I was asked recently for a list of cookbooks that have been influential in my life, by a friend writing his own book. As I flicked through many heavily-laden shelves, I realised how much these books have influenced how my family and I have lived for the past 40 years or so. The pages of all the below are well-thumbed and stained with chutneys, bread dough and red wine. I like to record when I make a recipe too, so many have notes beside them detailing occasions when they were cooked, as well as adjustments I’ve made for the AGA. I am looking forward to seeing what trends the next forty years will bring.
COOKING FROM SCRATCH, Kathleen le Riche, Faber and Faber, 1952. This book was from my mother in law who struggled with cooking and clearly got on well with this breezily written book designed to help nervous cooks without patronising them.
JAMS, PICKLES AND CHUTNEYS, David and Rose Mabey, Penguin 1975. A book from our student days, making the most of what we picked (one didn’t ‘forage’ in those days) including recipes for pickled ash keys and lovely glimpses into the lives of the authors.
A TASTE OF THE COUNTRY, Pamela Westland, Penguin, 1976. This was given to me by my father in law and has been well used ever since. It’s got everything in it from cakes to cordials and is one I still look to.
SUMMER COOKING, Elizabeth David, Penguin 1978. Could have been any of her books but this one is particularly well used and was taken on holiday with us to France so we could make the most of local ingredients in poorly equipped gite kitchens.
JANE GRIGSON’S FRUIT BOOK, Penguin 1983, invaluable for preserving and otherwise enjoying the fruits from our garden and hedgerows.
THE AGA BOOK, Mary Berry, Aga-Rayburn, 1991. I was lucky enough to go on an Aga workshop with Mary Berry to learn how to use my brand new Aga put in when we moved to our present house. She and it is a delight, well written with all you need to know, plus a few personal details for added reading pleasure.
EATING FOR BRITAIN, Simon Majumdar, John Murray 2010. A funny and well written book featuring some people who have since become friends. A mixture of narrative and recipes. Perfect.
PLENTY, Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2010. This was given to me by a friend who came to stay and was an absolute revelation into new tastes and combinations as well as being a delight to look at and handle.
THE POCKET BAKERY, Rose Prince, Weidendfeld and Nicolson, 2013. A lovely and inspiring book with some great baking recipes.
A MODERN WAY TO COOK, Anna Jones, 2015, Fourth Estate London. A toss up between this one and A Modern Way to Eat. Beautiful to look at, stimulating to use and delicious to eat.
Illustrations: J Lea-Wilson