Jun 26, 2012

My Favorite Recipe Books

I once read that the average recipe book is used for two recipes. I think that's right.
When I read that I took a good look through the shelf of recipe books I had collected over the years and gave away all the ones that I did not use, or that I only used for one recipe (I copied the recipe first).

The others I have kept, and it is now a small but honest collection.

Here are the recipe books I use the most:

Tana Ramsay's Family Kitchen
If you ignore the kind of annoying perfect-family pictures throughout, the recipes are fantastic. Good wholesome family food with lots of stews, pies, soups, sandwiches and sweets.
You also have to ignore the title of the chapter "Cooking From the Cupboard" which is supposedly about using ingredients already in your pantry, because the Ramsay family clearly have a very different pantry to mine. Theirs is apparently always stocked with things like creme fraiche, pancetta, and fresh flat leaf parsley (rather than, say, tinned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and a packet of spaghetti).

My favourite recipes:
  • tinned sardines with avocado on toast
  • stew
  • fish pie

Healthy Cooking: a Commonsense Guide
A brilliant reference containing loads of information on nutrition plus kilojoule, carb, fat and fibre count tables. It also has general cooking tips and how-to guides at the start of each chapter.
Many recipes are classic favorites modified to be less fattening or more healthy (you can always modify them back!).

My favorite recipes:
  • roasting - introductory section with lots of tips and info
  • wholemeal banana bread
  • fudge brownies

Elliniki Kouzina (Greek Cooking)
This is a book produced in Greece and available at all good tourist shops in the Greek Islands.  I bought it because I was learning Greek as well as to have a reference for Greek dishes. I still use it a lot.

My favorite recipes:
  • stuffed green peppers and tomatoes
  • stuffed zucchini with white sauce

My Greek Recipe Journal
For one eventful summer in my twenties, I worked as a cook in a restaurant in Santorini. I was lucky enough to work with a man named Mike Roussos who was not only a wonderful guy but a really good cook. He had lived for the past 20 years in Chicago and had just returned to Greece with his American family, and was adjusting to life back in his homeland. He taught me loads of dishes, including some clever shortcuts for cooking dishes in bulk and fast.
I kept this journal throughout, in a tatty exercise book spattered with oils and sauces, which I still use all the time.

My favorite recipes (thank you Mike!):
  • Avgolemono (chicken egg and lemon soup)
  • tomato keftedes (tomato, cheese and zucchini pancakes)
  • Madeira cake
  • spaghetti carbonara 
  • spetsofai (spicy sausage casserole)
  • moussaka

My Recipe Book
My own collection of hand-written recipes which I started in my early teens and finished in my early twenties when I first moved out of home and started cooking for real.
It has all the best of my mum's cooking, many of which are the same recipes still passed between women which turn up under different women's names in the "reader recipe" sections in women's magazines (and which probably ultimately came from some early Women's Weekly feature or the old PWMU cookbook).
It has recipes which are solidly of the 1970s like chop suey and "curry" (lamb, sultanas and curry powder). It has recipes from the years we lived in the US when I was a kid, like Club 21 Chicken Hash, Kathryn Hepburn's Brownies, Hamburger Helper, Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie. And it has recipes I got from flatmates and friends in my uni days, which evoke great memories of cooking back when cooking was new and fun.

My favorite recipes:
  • honey orange chicken
  • curry chicken 
  • Club 21 Chicken Hash
  • tuna casserole (with potato chips)
  • chocolate fruit slice
  • Devil's Chocolate Cake
  • Flat Five Mince and Chickpea Curry
  • Kate's apple crumble
  • Jacob's sweet and sour pork
  • Anatoly's chicken

Busy Woman's Quick and Easy Recipes: Make 'em Happy, Fix it Fast!
I bought this recently at the supermarket. It has approximately one million and sixty chicken recipes, most of which use some dodgy but convenient base like French Onion Soup Mix, apricot jam or mayonnaise. All the recipes are indeed very quick and very easy. Some of them sound too weird to try (Cola Chicken), but I have had a few successes.

My favorite recipes:
  • honey baked chicken
  • chicken quesadillas
  • deluxe dinner nachos

Australian Women's Weekly Fresh Food for Babies and Toddlers
Brilliant during the transition to solids and toddler finger food. Still my go-to for simple plain foods friendly to fussy taste buds

My favorite recipes:
  • custard
  • mini beef rissoles
  • broccoli and cheese frittata
  • honey and soy drumsticks
  • basic birthday cake recipe

What are your favorite recipe books?


  1. I well and truly fir into the "use a recipe book twice" statistic. I can't remember the last time I used an actual book. That said, I have a subscription to Super Food Ideas magazine and cook from that all the time. Most other recipes come from pinterest or taste.com

    1. It's a changing world, isn't it?
      I hadn't thought to you Pinterest in this way, good idea. I'll check out taste.com, thank you!

  2. I am a google recipe searcher. About 5 years ago I threw out all my recipe books. I regret it a little bit, but I love finding all new recipes. Rachel x

    1. That's true - there are fantastic recipes online all free and easily searchable. I only discovered this fairly recently!
      Thanks for visiting Rachel

  3. Great reviews :) My favourite is Marie Clair Kitchen. It's my cooking bible. It has lots of basics and then elaborates so you can create impressive meals. It's looking so tattered... which I kind of like because it has been worth it's value over and over again.

    1. That sounds good! I might have to check it out. Thanks for reading Kaz!

  4. I don't do a lot of cooking, I can't say the kitchen and I are that well acquainted, but when I do decide to cook I often do something from Cooking on the Bone by Jennifer McLagan (conflict of interest disclaimer - I work for the importer and distributor of this book which is how I managed to get my hands on a free, damamged copy and I'm not just saying this because I want to promote it, I'm pretty sure it's actually out of print now!). It's an excellent book, and for total carnivores like my husband and I it's the one we use the most! That and a slow-cooker recipes one. Slow-cooking is my fave kind of cooking and that is a good thing about the Cooking on the Bone book too, I've managed to adapt a few of my fave recipes from that to use in the slow-cooker.

    1. That one sounds good Kylie - I've never heard of it.
      I've had mixed success with slow cooking - I'm not sure if I love it or not. It's great for weekends when you can pop something in and just let it cook. Doesn't work for me on weekdays because my work day and commute is too long for the cooking time, even in a slow cooker!



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