I am no domestic goddess! I am not very confident or skilled cook and anyone who has eaten out with me knows that "I know what I like and I like what I know"! However, as a mum of three very hungry children (not to mention a husband who always seems to be riffling through the hidden supply of snacks stored in the high level cupboards) I have had become more interested in making meals and snacks. I do find it a real challenge to constantly think of what we can eat day after day that fits in with our after school activities, is reasonably balanced and nutritious and also varied enough so we don't get bored, stuck in a rut or - more likely- "go off" something! But I also don't want to spend all day in the kitchen. As everyone knows that the longer time you spend making something, the less of it the children will eat!
So here are my current favourite cook books. All written with families in mind and with ingredients already on your shopping list. Apologies to my friends who hear me evangelising about these books daily and have probably all received them as presents (and if you haven't, guess what's coming your way soon....!!)
I hope they are new to you and will give you some inspiration!
Fay Ripley has published three cookery books and I can't recommend them highly enough. They are such a reliable go-to for tasty, easy family meals. The ingredients are all common store cupboard foods and the recipes are presented very clearly in short steps - usually no more than 5 stages so incredibly doable. Many of the meals can be prepared quickly or in advance and then reheated. Our favourites are a one pot chicken recipe, a sticky tangy chicken dish, the baked spaghetti carbonara and the quick creamy fish dish. Her banana and chocolate bread is absolutely amazing and I bake this for everyone all the time! I have also used her recipes for dinner parties and weekend entertaining as they are so tasty. These cook books really helped me gain confidence in the kitchen and I found them tame enough to use with the children when they were much younger as well as interesting enough to satisfy an adult palate! Fay often adds tips for adapting the recipes for babies and toddlers and her witty one liners, titles and introductions always make me smile when I'm scanning the pages for our next choice.
I got this for Christmas and literally haven't stopped cooking from it since! We have eaten most of the recipes and they are all winners. Again, they are great for the children and all use straight forward, easy to get hold of ingredients- in fact there have been several occasions when I've been caught out or had to "rustle" up an extra meal and was able to find everything I needed in my cupboards or fridge so I think that makes it a fantastic book to have to hand. As with Fay, the instructions are short, clear and given in just a few steps. The book is arranged in sections with some ideas for quick weekday teas, weekend meals and grown up entertaining. I have used it for dinner parties and there were clear plates all round.
The absolute best bit about this book is that at the bottom of each page is another short recipe suggesting ways to transform any left overs or ingredients into something else so essentially you have two recipe books for the price of one. Some of these "extras" are really worthy of their own full page - like the chocolate truffles.... yum! Tonight I'm cooking her veg chilli but as suggested at the bottom of the page, we will be having it with tacos rather than rice. My children aren't big fans of rice but really love eating a meal when they can help themselves to different filings and toppings and generally eat more this way. Jo has encouraged me to make my own guacamole, humus and other dips which I had no idea were so simple to put together and these are becoming a key feature with our weekend lunches. They go really well with a tortilla wrap, lightly brushed with olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika, cut up in triangles, baked and then used to fob off the children that they are doritos! (This recipe in is her other book - see below)
The pudding suggestions are inspirational - her version of a creme brûlée is brilliant, the raspberry cheesecake pots are so easy to make they take literally five minutes and the lifesaver hot chocolate pot cakes are amazing. I have saved several play dates by suddenly being able to cobble together a rather impressive looking treat from very few ingredients in under three minutes! Now if that doesn't make me a smug mum.....
As I said before, I do not want to spend all day in the kitchen and with the children's ridiculous timetable of after school activities we often only have twenty minutes or half an hour in which to cook, eat and get out again. This book is perfect for those days. I was a little scared of using Mary Berry - I mean, she's the queen right? How can I possibly hope to follow one of her recipes?! But who knew - I can!
This is a recent purchase but I am already over dependent on it. The ingredients are all things we use all the time and although the recipes have more stages and sometimes require a little bit more preparation or process, they are all very manageable. We have had some really delicious meals from this book and the pork and leek burgers are requested weekly. The winning thing about this book is that you can prepare every single meal in advance - sometimes up to 48 hours - and then just finish off the final stages when you need to. This makes managing meal times a breeze. It also made a recent Sunday lunch with lots of visitors exceptionally easy to orchestrate - I served cheese soufflé would you believe - all pre made then shoved in the oven, presented with a flourish, a fanfare and an appropriate round of applause and awe. I thank you.
There are some lovely bread, scone and cake recipes. We have had the cheese scone bake a lot as it tarts up a Saturday lunch of soup rather nicely. Recommend!
Ok, a little less child friendly maybe - although you will be surprised at what they might try! The winter bowls and the more stew like dishes have been accepted tentatively and I am hopeful that they will eat more from here in the future. Really I bought it for me though and it has been a lovely book to cook for myself and my husband from. To be honest, I was reluctant to buy it. I've heard a lot fabulous things about it but I think the words "clean food", "Sugar free" and "Quinoa" put me right off.
I apologise now for the next statement.
I am a complete convert. This, the lady who needs at least 5 bourbon biscuits to get upstairs and do bath time! I love quinoa. Butternut squash is my new best friend. I eat granola for breakfast. I have just made the chocolate millionaire squares out of dates and pecans for the fourth time and they are absolutely to die for. Try them. I dare you!
The ingredients are more pricey and I have had some fun searching them out in the supermarket but if you can make the investment (or cheat in places and just use normal butter and cocoa powder, essential range dates etc - it doesn't seem to make much difference to the taste but please don't tell Ella....) it is worth it. The recipes are actually very easy to prepare and often don't involve much cooking or baking so can be put together very quickly. I've found that the sweet treats do actually taste as good as my usual indulgences - if not better (can't believe I just said that) but the best thing is there is no sugar slump, bloating or low afterwards as the ingredients are more nutritional and more slow releasing in their energy. And you can eat four times more of them as its healthy yes? The children have also enjoyed the sweet recipes and seem happy to eat them instead of the shop bought branded products so I will just polish my halo about that too.
It is good food. Filling, healthy and tasty. I'm glad I bought it.
This is similar to the concept of "Deliciously Ella" but not vegan and not as strict. It is perhaps a more manageable and realistic recipe book for most of us. The food is really tasty and really healthy. I have used it for the whole family successfully. It is currently my favourite book and I am gradually working my way through it! I have the confidence to try more adventurous meals with a wider range of ingredients and my tastebuds are eternally grateful.
As with her "Madhouse" book, Jo includes a smaller recipe at the bottom of each page - it's such a fabulous idea. This makes you use every ingredient and every bit of food so it's really resourceful and means you are not wasting any of the things that might have added to your normal supermarket shopping bill!
It's an accessible, practical and totally useable cookery book full of healthy food which looks and tastes appealing. I'm really enjoying cooking from it.
An old favourite! This is a great book which has been written for families by families. The recipes are all achievable, tasty and appealing to the children. This, and Fay's books, made me realise I could cook one meal for all of us rather than cooking several times a day with separate food for children and adults. The section on slow cooker recipes and stews is absolutely brilliant and I use one of these recipes at least once a week. My children love the cowgirl stew! It's a must have for any family.
BLOGS / WEBSITES
A lot of these authors also publish on line which is great if you want to find recipes from their other books or need to check ingredients when you're out and about or on holiday. The BBC Good Food website is fab and you can search via ingredients too. So if you ever have a glut of courgettes in the bottom of the fridge, use it to find out what meal you can cook to use to them up. Preferably one which requires blending or fine chopping so no one sniffs out the green vegetable content!
Thanks to Juliette Hewitson for sharing an obsession for cookery books with me and always recommending the latest releases as well as helping me fill in the gaps on my culinary shelf!
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