I admit it, I have a small problem. Cookbooks and cooking magazines have overflown out of the kitchen, out of the bookcases and all over the house. To make things even sillier, I don't often strictly follow a recipe. I love to tweak, adjust, be inspired. I often read them in bed, imagining flavours and textures and smells. It is a guilty pleasure I'm unlikely to give up.
However, when it comes down to it - these are the best. The favourites with sauce spatters, smears of chocolate and well turned pages. These are the classics that will endure and will be passed on.
1. The Cook's Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen by Stephanie Alexander
My younger sister was horrified to see that there aren't any recipe pictures but this book focuses squarely on the basics, fundamentals and classic recipes with little time for frou frou. It is an excellent resource on almost every food one can imagine, a seasonal guide, buying guide and more all in one.
This is the one I always recommend as a starter book for those moving out of home for the first time. This is the solid foundation to build a lifetime of cooking upon.
2. David Thompson's Thai Food
Fabulous, inspiring, challenging, aromatic. David starts with the basics and hammers you with them - stressing freshness and a thorough understanding of Thai food. This is another fabulous resource book with detailed explanations of thai ingredients and methods. If you're looking for pretty cupcake pictures you won't find them here. The text and sheer volume of information is the star.
3. Gourmet Traveller magazines and website
Besides the useful news and events (even though they are solidly eastern-states focussed) they share a great collection of recipes from the very basic to the challenging.
Different to the more pedestrian and commercial offerings from some other cooking magazines, Gourmet Traveller offers an inspired menu and reviews of great places to eat out.
4. My grandmother's index card recipe collection
A family heirloom, childhood memory and guide to a dizzying array of mostly sweet treats all in one.
I've previously written about cooking and eating as a child and I can't stress enough how amazing the gift of cooking and enjoying food is. My grandmother's recipe collection includes jewelled jam drop biscuits, home-made chutneys, casseroles, puddings and more.
While these are the most used sources of recipe ideas in my house, I don't restrict myself. I also happily browse the web and my bookshelves for inspiration and recipes.
I tend to particularly seek out recipes from Claudia Roden, Georgio Locatelli, Bill Granger, Maggie Beer and the venerable Stephanie Alexander.
While I have serious respect for the work he's done to encourage kids (and adults) to eat "real food" I'm not Jamie Oliver's biggest fan and I can usually happily ignore Nigella Lawson's (particularly savoury) options.
For more great suggestions on how to build your cookbook library, you can also check out the wonderful tips from Cake and Commerce.
I'd love to hear which cookbooks are your favourites - share them in the comments below or catch me on twitter.
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