Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Must-have Cookbooks

I own a mountain of recipe books,  you can find them in almost every room of the house (not the bathroom - that would be unsanitary...) but only a selected few are worthy of the kitchen shelf.  The well-thumbed books pictured above are my go-to books and if I had to I could survive with just these books to sustain me.  Each of them has become an essential part of my arsenal for distinct reasons and I felt a need to share them with you.  None of these books are specifically written for a gluten free diet, but it is very simple to convert recipes to suit your needs.   

The Glasgow Cookery Book is the book that my Mum used for baking, to check cooking times for meat, and just about any other food query she might have.  She studied at The Glasgow College of Food Technology, as it was called then, and this book is her manual for the kitchen.  It is mine, too.  It is the recipe book that defined my childhood, and was one that I coveted jealously for years until my parents gifted me my own copy.  For baking, it not only lists recipes for every cake, bread, biscuit, and pie you could imagine, but it starts each chapter off with the proportions of flour/fats/eggs/liquids that make the basic structure of that baked good so is the ideal jumping-off point for developing your own recipes.  This is the first place I go when I want to bake, and it has never let me down.

Feast: Food that Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson, is a book that I have read cover to cover more than once.  Even if I never cooked a single recipe from this book I would be glad to have bought it, just for Nigella's heavenly prose.  Lawson's skills as a food writer are in her wonderful descriptions of not just the flavours and textures of food, but in the emotions and memories that dishes evoke.  Food is the centre point of almost every religious festival, and secular celebration, and this book transports you to these moments with dishes that perfectly sum up the occasion.  When I am planning a party or a meal for friends, this is where I come.

River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, is the best source when it comes to cooking cheaper cuts of meat and fish in delicious and interesting ways, and finding great, different, ways of cooking produce.  The ethos of the whole River Cottage enterprise is one that resonates with me in every way.  It is how my Grandmother was brought up, and she taught me that seasonal, local produce will always taste better, because when fruit and vegetables are at their best, it's when they are grown nearby, picked at their ripest, and eaten as soon as possible.  She also taught me that meat will always taste better when the animal has been raised with care and respect, and slaughtered with as little stress as possible.  This is the message that Fearnley-Whittingstall affirms in Every Day and he translates it into good quality ingredients, transformed into wholesome, appetising meals.  If you are on a budget, this is the book for you.

New Convent Garden Food Co. Book of Soups: New, Old and Odd Recipes was a birthday present I received about ten years ago and for the first few years that I owned it, I hardly read it.  Now, I can't believe that I wasted all that time!  Soup is, for me, the ultimate comfort food and the recipes in this book have kept me gastronomically contented like no other.  As well as containing recipes for some of the New Convent Garden Food Co.'s best selling soups, it has some brilliantly exotic and delightfully seasonal ideas (roasted parsnip and Parmesan soup, anyone?).  My palate has definitely been expanded through owning this book.

Simply Bill by Bill Granger, brings sunlight into my kitchen.  This is unpretentious cooking at it's best.  Fresh, appealing recipes accompanied by mouthwatering photography.  The title sums it up, simple.  A real joy to cook and read.

If you own a slow cooker, then you should own Slow Cooking Properly Explained by Dianne Page.  I don't think I've actually made any of the recipes in the book, but I didn't buy the book for that.  It clearly describes the essential principles of slow cooking and has vastly improved the resulting slow cooked meals I have produced.

I have left What to Eat with IBD by Tracie Dalessandro to last, not because it is my least favourite, but because I suppose it's not technically a cookbook.  It does contain recipes, however it is more of a nutrition guide than a recipe book.  Every time I suffer a Crohn's flare up I go to this book for inspiration.  Written by a dietitian with Crohn's Disease, this has the right balance between expert opinion and personal experience and is an excellent source of information about IBD and nutrition.  I highly recommend this to anyone with Crohn's Disease or Colitis.

So, those are my favourites.  I'd love to hear about yours. (Any excuse to buy more recipe books!!)

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