Every cookbook writer – and every publisher – is looking for a new angle.
With so many cookbooks published these days, you have to find a little spot for your new one. Celebrity cooking has been huge, and so has regional cooking.
And then there’s the “cooking for dummies” style of book, the one that tells you to “open the can, pour out the contents”.
If you do want to go back to the basics on some recipes, this book is pretty good: Good Cook Bad Cook sounds like a harsh approach, but in fact it takes you through some basics in a clear and interesting way.
It’s pitched at what author Victoria Heywood calls “novices”, but many of us will benefit from the tips included, particularly under the “bad” notes.
For instance, under the “quinoa” chapter (a grain that has become trendy of late), Ms Heywood not only tells you it’s pronounced “keen-wah”, but also that the first thing to check with this grain (which is actually the seed of a plant) is that it hasn’t gone off. It has a highish oil content so it can go rancid.
She uses straightforward language too: “Rubbish vinaigrette results from using crappy ingredients”, she writes. You won’t find that in your CWA cookbook.
Most of us love cookbooks as much for the photography as the recipes. Good Cook Bad Cook doesn’t oblige in this area. There are only little colour drawings as a guide.
And don’t look for that dinner party extravaganza. It’s all simple stuff, like shortcrust pastry (confidence, speed but not rush, the key to this one), followed up by relatively simple recipes such as lemon tart.
Ms Heywood is a versatile and very experienced cookbook writer, and she really knows her stuff.
This one is definitely not for those who are looking for inspiration and a challenge, but it is useful for the basics, and to answer some of those questions that are sometimes glossed over in fancier books.
Good Cook Bad Cook by Victoria Heywood is published by Slattery, $24.95.