One of the common questions I am asked is "can you recommend a great cookbook for...." While I want to scream Kitchen Coquette I am a big enough girl to concede there are some great, no scrap that, amazing cookbooks on the shelves worthy of your cooking time and hard earned cash (aside from my own). So I have decided to include a regular cooking the books column on the blog. Here I am going to include books that I believe in. Ones where the recipes work, they offer something new to the mix, and for the all important reason any of us buy cookbooks - because I like them - the look, the feel, the potential flavours they will bring to my mouth.
So, first cab off the rank is After Toast by Kate Gibbs. She's a beauty, the author and her book.
This is the kind of book I wish I had to bridge the gap between learning mum's bolognese and trying my hand at recipes that seemed interesting but were too challenging for my cooking skills when I first started sniffing around the kitchen. When I opened the book I had one of those "arggghhh" moments. Where was Kate when I tried my hand at my first prawn dish - toddling off to the fishmonger to buy prawns with my hard earned cash not knowing the difference between green and cooked, only to re-cook cooked prawns and nearly break everyones teeth in the process. This is where Kate's book fits and why it is so perfectly titled After Toast. It is the ideal book for those who want a little hand holding and learning as they enter the fantastic world of cooking. While the book is firmly aimed at budding cooks, I'd take it one step further to say the great recipes are worthy of anyones time in the kitchen, no matter your skill set.
Kate is a food journalist, author of a few cookbooks and generally when you read her name, two lines down it will mention that her grandmother is Margaret Fulton. To be honest, I couldn't give a shit who her grandmother is. I certainly don't mean that to be rude, I love (and I mean LOVE) Margaret in the way anyone who loves to cook does, it's just that I think Kate is an extremely competent and skilled cook in her own right. The fact that Margaret is her grandmother just means cooking is in her waters. She cooks as naturally as she breathes and this comes across in After Toast in the way she talks about food and delivers the recipes.
I hate to pick favourite recipes in any book, it feels as though you aren't doing justice to the others, however there is generally, in every book, that one recipe that you go back to again and again, long enough to stain the page and just before you've committed it to memory. So the recipe worth the stains on the page from After Toast, in my lofty opinion is the messy prawn tacos (p87) - they just scream summery goodness. I'm probably a sucker for these right now because the weather is heating up and everyone has that spring in their step. I think I'll love them just as much come winter when I'll need a taste to remind me of sun and surf and heat.
After Toast goes beyond recipes. The book is full of useful tips n tricks from using leftovers, cupboard staples, selecting fish and how to dress a table. But instead of being overwhelming, the tips are spread through the book and are relevant to the recipes. My reasons for why this should be gifted are also a little selfish - I think it would significantly increase your chances of a dinner invite. When you work in the world of food people don't tend to invite you over for dinner, not realising you'd do anything for just about anyone willing to cook you something so for once you weren't cooking it yourself.
After Toast retails for $29.99 and you can find it at all good bookstores of course. It is also available online here