For people who care about their food

Not Delia’s Top 10 Cookbooks of 2008

As the year comes to a close it seems almost everyone is doing top lists – top food blogs, top this and top that. Not wanting to be left out, I decided to do my top ten cookbooks for this year. These are the books I’ve used most this year and the ones I’ve found most useful. They’re not necessarily new books – in fact most of them aren’t new – but they have a good, long shelf life.

As you can see, I’ve already reviewed several of them on Not Delia. I guess I know now what my next job is.

1. Modern Classics Book 1 by Donna Hay

This is a very inspiring book full of beautiful photos and delicious no-fuss recipes. Donna has taken some classic dishes and given them a modern twist. Her niçoise salad, for example, uses seared fresh tuna. Yum! If you look around the Not Delia website you’ll find a lot of Donna Hay’s influence here.

2. Gourmet Express by Ainsley Harriott

Much as I don’t like the crafty cook style of cooking, sometimes I just don’t have the time or the inclination to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Ainsley’s book is perfect for these occasions, you won’t find any frozen mashed potatoes in here! It does what it says on the tin – it’s gourmet express. It’s packed full of ideas for how to make delicious meals in minutes and it deserves a place on every kitchen bookshelf.

3. The Prawn Cocktail Years by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham

This is THE book for retro cooking where the old favourites have been given a new lease of life. It’s packed full of terrific photos and excellent recipes for all the old British favourites such as prawn cocktail, steak and chips, Cornish pasties, spaghetti bolognese, etc. And to round it off there’s quite a lot of interesting food history, wittily written, thrown in for good measure.

4. Ballymaloe Cookery Course by Darina Allen

Darina Allen runs a cookery school in Ballymaloe in Ireland, and this book is also about teaching you how to cook rather than just a catalogue of recipes. There’s a lot of tips and techniques in here, and some pretty good photos. It’s a useful book although I find it a bit frustrating because I’m always having to make corrections to the numbering in the index pages.

5. Canapés by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford-Snell

If you’re into making canapés, nibbles and tapas, whether for entertaining or just for yourselves, then this book is an absolute must. It’s packed full of of inspiring photos and recipes for wonderful party snacks.

6. Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy by Mr Ubiquitous

He lied! This isn’t really a book of easy cooking, some of it is fairly challenging. However, it’s definitely worth the effort. His wild sea trout (I used salmon) and baby leeks with crushed potatoes and tomato butter took me the best part of an afternoon to make. Mind you, the result was delicious! The book also contains a DVD of Gordon cooking a selection of this book’s recipes in his own kitchen.

7. Appetite by Nigel Slater (no review yet)

I like this no-fuss cookbook, which is full of lovely inspiring photos. The book includes a recipe for a smooth and creamy chicken liver paté which I have adapted for a pork liver paté. It’s delicious. There are lots of other really good things in this book too. I have a few other books by Nigel Slater, including the beautifully packaged the kitchen diaries, but Appetite has a lot more food splodges on it, and that tells me something.

8. The Pasta Bible by Christian Teubner, Silvio Rizzi and Tan Lee Leng (no review yet)

This is a superb book with loads of illustrations of Italian pasta and Oriental noodles. The recipes are great too and range from the quick and easy to the more sophisticated. The book also contains a lot of food facts and history.

9. Cook with Jamie – My Guide to Making You a Better Cook by Jamie Oliver (no review yet)

I’m not a huge fan of Jamie’s but he sure is a good cook. He also seems to be too heavily influenced by Italian food for my taste. Don’t get me wrong; I love Italian food, but not quite as much as he does. The book is very useful though, and these days I find myself doing many things his way. I used to make vinaigrette the Gordon Ramsay way but quite honestly Jamie’s is better and tastier. His pasta dough recipe is excellent too.

10. Foolproof Chinese Cookery by Ken Hom

As I said in my review, this book languished pretty much unused on the shelf for a few years until I recently rediscovered it. And it’s really good! It’s straightforward, with plenty of “how-to” pics as well as great photos of the finished results. So far I really have found it to be “foolproof”.

Looking back over the list I was a bit surprised that it contains so few books of foreign cuisines, given how much “foreign food” we actually eat. Hmmm. The answer to that one is that British (and Australian) cuisine, just like the English language, has always embraced new ideas and adopted them as its own. There’s plenty of Thai and other Asian influences in Donna Hay’s and Darina Allen’s books. Ainsley packs sushi, Cajun, Indian, Thai, and Mediterranean into his slim volume. There’s loads of Italian food in Jamie Oliver’s. And so on, but perhaps I should do some more reviews of my foreign cuisine books soon.

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