Random recipes #18: On the shelf

Not content with making us rifle through our cookbooks each month, Dom at Belleau Kitchen now wants to see where they live.

I’ve been horrified to see other participants in this challenge cheerfully revealing they keep stacks of cookbooks in their bathrooms – while books turn up in ours from time to time they are usually left there by the Small Girl en route to somewhere more important. Call me old-fashioned, but a bathroom is no place to plan your next meal.

But since I plan to have my next meal – porridge, since you ask – in the dining room, it seems a logical place to start our virtual tour. Come on, keep up.

This is where I store my most-used books – and since they are also some of the heaviest, it makes sense for them to be low to the ground where they are unlikely to cause major damage to any small child who might pull them off the shelf. After having 1080 Recipes fall on my toe once, I have no wish for that to happen to anyone else.

So, all the Nigellas are stacked together, along with all the Elizabeth Davids. I have put her (Elizabeth) with Hugh and Nigel Slater. Do you think they’d get on? The middle section is French and Italian, with large-format Jill Dupleix (French name, has a few Italian-ish recipes) there because they won’t fit anywhere else.

Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion, which is probably the most useful book I own, heads up the shelf at the far end and the huge pile underneath is magazines, mostly Cuisine and Frankie (because it has good recipes occasionally).

Next, the living room, where the books are rearranged often by my small assistant. They are usually grouped according to nationality – New Zealand, then Australia (hello again, Jill D), Asia, the US, Britain – and there’s a section at the end about wine. Mmmmm, wine…

On to the bedroom now, where I currently have a friend’s copy of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, vol II (and must return it), A History of Food In 100 Recipes, with which I am enjoying irritating the hell out of my husband by reading him choice facts from every night, and the Wellington On A Plate catalogue. Oh, and The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes, which I started reading last night and it counts because there has been a description of roast lamb with rosemary in it.

Then, of course, there’s the kitchen. No time to show you the whole thing, but here’s the real recipe nerve centre. Lots of bits of paper, recipes written in shorthand, things cut from newspapers and noted down on the back of bills. Whatever recipe I’m looking for, I know it’s in here somewhere…

Where do you keep your recipe books?



  1. July 17, 2012 / 8:47 pm

    fussy fussy fussy… whilst the last one is passing out you can think about the next one going in… it is the PERFECT place for planning!… or maybe not… your home looks rather lovely… I think i'd like to see more!… good old Nigella must be a billionaire if this months random recipes is anything to go by!… thanks so much for taking part honey xx

  2. July 17, 2012 / 9:29 pm

    You don't have to return the Julia Child – it's yours if you want it. I can quite concretely say I am never going to attempt to make a croissant.

  3. July 18, 2012 / 5:28 pm

    Oh my, what a lovely collection of cookbooks. I love that Nigella has her own space; and I am sure Elizabeth, Hugh and Nigel will get on well 🙂 and I love the pile of clippings as well. Fantastic!

  4. July 18, 2012 / 6:38 pm

    Love it. I heartily approve of your cookbook organisation and very pleased to see you have a goodly number. I'm really enjoying see what people have got and where they are keeping them.

  5. July 18, 2012 / 10:14 pm

    I've got two Jill D books in two different parts of the house – it must be catching. I think you're more organised than me, though.

  6. July 30, 2012 / 2:51 pm

    Have you read Julian Barnes 'A Pedant in the Kitchen'? Good for a giggle if you can get hold of it!

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