I first came across Heston Blumenthal a couple of years ago, when I was given "Further Adventures in Search of Perfection" as a Christmas present. I liked that book's obsession and story, but the recipes were all too complex to even consider trying to do at home.
Family Food is a different story - it's about balancing the "how" with the "why."
Many cookery books tell you what to do, in a very prescriptive way - exact temperatures, exact amounts, exact cooking times. Blumenthal on the other hand tries to explain WHY you might want to cook a piece of meat to a particular temperature, and then gives advice on how to get the inside to that temperature, rather than assuming that your oven works in the same way as his.
Others have noted that the "getting children involved" aspects of the books seem to just be ongoing requests to parents that they should do so... but I've found that the recipes do seem to lend themselves to having places where children as young as five can get involved in a helpful way, and hopefully increase their knowledge of real food as something that doesn't come in a plastic carton from a supermarket.
The book isn't perfect - there are the odd things left out (macerate rhubarb for 2 days - but is that in the fridge or at room temperature, Mr. B???) but there are two compelling reasons why I have to give this 5 stars:
- It's the book we use more than any other, ahead of Delia and even Conran (our previous winners.)
- The sight of my five-year old son, stirring away following one recipe and then turning round to tell his mum "I'm so clever", as he mixed and mixed.
Oh, and if you're buying this book and don't already have one, you'll end up needing a meat thermometer. Trust me on this.