Culinary heroes

This picture 'Delia, Delia, I need inspiration' by Susan Torrington was given to me a while ago by my sister. The picture now sits on my kitchen wall next to the spice rack and some favourite wooden spoons.

Delia has been a lifelong 'friend' in the kitchen! I remember watching her first ever cookery programme Family fare back in 1973 whilst I was still living at home and just before I went to university. When her Complete cookery course: part one first came out in 1978 I rushed to buy it followed by part two in 1980 and part three in 1981. I read them from cover to cover as though they were novels and they are still the first books I turn to if I want an answer to a particular culinary question.

Over the next few years, as tv cookery programmes began to  pop up like mushrooms on the different channels, I remember seeing Nigel Slater on what was a Christmas cookery slot I think. I was given a copy of his book The 30minute cook (you see Jamie, you were not the first!) and shortly after that Appetite . If any of you have this book you will know that it gives a blueprint for a recipe such as - deeply savoury noodles as hot as you like- and follows it with variations. It was the first book ( being deeply conventional as I am!) that opened my eyes to the fact that you don't have to follow a recipe to the letter, but can adapt it to suit your ingredients and mood.

But it is Kitchen Diaries, Tender vol.1 and Tender vol.11 which are my most favourite Nigel Slater books. They are big books and I love the feel of the weight of them in my hands. I love the beautiful, pared down photographs that illustrate them and most of all the dense prose on each page. His recipes are simple and easy going, but his writing is delicious! These really are books to read like novels, to enjoy the evocative descriptions of his garden and the plants that grow there.

More recently, I have become a fan of Jamie Oliver, for his sheer enthusiasm and passion and the way his food always looks so appetising.  His series Jamie at home ( must get that book sometime!) shows what lovely things can be made from veg that you grow on your own plot.
In recent months,  Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall has joined my list. I took a while to warm to Hugh - too much meat for me- but since singing-girl gave me a copy of his book River cottage veg every day last Christmas, he too has earned his place on my book shelf. See here.