Best Everyday Cookbooks That Helped!

Here are my 5 Top Cookbooks for usability in the kitchen. One of the key elements has been accessibility to ingredients as well as meal cost. In this challenging 18 months, how we live our lives, and certainly shop has been modified or even changed completely even if it has only been temporary. Plant based meals are now common place and encouraged so testing and including plant based cookbook options was a must.

The following cookbooks all have great recipe ideas for all culinary tastes and budgets, and of course they always make for great gift ideas, and all of them can conveniently found on bookshop.org. For UK bookshop.org click here. For US bookshop.org click here or for Amazon, just click on the image!

Fakeaways – Dale Pinnock

Just before lock down in the UK I had happened to pick up this great cookbook by Dale Pinnock at my local library . So pleased I did , as with takeaways shut, this was a great go to alternative. He advertises as a healthy, budget-friendly takeaways for everyday cooking, and it did do what it said on the tin!

One of my bug bears is ingredients I’ve never heard of or cant find in my local supermarket. Given the restrictions during lockdown, this was even more relevant. The book is broken up by chapters for each countries recipes. It covers Indian, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Thai and grills and classics. So a wide range is covered . I happened to start off with the Egg and vegetable fried rice, which was lovely. I also made it with with white rice when I didnt have brown and even a mix of the two, when rice stocks were low at my house. They were all equally delicious.

As we love an Indian, I quickly went to that department. The Power Pilau Rice, although I didn’t bother with the goji berries, as I didn’t have any. The Chana Masala was also great. I didn’t worry too much with the Italian dishes just because I make a lot of Italian anyway. Although I did like the sound of the Spaghetti Puttanesca. The Middle Eastern Fasula was nice, although I swapped in a non meat alternative. The whole family loved the Thai-Style Lentil Stew. Although I didn’t have lemongrass stalks and used lemongrass paste instead.

There are plenty of lovely recipes in this book covering all culinary palates, I really like the ‘nutritional nugget’ snippets he has on some pages, giving extra helpful nutritional information. I didn’t know for instance that peanuts rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries!

As mentioned, I picked this up from the library…now on rather a long loan! But as its packed with many lovely recipes I know I will return to, browsing has turned to buying and its earned its space on my bookshelf.

#2 Japanese in 7 by Kimiko Barber

With a great popularity in Japanese food spectacular restaurants and funky sushi bars around, having a dabble in Japanese cooking from home is the natural next step. This is one of those cookbooks that’s beautifully put together. Simple but stylish, a beautiful looking glossy that looks fabulous on your coffee table, inviting and inspiring both yourself and any guests to browse. Alternatively for a Japanese food lover, it’s a must and an ideal Christmas/birthday present.

I am not keen on having to purchase new equipment for a preliminary trial of recipes, so I did stick to recipes that didn’t require specialist equipment, or just made do with what I had available. Japanese food, in general as I understand does tend to have a milder taste and light flavour, savouring the simple.

The Japanese Onion Soup was to our liking and easy to prepare. One of the things I did notice about Kimoko’s instructions throughout the book, was the time and delicate care given to the preparation of the food. There was almost a spiritual element to it, which did make me stop and think about what I was doing. I don’t think I will cook rice quite the same again!!

I did try the Hand Rolled Sushi and Pressed Sushi of Smoked Salmon. It is here that I think the bamboo rolling matt would have created a tighter neater effect, however it did work without.

I also only wanted to pick up the ingredients from my local supermarket. They had ran out of Wasabi paste, but a quick google search showed that you could create a good substitute with horseradish and soy sauce. Or you could use English or hot Chinese mustard powder instead… I had a jar of Dijon Mustard, so that was my alternative! The effect was tasty, I did discuss these options with a Japanese friend, she liked the alternative and said she would eat it, next time she’s over, she wants to try it, so it can’t be that bad!

The Asparagus and Scrambled Egg Scattered Sushi was really tasty, and we all really enjoyed it. The prepared sushi rice went into all of the dishes I made so it made it easier to manage all of the dishes together. I’m a big believer in sticking with what you know for a dinner party, preferring to have a couple of practice shots with the family first. However, it is a good way of creating something very tasty, visually appealing and impressive at the table for your dinner guests.

For an added table touch, it was good to have bamboo chopsticks, which I had purchased as part of an eco-conscious travel bamboo cutlery set, that comes in its own little bag. If your guests struggle with chopsticks there is another bamboo cutlery option, which is a great alternative without losing atmosphere!

#3 Feed your family for £20 a week by Lorna Cooper

This cookbook is one of those gems with great ideas and particularly welcoming when you’re cash strapped which everyone goes through at some point. However it’s always good to keep a check on what you’re spending on food bills, and perhaps having the odd week when you do something differently and consider food waste… or hopefully not having any!

I particularly loved the Banana Breakfast Cookies, super tasty, super quick and an excellent way of using up overripe bananas that everyone avoids. With 3 ingredients, (even I can remember) and a 10 minute cook time, they can literally be cooked by the time you’ve cleared up. They freeze well, definitely worth making a double batch and freezing half. They are quite filling so worth making for breakfast on the go or a substantial snack. Judging from the speed they disappeared in my household, they were a family hit. If I want to keep them for breakfast I might have to invest in a tin with a lock!

The granola and yogurt popsicles are an excellent way of getting some goodness into fussy eaters.

I liked the Sausage Hash, although I swapped in meatballs I found in my freezer. This recipe is an excellent way of using up leftover bits and pieces. I love Lorna’s terminology here; she calls it ‘a fridge gravel’. It is an ideal brunch or hot lunch, I also put it in a wrap, as with the Loaded Breakfast Burrito, if you only have a small amount of leftovers, a wrap with a side salad and upgrade with some rice, beans or chips and you have created a main meal.

I am a big soup lover and she had plenty of lovely soup recipes. I particularly liked the lentil soup, tasty, wholesome, sneaking in veg for fussy eaters and easy to rustle up.

Many of her recipes are reusing leftovers. The Arancini I thought was a great idea for leftover rice. The Mini Hot Pies, again using leftovers and a muffin tray is a really useful tip in really getting more out of your shop and your utensils!

I am a big lentil fan, as they are sooo good for you and extremely versatile, so the Cheesy Lentil Bake was a hit for me.

Lorna also gives a simple and inexpensive Chicken Korma recipe, definitely worth a try using cauliflower, broccoli and chicken. With those ingredients I thought probably an ideal leftover meal from a Sunday lunch, making two very affordable substantial meals. This recipe comes under her section on slow-cooker meals. I do love my slow cooker, and a great option for having something healthy and tasty to return home to after a long day. I have never used my slow cooker for a dessert. But I will be trialling her Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake. It seems completely bizarre but clearly works!

On the whole, this is a great practical book utilising everyday simple ingredients, covering a full range of daily meals. With lots of doubling up and leftover ingredient usage, we could all learn a thing or two in making the most of a weekly/monthly shop and stretching it in creating healthy achievable options. I would agree that there are 100 delicious budget-friendly meals in this book to enjoy!

#4 Vegetarian meals in 30 Minutes – Anita Bean

This great book does exactly what it says on the tin! Ideally vegetarian meals in 30 minutes. It is actually aimed at eating well for optimum fitness, but I think equally helpful for anyone. I particularly like the ‘before you begin cooking’ section. There is informative information here on milk alternatives, how to cook without eggs and healthy oils.

I liked the Sweetcorn and Black Bean Fritters with Tomato Salsa. A mexican inspired fritter, tasty and easy to make.

I particularly loved the Chia Jam. Definitely a preserving style I will adopt. With polyphenols, fibre and omega 3 goodies, it has huge nutritional benefits and far less sugar than traditional jams. I in fact didn’t need any sugar in mind, I just used a couple of tablespoons of honey. This is a great way of using up past best fruit. I combined blueberries, strawberries and leftover frozen mixed berries in mine, and was delighted with the result. There is a downside that it only stores for about 2 weeks…if it lasts that long, however, with a 10 minute cook time, it takes longer to sterilise your jars! I will have fun experimenting with this one.

We do love a good curry so the Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Curry, the Thai Green Curry with Tofu and the Lentil, Chickpea and Spinach Dahl were all hits in our household. They were quick to make and supermarket accessible ingredients which I am always keen on.

The Quick Vegetarian Chilli was super quick as it is all tinned beans. It was a tasty version I probably would add tofu or another meat alternative next time. The Goulash was nice and not something I have made before.

There are 100 recipes in this book and they definitely are speedy which is great after a long day at work or a workout at the gym. She also includes a ‘make it vegan’ option on most recipes, which is helpful if you are also cooking for a vegan diet.

This is a good all rounder, you could also add in meat and or fish but would have to consider cooking times. It is ideal for the fitness conscious as it covers much of the science of nutrition as well as tips regarding what to eat before and after exercise. Well worth a peek or ideal present.

#5 Cook Share Eat Vegan – Aine Carlin

I couldn’t recommend cookbooks without looking at some vegan ones. With many people either increasing their plant based food or opting for a plant based diet, my own family included in that, although like a lot of families, we do have a mix. Interesting manageable meal ideas are really helpful, and you could even impress a vegan guest!

Although officially not a 2020 book, (published end of 2019) but with lockdown in between, I wanted to shout out on Aine Carlin’s book as she has some great recipes in here that are well worth a try.

I can’t help but browse the soups, I particularly liked the Chestnut and Miso Soup. Tinned chestnuts and chickpeas can be utilised making it very quick and easy if you’re in a rush. The chickpea croutons I think really give it that extra something. A tasty soup that’s a little bit different and a little bit festive.

The Butter Bean Jalfrezi has a quick turnaround and the butterbeans give a meaty texture, there is quite a lot of ingredients but mainly cupboard staples and definitely supermarket accessible. My family is not keen on celery, so that is an ingredient I tend to leave out. It’s a hearty meal, and leftovers make a superb leftover lunch to take to work.

The Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes are a tasty treat equally nice hot or cold. Ideal for stress free hosting an easy lunch or part of a more substantial meal.

I particularly also liked the Aubergine Involtini, I do struggle with its use, it mainly goes in things, rather than being a lead ingredient in itself. So I wanted to give this a go. It’s a little fiddly but well worth the effort. As bulgur wheat and couscous cook themselves in a little hot water, there is minimal cooking and the 25 minute bake time of the whole dish, gives plenty of time to prepare a really lovely salad. I kept some cocktail sticks handy to keep the pieces from unravelling when plating up, although a tip is not to overfill before rolling them up. With the griddle pan markings they look deliciously appetising and are!

The Polenta Pizza gives a nice change to a traditional pizza and is certainly seriously tasty. If I was making it with other dishes I would be tempted to make the toppings in advance for a quick turnaround, in order to make something else whilst waiting for the 30 minute fridge rest on the polenta.

As I am both a pesto and rice fan, The Red Pesto Risotto was a great choice for me and pretty easy to make. It would be easy to add other ingredients into it, particularly if you want to use up some leftovers, but it equally stands super tasty alone.

Overall Aine has some fantastic vegan recipes in this book. Some recipes include ingredients that may be a little more challenging to find, so may be better suited to a more experienced vegan cook, as they are more likely to already have the item sat in the cupboard or know the best place to find them. However there are still plenty of recipes to try and I certainly went for recipes with accessible supermarket ingredients.

This is great present for someone thinking of embracing a vegan lifestyle as there is so much scope for delicious achievable meals growing into more adventurous ground.

Feeling inspired? So without delay – get started – happy cooking!

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