In praise of the good old fashioned Cookery Book…

Who reading this still buys cookery books? I know they seem a little old fashioned in current times, but I have to admit that I still love a cookery book and I know I’m not alone in this. I would wager that there are lots of us squirreling away books with pages covered in flour, spicy fingerprints and scrawled notes in the margins. If you were to walk around my house, you would find two bookshelves dedicated to current favourites, a shelf for baking, an overflow shelf for the current favourites shelf and lastly, a dusty old shelf stuffed with cookery books that I should probably get rid of but can’t quite bring myself to. 

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Every once in a while, my husband will mention that we do seem to have quite a lot of cookery books and maybe we don’t need all of them (he does this about my running book collection too – to look at it you’d think I’m some kind of ex-olympian, not a slightly obsessive 38 year old). It always falls on deaf ears – I might need a recipe from one of those books one day.

Despite the fact that we can all access any recipe for any food we could imagine in seconds thanks to the internet, physically turning the pages of a book, folding over corners and making shopping lists for potential recipes is still one of my favourite things to do. Sat in bed on a sunday morning with a coffee and a stack of cookery books, lazily planning the day’s eating and cooking is my idea of heaven.

There are a few that particularly stand out for me –  I once bought Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookery book ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’ after a few glasses of wine, slowly remembering when the Amazon parcel came through the door a few days later. That book was so pleased with itself that it had forgotten that food is there to be enjoyed – one of few books to have been culled.

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Then there’s the pistachio nubuck, decoratively boxed Laduree book that I spent weeks searching online for, only for its (beautiful, embossed) box to be scribbled on in biro by one of the resident toddlers within a week of it entering the house. What was I thinking?

In amongst weird purchases like the mottled second hand old fashioned books bought on a whim in a charity shop, or the persian/vietnamese/whatever is currently trendy book that I saw at a friends house or on social media, there are also favourites that I revisit time and time again –

The Riverford Farm cookbook – this came free with my veg box a long time ago and is full of sensible recipes that work. I have since bought copies as gifts for people and it’s always been well received.

Nigella Bites – One of my first cookery books. I learned to cook with this in my early twenties and for a long time the linguine with garlic oil, pancetta and parsley was my go-to dish when friends came over for dinner. A dish that we would serve with bottles of £5 wine from the shop at the end of the road, 20 Marlboro lights and a Moby playlist.. (actually I made the linguine again not very long ago and it’s still good – these days without the accompaniments).

Every book Bill Granger has ever written. I know it seems lazy not to pick just one, but I honestly can’t. I love Bill Granger’s food – the recipes all work, are delicious, and cater to every level of motivation from ‘really cannot be arsed’, to ‘desperate to impress’. Plus, Bill doesn’t need you to go out and find honey from bilingual bees (I’m looking at you, Ina Garten) and he won’t hold it against you if you don’t own a selection of heavy based copper pans (sorry, Raymond Blanc). The icing on the cake is the food photography – full of sunlight and beautiful crockery. It’s because he lives in Sydney isn’t it? I’m green with envy.

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Richard Bertinet – Pastry – I also have his books Dough and Crust and like them equally. I think the format and layout of his books work brilliantly. They are easy to follow and full of useful photos, my daughter has started to use these recently too.

So that’s it – my roundup of current favourites and a weak justification for all those books crammed into shelves around my home. Let me know which cookery book you couldn’t live without. I’m off to show this to my husband…

Horn & Cracker

5 thoughts on “In praise of the good old fashioned Cookery Book…”

  1. Lovely blog – also love Bill Granger books! Need our Delia Aga book a lot & Delia Christmas and I love both the Hemsley & Hemsley books currently. But my husband is the cook in the house and he says Jerusalem Ottolenghi!


    1. Thank you. I have to agree that Ottolenghi is amazing and so are Hemsley & Hensley but I’ve never been a fan of Delia (I think I must be the only one!).


  2. I’d be lost without my Marcella Hazan books, particularly Marcella Cucina. I’ve recently come across The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. I bought it in January and it has yet to find a place on my shelves because I reference it so often.


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