Why Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ is the Kitchen “Bible”
Michael has enough cookbooks to sink a ship. We can’t fit another single book in our spare bedroom and the room is steadily overflowing; with books filling our kitchen cupboards, the dining table, and even taking up space on the lounge!
When I want to find a new recipe, I don’t even know what book to start with and generally turn to the internet for help instead. So I set Michael a challenge – to pick one of his favourite cookbooks from his ever-growing collection and justify his selection by cooking a simple yet high-quality recipe from it. Now – if it were up to me, I would have picked the one with the prettiest pictures – so thank goodness for you I wasn’t the one choosing the book and there will be a bit more substance to this post.
I was somewhat disappointed when of all of the books, Michael chose Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. I have no doubt that this cookbook is amazing, given how Michael raves on about it and has not one, but multiple copies. But where are the photos?!
The Cook’s Companion is more like an old school encyclopaedia than a cookbook. Rather than containing purely recipes, it provides comprehensive information about ingredients, cooking techniques, and kitchen equipment, along with inspiration, advice, and encouragement. According to Stephanie’s website, the book also contains close to 1,000 failsafe recipes! For every ingredient, detailed information is offered on varieties, season, selection, storage, preparation, cooking and even personal eating experiences. Recipes for these ingredients and quick cooking ideas are also covered.
On reflection, I shouldn’t have discounted this book on numerous occasions purely because it doesn’t include photos for every single recipe. It seems to be exactly what a useless cook like me needs! Stephanie first published the bestselling book in 1996 and has since sold over half a million copies! For the tech savvy amongst us, which I’m guessing is a lot of you; Stephanie also released the Cook’s Companion App in November 2013. This may appeal to those, like me, who need to be engaged visually. The app contains a staggering 2,000 recipes and A-Z information on ingredients, covering everything from abalone to zucchini, as well as how-to videos and much to my excitement, lots of photos! It will also save you the hassle of lugging around a 2.5kg book!
As you can tell, I’m now convinced that this book is incredibly valuable, despite my initial reservations. But just to make sure, I’ve taste tested the Bang Bang Chicken and can guarantee that it was absolutely delicious (as well as a crowd pleaser). In short, the chicken was marinated in Asian-inspired flavours, on a bed of fresh salad and vermicelli noodles – yum!
The key takeaway here is to trust the chef! When he dubs a book one of the kitchen “bibles” – you should probably listen!
Written by Michaela Ward