By Danielle Norton
Cooking at home is an opportunity to be creative, impress our loved ones with our culinary skills and to experiment with new ideas. Every home cook needs a few foundational texts to learn from. These five classics will enlighten anyone who reads them and become staples on the kitchen shelf.
1. The Cook’s Companian by Stephanie Alexander
Stephanie Alexander’s tome is a mixture between a bible and a glossary for any and every cook. She thoroughly explores the changing nature of the seasons, describes and dissects food and offers inventive ways to recreate classic dishes. Her recipes are simple to understand and, even when the methodology is convoluted, her instructions make the steps clear and manageable.
2. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
In the 1960s Julia Child was determined to produce the quintessential handbook for housewives of America to enable them to learn the techniques and intricacies of French cooking. The French revel in food and Childs was able to transmit this joy and the pleasure of eating a meal through her words. From deboning a duck to stuffing a lamb shoulder with rice and beans, from developing the flavour of a French onion soup over a number of hours to perfecting the rise of a cheese (or chocolate) souffle, Childs takes cooking very seriously and this book is for those who want to do the same.
3. The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon
In 1976, when Charmaine Solomon first released her Asian cookbook, it was a challenge to find the listed ingredients in Australian shops. Back then, Australian palates were only just beginning to appreciate the delicacy of Asian flavours. Ingredients like lemongrass, lotus buds, ghee and kombu are all easily available now at our fresh food markets and supermarkets. Solomon’s cookbook takes readers on a journey as she documents her culinary travels through Sri Lanka to India and Pakistan, across to Indonesia and Malaysia, up through Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, through Vietnam to the Philippines, and over to China, Korea and Japan.
4. Cookery the Australian Way by Shirley Cameron
A stalwart of home economics classrooms around the country, this textbook contains information that has stood the test of time and new editions continue to be released for younger generations of food tech students. Want to know how to make a butter cake, or how to vary the recipe? Flip through the pages and you’ll find the recipe. Run out of pizza bases? Remember that in Year 8 you used a scone dough recipe from his book to make mini pizzas. Beef stroganoff? It’s there. Want to know how long to cook a roast? See the general hints section in the book. This cookbook has no photos but it is definitely a dependable old friend when you need one.
5. Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book
This charming cookbook is the yardstick for home cooked birthday cakes. With simple choices for the cake recipes (it’s chocolate or vanilla folks) and a collection of over 100 cake designs, there truly is something that will capture the imagination of every child. From kids playing games on cricket pitches to the bright pink faces of piggies, from pretty fairies to haunted castles covered in cobwebs, from the complex pirate ship to the simplicity of the lolly shop, these cakes have been bringing joy to Australian kids for decades. This book celebrates its 40th year anniversary in 2020.