Something a little different for Random Recipes #18

For this month’s Random Recipes challenge Dom has changed things up a little and asked us for “something a little different.”  The whole concept of Random Recipes revolves around every participating blogger’s respective collection of recipe books, and whilst there’s no cooking involved this month, the recipe books themselves get to be the stars of the show post.  Dom wants us to take a photo of our cookbook collection, perhaps feature a couple of our favourites, or share the stories behind some of them.   I think this is an excellent idea, mostly because I’m rather nosy and I like knowing what the homes of bloggers that I follow regularly look like, so then as I read their posts I can picture them in their environment and better imagine the stories they tell.  Is that creepy weird?

You won’t be surprised to read that I’ve enjoyed seeing other bloggers’ entries pop up.  Not only because of my general nosiness but because I’m pretty sure this is the first time that I can describe myself as ‘restrained.’  (Anybody who knows me in real life is probably laughing at the idea of me showing restraint.)  Whilst I frequently browse the cookbook section in bookshops, there’s such an overwhelming choice that I can usually never decide on just one and end up going home empty-handed.  My single shelf of books probably makes me a contender for the smallest collection of cookbooks amongst the Random Recipes participants.

Here are a few of my cookbook statistics:

  • 23 cookbooks, 3 recipe folders (plus a tonne of recipes saved on my laptop from blogs, books I’ve borrowed and magazines – I type up or photograph the recipes that interest me rather than write them out) and 3 reference books (one about wine, one about cheese and the Flavour Thesaurus)
  • 13 of the cookbooks (that’s 57%) are in French
  • 16 of them (70%) were gifts, and 12 of those are in French – clearly my French family and friends know me well and have the right idea
  • 25 magazines waiting for me to file away the recipes that interest me…  I should probably get onto that.

I’m terribly OCD about alphabetising things (having a librarian as a mum probably had an impact), but cookbooks are my one exception – I organise them by height, because it’s more aesthetically pleasing.  And some don’t have named authors, so then it all gets terribly complicated.  With only 23, it’s pretty easy to find the one I’m looking for anyway.  Incidentally, a word about the rest of my bookshelf – aside from my cookbooks, I left most of my other books (fiction and other non-fiction) in Edinburgh and since books take up a fair bit of space are thus expensive to cart around the world, I’m trying to avoid buying any whilst I’m here (thank goodness for libraries!), hence the dearth of other books.  As well as that, a lot of my uni-related books and folders live at my uni desk rather than at home.

I think my favourite book has to be my copy of Larousse des desserts, a (brilliant) gift from my French aunt and uncle and a bible of all things dessert-related.  I frequently turn to for tips, techniques or just simply ideas, as well as when I’m unsure about a recipe from another source, and aside from the caramel sauce saga, it has never let me down. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing dessert book that ranges from pastry to cakes to pastries to chocolates to elaborate desserts, and speak French, then I highly recommend this one!

I was given several student cookbooks before I went to uni, and since they were from my mum and my French aunt and uncle (they give the best gifts), they’re all French.  I’ve flipped through various British cookbooks aimed at students, but they really don’t measure up – as a general rule, they all seem to be over-simplified and aimed at students who can barely even cook pasta.  Books for students who already have some cooking skills and are just looking for cost-effective but tasty and, importantly, healthy meal ideas seem to be pretty few and far between.  Student cookbooks in France, however, suit me perfectly.  I still regularly refer to these books for meal ideas, as well as simple and straightforward everyday desserts.

I also have to mention my well-thumbed and slightly batter-splattered copy of Mad About Muffins.  I’ve tried over half of the recipes from this book, most of them more than once, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.  If you’re looking for a dedicated muffin book, this one is definitely worth consideration.

I’d actually really like two comprehensive books about meat, one in French and one in English because the cuts are different between the two countries and so is what you do with them.  The same goes for fish.  I’m also looking for a good vegetarian cookbook because I struggle to come up with interesting main courses when inviting vegetarians over.  Any recommendations are welcome!  Since I really enjoyed the TV series and the book seems pretty comprehensive, I’ve requested River Cottage Veg Everyday from the library to give it a test-run, so we’ll see how that goes.

Whilst we’re on the whole behind-the-scenes thing, for those of you who are as nosey as I am, I thought I’d include a photo of my little kitchen here in NZ, complete with totally pointless dishwasher (although I guess it does make a pretty good drying rack).  I’ve probably moaned about not having much counter space…  I haven’t been exaggerating.  At least I have a fair bit of cupboard space, although one of the cupboards is taken up by a microwave, and the rest are full.  I might not have that many cookbooks, but I have a hell of a lot of kitchen paraphernalia.  I don’t, however, have a proper utensils pot, because I have yet to find one that jumps out at me.

So there you have it, a little sneak peak at my cookbook shelf and kitchen.

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!


Filed under Ramblings

14 responses to “Something a little different for Random Recipes #18

  1. Definitely the most restrained cookery book collection I’ve seen so far. Good for you though, wise to build it up gradually. Too many of us expand indiscriminately, and have shelves groaning under many forests worth of books!

    • Mel

      I know, I feel like a rookie compared to all the other entries I’ve seen! I also know that I’ll probably be moving soon again so I really have to restrict myself to cookbooks I know I’ll use frequently. I’ve started requesting cookbooks from the library for a trial run so then I can decide whether they’re worth the investment before buying them.

  2. Lou

    Ooh bilingual cookbook shelf – nice. I am waiting for Everyday Veg from my library too – hee hee.
    I like you neat wee kitchen and your restrained collection. Interesting points about the student cookbooks. I guess that says a lot about the standards of student cooking in the UK.

    • Mel

      Thanks! I just picked up my copy today (finally – I’ve been on the waiting list for months!) and it looks promising so far. I get the impression that Britain is still very much stuck on the stereotype of students only being interested in/able to cook beans on toast and pasta with pesto and so most of the books are written accordingly, even though it may not be the case (I certainly wasn’t the only one amongst my friends who enjoyed cooking). I hope that perception changes soon, because there are plenty of good meals that can be made on a tight budget with fresh ingredients!

  3. You’re spot on about about British Student cookbooks, they assume ignorance or laziness. I guess that’s why my mum gave me a Delia when I went away to uni – much more useful!
    I think the fact that we’ve both moved internationally recently must account for our pared down collections, I’m weighing in at just 20 books and 2 binders, which makes me feel like a total RR fraud when I look at some of the other groaning bookcases upon cases!
    Lovely to see your wee kitchen, where all the yum is created!

    • Mel

      That was definitely a good call on your mum’s part! Ya, moving definitely forces you to cut down on big heavy books – why do cookbooks nearly always have heavy glossy pages?! I’ve been feeling like a bit of an RR fraud, too, seeing the other entries rolling in!!

  4. genius idea to impose the facts and figures over the picture, it entirely shows your OCD tendencies but it is brilliant. It’s quite a small collection but very thorough and seems to cover all bases… LOVE the kitchen and the oven gloves too… thanks so much for entering and now I know where you keep everything I’ll know how you pick for next month!

    • Mel

      Haha, thanks. Yes, my OCD did shine through a little bit there… Glad I’m not the only one who likes being able to picture what goes on behind the blog! Looking forward to next month’s challenge.

  5. Haha, I thought you would be French (well half French) when I saw “Le Robert” haha. I didnt know the “Larousse des Desserts”. It looks very good so I think it will end up on my Birthday/Christmas list. Go and have a look at my cookbook collection and spot the French ones 😉

    • Mel

      Yup, Le Robert is definitely a bit of a giveaway on that front! 🙂 I’d definitely recommend the Larousse des desserts – it’s written by Pierre Hermé and very comprehensive. And it also ranges from straightforward to much more technical recipes, which I really like.

  6. strongassoup

    Oddly enough I got a copy of River Cottage Veg from the library just a couple of days ago. I now definitely need to get my hands on a copy of Larousse des Desserts. Your collection may be small but, obviously it’s perfectly formed and you should never underestimate the value of being able to find what you’re looking for – I wish I could. I was a librarian for a while long ago and, as a sort of reaction to it, I tend to order things in emotional rather than alphabetical order these days.

    • Mel

      I picked up my copy of River Cottage Veg Everyday yesterday, so I’m looking forward to perusing it this week – my quick flip through earlier looked promising, so we’ll see… I can’t recommend the Larousse des desserts highly enough – definitely one of the most comprehensive dessert books I’ve come across and (mostly) totally accessible as well. I struggle enough to find what I’m looking for in my recipe folders, so I can imagine it gets tough with books in several places!

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