Home :: Sam’s Cookbook Challenge

I love a good cookbook. Pretty pictures of delicious dishes I delude myself into believing that one day I will attempt to replicate in my tiny shoebox kitchen with my tiny shoebox culinary ability. Some of the greats that have gathered dust on my bookshelves in the past have included Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Raymond Blanc, and of course, the obligatory Delia Smith. With the exception of the Delia book, all of the others were sold or given away before we moved to Devon, and I’ve just started building my collection again. Only this time, I intend to use them. Yes. Really.

So here’s the challenge I’m going to set for myself and you, humble reader wherever you are, can enjoy my reports as I attempt recipes from three books, one e-book and the occasional recipe found online.

The books…

Gok Cooks Chinese (Search for "Gok Cooks Chinese" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) – The fabulous Mr Gok Wan took a break from his usual mission of making folks look good to sharing his family’s recipes for excellent chinese food. Aided by his equally fabulous father Poppa Wan, he creates easy and healthier versions of takeaway classics. Sounds good to me, wok on!

The Hairy Dieters (Search for "The Hairy Dieters" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) – Si and Dave are national treasures, and after their pastry-tastic tour of Europe, they decided it was time to shift a pound or two. They created recipes that are still tasty and filling, but are lower in calories. Since Michael and I are on a weight loss mission of our own, this seems relevant to our interests. And there are pies in there. And pasties. And burgers. Crikey.

Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook (Search for "Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) – This is advanced stuff, and I doubt I’ll be tackling anything out of this one just yet. We’re talking proper cuisine here, and Anthony opens the book with such charming lines as “…if I refer to you as a “useless screwhead” I will expect you to understand–and not to take personally.” There’s something of the mob boss in his technique “you do right by me and I will reward you, do not and I will destroy you”, and it makes this the less cuddly of the three books. So I think I will be working my way up to this one. If that’s OK with you, Chef Bourdain, Sir.

The ebook…

The Full Plate Diet – I came across this via SuperBetter. The Full Plate Diet e-book is available for free when you sign up to receive their weekly newsletter. I’ve just skimmed this one so far, and its focus appears to be on dietary fibre, something that is essential for good general health not just weight loss. Not so much a book of recipes, more a guidebook for making your favourites healthier and more substantial. Recipes are available on the site, and registration is free. Be aware, though, that it is an American site, so us Brits may have to do a little bit of translation along the way.

And others….

Eric Ripert – Executive Chef at Le Bernardin has many Michelin stars to his name and is generally regarded as one of the best chefs in the world. Eating at Le Bernardin is an item on my ever-increasing bucket list, and one I doubt will ever happen. However, while I can but dream about trying this great chef’s tasting menu (a snip at $330 with wine per person); I can have a go at the occasional step-by-step recipes he posts on Twitter. I have his mayonnaise recipe bookmarked, which will be worth a try for its comedy value alone.

BBC Good Food Magazine – I subscribe to the iPad edition, and much like the books I have so far just looked at the pretty pictures, fantasised about baking, and then left it to gather virtual dust. It’s an excellent magazine, the recipes look reasonably easy, therefore there’s really no excuse.

But first…

I need to get ready. I’ve read enough Anthony Bourdain (Search for "Anthony Bourdain" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) to know the importance of ‘mise-en-place’, and for me this means a rather substantial bit of re-organisation in my teeny tiny kitchen. Later I will look through the books and find my first recipes to try. More soon. Wish me luck.