Review: What To Cook & How To Cook It

what to cook and how to cook it by jane hornby

Review: What To Cook & How To Cook It

Review by Caroline Ford

Twirls of rich and creamy spaghetti carbonara on your fork. Slices of tender roast beef alongside perfectly puffed, buttery Yorkshire puddings. Moist layers of decadent, show-stopping chocolate truffle cake. If you think you can only enjoy these mouth-watering items by indulging at a restaurant, Jane Hornby’s new cookbook will change your mind.

What To Cook & How To Cook It is a friendlier, cheaper, less intimidating version of culinary school. A comprehensive resource for beginner cooks to master practical cooking skills, Hornby sweetly guides readers through recipes with step-by-step photos, instead of a loud French instructor spitting out your sauce. Hornby recognizes those even seasoned cooks are often left wondering, “What should I make?” , and hopes her cookbook provides you with the inspiration for every occasion, whether it’s a lazy day breakfast or a holiday party.

In a format more often found on food websites and blogs, each recipe in the cookbook comes with color photos for every stage of the cooking process, from individual ingredients to the plated dish.  The recipes are organized into categories suited to how people really eat, from breakfast to simple suppers to food for sharing and more. The dishes explore a variety of cuisines —  Pad Thai, curries, pizza, paella, coq au vin — so your cooking and eating stays out of a rut. They are also written in real time for greater efficiency, which means an hour of prep work is not hidden in the ingredient list.

The gift of Hornby’s cookbook is its ability to encourage readers to be engaged and creative cooks rather than recipe robots. There are notes on ingredients and shopping, tips to adjust serving quantities and alternative equipment options when you lack extra cash for specialty kitchenware. There are also explanations about why certain choices are made in the cooking method, helping readers learn and understand the basics of food science.  Many recipes in magazines and cookbooks are condensed and streamlined for space or aesthetics, but these abbreviated recipes can lead to errors and confusion in the kitchen.  Hornby’s cookbook takes the time to describe how steps should look, taste, and feel, so readers can learn what is really happening to the food, knowledge that cookbooks often lack. Experienced cooks may consider the photos and shopping tips extra fluff; if you’re comfortable cooking and shopping, this may not be for you.

While What To Cook & How To Cook It may be review for chefs and experienced cooks, it is the perfect solution for an eager new cook or timid high school graduate (college if he is still surviving on ramen). It would also be an excellent teaching companion for cooks/chefs who want their families and friends to be hands-on in the kitchen. Hornby presents cooking as an accessible and enjoyable activity for everyone.

Caroline Ford is a freelance food stylist and writer. She lives in Portland, Oregon.