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Thursday 15 August 2013

Desert Island Cookbooks

If you absolutely had to (this is hypothetical so please don't panic) give up all of your recipe books except three, which ones would you save? To be honest, my list of top cookbooks changes with every new one I buy - it's a sickness, I tell you - and even at a push I couldn't completely commit to a final trio. In the spirit of hypotheticals, however, I have narrowed the list down. Just for you. Perhaps predictably, my first choice would be from Nigel Slater. His tone is so mellifluous that, even if I never cooked again, I would read his books from cover to cover. Kitchen Diaries II is a great example of his laid-back style, where Slater's love of food shines through from every page. If you've never read his books, but you love him on the telly, this is the one for you.

Growing up, the Roux brothers were considered close to deity in my house, and their cookbooks were gospel. If Michel Roux told us to make an omelette with four eggs, we did it. We didn't go quite as far as shouting, "Oui, chef!" to his instructions, but we weren't far off. The Collection is, as the name suggests, is a collection of Michel Roux Sr's greatest recipes and, whether you have Michelin Guide aspirations or you can't boil an egg, this book will make you a better cook.

If Michel Roux is Al Pacino then Escoffier is Marlon Brando. Escoffier is the Godfather of modern cookery and his culinary bible is for anyone who want to know more about the life and work of the chef and Ritz co-founder. Any chef in any restaurant in the world would probably cite Escoffier as and inspiration in their cooking. If you want to cook the classics, there's no better chef to teach you how.

Ok, so the sharper amongst you will have noticed that this is book number four. It's not technically a cookbook, though, so I'm hoping to squeak it through. The Flavour Thesaurus is Niki Segnit's brilliant book, listing hundreds of flavour combinations that really work. Some are classics, like chocolate and chilli, while others are a bit less obvious. I would never have put cardamon in my banana bread, but the Flavour Thesaurus suggested it would work, and told me why - it did work and bananas and cardamon are a favourite combo in my kitchen now. Whenever I get stuck creating a recipe, I consult this book, it's a brilliant resource.

So, what would your top three recipe books be? Share your desert island cookbooks with us!


  1. Absolutely agree on 'Kitchen Diaries II', even if you never cooked a thing out of it, the writing is so calming it's like reading words written out of velvet. Next on my list would be a 1940 edition of 'Joy of Cooking' which belonged to my grandmother. She opened her own restaurant and just used that book and one other on quantity catering. Third on my list would be Larousse. Once you master the classics, you don't even need cookbooks. But I could never, EVER stop buying them!

    1. All great choices. The 75th anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking is on my wish list!

  2. Right... as much as I love Kitchen Diaries 2, it has to be the first book for me. Solely because it contains the world's finest bolognese recipe that I have cooked more times than I care to think.

    Secondly, Nigella's How to Eat. The first cookbook to ever make it to my nightstand. I had it on loan from my 6th form library for 2 years. I learned how to wean a baby from it - it's fine if they go a month of only eating veal escalopes and chilli con carne apparently.

    And my third choice can now be something frivilous, right?

    The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old Fashioned Recipes From New York's Sweetest Bakery.

    1. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't yet read How to Eat, I should really do something about that.


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