Book review

Cook Book review: Leiths How to Cook

Leiths 'How to Cook' book review
Every now and again I come across a cook book that is just fab. A real authority on everything cooking and baking. This is one of those books. It’s thick. I mean it’s really, really heavy. In fact to prove a point I have weighed it and it is 2.3kg. Now that is a whole lotta recipes! Over 500 to be precise. And I have to say that I really like it.

It’s not my normal kind of cookery book, because let’s face it, my normal kind is a baking book and doesn’t need to mention fish or veg or meat. Cakes, bakes and cookies are all I’m really interested in and do you want to know why? It’s because I can’t cook. Nope not at all! I have a theory that people can either bake or cook (have I said that before?) When we have people over Tim always does all the cooking and I do all the baking. We’re a good team. But this book may just change all that.

The book

When Leith’s say ‘How to cook’ they really do mean it. It’s basic Emma proof cooking. My fear when cooking is that I will under/over do something and kill someone wth food poisoning but this book explains everything in such a clear and simple and non-condescending manner that even I could do it. Cook well- not kill someone.

Leiths 'How to Cook' book review

The book is basically set out like a study course and takes you through each area subject by subject. There are loads of practical step by step photos which really help when you don’t know your roux from your bain marie. I like the way it explains how to do everything from scratch from how to clean and prepare as well as cook veg, fish, poultry and meat. It also explains how to know when your meat is cooked to perfection. (That’s my biggest cooking fear!) There’s a handy section at the back on how much to serve from a ‘catering’ point of view- 300ml for soup, 350g per person for chicken breast etc. It takes the guess work out of entertaining.

The contents

These are the areas covered in this book

  • Vegetables- everything from prep to cutting. French onion soup here I come.
  • Stocks and sauces – I reckon once you know how to do these you can make anything.
  • Eggs (did I ever mention eggs are my favorite food? The poached eggs here look page licking good)
  • Pasta, rice, pulses and grains- Oh just pile the pounds on now why don’t you? Tim won’t let me make rice. We have to buy those microwave packet ones as my rice always turns out a bit soggy, but maybe it’s time to try again.
  • Shellfish- Not stricktly kosher – well not at all kosher, but Tim tells me these look good.
  • Fish- Now they make the preparing raw fish look easy but I’ve never successfully managed to do this even though I know what to do. A sharp knife is essential I think. The recipes sound amazing. I want to make Hot smoked trout with roasted beetroot and watercress.
  • Poultry and feathered game- I love to find new recipes for Chicken and the Jerk chicken salad looks right up my street.
  • Meat- Who knew there was so much you could do with a piece of beef?
  • Pastry- Yay
  • fruit and puddings- double yay
  • Bread, biscuits and cakes- How do you know when you are at the right elasticity with your bread dough or when it has risen enough? Just look at the step shots. It’s easy. When it comes to cakes this book has all the old faithfuls – no surprises which I think is a shame, but as this book is all about learning the correct techniques I suppose this isn’t such a bad point.
  • Reference – including a glossary of cooking terms, kitchen tools and equipment, Food hygiene in the kitchen and catering quantities


The best section

So, it’s no surprise which section I turned to first. The pastry. And I think for me this is the section that really sells the book. I have my favorite pastry recipes and use them time and time again but every single time I watch ”The Great British Bake off’ I come away thinking “Oh I must try that rough puff/ shortcrust/ Pâte sucrée. Well  with the step by step photos for making each type of pastry shown so clearly now I can’t wait to start. The way they are described just makes you want to make, pie after tart after flan. I love the detailed how, what, why and where of each section but with pastry, bread and cakes it really helps to understand what is going on at each stage and why you need to take certain actions. It’s all that science of baking stuff that helps you to become a better baker.

Leiths 'How to Cook' book review

So, I give this book a double thumbs up and can’t wait to get started. Luckily you can too as the lovely publishers Quadrille have given me an extract from the book for the Lemon Tart (as seen above) which is made with pâte sucrée. It’s just a tiny part of a massive book but I bet is whet’s your appetite!


Leiths How to Cook (Quadrille, £30). Photograph: Peter Cassidy.

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  1. […] I was given the Leiths Baking bible for my birthday by the team at Woman & Home a few years ago and what isn’t in this book you just don’t need to know! It is huge and packed with tons and tons of recipes for ANYTHING you may want to bake. It’s really detailed and explains how things work and why they don’t, why you should and shouldn’t do certain things, what gluten does to the flour/eggs etc. It’s the kind of book you will pass on to your kids as it has everything in it you could possible need. So, when the How to cook book came out I wanted to get it for the same reason. It has everything in it from how to boil an egg to how to prepare fish/meat/poultry – even how to carve!  Each stage is explained – which when it comes to cooking I really need.   It has over 500 recipes in it and I’ve made loads from it. You can see my full review of the book here […]

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