The one thing that has almost completely survived my incomplete love affair with The Magical Art of Tidying Up is my cookbook collection. Curling up on my sofa with a hot mug of tea flicking through pages and pages of beautiful images and flavour combinations I would never have thought of is one of my favourite indulgences. Truth be told I don’t cook from them nearly as much as I should do – but as my job is literally to cook recipes for book photo shoots I don’t feel at all guilty about my crowded book shelves.
Last week in a flurried spring cleaning moment I pulled out all my books, cleaned the shelves, said goodbye to a couple I knew wouldn’t be missed and rearranged them so that the new books were just lying haphazardly and horizontally along the tops of the other. When I reordered them (in colour order… I am dreading this trend becoming completely passe as it speaks so perfectly to my love of bright colours and occaisional leanings towards OCD) it got me thinking about which books I reach for more often than others. I thought it would be fun to share my top 5, and the mood I am in when I pick them up.
For Beautiful Images – Stirring Slowly by Georgina Hayden – Laura Edwards is one of my favourite food photographers of all times, her work is light and feminine with a comforting lived in messy feel about them. This book is an eclectic collection of recipes that perfectly encapsulates the London food scene at the moment. The recipes jump from Indian to Vietnamese to Middle Eastern but an over riding theme of good quality fresh ingredients and a joy of eating running throughout. I can’t wait to try her Almond, Oat and Raisin Cookie recipe they are meant to be exceptional (I think I know what I will be doing tomorrow morning…)
For Inspiration – Five Quarters by Rachel Roddy – As soon as I flicked through this book I knew it had to be mine. Roddy’s writing is absolutely exceptional. Her paragraph on the perfect lunch of salted butter, radishes, anchovies and good quality bread had me running to the shops on my way home and is still one of my favourite lunches I’ve ever eaten and that’s not even venturing into her actual recipe writing.
For Savoury Baking – The Fabulous Baker Brothers by Tom and Henry Herbert – Whenever I get the urge to bake my own bread (which happened a lot more before I moved close to an exceptional bakery) this is the book I reach for without a doubt. There language is accessible but informative and I really love that each chapter includes recipes for serving suggestions to go with the breads.
For When You Don’t Want To Eat Meat – A Modern Way To Eat by Anna Jones – I fell in love with Anna Jones in her introduction when she carefully and gracefully excluded herself from health food writers at the height of the ‘green goddess’ trend. She creates real dishes that just so happen to not use meat. Her pale green double page spreads sprinkled throughout the book sharing how to build different recipes are a revelation for anyone who want’s to expand their own kitchen creativity. I was lucky enough to meet her once after working at a supper club she attended and she was the sweetest person. She gave me the biggest hug after I garbled through a nervous introduction like a teenage girl meeting a boyband (yes I have just lost any cool points I may have garnered).
For Home Cooking Inspiration – Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver – I didn’t grow up in a particularly foody or kitchen adventurous home, or area in general and this book is basically a trip down memory lane to the dinners I would eat as a child. Whenever I want comforting ‘traditional’ home cooked British food (which could be a curry or chilli as much as a meat pie such is the vast scope of the suburban English dinner table) I reach for this book for inspiration. I would recommend this for anyone who is a little unsure in the kitchen. The recipes lack specialist ingredients and use limited equipment, it cements the basic of home cooking and helps to guide the reader away from prepackaged meals and sauces to making their own from scratch (which most of the time is barely any more effort).
Breakfast Scene Photo by Rosie Alsop
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