My first cookbook by James Martin and I don't have much more to say than is in the title. If you're the type of cook who already has bookshelves groaning with cookbooks then there isn't much to tempt you here.
If you're more of a beginner, building your repertoire and your cookbook library, then this might well find a place. The recipes are organised by season, and cooking with seasonal produce is what we all need to do nowadays. The recipes are well presented, clearly written and explained. I also like that it has a very British feel
All in all though this book fails one test. It's not the type of cookbook you want to read in bed - it's just not inspiring enough or evocative enough in its language. But in the kitchen, it's easy to follow and will do the job.
As an obsessive buyer of cookery books, I was pleased to get my hands on this one. I have his desert book which I really quite like, but this one isn't up to that standard. Looking through this, I could'nt find anything I wanted to cook, until I reached the 'Winter' section at the end of the book. It all seems a bit bland when compared to, say, Nigel Slater or the River Cottage books, and really isn't my thing at all. But that's just me, and I'm sure that if you like watching him on the telly, you will love this book.
James Martin's kitchen must be enormous. He must also own the world's largest spice rack to house the myriad extras that go into his meal recipes in My Kitchen.
The book is beautifully presented and contains, as is essential in this day and age, sumptuous and mouth-watering photographs of the end product. The cooking instructions themselves are clear and direct, and while grouping recipes together by their seasonality is not novel nowadays, it's still a good idea.
I had expected the book to contain a collection of simple, hearty, traditional fare associated with Martin's Yorkshire roots, and those ideas are definitely there, but in the minority and often combined with hard-to-source additional tweaks, which could put many readers off. The problem that the casual cook has with using recipes like these is that you are often left with a jar of esoteric spice flavouring that you have no idea what to do with next.
There's little in the way of straightforward meals in this collection which is a pity, as the simpler suggestions are seriously tasty but require a significant investment of time. This, combined with the rarity of some of the ingredients spoils what would otherwise be an excellent recipe book with results as pleasing to the palette as any other top TV chef's.
I'm still a big fan of the early James Martin cookbooks, but I've found that the more famous he gets the less useful his books. His last two were charity shopped within days of purchase. This one will last a bit longer.
The book is advertised as 'the recipes James Cooks when he's not in front of the camera'. If that's true can't have a minute to spare to wash those cars he brags about. Generally the recipes aren't the type you can just throw together from what's in the cupboards, you'll need a shopping list and time to plan ahead (unless things like Japanese Panko beadcrumbs, Peroche goats cheese and cod cheeks are on your weekly shop).
On the plus side, the recipes by season layout is lovely (but not as lovely as the The River Cottage Year), and the recipes do re-invigorate some routine dishes. Admittedly the recipes I've tried so far have come out a little wonky (generally a bit watery or unset, and I've needed much longer cooking times), but this has been the case with all his later books. Use the recipes as ideas rather than concrete guidelines.
NB For me James Martin always uses way too much cream, but I've found using only half the amount (and sometimes substituting for soya cream)doesn't adversely affect the dish.
on 28 January 2010
James Martin's books came to my attention in the form of James Martin's Great British Winter which is now in sleeves in a ringbinder as the spine gave way from the almost daily use.
"My Kitchen" continues the Martin format by grouping the recipes in themes - in this case spring, summer, autumn, winter, and finally sauces, soups & stocks. And as a former professional chef myself, I can say these are all excellent recipes, and many of them have already been put to good use.
What makes this even more impressive from my point of view is the way Martin takes good, honest recipes and just gives it a slight twist and improved edge which turns any meal into a fest for all the senses. All in all, this is collection of recipes that prove that cooking can be fun and rewarding.
If you spend any amount of time in the kitchen, or are looking for a reason to do so - this is an absoulte must.
I have to admit that I'm not a fan of James Martin on TV - I'm firmly in the Fearnly-Wittingstall camp. However, I thought I'd give this a go. I have to say I was underwhelmed. The book is perfectly pleasantly designed and produced, albeit in a generic TV-celebrity-chef-fulfilling-his-contractual-obligation kind of a way, and some of the recipes look OK but none filled me with an instant desire to make them, and I can't imagine any of them becoming regulars on our dinner table.
If you are a fan, or need to give a gift to someone who is, then this book might be worth buying but otherwise I think there are plenty of more inspiring food writers out there.
I found this cook book to be a little schizophrenic, in that many of the main courses have 'bloke' written all over them - beef with black beer mustard, and braised oxtail with beer and red wine - and yet many of the puddings are very delicate, and dare I say, even a bit girly in approach - lemon verbena cake, honey madeleines, and rhubarb and ginger syllabub.
There is a heavy emphasis on using seasonal produce (the book being divided into four chapters named 'Winter', 'Spring', 'Autumn' and 'Summer'). The winter recipes include obvious festive fare such as figgy pudding, Christmas pudding ice-cream, and breaded turkey with honeyed parsnips. The summer ones are more of a surprise, oddly incorporating a number of hot soups, such as Little Gem lettuce soup, and sweetcorn and crab.
Overall, my favourite bits are probably the desserts (James Martin is renowned for these, as you will know if you've caught the TV show 'Sweet') - and in addition to the dishes mentioned earlier, you can also find the recipes for such delights as coffee cake with pistachio cream filling, Welsh cakes with poached pears, and good old-fashioned baked custard tart.
The book is printed on heavyweight matt paper, with a matt cover and has a quality feel. I would find it hard to think of a cook book that better exemplifies the cuisine of Britain, so it gets an extra half star just for that 8-)
Very much modeled on Jamie Oliver's format - light, airy, aspirational and aimed at the can-do in us all - James Martin's My Kitchen is pleasant enough, if lacking that certain spark. Where each of Oliver's books generally have a certain slant to them, and, like all great cookbooks, has at least a handful of recipes that make you want to get into the kitchen, Martin's book is somewhat generic and lacks that particular spice. Oliver also succeeds in delivering the kinds of recipes you can at least take aspects from, but Martin's are so focused on the finished dish that you're either going to like what he does, or move on; want to make the dish, or remain indifferent. Personally, I found myself hunting for those sparks, but without much joy, even in the desert section, which I have to say I found quite underwhelming. In fact I'd go as far to say some of this was a bit... old fashioned, and not in a retro, timeless way; as if Martin was trying to make his niche in that place which is less enticing than Oliver, but in being less colourful is simply.... a tad dull and lacking distinction. If this were a newspaper, I'd say it was the Daily Express, where I was hoping for something a bit more Guardian. If Martin was premiering this on Masterchef, they'd say, "pleasant enough, but you need to sort out your seasoning".
To sum up: if you like Martin then you'll probably enjoy this, but if you're looking for something a little more dynamic, or something that will empower, couple up to, or enhance your current cooking styles, I'm not sure this is the one for you.
At the moment, we British are have become so obsessed with cooking, that our gastronomy has become world class and even overtaken that of the French. This is partially due to the efforts of many modern TV chefs such as James Martin who are encouraging us away from nasty mass-produced gruel and instead bring seasonality into our diet making the best (or rather the most) of that which is available at the time. This book very much has seasonality at its heart; broken down into 4 chapters corresponding to each season Mr Martin offers us a range of dishes; both main, side and snack for these seasons.
The choice of dishes is excellent were they a wine I would describe the range as lightly refreshing. There is nothing stodgy here and the take of revamped favourites and new dishes is clean and original. For example in spring we see several dishes with rhubarb such as "Dill-Marinated salmon with Rhubarb salad" and "Rhubarb and Ginger syllabub". Both of which are exciting interpretations of rhubarb which moves away from the now boring classics such as "Rhubarb fool" Of course as a Yorkshire man, Martin is well aware of the Rhubarb triangle, which is all what remains of that Victorian Rhubarb stronghold which held the North of England at the time.
Martin's take on the classics is also excellent. Examples in the book include "classic chicken chasseur", "Zabaglione" and "Roast Turkey with a Guinness glaze", all worth drooling over, then making. Here also we see Martins classic European background in cookery and it is nice to see these dishes reinterpreted for modern readers in the new seasonality and good food climate.
The book itself contains something like 30 recipes per season often with an illustration on the opposite side of the page. The recipe is laid out in a clear easy to read format, ingredients on one side and then the step by step process on the next column. All in all this was easy to work with and the recipes I tried all came out perfect with no problems (good food is often very simple). Of course I consider myself a somewhat accomplished cook, however I feel that less experienced people would also have no problems with following the instructions laid out here.
The main feeling I get from this book is that James Martin has simply offered a selection of really good recipes with the intention that this is the good life made easy. In doing this he has succeeded perfectly and this book is a joy to read and use; untainted by ego, which we do unfortunately find in the books produced by some chefs. I heartily recommend this book.
Based on the premise that buying food in season makers sense not only from aspect of the superior quality of food available but also on account of the relative price advantage, James Martin presents a collection of 100 recipes described as "the dishes (he) cooks when he's not in front of the camera". In accord with its aims the book is conveniently arranged by the four seasons, and each season is coded by colour, green for spring, blue for summer, brown for autumn, purple (for want of a better description?) for winter, so wherever you open the book you know from the colour of the headings which season you are in.
The recipes include starters, main course and desserts, and are generally based on just a few ingredients. I would not say simple ingredients, you may have to go looking for some of them, and I would question Mr Martin's claim that in terms of cost of the ingredients "we're talking pence, not pounds". But the recipes are imaginative and very varied. Just a few to whet the appetite: Sweetcorn soup with crab and basil cream; Grilled halibut with champ and lemon butter; Rabbit casserole with white wine and grapes; Spatchcock duck with spicy tamarind glaze; Honey glazed quail with beetroot, apple and hazelnut salad; Pistachio coffee cake; Poached cherries with almond glaze. There are also recipes for grouse, sardines, scallops and squid, artichokes, rhubarb, pigeon, pheasant, venison, pumpkin, mango and much more. The book concludes with a brief section on Stocks, sauces and dressings; a list of suppliers, many of which have websites; and a comprehensive index.
There are the usual mouthwatering photographs accompanying many of the recipes. However a few photographs showing some of the techniques might have been more useful, such as how to spatchcock (a method that can be used to prepare any bird by removing the bigger bones), the instructions a fairly clear, but one or two pictures would make it so much easier.
James Martin's My Kitchen provides a sensible and realistic approach to food and at the same time is imaginative and creative.