Cooking for Geeks - The Kitchen Manual
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There are a large number of people who are confused by the average cookery book which assumes that they already have a fair amount of knowledge. The authors frequently take if for granted that all the reader needs is the list of ingredients and then their experience will enable them interpret the (often somewhat brief) instructions. On the other hand, when things go wrong -- or, ideally, before they go wrong -- this book goes a long way to providing the basic understanding to enable one to detect an error in a recipe and to know how to put it right.
The initial premise of this book is that Geeks don’t have the basic knowledge possessed by those who had cookery lessons at school or who learned at their mother’s knee. However, a scientific approach is adopted with even a discussion of the key temperatures of the different cooking processes, the relationship between time and temperature in cooking and then how to calibrate one’s oven. Furthermore, the author does not overlook the importance of temperature in food safety.
How to choose equipment, and how to use and look after it, is covered early in the book as well as weights and measures.
A further section is devoted to a discussion of the structure of recipes, and what are the critical factors, using a batch of pancake recipes as examples. Overall, much of this can be considered as the underlying food technology.
Although this is an American book, with some of the names and recipes emanating from the other side of the water, its coverage on nutrition, ingredients and contrasting and complementary flavours provide a good grounding for both geeks and everyone else.
Typical of the useful information explaining “why you do what you do” is the comment that if the meat comes from a part of the animal that supports its weight it will be high in collagen -- which it explains as connective tissue -- and will need a longer cooking time. By the way, it adds, pound-for-pound, collagen is tougher than steel.
Recipes are sprinkled throughout the book within the relevant section. However, for convenience, they are listed in the contents list in neatly separated categories such as breakfasts, soups, drinks, salads, sauces, etc. Chapters incorporate interviews with a specialist in particular areas. For example, there is one on knives with a manufacturer who discusses a whole range of issues such as carbon steel vs. stainless and the sharpening of knives.
My wife, who is a very experienced cook (but with no aspirations to be a chef) wants to keep this book with her other cookery books, which are all just recipes, and it has given me a better understanding of what I’m doing in the kitchen.
For those with a scientific background, who tend to want to know how and why something works, as apart from working from a recipe by rote, this book will be ideal as it will be a useful complement to all the ordinary cookery books. It has a cover price of £29.99 but is available from Amazon at prices starting at £15.04
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