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The Perfect Recipe
by Savia Rajagopal
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 10:46 AM
We’ve all done it at some point in our lives. Inspired with soft-focus cameras lingering ever-so-lovingly on divinely placed food, immaculate cutlery and a chef gushing with a success, everyone has marched into a book store determined to buy a cook book that teaches us everything we need to know.

When you get to the book store, you find yourself staring at a wall-high selection of cook books that are as simple or as complicated as they come. Every book, naturally, is vouching to be the key to your conquest in the world of gastronomy. However, if ever there was a time where there’s just too much choice, then picking out a good recipe book would be one such time.

Selecting a recipe book requires careful selection or you’ll find it lying somewhere in your home, never to be seen again. Worse still, you’ll feel discouraged from trying out a recipe if the book just doesn’t feel right. So where do you begin? How do you find this magical food guide?

What’s your level of expertise?

Be honest now. Are you a chef extraordinaire or are you just a simple cheese and macaroni kind-of person? Asking yourself how simple or complicated you want recipes to be is a good place to start your hunt. This way, at least you know what you can or cannot handle. Do you want to try out something exotic that you haven’t tried before? Or do you want to find recipes for daily cooking that you and your family or friends can enjoy? Luckily nowadays, you can find categories of recipe books as specific as you desire. If it’s Moroccan cooking you want to try out, and then find a book that specialises in it. Want to try out some South Asian cuisine, then there are books dime a dozen. The choice, like we said earlier, is mind-boggling!

Read reviews, look around

Asking friends for suggestions is a great way to kick-start your search for a good cook book. When you try out something tasty at your friend’s home, ask for book suggestions. Most magazines and newspapers feature reviews by food critics and culinary experts who share their valuable insight into a particular selection of recipes.

Research

Almost every famous chef has his own TV show right now and quite naturally, celebrity recipe books are also promoted heavily. If there’s any particular chef’s style of cooking you enjoy, check out if they have any cook books in the stores. Read up on their websites and sometimes, even their suggestions for other cook books can be useful. The key is to research and read up as much as you can on their approach to cooking and food. It will tell you a lot on what to expect from a celebrity’s cook book. Some chefs pride themselves on authenticity while others provide easy-to-do options for everyday dining.

Get real

Cook books don’t come cheap and I’d consider them an investment. So peruse carefully and only buy a book if you’re absolutely convinced. An alternative option sometimes is to try out a recipe from a particular chef by referring to their website or to the site dedicated to their TV show. It will give you an inkling of the creative process. Again, be honest about your skill level, and your commitment to cooking.

Baking and Cooking
 
Worlds apart, baking and cooking are very different methods and require entirely different approaches. If you want to brush up on your baking skills, then focus on that alone. Know that baking is more expensive as you need specific equipment for preparation and method. Cooking on the other hand is more impulsive and allows more experimentation. Choose one and find a book that walks through the basic, intermediate or advanced levels.


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