Cookbooks for Beginners
I’ve always loved cookbooks. To be fair, I now trawl them more for ideas and techniques rather than make a whole recipe as written, but I find them endlessly fascinating. That’s why I was quite excited when my esteemed mother in law handed me The Cook’s Apprentice. I own and worship the bible of Australian kitchens, The Cooks Companion. It is more reference guide than collection of recipes, I doubt I’ve read every page, but before google, the EpiCurious YouTube channel and Tasty FB videos, it was essential if I wanted to know something or test something or look something up.
I was super keen to see what Stephanie Alexander had done for the novice cook. Back when I thought cooking was packet stroganoff mix and some mashed potato (to be fair it was always X + mashed potato), I was right into The Naked Chef, and I was gifted his first cookbook. For a novice it was brilliant, simple, fresh, easy recipes that didn’t need a heap of gear to cook, which was good, because our share house had more scotch glasses than frying pans. I was hoping The Cooks Apprentice would be like the reference version of that, something to give to a young person fresh out of home interested in cooking for themselves, full of pared down recipes, simple gear and hacks that give you impressive results with bugger all effort. Uhhh no.
My heart sank when I read the very first two pages of ‘essential gear’. Two pages. TWO PAGES OF ESSENTIAL GEAR WHAT IS THIS MADNESS. Multiple frypans, obscure bits of kit I still don’t own, heavy duty ceramic bakeware, it would’ve cost you a couple of grand easy to buy everything on the list. it was a disaster zone and things were not going to get better. I flipped through the book, stopping on random recipes for things I knew well. Mayonnaise was about 22 instructions longer than it needed to be, most people would have given up just looking at all the steps. Bechamel sauce was bafflingly complicated. I was genuinely crestfallen. This book would do the complete opposite of what it was intended to, it was for some rich kid who’d been cooking with a ten thousand dollar oven and Le Cresuet cookware, not a thirty buck Aldi French pan and electric stove with only one good element.
So I’m going to do it myself. Here of course, no one is silly enough to get me to write a book. I’ll list what I think is the essential gear and what you do with it, The things I love so much I have them wrapped up in a knife roll rattling about the back of the Ute on the off chance someone asks me to cook in their kitchen. The recipes I’ve read and been taught and found that are quick and foolproof. The little things that make a home cooked meal worth doing. I might even ask a few mates to pitch in, because let’s face it, everything in the kitchen is a remix and all my ideas are far from original. Feel free to send me yours so I can steal those too.
In the end it’s about enjoying cooking and when you start out, you don’t need to be intimidated, you need a few things you can do well and taste awesome, so let’s do that.