Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Cook's Library: A Cheference Guide

As promised, I've finally put together a few bits and pieces about some of the books I use for inspiration, reference (and sometimes just to take recipes straight from!) when cooking.


One of the main reasons for my wanting to put up a blog on this subject was actually my most recent acquisition. When I went to visit my parents recently, my mum gave me her old copy of The Glasgow Cookery Book from 1976. Originally produced as a college textbook, it's a fairly well known reference book throughout Glaswegian and Scottish homes.

It's a fantastic book with hundreds of recipes spanning all sorts of cuisine, and of course encapsulating the always comforting Scottish cuisine.

This particular copy, having been my mum's, is of particular interest due to all her wee notes in the margins and the odd extra recipe written into the back.

Thanks mum!


Another recent addition was a copy of The Cookbook by Terence and Caroline Conran that I found in Witney's local market. I paid £1.50 for it... which is an absolute steal for a book that weighs a couple of tons. There really is a lot of book to this one.

With sections including the purachasing and preparation of food as well as just straight out recipes, the book is a bible for the kitchen.

With descriptions and uses for more ingredients than you could ever possibly use, it is an exhaustive look into the world of food and its preparation.

Particularly useful are the breakdowns on how to prepare meat and fish, how to get particular cuts from an animal, and so on.

Really, I can't recommend this one highly enough.


As well as standard cookbooks and reference books, I am interested in all sorts of cooking related reading material.

I have a fair stockpile in the house but I'll detail some of my favourites here.

The first two are books on particular foods. I have various books on chocolate, but definitely the best is Chocolate by Mort Rosenblum. Covering the ancient history of chocolate, from its first tribal uses, right up to its current status as a modern day aphrodisiac and healer of all ills, as well as providing insights into how it has changed culture and even religion. A fascinating read that even manages to find space for a few chocolate themed recipes.

The second cuisine specific book I've picked is The Connoisseur's Guide to Sushi by Dave Lowry. Again, focusing on one single type of food, the book is a wonderful look into Japanese culture, the preparation of Sushi, how it should be eaten, what to eat it with... there is probably no better Sushi reference guide. And if there is, please let me know about it!

Sticking with the 'not-quite-a-cook-book' theme, I have another two favourites that are sort of biographies.

The first is Raymond Blanc's A Taste Of My Life (again picked up at rock bottom price from Witney's local stall), which really is a straight forward autobiography of Blanc on his rise through the kitchen to eventually owning and running various restaurants.

Providing an insight into a very driven man, the book will certainly be of interest to anyone looking to go into cooking as a profession. The book also finds space for some of Blanc's recipes too.

My absolute favourite of the bunch has to be Tamasin Day-Lewis' Where Shall We Go For Dinner. More of a biography again, but one focused on particular events where food was the star. Be it travelling around the world to find a new cheese to sell in her partner's shop, or just trying out a local restaurant on holiday, the book is a real inspiration to travel and try new foods.

Well worth a read. Really.


And what tour of a kitchen library would be complete without a wee look at the book belonging to the cook who owns it?

It is indeed my own wee collection of recipes. The book was made for Claire and I as a wedding present by our friend Moira. She makes fantastic scrapbooks, and she deviated a little to make a cookbook with sections for all sorts of things. She threw in some divider pages and some of her own recipes (immaculately decorated, and with scripture and the like on the backs) and left space for us to fill it up in our own time.

I've been steadily doing that for the last three years, filling it with recipes I've trialled, or with recipes passed on by friends. If you've ever given me a recipe then it's in this book - with your name attached! Heather's banana bread is pictured above.


That then is a potted guide to my kitchen library. It's much more extensive than that, but you get the idea.


Coming up:

- I'm thinking bakewell tart. Yes, that sounds good.

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