Bee Wilson is an award-winning author and journalist, who writes for a wide range of publications about food and other things. She suspects that thinking about food may be a way to think about everything else too. Her books include First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, Consider the Fork and Swindled. Her favourite utensil is the potato ricer. She learned how to cook sitting at the kitchen table, reading her mother's cookbooks, starting with The Penguin Cookery Book by Bee Nilson ( as a child, she changed the N to a W).
This contains multitudes. It is probably the book - cookbook or otherwise - I have read most often in the sixteen years since it appeared. For its warmth of tone, its kitchen wisdom and ever-delicious recipes, it has no rival.
This is one of those rare books that actually teaches you to become a better cook. It's worth it for the Chicken and bread salad alone (and the mock Porchetta and the orange-currant scones). Rodgers talks you through the minute details of a recipe with such intelligence that by the time you've cooked it a few times, you start to internalise her advice and develop better instincts.
This book has many virtues - the bright Middle Eastern flavours, the clear instructions, the delightful descriptions of the trials of running a small business. But I love it most for the heady perfumes it fills the kitchen with when you cook from it: dried lime, mahleb, cardamom. These are recipes for pleasure, not for show.
This is the book to turn to if you want to be reminded that cooking is not all a story of progress. In 1685, May understood more about flavours than many cooks today. Highlights include 21 ways of making omelettes, including one with asparagus and verjuice.
Without this book, there would arguably have been no Moro, no Ottolenghi, no Persiana. Its influence on British cooking has been huge. I am reminded of Roden every time I eat a tabbouleh or an orange and almond cake. The great surprise is that the recipes - from 1968 - remain as fresh as ever.
Dunlop, who trained at the school of cookery in Chengdu, opened our eyes to a completely different style of Chinese cooking, edgy with chillis and fermented beans. She is the true heir to Elizabeth David: a traveller-cook with exceptional taste.
This life-enhancing book is one of the very few cookbooks that has ever tried to square the circle of pleasure and nutrition. When you cook from it, you feel the opposite of deprived. The recipes, rich with saffron and herbs, are not about 'clean eating' but what Henry describes as 'accidentally healthy' food.
From gratins to salads, this is a modern classic. I must have cooked a higher percentage of the dishes in this book than any other on my shelves. The food is not ground-breaking, but it is deeply comforting and approachable, in a Nigel Slater mould.