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An Exclusive Tour of Rachel Khoo’s Cookbook Collection

by Elizabeth Young

published on 18 February 2015

To celebrate the release of her gorgeous new cookbook, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook, we asked Rachel Khoo to take us on a tour of her personal cookbook collection.  The first cookbook she ever bought, which cookbooks inspire her the most and which she would rescue in a house fire! Find those out and more below…

What was the first cookbook you ever bought?

Food and Drink by Michele Cranston – this book inspired me to get into food styling (along with Donna Hay). The photos and food styling still looks fresh and modern despite being over 10 years old.

Have you inherited any cookbooks from your family? Can you tell us about what they mean to you?

I have a first edition of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial cooking from my Granny. I used it as a starting point when I was researching recipes for The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook. I also have a very battered, torn, basically falling apart book from my Austrian grandma which my mum got when she moved to England at the age of 17. Das neue Donauland Kochboch (The New Donauland Cookbook) by Albert Kofranek. The food styling in the photos is quite funny but the recipes are delicious (think strudel, sachertorte, schnitzel…)

Cookbooks

Which cookbook in your collection has really changed the way you cook and why?

The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. It’s not really a cookbook but a book about how to match different ingredients. It’s a fantastic starting point when I’m brainstorming recipes. Also Ideas in Food: Great recipes and why they work by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. It really challenged the way I think about cooking with ingredients. They have a fantastic blog too where the write about the kitchen experiments.

Which cookbook would you recommend as a source of advice on techniques?

Leiths Technique Bible – I did a course in my holidays back when I had an office job. It was a two week course, covering a lot of basics. As part of the course we got this book. It’s a fantastic source of basic techniques with a good range of classic reliable recipes.

Cookbooks

How do you order/use your cookbooks? Do you annotate/scribble on them? Are the recipes catalogued somehow?

I’ve tried to organise my books by food style i.e. Nationality/Chef/Baking/Healthy/Vintage. I always keep a notebook with me for writing down any recipes, scribbling down flavour combination or sketching out food designs (it’s also where I got my idea for my latest cookbook Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook).

If you had to save one cookbook in your collection from a house fire, which would it be?

It would have to be Das neue Donauland Kochbuch and my first edition Elizabeth David cookbook (they sit beside each other on the bookshelf).  

Cookbooks

Which cookbooks do you read most for pleasure and the enjoyment of the food writing?

I used to work in a cookbook shop when I lived in Paris. I absolutely love cookbooks. But the ones that excite me most are the ones with interesting stories aswell as recipes that inspire you to cook. Photography isn’t always a must (I own books that are only illustrated aswell as text only cookbooks) but if there are photos then the food better good enough that you want to lick it right off the page.

At the moment the stack of books beside my bed are:

  • A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry – the way Diana Henry writes always makes me want to run into the kitchen and cook the recipes. Plus it looks delicious despite this book focusing on ‘light/healthy’ food.
  • Paris Pastry Club by Fanny Zanotti – I first discovered Fanny through her blog many years ago. I love her combination of French quirkiness, creativity and utterly divine butter loaded sweets.
  • The Bread Exchange by Malin Elmid – another blog discovery. Malin travels the world exchanging her sourdough for a place to stay, a homemade jar of jam or whatever people are willing to offer. Beautiful stories of her culinary adventures around the world with recipes to match.

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