Five Essential Cookbooks for the Amateur Foodie

These must-have cookbooks deserve a place on your shelf

It is impossible to compile a list of favourite cookbooks without leaving out amazing ones and causing disagreement. Picking favourites comes down to food preferences and sometimes dietary restrictions. Before a cookbook earns a place on the shelf, it should do three things: teach using simple instructions, pique curiosity for discovering new flavours, and provide room to develop one’s own interpretation of the recipes. This holds true for all of these books, although use caution when attempting to get creative with desserts. Certain recipes call for stricter compliance.

Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking Companion

Naturally, the list begins with a book about baking. Bourke Street Bakery is based on the recipes of two baker/chef friends who opened a bakery—aptly named Bourke Street Bakery—in Australia. From there, several more shops opened and a book followed. There are plenty of photos explaining the techniques and showing the desired results. It has a huge list of recipes for breads, sweet and savoury pastries, and desserts. The recipes are all exceptional and the instructions easy to follow.

La Cuisine: Everyday French Home Cooking

The aim of this book, published in 2008, is to demystify French food. The author, Françoise Bernard, is a long-time star of French cooking and La Cuisine contains 1000 recipes that cover more dishes than most home cooks can imagine. The approach is sparse. There are no pretty photos; just simple, easy-to-follow recipes for good food. It’s a great reference book.

Save With Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less

This book is a new release and has quickly become a favourite. Everything in it speaks to the foodie who is concerned with sustainable resources, whole foods, and saving money. The recipes are creative, budget conscious, and made up of ingredients that are easy to find. As with other books by Jamie Oliver, expect humour and clear explanations.

Jerusalem: A Cookbook

This cookbook was recently awarded the OFM reader’s choice award in the U.K., and it’s only one of the well-received books chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have created. The recipes are lush and full of the flavours both men grew up with in Jerusalem. Home chefs will appreciate that Ottolenghi and Tamimi prefer their recipes to act as a guide, leaving it up to the individual to interpret as her experience and tastes dictate. Anyone who loves Mediterranean food will want this book and the beautiful photos allow it to double as a coffee table book.

The Bon Appétit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh

This book is a compilation of recipes found in Bon Appétit Magazine. Magazines are a great source for recipes, and some of my favourites come from the LCBO Food & Drink Magazine many Ontarians are familiar with. Where recipes in the Bon Appétit compilation succeed is in their ability to provide quick meal options for busy people. The focus is generally on fresh foods using seasonal produce. Another benefit of having a compilation book is the space it saves, and that’s nothing to turn your nose up at when you’re working with limited counter space.

Katja loves to prepare delicious meals, but believes her children should be able to forage for themselves if she’s reading a good book. When she’s not reading, she’s juggling the kids’ sports, her business, volunteering, writing, and an active social life that includes eating a lot of cheese. 

There isn't a cheese drawer in her fridge, it's a cheese shelf, and she thinks cream and butter belong in most recipes. She comes from a long line of nomads who believed in the romance and adventure of travel and she’s trying to pass that on to her children. 

Katja's a freelance writer who writes about travel, culinary tourism, food, and family. She also writes Jack Straw Lane, a blog about life and trying to balance running, a bad case of travel itch, and the kids' homework.

Because she loves using photography to tell a story, you can often find Katja on Instagram

You can also find her on Twitter: @katjawulfers