Since moving out of home and becoming a proper adult almost ten years ago, I’ve amassed quite the collection of cookbooks in my Expedit shelves – some have been gifts from others, most have been gifts to myself, and all of them have been lovingly read cover-to-cover. While I can’t claim to use all my cookbooks on a regular basis, there are some that are a little more well-thumbed than others, and this post is an ode to six of my favourites.
The Cook’s Companion Stephanie Alexander | This was one of the first items I bought for myself with my very first paycheck from my first proper adult job, and for me, it’s the ultimate cookbook that no kitchen should be without. From its content-heavy pages (arranged in alphabetically by ingredient) I’ve mastered loads of recipes that fall into the everyone should know how to make this category: roast chicken, risotto, and perfect chocolate chip biscuits to name a few. I also love that I can go to the market and pick up something fairly obscure like a Jerusalem artichoke and know that Stephanie has dedicated a chapter to its correct selection, storage, and preparation, followed by at least half a dozen recipes; all laid out in her trademark practical and no-nonsense fashion.
Nigellissima Nigella Lawson | This is one of my most-used cookbooks from one of my most-loved cooks, and after my recent Italian trip it has become more sauce-splattered and dog-eared than ever. Divided into Pasta, Flesh, Fish & Fowl, Vegetables & Sides, Sweet Things and An Italian-Inspired Christmas, this is a great one for those who are into their Italian food and willing to explore it beyond pasta (although having said that I must admit that I’ve made her curly-edged pasta with lamb ragù so many times I don’t need the recipe anymore) – think Venetian stew, lamb with anchovies and thyme, or Tuscan tuna tartare (something I ate a lot of in Florence). Being Nigella, desserts are where it’s at and my favourites here are the one step no-churn coffee ice cream, which I’ve featured here, and the intensely flavoured and unexpectedly perfect liquorice pudding.
What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits & Bobs Katie Quinn Davies | Just opening this book up and leafing through Katie’s beautiful photos on its pleasingly-textured pages is a joy, and the recipes are incredible to boot. Katie is an Irish-born photographer, cook and food stylist living in Australia, and her recipes fuse some British classics like beef & Guinness pie, and pork, apple and pistachio sausage rolls, with some lovely modern ingredients that really take advantage of Australia’s local produce. My most-thumbed chapter is Salads, which features some hearty and super tasty concoctions like chorizo and potato salad with rocket and manchego shavings, and quinoa and lentil salad with asparagus, mint and haloumi. Many an afternoon has been spent making huge batches of these for weekday lunches, or as a handy weekend-away-camping dish. I can’t wait to get my hands on Katie’s second book What Katie Ate On The Weekend (hint hint, loved ones!)
The Great New Zealand Cookbook | I first spotted this while kicking around New Zealand last year, and immediately cursed the carry-on weight restrictions that would prevent me taking it back home. But there are many benefits to having a Wellington-based friend, one of which was being gifted with a copy for my birthday last year. It’s true love when it comes to me and New Zealand (although I haven’t seen nearly enough of it to be making that bold claim), and its food is one of my favourite things about it. This book is a collection of recipes from cooks, chefs and bakers that celebrate NZ’s food culture, like Whitebait Fritters (a Hokitika specialty I still dream about), Tuatua butties, and Manuka-smoked venison with pikopiko and watercress. There are loads of desserts I want to try from this one, number one being crunchy topped fejioa and walnut cake, if I can figure out where in Sydney to purchase some feijoas, Hokey Pokey Ice Sliceys with salted caramel sauce (for reasons that are obvious), and the awesomely-named Moonshine Biff.
My Abuela’s Table: An Illustrated Journey Into Mexican Cooking Daniella Germain | After spending a month south of the border several years ago, the huge Mexico-shaped gap in my cookbook collection became all-too apparent, so a hunt for an accessible and practical Mexican cookbook began. This one fits the bill beautifully with the opening pages breaking down the core herbs, spices, sauces and other staples that make up the bones of Mexican cooking. The meat of the book focuses on traditional home-style dishes like pierna de borrego con especias (spicy leg of lamb), lomo almendrado (pork loin in almond sauce), and pescado a la Veracruzana (fish Veracruz style), and it’s all beautifully illustrated with cute and whimsical little drawings interspersed with family photos, giving a lovely sense of family history and the stories behind the recipes that have been passed down from the author’s grandmother. Next on my to-buy list is Daniella’s follow-up, My Abuelo’s Mexican Feast.
Prune Gabrielle Hamilton | One of these books is not like the others, and this is unlike any other cookbook I own. I’ve raved about it a little here before – it’s a collection of recipes taken from chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s Manhattan eatery Prune, designed to look like a sauce-splattered notebook taken directly from the restaurant’s kitchen, complete with notes for her staff written with a Sharpie. To be honest, I’ve only attempted two recipes from it – unlike the other authors in this list, Gabrielle isn’t trying to make her recipes accessible to the home cook, and a lot of them call for obscure ingredients that your local Harris Farm just isn’t going to stock (Mimosa eggs, anyone?). I love the extremes of this book, moving from laughably simple dishes like sardines with Triscuit crackers (a recipe that spends more time instructing the reader on how not to plate it up than it does on the actual method), to a butter-laden Breton Butter Cake with an outrageous 37 steps and personal plea from Gabrielle to her staff to “please find me” if it’s their first time making it. Not one for beginners, but a gem for a collector and general food enthusiast who gets a kick out of the styling and concepts behind a restaurant.
What are some of your favourite cookbooks?