My top 10 cookbooks

What are your all time favourite cookbooks? Kirsty Page shares her top 10.

1. Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course

This is the book to turn to if you need to swat up on anything.  And I mean, anythingDarina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course covers all the basics such as cookery terms, technique and equipment and contains lots of important nuggets of information that many cook books miss out.

Ballymaloe is one of the world’s most renowned cookery schools and has been sharing its passion for quality food since 1983.

As well as covering some of the key lessons from the school, there are hundreds of recipes to suit any occasion.  Whether you’re looking for a simple salad dressing or want to go all out and produce a veritable feast, Darina Allen can help.

2. Delia’s Complete Cookery Course

Where would the culinary world be without Delia? Loved from generation to generation I have yet to find anyone who does not have the utmost faith in her and her recipes. 

So popular is she that she is known simply as ‘Delia’, in the same way that Madonna is Madonna, Sting is Sting and Jesus is Jesus...?!

Whenever I fancy making a classic dish and I know there are hundreds of varieties, I always turn to Delia’s Complete Cookery Course.  I know she won’t have tried to make it fancy, added in any ingredients just for the sake of it, and above all, I know it will work.  What more could you ask for from a cookbook?

3. Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

Jamie’s latest offering has proved so popular, it became the fastest selling non-fiction book ever.  Wow.

It’s not hard to understand why Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals has been such a success.  People seem to be more and more pressed for time so the idea of whipping up three courses in half an hour is rather appealing.

Now, I don’t think I’m alone in saying I struggle to keep within the 30 minutes but this doesn’t really matter.  I love Jamie’s attitude to cooking and especially like how the book encourages you to make a selection of food to share with friends and family. 

4. Great British Menu

Anyone who watched Channel 4’s Great British Menu, will know what a talented bunch of chefs we have in this country.

In The Great British Menu cookbook, two chefs representing seven corners of the UK come up with two different menus.  Michael Caines, Paul Rankin and Bryn Williams are just a handful of the chefs who contribute to this book and each dish is as mouth watering as the next.

The focus is on quality, local produce and because the chefs come from all over the country, there is a real mix of ingredients and flavours.

5. Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy

Madhur Jaffrey has established herself as one of the world’s authorities on Indian cooking.  And rightly so. 

Curry Easy contains beautiful Indian recipes that cater equally well for vegetarians as well as meat eaters.  Much of India is strictly vegetarian so there are some brilliant vegetable dishes that can be eaten on their own or used as accompaniments to meat dishes.

The recipes often call for a whole chicken to be jointed, which may seem daunting at first but actually proves to be a very cost effective way of cooking. 

6. Nigel Slater: Tender Volumes I and II

I am being a bit sneaky here, as this is technically two cookbooks, but it’s wrong to split a pair...

Nigel Slater is well known for his love of simple, classic ingredients. In Tender Volume I, Nigel take us through his vegetable patch, introducing each ingredient one by one with information on how to grow, harvest and of course, eat, each one.

Tender Volume II follows the same pattern but this time with fruit.  The recipes themselves are wonderful, but what I love about these books is the attention to detail.  Every fruit and vegetable has a story of its own and each book just as much fun to read as it is to cook from.

7. Green and Blacks: Chocolate Recipes

If you’re a fan of chocolate, be prepared to salivate from page one.

As well as cakes, mousses, tortes and biscuits, there are recipes for savoury dishes such as chicken moleGreen and Blacks have always been known for their gorgeous chocolate and this cookery book turns an already fabulous ingredient into seriously fabulous food!   

8. Rick Stein’s Seafood

Fish is one of those things I want to be able to cook well, which is why I have enlisted the help of Rick Stein. 

Once only available to students of the Padstow Seafood School, the secrets to fabulous fish are now available to us all.  Recipes are grouped by species but also by shape, ie flat fish, large fleshy fish, crustaceans etc.

As well as gorgeous recipes, there is lots of info on technique and helpful advice on buying and preparing fish.  If you’re looking for a fish cookbook that covers all bases, then Rick Stein’s Seafood comes highly recommended.

9. Fast Cakes, Mary Berry

This was my go-to cook book when I was younger and it still gets a lot of use today.  The dried cake mixture that glues most of the pages together is proof that I was either a very keen baker or a very messy one...

Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes is full of simple, no fuss recipes that both kids and adults can make.  And remember, if something sits in the kids section, there’s absolutely no reason why people over the age of 12 can’t make it...

10. Good Housekeeping Kids’ Cook Book

This was the very first cookbook I was given and I have fond memories of making fudge, gingerbread men and marble cake.  All the really healthy stuff...!

The Kids’ Cook Book is the perfect book to get started with.  It has a mixture of sweet and savoury recipes, all of which can be done with just a little help from adults. 

My copy looks a little sorry for itself sat amongst newer, shinier cookbooks, but there’ll always be a space for it in the kitchen!

Are you a fan of any of the above, or do you have your own all-time favourite cookbook? Use the comments box below to share your suggestions.

Also worthy of your attention:

Jamie Oliver’s rib-eye stir-fry

A woman who changed the way we cook

Claudia Roden: Instinctive cooking from the heart

Mary Berry and Lucy Young’s crème brûlée

Life is one big culinary adventure for Gary Rhodes

The woman who cooked herself thin

Bill Granger shares his secrets


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