Kindles are all very well, but they’re no replacement for a printed cookbook.
Splotches of grease, dogeared pages and splatters of sauce are only evidence of how much you love them.
As World Book Day (March 4) approaches, we asked chefs and producers to reveal their most inspirational read.
“I could spend my last penny on cookbooks. They’re an art form, deeply personal to the author and a labour of love. Transcending time and place, they instantly transport the reader anywhere the world. I love Barrafina - a Spanish Cookbook by Sam and Eddie Hart and Nieves Barragan Mohacho for these reasons.
I adored growing, picking, shelling and podding broad beans as a child in our kitchen garden. Their broad beans and goats’ cheese on toast recipe is simple but clever, like all of Nieves’ recipes. It can be made all year round with frozen broad beans and whatever young lemony goats cheese you can find. The reduced Pedro Jimenez vinegar is genius. I sometimes add beetroot for colour and contrast to the vibrant green of the broad beans and crisp white of the cheese”.
Mhairi Taylor, owner of Zique’s, Glasgow
“I’ve got a massive library of cookbooks that’s constantly growing, and I go back and forth through them all the time. However, if I had to choose a favourite, it’d be the first that I bought - White Heat by Marco Pierre White. There are recipes in it that I still use to this day, including his lemon tart. The book blew me away when I bought it as a 17-year-old commis chef. The recipes and stories were awe-inspiring, they changed the way I looked at the industry and at food”.
Ally McGrath, chef patron of Osso, Peebles
“The Larousse Gastronomique by Prosper Montagne is the world's greatest cooking encyclopedia. It's a bible of sorts, with information about techniques, ingredients and histories of dishes that are important to understand before you can develop your own style. The late chef, Alan Gibb, gave me my copy in the early days of my cooking career.
My favourite recipe is cherry clafoutis. It only has a few key ingredients, but always tastes phenomenal. I like to make it with rhubarb at this time of year.
There’s also The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. Niki was inspired to write this book when she noticed how dependent she was on recipes. I enjoy cooking best when I can freestyle and it’s brilliant for giving you a nudge in the right direction. I found my copy in Waterstones in 2013, in the early days of The Gardener's Cottage. I was a young cook trying to find an individual food style and this book was a great inspiration”.
Dale Mailley, chef and owner of Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh
“My favourite is F Marian McNeill’s The Scots Kitchen. It’s a scholarly and fascinating account of how much we have lost in terms of a rich tradition of food and cooking. It would be hard today to use some of the recipes, which include potted ox head and sheep’s head brawn. However, many of the baking and pudding recipes are good, even if you don’t own a girdle, and there’s an excellent recipe for Dunlop cheese, using raw milk of course”.
Humphrey Errington, owner and founder of Errington Cheese Ltd, Lanark
“My favourite cookbook of all time has to be The French Laundry by Thomas Keller. It has such beautiful photography and is so well written and timeless. Its best recipe has to be the coffee and doughnuts - a coffee semifreddo topped with milk foam and served with warm doughnuts”.
Mark Greenaway, head chef of Grazing by Mark Greenaway and author of Perceptions.
"Rick Stein’s Seafood 2001 is the first cookbook I ever bought. I grew up in Fort William, where there was lots of seafood available, and this became an early passion for me in my career. The book taught me techniques, similar to Rick’s teaching at his school in Padstow at the time, for all varieties of fish.
Its recipes are great for beginners and experts and I still refer to them to this day. My most used recipe is the smoked haddock kedgeree on page 132. We make it at home so often that my 11-year-old daughter now cooks it for me."
Robbie Meldrum, head chef at Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh
“I recently bought Food and Fire by Marcus Bawdon - an outdoor cooking enthusiast from England. I got it a few weeks prior to the first lockdown in March 2020. Little did I know how much free time I’d have to try out its recipes on my barbecue. My favourite is the bay skewered lamb”.
Carlo Crolla, co-owner of East Coast, Musselburgh
“The Silver Spoon is like having my mum and nonna in the kitchen. It has over 2000 recipes and is one of Italy’s best-selling cookbooks of the last 50 years. My husband, Carlo, bought it for me back in 2006, when we were married. He clocked me looking at it in a book shop. Back then I was 19-years-old and thought I knew my way round a kitchen. Taught by my mother, I wasn’t one to steer away from her teachings.
One of its best recipes is torta alla glassa d’arancia (cake with orange icing) or, as I now call it, My Orange Cake. I still haven’t met anyone who doesn’t go for an extra slice and it always turns out perfectly. If we are planning a family get together, I usually receive a text from my younger sister, Silvana, saying “Katia, make your orange cake””.
Katia Crolla , co-owner of East Coast, Musselburgh