Interesting article in http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/may/08/the-great-recipe-swindle. Talks about the need for cooking experience to be able to get good results with a recipe and that they are really only a guide as you can’t tell people exactly what to do at each stage and there are too many variables in aspects like ovens. He points out that people who try to follow recipes to the letter get very frustrated when dishes do not work as the recipes promise and suggests this may be one reason why surveys have suggested that most people cook only one or two recipes from each cookbook they own.
Whilst I agree that you can’t have recipes that explain every thing in minute detail I’m not convinced that is solely why people only cook one or two recipes from a cookbook. Certainly poor results do put me off a cookbook but I also find I can be so pleased with one or two recipes in a cookbook I don’t get past them without a serious effort. Nigella’s Domestic Goddess (banana bread) and Rachel Allen’s Bake (oat and raisin cookies) cookbooks both fall into that category for me. I realised I’ve used Jamie Oliver’s books for meals a lot more than Nigella’s because Jamie is much better with including or suggesting suitable vegetables. I also like the flexibility in Jamie’s recipes for quantities. I might also neglect a book when ingredients are hard to get hold of. We have a Wagamama cookbook that has a mystery ingredient that I’ve not been able to track down anywhere.
Now that I’m a more experienced cook I know to follow baking recipes exactly at least first time through as the chemical reaction has to be right to transform the ingredients into a cake but that there is rather more flexibility in a meal. There are some books I haven’t used much because I need time to absorb and plan and those are the books I’m hoping to use a lot more as I record how I get on in this blog.