My interest in food seems to have developed as I've got older, so I have a couple of old stalwarts here with the bulk of titles being much more current. Until now I've not really enjoyed 'everyday' cooking - presumably from lack of time - and have tended to concentrate on particular areas, such as preserving and baking. The discovery of specialist producers - from local grass-fed Aberdeen Angus beef to organic flour - along with farmer's markets, pick-your-own fruit and veg places and, of course, my own home-grown produce have done much to perk up my levels of enthusiasm!
Complete Cookery Course Delia Smith
Although Delia has, quite rightly, continued to enjoy success right up to the present day, this is my trusty old 1984 edition, that I bought when I was first married. It is very well thumbed now as I have learned to make a good sponge cake, roast various joints of meat and have developed various favourite recipes under the guidance of its pages. It is the book I turn to first with almost any cooking query. She has now updated my favourite recipe, 'Pork Chops with Cream and Mushrooms', on her website using wild mushrooms and creme fraiche.
Good Housekeeping Picture Cookery
When I was a little girl, this is one of the cookery books my mother had. Published in 1950 it has lovely black and white step-by-step photos but curiously many of the adverts it contains are in colour. It is worth browsing through for these alone. Whilst very few people may want to know how to dress and prepare a freshly-killed chicken, it contains our family favourite baking recipes for Scotch pancakes and hot cross buns, among others. It's worth remembering that, when it was published, many households did not own a fridge!
How to Eat Nigella Lawson
I really like this book because not only does it explain all sorts of things about cooking that you might not have learned at your mother's knee but it does not make you feel like a numpty for not having learned them then. In other words, it is very accessible and her tone is honest and refreshing. I also like the way she links things together. Nigella gives a recipe for parsley sauce and then, knowing that you will probably have some left over after your meal, she gives another recipe to use that up. How clever! My copy is from the library but I am looking out for a copy to buy secondhand as I find it invaluable.
How to be a Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson
A book on baking with recipes from cakes to chocolate and biscuits to bread and yeast cookery. It even has a wonderful section at the end with some interesting preserves that I haven't tried yet. Hands up if the idea of being a domestic goddess has never appealed to you lady readers? Your nose is growing!!!
Cupcake Magic Kate Shirazi
I have recently acquired this book and I love it. Using her recipe, my cupcakes don't sink as I take them out of the oven! Lots of different recipes for making them and toppings to decorate with. You can see my own first attempts by clicking here and scrolling down. Each purchase includes a donation to the Battery Hen Welfare Trust.
The Kitchen Diaries Nigel Slater
Here is a man who clearly relishes every aspect of food from the anticipation, through the creative process, to savouring it's finished taste. This book gives recipes on a seasonal basis. His enthusiasm is infectious and the Strawberry Mascarpone Tart on page 207 is wonderful.
The 30-Minute Cook Nigel Slater
The same brilliant approach but for meals you can make quickly. We really enjoy the Chicken with Garlic, Cider and Cream made with Henney's Cider, available from Tesco. The recipe only uses a small amount so you can drink the rest with your meal. It's good for using up a small quantity of left-over cream, too.
Thirst Nigel Slater
Recipes for smoothies and juices arranged, most sensibly, in alphabetical order of the fruit they contain. Excellent for using up odd bits of left-over fruit.
Desserts James Martin
I was given this book for Christmas and it has some lovely recipes, most of which are illustrated with photos that make your mouth water. The Ginger and Syrup Ice Cream is some of the nicest I have ever tasted and very easy to make, too. I don't, as a rule, like fruit crumbles but his Spicy Plum Crumble is really something else. Don't cook it without the spices as they are what really gives the flavour. It's even better eaten cold the next day (if there is any left)!
Preserves Joanna Farrow
This book is great whether you are a seasoned preserve-maker or just starting out. If you are a beginner it gives you both descriptions of equipment, ingredients and methods of making preserves and also photographs, so you can see just what you're looking for when you go to buy a jam funnel and exactly what jam and chutney should look like when they're ready to pot. I was very tentative when I first started preserving and ended up with very firm jam because I would boil it a bit longer to 'be on the safe side'! For those with a bit of practise, there is an enticing set of recipes including all the usual suspects with some unexpected ones thrown in. I got it from the library in the autumn for ideas for chutney recipes and I gave a lot of the results as Christmas presents. The Pear and Lemon helped to reduce our annual pear glut and Si' really likes the Spiced Pepper Chutney. On my wish list to acquire!
The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook Marguerite Patten
No pictures here but 200 recipes, including some really interesting-looking ones like Carrot and Almond Conserve. It even includes a chapter on diabetic preserves. I bought it to extend my repertoire.
The Allotment Cookbook Kathryn Hawkins
This book will lead me nicely onto my next section, 'Growing'. The first half of the book is a glossary of fruit and veg you might grow on your allotment, each one listing the best varieties for each type, tips for harvesting and storing, preparation and basic cooking techniques, how to freeze and top recipe tips. The second half of the book gives a selection of recipes. Excellently organised.