I’ve become a great fan of the cooking column in the Guardian by Felicity Cloake @FelicityCloake . The Column, usually titled ‘How to cook the perfect’, sets about deconstructing the recipe world by picking the eyes out of well known recipes and professional cooks and presenting the ideal version of a dish. The recipes are generally favorites and often comfort foods.
This got me thinking. FC is promoting perfect recipes but what about perfect recipe books. So what constitutes the perfect recipe book? By perfect recipe book I mean the one that best allow the home cook to reproduce the recipe at hand.
Cook books vary quite a lot…some are just text (Elizabeth David for example) and others are masterpieces of photography (see Moderniste Cuisine)…..others are over glorified Women’s Weeklies (see Donna Hay).
For me the most perfect, but not the perfect, recipe book is Ferran Adria’s Th Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria http://www.amazon.com/The-Family-Meal-Cooking-Ferran/dp/B00CF5WL0A . Ferran Adria ran the world’s foremost restaurant and the restaurant associated with molecular gastronomy. But this cookbook is about what he fed his stafff…honest to goodness home cooking. And why is it great and not just good?
The recipes are laid out with specific of the ingredients and quantities, indeed there are photographs of the ingredients standing alone, the progress of he recipe and the final product….pictures are a must. This cookbook also provides instructions for different quantities: numbers of portions are specified but you could simplify and say couple, family and banquet but most importantly it specifies a minimum quantity. When I cook I sometimes need to cook for two and sometimes more…it helps to convert the quantitites.
My second most favorite purveyor of recipes is Jamie Oliver….and not because of his overuse of adjectives. His recipes almost always are distilled to the simplest version, they are adaptable and they include (in the back of the book) nutritional information like calories, etc. I don’t care if what you are making is mussel infused seaside smoke….in 2014 the calories count.
A pet hate of mine is in-exact amounts. What the heck is a ‘bunch’ or a ‘pinch’. Let’s use quantities and metric ones at that.
So in conclusion: lots of photographs, accurate quantitities, calorie counts, step-by-step instructions….then it will be perfect