Since the nation has gone into lockdown, many of us are cooking more than usual. While some have found themselves with more time on their hands, looking for new cooking projects to stave off boredom, others are busier than ever and need inspiration for simple recipes, made with few ingredients.
We’ve come up with a list of some of our favourite cookbooks for these times. Whether you’ve got more time to get stuck into baking or a food DIY project, you’re struggling to make something with limited ingredients and time, or you just want to lose yourself in an uplifting read, there’s a book here for you.
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10 of the best cookbooks to read during isolation
Take One Tin by Lola Milne
Food writer Lola Milne’s first cookbook is aptly timed. Published in 2019, the book celebrates tinned ingredients, demonstrating how they can create the basis of a delicious meal.
In each of the 80 recipes, Lola takes one or more tinned ingredients – including tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, tuna, mackerel, fruits and more – and turns them into imaginative dishes, which include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts.
Expect inspired ideas like Sri Lankan mackerel curry, green lentil fritters, Vietnamese crab cakes and coconut & lime upside-down cake, as well as comforting classics like tomato soup. Plus, there’s a section on creative cupboard accompaniments such as quick, 3-ingredient chapatis and coconut rice. (Kyle Books)
Bread Ahead Online Baking Recipe Book by Matthew Jones, Founder of Bread Ahead
A very exciting book from renowned London bakery Bread Ahead, this e-book is an accessible collection of some of the bakery’s most-loved recipes, which is available to download onto your computer, tablet or phone for a fiver!
Discover how to make eighteen different baking recipes, including Bread Ahead’s legendary doughnuts, affectionately dubbed ‘pillows of joy’. The bakery is so much more than just doughnuts though – learn how to make their fluffy focaccia, almond amaretti biscuits (which are even better when eaten warm out of the oven), and other delights including cinnamon buns, ginger cake, shortbread and bagels.
The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries (which come in three volumes, all highly recommended) are much more than just recipe books, but rather poignantly personal journals which also include enticing, seasonal recipes.
Each book details what Nigel eats throughout the year, presented as an illustrated diary featuring the recipes themselves, alongside plenty of evocatively-written, anecdotal preamble to lose yourself in for a few hours while you decide what to cook.
The recipes are mostly quick and easy to achieve at home, and fit perfectly with each month, from warming onion soup and marmalade cake in January to thyme & feta lamb in April and a fabulous strawberry & mascarpone tart in June.
It also includes popular timeless classics like Nigel’s chocolate brownies (recipes mentioned here are all in volume one). (Fourth Estate)
Midnight Chicken & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger
This is so much more than a cookbook. After suffering crippling anxiety and trying to end her life at the age of 21, Ella began cooking, starting with a roast chicken, and discovered the healing powers of the kitchen.
Beautifully written and restorative, her book demonstrates just how therapeutic cooking can be, combining life stories, lessons and memories, interspersed with simple, comforting recipes like 3-ingredient ‘lazy Sunday pastries’, nourishing soups and storecupboard suppers, as well as ideas for breakfasts, lunches, weekend cooking, bakes and desserts.
A pleasure to read, this is a great one for bringing a little bit of calm and relief to these unsettling times. (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Food DIY: How to Make Your Own Everything: sausages to smoked salmon, sourdough to sloe gin, bacon to buns by Tim Hayward
If you have more spare time on your hands at the moment and want to get properly stuck into a fun, foodie project that you’ve never tried before, then this is the book for you.
Learn how to cure meat, smoke fish, pickle veg, make your own butter and cheese, try your hand at jam making and even master butchery with this guide to ‘making your own everything’ by food writer and DIY enthusiast Tim Hayward – it’s one of senior food editor Barney Desmazery’s favourites. (Fig Tree)
Simple by Diana Henry
Simple is the tenth cookbook by award-winning food writer and Good Food contributor Diana Henry, published in 2016. As its title suggests, the recipes in this book are all simple to make, fuss-free and make use of generally easy-to-find ingredients.
Each of the twelve chapters focusses on an everyday food group, including eggs, toast, pulses, pasta & grains and chicken. Diana shares ingenious ways with commonplace ingredients, creating delicious dishes without the need for complicated cooking methods or tons of ingredients.
Our favourite recipes include Turkish pasta with feta, yogurt & dill and parmesan roast chicken with cauliflower & thyme. As always, Diana manages to make every dish feel special and evoke emotion with each one of her beautifully-written recipe introductions. (Octopus Publishing)
How to Dice an Onion by Anne Sheasby
This isn’t a recipe book, but rather a cook’s best friend. A fun-to-flick-through reference book, it’s absolutely packed full of useful kitchen tips, tricks and hacks for home cooks.
Use it to hone basic skills like how to dice an onion, make (and freeze) stock and scale a fish, as well as more advanced techniques including how to make sauces, preserves, breads, cookies and more.
There are also tons of useful tips for the kitchen more generally, from advice on how to correctly store certain ingredients to stop them going off, guidance on freezing food, space-saving ways to organize your kitchen cupboard and even how to get rid of lingering smells in food containers! (CICO Books)
River Cottage Easy (previously Hugh’s Three Good Things) by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
The premise for this book is simple – you can make a delicious dish with just a handful of ingredients, they just have to be the right ingredients.
After years of cooking at River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall knows exactly which foods work well together – the ingredients which, when combined, create a harmonious marriage of flavours and textures. It’s with this knowledge that he’s created over 175 recipes, each based on three key, complementary ingredients.
Each recipe contains the three main ingredients, plus a few extras, often from the storecupboard. Tempting trios include ‘potato, cheese & thyme’ made into simple potato-cakes, ‘red lentils, onion & bacon’, combined in an easy, comforting soup, ‘pork, potatoes & apples’ made into a Sunday-roast-style tray-bake and ‘condensed milk, gingernuts and lemon’ mixed with double cream to create a delicious dessert. (Bloomsbury Publishing)
The Spirits by Richard Godwin
We can’t spend our Friday nights at the bar at the moment, but we can turn our kitchens into one. Home mixology is hugely popular right now and, according to our team’s drinks expert Miriam Nice, ‘if you’re going to buy one cocktail book, you can’t go far wrong with this one’.
It covers all the classic cocktails in an approachable way, as well as some modern ideas, and advice on how to invent your own recipes too. The tone is chatty and fun, but the content is well researched and trustworthy, making it one of Miriam’s most-used books! (Square Peg)
The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook by Linda Ly
As a nation, we waste a lot of food. In response to the increasing awareness surrounding food waste, we’ve seen a growing movement for ‘nose-to-tail’ meat-eating and more recently, ‘fin-to-tail’ fish-eating – but what about all the fruit and veg we discard?
This book is about ‘whole plant cooking’, teaching us how to make use of entire vegetables, including all those bits you never usually think to eat. From tough kale and chard stems, to spring onion bulbs, tomato leaves, beetroot stalks and even watermelon rind, discover recipes which make use of these oft-discarded ingredients – such as kale stem pesto, chard stem hummus and stir-fried watermelon.
There’s plenty of recipe inspiration for what to do with less common vegetables like kohlrabi and acorn squash too. With so many novel ideas, this is a great book for inspiring home cooks, especially those who grow their own fruit and veg. (Quarto Publishing group)
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This review was last updated in April 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.