About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, July 27, 2007
Desert Island Cookbook
A Rick Stein cookbook lay idly on the couch from when I had used it for a recipe for a recent dinner party. My wife D picked it up and leafed through it, as she did so, I mentioned that the reason I bought the book was for one particular recipe, salt pork with lentils, a variation of garbure that took my fancy when watching the television series. This comment must have injured D's sensibilities, for she replied that we should cook every single recipe in the book.

Somewhat aghast, I replied that probably wasn't such a great idea and perhaps she should have a good look at all the recipes, which she did and suddenly realized not only the enormity of it but also the impracticability. The simple truth is, all cookbooks contain recipes that one would never really contemplate for whatever reason - the ingredients aren't to your liking or are much to difficult or expensive to obtain and so on.

There are cookbooks of mine that seemed a good idea at the time, but which subsequently have hardly been used at all; Stephanie Alexander's first two books, Stephanie's Menus for Food Lovers and Stephanie's Feasts and Stories for example, were two books that I rushed to buy but hardly cooked anything out of and remain curiosities on my shelf. Does any home cook sew tripe into a small pouch then stuff it? Literally, not metaphorically. However, her epic tome The Cook's Companion, Stephanie's reply to The Joy of Cooking, is an indispensable reference book that I turn to time and again.

All this got me thinking about which cookbook is the one I turn to most, my desert island cookbook if you will. The answer came quite quickly, for there is one book that is always down from the shelf in my hands and that is the Roux brother's French Country Cooking. A count revealed that some twenty-five recipes have been attempted from its pages, with two getting a rerun this very weekend. There are more recipes that I would like to try, but that may mean the end of my marriage, what the hell is wrong with snails and frog's legs anyway?!!!

It is this book I will be taking to my daughter P's house to show her how to make a quiche Lorraine after she requested it and also that I teach her to cook like me, which was quite the compliment. There is a large box of TimeLife, The Good Cook series that I'm saving for her which would go some way to helping her understand something of the culinary arts and I will also include a copy of French Country Cooking as well, for there is something in there that encapsulates the way I like to cook, snails and all.

Okay, I've shown you mine, what's your favourite cookbook, the one that you turn to all the time?
  posted at 8:10 am

At 1:17 pm, Blogger Lydia said...

Great question, Neil. At various times, my desert island cookbook has been the Silver Palate, Joy of Cooking, and the Nantucket Open House Cookbook. These days I'm more likely to turn to a book to introduce me to a cuisine with which I'm unfamiliar, like Cuban or traditional Mexican, or Thai. But if I were marooned on an island and could only save one book from my drowning boat, I think Silver Palate would still be my choice.

At 1:44 pm, Blogger Kathryn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:46 pm, Anonymous kathryn said...

The book I continually return to is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I have a few of her books, but this is my favourite. No pictures, but the book offers up over 600 different recipes, from around the globe.

I think Madhur is one of the best recipe writers around - her recipes simply always, always work. Plus sprinkled in amongst the recipes are anecodotes about other cooks, her family and food traditions.

It's definitely my most used cookery book - you can tell by all the splatter and well thumbed pages!

At 10:07 pm, Anonymous Stephanie said...

Here's a blog for you Neil... called the French Laundry at Home (http://carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/) ... an American woman attempting to cook every recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook ... perhaps you should meet the challenge with Stephanie's Menus for Food Lovers and attempt to cook it from cover to cover?!
And man... what a selection of wines for your birthday. Happy birthday!

At 2:13 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Not a fair question Neil, maybe a good question but not a fair question.
I can tell you that when we sailed across the Atlantic, I didn't take any cookbook with me. What I took with me was this computer loaded with a lot of recipes I'd copied out of a lot of different books and had on our menu to cook.
How could you possibly pick ONE book - I change my ideas everyday.
My favorite cookbook - I guess that's why I have so many, I'm looking for it.
By the way, the link for French Laundry at Home is really interesting.

At 5:52 am, Blogger gigi said...

Not surprisingly, I haven't got a favorite cookbook; just several notebooks into which I've pasted recipes cut from the pages of the LA Times. This way, I know I'm at least a little intrigued by each and every one. All are relatively simple for a non-chef like me, and all have pictures. (I must have pictures ~ you'd be amazed at how often I've misinterpreted the simplest of instructions, and created piles of unrecognizable...mush) :D

A while ago I read a story about a woman who cooked her way, cover to cover, through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I think it took about a year. And of course, she wrote a book about it.

At 7:55 am, Blogger Nerissa said...

I think I'm with halfcups on this. My favourite changes every day and I'm still looking for mine.
I enjoy my Moosewood books but they are only well-used from a lot of time as a pesco-vegetarian. I only 'came out' as a full omnivore last summer. So there's LOTS of stuff I still need to explore.

btw: I can't answer for snails (yet) but frog legs are fine. Kind of a mix of white fish and whitemeat poultry. With just butter salt and pepper, they're quite edible.

At 5:39 pm, Blogger Amy said...

Living in a different part of the world to my bookshelf full of cookbooks, it makes it kind of difficult to pick only one - and I'm very indecisive as well. I'd be inclined to suggest the internet as my favourite cookbook...

but when forced to choose, at the moment it would have to be Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Which is most unfortunate, as the idea of using my oven at the moment would be my own private hell.

At 12:13 pm, Anonymous Ellie said...

Oh dear, a tripe bag?? Sounds...interesting! Now that you mention it, I think I've only tried two recipes from A Cook's Companion...nothing against Stephanie, but after I tried her lemon tart and hated the results, I just haven't gone back to her. If anything, my tome these days is 'A Cook's Book' - a lot of the recipes aren't ones that I'd ever try, but there are just as many ones that I've marked to be tried this year and I'm slowly working through them :)

At 2:05 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, I've never heard of the silver palate, but I will keep an eye out for it, anything you recommend always turns out great.

Hi kathryn, I love a cookbook with stories, especially when the recipes always work, that's a rare thing.

Hi stephanie, oh please, could I choose another book?!!! And I felt bad for you with those brussel sprouts too. The wines were pretty good, ordinarily I would have kept that lot to myself rather than blog it, but I wanted to talk about them.

Hi tanna, sounds like a really neat idea, sort of a recipe ipod. Was there a book that had more entries than the others?

Hi gigi, I should pay more attention and pasted my cut-out recipes somewhere, a few have gone missing over the years. I like picture too, perhaps I should pay more attention to my blog!!!

Hi nerissa, welcome to the omnivore world! I love both snails and frog's legs but D won't stand for it, what are you gunna do?

Hi amy, sounds hot where you are and being a domestic goddess sounds kind of neat too. Nice point about the internet.

Hi ellie, I've never for one second wanted to do it, even though i love tripe. I haven't see A Cook's Book, will definitely check it out. The best lemon tart recipe I've ever tried is Marco Pierre White's version in White Heat, it's the essence of lemons.

At 11:10 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

Good question... and so true that one buys books that sometimes turn out to be dust-gathering curiosities on the shelf! The book that most often ispires me is Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries. The book to which I would most often turn for getting the basics right is a South African classic - "Kook en Geniet" (Cook and Enjoy in Afrikaans). But like a previous commenter, the book to whith the best-thumbed pages is a book full of handwritten or pasted-in recipes that I have collected from friends, family, magazines and the back of tins/packets. A treasure!


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