Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
A must for beginning and experienced homecooks
on 22 May 2015
I hesitated a lot before buying this book. The problem is that I'm quite an experienced cook, and have so many cookbooks that I long ago started weeding out the weaker ones and consigning them to the bin. I now have a hundred or so books that I regard as absolute classics - indispensible. The last thing I thought I wanted was another general cookbook. But, having made the decision to buy O'Connell's book, I don't regret it at all. This book is unique amongst the best general cookbooks. First, it is written by a dedicated individual with a mission to inform - rather than a team - always an advantage. Then, O'Connell is a highly skilled cook with chef and teaching experience over several years. Finally, because of the first two qualities, this book is brilliantly written and organised - and beautifully presented, yet practical with a tough binding and placemarker. When I say "beautifully presented" I don't mean a stunning photograph on every other page. In fact, some may find the number of illustrations inadequate - you can even find two or three successive recipes without a picture! What I am talking about is the whole.
The book is organised into 26 chapter. The chapters start with a couple of pages of different coloured paper with a summary paragraph and a complete list of all chapters so you know where you are in the context of the book as a whole. The chapters contain all you need to get going on the subject, plus recipes. The chapters necessarily vary considerably so I've chosen Casserole-roasting as a random example. The introductory text explains what this is and why it is used, followed by "Keys to success". This self-explanatory section is available in all relevant chapters and is one of the main reasons this book is so invaluable to experienced cooks. It summarises the things you may forget, and many you never knew. Then come the recipes. There are just six of these in this chapter, carefully chosen to highlight different ingredients and build awareness of how these can be used. The instructions are detailed and are littered with advice on coping with "situations" that may spoil the dish. Each recipe concludes with serving suggestions and cross-references where appropriate.
Some may think the number of recipes inadequate. If you are just starting out in cooking, you will certainly need more recipes. If this applies to you, I suggest you make this book your "Bible" for techniques and all matters to do with choosing and preparing food. For recipes, and lots more very sound advice and ideas, you need go no further than Ballymaloe Cookery Course by O'Connell's sister Darina Allen. The book has hundreds of recipes and variants and is organised using material from the famous Ballymaloe Course. Just these two books will get your cooking off to a flying start. On the Web, in particular, but also in many cookbooks, there are thousands of rotten recipes that could never work as described. As you build experience and know-how you will learn to recognise the duds and either ditch them or devise ways to make them work properly. This book oozes confidence and competence on every page. I expect to be cooking from it, referring to it, and simply enjoying reading it, for decades to come. It will do the same for you.