As we grow up, we go through phases of cooking and meal preparation. From uni where you probably have a handful of meals you cook (spaghetti bolognese, jacket potatoes and stir fries were my staples), through to more exciting experimental meals. Then settling into a regular meal routine of family favourites. Recipe books can be a big part of people’s lives, especially if they want to experiment and encourage children to have a more well-rounded repertoire of meals. I used to try and cook at least one new dish a week, although that’s largely fallen by the wayside now we have N and the OH is getting fussier and moaning more about what I cook. So I have go to recipe books which are good for busy mums.
The way we have meals in our house is a little weird compared to most families. The OH eats at the farm for weekday evening meal at 5pm, N mostly eats at afterschool club (he has hot school lunches), and I’ll tend to eat my main meal at lunch and just grab something quick in the evenings. Fridays to Sundays I cook. If I’m on leave, I’ll do dinner during the week too.
I admit to having a few recipe books. They’re on a couple of small kitchen shelves, and there’s no room for more. I’ve got rid of a lot of unused ones in the past, and now just have my favourites that I know I can rely on. I still get bought recipe books for presents even though they’re never going to be my type of thing (Paul Hollywood’s bread book anyone?), and we don’t have space on the shelves for them.
As a working mum (even at the weekends) I want quick and simple recipes that we’ll all eat. I’m not a fish eater, the OH prefers meat, potatoes and veg, and N loves pasta and salmon. I want to be able to either prep the meal earlier just to put in the oven, or have it cooked in around 30 minutes. I also hate having to think up what we’re going to have, but I don’t mind planning a specific recipe and following it (with a few variations). Here’s some of the go to recipes books I love.
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Favourite recipe books for busy mums
Jamie Oliver’s books – in the past I was never a fan apart from the odd recipe, because there were so many ingredients, but I do have a couple I really like and use regularly
Jamie Oliver – 30 minute meals
I love most of the meals in here. I pick and mix, there’s a few desserts that are great, although mostly they’re not substantial enough for the OH. But the mains are great, and there’s some good ideas for sides as well. He also has the 15 minute meal recipe book, but I’ve not got that one.
Nigella Lawson – I love Nigella’s books (and tv show). She’s a cook rather than a chef. Nothing has ever gone wrong with her recipes, and generally you can just bung in whatever without being strict about it. Exactly my type of cooking.
Nigella Express – some take longer than others, but either the prep or cooking time is quick, and there’s so many nice recipes (we love the pear and chocolate pudding for a quick store cupboard pudding).
Nigella – Kitchen
Great down to earth family recipes, without tonnes of unusual ingredients. It’s a huge book.
Rachel Allen – Bake
I have the Cake recipe book too, but the bake book has both savoury and sweet meals. Predominantly Rachel Allen’s recipes are ones she cooks at home for her family, so there’s nothing way out or ridiculous ingredients that you’ll never get hold of.
3 and 4 ingredient cooking books
I have a couple of these. The Australian written 4 ingredients is basic and uses a lot of short cuts. My OH isn’t keen on these meals, but sometimes I can find some quite nice ones that are quick and simple. And a little quirky. Plus they’re great for getting kids started cooking on their own.
Best ever 3 and 4 ingredient cook book I bought this from The Works years ago, and apart from store cupboard essentials like oil and herbs and spices, it’s easy and quick to find the 3 or 4 ingredients needed. Most of the meals are nice and good enough to use if you’ve got people over for dinner. There’s plenty to choose from, although the puddings are fairly restricted due to the ingredient number limitation.
Philadelphia cook book
I’m a big fan of product recipe books, and this one is great for everyday cooking. I love that I can always have cream cheese in the fridge, it lasts for ages unopened, and the OH will accept most of these recipes. There’s obviously cheesecakes and cakes, but there’s a couple of quick desserts and the mains have a bit of variety across fish, chicken and pasta dishes. We like the bacon and pepper lasagne.
Good Housekeeping Cooks collection
This is a mammoth book and it’s hard to find what you want all the time. But there’s usually a recipe that jumps out at me I want to try. Easily split into different sections, there’s lots of everyday meal options as well as posher ones for proper dinners. It’ll take ages to work through, so it’s great to have on shelf.
Anything slow cooker! I tend to just search online for a slow cooker recipe I want, or use the little recipe book that came with the slow cooker. Although Nigella’s Simply Nigella book also includes tips for using a slow cooker rather than a conventional oven. These are my weekend meals though, I don’t have enough time in the morning to brown meat and prep veg before bunging it in the slow cooker.
So there’s a snapshot of my recipe books perfect for busy mums. I also pull recipes out of magazines when I see them and obviously use online, but I find it so much easier with a book set up that always having to check my phone to see what’s next.
What recipe books do you rely on for quick and easy meals?
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