Inspired by an article in the Sunday Life magazine about the 10 Most Influential Cookbooks, I decided to turn to my own bookshelves and come up with my own Top Ten.
Sure, their list might be compiled by chefs, authors & a MasterChef judge & contestant, but my list includes food stained clippings and yet-to-be-used tomes.
Actually, it was quite a difficult list to compile, because until I spent a year cooking with Jamie, I didn’t really have one cookbook that I used above all others. But I’ve got my list and I can give you the reasons why these books make the top ten.
1. The Commonsense Cookery Book – first published in 1914, this is a kitchen classic and my go-to when I am looking for the simplest solution to any cooking conundrum. This was a staple in Mum’s kitchen when I was growing up and I can only hope that one day my copy will look as well-worn as Mum’s.
2. COOK with Jamie by Jamie Oliver – this is an obvious one. This book changed my life, at least for 12 months, so it deserves to be high on the list.
3. The Margaret Fulton Cookbook – revised & updated edition released in 2004. Another go-to. I was given this as a gift when it was released and told that it would help me become a better cook. It might not have been the biggest influence in my life, but if I can gain even a jot of the wisdom and knowledge of Margaret Fulton by turning to this classic, then it will always remain near the top.
4. The Complete Book of Modern Entertaining by The Australian Women’s Weekly – filled with 63 sensational modern menus (including garden tea parties, after work dinner with friends, Spring Sunday lunches & modern formal dinner parties), I have spent hours pouring over this book. Of all the AWW cookbooks, this has got to be the best. It makes planning parties so easy and those sausage rolls are always a hit!
5. Madison Entertains by Brigitte Palmer – this one makes the list on looks alone. It’s just a great looking book, with gorgeous photos that you want to Mary Poppins yourself into and join the garden party or bonfire picnic. And the fact that it gave me figs stuffed with goats cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and baked, means it has to be here.
6. A Little French Cookbook by Janet Laurence – this was my first ever cookbook. I received it as a prize for French at my primary school speech day and promptly went home and cooked Oeufs à la Neige. Snow eggs. They were a complete disaster and unsurprisingly, I’ve not cooked a lot of French food in the two decades since. But I’ve been flipping through it a lot lately and I think the time has come for this little book to make a big comeback. So it’s on the list.
7. Larousse Gastronomique – The World’s Greatest Cookery Encyclopedia. Coming in at over 1200 pages, this new addition to my kitchen is making my bookshelves groan with the strain of both weight and celebrity. The subtitle says it all and now that I’ve got my own copy, I am fearless in the kitchen. Well, almost.
8. 1000 Best Ever Recipes from AWW – with 1000 recipes from the library of The Australian Women’s Weekly, it’s usually got something that tickles my fancy.
9. Marie Claire Fresh by Michele Cranston – it’s been a while since I’ve used this one, but back in my uni days, I lived for all the Marie Claire cookbooks. In my opinion, they really changed the face of Australia cookbooks, launching the clean fresh food photography that now fills all new cookbooks. So this one makes the list as a representative for all the Marie Claire cookbooks and as an homage to my early years hosting dinner parties. Plus it has the green papaya salad in it, so it’s guaranteed to get a re-run.
10. A spiral-bound folder filled with clippings from family, friends, weekend newspapers, the (sydney) magazine, delicious, In Style and a multitude of food blogs. Too many pieces of paper, not enough plastic sleeves. Every recipe in this folder is a favourite.
I’d also like to mention the CWA Cookbook, another favourite of Mum’s. As a newlywed in the country, she relied heavily on this classic from the Country Women’s Association. I don’t have my own copy so it couldn’t really go on the list, but if ever I’m stuck and can’t find a recipe, you can be sure that if I ask Mum, she’ll be able to find it in the CWA Cookbook. Her copy is so well loved that it now lives in a zip-lock bag, coz it’s binding gave way some years ago. That’s got to be the sign of an inspiring book.
The next step is obvious. Just keep on cooking.