I have loved cookbooks for as long as I can remember and, as much as I haven’t been in one for 25 years, I did used to love going to the library.

I remember being a 13-year-old boy going to Widnes library, there is still a mark of my footprint not far from the door, from where I once stepped in wet cement. I sometimes go to look at this whenever I go up north, it like my version of a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

I used to look at history of football, cars and recipe books as a young boy, the latter one keeping quiet about until now. Little did I know where this was going to lead and as you guessed not a footballer or F1 driver.

A Favourite Gift

One of my joys of Christmas and birthday is opening the books, and the fact that I know that my sister-in-law has had a nightmare finding them. I always try to set her the challenge of tracking down some obscure or not yet released book.

I am going to break this down into my favourite cookbooks and why, because each book has a special meaning to me. Having said that, I am not precious about my books and happy to lend them out to people when asked. I don’t mind when they get a bit bashed up either, they are there to be used not just stored on a shelf. Nothing beats getting a book out and it falls open to the most used page, with notes scribbled in the margin or on a post-it note. Sometimes you just can’t beat traditional paper and type; I don’t really like following recipes online and like it even less when you go to a restaurant and have to scan a code.  I’m all for modern technology, in most circumstances, but I do like flicking through a big old wine list.

I will start with the one that no one would expect.

Donna Hay – The New Classics

This is because my wife will normally cook from this one and it means that we are having a lovely Sunday at home. All the dishes that she has decided to do from this book have been brilliant, especially the banana bread. And I sometime use the odd recipe from it at work.

Donna Hay is not one of your fancy big name chefs, she is just a good cook with an excellent range of books

Any of the Thomas Keller books, but mainly The French Laundry.

I remember saving to go shopping, over 15 years ago, to buy this book, in fact I can tell you about the day in detail. It was in Guildford and on the same day I brought my grey Kitchen Aid from Steamer Trading and had lunch in the window of the restaurant directly opposite MacDonald’s at the top of the high street.  Anyone that knows Guildford will know that that particular restaurant has changed about 10 times over the years but I think that day it was Knead the Dough.  I probably had Reebok classic trainers on as well.

Just a brilliant book and I still use recipes from it today, my favourite is the mascarpone sorbet, a simple recipe but just stunning to eat.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Keller-Laundry-Cookbook-Bouchon/dp/157965293XAnd I nearly forgot to mention I had my honeymoon in San Francisco just so I could go to the restaurant.

That day has just as many clear memories as the book.

Anthony Bourdain; Kitchen Confidential

This isn’t actually a cookbook, it’s the story of Anthony Bourdain’s early career in kitchens in the USA. This is the book that led to his worldwide fame and numerous travel and cookery shows before his sad death in 2018.

If you don’t have time to read the book, you should watch some of his shows that are still on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

This guy is seen as a legend among chefs and someone that I used to dream about sitting at a bar with enjoying a drink. One of the things that comes across in his book is his love for a New York bar, something that I love as well.

Reference books

Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

A book recommended to us by Adam Byatt, you will not get any menu ideas from this book, but you will get answers. A great book for recipes on anything from cheese making to a sauce to go with fish.

Advanced Practical Cookery

Practical Cookery was the first book you had to buy when starting college, now it has become a staple in most chefs’ book cases.  It has all the helpful recipes and tips for stocks, sauces and butchery, but the Advanced version has more of a modern feel, with parts of the book being on menu and recipe development and another part covering how your taste buds work

A few more good books

Relae by Christian Puglisi

A book from a restaurant that was based in Copenhagen, another one I have been lucky enough to visit.

The whole fish by Josh Niland

A great groundbreaking book on fish and how to use it, from how to store, prepare, when to eat and even aging fish. I like this book so much that I genuinely brought the t-shirt to go with it!

Jeremey Fox on Vegetables

This is not just a book for vegetarians; it’s just a great book. He focuses on making vegetables the star of every dish

Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook

As some of you know, during the first lockdown I started a pop-up bakery and this was my go-to book for some of our best selling items, especially the muffins and cookies. Still used at home all of the time, it’s one of the most battered books I have.

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