I buy quite a few cookbooks, I read them like novels, and I’m terrible at remembering to make recipes from them or following the rule (ironic really as I spend most of my time writing recipes for others to follow), but I use them for inspiration for what I cook and recipes we make. Below is the list of the cookbooks that have had an impact on the way I approach cooking over the years, some I may not have looked at for a while, but at the time they had a big impact, and I think they are definitely worth picking up…
The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook – Grace Mulligan
First published in 1984, this was always on my mum’s shelf, and it’s the book I learned to cook from, and taught me how to bake. I still use the lemon cake, syrup sponge and dumplings recipes to this day.
Simple – Diana Henry
Diana Henry is amazing. Her Fig and Pomegranate trifle is the reason I first fell in love with her. I made it for Christmas one year, and quite frankly it was genius. She’s also responsible for putting Fig liqueur (creme de figue) on my radar radar (try it in prosecco at Christmas with a twig of thyme, trust me!), and the food photography is stunning.
Ottolenghi – The Cookbook (but then again anything he touches makes the list)
When I discovered Ottolenghi and his cafes (we’re talking about 10 years ago) I’d never seen anything like it, and he transformed the way I looked at food. I found his use of colour, and his approach to visually displaying food really influential. His new dessert book ‘Sweet’ is brilliant too – I saw him in Bath a few weeks ago on the book tour, he’s just such an inspiring and innovative chef.
Falling Cloudberries – Tessa Kiros
This is my favourite modern day cook book. Firstly, it’s beautiful, and secondly, is as much an autobiography as it is a cookbook, as alongside the recipes are stories and snippets from the various places Tessa has lived all around the world. Look up the feta and chickpea dish – I make it all the time as a side dish with dinner, it’s simple, super yummy, quick to make and a real crowd pleaser.
It’s the training chef’s bible, with all the classics done properly. More of an encyclopedia, than a cookbook, this is a great resource for honing your technical skills such as making a hollandaise or souffle just the way it’s supposed to be. I remember receiving a copy when I was a trainee chef and I still refer to it today.
The Moro Cookbook – Sam and Sam Clark
Sam and Sam are gurus when it comes to North African and Mediterranean cuisine. If you haven’t been to their restaurant in Exmouth Market, you absolutely have to go. I must confess, we’ve used their harissa recipe on more than one occasion… because it’s by far the best one!
Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible
Every curry recipe you will ever need is in here. Lamb Kofta curry is a particular favourite in the Atkins household.
How to Eat – Nigella Lawson
I remember buying this book when it first came out 15 years ago, and reading it cover-to-cover like a storybook. At the time, it was really different – up until then, cookbooks had been all about the rules and doing things perfectly, whereas Nigella had a chatty style, celebrated the occasion of eating, and made complicated-sounding stuff simple and accessible.
Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery (Laura, Product Developer’s choice)
“The first thing I ever made were her rock cakes, and I still use these recipes religiously for things like Yorkshire Puddings, pancakes and proper old-school home cooking stuff”
Bear in mind that Mrs Beeton does hail from 1865, and the preface sets out the book’s goal as to “provide men with such well-cooked food as that from their clubs and well-ordered taverns” so a few choice words with regard to feminism. Still, she knows how to make a damn fine Yorkshire pudding.
Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries
Again, I’ve read this from cover to cover. If you’ve not heard of Kitchen Diaries before, Nigel writes down the recipe for every meal he ate for a year. It has great ideas for using up leftovers and eating the seasons. Also, it’s nice to see that some days he eats a bowl of broccoli, or beans (admittedly homemade) on toast for dinner! It’s a joy of a book – a fun game is to flick to today’s date and eat what Nigel Slater had on that day (yes, that’s how I get my kicks…)
Nose to Tail Eating – Fergus Henderson
Google Fergus Henderson, and you’ll find a man wearing either a pinstripe suit or butchers’ overalls, but usually wielding a pig head. He set up St John’s restaurant all over London, and is massively respected in the chef world, for being the man who knows meat. He believes no part of the animal should be wasted, and is un-apologetically meat-centric. If you’re feeling brave at the butchers, Fergus has got the answers.
Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
Not a cook book as such, but it did fuel the fire for my cooking passion. I was given a copy of this by my first ever head chef, as a leaving present when I was 18, signed by all the 20 chefs I’d worked with in that restaurant, as I went off to study product development at college. It talks about how life was in kitchens back then, and … if I’m being honest, did make me question whether I was making a terrible mistake and quickly found myself back in a kitchen, not in a lab!
What started out as a website with a cult following, is now the must-have vegan cookbook, which proves that eating junk food doesn’t always have to revolve around a beefburger. It’s bit sweary, but if you don’t mind a few eff’s, the recipes are great. Owning this book also inspired us to develop our jackfruit Bahn-mii, which has gone down a storm as our new vegan lunch option.