Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook: the book

Julie Goodwin's Essential CookbookThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. RRP $39.99; out now.

This is an overview of the book as an object; I’ll discuss some of the recipes tomorrow.

The cover makes this seem like it’s going to be all about baking; it most definitely is not. In fact, baking and dessert are a relatively small portion of the book.

In her introduction, Goodwin says this is “a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love”. It’s home cooking, not Palomar. So it’s much more my sort of thing.

The book is divided into sensible but also intriguing chapters: Eggs; Meat; Poultry; Seafood; Sauces, soups, and dips; Vegetables and Preserves; Baking; and Desserts. In that order. They largely make sense, although sauces, soups, and dips isn’t intuitive to me. What I do like is that each chapter has differently coloured page numbers, and they progress down the side of the page so all teal Egg pages are grouped, and so on. Easy to flick to the chapter you want just by looking at the edge of the book.

The meat section is divided into beef, pork, and lamb, while poultry is chicken, duck, turkey and quail. Seafood is shellfish, fish, squid and octopus. The vegetable chapter is mains, sides, salads, dressings, pickles and preserves. Each chapter has a short introduction to the chapter. This is fairly extensive for the meat chapters, with information about how to cook different cuts.

Not all of the recipes fit onto one page, which could be a bit annoying if you need to flick back for ingredients. I think this is partly because not every recipe has a picture, so you’re getting more recipes into the book (only 310 pages including index etc) than you otherwise might. It just means you need to take that into consideration. The recipe pages themselves are set out with nice wide margins, and nice spaces between each step, so it’s straightforward to figure out where you’re up to (and add notes if necessary); the headings for each recipe are easy to find and the ingredients are a different colour from the method, which I really like. What photos there are are generally indicative of the finished product, and don’t come across as TOO highly workshopped. The index seems quite thorough.

As an object, this is a nice book. It’s got perfect binding and the flop is surprisingly good. The paper is thick enough that splatters aren’t going to ruin it and I’ll be able to write on them without going through to the page behind.  The front and back covers have half-flaps, which I personally like to use as bookmarks.

A couple of nit-picks: in the Cook’s Note, Goodwin says that for her, shallots are “the long green onions that are sometimes called spring onions”. I found this quite surprising since I don’t remember coming across an Australian author who didn’t just use spring onions! And in the baking section, there’s an instruction to whip eggs and sugar until there’s a ribbon… and in the next recipe, there’s an explanation of what “a ribbon” actually looks like. I can only assume that the recipes were originally in a different order.

I got to interview Julie briefly, too.