Cookbooks are something that are integral to any cooks experience in the kitchen. Whether you are just trying to navigate life around pots and pans, are looking for something to spice up a midweek meal or you’re levelling up your cooking experience. A cookbook is a tool that can add so much more to your knowledge of food.
As a student I think there is some sort of expectation that I eat pot noodles for most of my meals, I live off of Spaghetti Bolognese and that all my cookbooks are called ‘how to eat on a budget’ or ‘A students introduction to cooking’. But alas, my mum has taught me well, I went to uni with a solid knowledge of cooking, in fact I think my flatmates were surprised and found it funny how often I cooked homemade meals a week.
My appreciation for food covers a lot of bases; the taste, the look and the challenge. I like to experiment and push myself to eat things that aren’t necessarily conventional. However, I also like making those more conventional dishes exciting. I personally think with the right cookbooks you can learn to be more confident in the kitchen and use the things you learn in these books to experience food in a new and exciting way.
And that’s why I want to share my ‘secrets’ with you. To highlight the fantastic chefs who have changed the way I think about cooking and have opened my eyes to new ways of eating and thinking about food.
Before jumping into the three cookbooks I would recommend I thought I would inform you on my way of collecting cookbooks. Nowadays what I’ve noticed is that cookbooks simply don’t just offer recipes rather they also sell a story or a way of living. For example they might promote healthy eating, reducing waste, using things you already have etc. Thus, when looking for a cookbook I always think of what I want it to teach me, beyond just a new meal. Furthermore, think about what you need to get better at or what is missing from your eating routine – do you need to eat more veg? Are you looking for quicker yet tasty meals? Would you like to reduce the amount of meat you eat? Cookbooks are a great way of making these changes less daunting and a lot easier.
I think it is also important to acknowledge that a lot of people find cookbooks stressful because it means following a structured routine where there are so many timings and quantities to follow. I’ve now reached the point where I see a recipe as guidance, don’t be afraid to go off on a different route – adding a splash of something or an extra bit of something else. The world will not be destroyed if you switch it up, some creative licence is what cooking is about. The more you cook the more natural it will become and I promise the fear of a recipe will go away.
And on that note here are the 3 cookbooks in my collection so far.
Anna Jones’ One Pot, Pan, Planet
One Pot, Pan, Planet: A Greener Way to Cook for You, Your Family and the Planet
Anna’s book appears more like a bible for food lovers than your standard cookbook. With 200 recipes and some well thought out information on how you can reduce waste and change your shopping routine, this cookbook offers you way more than just a new recipe.
But don’t be put off by its minimalist exterior or chunky size. This book covers everything, so it is well worth the investment (and shelf space).
Her recipes cover a plethora of different cuisines and ingredients, all of course centring around eating veggie and saving the planet. And to top it all of they use less pans and dishes so they won’t make your kitchen appear like a bomb has gone off.
Not only is this a visual masterpiece with some lovely images and a great colour palette, her food is delish. I’ve cooked a couple recipes now and I have to say the Japanese Sweetcorn Fritters with a fantastic sauce (p. 174) and the Greens and Kimchi Fried Rice (p. 193) have been my absolute faves so far. Packed with flavour and easy to make I must admit I was quite impressed.
Jessica Elliot Dennison’s Tin Can Magic
Tin Can Magic: Simple, Delicious Recipes using Pantry Staples
Jessica is the owner of 27 Elliott’s in Edinburgh which is a kitchen for ‘good coffee, lunch and store cupboard ingredients’ whereas the workshop at 21 is Dennison’s ‘creative space’. The vibe I get from her work is fantastically quaint and Italian. When eating one of the recipes in the book I can see myself transported to sitting in the Italian sun with a divine dish of pasta and a book. You may think with such a picture that there must be a caveat to this image; the price? the food? Well I can confirm none of those are an issue (unless you’re looking for the Italian sun, I am afraid in Scotland that is simply too much to ask for).
Tin Can Magic is devoted to loving the tins stuck in the back of our cupboard including tinned tomatoes, anchovies and butter beans (to name a few). These simplistic dishes are packed with flavour and cleverly contain substitutions for ingredients that may be tricker to find or not to your liking. So the chance of you already having/or liking the ingredients is pretty high.
I keep going back to the amazing Butter Sugo (p._) which is a rich tomato based pasta sauce packed with garlic and topped with parmesan cheese.
Jess’ book is designed beautifully and really feels like home once you get acquainted with its pages. Filled with dishes fit for quick meals to big feasts. She also has the cookbook Salad Feasts which I have heard incredible things about and she is also coming out with a book based on easy and quick baking.
If you want to support Jess and her small business in Edinburgh I would recommend buying the book (and any of the other things she has to offer on her website) directly from her online store here.
Rukmini Iyer’s The Roasting Tin
The Roasting Tin: Simple One Dish Dinners
Iyer’s cookbook is my most recent purchase, I was looking for dishes that could be thrown together quickly but still pack a punch. Weeknight meals have often been a bit of trouble for me, I am constantly looking for something new however I don’t want that to come with a series of dishes, complicated processes or hour long prep times.
Thus The Roasting Tin was the perfect fit. Iyer’s chapters are split into different foods and they always start with a diagram of how to cook them. For example, the chicken section has a table of all the types of chicken you can get and how long it will take to cook in an oven. The idea is that once you get aquatinted with Iyer’s ideas and dishes you can then proceed to invent your own roasting tin meals.
Not only is she providing you with inspiration and delicious meals, she provides you with the skills to then do it yourself. Thus, leaving you more confident in the kitchen. She also tackles veggie dishes, fish and puddings (all for in a roasting tin). My personal favourite is the chipotle chicken wings with sweet potato wedges and a lime and coriander yoghurt dip.
If you’re not on the hunt for simple one dish dinners, Iyer has come out with numerous cookbooks for a variety of different needs.
To find out more about her, visit her website here.
Buy the Roasting Tin or any of her other books at Waterstones here.
To buy from Blackwell’s (all her books are currently discounted – £5.40 off) here.
3 cookbooks, 3 women, 3 fantastic ways to kick off collating new ways to work in the kitchen. I do believe that the more you investigate cooking and open yourself to new ideas and ways of doing it, the more you will come up with your own stye and preferences. Practice makes perfect as they say.
However, that’s not to say you can’t have enough cookbooks. I’ve grown up with a house full of them and I think that’s a testament in itself to the fact every cookbook offers something unique.
What’s your go to cookbook? Can you remember the very first one you bought? Or the one that cemented your love of cooking?
I’d love to know your own experience with using cookbooks and how they’ve influenced you.
Let me know in the comments!
Sending lots of love,