As I mentioned in the last post, The Cook's Companion is a very trusty friend in my kitchen, it is very thorough, and extremely readable (thanks to my dear friend W in NZ for introducing me to it). Stephanie Alexander describes each ingredient in detail, the margins are crammed with recipes, with hints and tips on each page, this is my favorite part of the book....say for example you have a bowl full of plums, and you want to include them in a dinner, you go to the plum section and it gives you a long list of other ingredients that go well with plums, this feature encourages experimenting with ingredients.
I love the alphabetical listing on the contents page - apples, bugs, chervil, duck, eggs, figs, ginger, jerusalem artichokes, kangaroo, you get the idea, and even though the subtitle of the book is 'The complete book of ingredients for the Australian kitchen' I refer to it all the time here in the northern hemisphere at the very end of Long Island, most of the ingredients are universal, well maybe with the exception of kangaroo and wallaby (until quite recently one could get a plate of kangaroo tail at Public on Elizabeth Street in New York). Every recipe in the index is meticulously cross referenced, I love that, no, I really love that, I have a borderline obsession with recipe indexes, they are my preferred bedtime reading, ok maybe not borderline.
There are recipes in this book that have become part of my everyday cooking, like the cabbage salad with anchovy sauce, this is a fantastic dish that I cooked all summer long served hot and cold, with grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Stay tuned for cumquat marmalade, well yes, that is one of the more southern hemisphere recipes, but I do actually have a cumquat tree, have to bring it inside in the winter of course, and it's really quite tiny, but we still get to enjoy the highly perfumed blossom, I counted 8 dangling cumquats and it's just starting to flower again.
I lose myself in this book, I start with cabbage and before I know it I am in the walnut section, followed by the duck section, mmm roasted duck legs with eggplant (Long Island duck of course). Jam-packed with recipes, preparations and techniques, this book is so generous, it answers a million questions, it is precise, authoritative and friendly, a dear companion indeed.