The hardest part about making this list of my favourite family cookbooks is keeping it reined in. I love, love, love cookbooks. I love reading them, I love looking at them and, yes, I even love cooking from them.
That’s the number one way a book can make it onto my list of favourite family cookbooks: I have to use it to cook meals regularly.
Of course, some of the very nicest cookbooks are simply a treasure to look at. I reckon rood photography is an under-rated gem in the relaxation circles. Nothing is more soothing than viewing a well-lit shot of nasi goreng accompanied by the delightful story of said NG recipe being inspired by eating it by the side of the road in a tiny town in Iloilo. Never a finer way to pass an afternoon, in my opinion.
Unless, you’re in the kitchen cooking that nasi goreng for a family meal to inspire your own clan. Now that is the reason why my favourite family cookbooks are my favourites!
Here they are, in no particular order. Some are quite new to the market, others are old faithfuls. If you haven’t got some of these books on your shelf (and in your tummy), you are missing out.
Our favourite family cookbooks (soon to be yours too!)
Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
Tessa Kiros cookbooks are my favourite to read like a book. She has such a beautiful way with words, and every recipe is a story. This is one well-travelled, cultured woman who knows how to eat well. Born in London to a Finnish mother and Greek-Cypriot father, Tessa grew up in South Africa and later moved to and lives in Italy with her Italian husband and daughters. She’s also lived in Mexico, Greece and Sydney. Her food is all of these places and more. Apples for Jam is her ‘food I cook for my own young family’ cookbook and over the many years of raising my own family, I couldn’t love it more.
In Good Company by Sophie Hansen
Sophie is a huge favourite for me, both in terms of cookbooks and people. I’ve known her via work for many years and she is a simply delightful human who really knows how to cook and entertain. Choosing a favourite from her latest cookbook would be like choosing a favourite child. However, we featured her little herb pies and fish pie recipes here on Mumlyfe, so I will go with them. Except do not miss the jewelled rice pilaf recipe, it’s utterly amazing.
Also a fave from Sophie is A Basket By the Door.
Destination Flavour by Adam Liaw
I’ve never made an Adam Liaw recipe that wasn’t straightforward, achievable and bloody delicious. And I’ve made plenty! Quite a few of Adam’s books could make it onto my favourite family cookbooks list, but this one is particularly special. Adam is such a great story teller and the tales he weaves throughout the recipes in this book are just glorious. It’s also the cookbook that traces his SBS Food show around Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Singapore and China. So the recipes and cooking lessons are as varied as the cultures he visits. Put this one on your list immediately!
My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway
I have been cooking Emma’s recipes for years via her blog, this cookbook and other worky things we have done together. She’s probably the person most responsible for making me think about family recipes from a health perspective, rather than just ‘nice things to eat’. Emma’s food is both next-level healthy and nice to eat, so you really can’t go wrong.
And I can’t wait to pick up a copy of her new book Every Day (it’s on my Christmas wish list!).
Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry
Confession: I’ve actually only had this book for a few weeks. It was sent to me by the publisher to check out before it launches at the end of September. Every now and then I get sent a cookbook that’s going straight to the pool room, and this is one of them. I’ve already referred to it at least 27 times since receiving it. We’ve made the ricotta tortellini with tomato and basil and the next-level roast potatoes and both were outstanding. I’m not even through reading it (yes, I read cookbooks cover to cover – do you?) and I already know it deserves this place on my favourite cookbooks list. Thank you, Mr Perry.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
If you’re not confident in the kitchen, this cookbook will teach you everything you need to know. Along the way, you’ll be cooking truly amazing, restaurant-quality food. Not bad for a Tuesday night, right? I’ve learned so much since I first started cooking from Samin’s book a couple of years ago, and so have my kids. Not only Samin super-generous in sharing her knowledge, everything about her seems to be kind and beautiful. Witness this interview in The New Yorker and her Netflix show, which basically made me want to marry her by the end. Prepare to fall in love.
A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil-Nishimura
Everything Julia does is fab by me. She just has a knack for capturing the heart of good food and making it easy to cook it at your place. I just loves her! Check out A Year of Simple Family Food and also get Ostro, because both books deserve a spot in your kitchen.
The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander
Does the orange (these days it’s rainbow) bible need an introduction? My Stephanie is well-thumbed indeed. Some recipes (simple banana cake, Mrs Atkin’s fruit slice, pikelets) are so well loved they are practically illegible these days. Just as well I know them off by heart. Buy this for any child or friend moving out of home as it will indeed be a loved companion for them.
The River Cottage Family Cookbook
It’s almost impossible to get hold of this cookbook without spending a fortune these days. But I couldn’t leave it off the list because it really is such a favourite. Simple, hearty, satisfying food that everyone loves. Too easy.
If you can grab a copy, do it. My copy is almost falling apart at the seams, so I’ll be looking to replace my own one of these days.
Community by Hetty McKinnon
Surely everyone owns at least one Hetty salad book? If you don’t, start with this one and move quickly along to own them all: Neighbourhood and Family. It’s a whole lotta vego salad that will bring your friends and family to your table in a jiffy. And everyone knows Hetty is as much about flavour than salad. Her latest book – To Asia With Love – branches away from her salady roots, but I hear it’s just as easy and yummy. She’s been sharing a few sneak-peek recipes up on ABC Everyday, so check out her style there.
Street Food Asia by Luke Nguyen
Another cookbook I turn to again and again is this one from Luke. Street Food is always a hit because it’s basically the food that people grab on the go because it’s so yummy. It always hits the spot. That’s not to say that this book is loaded with ‘fast food’ unhealthy choices. Rather, it’s full of quick-to-make healthy Asian options that aren’t scary to tackle. That, plus Luke’s brilliant narration that is so vivid and chatty that it basically pulls up an old milkcrate for you right there at the roadside stall in Ho Chi Minh City, and Kuala Lumpur, and… basically it’s been a lifesaver during the zero-travel COVID days. PS – I also love Luke’s beautiful tome France, so do get onto that one too.
Green Kitchen at Home by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl
Another favourite cookbook by a blogger I’ve followed for a long time. Or maybe David and Luise were cookbook authors first and the blog came next? I can’t remember. They are masters at fast, super-fresh, tasty vego food that your kids won’t turn their nose up at. Green Kitchen at Home is their cookbook I refer to most often, hence it’s on the list. But I also love Little Green Kitchen and Green Kitchen Travels.
Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver
Hands up if you don’t own a Jamie Oliver cookbook? Just as I suspected, only one person. We’ve all got one, I’ve got many. Comfort Food is my pick of the bunch, mostly because it celebrates all the creamy, fried, buttery bowl food that cookbooks usually deny all knowledge of these days. The sticky toffee pud is to die for and his tear and share garlic bread will right all the wrongs in your world. I reckon this is one of my most favourite family cookbooks of all time, simply because it unashamedly loves butter as much as I do. Also because many moons ago when we lived in London, Jamie is the guy who first got my man cooking. Lots and lots of brownie points there!!
A Table in the Orchard by Michelle Crawford
This stunningly-talented stylist and cook moved to Tassie and renovated an old farm house and wrote this book along the way. Part cookbook, part memoir, part life manual, it’s a joy from start to finish. A family go-to recipe for us is the Spanish-style potato tortilla, where Michelle tells an hilarious tale about exactly why you shouldn’t mess with a perfected original recipe. While this is one of my very favourite family cookbooks (and “life books”), it’s really hard to get a copy of these days. Time for a reprint?
Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi
The master himself. If you’ve ever thought that middle eastern food felt “too hard” because of all the spices and techniques, this one is for you. Not only is the food inside this book accessible and do-able, it’s also so bloody delicious you’ll be eating like you’re on a Tel Aviv-Yafo ashram every night of the week. I swear, between his many cookbooks, Ottolenghi will make chefs of us all and I can’t thank him enough for his knowledge, and his endless patience.
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard
This cookbook from one of my long-time favourite blogs is a good reminder of how important (to me, and maybe to you) actual paper books are. I’ve been cooking from Tieghan’s blog for many years, but I bought cookbooks anyway. And I use them – especially this one – all the time. Her recipes are always well-designed and tasty – the kind of food that is often billed as ‘family friendly’. We love a lot of the recipes in this book, but do make the falafel lunch bowl and the coconut and chickpea curry.
Tieghan’s first book Half Baked Harvest is also a good one.
Every Night of the Week by Lucy Tweed
We shared a couple of recipes here from Lucy’s new cookbook in August: sticky ribs or pie, anyone?. Since then I’ve gone on to cook at least 10 recipes and every single one of them has been a winner. Especially the zucchini frittata, the big meatballs and the spicy coconut wings. Oh, so good! This is definitely a newbie that deserves its spot on my favourite family cookbooks shelf. Do you have a special shelf, too?
Futuresteading by Jade Miles
This beautiful book is so much more than mere cookbook, but you really do need to make some of Jade’s recipes as you read along. I highly recommend her creamy dressing to drizzle on anything you please, and her vegetable tart is a lifesaver on the days when you’ve forgotten how to cook. Come for the recipes and stay for the abundant life advice from this divine human. That’s ‘abundant’ in both quantity and in quality – Jade works hard to make a very covetable life indeed.
We shared some of Jade’s clever homemade gift ideas here: Some truly beautiful homemade gift ideas to get you though lockdown.
And you can meet her properly here: How Mothers Work: Jade Miles
Tasty Express by Sneh Roy
Another of my best-loved bloggers who has a fab cookbook is Sneh from Cook Republic. Sneh is personally responsible for quietly turning our family half-vego and I can’t thank her enough. I actually don’t think my family even noticed… It might be hard to buy a copy of this one these days, but rumour has it that Sneh is working on a new book! I hope they are true! Cue, happy dance.
So tell me, what’s your family’s favourite cookbook?