These are the books I have perused over many years, for inspiration, motivation, or pure joy. When you start cooking as a kitchen illiterate, you need all the props you can find. I found mine in the works of all sorts of cooks: from marvellous professionals, geniuses even, through to mere hard workers, compilers of tradition and detail. Those here are not listed in any particular order.

What you need in your pantry and your freezer

These two places might well be the most important places in your house. Each is the reservoir of special things which can assist any ingredient on its path to heaven. These odds and ends don’t have to be expensive, just well thought through.

Herbs every home garden should have

Rosemary. You can see the beautifully tender tips of this perennial poking through fences right across town, and the aroma of its oil is wonderful. Add rosemary to any style of sauce you like and you’ll be on a winner: with beef stock – 10/10; with lamb stock – 10/10, with cream, 10/10; with a [...]

Ten perfect presents

The best gift is something of yourself. So when Christmas comes, or Mother’s Day, or a special birthday, roll up your sleeves and make something special.

Twenty ideas for picnics

Chicken breasts, marinated in coconut milk, a little red curry paste, ginger and garlic, cooked, cooled and served in a salad of spinach and sesame seeds.
Australian smoked salmon, with creamy goat’s cheese, dill, hot mustard cress, olive oil, lime juice and black pepper.
Roast some garlic (do this in the microwave for a minute, allow to [...]

My top ten

Here is a list of my favourite dishes from this book. Not necessarily those I cook most – in fact I have this strange need to set aside the things I love, to know they are there and to call on them in times of need – but those dishes which have served me well for a long time, and will continue to do so.


A little silliness. This comes from one of my absolutely favourite reference books, the Woman’s Mirror Cookbook, circa 1930. Take in the words, ignore the recipe, and you’ll know why some forms of cooking lost their way in the old days.

‘Scallops,’ it says, ‘those bivalves with fan-shaped fluted shells often left lying by fishermen on [...]

Old-fashioned tomato sauce

We probably eat tomato sauce more than anything else in the world; yet so few of us bother to make it ourselves. For something so simple, such lack of interest is remarkable. And now that the microwave is so much part of our lives, you can put it together more quickly, more simply and with [...]

‘Instant’ chilli sauce

This sauce is best when tomatoes are in season, and the best tomatoes for any sauce are the Roma variety. Chop about six tomatoes roughly, and throw them into the microwave. Give the tomatoes a good sprinkle with your best olive oil. When the mix has started to bubble, add a few pinches of salt [...]

Raspberry and muscat sauce

This is one of the great dessert sauces, a must with any chocolate, or any ice cream. The muscat must be of the best quality, from north-east Victoria.

500g raspberries, fresh or frozen

200 ml good quality muscat

The better the quality, as ever, the better the flavour of the sauce

50-60g sugar, or to taste

If the raspberries are [...]