My Favourite Cookbook

What does it mean to single out one cookbook as my favourite? It might be a cliché but that saying ‘it’s like choosing a favourite child’ holds true with many things in life.

If I were to take the most commonly used book as my favourite, it would be this little treasure I picked up once in a remainders book shop – Healthy Main Meal Soups. I adore soups – in any season – and this book has never failed me. Let’s call it my favourite soup cookbook. The whole healthy thing isn’t the main draw here, it’s the amazing variety of ingredients. It’s an English book, so there are some things we can’t get here like certain fish etc, but on the whole, this book is my absolute soup bible. I’ve been known to take it to the markets with me so that when I see what looks good that week, I can flick open the little paper back and find the best use for an ingredient that’s caught me eye.

If we’re talking Asian books, then I turn to English/Chinese chef, Ken Hom. I have loads of his books and have relied on them for years. That whole East meets West thing? He was doing it years ago, and very well. We’ve had some fabulous meals with friends out of this book – simple chinese cookery with flare, Ken Hom Travels with a Hot Wok.

What about baking? What’s my favourite baking book? Without a doubt it’s Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. It’s been years since this book came out and I think her brand of irony is understood now. No one thinks this book is about slavishly donning a pinny and tying yourself to the kitchen….or is it? I never thought that sounded like a bad way to go. I share a somewhat neglected blog with RoseRed devoted to this book. Happy days.

There are so many categories I could cover. We have a growing collection of Indian books and I love my Italian books and we’ve started exploring Spanish lately but I’ll finish with just two more. I love a good book of vegetables. I love this one because it’s both an encyclopedia and a recipe book. We found The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking in a remainders store too and I think it’s considered a classic. I remember when we first bought it, I read it and read it, having only dabbled in a friend’s copy before. So much information on so many vegetables, from the humble to the exotic. It’s spread is immense and the vegetarian recipes are good, solid, dependable recipes. You can’t go wrong.

And speaking of books that double as a resource, what Australian who has bought a cookbook in the last twenty (can it really be twenty?) years can go past Stephanie Alexander. So popular, so reliable, so good. It’s the Cook’s Companion. I think almost everyone who has it just refers to it as ‘Stephanie’. We’re not alone in being a couple who often say to each other, when faced with a question such as how long to cook a cut of meat, or what’s the best way to prepare an artichoke etc etc, ‘What does Stephanie say?’

One day I’ll get around to buying the improved and updated second edition. I’m awfully sentimental about this book though, for romantic reasons. It’s the first joint purchase my husband and I made when we first together. I think the story goes that his brother had received it as a wedding gift and Sean viewed it as the kind of book that a home ought to have. I was just finding my feet in the kitchen, just starting to figure out that I actually quite liked to cook and this became a staple of our shared time in the kitchen.

Only a few more days until we draw the winners of our competition. Stay tuned!



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lauren
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 20:05:44

    My favourite cookbook is a big ‘un – The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia by Carla Capalbo, Kate Whiteman, Jeni Wright, and Angela Boggiano. Its my go-to cookery bible for anything Italian (which I cook *a lot*), and some things not so Italian, from reading about particular ingredients, to looking up how to prepare something, to seeing the origin of a certain dish. I love it!


  2. 2paw
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 22:25:34

    Thanks for sharing your books. I am of the can’t-choose-a-favourite-one too. I like Stephanie, and Campion & Curtis have a good up to date book as well. I do use recipes from my mum and nan and I am addicted to cooking magazines!!!


  3. David Hilyard
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 08:33:27

    Yeah, I’m still with Steph 1.0 and haven’t got to the software upgrade yet. One day … It is truly a remarkable work.

    I heard that when it went on sale in North America – much confusion… People were astounded to read references to the SOUTHERN seasons – like having Christmas in summer, etc. “How does that work??”

    Stick with your sentimental copy. Its got the chops, now!


  4. Delly
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 10:20:25

    A great selection of books Bells. I guess I need to write my fav as well. It’s a difficult choice.

    Stephanie is the obvious one – but for me it’s more of a reference bible.

    I’ll save the rest for my post. Coming soon…


  5. drkknits
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 12:23:48

    i love that you have your favourites in each type of cuisine, ive never really thought of doing that, all my current books are bits of everyhing. although i do have one little paperback indian book that i always use for curries, its my curry bible. sometimes those little ones you grab at the supermarket check out have the best recipes! great choices tho. i love stephanie too.


  6. Rose Red
    Sep 22, 2010 @ 22:10:57

    I have the first edition Stephanie too. I’m not sure I want to upgrade (although I really like the cover, heh!)


  7. vivzilla
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 08:59:50

    I don’t own Stephanie, I feel like my life is poorer for it.


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