from one generation to the next
A few weeks ago Chef Mimi published a post telling us about her favourite cookbooks.” Fae’s Twist and Tango” and a “Pug in the Kitchen” followed on with their lists, so I thought I’d contribute my own list to the discussion.
I’ve had a huge issue deciding which books from my large collection are worthy of mention. One thing that became evident in my first draft of this post was that I had two distinct groups of books.
Firstly there is a group of classic books from which I learned about tradition and technique. They vary in age from 40 years to just a few months old. The recipes are simple and seasonal, use basic techniques and ingredients, and focus on household cuisine. The second group is a collection of books that have a modern professional approach to highly crafted food, high quality restaurant food.
The other rather strange observation I made about my cookbook favourites was that every “old” book had a more modern day counterpart.
The very first recipe book I owned was an engagement present. Four decades ago, my aunt and uncle gave me “The Complete Margaret Fulton Cookbook” and to my intended, they gave a can opener! I learned to cook food my mother never made from that book, my husband, he learned to eat well! To those of you outside Australia or aged under forty, Margaret Fulton was THE foodie we all turned to. She was the first Australian of the modern genre of cookbook writers. She introduced us to well cooked, simple tasty food at a time when most Australian dinners comprised over cooked meat and three veg reduced to mush. Her food was new and exciting, used ingredients that were easy to procure and her recipes were reliable.
Australian brides since 2004 have been asking for a copy of Stephanie Alexander’s revised “Cook’s Companion,” a monumental work of 1100 pages based around 90 core ingredients, and including every kitchen basic recipe you are likely to need. Beside the clear and concise recipes, there is advice about choosing ingredients and resolving technical issues. My favourite feature is a side bar on each page with a list of complementary flavours and quick ideas incorporating the focus ingredient. This book is absolutely indispensible!
A Melbourne girl is documenting her cooking journey through this book in the style of “Julie & Julia.” Visit her blog here to follow our local Juile’s journey through the Cook’s Companion.
You’ll never be stumped for an idea if you have a copy of “The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery” by Escoffier. This tome was compiled by the legendary Auguste Escoffier during a culinary career beginning in the mid to late 1800s and ending only with his death in the 1930s. While this is a book full of recipes, there are no quantities, no glossy photos. Each entry is merely a list of ingredients with a method outline to set you on the path to make classic French food.
In the late 1970s, “The Australian Women’s Weekly” magazine began publishing soft back compilations of their recipes illustrated with glossy photos, a practice they continue today. I regularly go to the baking books from the original series, “Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits” and “Cakes & Slices” for home style treats.
“The Cake Bible” by Rose Levy Beerenbaum (1988) solves every cake baking disaster you have ever experienced! She analysed her baking results with microscopic diligence and resolved each issue with equal attention to detail. The recipes in her book range from lunchbox style loaves to grand occasion gateaux. Beginners may find Rose’s approach a little technical, but I no longer see cake baking as a hit and miss experience, its more like alchemy!
“Bread and Yeast Cookery” (1977)by Elizabeth David, a Penguin paperback without illustrations, is a social history and technical guide to cooking with yeast. The pages abound with reliable recipes for yeast leavened baked goods. The blue cheese tart with a yeast crust is nothing short of sensational!
“The Italian Baker” by Carol Field (1985) is a comprehensive guide to making rustic Italian breads, pizzas, cakes, tarts, and biscotti.The recipes are simple, delicious and foolproof.