Wednesday, June 9, 2010

These are a few of my favourite... cookbooks

Today I thought I'd show you some of my inspiration - just for fun. I'm feeling the sugar overload a bit (after a crazy weekend - and being away and then sick means I haven't hit the gym since last week!) so thought today might be a good day to look at pictures of delicious food rather than actually eating it. ;-)

 My favourite inspiration (other than blogs which I read daily on my feed) are magazines - I have subscriptions to both Taste (monthly) and Cuisine (six times a year), and since they land in my mailbox, awash with glorious photos and (something I don't get from most of the food blogs I follow) seasonal recipes I can't help but be inspired. I find I get more recipes to try from Taste, but more general foodie info from Cuisine.

Warning: The following process is excessively pedantic. If hyper-organisation annoys you you might want to scroll down for a while until you see photos of real recipe books!

Once I've flagged a recipe to try, I'll usually cut it out, and put it in the back of my recipe clearfile. I'm so ridiculously particular there's even a cover page for these recipes:

Then I periodically look for fun recipes (or sometimes I've flagged them for a particular purpose). Once I've made it once, I decide if it's a winner (i.e. worth making again). If it's not, in the bin it goes. If it is, it goes into a different pocket to await being typed up.

 Mmm, beetroot goats cheese tartlets

When that pocket gets full, I type up the recipes (I like things to look unified! Also, it's easier to follow a standard format), and update my table of contents to include them. Then I reprint the whole lot. Yeah, it's a bit wasteful. That's why I only do it every once in a while. Also, yes, they are in alphabetical order.

My mother is a librarian

Don't say I didn't warn you!

And sometimes, if I think it's warranted (i.e. slightly unusual recipe so the photo is useful, or just a particularly pretty photo) I will also cut out the photo and stick it to my typed recipe. This chicken b'stilla recipe is fantastic, by the way. Thanks Morocco - I never would have thought of topping my main with icing sugar and cinnamon but it's sooooooo good!

Okay, for those afraid of my OCD it's now safe to resume reading. I also have quite a few recipe books. I think Donna Hay wins for amazing food photography:

Seasons, on the left, is a beautiful book full of stunning photos and gorgeous sounding recipes, organised by season. The pictured recipe is a coconut and stone fruit rice pudding, with vanilla honey, and it is incredibly good (and simple) - I'll definitely share that with you sometime. The book on the right is her Simple Essentials Chocolate book - need I say more? ;-) My favourite recipe so far from this is the chocolate cheesecake (with the raspberries, on the right) though there are many other delicious recipes here - chocolate custard, molten chocolate puddings...

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor definitely has the best ever name for a recipe book - and some pretty decadent desserts, too! Cheesecake pops are a stroke of genius - or what about pound cake grilled sandwiches? I like this book more for the inspiration than the recipes - I was unimpressed by the chocolate soup (though the pound cake croutons were to die for!) but love the idea and will do it again sometime with a chocolate custard (maybe the Donna Hay one). And the book on the right is David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop - my go-to ice-cream book. I reckon this book is pretty invaluable if making your own ice-cream is your thing - it has many, many flavours, of ice-cream, sorbet, granita, as well as recipes for mix-ins and accompaniments. Even 'my' brandy snap ice-cream recipe is an adapted recipe from this book.

I'm not called Mrs Cake for nothing. I have a few specialty cake books - all serving different purposes, of course. ;-) Rose Levy-Beranbaum's The Cake Bible is a highly scientific book - all measurements are given in precise weight measurements as well as cups/teaspoons. She expounds on the science of baking - she wrote a thesis on it! - and even gives tips for special circumstances, like how to adapt recipes to bake at altitude! Peggy Porschen's Pretty Party Cakes (try saying that 10 times quickly!) has lots of adorable and very achievable ideas for decorating. The Well Decorated Cake, by Toba Garrett, explains very comprehensively the basics of cake decorating (and has some tried-and-true recipes - I usually opt for her royal icing). And Collette Peters' Cakes to Dream On is mostly a bit out of my league (or at least her designs involve too much of a time commitment!) but is good inspiration if you tone down her extreme amazingness.

Last, but definitely not least, some basic cookbooks. The open book is Alison and Simon Holst's Very Easy Vegetarian Cookbook, currently showing one of our favourites - corn chip casserole. The styling (at least in our copy, which I think Mr Cake filched from his parents long ago) is pretty 80s but the food is all great. 100 Favourite Cakes & Biscuits, to the left of the veggie book, is another Alison Holst special, and you've seen her ginger kisses and lemon yoghurt cake here, among others. On the right is Jamie's Ministry of Food - I'm not a diehard Jamie Oliver fan, and I will advise you to cut the amount of olive oil in most of his recipes significantly, but I love the building blocks approach of this book, and it has many solid dinner recipes done well - we love the stews and his chilli con carne.

And finally, of course, the absolute necessity in all kiwi kitchens - the Edmonds Cookery Book. I use this less than I used to (I am drawn to pretty pictures; sorry Edmonds, your few coloured plates doesn't quite cut the mustard).

I hope this wasn't too boring -  I really like to know what people think of recipe books, since there are so many out there and it's hard to know if they're good without trying them out.

What are your favourite recipe books?


  1. Oh Rosa, I love you so much more knowing about the OCD. Especially the contents page part. That is a stroke of genius!

    My favourite recipe books are, firstly, the ones with good pictures. I don't like an Alison Holst one we've got in which everything looks super glazed and orange and somehow '80s. Secondly, the ones that have good dessert recipes. I'm not the biggest sweet-food fan, but I like making desserts cos I can be lots more creative than mains (seeing as a baked potato is my idea of good cuisine). Finally, my absolute favourites are the ones with those kind of matte covers - I'm quite a tactile person and somehow they just feel better!

    I have a relatively boring collection, but one day when I'm rich I'll buy more. My best books are 'Sweet Food', published by Murdoch Books, which has amazingly rich, decadent, expensive recipes - baked, like biscuits and slice, as well as desserts like puddings and pies; 'Cooking: A Commonsense Guide", also by Murdoch, which explains why some of the recipes are similar to the first; and Australian Women's Weekly 'Classics', which has some good solid recipes.
    I also get a lot of recipes off the internet, and from odd places like pastry packets or chocolate wrappers. Hehe.

    Now I'm hungry!

  2. I have many recipe books that I seldom open,and a few favourites that I cook from time and again.Top of that list would be Annabel Langbein,in particular Cooking to Impress without Stress,although she is very reliable and I have and use most of her books.She put out a very good baking book with the City Cake Co called Sweet Indulgence.

    I also love Julie Biuso,and her Take a Vine Ripened Tomato is well splattered with food from being not to well propped up on the kitchen bench!

    Ruth Pretty and Jamie Oliver also feature frequently;I have all of Ruth's books and have been to her cooking school classes at Te Horo,and eaten her food at various events over the years.If you get the chance to go to a class,jump at it,it's a great day out and you learn a lot.

    Nigel Slater and Nigella's books (and more usually their tv shows) have some excellent dishes.I can't forget Alison Holst who gave me the confidence to try new food as a rather inept cook when first married,about a million years ago now.I love Very Easy Vegetarian that she and Simon wrote.My daughter became a vegetarian when still at school and while I treated it as a phase,here she is 15yrs later,still at it.Damn.I cook from this book when she comes over and we like a lot of the recipes too.Check out the Tomato and Feta Tart,p104.

    As you are Mrs Cake,I should end with the wonderful Alexa Johnston and her Ladies a Plate,and A Second Helping.I don't bake as much as I did when I had a houseful of ravenous children,but we both have sweet tooth and I fire up the oven every few weeks.I am sometimes inspired to bake after I have read some of the food blogs that I follow,and Wee Treats by Tammy was a favourite,but that seems to have gone into hibernation for the moment as she hasn't posted for months since having a baby.

    Phew ! If you are still reading,keep up the good work.You have a lovely,easy style and I do enjoy your posts.

  3. The most beautiful cookbook, or in fact book of any kind, that I've ever owned is Manna From Heaven by Rachel Grinswood. It is absolutely stunning, full of colour and quirky personality.

    Jo Seager's The Cook School Recipes is also a fantastic cookbook. It has many excellent recipes in it that I've tried.

    Ooooh and I can't forget The Crabapple Cupcake Cookbook. I wouldn't cook a cookbook from any other recipe book. I place my utmost trust in her recipes, as they are always a success. So pretty too!

    They're my top recommendations. I have Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey too, I just looooove the presentation of that book. But I haven't actually made anything from it, not quite sure why...maybe it's cos they all look so incredibly rich and indulgent. And yes, Seasons is beautiful.

  4. Oh, so many great recommendations! Whitcoulls have 30% off cookbooks for the next few days so I may go have a browse over the weekend... Not that I need any more, but you all tempt me so!

    Michelle, I'm glad you enjoy my OCD so. ;-) I know what you mean about the pics in the Alison Holst books but I am getting over it, slowly. Still far more likely to make something when there's a nice photo, though!

    Anonymous, I had a five year veggie 'phase' but I couldn't keep myself nourished enough so eventually ditched it - but we still only eat meat about once a week so the veggie cookbook works well for us. Annabel Langbein is great! Don't have any of her books, though, might have to have a flick through the one you mention...

    Anita - the cupcake book sounds good. Somehow I don't have any dedicated cupcake books, but I'm sure it won't be long... And all the recipes in Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey definitely are indulgent - but delicious! Just the thing for after a half-marathon, perhaps, when you deserve a treat? ;-) I like the cheesecake pop idea for it's bite-sized-ness - I think they'd be a great freezer treat!

  5. A great selection of favourites. I've been buying books from Book Depository lately ( very good prices (esp. with exchange rates at the moment) and best of all... free delivery! Good to check prices on Amazon too as sometimes American-published books are cheaper on Amazon than Book Depository.

    Some of my favourite cookbooks are "Everyday in the Kitchen" and "Everyday cooking" by Allan Camption & Michele Curtis (they write the foodies guide to Melbourne). Lots of inspiration for easy dinners.

    For baking, "Mix & Bake" (Belinda Jeffery - another Australian) is a fav - she makes all her recipes sounds so effortless and a lovely book to read as well as to bake from.

    My next cook book purchase is going to be "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan. Both my sisters have it and it's full of delicious recipes.

    Very impressed with your super-organised recipe collection. Mine is a mess of hand-written notes and magazine/newspaper clippings!

  6. The Book Depository sounds interesting - I just read about it on the Foodlovers forum, actually, but hadn't previously heard of them. Free postage is pretty sweet - and I heard their delivery is often a bit quicker - I'm still waiting for my last Amazon order, placed about a month ago!

    Baking: From My Home to Yours is definitely on my wishlist, too! I follow a few blogs who do the Tuesdays with Dorie thing, and the food always looks and sounds so delicious. :-)


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