Four favourite cookbooks

I enjoy cooking, but I don’t always have the time I would like for it. We have a lot of recipe books in the house, but there are four that I find myself returning to, usually to remind myself about old favourites, but sometimes to branch out a bit into new territory.

The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, first published in 1948, was a wedding present almost thirty years ago. It’s still my go-to for reminders of how long to cook various types of meat. All the basic resipes are there, and a few more adventurous ones as well. (Last Saturday I tried out the one for baked trout, with success.) The version we have is available for a pound plus postage, and there is an updated Ultimate Recipe Collection as well.

The New Internationalist Food Book, by Troth Wells, was also a present, more recently, from my sister. We’ve found it very good at helping us to step outside the usual Euro-Atlantic comfort zone and sample recipes from Africa, Asia and Latin America – all made with standard enough ingredients, and simple to follow. You can get it here.

I first visited Georgia (the real place, not the American wannabe state) in 2003, and immediately became obsessed by the food; several of the recipes in this book are among my standards – chakhokhbili (chicken stew), sousi (beef stew), tevzis buglama (salmon stew), chanakhi (lamb stew), cauliflower satsivi (walnut sauce), pkhali (beetroot salad), lobio (beans with egg), all very yummy indeed. Khatchapuri is too cheesy for me, unfortunately, and I have not been successful with khinkali (dumplings). You can get The Georgian Feast here.

The much-missed Maureen Kincaid Speller recommended the Indian cookery writer Mridula Baljekar a couple of years ago, and I was lucky enough to score a copy of the Best Ever Indian Cookbook, which she co-authored. I love Indian food anyway, and will always settle for tipping a jar of curry sauce (korma, jalfrezi or whatever) into the pot. But there’s something very satisfying about doing it from first principles. You can get the Best Ever Indian Cookbook here; I see it’s rather expensive now, even second hand, so I must have simply been lucky.

Happy cooking, folks. I must admit that I do it much more willingly and imaginatively when I have people to cook for; the advantages of family life.