Cooking the books
It seems that an appreciation of food and the collection (in many circumstance hoarding of) cookery books go rather hand in hand; I know that I’ve got a load of them and each time I move house I wish that I had less due to their tendency to be hardbacks and a good 300 pages long. Of course I have never and probably will never be able to actually do this and instead my stash will grow and grow. It’s not even like you can really use a cook book on a kindle and save moving weight that way – how can you tell that the food is going to be good when you have to look at a monochrome drawing of it?! So yeah, my books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon but which are my faves? Which are the ones that I’ll turn to in times of need when I want a recipe that it tasty, easy to make, impressive looking or all three?
I am sure that everyone has their faves and it would be great to hear what they are (please comment below) but I think at the moment mine are:
Indian Essence by Atul Kochhar
Published in 2004 I’ve been lucky enough to own this little gem for more than 4 years now and not once have I messed up one of the recipes or been disappointed by the taste of the finished dish.
Covering the full range of Indian food from shared starters like pakoras and samosas with a vast range of vegetable dishes for when you have vegetarians round it’s a fairly easy book to follow, indeed some of the recipes are a few simple paragraphs long. You’ll need a well stocked spice cupboard (if you’ve seen Atul on Saturday Kitchen think about how many spices he uses in a dish) and on occasion a few of the main courses require a large amount of prep (like tandoori spicing and roasting a whole chicken) before you’re even ready to “start cooking” but if you’re a fan of Indian food you’re probably already used to this.
The biggest problem might be trying to get a hold of it, my mum looked a few years back and was told that it was out of print. I think they do have a steady supply at his restaurants though and if you’re lucky he might have signed it.
Eat Caribbean by Virginia Burke
Long before Levi Roots got the UK cooking Jerk chicken and covering their chips with Reggae Reggae Sauce I’ve been cooking Caribbean food with the help of this little beauty of a book.
With a simple recipe for Jerk seasoning and sauces which are then used to Jerk up about every meat know to man and an additional large amount of vegetables there are also classics such as festival, braised oxtail and ital (fresh fresh vegetable) stew – all perfect for the colder months of the year. There are also a large number of mutton dishes, my favourite being roast leg stuffed with plantain and a spicy tomato sauce.
None of the dishes will wow guests with the presentation but the tastes are great. I’ve tried a number of Jerk recipes and this is the best my a long way.
Pork & Sons by Stéphane Reynaud
Rather niche and not one to keep vegetarians happy this is a book that covers everything, and I mean everything about cooking and eating pigs. Bacon, pork, black pudding and anything you can make these cuts (and more) will be in here.
In addition to my other books there are a number of preparation techniques in here like making sausages that while I’ll probably never use (I have made sausages before and it was rather a labour intensive task) them it’s an interesting read anyway. Alongside this there is a nice narrative about the French family the book is based around and their life as pig farmers; it’s always nice having some history and technique along with your recipes and the pictures used are extremely enticing.
With this being a book written by a rural French family a few of the ingredients are a bit difficult to get a hold of but probably something a good butcher should be able to help with. It’s a good book, lots of different types of recipe and houses in a nice tactile soft cover. Well worth a look.
Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver
I’m guessing that almost everyone has one (if not more) Jamie books. Like him or loathe him his recipes are accessible to everyone, well written and his books very well illustrated.
I really liked his American travels so bought this book pretty soon after it came out (you can now get it really cheaply) but was happy to pay the full price. It contains recipes that just sound (and look) damned tasty and to he honest totally bad for your health (which every once in a while[more often than I should] I kinda like), pretty much your stereo-typical American food from deep south jumbo and dirty rice to NY Mac ‘n’ cheese and cheese steaks with trips to the West coast and the deserts in-between.
Great comfort food cooking with easily found ingredients (and when not, like in the case of alligator more English alternatives are suggested) it’s a great book to have in the arsenal, and as I mentioned really cheap to pick up now.Tweet