Monday Review: I Know How to Cook

18 Jan

I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

Reviewed by Stephanie Dickison

There are few things better than a hefty cookbook that’s alight with possibilities.

One of the best I’ve ever come across is Phaidon’s I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot.

This bible of tradition French home cooking is one of those treasured books that you will continually go back to no matter what the trend or star chef of the moment.

In fact, it’s been a best-seller since its first publication in 1932, so it’s already stood the test of time.  Now that it’s available in English for the first time, just imagine how many years you’ll be relying on it for homemade meals, celebratory party dishes and everyday snacks and desserts. There are more than 1,400 recipes here so it’s going to take you awhile…

The only drawback?  It’s going to take up some room on your cookbook shelf.  But trust me when I say it is damn worth it!

There are many things to love about the book:

The layout – It’s organized by subject and then ingredient, so it’s easy to navigate and also fantastic for those times when you say, “Okay, I’ve got some eggs that need using up.  What can I make for supper?”

The recipes – Despite being a French cookbook, somehow Mathiot has made the recipes accessible,with most of the recipes containing only a handful ingredients and steps. It’s amazing how short the directions are – often just one small paragraph.  For French food, no less!

Nothing too complicated, yet there are indeed fancy dishes to be found.  You can impress your guests without having to spend all day in the kitchen – finally!

The design – The subject pages are colourful and fun images of food, but the photos are what’s going to excite you!  Simple, clean photos showcase dishes such as Eggs with Truffles, Shoulder of Lamb Provencale and Four-berry Gelatin that will inspire you to create dishes that you have thought up until now, were completely beyond you.

The recipes too are laid out spaciously so that you can whip up Creamy Coffee Mousse without feeling overwhelmed or have to squint your way through it.

What I love most about the book is that I’ve always thought that you had to be European or classically-trained or damned patient and have all day to cook French food well.

It turns out that all you really need is a passion for food and cooking and this book, which now resides proudly in my cookbook collection.  I plan on working my way through these classic dishes in the next couple of years.  In fact, I’m going to try for doing one a week.  Why don’t you join me?

I know that we can do it – thank to the lovely Ginette Mathiot and this truly extraordinary book.


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