With so many thousands of cookbooks on the market, it can be difficult to choose. As with many other things, different cookbooks suit different cooks.
As a reasonably experienced cook, I sometimes look to a cookbook for excitement or inspiration - to show me something novel, outrageous or unique; to challenge me to attempt more than I thought possible.
This is not such a book.
At the other extreme is the complete 'beginners guide' - the sort that starts with 'How to boil an egg' and lists of the most basic equipment, as if the reader has never entered a kitchen.
This is not that kind of book either.
This is a book for someone who has been in and around a kitchen, maybe watched their mother (or these days, father) preparing the family meals. Someone who is not scared of food, knives, utensils, etc., but who needs a guiding hand. This book would be perfect for a student leaving home, or for a couple setting up house for the first time.
It is also a book that is rooted in one strand of 'classic' cooking - classic English/European. You will not find curries, stir fries, jambalayas or other exotica from the wider world. You WILL find a mixture of core French, Italian, Spanish and English dishes. Other reviewers have listed the chapters, so I will not repeat those here, but I was impressed at how well it covered the ground within the scope of English/European basics. I set myself the challenge of thinking of basic recipes in my own experience, and then looked in the index to see if they were in. Almost without exception, they were.
Shepherd's pie, Roast chicken and lamb, beef Bourguignon, risotto, tortilla, victoria sandwich, cauliflower cheese, lasagne, kedgeree....
The author is also an experienced cookery-school teacher, which comes across very strongly. She not only describes the steps and techniques very clearly, but also explains why things are done the way they are, how you could vary it to get different results, and how to recover should things go wrong (e.g., sauces splitting). Reading this book, I felt in very safe hands.
In summary, the things I like about this book:
- it delivers the absolute core basics. If you have this book, you can learn to cook all the key traditional English/European dishes, all the basic sauces and techniques.
- you have a range of recipes from simple supper dishes to full 'dinner party' fare
- each chapter starts with a step-by-step introductory dish, complete with picture of every stage, before moving on to further variations
- the author instils confidence at every stage, with tips and hints to keep you interested
- it is all solid content and no 'filler' - the photographs illustrate the food, not the author or lifestyle fripperies
- clearly set out and high-quality printing
I note the criticisms of other reviewers. I (mid-forties and short-sighted) had no trouble reading the text, even the paler colours. I plan to give this book to my daughter, as she starts to learn to cook herself.
I hope you find this review useful. Happy cooking!