When you want to know how to cook something, or you want to cook something new, where do you go? You check out a recipe right? A lot of us still like to check out cookbooks rather than just looking up recipes on the internet. So if you’re like me and love to devour cookbooks on a Saturday afternoon or slow Wednesday lunch, then I’ve got some suggestions for you about some good cookbooks that are great when you’re just starting out.
Buying cookbooks can be quite expensive so I like to borrow them from the local library, and that way I can get all the latest titles but I don’t have to clog up my house with all these books that I only look at once or twice. Any great recipes I like I write down to use again later and I keep them in my recipe file. If you haven’t started doing this, you really should or you’ll never find that amazing banana bread recipe again (or is that just me?).
Jamie Oliver’s “Cook with Jamie”
Jamie Oliver has been an inspiration of mine for a long time and I think it’s because his meals and recipes are more accessible to the average home cook than those of other famous chefs. For instance his meals mostly use ingredients I can get at my local supermarket rather than fancy ingredients I need to find a specialty stores. His recipes also use fairly simple techniques – techniques I can replicate at home without having lots of equipment or needing to have a culinary degree.
That’s why I think Jamie’s cookbook “Cook with Jamie” is a good way to start if you’re new. But it’s not just simple techniques and easy to find ingredients, it’s the fact this book sets out what utensils you should use and breaks down exactly which cuts of meat you should use for which types of recipes. It’s even got a handy diagram of where the cuts of meat come from on each type of animal (see pic below).
Along with this, “Cook with Jamie” is set out in such a way that you learn one technique and then Jamie provides another 2-3 ways of using this technique so you can really understand it and practice it. For instance where he gives his recipe for chicken in a bag he then gives you 3 other ways to make the recipe, each one with slightly different flavour combinations so you can start to understand which flavours go with which cuisines.
Pressure Cooker by Susanne Gibbs
A great cookbook if you know you don’t have a lot of time is the Pressure Cooker book by Susanne Gibbs. Not only are these recipes fairly simple – because they all go in the pressure cooker and there’s not much technique to it – but the book also explains how to use a pressure cooker. It covers the basics like the different types of pressure cookers and how to get them to come to pressure, and you get plenty of recipes to try out. Did you know you can even bake a cake in a pressure cooker? If you can’t get your hands on a copy I wrote about pressure cooker basics too, and shared my roast chicken in a pressure cooker story on the blog too.
Women’s Weekly Cookbooks
Women’s Weekly Cookbooks are many and wide ranging so I didn’t pick a particular title to talk about here. Instead I want you to go exploring because Women’s Weekly have so many titles you’re sure to find one you like. They have titles on:
- Vegetarian cooking, such as the “Almost Vegetarian” cookbook I borrowed from the library recently.
- Mediterranean cooking
- Asian cooking
- Week night meals
- One pot meals
- Kids food and the famous kids birthday cake book
- Healthy cooking
- Weight loss meals
- And more.
The reason why I love them so much is that they are usually fairly simple recipes to follow. I would say though that these books are aimed at the low to medium ability cook because some recipes are very basic, such as the pancake recipe I use, while others are a bit more complicated, like the Chicken Kenyan Curry I cook. But when I say complicated I mean mostly they have a lot of ingredients but the steps are still simple.
I have a book from Women’s Weekly called 1000 Best Women’s Weekly Recipes and it’s a great book to own because it has so many of their recipes to try. It’s broken down into categories such as ‘Just like mum made’ and ‘Our neighbours’ so you get a mix of recipes to try. It’s also got the largest collection of drink recipes (non-alcoholic and a few alcoholic ones too) I’ve seen in the one book.
Weight Watchers Cookbooks
I can’t name a single Weight Watchers cookbook for you here because I think any Weight Watchers cookbook you choose will be useful. Pretty much any of their cookbooks over the last 15 years will be quite useful because they all work on the same basic premise – simple recipes, few ingredients and fast meals.
I think you should consider a Weight Watchers cookbook even if you’re not interested in losing weight because of their simplicity. Most recipes contain a protein source like a piece of fish or a lamb cutlet, and the recipe takes usually 1 or 2 flavours and shows you how to apply it to the protein.
For me, there is never enough flavour in their recipes but that’s also another reason to use these cookbooks – because you can then learn how to tweak the recipes to your own tastes! And a cook who knows how to tweak a recipe is usually a smarter cook overall (you can get yourself out of tight spots when you’re a smart cook).
Low FODMAP Recipes and the Food Intolerance Management Plan by Sue Shepherd
If you’re someone who has an intolerance, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) like I do, then a great cookbook for your is either the Low FODMAP Recipes cookbook from Sue Shepherd, or her Food Intolerance Management Plan. Both of these books have recipes to help you ease your intolerance issues through food rather than with medication, and I can say from experience, that they work. I used the Food Intolerance Management Pan book for ideas when I was first introduced to the FODMAP concept and never looked back since. FODMAPS stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols which are the different types of sugars your food is broken down into when your body digests it. For different people different sugars cause different problems so that has an effect on how your body processes food and the symptoms you feel. If you haven’t heard of it before go to Sue Shepard’s website to learn more. For myself, I now know that watermelon, cauliflower, onion and garlic are not good for me, neither are artificial sugars using sorbitol (like chewing gum) so I try not to eat them very often.
These books, due to their nature, are not the kind of simple recipes with common ingredients like the other cookbooks suggested above. Some of the recipes in these books will need to be bought at specialist stores or that are not cheap to get at the supermarket. However, if you have an intolerance a few extra dollars on potato and rice flower and xantham gum is better than more visits to the doctor (especially if your doctor doesn’t know anything about your intolerance – it happens a lot unfortunately).
Hopefully, after all those suggestions you’ll be able to find some good cookbooks with simple recipes you can use to help you learn to cook. And if you already know how to cook but want to become a bit more of a creative cook, then use these recipes to help you tweak and twist a recipe so you can eat it the way you like it.
What’s your favourite cookbook?