Having just graduated from university, cooking books have a firm place on my kitchen shelf. From disastrous attempts at making barely edible dishes, my time as a student has exposed me to many cooking books. Here are the top ten of the best cooking books that are invaluable to any wannabe Masterchefs out there.
Ready… Steady… Cook!
This mammoth cookery book whips in at number 10. Delia Smith is very much the David Beckham of the cooking world – an institution. Her Complete Cookery Course does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides wannabe chefs with a full, comprehensive guide to creating the best dishes. With fundamental must know recipes like apple pie and yorkshire puddings, Delia shows she is one of the masters. With mouth-watering pictures acting as a rough guide this book is a god send for beginner chefs. No doubt a staple on your mother’s shelf, this book is perfect as a starting point in the basics of pastry making, cake baking and roast making. A genuine triumph in the cookery book world.
Chapman’s bible does not follow the conventional rules of cookery books, but is a diamond in the rough for curry fanatics out there and the reason it has made this best cooking books list. The New Curry Bible does not simply show you the recipes but teaches you the history of curry making. It is not a book to be bought for people who want a quick fix curry. If you are one of those people I suggest you save yourself time and money and just buy a ready meal. However, if you are interested in the exquisite nature of curries, then this book teaches you all you need to know. Like any specialist cook book, it is a little disheartening at first to encounter all of the strange herbs and spices that you know you don’t own, but the rewards from having knowledge of these is irreplaceable. Although it may take you a while to get to grips with the fine art of balancing the spices, you will most certainly become famous amongst friends and family for the talent you will take from this beautiful book.
As a massive lover of seafood, this book has literally been my magna carta. Rick Stein takes you on a journey around the coast and teaches you to really appreciate fish in all its scaly glory. From skinning methods to filleting, this book teaches you how to prepare and cook fish to perfection. Stein writes in a clear and simple fashion and it is impossible to resist his infectious passion. With a variety of dishes that cater for absolutely every occasion, this book is a must have for beginners and experienced fish mongers alike. The instructions are not condescending or set in stone, and leave freedom for experimentation. A truly great book by a truly great chef and teacher.
Following the theme of specialist cooking books, Simple Chinese Cooking is an absolute must have for anyone wanting to start a love affair with Chinese cooking. Filled with beautiful photography, this book coaches you through each dish with clear and crisp step-by-step instructions. Usually when faced with a specific cook book, there seems a never-ending list of ingredients that appear to exist in outer space, but this book has essentials that can be bought and found easily in local grocery stores. Not only is this book a great guide, but it is also incredibly exciting as each week you can watch yourself develop and gain confidence with once seemingly difficult dishes. From steamed cod to sweet and sour pork, Kwong’s recipes will have you burning all your Chinese takeaway menus from the get go.
There can be no such thing as a best cooking books list without Mr Oliver, of course. One of the things I love most about almost all of Jamie Oliver’s cook books are their beautiful and impeccable presentation. They are not endless pages of lines and lines of writing but are instead filled with bright, colourful and delectable pictures, as well as no- nonsense recipes. In his 30 Minute Meals Jaime shows you that once and for all cooking does not have to be a stressful and laborious affair. Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals is amazing for working people for whom time is money, and of course students who wish to spend minimum amount of time cooking and maximum amount of time…. studying. Not only is it wonderfully organised with a designated section for starters, mains and desserts, but there are numerous vegetarian recipes scattered inside, making this book literally for every type of chef.
After his debut cook book How to Cook Everything became an international sensation, Bittman is back to teach you it is easier than you thought to cook recipes from all around the world. With no unnecessary embellishments Bittman gently leads you on a culinary round the world trip that will leave your taste buds in a state of euphoria. The best aspect of Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes In The World whilst you may never get round to cooking everything inside, the dishes you do make will leave you feeling inspired to take dishes you already cook and turn them on their head. Although it can be overwhelming to face so many recipes in one book, I urge you to add this to your collection. It is timeless and will only help to increase your knowledge of food.
In this incredible and not too badly priced book, Gordon Ramsay lets you in on a few secrets that have made him the world-renowned chef that we have all come to love. With a huge collection of recipes from poultry to fish and desserts to soups, this cookbook lets you in on inside info that will have friends and family thinking you are a bona-fide kitchen guru. The recipes are simple and effective and Ramsay has even added flourishes of his own, such as useful tips on presenting dishes. If you really have a passion for cooking or would love to learn more, this is the book that teaches you not just to cook but how to become a chef. These tips help to make cooking a truly enjoyable experience and will boost your confidence to be adventurous not only in cooking but also in eating as well.
As a self-confessed sushi addict this book is incredible – the pages are almost edible. It combines the modern with the traditional and allows you to get to grips with this difficult Japanese style of cooking. Although not to everyone’s taste, this book teaches you the secrets behind making that difficult sticky rice and how to present your sushi in wonderful ways. The most interesting thing about Dekura’s book is they way it advances from simple to expert. This allows you to move gradually at your own pace and also sets little targets within the book. Whilst there are other books on the market such as Yo Sushi’s, it is Dekura’s book that really stands out of the crowd. With gorgeous photography it inspires with a mere flick of the page, and unlike its contemporaries has clear and simple instructions. A must have for any sushi fan and it also makes a great present.
This book comes in at number two of this best cooking books top ten and is a must have for any frequent Wahaca customer. It was only recently published and plunges you straight into the vibrant and tasty world of Mexican street food. One thing that did surprise me was the breakfast section, and I have to admit I have been thoroughly converted to a mexican way of eating in the morning. Full of beautiful pictures and written in an accessible and friendly way, this book does exactly what the title states and brings Mexican food straight into your kitchen. Miers has clearly done the research required for such an exquisite book, and the information about mexican chillies is invaluable. An excellent book for cooking meals for friends and a great equivalent to BBQ parties.
In at number one is Jaime does. In this book Jaime travels through foodie hotspots such as Spain, France and Morocco in order to find innovative recipes. The book is beautifully presented (like all of Jaime’s books) and has wonderful pictures of his travels alongside the amazing pictures of his food. Each country has an introductory paragraph that explains the culture and food he came into contact with, and then in very simple language and an ever friendly tone, Jaime guides you through a range of dishes. From light bites such as patatas bravas to the more complex dishes like the steak tartare, Jaime’s tone never condescends you as the amateur chef. This book not only provides great enjoyment as a teaching tool but is also nice to flip through every now and again to behold the location shots of his food journey. Overall a very deserving winner of this Best Cooking Books list. Absolutely smashing!
This is by no means the only ten cook books I think you should own. There are many other brilliant cookbooks out there for beginners such as The Student Cookbook by Sophie Grigson. This is superb for amateur chefs who simply do not have the time to cook elaborate meals every day and are after recipes for both real cooking and convenience cooking. Then for more adventurous chefs who are willing to get inventive and scientific in the kitchen, there is Heston Bluementhal’s brilliant book The Fat Duck Cookbook, which combines vivid illustrations and wacky recipes for a truly great cooking experience. Overall, the ten books that compose this best cooking books list all offer friendly, easy to follow guidance which enables you to not only enjoy them as books, but also enjoy them as learning tools that will one day make you the king of the kitchen.
Bon appetit ladies and gents.