cookbooks are by their very nature rather like coffee table books – jammed with mouthwatering photography, they instantly get us salivating. But they are so much more than a library of recipes. Take The Silver Spoon for example, first published in 1950 as Il Cucchiaio d’Argento, which is given to brides on their wedding day and so keeps certain culinary traditions alive. Or bestsellers such as Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat which incorporates her thoughts on how and why food is so important and life-enhancing. Or, the emotional connection you have for that slightly battered Mrs Beeton’s Cookery and Household Management your grandmother passed down to you. Or one that shows you how to present your food beautifully, like those from Donna Hay.

Cookbook sales soared during the pandemic and the chefs love churning them out, so which ones should we choose? I thought I’d ask a few friends for their tried and trusted favourites…

JULIA: “Lovely Thai dishes.”

Green Mangoes and Lemon Grass by Wendy Hutton. Expertly-written recipes from one of the stars of Asian cuisine. MORE INFO

PENNY: “My VERY old cookbook which never lets me down is dear old Katie Stewart.”

Katie was a British cookery writer whose columns in The Times made her a household name in the 1960s and 1970s. She had a column every Saturday and a whole page of recipes once a month. In 1972 she published The Times Cookery Book, a classic of which her obituary in The Telegraph said: “Unlike some recipe books from the early 1970s, Katie Stewart’s book remains timelessly useful. Alongside the glossily pristine productions of Gordon Ramsay, Sophie Dahl, Ottolenghi et al, The Times Cookery Book is almost always recognisable from its broken spine and pages dog-eared and stained with the oil and gravy of many years’ service. Clean replacements are hard to find.” You might strike lucky at Amazon

MARVELLOUS-MOTHER-IN-LAW: “Claire McDonald’s cookbook. It has excellent recipes from her time at the world famous Kinlock Lodge on the Isle of Skye.”

Ranging across soups, first courses, fish, poultry and game, meat, eggs, vegetables (both as a main course and a side dish), salads, pasta and rice, stocks, sauces, and breads, cakes and puddings in every shape and form. Claire’s book is a remarkably reliable source of foolproof and marvellous recipes. MORE INFO

CARINA: This is my favourite cookbook as works well with good carbs but also healthy stuff too and filling enough for my boyfriend!

30 Day Kick Start Plan by Joe Wicks. 100 delicious recipes with energy boosting workouts from the man who kept the nation moving during lockdown. When we gave his recipe for Chicken & Mushroom pie it was fantastically popular with our readers. Joe has sold more than 3 million books in the UK alone and has more than 4 million social media followers, where fans share their journeys towards a leaner, fitter lifestyle. MORE INFO

CLAUDIA: “Not only is Dr Rupy beautiful, his recipes are amazing 😻

Doctor’s Kitchen 3-2-1 by Dr Rupy Aujla is a brand new way of cooking delicious food, that is completely life changing. Every recipe is formulated to contain 3 portions of fruit and vegetables per person, serving 2 people and all made in one pan. Curries, stews, traybakes, casseroles, salads and more. Take the effort out of cooking and put health and enjoyment back in. MORE INFO

BUMBLE: “My latest purchase, The Roasting Tin, has very lovely photos and very simple to cook dishes.

What busy woman doesn’t like the idea of a one pot meal? Super easy, fuss-free yet impressive recipes are what this book is all about. And Rukmini Iyer has a new book out for alfresco dining – roll on the British summer – which features vegetarian BBQ dishes. For more info, try these links: The Roasting Tin and The Green Barbecue.

GERALDINE: “Always something inspiring in this cookbook. Because it’s only five ingredients, you’ve probably got at least four of them.

Quick and easy food, this is Jamie’s most straightforward book. Each recipe may only use five ingredients, but the combinations are mouthwateringly good, super quick and budget-friendly. MORE INFO

DEIRDRE: “I tend to use different recipes from all of my books. Best for me though is Aldo Zilli – Fresh and Green vegetarian book.”

She first enjoyed Aldo’s cooking ideas when she saw him doing a demonstration at Althorp house. All of his recipes are meat-free and his book is well illustrated with clear instructions and simple but delicious, healthy recipes. He adds a personal tip on each page. Deirdre’s favourites are Coconut and coriander soup, Aubergine cannelloni and Cappuccino mousse. MORE INFO

TOM (A&G’s technical wizard): “My wife Marla and I have two favourites”

His is Speedy Bosh by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, authors of the highest selling vegan cookbook ever and features 100 new quick and easy plant-based meals in 30 Minutes. Marla loves Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon as she says it’s great for those starting out on a vegan lifestyle.

ANNABEL: “I am hooked on Gardening to Eat – every recipe is brilliant, simple and tasty.”

By Becky Dickinson, published by Pen & Sword Books, Part I is all about growing fruit and veg. Part II is divided into sections by vegetable or fruit with advice on what variety is the best one and tips on sowing, planting and harvesting. Finally it gives recipes using the featured vegetable or fruit. It has made Annabel yearn for her own vegetable garden and fruit cages, but in the meantime she is buying the ingredients and savouring the recipes. MORE INFO

(We’ll be writing about the book I’m holding in due course)

… and lastly, my new personal favourite is Recipes From Le Rouzet: An English Cook in France Cathy Gayner.

Down to earth, with really useful cheats and descriptions that you just know are going to help you recreate her simple yet mouthwatering dishes in your own home. 100% of the proceeds from the book go directly to the charity Cathy founded, Age Unlimited, which provides much needed support for young people growing up with no prospects, and the very elderly who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. BUY NOW

Apparently the number one fastest selling non-fiction book in the UK is the Pinch of Nom cookbook. Slimming food has, apparently, never tasted so good and it’s the must-have first cookbook from the UK’s most visited food blog. Have any readers got a copy/tried any of the recipes? I’d love to know what you think if you have… please leave a comment underneath this article.

For more ideas, check out BBC Goodfood’s top 20 cookbooks of 2020.

Buy hey, if you don’t want to invest in a physical book, remember there are 800+ recipes waiting for you right here on this website. Simply type in an ingredient in the Search bar and Bob’s your uncle. Print your chosen recipes and get cooking!

Or, pick up free supermarket recipe cards like my friend Sally, who says “Can’t say I use just one recipe book, all my best dishes have come from the Waitrose cards… really easy to follow and straightforward.

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