Mitchell Beazley, £25
In a world saturated with cookbooks, 'How to Cook Better' from British chef Shaun Hill makes a refreshing change. Moving away from the usual recipe-on-one-page, picture-on-facing-page approach, this is a manual, focusing more on techniques than recipes. This less formulaic style also suits Hill, who concentrates on simple prose with the occasional line of dead-pan humour rather than going for overblown superlatives like many another writer. The photographs, often in black and white, by Jason Lowe are gritty and grainy. While not necessarily to my taste - or any more realistic than in other books - they do suit Hill's words.
The book is divided into three sections - Essentials, Ingredients and Techniques and Methods of Cooking - each with a list of subsections. Essentials includes mundane but valuable details of equipment alongside important health, safety and nutrition information. Ingredients and Techniques details foodstuffs - eg fish, starch - and how to deal with them while Methods of Cooking is particularly well thought out, from cooking without heat to uncovering the mysteries of stocks and sauces. This format, however, does mean that there is some skipping and jumping between sections as a recipe like John Dory with coriander could fit equally well under Ingredients and Techniques or Methods of Cooking.
The title gives it away - this is not a book for beginners but a refresher for someone who already knows how to cook. That's not to say that the novice won't find useful tips on ingredients, techniques and cooking methods but recipes for dishes like roast pheasant breasts with braised legs in soft spices are likely to appeal to more experienced cooks.
Informative and interesting, 'How to Cook Better' might not be the first cookery book that you ever buy, but it certainly deserves a place on your shelf - and in your kitchen.