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I've got to face it, I'm addicted to books.

By February 20, 2015

My name is kitchen exile and I am a cookbookaholic.




I can't deny it and nor will I stop buying them. I blame the house we moved into last year, it has one room with floor to ceiling bookshelves and of course those shelves just begged to be filled with yet more books. Prior to that my books were packed any which way on a tiny set of shelves that were groaning from the weight of what was already there. Because of the way I'd piled them on top of one another I couldn't get some of them out such was the weight. Now they all have their home in the "library" as the upstairs room is jokingly called. I now have a room where I can go up pick a book off the shelf, sit on the sofa and just peruse the books. As chef Dan Doherty of the Duck and Waffle says, he doesn't read them for recipes but for inspiration. As such I've had to stop reading them in bed as all they do is get my mind buzzing about food and then I can't sleep.





So how did this all start?  
I've always had an interest in food, but never really got the chance till I went to university to kick it off. I used to love looking through the few cookbooks my mother had and even purchased my own tiny cook book aged 12 for fifty Irish pence, which I still have after all these years. Growing up it was always my mother who cooked or baked, I rarely if ever got the chance to flex my cooking muscles. My first foray into cooking at university was cooking a meal for 12 people on a small baby belling oven/stove combi, maybe at tad too ambitious perhaps?




I enjoyed cooking but never really had the funds as a poor student to properly go for it. I did love cooking for others, especially on Shrove Tuesday as everyone used to come to mine for pancakes. I was very lucky as a student to have flatmates from various nationalities and as a result got taught how to cook dishes from Italy, China, Burma, India and of course the UK. I did enjoy the stints with my Italian flatmates as it seemed Italian men hadn't quite grasped the concept of portion sizes. It always meant that I would be asked to join them for dinner as they had cooked too much and that it would be pretty tasty food.





It was an English flatmate who pushed my interest in cooking that little bit further. We used to watch ready steady cook on day time TV (as you do when a student) and then try the recipes that evening. Back then though I wasn't an avid purchaser of cook books. I recall buying The Cordon Bleu - Step by step cooking which is a very good book and I still dip into it now and again for recipes. Someone once bought me a Nigella book - How to Eat, which I thought was a pretty pompous affair and a tad frivolous, I wasn't at all gutted when I realised I had left it behind after a house move.




The turning point for me was Nigel Slater's Real Food, and that was an epiphany, a proper cooks cookbook with easy recipes that made your mouth water just reading it. I always enjoy his books and recipes, a life long favourite is his Baked Camembert and also his cheats souffl├ęs (aka cheese and thyme puddings). It's also his enthusiasm for great produce and growing your own that encourages you to try out your own versions and play with his recipes. So I also blame Nigel Slater!




After that I couldn't get enough but 20 years ago the cookbook market wasn't as flooded as it is now. Cooking and cook books are now more popular than ever, but for every good book there is a lot of tat. There weren't that many TV chefs, the UK restaurant scene was only just blossoming, so I only had Nigel. I think it all changed with Jamie Oliver, while I'm happy to admit I bought his Naked Chef books I got bored with him quickly. There was also The River Cottage programmes hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which were very interesting and the accompanying early books were also pretty good too.




Up till about 2004 I had only a handful of books but then I went to Leiths School of Food and Wine to train as a chef and it all changed from there on. When you have chefs and wine tutors such as Peter Gordon, Yotam Ottolenghi, Bruce Poole, Ursula Ferrigno, Anthony Rose, Tom Kime, Alastair Little and Henry Harris you will end up buying their books. What was worse is people on the course would always mention books they had bought and you'd end up buying more. After that I couldn't get enough, although calmed down for a bit when I ran out of space and we were about to move country and I realised that the majority of our moving boxes were for cook books.




I suppose you want to know with all the books that I do have which ones (to date) are my favourites? I do keep my staple go to books in the kitchen, ones which I'm always using recipes from directly. I love cooking Thai food and always use the Chiang Mai cookery school cook book from when I did some of their courses in 2005. Next is Cafe Spice Namaste by Cyrus Todiwala closely followed by Rasoi Vineet Bathtia's - New Indian Kitchen. I love Simon Hopkinsons books and he closely rivals Nigel Slater for a place in my culinary heart, so his book the Good Cook is always there. Then there's a very dog eared copy of the Diffords guide cocktail book and also last but not least Nose to Tail eating by Fergus Henderson.




There are some books that haven't quite made the kitchen window just yet but will probably be dragged downstairs and they are in no particular order.

1) Duck and Waffle Cookbook - Dan Doherty, I only bought this a month or so ago and love the recipes, I also love the fact its the recipes that he cooks in the restaurant as well. So glad I don't have to miss the awesome food, cocktails and views as they're all captured in the book. I only have to look at the lovely pics and mouthwatering recipes and think of the many good times I had with friends at the Duck and Waffle and in the cocktail bar at the Heron tower in London.

2) Cracking Yolks and Pigs Tales - Glynn Purnell. This book really captures the character of the cheeky Brummie chef, but is not a book for a beginner cook. There are some awesome recipes and I can't wait to try them especially the monkfish masala which I tried when I went to Purnells Resturant in the past. I was also lucky enough to meet chef when we went there the second time and spent ages chatting to him about curries.

3) Tom Kerridges, Proper Pub Food, by well, Tom Kerridge, I love his restaurant the Hand and Flowers and the book is good honest cooking.

4) The Hawskmoor Cook Book - one of my favourite restaurants in London, and now I've got the recipes for all the delicious sides we used to have. If you're a fan of steak then this is the book for you. It also goes into detail about the need for good meat and meat production. Love this. 

5) Serious Barbecue - Adam Perry Lang, When I bought my big green egg I had to buy this book, lots of good tips.

So there's the history of my addiction and I won't be seeking advice on how to stop. If anything there's a growing number on my amazon wish list waiting to be purchased.

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