Forget basing your meals on faddy diets and the latest ‘superfood’, just let Elaine Lavery suggest a cookbook that stands the test of time instead
The best New Year’s piece of advice one can adhere to is to ‘take up’ not to ‘give up’. Learning a new skill is doable, abstaining from alcohol until St. Patricks Day is not, particularly if you are a student. If you have good intentions to eat well in the New Year, knowing how to cook the basics is essential. Instead of leaving Aunty Mary’s annual Christmas gift of a book token in your bedside table until next year, spend it now and spend it wisely. Here are a selection of Otwo’s top-rated cookbooks that will make learning to cook even more achievable.
Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course
Author: Darina Allen
Overview: Simply known as ‘The Bible’ in many households. If you were only to own one cookbook in your lifetime, this would be the one. It comprises all the recipes taught in twelve Ballymaloe Cookery School courses – from how to poach the perfect egg to how to joint a chicken. It’s all there in step-by-step guides with accompanying photographs. The book also contains many original recipes collected from all around the globe by Allen’s students over the years.
Signature dish: Too many to choose
Author: Jamie Oliver
Overview: Love him (XX chromosome) or hate him (XY chromosome), Jamie Oliver knows Italian food. Mentored by Gennaro Contaldo, Oliver has had a long love affair with Italian food, which he explores region by region throughout the pages of this book. It’s a one-stop shop for authentic antipasti, pizzas, pastas and risottos as well as rustic mains and traditional desserts.
Signature Dish: Pizza Fritta (yes, that’s fried pizza: a veritable gorge fest)
Cornucopia at Home
Author: Eleanor Heffernan
Overview: A compilation of recipes from the popular vegetarian Dublin café/restaurant. With background information, detailed intros and vibrant photography, the book is a piece of art in and of itself, and its hearty recipes would turn even the most savage carnivore veggie. This is perhaps not for the novice, as many of the recipes seem overly long. However, the more experienced cook will find that many of the laborious steps can be omitted to achieve roughly similar, splendid results. In comparison to the competition, this hardback is not cheap, but you will find it pays dividends since the ingredients for all its recipes come cheap themselves.
Signature Dish: Potato, Pea and Mushroom Curry
Cakes (River Cottage Handbook)
Author: Pam Corbin
Overview: For the sweet-toothed, this book is a must-have of favourite teatime treats. It is not for the artiste who is willing to spend hours labouring over a single iced cupcake, but for the gourmand who doesn’t mind indulging in a bit of gluttony every now and again. The book is all about the eating and the proof is in the pudding. Follow Corbin’s precise measurements and instruction to the letter and her recipes are foolproof.
Signature Dish: Classic Victoria Sandwich
Author: Neven Maguire
Overview: This is the book to have when you want to impress. Without being overly complex it allows the cook to create interesting, original and delicious, taste-every-morsel, restaurant-style food. Be prepared to search high and low and have deep pockets when it comes to sourcing your ingredients. But with a nice bottle of wine, a romantic dinner for two can be created without too much fuss and for significantly less expense than any average Dublin restaurant, with thanks to Maguire.
Signature Dish: Seared Scallops with Date Jam and Curried Cauliflower Puree
Your own compilation
Like newspapers and novels, the traditional combination of ink on paper looks set to stand the test of time. For the foodie, there is nothing more pleasurable than an afternoon spent leafing through a new cookbook. However, with the Internet age, almost any recipe can be got from Master Google with the click of a mouse. Keeping soft copies of your favourite recipes archived is a handy way of keeping tabs of those recipes you return to again and again. Likewise, keeping a scrapbook of newspaper, magazine and internet cut-outs of your favourite recipes, alongside your mammy’s spag bol and your granny’s brownies is a popular way of organising your repertoire.