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I Know How to Cook – Book review

16 October 2009 by
I Know How to Cook – Book review

I Know How to Cook
Ginette Mathiot
Phaidon Press £24.95
ISBN 978-0-7148-4804-4

Billed as the Larousse Gastronomique for the home cook and endorsed by none other than the former three Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Koffmann, the first English translation of Ginette Mathiot's I Know How to Cook will no doubt be read by more than a few professionals, as well as home cooks.

Don't let the whimsical cover fool you, this is an in-depth, classic French cookery companion - a serious bible for all levels of cook, not just domestic enthusiasts. The first chapter alone on sauces and basic recipes runs through more than 70 different jus, vinaigrettes, sauces and mayonnaises, from a basic roux through to classics like chateaubriand and chasseur sauce, amid more unusual varieties like blood and "angry" sauce.

The rest of the book - which showcases more than 1,400 recipes - is broken down into sensible sections of hors d'oeuvre, milk, eggs and cheese, soup, fish, meat, poultry, game, vegetables and salads, fruit, milk and egg puddings, ices, cakes and pastries and sweets, preserves and drinks.

Because it's an old book, first published in 1932, some of the recipes and ingredients might seem a touch outdated. Take, for example, carp in aspic or teal with orange sauce. What's really striking is the huge variety of ingredients - such as pike, teal, brawn and tongue - that over the decades have, for whatever reason, fallen out of favour and been dropped from many a professional and home cook's repertoire, but this also makes it a great source of inspiration.

While dishes such as pork loin provençale, cassoulet, duck terrine with prunes or warm pheasant salad wouldn't look out of place on any gastropub menu, there's also a section of seriously fine dining recipes from leading international chefs just to keep even the most ambitious on their toes. From Pascal Aussignac's stuffed baby squid, black escabeche; to Daniel Boulud's boeuf en gelée with foie gras, root vegetables and horseradish cream; and Martin Schmied's marbled sea bass with wasabi cream; this final section also has the side-effect of bringing the book bang up to date.

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