Be Happy picks the nation's favourite cookery books
Back in the late 70s and early 80s the chances are that your parents (or grandparents) only had one or two cookbooks on their shelves. Perhaps a copy of Good Housekeeping or Delia Smith's Cookery Course or, for those wanting to pep up their dinner parties, a Robert Carrier hardback. But all that changed in the 1980s with the advent of newer, bolder TV cooks. The most notable of these was bon viveur Keith Floyd, who stamped all over existing cookery shows with a new format that engaged viewers with its irreverent style and enthusiasm for good food.
Floyd's shows were the catalyst for a whole new generations of TV chefs and before too long cookery programmes were packing the schedules. From The Naked Chef to MasterChef, the public's preoccupation with food viewing has seen a stratospheric rise. By the late 90s Jamie Oliver had made it cool to cook, and we were all heading for Borough Market to stock up on fresh herbs before jumping on our Vespas to return home to rustle up a quick bowl of parsnip and pancetta tagliatelle (or at least we were in our imaginations - or maybe that's just me).
Chefs are no longer caricatured as portly, and somewhat sweaty, irritable middle-aged men (although in some cases that's exactly what they are), but are now seen as passionate, long-haired, temperamental sex gods, exemplified by the original Bad Boy chef Marco Pierre White.
On the back of all this interest has come a glut of cookery books. It now goes without saying that every cookery show will be accompanied by a glossy eye-catching hardback, and every prominent restaurant chef worth his or her salt will have a bestseller on the market. Once allocated only a short amount of shelf space in a book shop's special interest section, the cookbook now sits centre stage year upon year delivering publishers a much needed boost to their coffers.
To select the books for this list, we asked Be Happy readers which ones they turn to for inspiration and that include recipes that work. In no particular order, here's our pick of the best books based on your Facebook and Twitter posts. We've also called in some expert help from MasterChef winners Dhruv Baker, Shelina Permaloo and Natalie Coleman who reveal their kitchen bibles.
• How to Cook Delia Smith
Delia caused a stir among some foodies who felt a book that included a masterclass in how to boil an egg was a touch patronising. However, the nation's favourite cook (note: not chef) knows the British public far better than her detractors and the three volumes have swept the nation – simple recipes that work.
• The Naked Chef Jamie Oliver
From hip young thing to housewife favourite, Jamie has become a gastro phenomenon, but it was The Naked Chef that started it all, stripping recipes back to simple tasty flavours using seasonal ingredients – pukka!
• Nigella Express Nigella Lawson
Her coquettish onscreen persona generates polarising opinions, but one thing that's undeniable is that Nigella knows her grub and takes huge pleasure in both eating and cooking. Nigella Express offers no-nonsense recipes that can be quickly whipped up for family or visiting friends – everything from speedy coq au vin to a rich tiramisu.
• French Provincial Cooking Elizabeth David
Elizabeth David championed quality ingredients and specialised in French and Italian food in the mid 20th century. Floyd cites her as a major influence and she is credited with introducing many hitherto unpopular ingredients to the UK.
• Kitchen Diaries Nigel Slater
Only Nigel Slater with his meticulous engaging prose combined with no-nonsense recipes could make a diary of a year's meals such a tour de force. He describes some of the meals as 'fast food' but fast or slow there are plenty of winning dishes here.
• Seafood by Rick Stein
There's a reason that Stein has become such a successful chef – his food knowledge is exemplary, and nowhere is it more on show than in this homage to the humble fish. As well as large number of recipes, from shellfish to flatfish, there's a strong focus on skills and techniques.
WE ALSO LIKED...
• Cajun Cookbook Paul Prudhomme
• Complete Spanish Cookbook Jackie Passmore
• Roasts for Every Day of the Week Stephane Reynaud
• The French Laundry cookbook Thomas Keller (photographs by Deborah Jones)
• The Dairy Book of British Food Elizabeth Martyn
• The River Cottage Meat Book Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
• The Cookbook Yotam Ottolenghi
• Indian Cookery Madhur Jaffrey
• The River Cafe Cookbook Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
AWARD WINNING PRAISE…
Natalie Coleman MasterChef Champion 2013 chooses...
• Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine René Redzepi
I find myself picking up this book more often over others to just look at the stunning photography and food styling. The recipes are not something that the normal home cook could recreate, however you could try certain elements. It opens your mind to new techniques and ingredients, and takes you away from the norm. It’s one of my favourite books for inspiration and for exploring new methods of cooking.
• Historical Heston Heston Blumenthal
The recipes in Historical Heston can be found on the menu at “Dinner, by Heston” at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London. I have been fortunate enough to eat at “Dinner” on several occasions and was blown away by the food and concept of the restaurant. The menu is based on old recipes throughout history which Heston twists into Michelin starred eating. The first time I ate there I had the Spiced Pigeon and was awe struck. I had never eaten pigeon before in my life - it’s not something that is put in front of you on a normal dinner table. After that my outlook of food changed and this is what inspired me to cook pigeon during MasterChef. The book is beautifully illustrated with stunning photography and the history of where each recipe comes from. There are also the detailed recipes of Heston’s version. It’s certainly a must-have collectable for foodies.
• The Complete Nose to Tail Fergus Henderson & Justin Piers Gellatly
This cookbook is from the founders of the legendry St John’s restaurant in London. St John’s is one of the most iconic restaurants in London and loved by chefs/diners all over the world. Bourdain names it his favourite restaurant in the world and it holds a Michelin Star. Its no frills, all-about-the-taste cooking is reflected in the book. One of their most Iconic dishes is the ‘Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad’, which is served in the restaurant with charred sourdough. It shows that very few cheap ingredients can produce something delicious and mind blowing to eat. When I did my stages last year I was in charge of this dish during service. It’s a book that everyone who likes good hearty British food should have in their collection.
Natalie is running a Kids Cookery School for children aged 7-13 years and living in the London boroughs Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The classes will take place during spring half term: 17th – 21st Feb, in East London. See Natalie's blog www.nataliecolemanchef.co.uk and to book a place visit http://www.centralstreet.org/
Shelina Permalloo MasterChef Champion 2012 chooses...
• Jerusalem Yotam Ottloenghi and Sami Tamimi
"An incredible exploration into the world of middle eastern cooking. I love the fact they dedicate so much time exploring the most well known of middle eastern food - 'hummus' - and its contentious history and variations. A beautifully written book with incredible photography."
• Thai Street Food David Thompson
"A staple coffee table read at my house, not only can I spend hours just gazing at the location and food photography, but the detail to the recipes is just exquisite. You need time to labour over the recipes but the end result is entirely satisfying."
• Eat Nigel Slater
"For everyday simple inspiration this book is just brilliant. Easy to read and navigate through, and with over 600 recipes, you'll always find something to inspire your everyday cooking."
Shelina's debut cookbook Sunshine On A Plate is available to buy via her website http://shelinapermalloo.com/recipes
Dhruv Baker MasterChef Champion 2010 chooses...
• Larousse gastronomique
"I have two editions of this cornerstone of classic cooking. A battered copy from 1987 and an updated one from 2009. A must for any serious cook with all the classics and foundations of cookery."
• Formulas for Flavour John Campbell
"This was the first book I had ever seen that translated restaurant cooking for the home cook. It broke down all the processes, spoke about presentation and mis en place - something I hadn't seen in cook books up until then."
• 50 Great Curries of India Camellia Punjabi
"One of the best books to get an overall view and feel for the amazingly varied and delicious cuisines of the Indian subcontinent. If you thought Indian food was all red, fiery curries then this is the book for you!"
Dhruv's first cookbook is due to launch in May this year. For more information visit www.dhruvbaker.com
MasterChef returns for its tenth series in the spring.
A BIT OF A READ…
• Dear Francesca Mary Contini
A celebration of family, cultural borders and Italian food
• Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain
The passion, heat and graft of a chef's world laid bare with some sex and drugs thrown in for good measure.
• White Heat Marco Pierre White (photographs by Bob Carlos Clarke)
The mastery of Britain's first three-starred Michelin chef on show accompanied by suitably rock 'n' roll photographs.
• Proper Pub Food Tom Kerridge
"I was so impressed by Tom Kerridge's TV series that I asked for the accompanying book for Xmas, and it could well be the best cookbook in my library." Simon Rogerson (Be Happy's Appetite blogger)
• Do you agree with our choices? Tell us about your favourite food writers and cook books HERE
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