If you look at the cookbook reviews I have written already, focusing on Michel Roux Jr and the French Brasserie Cookbook , you will see that they are both excellent options for people who want to follow a recipe but who possess a little bit of skill already.
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine by the French Culinary Institute is a totally different idea to this.
To give you an idea of just how much this book strips you back, it starts by giving you the theory of food hygiene, shows you how to cut vegetables, and reinforces the different types of equipment you may find you need if you cook everything in the book (and beyond!). For this reason, we are not talking about a cookbook that throws glossy pictures at you in order to excite you. It won’t be stating how it is the new revolution and the new way of doing something; it just tells you how to cook. And how to do it well.
I am a huge fan of the cookbook because although I have been a foodie for a fair while, I was not exactly the best student when it came to food tech at school and therefore lost my chance to be educated properly in the art of cooking. While I cannot disagree that going for a cooking course is certainly a more hands on experience that can teach you the basics very well (we have a friend about to go in at the deep end and study at Leiths Cookery school for a year for this reason) the average amateur can neither afford this nor has the time or perhaps even the dedication for it.
This cookbook teaches you the same basics but does so in a way that offers you the opportunity to learn at your own pace, work from pictures (and YouTube if you are prepared to go off piste and stray away from the techniques in the book slightly!) and explains the basics before giving you ‘an’ idea of how to utilise the skills you have been taught.
For me, this is the best cookbook I own. It has taught me how to make creme caramel (and by virtue of this creme brulee), how to cook roast potatoes correctly, how to create interesting potato dishes, and how to make the best apple pie I have ever made from scratch, including the sweet shortcrust pastry. Sure, it’s a bit laborious in the sense that you might never want to make a terrine but at least it is comprehensive in teaching you what to do if you ever fancy trying it.
If you are a more serious amateur, you might be questioning why I rave about this when Leiths have their own cookbooks (I own one) and Julia Child has a fairly large selection of cookbooks covering the classics for beginners. The simple reason I would buy this cookbook over both of these options is that the visual aspect of the book is of a very high quality, the wording is modern and makes sense, and the book gives you an understanding of the basics from a base that takes away the fear of words like mise en place, giving you the confidence to pick and choose the skills you want to improve.
Categories: Cookbook Reviews