Recipes are often intimidating to a beginning cook, causing many people to eat frequently in restaurants rather than to attempt making meals in their own kitchens. However, by following the step-by-step directions and accompanying color photographs in “What to Cook & How to Cook It,” anyone can learn to make 100 tried-and-tested recipes and master useful cooking techniques in the process.
“What to Cook & How to Cook It” by Jane Hornby was published in 2010, and is new on the shelf at my library. It is a hefty, very large cookbook that was methodically planned and compiled by an experienced food writer who trained as a chef. Hornby has also worked as an editor and recipe tester on bestselling food magazines and cookbooks.
Hornby has taken great care to write out each recipe in “What to Cook & How to Cook It” in detailed steps, and then has provided color photographs, numbered to match the particular step in the directions that it illustrates. The photographs aren’t made fancy by a food stylist, but show items in bowls, on cutting boards, or in cooking utensils illustrating exactly how foods look at each step of the cooking process. The prepared food item has also been photographed, whether in a casserole or on a serving dish – only a serving fork or spoon embellishes the dish.
There is an excellent balance of recipes in “What to Cook & How to Cook It” from bland to spicy and rather ordinary to a bit fancy, all of which are very practical and easy to master while teaching a variety of cooking techniques. The contents of the book are divided into these sections:
breakfast & brunch
food for sharing
desserts & baking
Also: planning a menu; glossary; basic preparations; index.
More experienced cooks will also master helpful cooking techniques through the use of this volume. I liked the well-defined steps for making a Hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict and the easy way to make breaded fish and home-made tartar sauce.
Recipes in “What to Cook & How to Cook It” that caught my attention were: Salmon with Garlic, Ginger, Greens & Rice; Stuffed Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula; Shrimp Pad Thai; Sticky Barbeque Ribs; Roast Chicken with Lemon & Leek Stuffing; Beef Stew with Herb Dumplings; Crab Cakes with Herb Vinaigrette; Roast Pork with Caramelized Apples; Maple-Roast Winter Vegetables; Key Lime Pie; Butterscotch Banana Bread, and Chocolate Truffle Cake.
If there is a disadvantage to “What to Cook & How to Cook It,” it might be the weight and size. This isn’t a book that you hold in one hand while you stir with the other – it requires some counter space while you cook, as well as shelf space for storage among your other cookbooks. It weighs approximately 4 pounds, measures 9″ x 11″ and is 1 3/4″ thick. It appears to be well-bound, and will lay reasonably flat when opened for recipes in the middle half of the book, but must be propped open in some way for following the directions of the recipes at the beginning or back of the book.
Any bride receiving this as a bridal shower gift (or her groom) will find “What to Cook & How to Cook It” to be extremely helpful for mastering the art of cooking while preparing foods for all occasions. It would also be instructional for college students who have some cooking facilities available to them.
I believe “What to Cook & How to Cook It” is destined to be a useful “cooking course” cookbook that will prove very useful to beginning cooks and also to more experienced cooks wanting to learn better techniques. This volume warrants shelf space in a home library of cookbooks and can later be passed down to yet another novice cook at an appropriate time.
To read reviews and see sample pages of “What to Cook & How to Cook It” on amazon.com, click here.
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Hornby, Jane, What to Cook & How to Cook It, New York, NY, Phaidon Press Inc., 2010.