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Action Cook Book [Hardcover]

Len Deighton
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

14 May 2009

'I am going to cook you the best meal you have ever tasted in your life…' Harry Palmer to Sue Lloyd in ‘The Ipcress Files’

'Len was a great cook, a smashing cook. I learned a lot about food from playing Harry Palmer' Michael Caine

If you look carefully at Harry Palmer's kitchen in the classic film ‘The Ipcress Files’ you will notice a newspaper pinned on the wall. This is one of Len Deighton's classic cookstrips, the series that ran for two years when he was the Observer food writer. Because before he became famous as the thriller writer of his generation, Len Deighton had trained as a pastry chef. He was also a brilliant graphic artist (his credits include the first ever UK cover for Kerouac's ‘On The Road’). ‘The Action Cookbook’ is the perfect mix of these two passions, created for the hero of his third passion.

‘The Action Cook Book’ was once an instructional book for the bachelor male – a guide to sophisticated cooking for the would-be Harry Palmer. It now has a great following as a fabulous piece of nostalgia as well as retaining real credibility as a genuinely useful cook book.

If you need to create the basic wine cellar (basic to Len Deighton – decidedly aspirational to the rest of us), or to learn how to cook full-bodied meals with a seductive touch (how could you resist brain soufflé? – ‘brains are a very good constituent for a souffle. They are delicious fried, or in any of the piquant wine sauces’), then this is the book for you.

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Action Cook Book + Len Deighton's French Cooking for Men: 50 Classic Cookstrips for Today's Action Men + Cooking in Ten Minutes: or the Adaptation to the Rhythm of Our Time
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (14 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007305877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007305872
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'How does one go about achieving some Harry Palmer style? Details first. Remember, Palmer is a gourmet, so get hold of the Len Deighton “Action Cook Book”.’ Michael Jacovides, GQ

'Len Deighton's “Action Cook Book” is not a good cookbook. It is a shockingly good cookbook.' Paul Collins, Village Voice

'Cooking as I'd never seen it: fun, cheeky, male and promising the awesome prospect of sex…The taut clarity of Deighton's writing, his encyclopaedic knowledge and attention to detail…The prose reads like Dashiell Hammett channelling Brillat-Savarin.' Waitrose Food Illustrated

'[Len Deighton's cookbooks] have attracted cult following for their brilliant design as much as for their comprehensive approach to cooking…his democratising, demystifying approach couldn't be more appropriate.' Guardian

'They showed the idiot novice male how to dice an onion without it falling apart; how to fine-cut parsley by rocking the blade rather than chopping it; how to sauté mushrooms without them yielding the water that would turn them into a gelatinous glop.' Simon Sharma

‘[Len Deighton was] decades ahead of Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver…an early example of what we might call gastrosexual…”The Action Cook Book” saved many from starvation in the sixties’ Telegraph

About the Author

Len Deighton was born in London in 1929. At the age of seventeen he became a photographer attached to the R.A.F. Special Investigations Branch. Following his discharge in 1949 he did a variety of jobs and in 1952 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. His writing career began with The Ipcress File which was a spectacular success and was made into a classic film starring Michael Caine.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delighted to see the return of this classic 4 May 2009
By F. Seed
A confession: as a poor student I stole this book from a bookshop in 1961. It's still on my shelf almost 50 years later, much sellotaped and stained, and is still the one I turn to for trifle, cassoulet, tripe and onions. In many ways it has dated: the home cook can buy good stock, decent croissants (make them? are you kidding?)and ripe tomatoes in cans and as passata. You'd be lucky though to find brains, crepinette and eels. Duck a l'orange is very 70s (go for passion fruit for an update) and things once considered exotic - minestrone, for example- now no longer are. Herbs and spices should now include e.g. smoked paprika and the Indian range. But if you still want to buy a mauve shirt, like the guy on the cover, and invite girls home as I did with middling success when I couldn't afford both restaurant dining and a babysitter (I was a single dad) or if you're simply looking for inspiration I recommend this book, an old friend, without hesitation.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I picked this up while browsing in a book store. I had no idea Len Deighton was a cookery writer as well (Now that opening scene in The Ipcress File is explained!) as a thriller writer.

As befits the former food writer for The Observer, this is a technically excellent cookbook. It's really aimed at blokes - going into some detail about the science of cooking, and with some seriously good diagrams to explain the mechanics of cooking. It certainly isn't just a recipe book: it tells you what wines go with what food, what kinds of rice to buy for what effect, and what kitchen equipment to buy (and what to avoid).

It has dated slightly, but not where it matters. For example, a lot of the book writes as though you are going down to the local greengrocer, the local butcher and the local fishmonger. I'm lucky enough to have the last two, not many people in Britain are, so it's like an evocation of Britain past (and all the more charming for it). Tastes in wine have changed, as well. It's not every well appointed swinger that keeps a case of Pomerol on standby, let alone a third of a case of Chateau Margaux!

But where it matters, in the recipes themselves, and most of the general advice on drinks and equipment, it really is an excellent book to buy someone who, well, maybe doesn't hate cookery, but doesn't know where to begin. Especially if that person is a man. This is a completely different take to most basic books, and it's a really fun one. Just the thing to inspire a quirky guy to start cooking.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I confess I'd never heard of Len Deighton but I was impressed by this book, which I bought as a laugh as it promised old-fashioned 70s seduction via cookery.

Attempts to make this a seductive cookbook have perhaps not quite hit the mark, not least because the food would be too stodgy to allow you to get up to much "action" afterwards. But it's great for some serious retro recipes. Baked Alaska, anybody? For a man who loves eating, and who is a nervous but keen cook, this is ideal. As long as he's a red-blooded meat-eater as well, otherwise it won't just be the beans that will blanch. (I'm still intrigued as to how the lady caressing the cook on the cover would react to the idea of being served brains, but there y'go).

There are some good, solid recipes in here - I tried the borscht and it was WONDERFUL: don't skip the sour cream in it. The style is great as it's almost written in the form of little cartoons and diagrams so it's easy to follow. And I like his flexibility - sometimes he'll just tell you to use a dollop or a handful of something. Finally, there's a basic guide to choosing wine, creating a cocktail cabinet and selecting cigars as well, for those who wish to be hosts with the most.

A lovely present for a young bloke who's fed up making pasta or opening a tin. It's a good, comprehensive recipe book that will last a lifetime. Good price, too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Action cooking 29 Oct 2009
As an old lady I bought this for the sheer nostalgia.As a young wife I cut out the cook strips from the Observer and pasted them on my kitchen wall. I think, in fact I know, they were what gave me an interest in cooking.
Good common sense coupled with clear drawings and information. A delight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 10 Feb 2010
A compendium of good taste - excuse the pun. Beautifully illustrated. A mine of information for the bachelor esp.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars right way up 13 Nov 2009
wonderful to see this beloved cookery primer back in print, and the right way up, too (landscape format). only problem now is the poor reproduction of the cookstrips - it would have been far better to have charged more for better quality printing, in my opinion...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Cook Book 14 Aug 2009
So good to see this brilliant cook book has been reprinted. My dog eared original from the 60's was starting to fall apart - and my son kept nicking it to take to college. So now he's got the old copy and I've got this nice new hard-back version.

Len Deighton's lovely simple approach puts Gordon and Co in their place. And I'm sure the quality of his food is just as good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great service 16 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I heard about this book on radio 4, and it certainly does not disappoint, I was lucky to get an as new copy the next day,
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