Listography: 5 favourite cookbooks

I love this challenge from Katetakes5’s Listography this week. Let me re-phrase that: I LOVE THIS CHALLENGE.

As a former cookery magazine Editor and virtual owner of the Recipe Shed, I’ve got cookbooks holding up the walls in our flat. Some I use a lot; others have been flicked through once, then put away, just gathering dust.

Some mean nothing to me; others the world. And these are those. The 5 cookbooks that have a story behind them.


My wife bought me this leather-bound recipe book for my birthday four years ago, long before I started a blog, and probably even before the internet was invented. I keep (or rather kept – because I rarely use it now that I have my online Recipe Shed) all my favourite recipes in it, some I’ve tried and tested from other sources, and some I’ve concocted myself. One of my favourites is Southern Fried Chicken, sourced from a magazine called Fresh, featuring around 30 ingredients.


I got this for Christmas last year and spent a very happy hour putting Post-it notes on all the recipes I want to try – around 30 in total. I’ve done about 20 so far, top of the list being the most sublime Chilli Con Carne I’ve ever tasted. The secret ingredient is a Spiced Butter, made with Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup and Marmite. Oh, and the pure crispy, fluffy genius of his triple-cooked chips!




This was released to coincide with the great man’s TV series of the same name. It only contains half a dozen recipes, but they are ‘perfect’ versions of them. How to Cook the Perfect Steak is top of the list, followed by Chicken Tikka Masala which took three days in preparation and God knows how many ingredients, but my word, it was the business.


Pat’s Indian Restaurant Cookbook was the first I ever bought after  a back-packing trip around India 10 years ago. It gives you all the basics to re-create restaurant-style curries at home BUT it is surpassed by his Balti book. I was a Balti addict when I worked in Birmingham for four years in the ‘Nineties and longed to make my own. Pat shows you how. There is A LOT of groundwork involved, in terms of grinding and blending several dozen spices, but you can use them as bases time and time again, so well worth the effort. One of my favourites from the book is Balti Keema, based on mince.

5. ‘MEAT’ by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Not just a recipe book, but a science manual about everything to do with a carnivore’s dream, from the breeds of animals, to the cuts, to the cooking techniques. I’ve tried and tasted about half of Hugh’s offerings and my favourite by a long-shot is my variation of his Donnie Brasco Aromatic Shoulder of Pork, cooked for 6 hours. Why Donnie Brasco? Because you put it in the oven and ‘Fuggedaboutit’.

• What have you got in your cookbook collection – and why? Head over to KateTakes5’s Listography and share yours.





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11 Responses to Listography: 5 favourite cookbooks

  1. I am so disappointed – I thought you were the inventor of thrice-cooked chips. So you and Heston are good mates I see. Nice.

  2. Your very own recipe book is gorgeous! Keep adding stuff to it, it will be around long after the internet as we know it has ceased to exist.

    The Balti book is fab too.

  3. Thanks for linking to the chilli recipe. I’ll have to have a go at that.

    I find that I’m using BBC Good Food recipes the most these days. I’ve had some fabulous meals from the hundreds of recipes, and a bulging file folder to prove it.

    I also like ‘Economy Gastronomy’ with ideas for several dishes from one main ingredient bought in a large quantity.

  4. It is a testament to my character that I managed to continue to read having reached the thrice cooked chips. However I suspect they were put in there just for me so I refuse to rise to the bait. Grrrr.

  5. Pingback: #Listography – Top Five Cookbooks « Files and Records

  6. I am not surprised at all to see Heston in there twice, Hugh is probably my favourite chef – his food is very tasty but generally relatively simple and all about enjoying eating it rather than creating something fancy.

  7. Let me know when number 1 goes into print. I’d love to get a copy. That Balti book looks great but “The Curry Guy” keeps my Indian craving at bay, for now. How did I know a few of Heston’s books would be on your list?

    Anne xx

  8. You should use your recipe book more often! I’d like to get something like that for my own recipes that I can pass on to my children. They’d probably say Mum made a lot of cake though…! Heston is an intriguing chef although I haven’t seen any of his books. Will have a look next time I’m in the library!

  9. Claire from Adventures in Singapore

    What a gorgeous gift from your wife! Interesting selection… I always figured Heston’s recipes would be too fiddly but am off to check out the chilli recipe.

  10. I love your list as some of these recipes/books look mouthwateringly marvellous but I’m am still quite a novice when it comes to cooking and they may be a level above my skill base!

  11. What a lovely gift. Not surprised to see Heston there.