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The Best British Cookbooks of the 2000s

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

NatashaLS

Dec 16, 2019
15 minutes to read

Food trends come and go, but the last two decades have produced some enduring recipe collections well worth their spot on your shelf, says Anna Blewett

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1. The Moro Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark (2003, Ebury)

Few London restaurant’s have had such an enduring effect on the aspirations of food lovers as Exmouth Market’s Moro. This collection of recipes – bringing a British twist to Iberian and North African cuisine – has had an unmistakable influence on the years that have followed its publication.

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2. River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (2004, Hodder & Stoughton)

Those with long memories will know HFW’s more recent focus on plants is rooted in a philosophy of respect that can be traced back to his gospel on animal proteins. Always fastidiously thoughtful about the sourcing, storing, preparing and eating of meat, he literally wrote the book on the subject, and his words are as pertinent today as ever.

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3. The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, 2007)

This glorious slice of Nigel Slater’s culinary life wasn’t his first book, but invited us to sit beside him in a way that has beguiled readers ever since. “Nigel isn’t scared to mess about with a classic recipe,” says Camilla Schneideman, managing director of Leiths School of Food and Wine. “He commits to freshness of ingredients and a simplicity that makes each dish stand out.”

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4. Beyond Nose to Tail: a Kind of British Cooking: Part II by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly (2007, Bloomsbury)

The first volume from the creators of London’s iconic St John restaurant, published in 1999, is a fixture in every chef’s bookcase; owning the second proves true disciple status. “I believe it gave a sense of confidence and belief in British cookery,” says chef Adam Byatt, owner of the Michelin-starred Trinity, Trinity Upstairs and Bistro Union. “Nose to Tail kickstarted a British food revolution and empowered a great deal of UK chefs.”

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5. 3 Star Chef by Gordon Ramsay (2007, Quadrille)

It’s easy to forget Gordon Ramsay’s icon status was created in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White, Albert Roux and other culinary behemoths he’d later eclipse, rather than in front of TV cameras. “In my opinion this is one of the first books to break the barriers of fine dining and bringing a snapshot to the general public of fine dining restaurants,” says Dan McGeorge, head chef at the three-rosette Rohay Manor Hotel.

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6. British Regional Food: In Search of Best British Food Today by Mark Hix (2008, Quadrille)

At the heart of the 2000s’ renaissance in fantastic, ingredient-led British was Mark Hix, the chef with a swagger that belied his light touch with the finest produce. The focus on seasonality and regionality we now take for granted was championed in these pages, which showed a more nuanced, sensuous side to British cuisine.

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7. 30-Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver (2010, Penguin)

Mr O can reasonably claim to have won the last two decades, his 1999 book The Naked Chef kicking off a publishing dominance that still endures more than 20 years later. His 30-Minute Meals arguably had the biggest impact, breaking records on its release to become the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time (a title which has since been claimed by the authors of A Pinch of Nom).

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8. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (2010, Ebury)

With a prescience we’ve come to expect from this man, in 2010 Ottolenghi created a collection of plant-focussed dishes (from his The New Vegetarian columns in the Guardian) that were at once exciting, bewildering and enticing. A decade on the recipes look as fresh as ever.

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9. Bruce’s Cookbook by Bruce Poole (2011, Collins)

Penned by the culinary master behind Chez Bruce, this gorgeous collection is a favourite for Joshua Overington, chef and co-owner of Le Cochon Aveugle in York. “I have lots of ‘restaurant’ books – over 400 – but this is one of the few that I use constantly. Unlike many, the recipes here actually work; every dish has always produced fantastic results.”

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10. Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood by Nathan Outlaw (2012, Quadrille)

This book – part technical guide, part celebration of all that’s fabulous about our native seafood – is a great starting point to explore the bibliography of one of century’s best-loved British chefs. “I’ve got every single one,” says Tommy Heaney, chef-proprietor of Heaney’s and Uisce in Cardiff. “What I love is the simplicity, not of the recipes but the way they’re written. There’s always a story.”

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11. Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry (2012, Mitchell Beazley)

As Delia Smith’s star faded, another self-proclaimed cook stepped up to define our aspirations for fabulous food in the comfort of our own home. “It’s all about finding the authors you trust, authors who understand the importance of good ingredients,” says baker Aidan Monks of Cumbria’s Lovingly Artisan. “For me, most recently that’s Diana Henry.” This love letter to preserving was ahead of the curve, and beautiful to boot.

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12. Pitt Cue Co. Cookbook by Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard H Turner (2013, Mitchell Beazley)

“One of my favourite books over the last five years and the one I use the most at home is Pitt Cue Co. Cookbook, says Nigel Haworth. “I barbecue at home a lot and it’s one of my big passions. It’s the complete barbecue cookbook but so much more, with great recipes for sauces, rubs, pickles, vegetables and some great desserts. It’s a book I just couldn’t be without.”

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13. A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe (2014, Michel Joseph)

Few books captured the zeitgeist of the last decade like Jack Monroe’s collection of ‘100 delicious budget recipes’. The author took food snobbery and austerity at once, creating go-to recipes that created a new generation of scratch cooks. Tinned potato gnocchi will long last in this country’s consciousness.

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14. Historic Heston by Heston Blumenthal (2014, Bloomsbury)

A titan in the British culinary scene thanks to his world-famous Fat Duck restaurant, Heston is partial to a hefty (and pricey) tomes. Ryan Blackburn, chef patron at the Michelin-starred Old Stamp House in Cumbria, loves him for using “historic dishes that were long forgotten as inspiration to create dishes that pushed the boundaries and moved British gastronomy forward. Nobody had ever done before and it certainly inspired the way I think about the food I create.”

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15. A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones (2014, Fourth Estate)

Was it a coincidence that meat-free cooking began to gain so much traction just as Anna Jones was hitting her stride? Her first sunny, plant-centric cookbook was one of those that tipped the balance in the last decade, proving clever, convenient and sexy food could be enjoyed by all.

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16. Pride & Pudding by Regula Ysewijn (2016, Murdoch Books)

This deep dive into our culinary heritage is a rarity: a collection of recipes that suggests our ancestors were onto something utterly delicious. “It is without a doubt the best cookbook I have in my collection,” says food writer Helen Best-Shaw, “a meticulous piece of historic research, accompanied by supporting recipes. It’s extraordinary – academic and scholarly.”

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17. Great British Chefs by assorted contributors (2018, Great British Chefs)

“Britain champions a vast array of truly magnificent chefs,” says Tom Aikens, chef and founder of Muse, opening in Belgravia in January, “all cooking with the finest produce the British Isles has to offer. One of my favourite cookbooks is Great British Chefs – it’s a great way for people to access some of the UK’s finest recipes, tips and knowledge from some of my closest chef friends.”

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18 How to Eat: Vintage Classics Anniversary Edition by Nigella Lawson (2018, Vintage Classics)

“This book was groundbreaking for me,” say Paul A Young. “The recipes range from the enjoyably simplistic with a throw-together style, to the more engaging and considered style where your full attention is needed to achieve the finished dish. It’s a joy to read, own and never dates as the recipes are cleverly classic.”

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19 Sour:The Magical Element That Will Transform Your Cooking by Mark Diacono (2019, Hardie Grant)

Like all good books, this collection has challenge and comfort in equal proportions, encouraging us to venture out of our normal repertoire to bring the transformative (and oh- so-current) element of sour into our lives. Its influence will sneak into your weekday dinners and crowbar itself into conversations with fellow food lovers. Irresistible.

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20. Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint by Douglas McMaster (2019, Leaping Hare Press)

“Whilst this book is very new, I think the ideas in it will shape the way chefs cook in the next 20 years,” says Tommy Banks, head chef of Michelin-starred The Black Swan Oldstead and Roots York. “It really is a must read!”

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