COOKING UP A STORM: Stephanie Alexander AO believes you're never too old to take up cooking and she's released a new book (below) to make it easier.
COOKING UP A STORM: Stephanie Alexander AO believes you're never too old to take up cooking and she's released a new book (below) to make it easier. Mark Chew

The Cook's Apprentice: Aussie treasure returns with new book

SHE is an Aussie living treasure, well respected internationally and much loved by home cooks and strongly admired by professional chefs.

Stephanie Alexander, AO, has been cooking since she was a child, learning by her mother's side, and for all her life she has been encouraging us to cook nutritious meals for family, friends, and perhaps most importantly, for ourselves.

Her iconic book, The Cook's Companion has a place in thousands of Australian kitchens and now it is joined by the newly released, The Cook's Apprentice, a book that will surely become a go-to essential for everyone, whether already a dab hand in the kitchen or a novice. It is the definitive guide on ingredients, cooking techniques, kitchen equipment and recipes.

In Stephanie's continuing pursuit to have us all cooking, she says we must be adventurous, experiment, don't worry about making mistakes and forget anxiety, the biggest barrier for many non-cooks.

"We cannot forget that for many people, convenience seems to trump flavour and freshness," she said. "I suspect when someone doesn't feel confident it is easier to go for the convenience. It's time to start gaining a few new skills."

For the seniors in our community who have been cooking for the family for decades, Stephanie believes it is time to stand back and re assess. Many men in their 60, 70s and beyond have never cooked at all relying on wives and partners to take care of that 'chore.'


The Cook's Apprentice contains over 300 recipes.
The Cook's Apprentice contains over 300 recipes.

"There are many older people who have lost their cooking partner through divorce, death or just carelessness," she said. "Learning to cook can be a useful and enjoyable skill for the next stage of life. It can give a massive boost to one's self-esteem. It will give pleasure and gain compliments from guests at your table. Flavour and texture will be more noticeable, you will delight in seasonal ingredients. Cooking will give you a reason for being a bit more experimental about where you shop for fresh ingredients. Have you visited your nearest farmer's markets?"

For the novice - no matter how old - some of today's kitchen technology can be off-putting but Stephanie encourages everyone to try, to learn, but at the same time not become nervous about it.

"You do not need the latest gadget in order to make lunch," she said. "There are a few gadgets I cannot live without. My food processor is top of the list. Wobbly pans and bendy knives are not only inefficient they can be dangerous. Get rid of them." 

The Cook's Apprentice will help every timid cook if they treat it as a mentor in the kitchen with Stephanie by their side explaining ingredients and techniques in a special 'help' section.

According to Stephanie once you have mastered a few culinary skills, the passion will start to grow, you will eat better and be aware of what you are eating because you created it.

"I can help you become a relaxed and confident cook," she said. "I can share what I know about choosing the good, better and best in the marketplace so you can join me in supporting our local food heroes. On the top of my wish list is a desire to make every one of you a lifelong food lover, to enjoy cooking for yourself, your friends and for your own family without anxiety, and to become a supporter of the very best we have.

"Eating well has been a lifelong priority for me. Frequently I eat alone. I still set the table, glass of wine, glass of water, clean fabric napkin, and enjoy every bite. No book or phone, but I do sometimes watch the news at the same time."  

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