If you’re anything like us, over the last months, you may have found yourself with more time or greater opportunity/necessity to cook dishes from scratch, to take the time to plan meals and to come up with new ideas. For today’s blog, some of our colleagues have picked their favourite cookery books and offer their thoughts on how the books have influenced them and what new recipes they have tried and tested.

Many of the titles will be listed on BorrowBox, and some will available from our libraries too. We’d love to hear from you if you have any favourites we’ve not featured and what recipes you’d recommend we try next. Enjoy the feast!

Liz – Delia Smith’s Cookery Course

I come from a big family and Mum always cooked delicious meals for us all, so I didn’t really do much “proper cooking” at home – just the fun stuff such as cake and sweet making.

When I left home to go to college, I had to cook for myself. Being used to good home-cooked food I had to learn how to cook from scratch, so I invested in a copy of the Delia Smith Cookery Course. This was a brilliant cookery book, as it covered the basics e.g. how to cook fish– as well as more exotic fare. Her words were always very reassuring – this from a pork chops with cream and mushroom recipe: “stir with a wooden spoon until you have a rather soggy-looking mushroom mixture. Don’t worry – it always looks awful at this stage.”

I learnt to cook confidently for myself and my student friends, knowing that Delia’s recipes would always work.

I still have Delia’s Cookery Course on my shelf and wouldn’t want to part with it, as it has been a constant companion over the years. I managed to find a copy in a second-hand shop and passed it on to my son when he left home. He has since become addicted to cookery books and loves to cook!

Andrew’s Picks from BorrowBox

Greenfeast by Nigel Slater

The inimitable Nigel Slater furnishes the reader with a store of plant based recipes to try. This is one of two books based around the seasons, in this case Spring and Summer. It contains over 110 beautiful spring and summer dishes, each with suggested variations, that you can serve up in 30 minutes!

Big Vegan by Robin Asbell

‘Big Vegan’ satisfies both the casual meat eater and the dedicated herbivore with more than 350 delicious, easy-to-prepare vegan recipes covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It points the way to a meat free, dairy free lifestyle and includes a useful resource guide and glossary.

The Curry Guy by Mr Dan Toombs.

Dan Toombs (aka The Curry Guy) has perfected the art of replicating British Indian Restaurant cooking after travelling around the UK, sampling dishes and learning the curry house kitchen secrets. He makes homemade curries that taste just like a takeaway from your favourite local but in less time and for less money.

The Little Viet Kitchen by Thuy Diem Pham

Offering a fresh approach and insight into how to make the best Vietnamese dishes, Thuy’s expertise and memories are the heart of this book. It delves into Thuy’s journey from Vietnam to England, celebrating her love of Vietnamese cooking, culture and way of life whilst tantalizing the the reader along the way.

The Lazy Cook’s Family Favourites by Mo Smith

This book goes some way to proving that quick cooking can be delicious and healthy. Old favourites like Bangers and Mash rub shoulders with new alternatives such as Red Chicory and Avocado Salad. Party food and cooking with children are also featured.

The Clever Guts Diet Recipe Book by Dr Clare Bailey and Joy Skipper

Whether you suffer from IBS, food intolerance or just want to take greater care of your stomach, ‘The Clever Guts Diet Recipe Book’ has everything you need with 150 tasty recipes to keep your gut in great shape and change the way you eat for good.

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake

The author takes us on her cycling journey round France where she samples the delights of the local cuisine at every stop along the way. What’s more, she recreates many of these dishes for us to try at home. More than just a memoir, more than just a book about food, this is a celebration of the French way of life.


This week is Real Bread Week so, in keeping with what many of us have been doing during the Lockdowns, I have been experimenting with making my own bread. Here’s my guide to that, by now, old favourite …..

Baking Banana Bread

STEP 1 – Choose your recipe.

I decided to try the Banana Bread from ‘The Low Carb Diabetes Cookbook‘ by Dr. David Cavan and Emma Porter.

STEP 2 – Source your ingredients.

Make a quick (and safe) trip to the supermarket or, as in my case, add bananas, ground almonds, eggs, coconut flour and coconut oil to the on-line delivery shopping list and wait patiently for its arrival. Hope that all things coconut will not be substituted by coconut milk or a well-known chocolate bar.

STEP 3 – Make and Bake

First, resurrect the very expensive but long-stored mixer that was bought in the 1970s when my brother went to catering college. Hastily abandon said mixer when it starts emitting smoke and smells of burning. Open doors and waft at the smoke alarm.

Continue by hand and build up the arm muscles!

Pour batter into a 2lb (900g) loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.

Check with a skewer, a.k.a. thin knitting needle. When skewer comes out clea,n remove loaf from oven.

Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Take the dog away from the nice smell.

STEP 4 – Taste Test.

Cut a slice and enjoy with a mug of tea. Try not to eat all 16 slices at once.

You could also experiment with other breads – I found a great recipe for an oat and linseed loaf on the back of a packet and a friend has been busy making focaccia – which looks amazing (you could try this book for simple recipes if you’re inspired)!

And, why should people have all the fun with new recipes and meals!

Elizabeth has also been cooking for her pet dog: ‘Cooking for my Rhyme Time star!’

My four-legged friend and star of Rhyme Time videos has been a true lifesaver during lockdown and shielding. He gives me reason to get up and get going in the morning. My time for exercise sees us walking outside whatever the weather and he helps me to relax by snuggling on my lap in the evenings.

In return, he has benefitted from my being at home 24/7 thus providing more access to the fridge and to the treats tin!

Unfortunately, my best pal has not been well and it has caused him to go right off his dry biscuit and chicken diet. You will understand that for a large Labrador, this is a dire situation. Relying, as I am, on online deliveries has caused me to be creative in devising a new diet for him from simple, store cupboard staples.

Shadow heartedly recommends the Liver Cake enjoyed by the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf and tuna treats. While there are many recipes for the latter online, I like the version made of tuna, egg and flour. It takes a mere six minutes in the microwave. I swear that Shadow counts every second as it is cooking. (Please do ensure you read all about what it is safe to feed dogs when creating your own treats).

Shadow’s dry food has been replaced with a flapjack of my own concoction. I take the ingredient and proportion list from the kibble bag, (oats, chicken and peas) and add grated carrot, a beaten egg and a very little strong cheddar to help it bind together. The mixture is pressed firmly into a square dish and cooked until it is golden brown. I am happy to report that Shadow cleans his bowl and looks for more!

Shadow’s flapjack in the making and before being devoured!

I am eagerly awaiting ‘The Dog Diet‘ by Kate Bendix and ‘Tasty Treats for Happy Dogs‘ by Henrietta Morris which I have reserved in order to widen my experiments in cooking delicious nibbles and food for my four footed friend.