During the pandemic, most of us had no choice; we were tied to our kitchens in order to feed ourselves, forced to eat our own creations week on week. At points, food fatigue definitely set in. There was a time, however, when I embraced this period and actually put a lot of effort into making meals. With what felt like endless time on my hands with nothing to do and nowhere to go, why not?
I prepared elaborate three-course Japanese feasts, rolled handmade pasta on the kitchen table, proved my own pizza dough and made falafels from scratch on Monday nights. But now that life is more or less getting back to normal, my time allotted for food prep is significantly less. On some nights when I have no food in the fridge, a takeout wins out over cheese on toast or stir fry again.
Looking for cooking inspiration can be overwhelming. From converting online recipes from imperial to metric measurements and skimming through paragraphs of SEO fluff before reaching the actual recipe to seemingly a new themed cookbook every month claiming to be quick, healthy, easy, only five ingredients—you know the drill.
This list of cookbooks, however, is tried and tested and ideal for everyday cooking. They factor in speed, effort and, of course, flavor and will hopefully release you from the stalemate between the hob and your brain.
1. Cook As You Are by Ruby Tandoh
Broken down by helpful categories from “Feed me now” to “More food, less work,” Tandoh’s book includes genuinely unique recipes that are super easy to prepare thanks to her simple style of writing. She also gives handy tips to make recipes vegetarian or vegan and includes optional replacements and tips on what you can omit from the recipe to still make it work.
Cook: Harissa, Gnocchi and Broccoli in the pan (I’ve made this literally 10 times since I bought the book a few months ago) and Buttered Miso Linguine with Leeks for weekday decadence
2. The Quick Roasting Tin: 30 Minute One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer
If you’re like me and even 30 minutes seems like a long time to wait for dinner when you’re hungry, this version of Iyer’s Roasting Tin collection is for you. Plus, it keeps the washing up minimal, which is always a bonus.
Cook: Lightly Roasted Chickpea, Halloumi and Red Onion Salad with Giant Couscous and Cinnamon Spiced Aubergines with Feta, Olives and Herbed Bulgur Wheat for fresh, Middle-Eastern themed dishes that can double up for both lunch and dinner
3. Bish Bash Bosh! by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby
This is one of my favorite vegetarian recipe books (you’ll find sauce splashed on many of the pages of my copy), as even though some of the recipes aren’t as quick as others on this list, it’s great for batch-cooking and so worth the prep time when you have a fridge full of food for the week.
Cook: Ian’s Dal, Vietnamese Sticky Tofu and Baba Ganoush for weekday dipping (better than any shop bought version I’ve found by far)
4. Crave by Ed Smith
Split into categories like “fresh” and “heat,” these recipes are a great way to curb your cravings, as the title suggests, without succumbing to a mid-week takeout. Some of the ingredients may not be staples of your usual weekly shop, but it’s nothing you shouldn’t be able to get hold of to do some restaurant-quality cooking.
Cook: Poussin, Artichoke and Pea Traybake and Orecchiette with Pork, Fennel and Milk Ragu
5. One-Pot Vegan by Sabrina Fauda Role
This super-simple cookbook is another one that saves on washing up with one-pot recipes. Great for those who like visual guides, this cookbook has a photo of every recipe. Plus, the book is relatively short, so you won’t be overwhelmed with the decision about what to make.
Cook: Creamy Potatoes with Olives and Traditional Ratatouille
6. An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy
Pasta, a staple often associated with student life, can sometimes get a bad rap, but this classic doesn’t have to be boring or basic! Roddy, known for her Italian food writing, literally provides an A to Z of pasta shapes, as well as recipes for cooking with both dried and fresh pasta and familiar fresh and store cupboard staples.
Cook: Linguine with Anchovies and Tomato and Breadcrumbs and Pasta with Chickpeas
7. Curry Everyday by Atul Kochhar
Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar brings curry to your kitchen from all different corners of the globe. Divided by region, the curries in this book will challenge your perception of what a curry actually is and tingle your taste buds too.
Cook: Rolled Egg Wraps and Mango and Tempeh Curry
8. Vegan Slow Cooker: Over 70 Delicious Recipes for Stress-Free Meals by Saskia Sidey
The slow cooker may conjure an image of the ‘50s housewife, preparing a casserole to be ready on the table for when her husband comes home from work. However, Sidey’s book is definitely a modern take on the slow cooker with her fresh, vegan recipes. Pop the slow cooker on in the morning (perfect now a lot more of us are working from home), and enjoy nourishing, comforting eats at night.
Cook: Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, Slow-Cooked Caponata and Aromatic Pho