The quick-fix cookbook seems to be all the rage just at the moment (River Café, Delia, Leith's School and Nigella have all had a go), but for practicality, erudition and economy you should turn to Lindsey Bareham.
Her recipe for the bayou dish jambalaya is not only foolproof but also explains its Creole etymology ("from jambon, French for 'ham' and 'alaya', rice in an African dialect"). Good on basics, she maintains that her roast chicken "with an impossibly large quantity of onions, some olive oil and salt and pepper" is "sublime". Her directions for consuming "peaches in fizzy white wine" are irresistible: "Look at it. Drink it. Eat the peach."