A detailed look at what to expect from Stephanie Alexander’s latest cookbook.
This book was inspired by the success of my major work, The Cook’s Companion. But The Cook’s Apprentice has significant differences. While The Cook’s Companion aims to teach adults about the produce in this country, The Cook’s Apprentice has a particular emphasis on techniques – the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of cooking. I imagined myself talking to you as I wrote each introduction (remembering the questions often put to me by my own daughters as they were growing up and learning to cook). I have been careful to estimate just how long each recipe will take, and how many it will serve. Detail is explained, ingredients are defined, techniques are referred to throughout, cautions are repeated where necessary. Any recipe brought in from elsewhere has been rewritten with all of this in mind. I want there to be no mysteries.
In addition, you will find references to videos I have developed for my Cook’s Companion App. Now you can read the instructions and follow the video when making pasta or cutting onions or rolling pastry, among a range of other techniques. Look for these videos here.
How to use this book
A–Z chapters: Apples to Zucchini
In The Cook’s Apprentice there are 54 chapters, each one concerned with a well-known food. These chapters are arranged in alphabetical order. For every chapter, the format is the same. First I give some interesting facts and maybe some history, then helpful information about the best time to use the food (the season) and about the different varieties. I give advice on how to choose and store the food, and, finally, I include useful instructions on how to prepare the food.
Each chapter includes a range of recipes. All are delicious! I include detailed instructions for every step – sometimes this can make a recipe seem long, but do not let this put you off. Longer does not mean harder. Most of the recipes are straightforward and achievable by young and inexperienced cooks. Where help is needed, it is clearly indicated.
Each recipe includes an introduction – sometimes there is extra information that will help you when cooking, so make sure you read it too. Many recipes also include tips and variations at the end – these provide handy hints and other ways of preparing the dish.
Pantry to plate
Every recipe is given a time from pantry to plate: from the time you gather the ingredients to the time you present the finished dish. The times are generous, recognising that the dish may take longer for a new cook. The timing also indicates if there are extra steps, such as marinating or if an ingredient has to be soaked overnight.
How easy is it?
I have assigned 1–3 spoons to each recipe as a ‘rating’ system.
1 spoon = easy dish to prepare
2 spoons = a bit more complicated
3 spoons = you’ve been practising for a while!
If you are a beginner cook, but feel like giving a 3 spoons dish a go – great! Just be aware you will need to ask for some help.
Beside each recipe you will find a list of the ingredients used in that recipe that you may not know – look for more information in the Ingredient ID section on page 58.
How do I say . . . ?
If an ingredient has a tricky name, there is a guide to its pronunciation next to the recipe to help you when you go shopping or come across it elsewhere (for example: quinoa keen-wah).
I have made sure that every technique in every recipe is fully explained. There are no mysteries! Beside each recipe you will find a list of the techniques used in that recipe – look for more information in the Techniques section on page 16.
When you see this symbol it means you will need to ask for assistance, particularly if you are a beginner cook. All cooks need help from time to time, including me.
My golden rules
READ the recipe right through to the end before you start. Then read it again!
ASSEMBLE all the ingredients and equipment before you start chopping.
USE YOUR TIME WELL If something has to soak for 15 minutes, carry on with the next step while you are waiting.
TIDY UP AS YOU GO and the job at the end won’t be so big!
HAVE FUN! Enjoy your time in the kitchen, and be proud of your achievements