If you order books from Amazon, you will have noticed how it will not ship many titles to Singapore, due, the American online retailer says, to increased demand.
So if you are eyeing a new cookbook title, you may have to wait until it gets its act together.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of recipes available online.
You just have to sift through a thicket of websites to find the ones that are mostly reliable. I say mostly because, let’s face it, there will always be dud recipes in a book and on a website or app.
I look for two things when assessing an online cooking or baking website: The recipes have to work and they must come with metric measurements. I no longer have patience for scooping ingredients into cups because it is inaccurate. Metric makes perfectly unambiguous sense.
All the sites have good searchable databases. Most of them do more than give recipes. Some have product and equipment reviews, essays on food culture, how-to guides and other useful information for cooks.
These are my five go-to websites.
1 Just One Cookbook
Who: Mother-of-two Namiko Hirasawa Chen, who started it in 2011
Why: This is my favourite cooking and baking website, not least because I love to eat and cook Japanese.
Chen, who lives in San Francisco and is married to a Taiwanese-American, writes workable recipes that always yield good results. Many of them are illustrated with a video. There are also step-by-step photographs, so home cooks and bakers can see what the dough or batter should look like.
Many websites focus on sweet or savoury recipes. She does both.
I cook and bake a lot from her site and, so far, there have been no duds. What I value is how practical the recipes are. In her recipe for katsu sando, breaded pork in a sandwich with shredded cabbage, the meat is crumbed and baked, so I do not have to mess up the kitchen with deep frying.
I have also made several of her tsukemono, or Japanese pickle recipes, including shibazuke (right) and kasuzuke, and they have all turned out beautifully.
She is also my go-to for baking. Her matcha, black sesame and miso cookies are ones I make over and over. They never come out overly sweet, like some American recipes for cakes and cookies. Recently, I made her almond cookies. That recipe is also a keeper.
For Covid-19 times, Chen has 26 Japanese recipes using pantry ingredients such as rice, miso, Japanese curry roux and udon.
Of course, I have too many cookbooks. But if I had to choose one, it wouldn’t even be a book. It would be Just One Cookbook.
2 Cooking With The New York Times
Who: Various, launched in 2014
Why: Like The Straits Times, The New York Times is required reading for me every day. The price of a subscription is worth every cent, not that you need one to access the newspaper’s recipes – you can just Google them.
Just type “NYT” after whatever recipe you are looking for. But a subscription comes in handy if you want to catalogue the ones you like from its huge, easily searchable archive. I also have the app on my phone.
The American newspaper seems to throw vast resources at its food team. The result is one very comprehensive and cosmopolitan food website. It is also easy to navigate and it seems as if the editors know just what readers want.
What To Cook Today is a feature I often check out and the range of recipes is staggering. The other is Recipes We Think You’ll Love, chosen based on the ones I have saved. As I write this, I am debating the merits of Earl Grey Madeleines and Cocoa Nib Sables.
I home in on a few writers. Melissa Clark’s recipes are mostly solid. I have made her Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (right) and Olive Oil Brownies many times. I say “mostly solid” because I recently made her Campari Olive Oil Cake and it had a kueh texture, which is something a friend of mine found when he made the cake too. It tastes delicious, so almost all is forgiven.
Alison Roman’s recipes are also dependable. I like the simplicity of her Slow Roasted Citrus Salmon With Herb Salad, which looks and tastes stunning; Tomato Poached Fish With Chile Oil & Herbs; and Lemony Turmeric Tea Cake.
Not all the recipes are winners. Recently, I made Erin Jeanne McDowell’s Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread and got a loaf of stodge.
For Covid-19 times, it has a special Quarantine Cooking tab, for recipes using pantry staples, a primer on ingredient substitutions and what to do with cooked rice, among many others.
The friendly, you-can-do-it vibe of the site makes me willing to accept that its older recipes do not come with metric measurements.
3 Serious Eats
Who: Food writer Ed Levine, who started it in 2006
Why: Despite its name, this website has lots for amateur cooks and food-mad people like me, with recipes, product and equipment reviews, guides to world cuisines and food science reports, among others.
Although I do not eat instant noodles, I am slightly obsessed by Sho Spaeth’s reviews of them on the site, simply because he tests them out so thoroughly and convincingly.
Serious Eats is a delightful rabbit hole for food geeks. Spaeth has compared American and Japanese cup noodles, but has also developed recipes for making ramen at home.
One of the stars of the site is J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, writer of the excellent cookbook, The Food Lab. His recipes are not the simplest, but he explains very thoroughly why he does things a certain way.
However, I am not convinced by his technique for boiling eggs to make ajitama, ramen eggs with the oozing yolks, and ruined a great many eggs using his method.
Boil them hard. Please.
I have never been disappointed by a Stella Parks recipe. Like the other writers, this baking whiz goes deep into technicalities, but in an approachable way. The recipes I have tried have panned out beautifully: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake (right), Olive Oil Cake, Oatmeal & Cranberry Cookies, Best Chocolate Brownies. I refer to her primer for baking cakes in bundt pans every time I make one, just because the cakes unmould perfectly every time.
For Covid-19 times, the site has a Coronavirus tab, with tips on how to sanitise home and kitchen, a guide on food safety and a comprehensive cooking guide for newbies, among other features.
4 Sally’s Baking Addiction
URL: sallysbaking addiction.com
Who: Self-taught baker and cookbook author Sally McKenney, who started it in 2011
Why: McKenney has what seems like a huge kitchen in Maryland in the United States, perfect long blonde hair, is always beautifully dressed and turns out all manner of cakes, cookies and pies without breaking a sweat. It is so easy to want to hate her, but the recipes I have tried so far are excellent.
I started cooking from her site because it kept showing up on recipe searches, but it took my colleague Eunice Quek, who bakes regularly and loves McKenney’s recipes, to convince me to give them a go.
Well. There is no looking back now, even though many of her recipes involve sprinkles (unlike me, she is an avowed lover of them) and M&M candies. Not all the recipes appeal to me, but I have never had trouble finding those I want to make. Her recipes for Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies (above) and Whole Wheat Apple Muffins are very good, even though I baulked initially at using only whole wheat flour for the muffins. They are not stodgy at all.
What I appreciate is her care in crafting the recipes. She explains why she uses certain ingredients, gives suggestions for substitutions and, of course, has those all-important metric measurements.
5 BBC Good Food
URL: www.bbcgood food.com
Who: Various, launched in 1987
Why: The oldest of the five, and it has a few bells and whistles I wish some of the others would include.
The most useful ones: an oven temperature guide, a metric-to-imperial and imperial-to-metric conversion guide, and a glossary of ingredients.
The huge archive is easy to access and search too.
Recently, I had a zucchini that needed using up. I typed “zucchini” into the search engine and it gave a long list of recipes using the squash, even though I had not searched using “courgette”, which is what the British call it. The recipe for Zucchini Fritters (above) worked very well and I now have a new, easy and delicious way to eat the squash.
The site also has a list of British baking doyenne Mary Berry’s sensible and easy recipes. They always work for me.
Go to the site for useful lists of recipes to make with the kids, like kid-friendly sandwich fillings.
Go to ST Food for more trusted reviews and recipes
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