Cookbooks that work – back to the basics

I have rather a lot of cookbooks. In fact Mr EF made me count them recently and I astonished to find I have around 150. Much of one bookcase is stuffed with them.

Some have proved disappointing – the glossy pictures and hype amount to little. Others, well cooking has just moved on so much and what they propose just doesn’t tempt me. Some I use on a very occasional basis, but are good all the same. (Have to confess that I use the Delia Smith Christmas countdown each year). Then there are the others that become firm favourites – recipes you trust, that taste fabulous and hit that particular need on that particular day. I’ve also one dating from 1911 that I’d love to try some recipes from one day.

So what makes a good cookbook, and especially a back to basics cookbook. To me, this is not that the recipes need to be basic, but that the ideas are simple, the recipe is easy to follow and the taste is great. A few books I’ve come across recently have surprised me.  I approached these with some scepticism, but have been more than satisfied with the results.

Cookbooks that go back to basics

From top, Back to Basics, Eggs and How to cook the perfect

Marcus Wareing’s, How to cook the perfect … has awful photography. If you can get beyond that and try the recipes (which are an eclectic mix to say the least from creamed spinach to lemon tart) they really do work and are destined to become part of your suite of favoured recipes.

A second, the cookbook Back to Basics (The Australian Women’s Weekly Essentials)
refreshingly includes dishes from that region – from Singapore Noodles to standards such as lasagne and spaghetti bolognaise. Ideal, I think, for someone who is a newish cook wanting to extend their repertoire and it’s very affordable too.

The third, snappily entitled Eggs is written by Michel Roux (senior).  These recipes are not super simple, but really come into their own when you’ve very few ingredients left in the house except eggs. The recipes are easy to follow and produce very tasty results.

I know that Heidi Swanson started her excellent blog to share the 101 (plus) cookbooks she had at the time.  I am sure I am not alone in having far too many, but there’s always the next book that you just must have!  I am really excited by the idea of sous vide cookery at the moment, but that needs a whole raft of equipment.  Perhaps just the book to begin with.

I have one copy of the Back to Basic recipe book up for grabs.  Just leave me a comment below telling me what  your favourite cookbook is and I’ll chose one suggestion at random on 23 July.

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About Bread Baker Danielle

Danielle founded Edinburgh Foody in 2010. Having qualified as a professional bread baker in France in 2014, she is now on a new adventure in Gloucestershire. Check out Look out for occasional posts for Edinburgh Foody


  1. Pingback: Writing a Cook Book – a workshop with Nell Nelson « Edinburgh Foody

  2. I love cookbooks, while my partner is regularly amused at my ranting at TV chef’s and rather fearful for his flat screen TV! Cookbooks, lose the condescending patronising tones of the TV presenters and format and just give you the food and the info that you require.

    So which to choose, Delia and Leith cover all the basics plus a few you’re never likely to encounter, while the Nig’s(lawson and slater) are perfect for the dinner party or additional lashings of cream. Overall fast food by nigel slater wins on both a practicality and impressiveness rating for the food.

  3. Favourite? That depends on the category…

    My most used cookbook is an old Swedish classic, Vår Kokbok, one of those you find in every household and that gets updated every five or ten years. My copy is from the eighties.

    The cookbook I’m most proud of is Dinners with Gala, Salvador Dali’s cookbook. It’s hugely elaborate and has virtually no recepies that I’ll ever make.

    I also really like a slim book called The art of cooking, written by H. Gyllensköld, a Swedish architect, in the fourties to give his daughter some proper advise on how to prepare food. His approach is entirely soul-less, but it does tell you about food preparation. I particularly enjoy his experiements in beef preparation.

  4. I have almost 400 cookbooks – the collection grows with regularity. Many I use as reference, some I read, others are just sheer foodie porn like Nigel Haworth’s Obsession. Fantastic book, beautiful pictures and recipes from so many great chefs, a hefty tome with, I think, 300 or is it 400 glossy pages – cost £35! But the book I’m using alot at the moment is Mary Berry’s Baking Bible; every recipe is foolproof.
    I wonder what the word is for someone who collects cookbooks? Answers on a tweet please 🙂

  5. I can absolutely relate to that – I found that I steer clear of the older ones with outdated pictures, or hesitate to use the big (expensive) tomes with no pictures at all. I have “only” about 50 cookbooks, but I realised the other day I always get back to the same few ones. My favourite to get back to, even though it’s nothing extravagant, is “Jamie’s Dinners”, with my favourite recipe being “Pasta with sweet tomato sauce and baked ricotta” – so easy to make, and guests love it. After reading your post, I think it might be time to declutter my cookbook shelf…

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