Books for Cooks: Books Every Food Lover Should Own

Words: Jess Spiro

It goes without saying that we’re a little food crazy, and considering you’re reading this article, you must be too. If you’re into your cooking, food and general consumable products then you’ll surely have a cookbook or two. But, if you seriously fancy yourself as an avid food lover, then these are some of the books you should have sitting on your bookshelf.

Mastering The Art of French Cooking – Julia Child

She was one of the first cookbook writers to demystify French cuisine and bring it to an American audience. Her recipes were extensive, but easy to follow and truly did show us that with a bit (ok, a lot!) of butter, cream and salt, anything was possible. Julia inspired many home cooks, most notably Julie Powell, who endeavoured to cook her way through Child’s iconic book.

Books for Cooks

How to Eat – Nigella Lawson

People may roll their eyes when we wax lyrical about Nigella, but those people clearly need to go back and read How to Eat again. The book was a revelation for home cooks, as Lawson is not a chef, nor does she pretend to be. She’s simply a working mother, who couldn’t find the kind of cookbooks that she wanted to cook from. How to Eat truly is a wonder, with recipes for each and every event in your life. Need to know what to feed babies? How to throw a casual mid-week dinner for 6? There wasn’t anything she couldn’t help you with. That, coupled with recipes that work every single time, means that Nigella deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf.

Books for Cooks

Jamie Oliver – The Naked Chef

If anyone truly taught us to chill out when it came to cooking, it was Jamie and his first book ‘The Naked Chef’. With a pinch of that and a handful of this, he showed cooks everywhere that as long as it tastes good, then you’re doing ok. His style was a breath of fresh in the late 90s, as he was blokey and authentic and that came through in his cooking. Jamie’s follow up books have gone on to be massive bestsellers too, but if we had to pick one, it would have to be the catalyst for his empire, The Naked Chef, the one that set the overall tone for his cooking.

Books for Cooks

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking – Marcella Hazan

Not necessarily a huge name in South Africa, Marcella Hazan was credited with changing the face of Italian cookery in the United States. She reminded Americans understanding of Italian food and showed them there was more to life than luminescent red sauces and giant-sized meatballs. Her recipe for a classic tomato sauce is something of a wonder, as it contains about four ingredients, is ridiculously easy and is astoundingly delicious.

books for cooks

 Nose to Tail Eating – Fergus Henderson

Before nose-to-tail cookery was cool, Fergus had already named his book that. Through the stellar food at his East-London eatery, Henderson began to change the way that London diners ate. But with his first book, he became something of a household name. He showed us that not only were lamb brains cheap and easy to prepare, but they are delicious and a responsible ingredient to use. His cooking is about so much more than just offal and scary cuts, he’s also taught many amateur cooks make a mean salad or two.

books for cooks

White Heat – Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White was the original hot-headed bad boy in cooking, complete with a chiselled jawline and a hair-trigger temper. His book, White Heat, was iconic straight away as one of the first books released from a Michelin-starred restaurant chef. It gave home cooks a glimpse into the work and detail that goes into restaurant food. The recipes might never have been anything you would have attempted to cook but they were exquisite and inspiring nonetheless.

books for cooks

Larousse Gastronomique

The original Wikipedia of food, the Larousse Gastronomique is a necessary addition to any avid cook’s bookshelf. If you needed to know anything from every kind of mushroom known to man to the difference between a ragout and a ragu, the Larousse would have the answer for you. Basically, an extensive culinary encyclopaedia that was updated every year or so, it was a literal wealth of knowledge for food lovers.

books for cooks

French Laundry – Thomas Keller

Similar to White Heat in that it took us behind the kitchen doors of a restaurant, The French Laundry cookbook is a celebration of Keller’s ode to Californian cuisine. In a time where American cooking wasn’t being appreciated the way it is today, The French Laundry reminded everyone why they’re a powerhouse culinary nation. Maybe this isn’t the book you cooked from for a dinner party, but it’s full of technique and very clear explanations, teaching you a lot about cooking.

books for cooks

Heston at Home – Heston Blumenthal

No one was ever going to attempt to make The Fat Duck’s snail porridge, but the delicious bright parsley risotto from ‘Heston at Home’ was an utter joy to cook and eat. What Heston did with his ‘At Home’ was take the specific techniques used at The Fat Duck and use them in a simpler, easier-to-understand manner. If you ever wanted to know how to make some seriously good pantry-items such as mushroom ketchup and a hearty stock, then this book is a must-have.
books for cooks

River Cottage (and Handbooks) – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Old Hugh really is a British national treasure, with his focus on honest, unfussy, yet wholesome comforting food. He’s published a massive number of books, but that doesn’t make them any less brilliant. He champions good-quality, local and ethically sourced ingredients and very simply explains how to cook with them. Any of his books are a real source of knowledge and deliciousness but we especially love River Cottage Every Day.

books for cooks

Ottolenghi – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Before Ottolenghi, the vegetarian option was simply quiche or some overly-creamy pasta. After Ottolenghi, there were vegetarian options that made even the die-hard carnivores salivate. Based on the recipes from his Middle Eastern-inspired cafe in London, this cookbook is full of punchy flavours and seriously exciting food that just happens to be vegetarian.

books for cooks

101 Easy Asian Recipes – Lucky Peach

Maybe not such an obvious classic because it’s a fairly new book, 101 Easy Asian Recipes is a wonderful way to explore Asian food and spice up mid-week cooking without it being too labour intensive or scary. Once you’ve made one trip to your local Asian supermarket, you’ll have a pantry begging to be used in these exciting recipes.
books for cooks

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