Reviews - What do customers think about The Cook's Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen?
A must have reference for cooking May 23, 2008
As the other reviewers have stated, this book covers almost anything a novice to serious homecook would want to see in a cookbook. From abalone to zabalione, it has the antedotes, stories, history, and backgrounds.
The book does slant towards (urban) Australian cooking since Alexander is Australian. Simply put, if you put aside the concept of Steve Irwin or Paul "Dundee" Holgan crocodile and kangaroo, and certainly Outback Steakhouse tongue-in-cheek dishes, the true picture of early 21st century Australian cooking is not terribly far from starting with British cooking with a hefty dose of Italian and Greek first, then Chinese, Japanese, and the Southeast Asian/ASEAN except the Philippines and Burma, cuisines thrown into the mix, and Turkish and Lebanan cooking acting as cameo appearances. All these will probably not shock much of modern American palates except Southeast Asian tastes may crop up more frequently than what you are used to, even to those who are used to Californian dining.
The book does teach basics like how to make a roast for the first time, although I would recommend a techniques/"How to Cook" type cookbook as a tutorial to it since Alexander assumes at least a little cooking knowledge.
A highly recommended book for cooking basics, and those who want to have an Australian-based cooking.
PS It must be noted cooking in New Zealand is a little different from neighbouring Australia, although there are trickle-down effects from Australian food across the Tasman. For instance, there is less direct Asian influence in NZ cooking due to lesser number of Southeast Asian international students studying in this country. We use less lemongrass, we still stick to more British cooking. There is also an absence of much Lebanan influences due to the migrants' tiny numbers. There is more Pacific influences such as taro and coconut in some urban dishes. So this book may give a good approximation but not a completely picture of NZ cuisine.
Maybe the Best Cookbook of All May 14, 2008
It's a big claim, but this might be the greatest cookbook ever published.
The crowning piece of the author's long and distinguished career, it is utterly comprehensive, authoritative and, befitting its title, friendly and companionable.
Alexander begins with a general introduction followed by thorough sections on equipment and basic ingredients, preparations and techniques.
Then follows the main body of the work, which runs to more than 1100 pages without ever seeming too long or even too heavy. Well over a hundred ingredients, starting with abalone and ending with zucchini and squash, are covered. She begins with introductory remarks, which often venture into history and folklore, sometimes spiced with appropriate literary quotations. Each entry has useful notes on varieties and seasons [although here adjustments will need to be made for northern hemisphere readers] on selection and storage and on preparation and cooking.
Then come the recipes. Each ingredient is given at least two or three recipes, the more significant might have a dozen or so, with cross references to maybe as many more elsewhere in the book.
This is a book to lose yourself in, to seek inspiration in, to answer any of a hundred and one questions.
No serious cook deserves to be without this.
An awesome companion in the kitchen Apr 18, 2008
I don't know a lot about the kitchen and cooking, so I felt that this book was a great way to start. It taught me so much about cooking and more importantly, it explained a lot of things about ingredients and how to prepare them. It was VERY informative, especially for beginners. I highly recommend this book, even if you are not from Australia.
Precise and comprehensive Apr 12, 2008
Have gone through all but 80% of the recipes in the book. The most impressive thing is the simple instructions and advice, which are always precise and helpful. How other cooks can spend pages on the instructions is beyond me, it's a cook book, not a novel. Probably should drop a star for the amount of offal recipes, but having tried it SOME are not too bad, but not rushing to try them again, e.g. pigs trotters. But this is another positive point to the book, the comprehensive range of ingredients used and the they way they can be cooked, ensures there is a number of recipes to meet everyones tastes and cooking styles.
Outstanding! Aug 31, 2007
I use this book all the time. It covers all the basics such as stocks and sauces as well as giving you ideas for how to use just about any ingredient you might have in your kitchen.
The book is organised alphabetically by main ingredient and there is also a comprehensive, user-friendly index.
Every recipe I have made from this book has been successful. This book helped me make great potato gnocchi for the first time ever (and I've tried many other recipes).