Top Ten Cookery Books

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You've only got room for ten cookery books, or you're just starting out, which are the books to go for? Sue Magee gives you her choice. Why not tell us about your favourites?


Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course by Delia Smith

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Delia's Complete Cookery Course will give you a good grounding in all the techniques that you'll need and all the different foods which you're likely to handle. There's unlikely to be any occasion for which you couldn't produce good food. The recipes are about as fool-proof as you're likely to find and you'll soon be able to cook with confidence. You won't be encouraged to adjust recipes to take account of seasonal availability but you will be able to put decent food on the table without resorting to ready meals. Full review...

Real Food by Nigel Slater

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Who couldn't be inspired to cook (and to eat!) after reading one of Nigel Slater's books? Not anyone at Bookbag, that's for sure. Real Food has marvellous recipes that are, by and large, easy to follow and yummy to eat. A five star cookery book, reduced to four only because of one or two pretentious puddings and the choice of chicken over red meat. It could well be five stars for you. Full review...

The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

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There's a real temptation just to give you a list of all Nigel Slater's books and to tell you that's all you'll need, but I promise that I've chosen just the two. The sensible way to cook is to take full advantage of the seasonal foods which are available – they're at their best, give good value and haven't flown half way around the world before they get to your table. Nigel's recorded what he bought and ate for a year and it should really inspire you to make the most of what's at its best right now. Full review...

The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron

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A recipe for a main meal for every day of the year, complete with instructions and shopping lists. I couldn't follow it slavishly (although some might find it a relief to do so!) but there are some good ideas and excellent recipes for food that's full of flavour. Think of it as a wonderful safety net and a simple orderly way of feeding the family every day. Quantities are easy to increase or reduce. Full review...

River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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Now that you're a master of the principle of eating seasonal food, what do you think to the idea of producing some of your own? You don't have so start off in a big way, but you might be surprised at just how easy it really is. The River Cottage Cookbook contains unfussy recipes, suited to the modern lifestyle. It will help you break your addiction to the pap served up in supermarkets. It's an interesting and inspirational read. However, the photography could be clearer and readers will need to have mastered basic cooking techniques. Full review...

Jane Grigson's Fruit Book by Jane Grigson

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If this was the only cookery book I possessed we would still eat superbly. Just about every imaginable fruit is covered with recipes for sweet and savoury dishes. There's also information about the origins of the fruits and some seductive writing to boot. The only drawback is that most recipes are for six people. You need a little experience to be able to reduce the quantities – or the will power not to eat it all in one sitting. Full review...


India with Passion by Manju Malhi

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Forget buying takeaways and have a good look at this book instead. Indian food is not just about curries and it's not about hot and spicy foods either. TV Chef Manju Malhi takes you on a guided tour of the various cuisines of India and you'll find easy recipes for wonderful food. There's a bonus too – the photography is by Jason Lowe and there are some stunning pictures of the food and the landscape. Full review...

Coast to Coast by Rick Stein

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I was going to recommend a Rick Stein book on fish but this book is a compilation of his best recipes and it's not just restricted to fish. There's a Moussaka to die for without any of the usual affectations and there are recipes from cauliflower cheese at one end of the scale to dinner party fare at the other. It's suspiciously heavy on photography but still a worthwhile purchase. Full review...

Delia Smith's Christmas by Delia Smith

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Delia doesn't encourage you to use your imagination but this book gives the fool-proof recipes which are going to see you through the festive season year after year. It's not just about Christmas day, but about the parties, the family gatherings and the leftovers. I wouldn't be without the book but I do wish that there were more 'first principles' for cooking the turkey rather than just timings for different sizes of bird. Full review...

The Food We Eat by Joanna Blythman

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This isn't a recipe book but it's the book about food which changed my life. It changed the way that I look at the food in supermarkets and I'm much pickier about what I actually buy and where I buy it. Suddenly our food started to taste good and I was happier that everyone involved in the food chain was getting a fair deal. If you can get hold of a copy of this book it could change your life too. Full review...

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