Books

Book review: Cooking No-Recipe Recipes

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

The New York Times managing editor Sam Sifton new cookbook Cooking No-Recipe Recipes

Related tags: Recipe, Cookbook

The New York Times managing editor Sam Sifton has penned a cookbook that does away with the tyranny of having to follow closely a recipe.

A recipe book that confidently states on the jacket that there are no 'proper' recipes contained within might seem like something straight out of the Gerald Ratner school of marketing but no such clanger has been dropped with this neat little red book.

Cooking No-Recipe Recipes​ isn’t a book of pretty pictures of dishes (although it does have many) designed to leave the reader scratching their heads as to how they came about but is rather based on the premise that you don’t need exact measurements of ingredients to prepare many dishes. Said notion comes from Sam Sifton, assistant managing editor of The New York Times and founder of NYT Cooking who, in his introduction, uses the analogy of these recipes as sheet music that allows home cooks to recreate the cooking of others “just as a printed chord chart allows Mike from Sheboygan to play The Beatles’ repertoire  in his den, passingly well”.

The comparison to one of the world’s greatest rock bands might be a little misplaced in that there are numerous dishes for which only an approximate ingredient measurement might spell disaster; the fact that the list of desserts stretches to only five, one of which is for a watermelon granita, another for bananas foster, highlights the precision often required for the pastry section. As such, the recipes are quite narrow in their scope, but this shouldn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a pretty useful cookbook, one that is much less daunting than others on the market.

The book is prefaced by the fact that the user should have a well-stocked larder (or pantry) with many dishes reliant on the cook being able to rustle up anything from tahini  and oyster sauce to furikake and black vinegar at the drop of an oven glove, but beyond that things are simple.

Each recipe includes a list of ingredients without measurements with the instructions concise and easy to follow. Each is accompanied by a picture that gives a clue to the kind of quantities required, but Sifton’s recipes have been chosen carefully so that there is often little doubt in the first place.

The book is split into eight broad chapters, including ‘Breakfast, anytime’, ‘soup, sandwich, dinner’, ‘chickens and a duck’, and the deliberately opaque ‘a number of meats’ with highlights such as meat sauce and eggs; pork chops with peanuts and gochujang; and kaya toast with eggs.

For recipe purists and skilled cooks looking to push themselves Cooking No-Recipe Recipes​ probably isn't suitable, but for those with a good larder and a more laissez-faire attitude then it could be just the job

Number of pages: 242
Self-indulgence rating: ✪
Must try dish: Crab Rangoon Burgers
Publishing date: 16 March
Publisher and price: Ebury press, £22.50

Related topics: New Products

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