thatsmyfullname

Who counted my cheese?

In books on March 23, 2011 at 3:36 am

If you’re serious about cooking, you need to get a visual dictionary of ingredients. It has always been on my to-get list and I finally got one when I stumbled on this at Borders. It was a steal at RM32.90, RM42.10 cheaper than my Cambridge dictionary of words.

Weighing in at 1.749kg (I just couldn’t resist using my new digital kitchen scale), Cooking Ingredients by Christine Ingram is packed with over 2,300 photos of ingredients spread across 11 categories:

–   Eggs, dairy products and fats

–   Cheese

–   Fish and shellfish

–   Meat, poultry and game

–   Vegetables

–   Beans, lentils, peas and grains

–   Pasta, noodles and wrappers

–   Fruits, nuts and seeds

–   Herbs and spices

–   Condiments, flavourings and oils

–   Tea, coffee, chocolate and sweeteners

There are over 300 entries just for cheese alone (I gave up counting after cheese no. 279), so this books is pretty comprehensive, though a reviewer on amazon.com has a different opinion: “This is a heavily Brit-O-Centric book. It gives a great review of individually produced cheeses. But, don’t be deceived by the title – far too many ingredients are either not mentioned or given short-shrift. In short: this book only decribes what is available in British supermarkets.”

A sample page.

A flip through the book shows entries for tempeh (Indonesian), konnyaku (Japanese), rice paper (Indochinese) and even shrimp paste (Southeast Asian), so that seems to be just the reviewer’s rant. However, I do wish there is a similar book for Malaysian ingredients. I have herbs and ulam I can’t name growing in my garden. And when it comes to recipes with Chinese ingredients, I usually give them a pass because I don’t know what most of the ingredients look like. It would also be nice to see our own Langkawi cheese (bet you didn’t know we produce cheese) make it into the book.

Cooking Ingredients is not just a visual dictionary. It is also an encyclopedia, with one or two paragraphs of write-up for each ingredient. Ingram has also included helpful pointers and tips on buying, cleaning, storing, preparing and even cooking some of the ingredients. Ever wondered how to cook a live lobster? A few key words: humane, unconscious, stab, expire, death, instantaneous, comatose. Hmm… maybe this book should also be filed under the thriller section.

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