The first few times I tried cooking without my Mum holding my hand, culinary disaster ensued. Onions were blackened, burgers were rubbery in taste and consistency, utensils were flung across the kitchen in fury, and, eventually, takeaways were ordered. What looked so easy on the page became infuriatingly difficult in practice. If I’d had a book like’MasterChef Cookery Course‘ as my guide, I might have been keener to persevere.

While most recipe books assume some degree of culinary knowledge, this one aims to take the complete novice by the hand and break things down into the simplest possible terms. Starting from absolute scratch, it lists the ideal storecupboard items and useful kits of kit, and advises on selecting quality produce. An introduction to basic cooking techniques continues the’course’, covering roasting, stewing, frying, poaching and baking.

The book is extremely well-organised, moving on to chapters on starters, mains and puds. There’s been a lot of thought put into layout – featuring clear step-by-step instructions, photos of each cooking stage, handy clocks showing cooking time, and a plethora of extra tips and advice. Some recipes even boast’rescue it!’ guides, which advising you what to do if it looks like a dish is heading for disaster.

For the most part, recipes are drawn from the home cooks’ canon; things like fish pie, leek and potato soup, risotto, roast beef and chocolate mousse. There are some more exotic numbers, such as ceviche and Szechuan spare ribs, and a few adventurous options like crab ravioli and beef Wellington. Each is accompanied by a full-page photo of the ideal finished result, providing a useful reference when attempting a dish for the first time.

If you consider yourself fairly competent in the kitchen, it would be easy to dismiss’MasterChef Cookery Course‘ as too basic. While on the whole you’d be right (you probably know how to roast a chicken), there are some handy tips to garner. As with most self-taught crafts, it’s easy to pick up bad habits in cooking, so going back to basics can be beneficial, whether to learn new techniques or to perfect dishes that you never got quite right.

Considering this is a TV show tie-in, the book is refreshingly low on branding. Even our old friends John and Gregg only pop up in the final section, offering their top tips. If someone were to work their way through the well-executed, foolproof book, I imagine they’d come out of it a pretty decent cook.  Whether unconfident novice or seasoned chef, take a leaf out of this book – you might just learn something.

ISBN 1409382214

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