14 November 2014


Some of my earliest childhood memories are wrapped up in kitchens, those of my mother, and grandmothers especially.  The shiny navy blue cupboards of my mothers' seventies styled kitchen,  the belfast sink in one grandmothers kitchen where you could stand and watch the huge array of birds feeding in the tree just outside the window, the light and airy kitchen of my other grandmother it was a big room and always full of people and steam.  One thing I don't remember from any of those kitchens, at the time, is the recipe books.

The recipe book market is huge.  In 2011 it was worth £87m up from £20m in 2006, a huge percentage increase.  It appears to be an industry that has been little effected by the internet and free recipes.  Who doesn't love a good cookery book?  My grandmothers and mother had recipe books but not in the volumes that I have and my mother has now.  They had some for baking and all had a book where they would write their own recipes down, collected from all manner of places.  I have no idea what happened to either of my grandmothers books, they would be wonderful to read through...........I have gone for a more modern method (at the time) of recording recipes I collect I have a card index box not quite so interesting to hold in your hand and read through but it works for me.  How do you store recipes you collect?

I have written here before about meal planning.  I do it in advance partly to prevent the rabbit in the headlights moment when you realise that tea should really be on the table by now and partly because it saves money only buying the ingredients you actually need.  It also means that I can whizz round the shops super quick which has to be a bonus too.  My meal planning involves a piece of paper, a list of vegetables we are going to receive from our local farm share co-op and sometimes a pile of recipe books.  Despite having three shelves of books full to bursting with recipe books (they often fall on the floor) I don't consult them that often.  If, as we told, the recipe book industry is thriving why is it that we as nation have so many people who cannot cook.  Who have no idea what constitutes a healthy meal, who fill their trolleys week after week with ready meals.  Perhaps they have their shelves of recipe books but like me they don't look in them and use them for inspiration.  Now don't get me wrong I don't cook every meal I make by making up the recipe, I do use my books on a daily basis but I have a tendency to cook the same, or at least similar meals each week.  I have been trying hard lately to consult my wonderful collection of books more often.  To introduce at least one new recipe a month sometimes more often especially as my youngest has commented a few times recently, 'not this again!'

Some of my recipe books are like old friends, they are familiar and comforting, you know that you will find what you want on their pages.  I do find myself returning to the same books time and time again, they are the ones with the stained pages and damaged covers.  Those that don't get used often or at all are usually given away especially when I have my eye on a new one there is no room of any more on my shelves.  They are stored on three small shelves in my kitchen.  They are actually in part of the house which was originally the hall.  When we moved into our house someone had kindly knocked down a few internal walls, it makes the house seem bigger and it is much much lighter.  This means that we have no wall at one end of our kitchen it flows into the hall.  To the left of these shelves is where the doorway to the dining room is except we don't have a door there anymore just a big hole. Perhaps one day I will take you on a tour of my kitchen!

So my favourites?  Well the book I use the most is the Leiths Vegetarian Bible which appears to have been renamed as the Vegetable Bible, a close second is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, both these books look a little battered now.  I also have a very well thumbed and totally falling apart copy of The Cranks Recipe Book this was my very first vegetarian cookbook the date inside informs me that I purchased the book on 07.11.91 around the time I started to stop eating meat.  I actually bought a second copy of this book recently (a charity shop find, it is no longer in print) as I am not sure how much longer my original copy will last.  I have never been one to write in my books but I was looking at a copy of this book at a friends house recently and many of the recipes had wonderful comments added to them, friends they had shared food with, additions and changes to make next time they made something.  I rather wished I had done the same..........

Do you write in your recipe books?  What are your favourites books?


  1. I love recipe books, but at least I do cook, so I don't feel too guilty about indulging in them. I inherited my mother's quite small collection of books, and my grandmothers notebook, where as you say, she jotted down her own favourites. Both mum's and nan's also contain recipes cut from newspapers and magazines, most with their stains, proving that they were used at least once. I love this connection with mum and nan - I just wonder about the women before them and what they used.

    But none of the family books cover anything you might call World Cuisine, that's why I started buying them, to learn about Italian, Indian, Vegetarian and French etc, cooking. I think the collection I leave to my girls will be much more eclectic.

  2. I love recipe books but I have to say that I use them for inspiration rather than following the recipes closely. I love the idea of writing in the books, something I don't do myself but rather wish I had over the years, it personalises them.

  3. I consult The Joy of Cooking regularly, and I'm really enjoying the Oh She Glows cookbook, published this year by my favourite vegan food blogger. The recipes are great and the photos are beautiful!

  4. I have a recipe book with different sections. I usually jot recipes down with colouring pencil, or I just glue a cut out one it. Sometimes I photograph a page of a cookery book and stick that in too. It is quicker than trying to find the right book. I have Madhur Jaffreys world vegetarian book but have not used it yet. I must really do. My favourite book is probably my brothers copy of our home economics book (mine got lost). We had great home economic lessons, 3 hours each Thursday during the last compulsory school year. We learnt to plan meals, cook and clean up, plus ironing and hand-washing woollen jumpers and all sorts of other useful stuff. This was Switzerland in the 80s. Have a lovely weekend. x

  5. I have a recipe notebook from my Great Grandmother. The little notes in the margin, make me smile. She died just before I was born, but due to her note taking, I know that Mrs Evan gave her one recipe and Mrs Parker another.

    When we left home, we were all given a Mary Berry book and the Stork recipe book, but my turn-to books are another Mary Berry book and Good HouseKeeping. They never ever lef tme down.

  6. Hi
    Just taking a moment to catch up - we have been screen free for about three weeks (unintentionally).
    You have a great collection of cook books, is that 'entertaining with cranks' on the top shelf?
    I'm afraid I can resist a good recipe book but despite having quite a few I still tend to make the same things!
    I have an especially treasured book - it was written by my mother, and is full of stains, drawings (mine I assume from when I was a very young child), her 'weightwatcher' points written in the back (goodness me she put herself through a lot of math just to loose a few pounds), and recipes cut out from Womans Weekly!!
    Would love a tour of your kitchen....

  7. The cookbook I consult the most is Simply In Season, a compilation put out by Mennonite Central Committee. It is really great for people that want to eat locally and seasonally - at least here in North America. It is divided into the 4 seasons and has great facts about food and sustainability. My husband has several of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks which he uses a lot.

  8. My mum collected cookbooks and through it we experienced literally every sort of cuisine-she loved cooking, bless her heart! :) I'm a bit less talented so approach cookbooks with suspicion and look for a particualr format (literally spelled out steps). I've found the Riverford Farm Cook book very good for everyday wholesome food. The one book I loved for the photography, The Kinfolk Table, is not really good for it's recipes but makes for good inspiration! Alas, more a pretty book than any really guide.

  9. I am loving the idea of adding notes to recipe book pages ... real added value :)


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