'Seasonal Recipes from the 'The Kitchin' - the Edinburgh 'fine dining' restaurant run by Tom Kitchin and his wife, Michaela - based on master-chef type presentation, but focusing on simplicity and freshness.
From the dust-jacket inner flap:
'...The 100 recipes in this book show how natural combinations and high-quality seasonal ingredients allied to uncomplicated recipes produce the very best flavours and textures.
As well as the recipes there are fascinating contributions from those who supply the fresh produce for 'The Kitchin' and anecdotes from learning and working with master chefs Pierre Koffmann, Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse.'
And ........with the front cover quote from Pierre Koffmann:
'Tom Kitchin is one of the most creative and exciting cooks I have ever known'......
.....it is clear that this is going to be more than just another recipe book!
In fact, it is a journey, one which charts the career of the youngest chef in Michelin-starring achievement - but this young man is nonchalant about that fine status, shifting the importance back to his main goal -being simply passionate about seasonal cooking.
A passionate man with a conscience.....
Scotland has, I believe, the world's best shellfish. I get most of my shellfish from the Caithness and Sutherland regions of northern Scotland, as well as from Orkney and the Scottish west coast. The scallops from Orkney are exceptional. The quality, the size, the flesh are all just right - a perfect scallop. I only ever use hand-dived scallops at The Kitchin and would never use anything else. I don't like the thought of dredged scallops - those dragged from the seabed by special nets - and the technique can cause serious damage to the marine life.......'
A quick glance through the pages may give a first impression of rather awesomely presented food but on closer inspection there is a mix of the simple, e.g. 'Bouquet Garni,' to the grand sounding, 'Hare à la Royale', with oodles in between - the level of difficulty depending on individual culinary ability, as always.
From the introduction:
* 'In this book I want to share some of my experiences as well as my thoughts on the people who inspire me and on the extraordinary produce we have in this country...
The recipes I have out together here are a collection of carefully selected dishes that I enjoy making. Some are dedicated to the more advanced cook, but I firmly believe that anyone who loves cooking will gain confidence simply by trying something new.....
You need to know the basics, but by allowing yourself to discover new techniques and, more importantly, mastering your own palate, you will soon be on to good things.....'
Tom smiles out at you from the black and white dust-jacket, which covers the plain blue hardboards, opening to 272 high quality pages, split over seasonal chapters:
* Spring (pg36-91)
* Summer (pg92-151)
* Autumn (pg 152-205)
* Winter (pg206-257)
along with an 8-page section of 'Basic Recipes', all sandwiched between an introduction, entitled, 'Sharing my World' - summarising The Kitchin Life, to date - and a 5-page index.
Each chapter opens with on-location shots and relevant information. Each has a special feature, or two in the case of 'Summer', which is packed full of information followed by a dedicated recipe(s).
Then come the other recipes relevant to the season.
* 'Girolles - Few things taste better in the summer than sautéed mushrooms on toast. I used to eat this at my Nana's house when I was younger and to this day I always make sure I go out mushrooming a few times a year. I love being out in the woods in the summer, especially on a sunny day. We prepare a picnic, bring along a good bottle of 'Bandol' and make a day of it. If I am lucky, my fungi forager comes with us and shows us the best places........'
Sometimes there is more than one recipe to a page; sometimes a recipe spans more than one page - four in the case of the ambitious 'Lamb's Tongues with Sweetbread Ravioli'!
Each recipe is well laid out and easy to follow with the title at the top and the number of servings, an opening note, the
list(s) of ingredients and the method, along with any preparation tips and, often, a relevant snapshot, or a 'step-by-step' in the case of the more challenging tasks, e.g. 'Preparing a Pig's Head', and this is, perhaps, an appropriate time to mention that the occasional photograph may prove sensitive to some (please see example in above images)!
Useful tips are littered throughout, e.g.:
* 'Don't try to cut corners by not allowing your pastry to rest properly - for 'Chocolate Tart' - it will shrink.'
* 'To check that the grouse is young, squeeze the top of the skull. If it's soft, it is a young bird ('Scottish Grouse with Bread Sauce and Game Chips').
Photography throughout from Marc Millar. Most of the main dishes have a finished dish shot, along with an additional tip or a serving suggestion. On-location shots are littered throughout, some in black and white - with a fair number of Tom, who also features in the small black and white chapter photo at the head of the page.
My favourites, to date, tried and tested:
'Rack of Lamb with Braised Spring Lettuce Parcels', from pages 72/73
'Kitchin Lobster Thermidor', from pages 126/167, (if there are only two of us)
'Poached Rhubarb with Cheesecake Mousse', from pages 88/89, using my Dad's favourite - 'Scottish Crowdie', (although it can be successfully substituted with 'Philadelphia Cream Cheese', if the former is not in a shop near you!)
Other recipes include:
* Scottish Girolles on Toast with Poached Eggs and Chorizo
* Stuffed Courgette Flowers
* Roast Rib-eye with Wedge Fries and Béarnaise Sauce
* Sea Urchin Soup
* Spiced Aubergine with Scottish Smoked Salmon
* Potatoes Boulangère
* Octopus Carpaccio
* Honey Parfait with Pickled Plums and Oat Crumble
* Beetroot Soup
* Pumpkin Risotto
* Roasted Cod with Broccoli Purée
* Fish Pie
* Roast mallard with Gnocchi
* Stuffed Cabbage
* Venison Loin with Pumpkin Gnocchi
* Poached Pears with Crème Fraîche Mousse
* Gravlax with Swedish Sauce
* Mulled Wine
* Coq au Vin
* Bramley Old Spot Loin of Pork
* Prunes and Armagnac with Prune Ice Cream
and......on a well-deserved day off:
'Michaela's Scrambled Eggs'
* 'Sunday breakfast is a real treat for me. The restaurant is closed and I can take the chance to relax properly and spend some quality time with my wife and son. I'm always tired from the week, but I like to get up early to catch 'Match of the Day', with my son, and flick through the Sunday papers. We always make a big breakfast, which can turn into quite a feast. I especially enjoy cheesy scrambled eggs which we eat with some fresh rustic bread from the local deli and a few slices of Parma ham. This is my wife's recipe and she insists on using no butter at all, but I will admit that it does taste delicious!'
Credit where credit is definitely due:
* 'Michaela - thank you for all your hard work and for putting the words down on paper.
Without you none of this would have happened.
I love you more than words can say!'
- the closing acknowledgment - to a book in a class of its own, in my opinion.