Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cookbook: Stephanie Alexander

Since I've been inspired by recipes from this cookbook I thought I should write a little something about it.

Stephanie Alexander
The Cook's Companion

Stephanie Alexander
The Cook's Companion (Revised/2nd Edition)

Stephanie Alexander has been on the food scene here in Melbourne since she opened her first restaurant "Jamaica House" in 1964. This eventually lead to her self-titled establishment "Stephanie's Restaurant" where her reputation was firmly established. An acclaimed venue for fine dining it remained a fixture at the top end of most food guides until it closed in 1997.

By the time I dined at her restaurant I found it not worthy of the hype - somewhat dated concepts and presentations and some of the worse coffee I've ever been served! Though that shouldn't dismiss her impact on the restaurant industry - many fine cutting edge chefs were channeled through her kitchen, people like Geoff Lindsey of Pearl and Cath Claringbold of Mecca, even Sydney's Tony Bilson first worked at the original Jamaica House.

The first cookbook came in at 816 pages and in it's excellent organisation one can see the influence of Stephanie's previous career as a librarian.

The book is divided into chapters - equipment (recommended utensils), basics (definitions of culinery terminolgies and foundation recipes) and an A-Z of ingredients.

At the beginning of each ingredient chapter, Stephanie narrates a history of that ingredient, it's varieties and/or seasons, and how to select, store, prepare and cook each item. It's then followed by ingredient specific recipes. Margin notes offer quick recipe ideas.

The revised edition is 1126 pages, that's another 310 pages, 12 new chapters, 382 recipes and 543 margin notes.

Neither cookbook offer pretty photos, though the quality of the text more than compensates for the lack of visual aides.

This is a cookbook for cooks or as the blurb on the back cover states "the book for a lifetime of cooking", providing excellent foundation recipes and allowing you the cook, the ability to experiment through the knowledge it imparts. It's highly recommended for people of all abilities and experience and probably should be on every bookshelf.

Recipes sourced from this book
Brandy Snaps
Honey Madeleines
Passionfruit Curd

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