I was out for lunch with hubby and a group of friends today (Wagamamas – Chicken Teriyaki Donburi ;p Oh the kimchi!) and I had one of those really lovely moments where my friends asked for my advice on something foodie related 🙂 It sounds silly, but it’s a really great feeling that your friends know your ‘speciality’ as it were, and value your opinion in that area enough to ask real questions about it, not just chat because it’s something you’re interested in.
The friends in question are a married couple, and I mentioned something me and Dave were having for dinner later in the week, so they asked if I followed recipes with my cooking, and what books/sources did I use. They’d gotten into a bit of a rut meal wise, cooking the same old things time and time again, so they were after a little inspiration as to where to find new recipes to mix things up a little. As someone who suffers from exactly the opposite problem – always eager to try new recipes so that I forget to come back to the good ones again – I was happy to oblige!
My top source for recipes has got to be BBC Good Food – be it searching for a particular ingredient within a recipe on their website, flicking through Instagram for some gorgeous looking meals or reading through the latest Good Food magazine, the odds are that if I’m cooking it, it’s from BBC Good Food. Not only are the recipes almost always top quality, we very rarely have a duff meal, but the instructions are simple to follow, it’s so handy having everything online so I can look ingredients up whilst I’m out and about, and sharing is really easy as well, from saving the recipes to my Good Food account, to messaging a friend a recommended recipe – like one of my all time favourites, Chicken Biryani.
The variety is of course vast – the cuisine to the difficulty, as well as showcasing a wide range of chefs alongside the Good Food Editors. Both the website and the magazine always have really interesting articles about things like local produce, the low down on all the different uses for a certain ingredient, as well as focusing on seasonality and being very health conscious. that being said, there is always room for some extremely decadent and not so healthy options as well, including my now famous Black and White Brownies that went down a storm at work this week! I had marriage proposals and everything! ;p So with a track record like that, it’s no wonder that BBC Good Food is my go to recipe source.
I do still love my collection of cookbooks though – which I hope to expand exponentially over the next few years once we’ve moved and I’ve got some proper storage space back! I’ve got a couple of folders of recipes from home, as well as ye olde faithful 30 Minute Reader’s Digest Cookbook which saw me through my leap from mum-taught cooking to developing my cooking skills for myself. The best thing about this is the pictures for each recipe – as you will see that is an essential part of what makes a good cookbook for me – and the heavily broken down step-by-step instructions. Nothing is left to the imagination, which is so great for a learning cook. It is already well loved and a little sticky on certain recipes, but I will certainly be hanging on to this for a very long time indeed.
Other noteworthy books in my collection include those of Nadia G – chef and comedienne, the star of Bitchin Kitchen. I learned a lot of kitchen tricks from Nadia G, mesmerised by her incredible Italian-Canadian accent, bizarre kitchen decor and phenomenal outfits. She takes a lot of her cooking from her Italian roots, then throws in some weird and wacky twists just for the hell of it, which pretty much always turn out to taste perfection. She is absolutely mental in the best possible way, and her shows (and books) are absolutely hilarious, if not for the faint hearted. It’s a slight shame from a cooking fan point of view that she is focusing more on her passion for music right now, which isn’t my cup of tea, but all the best to her and kudos for doing what she wants. Regardless, for some really great recipes that will make anyone enjoy cooking that bit more just for the entertainment value, give Bitchin Kitchen a go, along with her two cookbooks.
Whilst I love all kinds of cuisines, both eating and cooking, the foundation of my cooking is firmly seated in Italian cuisine. These were the kind of meals we ate a lot of at home, pasta being super easy for my mum to whip up a batch of for all kinds of occasions, and also a really great starting point for getting me to learn the skill of timings! As such, I love my Gino D’Acampo Gino’s Pasta recipe book as a go to for any time I want some authentic Italian pasta. The simplicity of Italian cooking is so wonderful, and yet the flavours it yields make it really something very special indeed.
I also love my Nigella Lawson books – Nigella Express & Nigellissima. Though Nigella is the first one to proclaim her cooking is by no means authentic Italian but inspired – it is still obviously firmly in the roots of pretty much anything she does and I love how she places the importance of the cooking on the end result, being able to enjoy the meal you’ve just cooked. If that means being a little lazy, a little self indulgent… then why the hell not? I am hoping to use a few of her recipes for Christmas this year – I love the idea of Romanesco used in place of broccoli for a truly festive vegetable side dish! And the turkey wrapped and stuffed with all sorts of Italian goodness… yum!!!
A few newer additions to the collection include Deliciously Ella – a perfect book to have to hand for our low meat diet. If I’m struggling to find anything in any of my other books without meat, her vegan and gluten-free recipes are a great source of inspiration, and are all amazing in their own right anyway! The vegan bean chilli is absolutely incredible, as is the Mexican Quinoa bowl. Again, I’m learning so much from this book and way of eating, I find it all so fascinating and I think that’s a big part of why I enjoy it so much. I’ve always loved learning and discovering new things and ideas, and a lot of what I’m learning from Ella is transferable to other aspects of cooking, like using brown rice in other curry recipes, or quinoa as a complete alternative. Her vibrant and positive attitude is also completely infectious, and the book is totally beautiful in itself which is a massive draw for me.
On that note, my most recent addition to the cookbook collection, is What Katie Ate at the Weekend. I saw this in Waterstones one day and knew I had to have it before I even opened it – the cover is so beautiful and enticing with its pretty and full to bursting table of food and gorgeous decorations! It’s no wonder the pictures are such an integral part of this cookbook, food photography being Katie’s first occupation, but she is a damn good cook to go along with it! We’ve had a few recipes from this so far, and they are all turning out beautifully 🙂 Again, the really well laid out instructions as well as the photos of each meal make it so easy to cast your eyes over the recipe and think, ‘Yep, I can do that!’
I really do think it is so important to do your research and think carefully about what recipe books you are going to buy. In the same way that different people learn better from different teachers, not everyone will get on with every set of instructions they are given. Me for example, I cannot get on for the life of me with any of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. I don’t like the paragraph style instructions, where you have to scan and filter for the information you need for each aspect of the meal, and I find he uses too much of his own wording in the instructions for me to understand it clearly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that he has so much character and personality to put into his books and writing, I just prefer instructions to be clean, simple and basic. I also struggle (as I keep banging on about) with cookbooks with minimal photos, such as Gordon Ramsay and one of my Thomasina Miers books. I love the recipes I have tried from Mexican Food Made Simple – but there aren’t enough photos to encourage me to make many of the recipes as I’m flicking through, which is a shame. And, as if to prove my point – my Dad loves all of the above chefs and cooks from their books on a regular basis 🙂
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting this blog post to be that long! I haven’t even covered the massive enjoyment I get out of reading all my favourite food blogs, or scrolling through Pinterest, and I’ve still got plenty more cookbooks sitting there that I love and use regularly! But these are my favourites, and I hope I’ve given you enough tips to work out the books you can choose for yourselves, or some inspiration to give one of these a go 🙂
What books do you all use? Any unusual or hidden gems you can recommend?!
Lotsa Love, Abbie x