1. Florence Greenberg's Jewish Cookery Book
First published in 1947, mine is the eighth edition (1972). Up until the mid1970s this was the only Jewish cookery book available in the UK and every girl received a copy on her Bat Mitzva at the age of 12 (the equivalent to the boys' Bar Mitzva at 13). My mother was still using hers when mine came along. I love the notices to Jewish housewives about being careful to buy only kosher food and the adverts from 1947:
It's amazing to see the way people ate in those days - everything was cooked in shmaltze (beef or chicken fat). It has all the traditional Jewish recipes from long ago with the Yiddish names transported from the shtetls of Europe. But you can't beat it when you need a basic recipe for e.g. shortcrust pastry, sponge cake, custard, and other things that most people don't bother to make from scratch these days.
2. A Proper Tea by Joanna Isles
Everything you ever wanted to know about afternoon tea. Beautiful illustrations of teatime in various styles, including the recipes. Exquisite is the only word to describe this book.
3. A selection of bumper Vegetarian Cookery Books
Between them these books contain everything you could possibly do with an aubergine, a tomato, a potato or a mushroom. You are welcome to add some meat to your menu but there's really no need.
4. French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
This isn't cheating as it does contain some very nice recipes. However, it's also my Bible. when I found this book all my diet books (and I had a few *ahem*) were thrown out. You can create wonderful cuisine to your heart's delight but if you don't know how to eat like a mensch (a civilised human being) what's the point?
5. The Book Of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur
A recipe book, yes, but also a social history of the food and eating culture in Israel. And a comprehensive review of where, who and how we eat today. I read it cover to cover before I even went into the kitchen with it.