What makes a good cookbook?
There are a few things that all of my favorite cookbooks have in common:
- Well written: All of the recipes in a good cookbook have been tested, so they always work out. As a food blogger, I must point out that if you don’t follow the recipe, then you can’t blame the recipe writer for a failure. However, if you follow a good recipe, then it should always work out.
- Interesting and delicious recipes: The point of a cookbook is to encourage people to try new recipes. It’s fun and exciting to try authentic and traditional recipes or new recipes that involve an interesting combination of ingredients.
- Feed my people: We eat a vegetable-focused, flexitarian diet. Naturally, I love cookbooks that are designed to feed us.
- Not too simple or too complex: I’m at a point in my cooking life where I no longer need to follow a recipe to make grilled cheese or scrambled eggs. However, I also don’t have time to spend hours making cannelloni or a souffle. A good cookbook has recipes that are neither too simple nor too complex.
My favorite cookbooks
Here’s a list of my current favorite cookbooks. I will admit that the list has changed over time, based on our diet and my cooking skills. I went from being a vegetarian who ate instant noodles to a flexitarian with a more wholesome diet.
The Joy of Cooking
My copy of The Joy is from 2006, but I didn’t start using it until after Max was born. It’s probably pretty obvious from the way this book is taped together, that I use it all the time. I love the joy of cooking because it contains basic recipes for EVERYTHING from simple stir fry to Hollandaise sauce. It’s like the original internet, except that the recipes are always perfect.
I only have two of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks: Plenty and Jerusalem. And I love both of them. The photos are beautiful. The recipes are always delicious. The only trick is that I sometimes need to substitute or skip some of the more unusual ingredients.
–I will admit that we did buy za’atar because it appeared in a number of recipes. And I might also break down and buy pomegranate molasses at some point soon.–
Vegetarian Entertaining With Friends
Brad bought me Simon Hope’s cookbook way before I knew how to cook. At the time, the recipes seemed impossibly difficult, and I couldn’t get over the fact that they were structured around 3-course meals.
Ultimately, it was this cookbook and the Food Network show Good Eats, that taught me how to cook. I’ve made a few of the dinner party menus, however, I usually just pick and choose from among the recipes.
Doukhobor Fundraising Cookbooks
Brad is a Doukhobor, and his mom still lives in the community. As a result, we own a lot of Doukhobor cookbooks. All of them were self-published as a fundraiser or to celebrate a community event. They include recipes from Brad’s Aunties, his second cousins, his elementary school teachers, etc.
While I don’t actually do much cooking from the Doukhobor cookbooks, they are a big part of Brad’s cooking. He makes borshch, pyrahi, vareniki, and kvass.
Personally, I love that the cookbooks always include a few recipes for cooking for 50 people. Community events are always fun, and it’s good to have a few recipes that you can use to serve a whole load of people.
A few more favorite cookbooks
Here are a few more of my favorite cookbooks. They are all specific for a particular type of food, rather than general everyday recipes.
- The River Cottage Fish Book is our go-to during salmon season.
- India: A Journey For Food Lovers is all about Indian street food.
- Vegetarian Stir-Fries has everything from pad Thai to Vietnamese-style fried tofu.
- Mamushka has gorgeous Eastern European recipes.