Food for thought – Ten Must-Read Cookery Books

Food for thought – Ten Must-Read Cookery Books

If you love food you probably have too many recipe books already.  However, if you were to make room for just a few more, which titles would you choose?  It’s a daunting prospect – Amazon lists more than 60,000!  We’ve come up with ten classics that made a huge impact when first published and still stand the test of time. 

Larousse Gastronomique 

The Bible for those who love to cook à la française.   Originally created by Prosper Montagnè in 1938 and last updated in 2009 it rapidly established itself as the world's classic culinary reference book.  Authoritative and comprehensive this big fat encyclopaedia runs to over 1200 pages and contains a mammoth helping of recipes, tips, regional produce maps, cooking styles and terms along with biographies of famous chefs and articles tracing the origins of countless popular dishes. 

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain 

The subtitle “Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” gives you a clue.  The veteran chef spills the beans on "twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behaviour and haute cuisine" that he enjoyed while working in restaurant kitchens from Paris to Miami and Tokyo to New York.  The macho culture may have changed since his day but the book made it cool to be a cook and is often cited as an influence by todays more mercurial celebrity chefs. 

The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon  

First published in 1976 and regularly updated it takes you on a mouth-watering culinary tour India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, Korea and Japan.  The 800 recipes are not over complicated while the comprehensive glossary will help you source unfamiliar ingredients.  It’s no surprise that it has sold over a million copies. 


Recipe Book Cooking books Yotam Ottolenghi

The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten 

When this former lawyer was appointed food critic for Vogue in 1989 he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine and any food that was blue.  Part cookbook, part travelogue, part medical and scientific treatise it is an impassioned, mouth-watering, and outrageously funny read from a man who devotes Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to all things culinary. 

Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques 

This is a book about how to cook - properly!  How to hold a knife and hone it, efficiently slice or dice an onion, debone a chicken and make vinaigrette.  The latest edition includes more than 600 techniques and methods along with 160 recipes with thousands of step-by-step photographs.  Everything you always wanted to know about the art of classic cookery but didn’t know who to ask.   

White Heat by Marco Pierre White  

Published in 1990 this is another “cooking as rock ‘n’ roll” book that helped to spark the whole celebrity chef genre.  Part autobiography and part cookery book it serves up a spicy blend of outspoken opinion, exciting recipes and dramatic photographs by legendary Bob Carlo Clarke.  It has been described as "gastroporn", as a "Marco Pierre White fanzine-with-recipes", an "ego-trip" and "possibly the most influential recipe book of the last 20 years".  It’s anything but boring.   

Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless 

Rick Bayless and his wife Deann spent ten years traveling over thirty-five thousand miles to investigate the six distinct regions of Mexico and learn how to prepare the dishes they most enjoyed.  If you want to get beyond basic guacamole, chilli or tacos and experience the amazing variety of Mexican cuisine then there’s no better starting place.    

The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  

Much more than a book of back-to-nature British recipes it encourages readers to change their whole relationship with food and is as much about lifestyle as cooking.  You’ll discover how to buy organic produce, rear your own meat, grow your own vegetables and forage in the wild for free food.  A thought provoking read at a time when self-sufficiency, farm-to-table and sustainable food production are hot topics.  

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat 

Early in her career Samin, trying to make sense of what she observed in the hectic environment of the kitchen at the iconic Chez Panisse restaurant, observed four key priniples that chefs relied upon to get the results they desired: Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat.  From this observation she developed her own instinctive approach to cooking delicious meals with any combination of ingredients.  A book that will fundamentally transform the way that you cook even the most basic of dishes. 

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi 

The Israeli-born London chef’s second book caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic – a surprise for a publication entirely devoted to vegetables.  His vibrantly colourful recipes offer a fresh take on Mediterranean cuisine.  His declared aim is to create "drama in the mouth” and his original and innovative approach, based on strong flavours and stunningly unusual combinations, makes vegetables suddenly sexy.   

Last word 

Are these the only books you’ll ever need on food and cookery?  No way!  But if you are having to work hard at justifying buying any more then start with these.   

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