GET THAT APRON ON
Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat offers readers a master class on the fundamentals of cooking
Lesson one: throw that iodised table salt out. You food will taste metallic. Wait, what?! Samin Nosrat breaks down cooking into its primary elements, and like an excellent teacher, takes you through the physics, chemistry and magic of delicious cooking. Among her myth-shattering tips: do not skimp on salt and never melt your butter on the stove for baking cakes. Other gyaan: use acidic ingredients to balance your cooking and pull your meats out of the oven a few minutes before they’re completely done to allow for ‘carryover time’. Nosrat writes with the elegant lucidity that inspires star chef dreams in absolute amateurs.
Illustrated deliciously by Wendy MacNaughton, this book teaches you everything you need to understand about the science of cooking. And like in school, once you know the basics, you can make everything look easy. Her endeavour is to demystify recipes as hallowed sacraments and allow room for play. From flavour charts for spices, acids and fats from across the world, to instructions for whether to blanch, sauté, roast or grill a certain vegetable in a certain season, this book ventures into territory that is absolutely novel and tested over Nosrat’s nearly two decade long career as a cook, which began at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The recipe breakdown of a Caesar Salad, the sources of acid (which includes, quite hilariously, LSD), the angles at which to slice or dice an onion illustrated in water colour are all it takes to awaken the culinary itch. Like her food, which Nosrat insists must appeal to all the senses, her book is a delight to the eyes and the mind, and if you have the imagination, to every other sense. With MacNaughton’s illustrations it is hard not to imagine the textures, smell and taste of the food Nosrat describes.
If you cook, aspire to cook, can break an egg—even if you only know what a kitchen looks like—this book is an excellent teacher. It does not come to India for a few months but that is no reason to not beg friends and family coming down from the States to deal with that extra baggage. This is a cookbook like no other.