Cookery books you may not have read

October 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

Sometimes I forget that I’m allowed to write whatever I like on my blog. That it doesn’t have to be all trans issues or music. So.


You might well have worked this out already – I love to cook. With the emphasis on ‘cook’ – nothing of the chef going on here.  I know that molecular gastronomy brings great happiness to some people, but if I can’t forget what I’m doing and sing along to unsuitable opera while I’m stirring then I’m really not interested. Life is hard enough already.


Obviously, just as one of the pleasures of reading is the recommending of books to read, so too recommending recipe books is an intrinsic part of the joy of food. And when people keep asking for recommendations? Impossible to resist.


I could probably make a point about cooking and necessary self-care here – cooking as activism. Let’s all imagine that I did, in a touching yet humorous way (if you have an actual blog on said point then do please leave a link).  Now, onwards!



Vegetarian Planet – Didi Emmons. The cookery book that had the biggest impact on me – and so it gets to go at the top of the list. Imaginative and intense – so many fusions of so many different styles – high vegan content. Favourite recipes: tomato and lentil chili, goat cheese burritos, portobello mushroom burgers, sweet potato latkes, wild rice and coconut risotto.



Big Mama’s Old Black Pot – Ethel Rayson Dixon. The wonders of the internet – I picked up a copy of this ten years ago in a tiny museum in Louisiana – and now you can get it online. Not only a collection of gorgeous soul food recipes, but a treasury of family and community history. If you’ve ever been to the Deep South and gained weight, then you have to buy this book. Favourite recipes: hotcakes, buttermilk biscuits, Sally Lunn bread, Ros-a-nears, Southern fried chicken, fig cupcakes.



The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook – Tarek Malouf. I really didn’t want to include this one, as it’s so popular – and then I realised that that really would make me a despicable hipster, so on the blog it goes. Obviously, I think my brownie recipe is better…Everything in this book is almost unbelievably tempting. And reliable, which isn’t often the case with cake recipes – and the lightness of the cupcake batter is something else. Favourite recipes: strawberry cheesecake cupcakes, lavender cupcakes, lemon and poppy seed cake, pumpkin pie, raspberry cheesecake brownies.



The Book of Jewish Food – Claudia Roden. It feels wrong to call this a book – I’d go with “tome”. A tome just  overflowing with amazing facts, stories, voices – corny to say it’s an obvious labour of love, but it really is. Make a recipe, read the chapter while it’s cooking – it’s genuinely everything a foodie bookworm could ever ask for. And it’s Claudia Roden – of course the recipes are fabulous. They always are. Favourite recipes: Alsace onion tart, hallah, apple cake, aubergine caviar, khachapuri, all the tagines, tzimmes and soups. All of them.



Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes – Caroline Jeremy.  What can I say? Most people love chocolate and, if you’re like most people, you need to have this book in your life. I would say it’s not necessarily for people just starting out – not all of the recipes have worked for me without tweaking cooking times/ingredient amounts – but it’s an incredible source of inspiration, and when it works it WORKS. With capital letters and everything. Favourite recipes: chocolate biscuit cake, chocolate chip cake with cinnamon stick topping, chocolate courgette loaf, chocolate flapjacks, tiramisu and the Sunday chocolate cake.


May you have many glorious cooking times. And listen to my music while you’re doing it.


§ 6 Responses to Cookery books you may not have read

  • tigr~ says:

    Another awesome cook book is “Feasts From The Place Below”, by the guy who owns “The Place Below” (apparently an awesome vegetarian restaurant, if they cook their recipes at least as good as I do… though I’ve never been!) and the “Michaelhouse Cafe” in Cambridge (to which I’ve been a number of times, where I found the book, and which has super tasty food!). If you want to, I’d be happy to exchange it for your CD (both are the same price) 🙂 Speaking of which, is there any timeline for when your Dark Angels CD is gonna be available??

    • cnlester says:

      I’m afraid I’ve already got both (obsessive collector? Never). But thank you. Dark Angels should be out right at the end of November…recording next week. My god.

  • tigr says:

    I’d finally gotten around to order the Vegetarian Planet and the Book of Jewish Food, and picked them up today & leafed through them over lunch. Gods are they amazing! I was very glad I had some leftovers out of the ‘Place Below’ recipes, I was salivating so much 😀 Now I’ll just have to order them again (my current copies will be presents for my sister). Thank you so much for the recommendations, and if you have any more (cook- or other books) I’d be delighted to hear them. =)

    • cnlester says:

      Amazing – glad you liked them. Currently been doing a lot of vegan cooking (I’m not, but my cousin is and she’s been visiting – plus I do love it, even though I crave the occasional steak) – and have been really enjoying the Vegalicious website. Made this last Friday and it was genuinely one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever tasted – I’d try it, and explore the rest of the site? Happy cooking times x

      • tigr says:

        Thanks for the link! Hm, looks a lot like this one I’ve been doing: though I usually make half the amount, replace the baking soda with baking powder and the vinegar with lemon juice (tastes better to me!). Then it’s just a matter of spicing it up, e.g. by adding crystallised stem ginger and tinned pears for a sticky-rightside-up-chocolate-pear-ginger-cake…

        Website recipes are nice, too, but it’s not as good as being able to sit on a sofa and just leaf through all the recipes, and slowly accummulating marks and spots and so on around the favourite recipes:)

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