Utterly unexhaustive list of good cookbooks. Somewhat related to family cooking – in a spurious manner
People are always asking me how I do it. How do I whip up healthy and nutritious meals for my family and friends night after night? So healthy and yet so
super tasty, the flavour just oozes out? Alright, no-one has ever asked me that. My husband once said ‘this is good’, but he might have been referring to the football results, I can’t be sure. And of course there was the memorable moment when daughter agreed to eat a second helping of chicken. Son would eat anything. I love Son. I love him the best.
Anyway, I do like to cook. I occasionally invent recipes, but mostly I devour cookbooks. I don’t read them in bed like several of my friends admitted recently – that is just weird friends. I read them in totally normal reading places like on the couch in front of Big Brother worthy current affairs programs and sitting in bookshops ignoring daughter’s mournful looks passing some time while waiting for important meetings.
Since moving back to London I have been inspired by a few new ones, but I also have some long standing faves, so thought I would highlight a few favourites for anyone who isn’t as gifted in the kitchen as yours truly.
- Favourite kid’s cookbook – anything by Annabel Karmel, especially New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. Yes, she is slightly weird looking with the biggest hair seen since that Swedish chef in the Muppets. Wait, did he have hair? Maybe he was just a bit crazy looking. He should totally release a cookbook anyway. Yes, she is a bit weird and she loves the butter and the sugar, but my god, her recipes work. They get vegetables into sneaky places, they have tasty sauces, there are lots to be eaten in the hands (try Top 100 Finger Food for children learning to eat on their own) and they cover lots of different stages, from purees to quite old kids. Some are easy as pie (totally clever food related pun there), some are more time consuming, but mostly because you are cooking up dishes full of vegies and other healthy stuff that kids will eat. It’s worth it. As a side note, everyone knows I worship Gina. I do not worship her cooking. Her cookbooks suck. Unless you enjoy cooking in the style of a 1960s boarding school. In that case you will love them.
- Favourite healthy eating cookbook – Minus the Boombah by Jane Kennedy. This book has been a revelation in our house. It is the first cookbook I have ever seen that has superb recipes that taste fantastic, are very easy and generally quick and are GOOD FOR YOU. Single-handedly responsible for our renewed health in this house. Well, that and banning Tim Tams (which are about 25 quid a packet at the Australian grocer down the road, but SO worth it). She does healthy versions of fast food – the beef vindaloo is awesome. I am not convinced by cauliflower rice but I see its place. It is a genuinely good cookbook.
- Favourite cooking bible – could there be any other than Steph’s? For those who are not familiar, Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion is an encyclopaedia guide to food and cooking. It’s a rare day I don’t refer to it – from how long to cook the perfect hardboiled egg, to where to chop off the asparagus tips, to how to make the perfect potato salad. No pictures, so it’s not for whipping up a dinner party, but if you ever want to know what to do with a vegetable, what goes with what, how to measure out 60grams of cornflour without scales, then Stephanie is your woman.
- Favourite Asian cookbook – it was a toss up, as I adore David Thompson’s Thai Food and Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking, but I also have a bit of a problem cooking Chinese/Thai at home – I think it’s the no MSG. Yes, it’s tasty, but can it ever really replace eating a green Thai curry and masses of bread and rice in a Thai restaurant? Be honest people. But I don’t seem to have the same problem cooking curries at home. Thus, I love Madhu Jeffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. It is indeed the bible to all curries. It is also a bit of a revelation if you think all curries are loaded with coconut milk and oil. Yes, some are, but there are also hundreds that are actually heavy on the yoghurt and just general tasty flavours. She’s a goodie.
- Favourite ‘when I’m trying to impress but also tastes really good’ cookbook – Ottolenghi by Yoram Ottolenghi. If you don’t know anything about it (where HAVE you been?), Ottolenghi is a small chain of cafes in London that feature ‘Mediterranean’ food (a lot of it to take away), but I would probably call it Mediterranean on the Middle Eastern side of things. I think I love it because it is so different from what I have been cooking with for the past decade – new flavours, new ways of cooking, new ingredients. Warning – you will need to restock your spice cupboard as it is VERY heavy on different spices, but it is TOTALLY worth it. I could eat the chargrilled broccoli EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
So that’s five. OK, not an exhaustive list perhaps, but I my staff of writers has totally let me down. And I’m hungry. So for a far more detailed and better list than mine, please see The Observer’s top cookbooks of all time here and here. Maybe if I had more recipe books from 1570 on my bookshelf I would actually get some real praise.