Reading cookbooks

The Christmas market has started in the cathedral town near where I live. We went today and I completely forgot to take pictures. I did get one of the cathedral interior – at least. The Xmas market is fun, although same-y, as we’ve been before over several years.

Anyway, I’m between books and at loose ends regarding TV programmes. What I do in such situations generally is look through cookbooks. I browse recipes, look at pictures, and think about what I’d like to cook or bake, but the real point of the process is simply to absorb ideas.

I have some US cookbooks from when I lived there which are favourites for the perusing but because the measurements and some of the ingredients are US-centric I just read them for pleasure.

I’ve got three Chez Panisse books (ground-breaking California restaurant) which are firm favourites: Cooking, Menu Cookbook and Desserts.

I have James Beard on Bread in which the spine cracks at the banana bread recipe.

I have a wonderful fish book, called The Seafood Cookbook, by a couple of long-ago New York Times writers.

Mostly now though I focus on UK books.

Last Christmas, my son got me Nopi, the cookbook related to the Ottolenghi restaurant of the same name in London (if you come to London and want to have a lush meal in lovely environment but don’t want to dress up this is the place). It’s a riff on Mediterranean food, but much more imaginative than just that. Lots of great vegetable recipes as well.

I have a number of Nigel Slater’s books, but my favourite is The Kitchen Diaries.

In this, he interweaves his thoughts on seasonal food, his food diary entries and recipes – 12 chapters based on the 12 months of the year (pics are cover and dessert with apricots – love me some apricots, especially warm with either pouring cream or whipped cream). Highly recommended.

I also have a number of Jamie Oliver and River Cottage books which get heavy use. Jamie Oliver actually writes good cookbooks.

I’ve been working my way through ideas for Christmas lunch food and it’s the veg that is the focus this year. Sure, we’re looking at turkey, stuffing and roast potatoes, but carrots, peas and Brussel sprouts will get a new and different treatment this year.

And then there are desserts. I plan to make my mother’s flourless chocolate cake in time for Hannukah but we’ll need to add something (or a couple of something) for Xmas. I’m thinking something fruit. One year I made raspberry panna cotta and that worked quite well. I’m not partial to trifle, the ubiquitous Xmas pudding with layers of stuff including jelly (jell-o). Maybe something similar to panna cotta or tartlettes with crème pat and fruit on top (but might get those from local bakery). Or maybe simply do a load of berries and a ton of vanilla scented whipped cream …

So, do you read cookbooks? If yes, what are some of your favourites? And any ideas for a fruit dessert for the season?


  • Kathleen says:

    I love reading and browsing cookbooks! I used to have sooooo many cookbooks, until we moved a couple of times and husband said he wouldn’t ever move all of my books again. LOL, I agreed it was ridiculous and now only have three boxes of my favorite books. Ina Garten books are a fave, and several seafood, Thai, Italian, and Indian.

    • cinnamon says:

      I think I’m definitely going to need at least one Ina Garten. I did that with other books after several moves — just realised I was moving things that I didn’t look at — even though they were in theory ‘treasured’ 🙂

  • Musette says:

    Sherry Yard for desserts!!!


  • March says:

    I don’t own very many cookbooks but I certainly do some browsing online! Yeah, it’s about ideas for combinations and techniques? I really wish US cooks would suck it up and do everything by weight, it makes it so much easier to be precise. I toyed with making a bakewell tart for Thanksgiving (because I want to make frangipane lol) but the other pie being made was pecan, so I went with a less-sweet lemon that had that creamy texture more like a key lime pie. It was easy … as pie hehe and also a hit. I need to get better about where I save recipes on my laptop, they’re sort of all over the place. That Christmas market sounds like fun!

    • cinnamon says:

      I have loose recipe sheets printed out and stacked on top of the printer. At some point in some future they may end up in a binder … maybe … Have you tried banoffee pie? The farm shop sometimes offers it in slices. Sublime.

  • Dina C. says:

    I have a hilarious cookbook called “The I Hate to Cook Book” which reads as if humorist Erma Bombeck had written it. It’s full of real recipes, categories like Last Minute Suppers, What to Take to a Potluck, Children’s Birthdays, etc. Written by Peg Bracken, my copy is so worn it’s held together with clear packing tape. I recently had some black tea flavored panna cotta dotted with raspberries and crumbled Nilla wafers at a restaurant. It was very good.

    • cinnamon says:

      Great name for a cookbook. I had to do the tape thing with the joy of cooking. Tea is such an under-rated food ingredient.

  • Tom says:

    I love cookbooks and have several, from old Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Nigella Lawson, Martha Stewart and Ina Garten (some of Martha’s are great, some simply don’t work.) as well as some restaurant cookbooks from LA, like the Brown Derby and 72 Market St. the best and most useful ones are from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country, the TV series arm of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. They’ll do things like buy 200lbs of lamb shank to figure out the easiest way for a home cook to cook them flawlessly every time.

    Oddly enough, I am more a “reheat the burrito from the market” sort than the braise lamb shanks person..

    • cinnamon says:

      I miss proper burritos. You don’t really get very good Mexican food here. And love Ina Garten’s TV programmes. She’s wonderful.

  • ElizaC says:

    We have a rather large collection of cookbooks and they make for wonderful reading. If you like James Beard, his book about his childhood in Oregon (with recipes) is a great read. Have you read M.F.K. Fisher or Elizabeth David?

    • cinnamon says:

      Will have a look for the Beard book. Those types of cookbooks are great. Haven’t looked at Fisher or David for a long time.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Cinnamon,
    I have cookbooks. Some are leftovers from Mum, others gifted. One of them may get a look-in annually. Mostly they fill shelf space and gather dust.
    All the foods I cook I know by heart. Not very adventurous with it either.
    A few years ago I had an ex show me how to make his lasagna. It’s now one of my favourite dishes to make. No cookbook required. I make the base and Jin does the Béchamel.
    Maybe I’ll look up some sides for Xmas. Not sure who talked about it but I’d like to try beans in mushroom soup.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      Almost everything I make on a regular basis comes from a small repertoire and is from memory. Just makes life easier. But I enjoy doing recipes when I have the time. Jamie Oliver has an amazing stuffed pasta recipe with a cheese and broccoli goo, tomato sauce and something else which I do every once in a while. It time heavy with lots of steps but tastes amazing.

  • alityke says:

    I admit to being a bit of a Nigella cookery book fan girl. Her writing suffers less from the pseudo flirtatiousness than her TV shows & her recipes are easily achievable.
    I’m quite impressed by Nadiya Hussain’s books too.
    Though Delia’s iconic Cookery Course can’t be beaten for foolproof recipes. DH had the three volumes from the 80’s before we met & they are still dragged out regularly for ideas.
    Fruity celebratory pudding? Mentioning Nigella & Delia made me think “Pav” as Nigella refers to it. With whatever fruit topping you fancy, even cold poached apricots

    • cinnamon says:

      I keep meaning to buy one of Nadiya’s baking books. She was so good on Bake Off. And how could I forget Nigella, whose books are indeed good. Pavlova!! That’s a wonderful idea — and I can even get individual ones from the farm shop.

      • alityke says:

        Farm Shop individual pavs sound much better than homemade at Xmas. I’d be tempted to tart them up with passion fruit or something else to temper the sweetness.

  • Tara C says:

    I’m not much of a cook, and savory cookbooks tend to focus on meat and fish which I don’t eat, so sweet cookbooks are my favorite. In the Sweet Kitchen by Reagan Daly is one I study regularly, as it explains some of the technical aspects of baking. Rose Beranbaum’s Baking Bible is another good one, as well as David Liebovitz.

    • cinnamon says:

      I have a couple of vegetarian Indian cookbooks which are very good. There’s a great River Cottage veg book. Will have a look at the others you mention.