Cooking with books

I like to cook. Mostly it’s because I like to eat. But there’s also a level of creativity involved — modifying existing recipes and sometimes just making something up from the ingredients you have on hand. Of course, a good cookbook is an indispensible tool. So today I present for your edification, the first in a series of posts about my favourite cookbooks.

As a stay-at-home dad, with a wife who works full-time, I tend to do most of the weekday cooking. I’m also endeavouring to maintain a writing career at the same time, so meal preparations are often rather rushed. Meals that are relatively easy to prepare, but are also tasty and interesting, are a must. For this reason, my most used cookbook is Meals in Minutes, which is from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks range. Although I have adapted each of these in some way, my most often used recipes from this book include “Warm chicken and potato salad”, “Spaghetti with prawns, coriander and peanuts”, “Asparagus and chicken Risotto”, “Risotto Marinara” and “Risotto Napolentana”.

Next in line are two books for the Murdock Books range of cookbooks — Fast Food: quick and easy everyday ideas for cooks in a hurry and Bowl Food: the new comfort food for people on the move. Lots of great recipes in these, including “Roast pumpkin, feta and rocket penne” (which also works really well with baby spinach substituted for the rocket), “Chicken and cider stew with apple and potato mash” and “Pumpkin Risotto” (this recipe uses roast pumpkin — it is my favourite risotto recipe).

Now, of course, not all my cooking has to be quick and easy. On the weekends and holidays, I don’t mind spending a little extra time to make something special. This leads me to four cookbooks…

The first is Gabriel Gaté’s Weekend on a Plate. I have a soft spot of Gaté and his cooking. He is the first celebrity chef I ever watched on television (a show called What’s Cooking), and a number of years ago I was able to attend an event for which he cooked some sample meals. I got to meet him at this event and have a short chat about cooking, as well as getting his autograph in my copy of his book. You can check out Gaté’s website here —

Next, we have Terry Durack’s Yum. Part memoir, part recipe book, it is mostly text, designed with minimal artsy black and white photos instead of the standard food-on-plate shots that accompany recipes in most cookbooks. Even if you never cook one of it’s recipes, it would make an interesting coffee table book.

“It was the slipper, silky, mother’s nightie feel of it that got me at first; a reassuring and arousing smoothness of impossibly luxurious proportions.”

In this opening sentence, Durack is describing his first encounter with a smoked oyster at age six. His experiences then lead into the recipes.

Now we come to Tuscan Cookbook by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer. Another recipe book that could double as a coffee table book, with its beautiful photography and memoirs of a journey to Tuscany by these two foodie ladies. I’m rather partial to a good bread and butter pudding… and there’s a real stunner in this book.

Finally, we have Recipes of Japanese Cooking, which, according to the cover, was “Supervised by Yuko Fujita and Navi International”. This book was a gift from a friend living in Japan, and each recipe is written in both Japanese and English. It also includes information on the culture, traditions and etiquette of food in Japan. I can highly recommend the “Sukiyaki”.

As I said at the start, I like cooking. And these few books barely scratch the surface of my cookbook collection. So tune in next time as I delve into some of my more unusual ones.

And if you have a favourite cookbook, or foodie book, leave a comment and tell us about it.

Catch ya later,  George

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Published by

George Ivanoff

LITERARY CLUTTER: Bookish bloggings from the cluttered mind and bookshelf of Melbourne author, George Ivanoff. George is the author of the YOU CHOOSE books, the OTHER WORLDS series, the RFDS Adventures and the GAMERS trilogy.