Most home cooks have their own, personal cookbook: a place where recipes gathered from various sources, either by word of mouth or copied from books or cut from magazines end up.
This collection can take various forms: for some it will be a box file (or even just a box) filled with ragged collection of ripped magazine recipes and messy pieces of paper with scrawled recipes, some of them falling apart. For others, it’s a neat, ring-bound folder with neatly categorized recipes written on (or glued to) color-coded pages made of card.
The best solution is probably a happy medium between the two. If your personal cookbook is too messy, it will eventually become dysfunctional. If it’s too tidy, it might all seem too much effort and discourage you from adding to the collection if you have no card in appropriate color, or no time or handy pen to write it.
My preferred solution is simply a note-book, and I like the A5 format better than A4 – it matches the format of most of my cookbooks (I don’t like those big, glossy, photo-filled modern cookbooks) and it fits better on my crowded kitchen worktop. I write down or glue in recipes, and if the page I am gluing in is bigger than the page of the notebook, I simply fold it.
It’s arguable whether one should categorize the recipes: mine are just put in the notebook is order of acquisition, and I simply leaf through to find the one I am looking for without particular problems. But for larger collections, it’s probably better to divide the notebook into categories. What categories – it should be entirely up to you and the best thing is to simply use any system that works for you.
The classic division into starers, mains, deserts and other types of dishes or courses might work for some; a division by main ingredient (meat, eggs and cheese, fish, flour, vegetables etc) is another possibility. If you cook a lot of ethnic dishes, having separate sections for dishes coming from different regions of the world (Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and so on) might work best for you.
I also like to de-clutter my personal cookbook. If a recipe has been in my notebook for a couple of years and I still have not cooked it, I tend to pull it out and throw away – a bit like clothes that have not been used for a year.
Where to source recipes for your personal cookbook? The first source is probably your mum (if she writes neatly, you can get her to write them down and just glue the pages in!). Printouts from the internet, recipes copied from cookbooks you borrowed from the library or friends as well as recipes from magazines are obvious sources, though in my experience magazine recipes (and especially marketing department created recipes) are the ones that end up culled never cooked.