I see many cookbooks every week and hundreds every year. Most are very nice, some are inspiring, there are a few that would be better left as trees, and then there are the gems.
Apple Press have done it again! This publisher never seems to put a foot wrong. They present books that are marvellously practical but also attractive, but they might just have surpassed themselves. The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood is one in a new series of books that will become heirlooms.
Strong words, them. I am going to stick my reviewer’s neck out and say that these small books, described as handbook-sized in leatherette, are a must for any serious cook but also for any serious cookbook collector. The author, Wendy Sweetser, trained at the Cordon Bleu cookery schools in both London and Paris. She has penned fifteen other food- and drink-related books as well as being food editor and feature writer for OK, The London Magazine, and Period Living.
Most of us love the glossy, celeb chef cookbooks. What’s not to love… mostly. But The Cook’s Guide books offer an in-depth look at culinary subjects. They are well written but it’s the illustrations that are striking. Food photography has reached amazing degrees of perfection but no camera can present its subject in such charming detail as can brush, watercolour and pen. The artist, Jane Laurie, has skills that add character and elevate this volume to gift quality.
Elevated though these books surely are, they are far from simple coffee-table dust-magnets. These are food manuals to read, learn from, and to delve into. The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood considers… well, fish and seafood. Each fish has its illustration, and its characteristics are described; its habitat, availability, cooking method and substitution suggestions are all mentioned.
We know that fish is good for us but there is often the underlying question, Are the stocks sustainable? The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood includes farmed fish where available, and notes when wild varieties are in season. This helps the shopper to make informed choices.
The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood offers advice on choosing fresh fish, equipment, storage, trimming, scaling and gutting, filleting and skinning. It’s a marvel of a book that will be appreciated by cooks and cookbook collectors as well as fishermen. Great Christmas gift and good value for money.
The Cook’s Guide to Fish and Seafood
Author: Wendy Sweetser
Illustrator: Jane Laurie
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018