4 Fave Cookbooks right now

25 September 2018
My cooking style and use of cookbooks has changed a lot since I first got interested in food and cooking back at the ripe old age of 8. I've gone through phases of having lots of cookbooks, then paring right back again. These days I do a lot of recipe searching online, but I still feel that you can't beat flicking through a book. In fact I love nothing more than settling in with one of my favourite cookbooks or a 'new to me' one and reading like a novel.

My current cookbook collection - only taking up 3 spaces in the bookshelf!

When I first started out with cooking it was obviously all about the basics - how to actually cook, follow a recipe and construct a meal or dish worth eating. Then I moved onto mastering different techniques and experimenting with flavours. I learnt a lot during this phase. Next I started to challenge myself and focused on learning the basics of different cuisines.

As I moved into more simple living, growing food and learning to make my own food staples things changed again. I gravitated to more simple and seasonal dishes. I know that's the complete trendy way to do things these days but it's how I've been cooking for the past 6 or so years. It just came about naturally as I built connection to food, where it came from and particularly, growing my own.

Each different phase has had me focus on different cookbooks and different styles. I thought I'd share with you today what my most often used cookbooks are for this phase of cooking. I'm sure it will change again in years to come, although I know several on this list will hold their place indefinitely...they're just so suited to my style of cooking.

So, in no particular order...

The Cook's Companion - Stephanie Alexander

This is definitely my favourite cookbook of all time (even though it doesn't have pics of the recipes!!) and I predict it will be so indefinitely. From the basics to the individual ingredient chapters I have learnt so much from this book. I love being able to flick to a particular ingredient chapter and learn about it as well as have a list of recipes to follow or use as a base for inspiration. This book works so well with my values and approach to cooking and eating. It is also my favourite cookbook to read.

Three great recipes I've used over and over
Silverbeet & Potato Torte p 921
Spiced Beef Curry - daging rempah p162
Pesto p125

Kitchen Garden Companion - Stephanie Alexander

While I'm talking about the amazing Stephanie I may as well continue. This book is another gem. It's my go-to when I'm dealing with garden gluts or need a little inspiration for a particular veg. The book includes some great basic gardening info which I found really helpful when I first started my gardening journey. Each chapter is based around a particular fruit or veg (or family of them) with some gardening info and a recipe or five.

Recipes that use an ingredient in a different way, use an unusual veg or part thereof
Silverbeet Stem Gratin p603
Four ways with Cauliflower & breadcrumbs p223
Barley & Mushroom Risotto p443
Chickpea salad with preserved lemon, carmalised onion, chilli & parsley p479

Kitchen Garden Companion & Jamie Does.

Jamie does... - Jamie Oliver

I'm a bit of a Jamie Oliver fan to be honest. I love his simple style and 'bung it in' approach. A couple of his earlier books were a little chefy but he has so many good ones. This book is top of my Jamie list because of the different cuisines covered - Spanish, Italian, Sweedish, Moroccan, Greek & French. I love how this book is a mix of basic techniques and also interesting recipes from different places. There are lovely stories woven in among the recipes too - so it's another good read.

Useful base recipes and techniques
Preserving Lemons p216
Paella p30
Risotto - basic recipe plus variations p84
Beetroot gravadlax p 138 (home cured salmon - simple and delicious)
Duck confit p324

Great recipes I've made multiple times
My Moorish Pork Chops p24 - these are chops stuffed with herbs and raisins served on delicious white beans (bonus the recipe uses chard stems - always so many to use up in the garden!).
Split pea soup p132
Sweedish Meatballs p130 (eat your heart out IKEA)
Chicken, olive & preserved lemon tagine p208
courgette gratin p312

I could go on and probably list out 75% of the book...but I'll leave it there.

The Complete Asian Cookbook - Charmaine Solomon

I searched high and low for a good cookbook to learn Asian techniques and flavours. Many books available are very 'Westernised' and I wanted something a bit more authentic while also being practical to use. This book fit the bill perfectly for me. I first borrowed it from the library (about 3 time!) and then managed to encourage someone to get it for me for Christmas one year...yay! The countries included are Indian & Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia & Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, Korea & Japan. So clearly it's not an exhaustive look at each cuisine, but a great overview with enough variety in each. Each section includes basic info on the country's cuisine and a good selection of recipes. I've barely scratched the surface with this book - so many recipes I'd like to try...so little time with little kids at my feet!

Regularly used recipes so far
Red Curry Paste (Thailand) p356
Muslim Curry (Masaman - Thailand) p377
Rogan Josh (Indian) p77
Fish Curry (Malaysian) p267

The prestigious pile - quite colourful really.

So, those are my most used cookbooks currently.  They're not the same ones I would have picked 10 years ago and probably might have a few substitutions in 10 years time.

What about you - any favourites that have stood the test of time?
Any of my list make your top five for 'right now'?


  1. Ah, I may have a bit of a cookbook thing... I like the history of food and cooking too, so not all are recipe books as such, but I do have quite a lot.
    My favourite for basics is Nigella's How To Eat and I read that cover to cover when I got it. I use her Domestic Goddess a lot too. I have some of her other books but they're my favourites.
    I like Hugh Fearnley-Whittinsgtall (AKA Hugh Fearlessly-Eats-it-all) and the River Cottage cookbooks too. The Family one is great if you have children but I'm using Three Good Things and Love Your Leftovers a lot at the moment. They're really good as a launch pad for an idea of what to cook.
    Nigel Slater is another favourite- the Marie Claire cookbook when he was Food Editor was my first cook book and I also love Sophie Grigson. I used to read her books as novels- Eat Your Greens was another early buy.
    A book I like to reread for inspiration is Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal. She has a very distinctive writing style that many people don't like but I want to cook and eat like her for the rest of my life when I read her book. She's from Chez Pannisse (I think...) but isn't at all cheffy. It's very Italian- California with lots of parmesan, beans and bread but she's big on getting food value from your ingredients and there's nothing exotic or expensive. It's not a recipe book as such but there are recipes in it.

    1. Hi Hazel, I love HFW too - I don't have his books but I'm always looking at his river cottage site and I loved the series so much! I've seen a few of Nigel Slater's recipes via BBC website but not really familiar with his books - must check them out at the library. And I must confess I've never heard of Sophie Grigson - so I'll add her to the list too.
      An everlasting meal is THE BEST!!! I love it too. I have a copy and have read it countless times. I love her way of approaching foods and do try and emulate her at times. Funnily I've been thinking 'I should do a review of everlasting meal' for the blog but just haven't had the time in the last couple of months to re-read the book before doing so...you've inspired me though.
      Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Unfortunately I have none of those five books.
    But I see you have Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking set. I have the same set in the same box. :)
    I like Jacques Pepin's recipes and have several of his books.
    I used to watch their cooking shows and that's what inspired me to try new recipes.

    1. I do have a soft spot for Julia - she's my go to when i want to do something French. Pre-kids I used to love hosting dinner parties from friends and I'd often construct my menu from the box set. I've not heard of Jacques Pepin so I'll have to check him out. Cheers, Laura

  3. Hi Laura,
    I also have and love the Kitchen Garden Companion. It is one of my favourites as it combines my passion for cooking and gardening. I also have Stephanie's, 'Kitchen Garden Cooking With Kids' which is a great source of recipes and information encouraging kids to grow, cook and eat home grown produce.
    Many of the books in your photos also have a home in my bookcase. We seem to like the same authors. Some of my favourites are-
    Stephanie Alexander, Matthew Evans, Jamie Oliver, Donna Hay, Bill Granger, Annabel Langbein, Silvia Colloca, the River Cottage books, the Food Safari books and cookbooks by Kim Terakes.
    I have to admit that I have more cookbooks and gardening books than I have room for. We recently bought a pre-loved bookcase at Savers especially for these books. Some women love clothes, shoes, handbags and jewellery but I love books☺. I use many of them when cooking and also read many just for pleasure. I will often combine recipes from cookbooks to suit my family or to use ingredients at hand.
    I particularly like gardening books that start with how to grow a vegetable or fruit and then feature recipes for using that produce right away or for preserving.
    Thank you for another great post Laura.
    Maria from Adelaide.

    1. Maria, I'm so not surprised that we share the same taste for cookbooks! And your last sentence about the type of book that goes from produce to plate/preserving are words right out of my mouth!
      I love books too and dream of one day having a library/study filled with them...but while we are still pretty transient I try and be strong so as not to cart books across the countryside. When I get my long term home though - watch out!

  4. Beautiful books. I have Jamie and Stephanie BUT I would love a Charmaine book. Enjoy.

    1. Hey Brigie, perhaps a subtle hint as we get close to Christmas? I like to present my subtle hints by texting people the book depository link...just so there's no confusion!

  5. i do have that stephanie alexander book but i've virtually never used it. her style of food and cooking is just so alien to mine. i think cooks and recipes and cookbooks are such a personal thing. i love alison holst's books, and nigella's and i have one of jamie's. i like sophie dahl's, but belinda jeffery has to be the best! her recipes always work... cheers sherry

    1. You're exactly right Sherry - they are so personal depending on your style of cooking and foods you enjoy :)


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