In my opinion there are two types of cooks in this world. For arguments sake let’s call them recipe cooks and off-the-cuff cooks. Recipe cooks find a recipe they like and then go out and buy the ingredients or perhaps find a recipe based on the ingredients they have at home. Off-the-cuff cooks improvise. They see what they have at home or buy a random set of ingredients in their weekly shop and then conjure up a dish based on their archives of experience. Now, there’s no right or wrong and there will always be a degree of overlap, but I do believe that every person has a natural pull towards one of the two categories. So which one are you?
I definitely have a tendency towards the former. I like the structure of a recipe and still feel I have a lot to learn from other people’s tried and tested experiences. It’s rare, however, that I ever follow a recipe to the letter. I generally tweak a few things here or there as, at the end of the day, everyone’s tastes are different. In fact quite often I will trawl through about five or six recipes of the same dish until I find one that I will even consider adapting. Or I make my own recipe from a combination of the ones I have looked through. These recipes are what I’ve used to build up my own recipe journal. It is one of my prized possessions; if anything were to happen to it I think there would actually be tears! I really must find a more permanent way of storing them…but then again I guess that’s what this blog is for!
I am a huge fan of recipe books. In fact I have so many now that they recently broke the shelf on my bookcase (N was not impressed)! They have now had to start their new life as a pile in front of the shelving unit. This is clearly much safer but very annoying when it comes to the weekly vacuuming! I have my sister to credit for most of these recipe books, which means I also have her to blame for breaking my bookshelf! Pride of place definitely goes to my Jamie Oliver collection which she managed to get signed by the man himself. I always look forward to my birthday or Christmas as I know she’ll get me the latest in the line of celebrity cookbooks. Sis, if you’re reading, the next ones on my wish list are Rachel Koo’s Little Paris Kitchen and Lorraine Pascal’s Home Cooking Made Easy!
I do worry that I’m a bit addicted to recipe books. Quite often I read them even when I’m not planning on cooking anything; I find they provide me with a great source of inspiration. My favourite book to just ‘read’ has to be Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. From reading his book I get the impression he is an off-the-cuff cook. I have written an excerpt from his book below so you can get a feel for what I mean.
The smell of white rice cooking, clean, nutty and warm, casts a sense of peace over the house. As if snow has fallen. Seasonings change with the day, but tonight it is green cardamom, black cumin seeds, cinnamon and, somewhat unusually, a couple of star anise flowers. What was once a distinctly Indian smell is now edged with something faintly Chinese. Fleeting, intriguing, gentle. At the table, I bring to it some steamed Chinese broccoli, complete with its long, tender stalks.
Slater seems to be able to create magnificent dishes from next-to-nothing. The man is full of talent, not only can he cook but he can write beautifully too.
So let’s make this post interactive. Do leave a comment and let me know what type of cook you are. And if you are a recipe cook what’s your favourite cookbook? I’m always looking for new books for my sister to buy me…!