My Cookbook Shelfie

Although I’ve been blogging for over a year now, I’ve been sort of been, well not avoiding, just not really getting into the whole mummy blogger scene. I don’t know why. I guess I just didn’t really feel what I wrote was ‘good enough’ (haven’t we all been there!), and anyway I never really started this to be a ‘blogger’, I kind of started by mistake! Anyway, anyway, recently I’ve been embracing my ‘blogger’ status a bit more firmly and have starting to reach into this thoroughly established community, largely through Twitter. I have to say I’m loving it. I’m finding more posts than I’ll ever have time to read and I’m feeling inspired left, right and centre! It’s just ever so slightly fabulous!

Soooo, this afternoon, I came across the linky #cookbookshelfie started by Penny Alexander, inviting anyone to join in and share their cookbook shelf’s story. I loved the idea and knew I had to join in the fun!

I’ve loved cooking and cookbooks all my life. I started in my mum’s kitchen, with a copy of her Be-Ro Home recipes book. This one in fact (well this edition – the original fell apart long ago!)


It was battered and torn and I never made anything from it other than a most passable Victoria Sandwich and (if I remember rightly) some pigs in blankets, but I read it over and over. It gave me a cavalier disregard for keeping cookbooks clean and this is absolutely evident in my own collection today. If it’s not stained, it simply hasn’t been loved in my opinion 😉 .

So on to my own cookbooks. Putting the shelf up for my cookbooks is one of the first things Ben did when we moved in three years ago. It’s pretty stuffed and slightly bowing, but of all the books I own, these are ones I just can’t part with. Here is the shelf.


In my old life, my books, were always in height order. Always. Today? Weeeeeell, lets just say there are more important things to think about. I could have tidied it up for the photo but that would have been such a lie 😉 ! So anyway, as you can see I am Nigella’s number one fan (more on that later) and I had a bit of a thing for Jamie Oliver before he went all preachy. I don’t mind paperback cookbooks, but I love a hardback, they just feel better somehow. Some of these were gifts, some of them I chose myself. Some I’ve used to death ( I used to use my copy of Nigella Bites so much, I took to leaving it out in the kitchen. Only one day it fell in the sink and got soaked from cover to cover. I was gutted! The copy I have now is a second hand one I got from eBay. It’s never felt the same 😦 ), some I’ve never made a recipe from (Gary Rhodes 365 was a 30th birthday present, I’ve still not used it).  Some of them are particularly focused on low fat, healthy eating (Weightwatchers, Slimming World etc) others not so much (‘101 Best Chocolate Recipes’ anyone?). But regardless of whether I use them regularly or never at all, I’ve read them all. I love reading recipe books. I think it’s one of the reasons I love Nigella’s books so much. You can knock her TV shows for their food porn qualities, but she is an awesome writer and I can read her books over and over (as you’ll see).

Below are a few that mean something special to me. Hope you enjoy!

Oldest book: The Usborne First Cookbook 


My first ever cook book


Love the illustrations

This was my very first cook book, bought for me by a close family friend in the late 80’s (probably for my 10th birthday actually). I loved this book, I read and re-read it many times. I made various recipes from it – I even took it to school with me in Year 7 to make the Ice Spice Biscuits recipe in Home Ec. The recipe I made most often was the Apple Crumble. I know it’s not a difficult thing to make, but I could never remember quantities and do you know I still can’t now. I’m terrible at following written instructions usually, but actually I can follow recipes no problem – weird huh! Anyway I was thrilled when I found this book among my mums stuff a few years ago and its had pride of place on my cook book shelf ever since.

Most used book: Nigella Express  


A tatty well loved copy


I don’t even know what that is at the bottom of the page! Gross!

I’ve loved Nigella Lawson since I got How To Eat, way back when (a present from Ben). But although I found How to Eat great to read, I found it largely inaccessible to me as a fledgling home cook. Nigella Express however opened it’s arms wide and drew me in with amazingly easy and delicious recipes. It was a gift at a time when I was working stupidly long hours, so I loved being able to come home and just throw something together. This recipe for Chicken and Beans has been done time and again (and despite that I still always get the book out every time I cook it!). It’s tasty, filling and with a few tiny tweaks very low fat, not something the Queen of Cream is known for!

Never made a recipe from : Best of the Best from Texas Cookbook

Do you know what Crisco is?

Do you know what Valveeta Cheese is?


Son-of-a-Gun Stew anyone?

I bought this book on my first trip to Texas in 2008. I wanted to bring home a book that had recipes for real Tex Mex and I loved that this was a collection of recipes from many other local books. My favourite contributor titles have to be “I’m Glad I Ate When I Did, Cause I’m Not Hungry Now” and “It’s a Long Way to Guacamole”. This book has some amazing sounding recipes. Personal faves include Nita’s Hidden Treasures, Better Than Sex Cake and the aptly named Navy Beans for Writers (apparently  “a man who can cook his own beans don’t hardly need to ask anybody anything about nothing”!) It’s made me giggle many times but I’ve just never got round to making any recipes from it, despite buying measuring cups specially. I will do one day I promise!

Newest book: Slimming World’s Fakeaways

There's a healthily way to have a takeaway

There’s a healthily way to have a takeaway


A new fave

I’ve been food optimising with Slimming World for 14 months now and one of the things I love about it is the ability to take it’s principles and apply them to my existing cookbooks. With a tweak here and a healthy switch there I can make a lot of my favourite recipes and still lose weight. However on occasion it’s nice not to have to think about tweaking or switching and just to follow a recipe that’s already optimised for you! I only have a couple of Slimming World cook books and this is my latest acquisition. It’s full of healthy and delicious alternatives to standard Take Away meals. A current fave is the Pork in Black Bean Sauce, but I have also made Thai Yellow Curry (once with just vegetables and once with veg and prawns), Pizza and Indian style curry.

My Favourite Book: Feast


10522736_10153314125000616_8083799139315164052_nI remember the first time I picked this book up; it was in the (now defunct) Borders in Wimbledon. I’ve never been one to sit down and read in a book shop, despite their strategically placed easy chairs. It just feels like stealing to me so I don’t know why I did with this one, but as soon as I did I tumbled in and was lost. I got it for Christmas that year and it’s been my favourite ever since. I’ve made so much from it yes, but I also love reading it. If you’re like me, any celebration in your always comes with food. This book not only contains masses of recipes fit for any occasion, but also discusses the meaning/significance of food at any given occasion. From a Sunday Roast to Seder Night Meal to my favourite chapter the Funeral, I’ve eaten this book up like the food on it’s pages. The recipe I’ve probably made the most is the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake. It’s great for a birthday and I’ve had people mistake it for a professionally made cake, which is always nice. I never put sugar flowers on mine though!

So there you go. My cook book shelf isn’t exactly eclectic, but it’s mine. I’d love to hear what your favourite cook books are, new and old! And the more stained the better. In my opinion 😉 .

If you’d like to join in with the Cookbook Shelfie, check out Penny’s original post here .




Something Old, Something New….

As the festive season is well underway and the end of the year creeps closer I thought it might be a nice opportunity to update you on a couple of things I’ve covered in the last six months (six months? I’ve been blogging for six months already – where the hell did that time go???)

Anyway, lets crack on.

Back in August I wrote a post about Ben’s grandmother’s clock that had come to live with us. If you missed that one, you can read about how deeply it touched me here.

Since then we have had the piece restored by the wonderful chaps at the Surrey Clock Centre and had it properly installed in our house. We found out something of its history. It was made in Cornwall (Cornish grandfather clocks are something of a rarity apparently) and we even have the makers name. We also found out for certain that it was made in the 18th Century, probably around 1780! That made me gulp a bit. It really is a proper, proper antique. I mean I knew it was but having it confirmed in writing was just such a shock. As I said before, we are just so privileged to have been given guardianship of such a beautiful piece.

The clock in its new home

It now sits on the landing, outside our bedroom. The ticking and chiming have become a part of the sound of our home. We don’t even notice the little squeak, the guys tried and tried to correct, anymore.

tick tock...

tick tock…

Every time we take Oscar past it we stop and say “Hi Clock”. It started as a way to try and introduce them, so he wouldn’t be scared (it’s quite big!) or curious and want to play with it. So far it’s worked and he’s trying desperately hard to say “Clock”.


A thing of beauty

Bettie is still with us, being cared for down in Cornwall. I still wish I could thank her.


Then there was my post about my grandmothers inheritance. You can read about that here. I was left a small amount of money and wanted to buy Oscar something from it as a present from the Great Grandmother he never got to meet.

I had such a job deciding what to get him. Had he been a girl then a piece of jewellery would have been perfect, but a boy? Its just that bit harder to know what to get.

In the end I chose a beautiful copy of the collected works of Winnie the Pooh. Oscar loves the original characters and Ben and I love AA Milne’s writing, so it seemed like a good choice.



It’s a proper ‘read to’ copy. When he has enough concerntration to sit and listen to a story I can’t wait to get the book out of it’s box and share the adventures of the inhabitatants of the Hundred Acre Wood.


And then when he’s old enough to understand I will explain who bought him the book and tell him all about her.

My favourite illustration

My favourite illustration

My hope is the book will become special to Oscar. Hopefully special enough to pass down the line 😉 .

I hope you enjoyed this little catch up as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I will hopefully be writing my update tomorrow as I am going to a SW group tonight rather than tomorrow. But for those of you who don’t read my SW updates I thought I’d let you know I wont be writing over the festive season. We have agreed to unplug for a few days and I can’t wait!

So if I wont see you before, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If I will you’ll get yours tomorrow 😉