Editor’s Picks: Recipe Books That Made Me a Better Cook

If you’re looking for a few new ideas or want to be more creative in the kitchen while spending time at home, here are a few recipe books to help you on your way.

I’m a huge foodie, and before social distancing started discovering new restaurants was probably my main hobby. Having very few safe takeaway options (I can’t eat gluten) and with restaurants now off the menu, for a while at least, I’ve turned to my favourite recipe books to keep things interesting in the kitchen.

While the exact ingredients may not be easy to come by at the moment, I’ve found that the more recipes I try the better I am at avoiding waste by using up what’s in the fridge and coming up with alternatives when I don’t have all the suggested ingredients.
Read on for a few of the favourite books I go back to again and again, and some tried-and-tested meals I’m making at home.

My recipe book round-up

Jamie’s Comfort Food

 

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While comforting dishes are usually seen as an autumn/winter thing, right now we could all do with some extra home comforts, food included. This book provides some great ideas on adding a little something extra to everyday favourites.

Tried & tested: Chicken kiev and mash – Rich and delicious, and you can make extra garlic butter to turn an almost-stale loaf into garlic bread on another day.

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals

 

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A little bit of prep and these meals can be thrown together in no time. There are plenty of help-yourself style serving platters that will keep the whole family happy, while also making your Instagram feed look pretty impressive too.

Tried & tested: Sausage gnocchi with warm kale & bean salad – Super tasty and makes incredible leftovers for the next day’s WFH lunch.

Pinch of Nom

 

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This blog-turned-book was an instant hit and it’s easy to see why. The recipes are straightforward to follow with plenty of healthier options and family-friendly meals to choose from. Some are also adapted to be cooked in the slow cooker or a pressure cooker – a handy option for those juggling kids and working at home.

Tried & tested: Chicken, leek & ham pie – A lighter version of one of my all-time favourites.

The Incredible Spice Men

 

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I’m a huge fan of chilli and my other half loves spice, so this book keeps us both very happy. My hometown also features within the seafood section, which gives it a little extra nostalgia.

Tried & tested: Honey roasted chicken with outstanding roasties – Some store-cupboard spices will give your Sunday roast a bit of a kick.

River Cottage Gluten Free

 

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I’ve never cooked bread before but, if social media is anything to go by, now is the time to start. This cookbook has plenty of ideas for those who can’t have wheat and might be struggling to get hold of their usual gluten-free loaf. I also love its Italian favourites.

Tried & tested: Arancini – Makes another meal out of leftover risotto, simply serve with a big salad.

Ottolenghi Simple

 

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Want something to take your day-to-day dinners from good to wow? This book is my go-to for exciting sides and tapas-style sharing dishes that really make the difference, all by adding just a few extra ingredients.

Tried & tested: Roast cabbage with tarragon & pecorino – If in doubt, throw some herbs and cheese on it, that’s my motto at least.

Leon Fast & Free

 

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Calling all Leon fans, did you know you can get your fix at home? This book is wonderful for those with dietary requirements. With loads of veggies to help you get your five-a-day, and everything from snacks and brunch dishes to hearty homecooked dinners covered.

Tried & tested: Truffle-coddled eggs – A brunch favourite, and a great way to use frozen spinach or kale.

...Plus anything by Jame Martin

 

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Great British Adventure

Celebrate and rediscover some flavours from here in the UK. I loved the TV programme that goes alongside this book and have been slowly working my way through the easier recipes. The meat and poultry dishes are great – a tasty treat to mix up your weekday meals.

Tried & tested: Whisky chicken with wild mushroom and mustard sauce – Chicken thighs are great value and go a long way, and the recipe works just as well with whatever herbs you’ve got to hand.

American Adventure

If you’ve been enjoying a little sunshine and the occasional backyard BBQ, these American-inspired recipes will transform your average grill. If you’re not into counting calories, I’d also recommend the brunch and dessert ideas.

Tried & tested: Cajun snapper fillets with lime beurre blanc – Switch in any white fish you can get your hands on, the delicious sauce makes everything taste amazing.

French Adventure

Master some French culinary classics without stepping outside your door. These are the ones to practice to wow someone special for your date night at home or your flat-mate Come-Dine-With-Me rota. I was terrible at making sauces until I perfected a few of these recipes.

Tried & tested: Steak au poivre with wilted spinach – the homemade peppercorn sauce is a revelation, and steak is what I miss most from those special dinners out.

Sweet

If you’ve been inspired by all those banana bread pics on your Insta feed, then you’ll love Sweet by James Martin. From the simplest cakes to show-stopping desserts, it’s a sweet tooth’s dream.

Tried & tested: Classic French Lemon Cake – A winner every time, and only a short list of ingredients is needed.

Islands to Highlands

The latest book from James Martin is filled with more amazing dishes from his adventures taking you on a foodie journey from Scotland to Jersey.

Tried & tested: Nothing yet, but the roast chicken gnocchi, pork burgers and wild mushroom risotto are high on my list.

and the quick reference ones…

The Wine Dine Dictionary

I know very little about what makes a great bottle of wine, so this book is a handy reference if you’re looking to impress someone on your next date-night dinner at… your Living Room. The Vivino app is my way of keeping note of any bottles I’ve enjoyed, which makes it easier to find something similar next time I go shopping.

The Flavour Thesaurus

The perfect companion for those random ingredients you’ve got hanging around with no idea how to use them. Look up any ingredient and it will tell you which others it works well with. A great one if you’re feeling creative. And it looks pretty on the bookshelf too.

AUTHOR

Jenny - Editor

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