The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander: Cookbook review

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The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander HeartHeartHeart
Cookbook

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander is one of those truly great cookbooks that rank alongside The Joy of Cooking and La Bonne Cuisine.
Many people write about food, but there are few true food writers. Only a handful combine a deep understanding of and appreciation for food and at the same time are able to convey a clear and concise message. Stephanie Alexander is one such writer.
After running a succession of highly acclaimed restaurants in Melbourne, Stephanie Alexander gradually moved into food communication, writing a classic cookbook and making personal and media appearances to spread her messages about the importance of food and wine in daily life.
First published in 1996, The Cook's Companion has recently been revised, rewritten and re-released.
The book is arranged in encyclopaedia format - that is, by alphabetical order of products rather than the more traditional soup, main course, dessert format.
This allows the author to explore the characteristics and uses of each product in much more detail than by using the more traditional approach.
In keeping with the absolute detail that is a hallmark of this production there is even a section on measurements (metric is used throughout) that runs to six pages so that cooks who use older forms of measurement will be able to easily convert.
All of the recipes have been meticulously researched and carefully tested to ensure that they work in the home kitchen. It is difficult to single out particular recipes because there are just so many of them and they all work so well - however we do have some favourites.
Consider the section on bread which appears early in the book. For many years, Stephanie's restaurant would serve the delightful Sabrina's breadsticks. The recipe, which is very simple, is included here so that you can enjoy them at home. One of the tricks that Stephanie emphasises is to spray the oven liberally with water to ensure that a really good crust forms. The bread section also includes her famous recipes for Queen of Puddings (a custard-style pudding topped with jam and meringue) and the ever-popular bread and butter pudding. Also included is a great recipe for the lovely Tuscan salad called Panzanella. A ‘margin recipe' instructs readers on the art of making brown bread ice cream.
The book covers a wide range of cuisines and is especially strong on French, Italian, Asian and Middle Eastern fare. Vegetables and fruit are treated with the same seriousness as meat and fish. Herbs are treated seriously as well -- not just as a support act.
We can unreservedly recommend it.
 
     
   
     


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