Newest Review: ... your own stock, although I can't say I've ever had the time or inclination to do this when the likes of Oxo and Knorr do such a good time... more
A monster of a cook book!
The Cook's Book - Marcus Wareing
Member Name: Holland1
The Cook's Book - Marcus Wareing
Advantages: Good value for money, well presented, lots of hints and tips, food from round the world
Disadvantages: Some disappointing chapters, notably Chinese and Mexican cooking
This is another cookery book which was donated to me by my mum during a recent clear out. It is a beautifully presented book containing step-by-step techniques and recipes by some of the world's top chefs. Examples of contributors are Ken Hom, Shaun Hill and Marcus Wareing.
The first thing to note about this book is that it is MASSIVE! It comes in hardback and is over 600 pages long. Although this means you're getting excellent value for money with this book, it does make it a bit cumbersome to take off your shelf so you might find it not becoming one of your favourites for this reason. It's quite heavy to lift so some people might struggle to use this at all. It also takes up a lot of room on your worktop if you're following a recipe, because it's far too big to fit in a bookstand.
Anyway, now the moaning's over...! The book costs around £20 on the likes of Amazon, although the inside cover gives RRP of £30. I'm fairly certain my parents would have picked this up from a discount store or charity shop, as this is where I get my bargain-hunting gene from!
On flicking through this book, you will be amazed by the number of recipes and techniques contained within. It also contains some excellent photographs which inspire you to try certain recipes. I think this book would make a really good present for a keen cook because if you couldn't afford many celebrity cookery books, this one would keep you entertained for a while.
The start of the book introduces the many chefs who have contributed, and if I'm honest I only recognise a few of these despite being a huge fan of cookery programmes and books.
The book is split into the following sections:
· Sauces & Dressings
This includes basic sauce-making recipes and thickening techniques. Examples of recipes are hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce. It gives good tips for making sauces using a blender if you are short on time, and hints on things like rescuing curdled mayonnaise. There are also step-by-step instructions and diagrams.
This is a rather unusual chapter and not something I've got round to trying yet. It includes things like mousses (desserts) and slightly 'cheffy' things like mayonnaise foam with asparagus. Unless you've got a lot of time on your hands or you're hosting a party and really want to impress, you probably won't get much use out of this section.
· Stocks and Soups
This contains standard information on how to make your own stock, although I can't say I've ever had the time or inclination to do this when the likes of Oxo and Knorr do such a good timesaving alternative!
This is quite a varied section including some advice and some recipes such as salsa verde and green herb oil. Most of the stuff in this section is quite specialised and mainly for using to marinate meat and fish.
· Latin American Cooking
This is a strange chapter with recipes for food I've never even heard of! Recipes include conch salad, hallacas and mojo-marinated chicken with congri & plantains. This is a chapter for when you're feeling adventurous and in the mood for trying something new.
· Eggs & Dairy Produce
This chapter ranges from basic preparation of eggs such as whisking, folding egg whites and poaching eggs, to recipes involving eggs such as bittersweet chocolate mousse. It also involves meals such as potato and celeriac gratin. This is a great chapter if you ever find yourself with an excess of eggs and you're looking for a new way to use them!
· Fish & Shellfish
This is of little interest to me because although I do like some fish, I refuse to put myself through the gory process of preparing fish so I rarely cook it myself. This chapter tells you all about how to cut the fish, and has some detailed (i.e. grutesque!) pictures. If you're the kind of person who has always wanted to cook crab but were never sure how to prepare it, this is the book for you.
· Japanese Cooking
As the name suggests, this chapter contains recipes for Japanese dishes such as prawn tempura with beer, and sushi. Some of the ingredients in this section are quite specialised, such as star anise, umeshu (plum liqueur) and japonica rice, but this would be good for a themed dinner party or special occasion.
· Poultry & Game Birds
The best bit about this chapter is that it gives some good info on jointing birds and tips on doing a roast dinner. The actual recipes aren't that useful to me personally because I'm quite boring when it comes to poultry and tend to stick to chicken, whereas these recipes are for things like pheasant and goose.
· Indian Cooking
This is a very useful chapter for anyone who fancies cooking Indian dishes from scratch. It includes well known dishes such as onion bhajis, raita and tadka dahl, and lesser known dishes such as meen molee (poached fish in sauce). There are also general tips on how to make coconut curry sauce and marinating spices, which is good for applying to other Indian dishes.
There are some excellent recipes in this section, in fact it's probably the chapter I've used most. It also has good instructions and diagrams for things like how to bone a joint of meat and boiling and steaming meat. There is also a fantastic recipe for Guinness gravy.
· Chinese Cooking
This chapter is written by Ken Hom, and is relatively short compared to some other sections. It has a couple of good side dishes but nothing I'd bother cooking for a main course though which is disappointing as I love Chinese food.
This chapter takes us through the different types of vegetables, but rather than giving recipes it tells us about slicing and preparing each kind of vegetable, and things like how to pod peas, rehydrate dried mushrooms, and skinning, seeding and chopping tomatoes. The recipes in this section are quite basic, for example roasted root vegetables.
· Pasta & Dumplings
I don't know anyone who has enough time or passion in cooking to cook fresh pasta from scratch, but there are recipes in here for doing so. There are thankfully some normal recipes which you can use shop-bought pasta for, such as fettuccine with sweetcorn and gorgonzola cream. I have actually made this and it is stunning. Other recipes include dumplings and gnocchi.
· Asian Noodles & Dumplings
This is good for using up noodles as whenever I buy noodles I'm not too sure what to do with them! It has basic dishes such as seasame chicken and noodle salad, but also gets quite adventurous with things like noodle-wrapped tiger prawns.
· Thai Cooking
This is a very short chapter and not one I've used although it does have some generic recipes such as green curry paste.
· Grains and Pulses
This is mainly rice-based dishes such as paella and risotto, but also includes a section on wheat and couscous. I have made the Boston baked beans from this section and they were absolutely gorgeous.
· Breads & Batters
This chapter contains everything you need to know about baking bread, pizza bases and batters such as Yorkshire puddings.
· Mexican Cooking
This was the most disappointing chapter for me because I love Mexican food, but this section didn't contain any recipes that appealed to me. I was hoping it would tell me how to make fajita spice mix and guacamole from scratch, but it had more random dishes such as braised pork in red chilli sauce and courgette flower-filled masa boats (what?!). It's also one of the shortest chapters.
· Pastry & Sweet Doughs
As you'd expect, this chapter tells you how to make both sweet and savoury pastry, and also includes recipes for classic dishes such as tarte au citron, croissants and biscuits. It also tells you how to make choux pastry and brioche.
· Middle Eastern Cooking
This chapter had lots of food I've never heard of, such as pigeon bisteeya and none of the recipes in this section appealed to me. Luckily it's a very short chapter.
The best part of this section is the different flavours of ice cream, including mint, caramel, and almond. There's also instructions for making meringue, and some dark chocolate truffles. This is the section to use when you're having a dinner party and want to impress.
There are lots of different types of cakes here from cheesecake to basic sponges, muffins to doughnuts.
· Fruit & Nuts
I've never really looked at this section before because to me, caramelising a pear isn't cooking! I've just noticed there's a very nice looking banana mousse in here though, and a summer pudding which looks quite nice. There's the usual hints and tips on using things like gelatin.
This is a brilliant book containing food from around the world and caters to all skill levels. There are a few sections I'll probably never use, but overall most of the content is useful and it contains so much more than just recipes. If you're ever wondering how to bone a lamb joint, prepare a fish, or roll sushi, this book contains step-by-step instructions and pictures for almost everything you could imagine needing to do in the kitchen.
The thing I like about this book is that it has step-by-step pictures without feeling like you're being patronised. It is suitable for beginners as it contains all the basics on things like thickening sauces and the best way to slice vegetables, but it also has lots of ideas that will satisfy the more competent cook, for example sushi. This book is suitable for everyday cooking, and for producing a show-stopping meal for a special occasion. If you haven't got much room or cash to buy lots of cookbooks, this one provides everything you need in one big book, and it also makes a great gift.
Summary: A great investment!
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