The top five best cookbooks were an easy choice, especially as I have two copies of the top three, incase one of them gets worn out or lost. Number five’s title, A World In My Kitchen, sums up how I feel about my cookbooks, as someone who hasn’t spent long periods cooking in kitchens overseas, I definitely feel my books have brought the world into my kitchen.
Marriages: Est Est Est Cookbook by Donovan Cooke and Philippa Sibley-Cooke
This book came out in 1999. It starts by running you through a typical service at the restaurant, starting from the first chef arriving at 8am and checking the veal stock put on the night beforeto the last desserts leaving at 10:45pm and the veal stock being put on for the next day. Although the book is now 23 years old, I still get excited looking through the pages, the spice syrup served with a pineapple tart with gingerbread ice-cream is my favourite flavour bomb dessert component.
Lickerland: Asian Accented Desserts by Jason Licker
This is my favourite book on desserts, Jason obviously takes his work but not himself too seriously, the book is filled with amazing recipes, well explained step by step. It’s some of the quotes throughout the book that always make me laugh. I do like microgreens and flowers but found this to be true also: “I do use microgreens and flowers in the occasional dessert. But if you want to use them in every dish because they are pretty, then you should have become a florist.”
Season to Taste by Liam Tomlin
The plating in this book is amazing, simple and clean. I remember the first time a saw a perfectly square free standing brûlée in this book, its one I still look to for plating inspiration every now and then. One non chef quote I always keep in mind is: “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” by Coco Chanel. This book reminds me sometimes less is more.
Homemade by Simon Gault
Simon and his restaurants have been a huge part of my life and of his five cookbooks (which all of which I rate highly) this is my favourite. Every recipe is flavour-packed and delicious. What I like about this book is it contains some of Simo’s favourite home cooked meals but also, meals and recipes from his mum Ellerie and dad Brian.
During recipe testing for this book, Simon went round the kitchen offering up a plate of onion sandwiches, I tried one with great hesitation as “onion sandwich” didn’t quite grab me, however I didn’t stop at one! Who would have thought onions soaked overnight in sugar syrup, dried then put into a simple sandwich with English mustard could be so memorable? These onions I now use tossed in flour and fried to make crispy onion garnish or doused with chardonnay vinegar to garnish rich meats.
A World in My Kitchen by Peter Gordon
My first signed cookbook. The first that introduced me to the flavours of the world, recipes for Lebanese dressing, Japanese dressing, Italian dressing, Chinese dressing and Thai dressing all on one page. I definitely feel my cookbooks have given me access to a world in my kitchen.
The Flavour Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenberg
This isn’t a cookbook as such but a collection of flavour pairings collected from America’s top chefs. I always turn to this reference book to look for unique pairings. I’m on my second copy now and the covers are hanging on by a thread.
Cumulus Inc. by Andrew McConnell
I bought a copy of this book after dining at the kitchen counter at the restaurant. The best ingredients cooked with love, beautiful presentation – this is another book I revisit often.
Five Morsels of Love by Archana Pidathala
One of my favourite ethnic cookbooks, this Indian cookbook beautifully made and the recipes are delicious. I had to buy it direct from the author, when a book is self published you already know its going to be good. Here is a brief glimpse from the five morsels of love website explaining the books creation: “Five Morsels of Love is the chronicle of a journey that began in 2007, the year I lost my grandmother, Nirmala.
“The family conversations over the next several months revolved around ammama, and around an unfinished cookbook that the she had left behind. Her incredible culinary art and a lifetime of cooking had been captured in a rather modest looking Telugu cookbook. I remember telling her a year before she passed on, when I was still a student in Hyderabad, that I would help her publish the English version of the book once I landed a job. As fate would have it, we lost her just a few months after I started working. It haunted me that I had not helped ammama fulfil her dream of bringing out an English cookbook.”
Laurel by Nicholas Elmi and Adam Erace
An amazing cookbook full of modern techniques and flavour combinations, however in the intro to the book, the chef states, “as a habitual cookbook buyer, I have always thought that a cookbook was worth buying if I get one idea or recipe out of it. I think of it as improving my repertoire, $30 to $50 at a time.” Certainly makes me feel better about my collection.
Les Diner De Gala by Salvador Dalí
Outside of cooking I have always been fascinated the uber-creative Salvador Dalí, so when I discovered he had a cookbook I had to have a copy. I spent months trying to track down a copy of this 1973 long out of print cookbook. The recipes in the book are unique (“frog pasties” etc) however the artwork by Dalí throughout the book is a reminder of his great mind. Below is a great quote from the man himself on his cookbook.
“Les diners de Gala is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste … If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.” His book has since been reprinted, but I’m happy to be an owner of one of the original copies.