I think of a good cookbook as the grown-up equivalent of the Argos catalogue (RIP). Flicking through is an exercise in delight and anticipation: with the
right ingredients, careful reading and plenty of time, all these treats could potentially be yours. But just as my mum never got me the Barbie with a skirt full of makeup and the tales I spun from the catalogue remained a work of fantasy, many of the recipes in the cookbooks I own remained unmade. Whether because of a lack of time, energy or motivation, I would return to the same few meals over and over instead of delving into something new. But just like literally everything else, lockdown changed all that. I found myself turning to recipe books time and time again, trying dishes I'd never dared before, cooking things I'd only imagined eating and discovering that delicious meals can come from the most unexpected places. With that in mind, I asked R29 staffers to share the cookbooks that they've found essential as they home-cooked their way through lockdown. If you're looking for something new, these come with the highest possible guarantee. Sadhbh O’Sullivan
Health & Living Writer East by Meera Sodha
I love everything
does but this book in particular has been a lifesaver in lockdown. These fuss-free vegan and vegetarian recipes use British ingredients with an Eastern slant and I’ve found new favourites (like mushroom mapo tofu) as well as worked on perfecting a black dal. It’s the book that made cooking exciting again, especially when I am working from home and can use my lunchtime to make her summer pilau.
East, $, available at
Waterstones More Smith & Deli-cious: Food From Our Deli (That Happens To Be Vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse
This book was a bit of a surprise but it’s become an absolute staple. I wasn’t sure what to expect – not being Australian, I’d never heard of Smith & Daughters or their sister deli, Smith & Deli. But these recipes are
great. I’ve made more batches of their bolognese and trays of their chocolate chip and rosemary cookies than I can count. They are the best vegan recipes written by a non vegan I’ve ever come across.
Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse
Smith & Deli-cious: Food From Our Deli, $, available at
Amazon More Flavour: Eat What You Love by Ruby Tandoh
I think the sign of a really good cookbook is when it's splattered with sauce and dishevelled from repeated use. My copy of
is, honestly, a complete wreck. This was the book that got me into cooking back in 2016 and I’ll be forever indebted to it, and
, for that. It taught me to follow my taste buds, not strict codes about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and the recipes are simple, accessible and utterly delicious.
Flavour: Eat What You Love, $, available at
Waterstones More Anna Jay
Art Director Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi
Cookbooks are my favourite books and I have two shelves to keep them: the harder to reach top shelf is the B-list and the lower shelf holds my most used A-list books. This one is my absolute go-to in the kitchen, always the most pulled off the shelf. I’ve used it quite solidly since I got it when it was published, but in lockdown especially so. Particular favourites are the stuffed courgette recipe with pine nuts, oregano and lemon – a staple in courgette season – ricotta meatballs, and blackberry and bay friand. I would consider the recipes genuinely simple but caveat that this is ‘simple’ in Ottolenghi terms, so come armed with harissa, sumac and preserved lemons.
Ottolenghi SIMPLE, $, available at
Amazon More Story continues Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter
Before switching to
we used to get a
veg box and I think I got this book free about seven years ago. It’s not a glamorous book but one that lists almost every vegetable and has recipes for each. I grow quite a lot of veg at home too, so it’s a saviour for finding ideas of what to make with the stray savoy cabbage or lonely leek lurking at the bottom of the fridge.
Riverford Farm Cook Book, $, available at
Amazon More The Quarantine Cookbook
I love the concept of this: two friends decided to compile two digital cookbooks, each made up of recipes from both professional chefs and friends in London and New York, all to raise funds for food banks during this period of need. I donated to The Trussell Trust, which provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. And the book is great!
The Quarantine Cookbook
London 2020, $, available at
The Quarantine Cookbook More Georgia Murray, Fashion Editor The Green Roasting Tin, The Quick Roasting Tin, The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners, by Rukmini Iyer
series. Even before lockdown I would choose two or three recipes a week and make them for dinners and packed lunches, but since March I’ve relied on her so much. She’s given me a passport to Italy via crispy baked gnocchi with sage (one of my most cooked of her dishes), showed me a hundred ways to squeeze the most out of lemon zest and taught me to appreciate grains, pulses, beans and legumes that go beyond the obvious can of chickpeas. The premise – chuck it all in a tin and roast it – is so simple but the flavours are never dull. It’s for the kitchen-shy and the avid cook alike and I’ve successfully converted friends and family, who have all waxed lyrical about the books since trying them too.
The Quick Roasting Tin, $, available at
Rye Books Rukmini Iyer
The Green Roasting Tin, $, available at
Rye Books Rukmini Iyer
The Roasting Tin Around the World, $, available at
Rye Books More Lauren Seaton, Executive Assistant Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson
One thing I took for granted before the world decided to implode is how convenient it was to go and get food instead of making it at home. I would always gravitate towards Yo! Sushi or Itsu because they had such good vegan options. So when I found myself stuck in the house with all the time and none of the excuses, I went on the hunt for a cookbook to teach me to get good. I failed. Several times. Then this dropped into my life and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of easy Japanese cooking. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, everything's broken down into simple terms so even if you've never made katsu before, it comes out tasting better than anything you’ve ordered in the past. The whole book gives me cyberpunk vibes with the illustrations that go with sushi rolling methods, cocktails to be drunk while experimenting are listed in the back and an essentials list at the front now sits on my fridge every time I do a food shop. Is this the end of my relationship with convenient food? I think so.
Vegan JapanEasy, $, available at
Amazon More Samantha Yu
VP, Brand & Integrated Marketing Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo
Though I grew up eating Korean food — spoiled by my mom’s delicious cooking, great local restaurants and visits to see extended family in Seoul — I never prepared Korean food myself. This year, following our first trip to Seoul together at the end of 2019, my partner and I have been
making our way
through these two cookbooks.
Our Korean Kitchen
— by chef-writer-food-stylist Jordan Bourke and fashion-designer-creative-director Rejina Pyo (
is one of my favourites) — includes beautiful photography of not only the dishes but also scenes from Korea.
Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo
Our Korean Kitchen, $, available at
Amazon More Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking by Maangchi with Lauren Chattman Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking
provides helpful step-by-step visuals to accompany her instructions. She also offers an extensive library of resources on her website and YouTube channel. Both books offer historical context on Korean cuisine, tips on how to stock a Korean pantry, full menus for different occasions, and over 100 recipes. We always have the hardest time picking what to make next because everything looks so delicious. And — at least according to what we’ve made so far — everything tastes even better than it looks.
Real Korean Cooking, $, available at
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