Simon & Schuster, £8.99
Browsing Carolyn Hart's 'Cooks' Books' is like looking through someone's (very) eclectic cookbook collection. Hart, the food editor of the Telegraph Saturday Magazine, has gathered together an assortment of her most used and, in her opinion, most useful recipes. The dishes that made it into 'Cooks' Books' had to fulfil a selection of criteria - be workable while the cook is involved in doing several other things; happily able to incorporate substitute ingredients; be quick and not involve totally accurate measurements.
Hart does not limit herself in the range and breadth of cookbooks that uses for reference. 'Cooks' Books' covers recipes that vary from old standards - Escoffier's scrambled eggs by way of MFK Fisher, Hannah Glasse's 18th-century take on Duck Stewed with Green Peas - to modern classics such as Shepherd's Pie by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nigel Slater's Grilled Chicken with Thyme Leaves, Salt and Garlic Butter.
Recipes to choose from include the simple (Constance Spry's Cauliflower au Gratin, Roast Potatoes à la Slater, Baked Ham from Henrietta Green's Farmers' Market Cookbook), the more adventurous (Fragrant Duck Pilaf with Lemon and Mint by Simon Hopkinson or Mohammed Bahzad Barafi's Baba Kannouj) and even seasonal dishes such as Elizabeth David's Plum Pudding. Unfortunately that is one of the very few sweet recipes in this book but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality, with the comfort of Tom Norrington-Davies' Bread and Butter Pudding and convalescent food, in the form of Apple Snow.
Learned and literate, 'Cooks' Books' is good for the basics as well as including a selection of more obscure recipes. Like one of your favourite dishes, the biggest problem is that there's not enough of it. Well worth dipping into.