The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander
This enormous volume, at 1126 pages, is a comprehensive resource for all Australian cooks. It was first published in 1996, revised in 2004, and contains a wealth of information on ingredients and how they can be used in recipes. It is ideal for someone new to the kitchen for the first time.
Alexander has been cooking for a long time and is dedicated to his profession. In the introduction to her book, she outlines her views on food, including the production of food by economically sustainable methods, the use of fresh food, genetically modified food and the concept of food production. and sharing food as a family.
At the beginning of the book there is a list of utensils with a definition and a brief explanation of how each is used. It contains many useful tips for buying each item, for example it is recommended that you do not buy the pans in a set as it is rare that all sizes are needed and goes on to suggest which ones could be bought as that starter set. This type of information is invaluable for someone embarking on the adventure of cooking on a budget.
This is followed by a fairly lengthy section called “the basics” in which are definitions of some of the less familiar ingredients and terms found in the book as well as frequently used preparations such as broth, batter and batter. After that, a very useful section related to measurements, quantities and conversions has been included because Alexander understands that there are occasions when certain recipes, such as bread, cookies, cakes and pastries, require more great precision and new cooks need guidance to feel more comfortable. when cooking. At the same time, she encourages cooks to be adventurous and test by tasting.
The rest of the book is devoted to chapters, organized alphabetically, each based on an ingredient starting with abalone and ending with zucchini and squash. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction usually including a personal commentary on the author’s experience with that particular ingredient, followed by a general account of where the product fits in the Australian situation. We discover the varieties and the season, the selection and the conservation, the preparation and the cooking, then we are offered a selection of recipes featuring the ingredient. Along the side of each page is provided more useful ancillary information such as how recipes can be modified by adding other ingredients. At the end of each chapter is a list of recipes where the ingredient used in other chapters. For example, in the “eggs” chapter, there is a reference to “potato frittata” in the “potatoes” chapter.
Alexander considers this book to be worthwhile if it encourages young people to start cooking and experienced cooks to enjoy cooking more. It is certainly a very comprehensive volume which reflects his enthusiasm for food and cooking and which any cook, old or new, can rely on and find inspiration.