I really love cooking, and a few years ago my sister decided to buy me ‘the best cookbooks ever’. She looked online for a top 10 type list, found one she liked, and started buying them for me. I have been searching online for the list she was working from, but can’t find it*. Anyway, here we go:
I already had the snazzy hardcovers:
- Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion
- David Thompson’s Thai Food
- Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest
She added to these with the paperbacks of:
- Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food and
- Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.
- Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
I LOVED these new books (more in another post), but on with the story I am telling …
She was then struggling. She searched high and low for Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook but it was out of print. Next birthday she bought me a cookbook not on the list, and explained the drama. Keep an eye out, she said.
HELLO OP SHOPS!!
I found it! … after about a year of looking in every op shop I entered (and about 6 weeks before the swanky NEW GORGEOUS HARDBACK EDITION was published). It was at the Anglesea op shop, covered in a homemade plastic cover, and I bought it for only a couple of dollars. I was SO excited. What a coup! It looked pretty tatty at first, but once I took the clear plastic cover off it was like a new book (well a new book published 30 odd years ago …).
I (and thus my family) abandoned our middle eastern/italian diet as Charmaine became my new best (cooking) friend.
That Christmas we were having a low key event (just my parents, my in-laws and Elise’s family) for dinner. I thought ‘what a great opportunity to make Peking Duck from scratch, pancakes and all’ (thanks Clive for your help with those).
If you have attempted this you will understand why we ate dinner quite late. The preparation went smoothly (if a tad messy with the red food dye – that stuff is lethal) the cooking was easy, but the whole ‘organisation at the end’ including the carving left a bit to be desired! In saying this it really was super yummy, and nearly worth the effort. I might even do it again one day (although definitely with less than 14 guests).
What I love about this cookbook though, Peking Duck included, is that it was written before every ingredient under the sun was available and so the recipes taste just as you remember when you last ate them at the chinese/malaysian/indonesian/korean restaurant, but they are made with really straight forward ingredients.
For example, the other week we had no food in the cupboard. I looked in the freezer and there was a bag of frozen prawns and some green beans. I proceeded to look up ‘beans’ and found ‘green, with prawns’. Tick, tick.
That night we ate Saewoo Bokum, with rice … a great, simple, subtle and tasty Korean dish that I would highly recommend any night you only have your freezer for inspiration.
Here’s the recipe (page 448 in the 1977 edition).
Saewoo Bokum (green beans with prawns) – Serves 6
- 500 grams small prawns
- 500 grams green beans
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 3 teaspoons of toasted, crushed sesame seeds
Shell and de-vein prawns, chop them roughly and set aside. Top and tail the beans, remove strings with a sharp knife, cut into thin diagonal slices [or open the bag of prepared frozen beans all ready to go]. Heat oil in wok and stir fry the onion and prawns together for 2 minutes, add beans and stir fry for 3 minutes. Add seasoning and mix well, cover and simmer on low heat for 6-8 minutes or until beans are just tender. They must not be overcooked. Serve at once with rice.
Delicious. Thanks Charmaine!
* Elise has found the link to the article she used. See her comment or click here.
Hi Leanne, my mother and grandmother used to love the Gretta Anna Recipes, she was big in Sydney in the 70’s and 80’s and had a large orange hardcover book. I have often thought of buying a second hand copy and making some of the recipes from my childhood memories.
I love the preserved lemon chicken you made at Wilson’s prom, I still think about how delicious it was!
I think my mum has that book (or she did…). I keep cookbooks on my shelf quite a while before they ‘earn their place’. If it turns out I only use a handful of recipes from them, they get moved on (i.e. to the op-shop!). But there are stayers. I still use Jamie Oliver’s first book (The Naked Chef) all the time and his more recent ’30 Minute Meals’ is really, really good. Of the others that I’ve bought in the last decade, Donna Hay’s ‘Off the Shelf’ is brilliant but now out-of-print (focus on simple, quick meals from pantry staples) and the Women’s Weekly ‘Oodles of Noodles’ book that has great noodle and pasta recipes.
I don’t have either of these Jamie Oliver cookbooks so now I’ll check them out. I love Donna Hay – especially her brownies …
Hi Leanne, here a link to the original article from The Age.
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What about Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course??? Greatest cool book Eva!!
Thanks, Joe, I’ll check it out!