Essential Cookbook
  • Do you guys have a cookbook that you just keep coming back to again and again? One that is so food-stained, you can hardly read your favorite recipes (not that at this point you haven't got it memorized!)

    For me, I think my essential is Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian. I also love Amy Kaneko's Let's Cook Japanese! Both are amazing Chronicle cookbooks (my favorite cookbook pub.) Although, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is quickly becoming stained as well- what a great book for easy food!
  • The cookbook that really taught me how to cook is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, but I think I may be outgrowing it. For cookbooks that I return to again and again, I have found nothing better than Sara Foster's cookbooks, which feature seasonal, local ingredients and excellent recipes. I have all three, but Fresh Every Day is probably my favorite.
  • How to be a Domestic Goddess is probably my most used book. I absolutely adore it and will be heartbroken when my copy gives up the ghost.
  • Without a doubt it's Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion, not just for the recipes but for the encyclopaedic information about ingredients and basic techniques.

    Before that I made a lot of use of several of Beverley Sutherland Smith's books - and still do.
  • Mine changes all the time. I have been cooking quiet a bit lately from Sara Foster's cookbooks and always enjoy cooking from the Barefoot Contessa ones. I also have been cooking from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea and quiet a few others lately.
  • I love all of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks too and can't wait for her new one to come out in October. I am currently still working my way through Ad Hoc even though the challenge is over.
  • bhnyc, I too am eagerly awaiting Ina's new one. I love the title How Easy Is That? since she says that on her show all the time.
  • The ones I keep going back to year after year include:

    Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson - great for everyday and special meals. His taste is impeccable.
    The Four Seasons by Margaret Costa, which dates from the 1970s. Her Light Christmas Cake is my all time favourite, and her recipes for pan European basics such as Goulash, Beef Carbonnade etc. are imprinted on my memory.
    Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater. Inspiration for when you are short of time.
    Moro - Sam and Sam Clark. Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern influences.
    Introduction to Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden ( and most of her other books)
    Anything by Madhur Jaffrey and Elizabeth David.
    Jane Grigson's Fruit and Vegetable Books. Also Good Things.
    Julie Le Clerc's books are good for everyday food - especially Simple Cafe Food and More Simple Cafe Food. I met a New Zealander foodie in Books for Cooks in London, who recommended them. In return I recommended The Avoca Cook Book, which does similar food from an Irish perspective.

    My most recent favourite is Ottolenghi, for inspirational salads and yummy cakes! I also like Silvena Rowe's books, with their eastern european, middle eastern slant.
  • Southern Cooker-
    We might need to do an Ina cook-off when the new book comes out! Maybe Andrew will make that one a Cookbooker Challenge...
  • I'd love to! I was just thinking about that when I saw the number of Ina fans here (and the number of members who own her books). I did email her publisher's publicity department earlier this summer about doing something, and got no response. Perhaps I'll try her directly... Not that we absolutely need a publisher to do a Challenge, but it's nice to have them on board and providing some prizes.

    Our next challenge starts next week and the one after that runs through October and into early November. So we could slot her in for mid-November and December. This would give people a chance to actually get the book.
  • Andrew, do you think there's a chance you would ever do a challenge for a vegetarian cookbook? I notice a lot of people on this site own How To Cook Everything Vegetarian but there are very few recipe reviews for it. I'm a vegetarian (vegan) myself and would love to see more recipe reviews for a book like that or really any vegetarian cookbook.
  • Yes indeed. There are a few classic vegetarian books out there - Bittman, or Moosewood, all good choices for a Challenge. I am also keeping my eyes out for any new books. Heidi from the website 101 Cookbooks has a new vegetarian book coming out in the spring, for example.
  • Andrew, Sounds like you have some great ideas for cookbooks to cook through. I'm sorry I missed cooking from Ad Hoc At Home. I did get it checked out from our library through interlibrary loan, but was a busy time for me and I had good plans but they didn't work out. I'm looking forward to hearing what the next challenge is going to be and hoping I can get cooking this time.

    Bhnyc, I like your idea for an Ina challenge.

    Leeka, although not a vegetarian I do love cooking vegetarian meals often. I don't have How to Cook Everything Vegetarian yet but it's on my wish list. I've done quiet a few reviews from Sunday's at Moosewood and have cooked from several other Moosewood books.
  • I would like it as well if there was a challenge with a less recent cookbook. I don't tend to get cookbooks the moment they're released, so I haven't been able to join any of the challenges so far.
    I think a vegetarian cookbook is a good idea. There are loads of inspirational ones about nowadays, even for non-vegetarians.
  • My go-to cookbooks for entertaining are Ina Garten's -- she really knows how to please a crowd without leaving the host/cook too exhausted to enjoy the event. For week-nights I almost aways use a recipe from a magazine or website because these are usually dishes that are both seasonal and on the table in about an hour.

    My go-to cookbook to read and feel inspired to get back into the kitchen is The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
  • I'm happy to hear that others are open to participating in a challenge using a vegetarian cookbook. And I agree with wester's comment about there being loads of inspirational ones about nowadays. I've only been vegan for 10 months but have never had more fun cooking and baking in my life! I've tried so many new dishes and explored and experimented with many new foods. It's so exciting!
  • "Cookery The Australian Way". Not the (I think) Periplus version, but the daggy, plain, version that is the high-school text book. Yes, everybody mocks it as unfashionable and Westernised, but try leaving home with it and you will find it in your mothers cookbook collection, impossible to prise out of her hands. The recipes on the whole work and nearly everybody will eat them (except possibly the curry, but I like it). Plain cooking, with variations for the cakes, and possible reasons for why they failed. I actually use a later version for cooking, as the one I retrieved from my mother (bought her a replacement) is in the safe. It was falling apart, and I would hate to lose it. Too many childhood memories baking on Saturday mornings with my mother and sisters, making the world's worst cheese scones which the rest of the family ate without blinking. Everybody else baked beautifully, so I suppose it was only one solid lump, and then they could have the sponges, cakes and proper biscuits.

    The other cookbooks would be The French Kitchen by Diane Holuigue, not the other one, (the best French teaching book I have), Thai Food, by David Thompson, The Perfect Scoop, Chinese Cooking Cantonese and Canapes.

    However, I rarely cook (that's hubby's household duties, and he makes wonderful scones, using CTAW) but I am hoping to do more, so this list might change!
  • Lidia's books are the must have's for me when I want to "really cook" for the family . She is a great teacher-lots of details, tips and how to's that stretch my cooking abilities. The food tastes great.

    I also like all Ina Garten, Mario Batali's Molto Gusto and Sarah Foster's Casual Cooking for great tasting easy to do recipes.
  • My equivalent of CTAW is The PWMU Cookbook (that's Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union). The most recent edition is small and spirax-bound. Good basic recipes for just about everything. That's the book I started with when I left home, together with some recipes copied from Mum's handwritten recipe book (disappeared, alas, when she succumbed to dementia).
  • I use the Joy of Cooking more than any other book. None of the editions is a perfect book, but like my Australian colleague said, it just has recipes for foods that I grew up with, that are American standards, that I can adapt as needed, etc. I also use a few of the Moosewood books A LOT. I was vegetarian for 24 years! So, Leeka, look at my reviews for lots of vegetarian things. I own LOTS of cookbooks, but NONE by Ina Garten! I enjoy seeing her on TV, when I pass by a TV somewhere, but she has not captured my imagination outright. Her foods are kind of heavy-seeming to me when friends have brought her things. And an Ina-fan friend of mine feels that her more current books are marketing tools more than products of her continued creativity and passion. This friend loves her first couple of books, but not the others so much. I probably wouldn't participate in an Ina book challenge, but I would read the results, happily.
  • I agree with your friend-unfortunately. Her best are her first 3. I buy them anyway for inspiration (I like the pictures) and also all of them contain at least 3 or 4 "gold" recipes. I love Lidia's books for the teaching info, but they could use more pictures. I am very visual, the older I get, the more pictures I need. 35 years ago my cookbooks rarely had pictures and I didn't even notice or care!

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