The last job I had working as a chef was for a super talented lady, back in my hometown, Raglan, NZ. We cooked a lot of beautiful food and I baked my little heart out most days. There was a stack of cookbooks in the corner of the kitchen which we gained inspiration from, but the two main ones used were; Donna Hay's Modern Classics's 2 (baking book) and the cooking tome The Cook's Companion by Australian legend (and one of my food heroes) Stephanie Alexander. Whenever we needed a base recipe, it was The Cooks companion we turned to. To say it was a well loved book is an understatement (even more so because the chef I worked for had once worked alongside Stephanie herself!). Because of it's sheer size (weight!) and price, I've never bought myself a copy, sadly. Moving from NZ to Australia numerous times in the space of 10 years is not exactly an ideal life for such a book, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw the announcement of the Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion App!
I know I'm going to sound really old fashion here, but this is the first app of it's sort that I've downloaded (I had to even read up how to redeem the voucher I was sent as I've only owned a smart phone for a few months!). I usually prefer to buy hard copy versions of cookbooks and even though I write recipes online for a living (if you can call it that), I don't tend to gravitate towards this style of viewing usually. But I gotta say, when it comes to a book such as this (the hard copy contains 1100 pages!!), the app version makes complete sense. It's portable, super quick and easy to navigate and it's pretty damn cool having all that information right there with me at all times. Stephanie's recipes are simple and honest and while my cooking style has moved away from much of what she cooks since we discovered our food intolerance's, there is a huge section of both vegetarian and gluten-free recipes in their own folders within the app.
Within the app you can search for recipes by ingredients or recipe. Each ingredient has it's own little bundle of recipes and there's a bunch of how-to videos I know many cooks will find super helpful (like how to line a tart tin with pastry!). I've not even discovered half of what the app can offer yet... but there's places for you to add your own personal notes about a recipe, you can favourite ones you love the most and you can even email an ingredients list to yourself to use when buying ingredients!
There are a bunch of recipes I'm keen to try out, but after picking up some beautiful eggplants from the store the other day, it was Stephanie's Imam bayildi recipe that quickly jumped out at me first. This is a classic Turkish dish of stuffed eggplant, with tomatoes and a hint of spice all baked in a lemony/olive oil bath. As mentioned in the headnotes of the recipe, apparently folklore claims that a Turkish priest, the imam, fainted with pleasure on being served this dish by his wife. After eating these I can absolutely believe this to be true. I may or may not have nearly eaten the whole lot myself! I did manage to save a few for the kids to eat though and Ada now wants me to buy eggplants every week to make this again!
Below is the recipe as seen in the app, but I've also added a few of my own notes down the bottom too...
1 large onion, finely sliced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
pinch of ground cinnamon
¼ cup parsley, freshly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 large lemon
*Meat and rice Briefly sautéed minced beef or lamb can be mixed with the vegetables, as can currants, nuts or rice.
Emma's notes: I used 7 small eggplants instead of 3 large. I added about 3 tablespoons of toasted pinenuts to the filling and scattered a few more over the top before baking. I grilled the tops for a few minutes to give them a little more colour once cooked through, but our oven tends to cook from the bottom up, so you may not need to do this. When removing the flesh from the eggplants I find it easiest to cut around the edges with a sharp knife, leaving a 1cm boarder before using a spoon to get in a scoop the flesh out. Obviously I don't eat meat, but I thought I'd leave in Stephanie's note at the bottom about adding it in, in case you do.
Disclaimer: I received this app free of charge, but as always my views are my own and I only write about things I genuinely love and things I think will be of value to you too.