Florence’s Favourite… Cookery Books

This afternoon, I thought I’d try something new, another round up, but with some serious audience participation.

A little while a go I wrote about the Great British Bake-Off Cook book and a few readers mentioned that they would like to hear about peoples’ highest rated cook books. It made me think, a ‘favourites’ feature would be great… I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours 😉

So these are Florence’s Favourite (and recommended) top recipe books, please pitch in with your tried and tested favourites in the comments box. (I’m thinking they would also make great Christmas presents…)

Jokes about how to boil an egg aside, Delia’s how-to books are like a kitchen bible for me. Whenever I need to figure out a basic technique, am unsure of cooking times for a roast joint, or need a basic recipe, for meringue for example, this is the book(s) that I come back to time after time. I jest not when I say Delia even taught me to bake bread.

My favourite recipes are often sharing dishes. We regularly have friends over for casual meals in the week, nothing fancy, just one-pot-wonders that feed more than 2 of us anyway and make for a relaxed catch up. Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends by Rachel Allen, (I’d recommend Rachel’s Favourite Food equally) is full of them, along with occasion foods and menus for impressing your husband’s boss, light bites with girlfriends and Christmas foods. I’ll take her kitchen too.

No list of cookery books is complete without Jamie Oliver and Jamie’s Dinners is another of those well worn books in my cupboard that I turn to time and time again for recipes like Jools’ favourite Stew, Jamie’s Lasagne and Aubergine and Mozarella Pasta. Jamie’s Italy is also a favourite, mainly due to my obsession with Italian food.

Everyone has got it, but you can’t beat the Hummingbird Bakery book for baking. My sister thinks the recipes are a bit hit and miss, but every one I try comes out a cracker and it’s a go-to for desserts when we’re entertaining, as well as Sunday afternoon baking adventures.

These are not just the books I own, or have been given (I have tons more) but the ones I turn to day in day out and find reliable too. They come with Florence’s official seal of approval!

Do share your favourites and feel free to agree or disagree with my choices. I’ll look forward to finding some new favourites!


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27 thoughts on “Florence’s Favourite… Cookery Books

  1. The Mary Berry Baking book is an absolute winner. My mother has spent YEARS struggling to bake a good old vicky sponge (she’d shoot me if she saw me writing this), followed that book and voila! A monster of a cake even HER mother would be proud of.
    I look up Paul Hollywood’s bread recipes on BBC Good Food, but otherwise I am desperate to add to my actual book collection. There’s nothing like being able to tell which recipes are the best but looking at my mum’s/grandma’s old books and seeing them with pages turned over, sauce splattered up the pages, and handwritten notes on each recipe.

    • I LOVE Mary Berry’s baking book – she cooks old school, none of this putting yoghurt in cupcakes like Nigella. I would like her to be my granny. x

  2. I have to confess I am a MAJOR fan of all Nigella Lawson’s recipe books, mainly because the food is so indulgent and I have to stop myself salivating over the yummy pictures,TMI?!

    I agree with you when it comes to Rachel Allen, she is brilliant….but not so much with Delia, i’ve been using her ‘Book One’ as a tea coaster for yonks….perhaps I might give it another chance 🙂 x

  3. I really like The Hummingbird books too. I have one Rachel Allen that I won in a raffle but keep forgetting to look at. Other ones – I do like Nigella, Nigel Slater (all of them but Kitchen Diaries also makes for a lovely read too) and Bill Granger. Another good baking one for a gift is Cookie Girl’s Eat Me divided up into the seasons.
    Looking forward to reading all the other suggestions.

  4. Great post Rebecca! Funnily enough, Delicious Magazine was asking readers about their favourite cookery books on Twitter the other day.

    I’m a complete cookery book addict and so is my mum, so I’ve read hundreds of them, but the three I always come back to are 1. Jamie’s Ministry of Food; 2. Nigella Express; and 3. Cook With Jamie.

    I’m also a fan of Bill Granger, and for baking recipes I don’t think you can beat my mum’s copy of Good Housekeeping (which she got for a wedding present!). Hungry now… 🙂

    • Funny story there… I’ve used my Mums Good Housekeeping cookbook too. It was bought for my Dad by his first ‘serious’ girlfriend… Who bit the dust when he met my Mum! She’s had years of good use out of it! 😉

      • Bill Granger’s cafe in Sydney does the best eggs I’ve ever tasted. The actual best. Even though they are an easy thing to make… Oh my gosh is this making anyone else STARVING?!

  5. I LOVE cookery books. ADORE them. Read them from cover to cover (Nigella is great for that). My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of about 80 by now I would say, and I still love buying them and receiving them as gifts. A couple of my absolute favourites are Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers (every recipe I have tried so far is a winner, so many levels of flavour) and Be-Ro Flour Home Recipes. The second one was a gift from my mum, who was given a copy by her mother, and one I used to pick cakes out of to bake with my mum when I was little. My copy is falling apart already but holds lots of special memories and is the one I always turn to when I’m after something sweet for a weekend. Looking forward to hearing recommendations from others!

    • I used to bake from that Be-Ro book when I was little too, I loved it – so retro, my favourite was the scone type cakes with four halved cherries on the top

  6. The only cookery books I ever tend to buy are baking ones! I have tried a few recipes from the Hummingbird book, but have also not had much luck. My all time baking cook book is by Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy! Every recipe seems to be a winner in there!


  7. The BBC’s 101 range are really good. We recently bought ‘101 meals for two’ and it has really helped when it comes to writing a shopping list. Each recipe has the nutritional details with it so you know whether it’s healthy or not, and some of the dishes are simple but tasty!

  8. I am an absolute cooking fanatic; it’s like therapy for me and the ultimate stress relief at the end of a tiring day. My confession though? I only own about 5 cook books which were all presents and, save for the Hummingbird Bakery book, each and every one of them remains untouched… oh the shame! The only reason the Hummingbird book is so well thumbed (and covered in icing sugar) is because I am not a baker and cakes are not something I can make up in my head.

    The joy in cooking for me comes from making things up based entirely on my mood (and my budget) and having fun with it. I find following recipes make me anxious and I end up not having any fun at all. If there is something I want to make that requires a recipe, risotto for example, I will find it on the BBC Good Food website (my online bible) and make it the once. Then it’s in my head and I can fiddle about with it forever without ever slaving over a book!

    Everyone is different I guess. Cooking for me is emotional more than functional and is often my only creative outlet. My best friend follows recipes religiously because they help her confidence and swears by Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake’.

    I do have a couple of guilty pleasures though…. Nigel Slater and BBC Good Food magazine. Heaven.On.Earth.

    I actually feel a bit inspired now to dust off my poor neglected books and see what they have to offer…

  9. Oooh where to start?? I don’t actually own that many cookery books myself (tend to download recipes from t’internet), but my other half has a huge collection that I regularly pinch recipes from. From mine, the one that I’ve used the most is Nigella’s Feast. It was a birthday present from some friends who were hoping I’d try on the recipes out on them I think! But it’s taught me how to cook the perfect roast chicken and some other really nice ones I can whip up when I feel like something a bit fancy 🙂 My current favourite is Jamie’s Ministry of Food. Great for basics I’ve found. Can cook a curry with my eyes shut, but spaghetti and meatballs totally eluded me until this book!

  10. We love cookbooks in our house. In fact, I usually read one when I’m eating my breakfast – marking recipes that catch my eye.

    My husband and I LOVE Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries and always turn to the relevant month when we’re thinking of something new to try. Nigella’s How To Eat is really, really good for basics (like carbonara) and I lent it to my sister for the baby weaning recipes. You cannot beat Delia Complete Cookery Course for things like scones or baked red cabbage.

    More recent favourites are Hugh F-W’s Everyday (try the beetroot brownies and wholemeal scones – amazing) and Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (although we really like most of his) – I think his prawn red thai curry may be one of my favourite meals EVER.

    I must get the Hummingbird Bakery book. A friend told me I wasn’t a proper wife without it!


  11. I’ve tried a couple of Yottam Ottolenghi recipes via the Guardian and each one has been an absolute explosion of yum – I can’t even describe how incredible his barley risotto is. So I think his will be my next purchase, or maybe Father Christmas is reading this and I’ll get it in my stocking?! ps Rebecca that story about your pares is classic ‘bit the dust’ ha ha ha

  12. I adore cook books, and now have quite a collection, would have far more if I could but the other half complains about the amount of space they take up in the kitchen!! My favourites are…
    – Delia’s complete cookery course – My parents had a version from the 70s, and I got a copy from my sister one Christmas just after I had bought my first flat. It’s just fab for all the basics and the “How do I cook x?” moments.
    – Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook – I never considered myself much of a baker until I met this book. I find the recipes pretty easy to follow, and have had great feedback when I’ve taken the results in to work. I’ve just bought the Cake Days book as well, but have yet to try anything, am thinking the Mojito mini cupcakes would be perfect fodder for a forthcoming hen do though!
    – Jo Pratt – In The Mood for Food – everything from breakfast, to canapes to afternoon tea, to dinner party menus. Love this!
    – Good Food magazine – Was bought a year’s subscription one birthday and as a was one of the best presents I’ve had. The website is also great come 4.30 and I’m lacking inspiration for tonight’s dinner.

  13. I love the hummingbird bakery book. I drool over it every time I open it!
    The cookbook I use the most is Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I’ll admit this is not me by any stretch, but every recipe I’ve tried has turned out perfectly (the Christmas cake is particularly good!).
    I’m also a big fan of a book called baking magic. It’s basically a cookbook full of easy to bake, totally yummy, cakey goodness!
    I’ve just bought the Primrose Bakery iPhone app, the cakes look amazing but am yet to try it out!

    • Ooh I love cookbooks! My go to fave is also Jamie’s dinners! It has so many good recipes. Also love Hummingbird Bakery first one (would quite like the 2nd one too) – I made the brooklyn blackout cake the other day and it was fab – so rich!

      Think my favourite one for baking is Nigella – How to be a Domestic Goddess however the Lorraine Pascale is on my christmas list 🙂

      Other faves are also Thomasina Myers – Mexican cooking made easy – I love anything Mexican and Wahaca is one of my fave restaurants! And I also really like the Donna Hay cookbooks. She is an Australian cook and her recipes are so vibrant. Her books are also gorgeous and some of them have styling ideas for your table. My bestie in Oz sends them to me for my birthdays 🙂

      Great post!

      Rachie xo

  14. Like Mazz above, I’m not a great fan of cookbooks because I like making stuff up on the spur of the moment. The only 2 I really use are ‘Delia’s Complete Cookery Course’ (as others have said above, great for simple recipes for classic stuff -although does anyone else ever find that the quantities turn out wrong?! I have made her scone recipe several times, followed it to the letter, and yet what she says should make 12 scones only EVER makes 6 for me!) and Nigella’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’ -bought for me by a friend and everything I’ve ever made from it has been a winner, the chocolate mousse cake gets particularly good reviews!

  15. Have to say the Primrose Bakery Cookbook is the new favourite in our house. Whats not to love about chocolate Oreo cupcakes with marshmallow icing :-). Only thing is as soon as we make anything it is gone within two days . Also love Jamie and Rachael Allen. Nigella doesn’t go down so well in our house ,but that is due to two fussy little monkeys. Has anyone tried the River Cafe recipes, I have the book ,but never quite got around to trying them ?

    • The River Cafe are fab! I always thought they were difficult but mostly they aren’t, and are delicious, proper Italian food, especially yummy in the summer.

  16. I’m late to this party but have to say I’m definitely a Nigella Fan (and also have a selection of Rachel Allen, Bill Granger and of course Jamie cook books).

    I have to recommend Gordon Ramseys Sunday Lunch, it has some fab recipes that I cook time and time again.

    Keep meaning to get a Valentine Warner cook book after watching his show, can anyone recommend? I also wouldn’t mind an Anjum Anand Cookbook for Christmas!


  17. I’m not much of a cook myself but my boyfriend is really into it so he gets a cookbook from me for every birthday and christmas – it’s always the present he loves the most. He likes more serious cookbooks rather than “hobby” ones, his favourites are

    Made in Italy – Giorgio Locatelli – amazing recipes and lots of stories to read about traditional italian cooking etc, this is such a good book that at one point we had 5 of them in the house as we kept being gifted them.

    Both St John cookbooks (Nose to tail and Beyond nose to tail) – these are the most splattered books in our kitchen by far, both books focus on traditional british cooking but the second has a bigger baking section. This has the BEST ice cream recipe I’ve ever tried. It’s not a “pretty” cookery book but it has some hilarious pictures in it.

    The Clatter of Forks and Spoons – Richard Corrigan – brilliant British food, great photography.

  18. Late to this post as ever, but here goes:
    I am such a bad cook that I do not even know how to boil an egg. No, really, I’m telling the truth. At the age of 29, I had to ring my Mom up to ask her how to do it. I also have no clue how to hardboil an egg. I think I may be over complicating the process in my head. lol.
    However – Nigella Express and Mary Berry’s baking bible are EXCELLENT – Fool-proof recipes that are dead easy and quick, plus I like Mary Berry’s no-nonsense approach to baking, i.e no fussy rare ingredients, just plain old flour, eggs and butter. For prettiness I also like Nadia Sawalha’s book as some of the arabian recipes in there look AMAZING. We also have jamie’s italy and that book makes my mouth water every time I read it!! x

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