The Cook’s Book is quite a tome - in the most positive sense.
In size it is large format, over 600 pages and packed with colour. The production standards are extremely high.
In scope it has chapters – each penned by a different author – on a wide variety of topics. Some are obvious, being themed around ingredients – Bread, Meat, Fish, but others cover styles of cooking, such as Japanese or Mexican. The length of the chapters are dictated by the use that the authors assume will be made of the topic. Thus the Fish chapter is long, the Mexican chapter short.
The authors are an international bunch, many of whom I’d not heard, but others (such as Shaun Hill or Marcus Wareing) are quite well-known in the UK. The standards are excellent throughout irrespective of the author.
As well as having recipes this book is also a “how to” manual with many pages on techniques – e.g. for making stocks or filleting types of fish. All processes are well illustrated. There are also many handy tips. So, for how long should I roast my salmon fillet? The answer is quickly found - 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
It also scores in having a good mix of “staple” as well as “fancy” recipes, thus making this not just a special occasion book, nor one in which the authors feel they have to show off.
For me the test of a good cookbook is whether I enjoy reading it for pleasure and whether I cook from it.
Well, it’s a joy to read (although not a narrative in the way of Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries). And within the first week I’d cooked a number of recipes – chicken stock and chicken jus, oatcakes, gravadlax and venison in a walnut, sour cherry and cinnamon sauce. All were straightforward, easy to follow, recipes and provided excellent results.
This book has, at a stroke, become my first point of call when I want to cook something or find out how to approach a cooking task.