I prefer my cookbooks to not just be a set of printed instructions on a few pages. If I wanted that then I would just log into epicurious instead of buying a book, or I'd call my mum and ask her. I enjoy cook books that are more of a guide to eating well and enjoying both cooking and eating. I want to be able to pick up a cook book and just enjoy reading it, marking certain pages to refer back to for ideas at a later date. Beautiful photographs are certainly not a must-have but I do enjoy those as well.
The first cookbook in my list was bought for me for mothers day last year by my darling husband. It was the first in what I hope will be a huge collection by the time that I am dead, that I can pass on to my grandkids and will be referred to as crazy grandma's weird, huge recipe library or something to that effect.
Nigella Lawson's How to Eat has actually become a kitchen staple. I cook something from here at least once per week. Not only are the recipes great but they're easy to improvise which is pretty important to me as it's often difficult to get hold of some (read: most) of the ingredients at the commissary on post. Nigella encourages improvisation, for some recipes she suggests other ingredients you can use that will taste just as good. If she doesn't, then I usually manage to work it out on my own and I don't feel guilty about it.
Her writing is intimate and wonderful, I feel like I'm sitting with her in her kitchen drinking a glass of wine and discussing food. This book also has a section in the back specifically for babies and children which has been invaluable as Mikey has grown older.
All in all, I liked cooking before I read this book. Now I love cooking, and eating of course. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone with even the slightest bit of interest in good food.
Second up is another Nigella Lawson book, Nigella Express. This was a birthday gift from that ever indispensable man... my husband.
Honestly, it's not as good as How to Eat. I'm not sure what it is, the recipes are wonderful and there are absolutely beautiful photographs throughout. I guess I feel as though there wasn't enough information in there. Instead of conversation interspersed with recipes, as in How to Eat, this book is obviously made for someone with less time to wade through walls of text. That's understandable given the title. I guess I'm just too needy. Either way, it's a solid cookbook with plenty of quick, easy and delicious recipes. Linguine with Lemon, Garlic, and Thyme Mushrooms is often requested by my husband, and even Mikey eats most of it. That crazy kid likes lemons, depriving us of the baby eating lemon face photo moment so many parents enjoy.
The final cookbook is not another Nigella book. It's from another Brit. Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver. This particular book takes a lot of inspiration from his restaurants, Fifteen. From the restaurant website -
In 2002, Jamie Oliver combined two ambitions: to open a top class restaurant and to give disadvantaged youngsters the chance to gain professional training that would set them up for an independent, inspired and productive life. Five years on, Fifteen is still achieving both, improving and expanding all the time.If that's not a wonderful thing to do then I don't know what is. Seriously, go look at the website.
That aside, the cookbook itself is really great. Jamie is a very strongly opinionated cook and he passes on a lot of knowledge within these pages. Not just on cooking technique, but buying technique. How to choose the best ingredients to make the best food. The recipes are great too, some are very basic and others go above and beyond what I would normally cook for just my family, but would probably be good if I ever got around to inviting over guests. And really, even though I probably wont use a lot of the recipes in this one, I still think it was worth buying simply for the buying guides, the information and the basic recipes (like how to make your own pasta etc). Although I've only ever actually made 4 recipes from this book, I refer to it often when cooking (or considering) other meals.
I do have other cookbooks, and several magazines, but these are definately the three that I enjoy and use most often. The husband seems to enjoy gloating about how much money he'd pay for each particular meal in a restaurant, so I think I'm doing a fairly decent job.