People often ask where my inspiration comes from and in general it is often lying in bed in the morning when you're half asleep and ideas drift in. Sometimes it's eating out in restaurants and cafes but I do also sometimes use inspiration from cook books and online recipes.
Where I've used a recipe as the basis for mine, I always credit it but there are also cook books that I cook from without changing anything. Obviously I don't really blog about this because, well you can go out and try them for yourselves! But if I don't blog about them, how do you know?
So, I thought I'd put together a list of the things I use most often, the recipe books and online resources I turn to again and again. Some of them might make great Christmas presents too for the foodie in your life.
My own scrapbooks. I have been keeping a recipe scrapbook for about 20 years. I picked up the habit from my Mum. Some of them are stained with recipes, have crossings out (some recipes have been unceremoniously removed or overpasted too! I'm ruthless!)
Not everything has been cooked in there but it's a collection from magazines, friends, newspapers, the internet and, before I started this blog, my own recipes (now they tend to get typed up rather than written down.) They are resources I turn back to again and again. For example I'm cooking my Christmas Puddings today from a recipe I stuck into one of the scrapbooks by Nigel Slater. I think it was from the Observer Food Monthly magazine many moons ago. If you have a foodie in your life, obviously my journals aren't up for grabs but why don't you treat them to a nice book to stick and write recipes in? Perhaps you could also type up for them a few of your own favourite recipes for them to stick in if they like? A hard backed book is fine or if you feel like splashing out, there is something lovely about the Moleskine cooking journal.
Did you know this is what I bought for Christmas for my sister about three years ago. Not only did she love it but it caused me to write down some of my own recipes for the first time. The rest, my friends is history...
Yan Kit So's Classic Chinese cookbook. This has been in my possession for a good 15 years and it's been reissued since with a new cover.
I love this book and have cooked from it so much over the years. Great sections on basic techniques and information about the regionality of Chinese food.
This is the slightly scary pink cover of the version I have which I think was the second version published in 1998. Wow. Irrespective of the current popularity of many TV chefs I doubt they would have that longevity!
River cottage bread book. This is a lovely book which, having worked in a bakery introduces terms and ways of making bread the average home cook might not have tried. I often cook a variation of the sourdough at home (which I do keep meaning to blog about) and the sponge method bread is fantastic, easy and something most home cooks would not have thought of. Also mentions someone I have been incredibly lucky to meet in real life (and try his fantastic breads); Clive Mellum from Shipton Mill who inspired me to start trying baking with my son (apparently 3 years old is the golden age to get them really into it but we have started with the odd bit of stirring and kneeding!)
BBC Good Food (online). I do worry that BBC Good Food shoot themselves in the foot with this website, it's almost too good. Access to recipes from years ago from Good Food and Olive but the best bit is there are then comments from users underneath and ratings. Many a time I've looked at the comments and changed how I was going to approach making a dish. This is also the resource I think I've linked back to the most as I have on occasion used some of the dishes as a starting point for my own.
River Cottage Meat Book. Now this isn't a perfect cookbook by any stretch of the imagination. If I used the cooking times in here for roasting meat (which after trying twice, I don't), I'd be eating things very rare, (fine for beef but...) However, what I turn back to in this book again and again is the jointing instructions, basic butchery, encouragement to eat the whole pig or other animal (apart from the oink! Damn that oink!) and the occasional bit of meaty inspiration.
Gordon Ramsey's Sunday Lunch. This has some 'ticks' I hate in cookbooks; excessively large photos, not many recipes for the size of the book, recipes put into menus rather than in a more logical (to me) order, but having said all that, every recipe I've tried from here is easy and works.
Delicious magazine, unlike Good Food does have an online offering but I never find it as user friendly and doesn't seem to offer quite so many recipes from the magazine. Still the recipes are good and reliable and it's something I subscribe to from time to time.
Food and Travel magazine. Food and travel combine two of the passions I had in my 20s having travelled through Asia and Eastern Europe and also feature more challenging recipes, the ones you might not have seen before. Despite the fact there aren't many recipes in each issue, when I do buy it, I always cut out recipes for my own scrapbooks (see above). I also found in the last issue I bought I have become increasingly interested in the food photography which is always beautiful in this magazine. At first look the photographs seem simple, uncomplicated and a captured moment, it's only on looking further that you realise what care and attention has been taken. I aspire to this level of awesomeness!
I don't buy it as often as I would partly because it makes me long for days of travelling pre kids and sometimes that makes me a grumpy Mummy to be around.
Making the Most of your Slow Cooker by Catherine Atkinson. This does have a failing of all slow cooker recipe books in that it tries to convince you anything can be cooked in a slow cooker. Well, yes it can but some things are better than others and I'm yet to be convinced that any slow cooked fish (with the exception of squid) is a good thing. However, that said, it has a fantastic "basics" section at the start and I turn back to the instructions on cooking pot roasts again and again. In fact I was trying to find out yesterday why I shouldn't cook tomatoes with dried beans in a slow cooker unless the beans are fully cooked and the answer was in here! Also the book which inspired me to start cooking some of my Christmas pudding batch in my slow cooker, and, perhaps more importantly, reheating it on Christmas or Boxing day (thus saving a ring on the hob). Indispensable inspiration for the slow cooker obsessive.
Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Italy is one of the few Italian recipe books I own, not because I don't like Italian food but because why would I need another one? It's so detailed and gives you history and anecdotes. It apparently took him 5 years to write so I guess it should be the weighty tome it is. It's my first point of call for any Italian recipe. A great big book as well without the irritating double page spread photos of the cook holding a slice of ham or something... You know what I mean...
I'm not saying the above cookery books are the only ones I own or use. In fact, I have a bit of an obsession with cookbooks. Some though are more beautiful to look at that be used, the above are all my choices that actually get cooked from, regularly. That said, I'm ruthless. Some of the most popular TV cooks have made it into the charity shop pile and I've not gone back to buying another as a result. I would like to urge you though that there is more variety outside of the top 5 cookbooks and it's worth looking for something different. I know as someone who cooks a lot myself, I would appreciate a cookbook that's really useful far more than the next celeb chef vehicle.
This post was not sponsored by anyone and represents the sincere views of Mamacook, links have only been included for your interest, many of these items are available from multiple retailers. I hope you get as much pleasure from the above as I do.