Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cookery book inspiration

Current cookery book inspiration

This is my current cookery book inspiration.  From top to bottom:
I plan all the meals I am going to cook about a week ahead, and since 2005 I've been writing down my mealplans in notebooks rather than on scraps of paper.  I blogged briefly about them way back in 2007, here.  The collection of notebooks is now substantial, and already I love to look back and see which recipes are still putting in regular appearances, and which appeared for a few months and then fell out of favour.  Pasta pesto is still on the menu.
Meal plan notebook

Meal plan notebook

I love cookery books and have three big shelves on a bookcase filled with them.  Each week I get a new stack of books down from the shelves and rifle through them to get some fresh ideas of what I should write down in my meal plan notebook.  I also get a great many cookery books out of the library, and if I find I still want to make recipes from a library book when it is time to return it, I go and buy myself a copy.

Recent additions to my shelves via this route have been the brilliant River Cottage Bread Handbook and Harry Eastwood's Skinny French Kitchen. 
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The bread handbook is exactly what you'd expect - a complete manual for everything you ever wanted to know about bread making, and crammed with fantastic recipes.  I now have two of the other River Cottage handbooks in this series reserved at the library.  I have a feeling they will all be awesome.

The Skinny French Kitchen is already one of my most favourite cookbooks, and I've made so many recipes from it in the ten days I've had it.  I really enjoyed Harry Eastwood's first book - Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache - and its quirky approach to cake baking, but the whimsical, sugary-sweet tone of the writing does get on my nerves a little after a while.  This second book just shines with genuine enthusiasm for her subject (classical French cookery) and is much less twee but just as clever.  The photography is outstanding, and worth the price of the book alone.  I'm fascinated to see what she does next.  Whatever it is, I'm sure I'll be buying a copy.

The Tessa Kiros book - Apples for Jam - is from the library, and although I've cooked a couple of great recipes from it, I don't like it enough to buy it.  I find that all the childhood memoirs in the margins distract me from the recipes and clutter up the page.  Its a whopping tome of a family cookbook, and I already have enough of those on my shelves.

Nigella's Kitchen and BBC Good Food are both old, faithful friends. I've been making spring rolls and tofu pancakes from this month's magazine, and the everyday brownies and the Korean keema from Kitchen.

How do you find inspiration for what to cook?  Do you write out meal plans?  Do cookery books languish, unread, on your bookshelves or do you regularly consult them for ideas?  Do new cookery books have to work hard to earn a spot on your already crowded shelves?

    17 comments:

    1. I have found the river cottage bread book invaluable too. Each time I bake I re-read it and follow another little tip and my loaves get better and better.
      Recipe wise, we tend to pick whatever food is most seasonal/cheap at the time and then look for recipes to suit, pumpkin has been the flavour of the fortnight here. We always make at least one thing each week we never made before.

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    2. Despite having a heap of beautiful cookbooks I get home from work every night feeling very stressed about "what will I cook for dinner"? But you have inspired me to get organised. Have just spent my lunch break buying a lovely notebook and looking at on-line recipes. I will transition to my cookbooks once I have this planning habit embedded a bit!

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    3. I confess to being a complete cookery book addict but it seems it is more wishful thinking rather than actively using. I'm using the excuse of my craft ladies to bake for every week, which is always gratefully received.
      I make bread and rolls every week for No2's lunches plus cookies but our dinner menus are sadly repetitive as he is such a fussy eater. Given the choice, he'd just eat a slab of meat every night. Washed down with pancakes!
      I realise I don't entertain enough on a small scale to try out all my favourite recipes...

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    4. We are on a seriously tight budget, so I've been menu planning for a couple of years now. I love the idea of keeping all the menu plans in one notebook - I was lamenting just the other day that we can never remember what we ate and enjoyed this time last year (we try to eat pretty seasonally). How did this never occur to me, with my list love?!

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    5. I adore cookbooks (as you know!) but definitely don't make enough use of them. So impressed by your meal plans. Must try that too. Now you're my cookery book inspiration!

      K x

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    6. We too have a long shelf full of cookery books, and although I always use them for baking, I hardly ever do for meals - just adapt old favourites to stuff in season. But that is going to change because I have recently bought River Cottage Everyday and find it so sensible and so very our-sort-of-food that I am going to do a 'Julie and Julia' with it and cook my way through it (minus the blog) - planning and shopping for a recipe rather than trying to make what is in the fridge fit something I usually do.

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    7. I'm a cookbook junkie, but my groaning shelves have me making much better use of the library. I'm also horrible about reading them, feeling inspired and then ignoring them in favour of doing my own thing. I'm more of a 'seat of the pants' cook than a recipe follower. Apart from when it comes to baking.
      That's why I love cookbooks with a bit of storytelling in them.

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    8. I religiously draw up a weekly menu plan and was thinking that I really need to capture them more permanently not only for future inspiration but also as a reminder of all those recipes I cook far too regularly for about 2 months and then forget about. I discovered a website "Eat Your Books" where for a small annual fee you can upload all your cookbooks onto a virtual bookshelf. There's a huge number of books which are already indexed with ingredients which makes searching my extensive collection a doddle. It also means I can quickly find recipes for any leftovers and although you may wonder why I have leftovers given my weekly plan, I do find that even the best laid plans need to be modified occasionally to suit one's mood!

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    9. I love cokbooks too but tend to go through phases of using them and then resorting to good old standard meals when life is busy. I've gone through phases of planning and recording meals too but that never seems to last.

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    10. A notebook! What a wonderful idea! I have to do that. I've seen diaries very cheap in the sales (unsurprisingly!) - I'll go out and buy one tomorrow.

      At the moment we are trying to be so frugal that some of my lovely cookbooks - I don't have many, but the ones I do are lovely - are mainly ignored in favour of less extravagant ones. And cookbooks are mainly bought for presents, I can't afford to buy them myself.

      I do meal plan - every week - and have for as long as I can remember. I don't 'busk it' well at all.

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    11. I've just realised how fascinating that page is. I want to see MORE PAGES.

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    12. ah...foodieness.
      i end everyday thinking about tomorrow's meals. Lately, with too much turmoil in my life, it's all about comfort food. This time 'round, that is fried potatoes (sort of a rosti) and eggs with green salsa or a chili sauce on the side.

      Oh. can't remember if i have introduced myself or not. i found your blog via AliceC's...and have happily lurking and enjoying your tweets for a while now.

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    13. my cookbooks languish and I am ashamed of it. I must must must use them, and plan!

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    14. It would seem that Hugh is our hero. I have three of his books but refer mostly to the meat one and the family one. I've had my eye on the bread one and the everyday one. Have put them on my wishlist so hubby notices! In meantime I'll head for the library. I too have loads of books but find I always return to old favourites like Good Housekeeping including some I brought back from Australia, Nigella now and then and Rachel Allen. Despite all these references though I do find myself repeating a lot of stuff and becoming, dare I say it, like my mother. Aaargh. Just the incentive I needed to dust things up. The notebook I must try. Where did you get yours btw? I like the layout. I sporadically menu plan and berate myself when I don't because I save money, create more time, waste less food and it all seems, well, calmer. Have tried a folder but it hasn't worked. I use notebooks for everything else. Hmmmm. Thanks for this post. Karen

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    15. These are my favourite types of post as I am soooo nosy I like to pinch ahem I mean take inspiration from other peoples meal ideas - they always seem much more exciting than my usual meals :-( I am currently browsing the pioneer womans cookbook its lovely but I am going to need to have a go at converting american measurements - how do you measure a cup of butter????

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    16. Ha! Found the notebook by accident while looking up something else. Re American books, does anyone know if they have different cup sizes than us? Someone told me this at the weekend. I've been blythly carrying on regardless with good outcomes with recipes but a curiosity at portion sizes! Karen

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    17. Ten months too late I know but I was doing a google images search for 'cookery notebooks' and your pictures popped up. What a nice surprise! Now I know what you meant when you commented a while ago on one of my posts that we cook the same kinds of food. We do indeed, what's more I write my menus down in a Moleskine diary like yours. It's really quite spooky.

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    Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.