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This is another cookery book which was donated to me by my mum during a recent clear out. It is a beautifully presented book containing step-by-step techniques and recipes by some of the world's top chefs. Examples of contributors are Ken Hom, Shaun Hill and Marcus Wareing.
The first thing to note about this book is that it is MASSIVE! It comes in hardback and is over 600 pages long. Although this means you're getting excellent value for money with this book, it does make it a bit cumbersome to take off your shelf so you might find it not becoming one of your favourites for this reason. It's quite heavy to lift so some people might struggle to use this at all. It also takes up a lot of room on your worktop if you're following a recipe, because it's far too big to fit in a bookstand.
Anyway, now the moaning's over...! The book costs around £20 on the likes of Amazon, although the inside cover gives RRP of £30. I'm fairly certain my parents would have picked this up from a discount store or charity shop, as this is where I get my bargain-hunting gene from!
On flicking through this book, you will be amazed by the number of recipes and techniques contained within. It also contains some excellent photographs which inspire you to try certain recipes. I think this book would make a really good present for a keen cook because if you couldn't afford many celebrity cookery books, this one would keep you entertained for a while.
The start of the book introduces the many chefs who have contributed, and if I'm honest I only recognise a few of these despite being a huge fan of cookery programmes and books.
The book is split into the following sections:
· Sauces & Dressings
This includes basic sauce-making recipes and thickening techniques. Examples of recipes are hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce. It gives good tips for making sauces using a blender if you are short on time, and hints on things like rescuing curdled mayonnaise. There are also step-by-step instructions and diagrams.
This is a rather unusual chapter and not something I've got round to trying yet. It includes things like mousses (desserts) and slightly 'cheffy' things like mayonnaise foam with asparagus. Unless you've got a lot of time on your hands or you're hosting a party and really want to impress, you probably won't get much use out of this section.
· Stocks and Soups
This contains standard information on how to make your own stock, although I can't say I've ever had the time or inclination to do this when the likes of Oxo and Knorr do such a good timesaving alternative!
This is quite a varied section including some advice and some recipes such as salsa verde and green herb oil. Most of the stuff in this section is quite specialised and mainly for using to marinate meat and fish.
· Latin American Cooking
This is a strange chapter with recipes for food I've never even heard of! Recipes include conch salad, hallacas and mojo-marinated chicken with congri & plantains. This is a chapter for when you're feeling adventurous and in the mood for trying something new.
· Eggs & Dairy Produce
This chapter ranges from basic preparation of eggs such as whisking, folding egg whites and poaching eggs, to recipes involving eggs such as bittersweet chocolate mousse. It also involves meals such as potato and celeriac gratin. This is a great chapter if you ever find yourself with an excess of eggs and you're looking for a new way to use them!
· Fish & Shellfish
This is of little interest to me because although I do like some fish, I refuse to put myself through the gory process of preparing fish so I rarely cook it myself. This chapter tells you all about how to cut the fish, and has some detailed (i.e. grutesque!) pictures. If you're the kind of person who has always wanted to cook crab but were never sure how to prepare it, this is the book for you.
· Japanese Cooking
As the name suggests, this chapter contains recipes for Japanese dishes such as prawn tempura with beer, and sushi. Some of the ingredients in this section are quite specialised, such as star anise, umeshu (plum liqueur) and japonica rice, but this would be good for a themed dinner party or special occasion.
· Poultry & Game Birds
The best bit about this chapter is that it gives some good info on jointing birds and tips on doing a roast dinner. The actual recipes aren't that useful to me personally because I'm quite boring when it comes to poultry and tend to stick to chicken, whereas these recipes are for things like pheasant and goose.
· Indian Cooking
This is a very useful chapter for anyone who fancies cooking Indian dishes from scratch. It includes well known dishes such as onion bhajis, raita and tadka dahl, and lesser known dishes such as meen molee (poached fish in sauce). There are also general tips on how to make coconut curry sauce and marinating spices, which is good for applying to other Indian dishes.
There are some excellent recipes in this section, in fact it's probably the chapter I've used most. It also has good instructions and diagrams for things like how to bone a joint of meat and boiling and steaming meat. There is also a fantastic recipe for Guinness gravy.
· Chinese Cooking
This chapter is written by Ken Hom, and is relatively short compared to some other sections. It has a couple of good side dishes but nothing I'd bother cooking for a main course though which is disappointing as I love Chinese food.
This chapter takes us through the different types of vegetables, but rather than giving recipes it tells us about slicing and preparing each kind of vegetable, and things like how to pod peas, rehydrate dried mushrooms, and skinning, seeding and chopping tomatoes. The recipes in this section are quite basic, for example roasted root vegetables.
· Pasta & Dumplings
I don't know anyone who has enough time or passion in cooking to cook fresh pasta from scratch, but there are recipes in here for doing so. There are thankfully some normal recipes which you can use shop-bought pasta for, such as fettuccine with sweetcorn and gorgonzola cream. I have actually made this and it is stunning. Other recipes include dumplings and gnocchi.
· Asian Noodles & Dumplings
This is good for using up noodles as whenever I buy noodles I'm not too sure what to do with them! It has basic dishes such as seasame chicken and noodle salad, but also gets quite adventurous with things like noodle-wrapped tiger prawns.
· Thai Cooking
This is a very short chapter and not one I've used although it does have some generic recipes such as green curry paste.
· Grains and Pulses
This is mainly rice-based dishes such as paella and risotto, but also includes a section on wheat and couscous. I have made the Boston baked beans from this section and they were absolutely gorgeous.
· Breads & Batters
This chapter contains everything you need to know about baking bread, pizza bases and batters such as Yorkshire puddings.
· Mexican Cooking
This was the most disappointing chapter for me because I love Mexican food, but this section didn't contain any recipes that appealed to me. I was hoping it would tell me how to make fajita spice mix and guacamole from scratch, but it had more random dishes such as braised pork in red chilli sauce and courgette flower-filled masa boats (what?!). It's also one of the shortest chapters.
· Pastry & Sweet Doughs
As you'd expect, this chapter tells you how to make both sweet and savoury pastry, and also includes recipes for classic dishes such as tarte au citron, croissants and biscuits. It also tells you how to make choux pastry and brioche.
· Middle Eastern Cooking
This chapter had lots of food I've never heard of, such as pigeon bisteeya and none of the recipes in this section appealed to me. Luckily it's a very short chapter.
The best part of this section is the different flavours of ice cream, including mint, caramel, and almond. There's also instructions for making meringue, and some dark chocolate truffles. This is the section to use when you're having a dinner party and want to impress.
There are lots of different types of cakes here from cheesecake to basic sponges, muffins to doughnuts.
· Fruit & Nuts
I've never really looked at this section before because to me, caramelising a pear isn't cooking! I've just noticed there's a very nice looking banana mousse in here though, and a summer pudding which looks quite nice. There's the usual hints and tips on using things like gelatin.
This is a brilliant book containing food from around the world and caters to all skill levels. There are a few sections I'll probably never use, but overall most of the content is useful and it contains so much more than just recipes. If you're ever wondering how to bone a lamb joint, prepare a fish, or roll sushi, this book contains step-by-step instructions and pictures for almost everything you could imagine needing to do in the kitchen.
The thing I like about this book is that it has step-by-step pictures without feeling like you're being patronised. It is suitable for beginners as it contains all the basics on things like thickening sauces and the best way to slice vegetables, but it also has lots of ideas that will satisfy the more competent cook, for example sushi. This book is suitable for everyday cooking, and for producing a show-stopping meal for a special occasion. If you haven't got much room or cash to buy lots of cookbooks, this one provides everything you need in one big book, and it also makes a great gift.
Available for 20 quid with the Book People.com or a lot more with some other online or high street bookstores, this is a cook book for people who really love food and cooking.
It says it is Marcus Wareing but this is a collaboration of a dozen damned good chef´s from around the world, it is 684 pages long and covers simple as well as advanced cooking techniques.
This is a complicated cookbook, but it does segment itself well, with sections for cooking meat, fish, vegetables, bread, desserts, using spices, using knives, advanced cooking etc.
The sections are all fronted by experts in the field, so Marcus Wareing writes the section on meat, his recipe for pork chops with an onion sauce is pretty awesome and not complicated enough to even bamboozle me, there are also more advanced techniques which require special equipment and really good cuts of meat that I haven´t tried yet.
Ken Hom covers Chinese food and attention to detail is the key in all of the recipes, there are probably only about 10 recipes per section but this are backed up by great pictures, really comprehensive instructions and advice.
I really enjoyed the New Zealand chef Peter Gordon´s tour through how and when to use spices, its the kind of thing you are expected to simply know, but if you don´t have the pallette, advice like this is gratefully received.
American chef, Charlie trotter covers fish, from descaling and cutting to the best cooking techniques, some of the recipes are mouth watering and really deserve special attention as does the section on seafood.
There are sections on Sushi, Latin American and Mexican food, Indian Cuisine and Ferran Adrià the renowned chef at El Bulli provides a recipe for Potato Foam, unfortunately you need special equipment, but its just that kind of book for the dreaming foodie where you can try unusual recipes from some of the worlds great chefs.
This is an awesome cookbook and a brilliant coffee table book too, which I really enjoy reading and looking at and would recommend to anyone who enjoys food.
The Cook's Book is a compendium of types and techniques of cooking with a number of highly respected contributors from the cooking world.
At over 600 pages, you can imagine that this is pretty comprehensive. It is a large hardback with quite a hardy spine in order to make it easier to hold the pages back to cook from.
Each section is written by a different contributor who comes from a different specialism including Marcus Wareing (who also writes the foreword), Rick Bayless, Atul Kochhar and Ken Hom. At the beginning of the book we are given a profile of each contributor.
Before we get to the main content of the book, we have a couple of pages entitled 'useful information which details some basics that should help when cooking form the book eg information about equipment, storage, utensils and hygiene.
We then move onto the different sections. Each section has a short introduction which lays out some of the fundamental information you will need before you start. The sections have a mix of techniques and recipes, the idea being that you can exercise the techniques you have learnt immediately in your cooking. It is impossible for me to cover everything in this book so I will try to give you a fair indication for each part. There are also a great number of photographs both explanatory of the process and to indicate what the finished dish should look like
First up we have sauces and dressings. Techniques include - how to make different basic sauces, and how to thicken them. Recipes include mayonnaises, tomato sauce, fruit chutneys, salsas vinaigrettes and dressings.
Next we come to foams, a bit of an odd choice if you ask me and not something that you are likely to use a lot in even special cooking. Techniques include how to use siphons to make foams. Recipes include mango, yoghurt and raspberry foam, meringue tart, frozen chocolate mousse and gin fizz cocktail.
The next section is on soups and stocks. Techniques include how to make different types of stocks. Recipes include chicken consommé, cock a leekie, a great minestrone recipe and gazpacho.
Following this we have flavourings. Techniques including how to prepare fresh herbs, including how to make a bouquet garni, how to prepare spices and chillies and how to extract vanilla seed. Recipes include green herb oil, salmon with Cajun blackening spices, cumin ,nigella and pepper marinade, red curry paste, a great tomato chilli jam, tapenade, preserved lemons, maple syrup and apple rice porridge (with miso!).
The next section is on Latin American cooking. Techniques include preparing conch, salting cucumber, preparing mojo vinaigrette and making caramelised plantains. Recipes include mojo-marinated chicken with congri and plantains.
Following this we come to eggs and dairy produce. Techniques include, separating eggs, beating eggs, whisking egg whites, boiling eggs, creating a cheese board. whipping cream. Recipes include scrambled eggs, omelettes, sweet onion frittata with balsamic vinegar, cheese soufflé, potato and celeriac gratin.
We next come to fish and shellfish. Techniques include how to prepare all different types of fish eg by gutting and descaling, how to prepare sashimi, cleaning mussels, opening shellfish such as oysters and clams, cleaning and sectioning an octopus, cleaning sea urchins. Cleaning live lobster and then taking the meat from a cooked lobster and crab. recipes include gravlax, baked plaice fillets, baked whole sea bass, microwaved salmon steaks, braised monkfish, deep-fried tiger prawns.
Following this we get Japanese cooking. Techniques include cooking sushi rice and hand-shaping sushi. Recipes include prawn tempura with beer, duck breast with star anise sauce and roast figs.
Next we have poultry and game birds. Information is given on the different parts of a bird, removing the wishbone and a detailed table on the timings and temperatures for cooking lots of different types of whole birds. Techniques also include roasting, stuffing, jointing, boning, making gravy and carving various birds. Recipes include sausage meat stuffing, Southern-fried chicken, deep-fried chicken, chicken braised in red wine.
The next section is on Indian cooking, probably my most used section. Techniques include marinating, deep-frying paneer. Recipes include onion bhajis, tadka dhal, raita, coconut curry sauce.
Next up we have a length section on meat. Initially there is a brief overview of all the different ways of cooking meat, cuts and cooking methods table. Other techniques include boning a saddle of lamb, wrapping and baking a joint in salt dough, preparing a belly of pork for braising and boiling a ham hock. Recipes include Yorkshire puddings, roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, slow-roast shoulder of pork, piccalilli, a great pork chops with caramelized onions recipe, Irish stew, venison ragout, braised lamb shanks, steak and kidney pudding (with Guinness gravy), beef stroganoff, spit roasted brine-cured pork.
Next we get stirfrying, steaming veg, how to cut vegetables for stirfrying, deepfrying and cutting veg. Recipes include Cantonese-style sauce and steeped chicken,
Following this is another lengthy section, and one that I have found very useful - on vegetables. Techniques include trimming, washing and drying salad leaves, how to cut and prepare a variety of different vegetables for cooking, rehydrating dried mushrooms, roasting peppers, skinning tomatoes, a table which details the best timings for boiling and steaming vegetables. Recipes include easy guacamole, chilled, clear cucumber soup, roast butternut squash, curry and kaffir lime-braised vegetables with basmati rice, sweet potato crisps.
We next have pasta and dumplings. Quite a few pages are given over to the process of making fresh pasta including how to prepare the dough by hand and put it through a pasta machine, as well as cooking it and how to make different types of dumplings. Recipes include fettuccine with sweetcorn and gorgonzola cream, matzo ball soup, ricotta ravioli with mushrooms, lettuce and mint, tortellini with crab meat and artichoke. Potato gnocchi.
Following this we have the Asian cooking and dumplings section. Recipes include egg noodles, udon noodle soup, sesame chicken and noodle salad, chicken and chive wonton soup (with instructions on how to make wontons), prawn and pork potato dumplings.
Then we move into Thai cooking Techniques including how to prepare and pound spicy relishes, make Thai chicken stock, cook rice and prepare common Asian cooking ingredients for cooking. Recipes include spicy relish of prawns and pea aubergines with sweet pork, green curry of beef with corn and Thai basil, a really useful green curry paste.
Next up we have grains and pulses. Techniques include the best ways to cook rice, how to do basic risotto, prepare polenta and couscous, sprouting, pureeing, as well s the basic preparation of pulses with a table indicating soaking and cooking times, pureeing, mahing, stewing as well as a beginners guide to slow cooking. Recipes include paella, egg-fried rice, buttermilk cornbread, summer fruit tabbouleh, roast baby chicken with couscous stuffing, hummus, pasta e fagioli, Boston Baked beans and falafel.
The next section is on breads and batters. Techniques include how to prepare a variety of different breads from scratch, how to make batters. Recipes include wholemeal and white bread, English leaven bread with potatoes and ale, simple rye loaf, hot cheese and radicchio pizza pie, foccacia, crispbread, pitta bread, naan bread, oatcakes, corn bread, cinnamon and date scone bread, pancakes, blinis, crumpets, waffles.
We then come to Mexican cooking. Techniques include making sopes (a type of tortilla), preparing chillies. Recipes include tortilla soup with chilli, cheese and avocado, braised pork in red chilli sauce.
Then we come to pastry and sweet doughs. Techniques include how to prepare pastries by hand and in the food processor (the latter being particularly useful). Recipes include lemon tart, croissant, brioches, mint ice and hot chocolate profiteroles, chocolate chip cookies.
The next section is on Middle Eastern cooking. Techniques include how to make labne balls, making a filo pie. Recipes include Turkish coffee and koussa mahshi ( a kind of lamb stuffed courgette with sauce).
We then come onto the dessert section. Techniques include how to make sugar syrup with a table on boiling sugar temperatures, how to make egg custard, preparing meringue. Recipes include exotic fruit salad, various ice creams and sorbets (using an ice cream maker), red berry charlotte, dark chocolate truffles with lime and honey, dark chocolate mousse.
The next section is on cakes. The techniques include how to cook, cut and fill a sponge, prepare chocolate glaze. Recipes include pound cake (which requires a special mould), marble cake, rich fruit loaf, chocolate cake with almonds, strudel with fresh grapes, various cheesecakes, scones, stolen, doughnuts, brownies and muffins.
The final section is on fruit and nuts. Much of this section is given over to how to prepare some of the trickier fruits available such as pomegranates and pineapples. Other techniques include how to puree fruit, use gelatine, poach fruit, make praline, peeling chestnuts. Recipes include banana mousse, summer pudding, baked apples, sticky toffee pudding, chestnut stuffing.
Finally we come to an extensive glossary of equipment, ingredients, techniques and preparations.
As you can tell, this is a very comprehensive book. However, I would say that there is some mileage in considering this more of a tips and techniques book rather than a recipe book as such. It is really well put together, incredibly detailed as well as matter-of fact and to the point. It is difficult to imagine that there are any other techniques that you would need other than what are included here. That said, I would not class it as a beginners guide - a lot of the techniques require a little prior knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm. However, there are many simpler techniques which you can use on a day to day basis. For example, my knife skills with fruit and vegetables have improved from looking at this book. A lot of this praise that I am giving as to how it has given me confidence to try new techniques has to be given over to the excellent way that they are detailed and in particular how effective the photography is in showing you EXACTLY what you need to do. (The photography is so detailed however that a lot of the fish and shellfish preparation sections make me quite squeamish!)
It is really well presented, given the amount of information that it has to communicate. Different sections are clearly indicated and separated out in a really logical way so it is easy to follow. It is not overly fussy and flowery in language either.
Perhaps one criticism I might have is that not all of it is accessible as I might have liked. Some of the recipes involve ingredients that are not always easy to get, particularly those from other cuisines. However I suppose that is likelihood with a book like this which is looking to cover as much ground as it is.
The RRP of this book is £30, however you can get it significantly cheaper if you shop around online. In particular, if you get it off Amazon it is £19 at the time of writing (may 2010) and also has the option of you being able to 'look inside the book' which will be able to give you a visual feel.
In conclusion, as a comprehensive guide to make you a better cook when it comes to tips and techniques - I cannot really imagine that you would be able to get something much better. For keen cooks who feel they have gaps in their knowledge or those who want to enhance their skills certainly!