I quite enjoy cooking and trying out cuisines from many different countries, so obviously I have a bit of a cookery book collection. However, when you have children, at first fussy, then constantly hungry, your plans for sophisticated cooking go out the window and you end up providing the same stalwart reliable and quick crowd-pleasers over and over again.
There are some books that have stood the test of time, however, as well as recent favourites which I can foresee will become my go-to cooking bibles. Like all UK-based people, I have enjoyed Delia, Nigella and Nigel Slater, but I only occasionally use their recipes. I have not gone down the Mary Berry and Yotam Ottolenghi route. I tend to prefer something more filling and simpler to source, without having to hunt out the ingredients in five different shopping sessions at Waitrose or specialist stores. I have been lucky enough to grow up with a solid mix of Viennese, Romanian and French cooking in my childhood. As a student I learnt Japanese, Italian and Chinese cooking – from friends rather than from a cookery book, so I don’t actually own reliable recipe books from those countries. Later, I learnt Greek and Lebanese cooking from family and friends – a limited number of recipes, but still among my favourites.
However, what you see above are the books that I find myself picking up most frequently. Tessa Kiros is a global citizen like myself (Finnish mother, Greek Cypriot father, grew up in Australia), and her cooking reflects this mixed heritage. Her Apples for Jam contained many recipes which even my super-fussy youngsters enjoyed at the age of 4-5.
My major regret, food-wise, is that I did not sit down with my aunt, who was a fantastic cook, and write down all her recipes. However, I can compensate for that somewhat with my most recent acquisition: Carpathia by Irina Georgescu – This is a book I have bought for many of my friends, as it contains a lot of cultural detail as well as Romanian recipes for an English audience. It also has slightly more detail about exact quantities than the book lying open in the picture below, which is my well-worn, by now coverless copy of the classic of Romanian cookery books, Sanda Marin, first published in 1936 and never out of print since (although with considerable modifications during the Communist period, to disguise the fact that many of the ingredients were unavailable or restricted). The four volumes you see to the far right of the picture is a box set a schoolfriend living in France sent me between my first and second move to France (knowing that I missed the area very much). It has a recipe for every single day of the year, divided according to season, and the produce available at the time, or special traditional recipes for Christmas, Easter and other holidays.
Another French book which I used at least once a week when I lived in France but not quite so often nowadays is Sophie’s Cakes – which are savoury or sweet cakes you can bake in a bread tray, once again grouped by season. Best party food – I made them whenever we were invited anywhere, as well as for events at school.
Since returning to the UK in 2016, however, what with working in London, long commutes, rapidly growing teenagers and financial struggles, cooking has become more of a challenge. So the three books below have been very welcome: Jack Monroe‘s down to earth recipes on a budget, plus the appeal of ‘just bung it in the oven’ of Rukmini Iyer‘s roasting tin recipes.
So what kind of cooking do you like to explore? Do you have any favourite recipe books or food writers? And has that changed over the course of the years?