During 2005, Yvette Ebbs and Shirley Conlon ran a basic cookery course (at Dún Laoghaire College of Further Education) for ten STEP Enterprise service users who were given the opportunity to buy, prepare and cook healthy meals. They were also taught about personal hygiene and safe cooking. The class was very successful, but they soon realised that a basic cookbook would enable individuals to develop their cookery skills in their own home, and in their own time.
Not finding a suitable publication on the Irish market, Ebbs and Conlon decided to try to fill the gap. They have produced the Step by step guide to basic cookery, which comprises a sturdy A4 ring-bound illustrated book and an accompanying DVD.
I asked Bridie Smith (B. Ed. In Home Economics) and mother of an adult son with an intellectual disability, to review the publication. Here are her comments on the book.
‘This is an excellent cookery book, simple and easy-to-follow, and beautifully illustrated. The recipes are nourishing and inexpensive. The ingredients are mainly local, easy to source, with the bonus of being very familiar. Using this book should provide many hours of fun activity and interaction, whether with staff or friends or family. It would make a lovely present! With both safety and flavour in mind, the cooking time for the stew should be extended to one hour and 20 minutes, instead of just 30 minutes. For the half-pound of meat specified in the recipe, and the added tin of oxtail soup, using a full stock cube seems excessive—in any case I would prefer the flavour of Knorr cubes rather than Oxo, or preferably the use of fresh herbs, if they are available.’
Unfortunately Bridie did not have an opportunity to view the accompanying DVD, which gives a second visual approach to the procedures already described and illustrated in the book. The cookery course, in both book and DVD, is well organised in separate, brief sections. Breakfast choices include instructions for fried, poached, scrambled and boiled egg, and for porridge and bacon and sausages. Lunch recipes are for omelette, hamburger, baked potato with various fillings, and a basic salad. The preparation and cooking of several vegetables is covered in one section, and a separate ‘chapter’ gives three ways of cooking potatoes. Dinners include salmon, pork chop, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti Bolognese, Irish stew and chicken stirfry (not on DVD).
This cookery course is just, forgive the poor pun, ‘what it says on the tin’. It is a step-by-step guide. And it is basic. There are few variations—no pasta fresca or Moroccan stew, and sadly, no desserts (but, of course, healthy fresh fruit needs no cooking)! The equipment shown is an electric cooker and a George Foreman grill (rightly considered both healthy and safe to use). Slightly different techniques are necessary when using a gas cooker safely, and using a microwave has become an everyday skill for most of us. (Admittedly, as Bridie pointed out, the microwave may lead just to the dreaded ‘ready meal’, without learning any real cooking skills.) As already said, this is a basic book/DVD—further support will be needed for new cooks in their individual settings and for their individual cooking preferences.
Congratulations to Yvette and Shirley, and TO STEP Enterprises, for undertaking the huge task of putting together and publishing this dual-media course. It will be very useful for individuals in their own kitchen, and the DVD provides added value for groups in preparation for independent living. It presents a valuable first-steps approach to the world of cooking, giving readers/viewers the essential skills to venture further as they develop a taste for cooking (too many puns, sorry).