Hello, my name is Elke nad I am a cookbook addict!
That’s not a joke as the cookbook collection in my house proves. I haven’t counted them in a while and should really archive the titles so that I know what I actually have.
I can honestly say I have read all of them, most of them cover to cover.
Seeing the number of books I have, it might come as a surprise to some that I am really bad at following recipes.
The few times that I attempted to recreate something as written by the author proved how bad I am. It never worked out.
I read a recipe, look at what I have and get to work.
That doesn’t mean that I throw everything including the kitchen sink into the pot – it means that I use recipes as an inspiration but not as a gospel.
This is how cooking evolves – otherwise we would all still be picking berries from shrubs and hedges. Generations of chefs have looked for inspiration – no recipe is ever completely new.
The best chefs can look beyond of what they have learned in culinary arts college and embark on an adventure, taking ideas from places they have visited and people they have met.
My food adventures are influenced by a lot of things – my love for spices, good ingredients, flavours and a lot of amazing food people I met along the way.
Don’t get me wrong – I do get it wrong!
Ginger in a pasta salad is not a good idea and if you want to do a fancy chicken roll-up, make sure it is fully rolled up and tight (the result otherwise is a blob of food).
But I do get it right more often than not. With hundreds of cookbooks, which one is my favourite? It’s a question I get asked a lot.
My first proper cookbook and one I still have is Delia Smith’s ‘Complete Cookery Course' from the ‘70s. Looking at it now, it looks boring and bland. Delia is a great writer if you want clear instructions but not if you are looking for colourful language and excitement.
It is the cookbook I always recommend to beginners as every single recipe works.
I look at it when I am not sure how to prepare something like a beef’s heart that I bought at Bresnan’s stall in the English market a few years back.
Lo and behold, Delia knew and had a recipe (which I largely ignored other than timings).
The result was a stuffed heart with breadcrumbs, nuts, garlic and chives and a happy Mr T.
I love the writing of Nigel Slater with his quiet tone – he takes you on a journey with him and you can imagine yourself at his side in his kitchen garden, snipping fresh peas. I have his ‘Christmas Chronicles’ on my nightstand.
Denis Cotter is another food writer/chef I admire – you get an in-depth knowledge of vegetables but he also showcases and celebrates the people he is working with.
Tessa Kiros is a writer with an interesting life as she has lived in so many countries and she shares what she learned in her books. The imagery and her writing takes you along quiet country roads, a busy Italian kitchen and wide fields.
These are cookbooks that you can read just for pleasure.
Now, I have to start my list of new cookbooks that Mr T gets every year so that he knows what to put under the tree!