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Cook books aren’t just for Christmas

Nikki K on 08th Nov, 2014

How many cook books do you own that you have never cooked from, or even opened? If your answer is 'too many', then read on...

I 'eat my cook books' regularly… most recently, in fact, just yesterday - shortly after my gorgeous husband announced he had liberated the slab of pork belly from the depths of our freezer, and he wanted to slow-roast it. He looked at me expectantly – anticipating that now I was a qualified chef I would know just how to achieve the combination of meltingly tender meat topped with crisply crackling skin that he was clearly pining for.

So where would you go to find a drop-dead gorgeous slow roast pork belly recipe? Of course – The Dinner Set. But unfortunately we don’t have one on here (yet!). Next, I could have tried a general internet search (also known as Russian Roulette as you never know how good the recipe really is, until it’s far too late to change it), or I could have gone straight to my old fall-back in times of recipe crisis BBC Good Food. Instead, I went to (EYB for short).  It’s a site I discovered almost 6 months ago now, and it’s fair to say it has changed my (cooking) life.

Cook books aren’t just for Christmas

No longer do I flick through countless internet recipe-sites, before finding a recipe I am willing to pin my hopes, dreams and special ingredients on. No longer do I stare blankly at my wonderful array of cook books, wondering which one might hold that magic recipe. I just go to and type in a couple of key ingredients. It whirs for a millisecond and produces a neatly ordered list of recipes I already own. Therein lies the beauty – I registered and told it which cook books and magazines I own and it provides me with a searchable index of all my recipes. It lists information about the main ingredients, type of dish and any recommended accompaniments for each recipe, but what it doesn’t do, just to be clear, is give you the full recipe (copyright restrictions). So you need to access your copy of the book or magazine for the full recipe.

Some people may question the value of paying $20 a year to an internet service to tell you what you should already know – but given that there are well over 10,000 recipes in my 160+ cook books and magazines, there is no chance of me holding that information in my head. While cook books are wonderful to buy for yourself and as gifts for others, I find that it is easier to stick with old recipe friends than make new ones. But since joining EYB I have made many new recipe friends from a selection of my old but under-used cook books – for example River Café Two Easy, by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. Bought on impulse several years ago from the monthly discount book stall in our workplace canteen, it had even travelled with me from London to the East Coast of Tasmania, but it had never been opened until I discovered the wonderful  ‘Pappardelle, tomato, pancetta’ recipe whilst searching EYB for a way to use up some leftover pancetta. Now it is one of my go-to cook books.

Back to yesterday’s slow roast pork belly – having typed the magic words ‘slow roast pork belly’, into EYB on the ipad, it came up with the recipe of Gus’s dreams... ‘Slow-roasted pork belly with the sweetest braised fennel’, from Cook with Jamie by the ubiquitous Mr Oliver. I went to my bookshelf, retrieved said book, was instantly smitten with the full recipe (who wouldn’t be – fabulous pictures and the recipe includes a whole bottle of white wine!). Hubby and I headed off to our local shop to pick up the fennel, and the ingredients for the salsa verde Mr O recommended as an accompaniment. Embarrassingly it was the first recipe from that book I have ever cooked – although in mitigation I did only buy it last year, honest!


Four hours later, we sat down to enjoy the most meltingly tender pork, infused with a fennel seed salt rub, and topped with crispy crackling, accompanied by the fennel, braised with the pork in that bottle of white wine. As well as the recommended salsa verde, which gave just the right tang to cut the richness of the pork, I added a cauliflower smear and Gus contributed some creamy mashed potato for good measure. Garnished with a few fennel fronds, it was heaven on a plate - deliciously rich and absolutely restaurant quality. Another win for EYB, for me and for Gus. I should have taken a photo, but we ate it too fast.

So how does EYB work? You pay $20 a year to be able to search across your cook books and magazines in seconds. As a new member of The Dinner Set, we give you a 3 month full trial membership for free. Initially I wasn’t sure if I would find the service worth $20 a year, so decided to road-test it for 3 months and then decide. Then came the hard bit – registering my 160+ cook books and recipe magazines took an hour or two over 2 rainy Sunday afternoons, but I found that investment of time started to pay back very quickly.

I have a huge array of cookbooks – bought new, bought cheap, bought second-hand, handed down or given to me as presents. Many are mainstream, many are not, some are very old and some are random ones I have acquired on my travels – from Sri Lanka, Cornwall, Morocco, Hawaii, Scotland, California, France, Singapore and now of course Australia. So it did not surprise me when I discovered that only about 2/3 of my cook books were already indexed by EYB. Properly indexing a cook book is quite an undertaking, as I have since discovered. The majority of the cook books I really wanted to be indexed were (and many random ones too!), and I saw that several more of my cook books were undergoing the indexing process and would be available soon.

Once you have registered the titles of your cook books and magazines then the fun begins – the search tool is so easy to use. After a couple of months of having an index of all my recipes at my finger-tips I knew I could never go back to how I recipe-searched before, and happily handed over my credit card details to cover the annual fee.  It gets kind of addictive too – I found myself thinking, well I would really like that ‘Fish recipes from the South-West’ book I picked up in Cornwall  indexed, as I’ve been meaning to cook more fish…. so I volunteered to index it myself for EYB. Indexing was a more detailed process than I had anticipated, but I got to know the recipes in that little book so much better than if I had just idly flicked through it one afternoon.

If you are curious about whether EYB could change your (cooking) life, then why not give it a go – join The Dinner Set today and get your free 3 month trial code.

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