Top positive review
33 people found this helpful
Best book on food I own
on 3 November 2006
This is perhaps one of the most audacious cookery books you will read... Heston has taken 8 everyday classic dishes and sought out how to make it as good as it can possibly be by seeking out master chefs and carrying out in-depth testing in the research kitchens of his restaurant (The Fat Duck, named the best restaurant in the world last year) then by learning about the ingredients he found to be the best by visiting the artisans who create them.
What makes it so special is that each dish is assessed both culturally and scientifically in the quest to make the recipe perfect, looking at how tradition and memory shape the food, and at the chemical processes involved in the preparation, assessing things such as how variations in temperature, ingredient quality and methods and timings of preparation may influence the final outcome.
At the end of each chapter Heston presents his recipe which often draw on novel and unusual methods of preparation which overcome the limitations you may face in the home (for example you are not likely to have a dewar of liquid nitrogen for making ice cream or an oven than can hit 500 degrees Centigrade for making pizza, but he finds a way to get close to these).
These recipes will be quite expensive to prepare with the special equipment you may need to buy and the use of the best ingredients possible - though Heston does suggest to use the best you can afford, and I plan to use good ordinary ingredients for a couple of dry runs (not yet being a three Michelin starred chef who has cooked up several hundred practice versions in a well-equipped research kitchen I think this may be sensible!) Also most of these recipes require a lot of time to prepare and may not leave much change out of a weekend.
I believe everyone who reads this book will feel inspired enough to want to pick up their vacuum cleaner and paint gun and have a go at these recipes themselves, knowing that the time, money and effort invested in making these dishes will give great satisfaction both in preparing something resembling perfection and in the understanding of the food that it will give you.
One last note - this book was prepared as a companion to a BBC TV series; having seen the first episode I would suggest don't let the poor quality of the TV series affect your judgement - it is evident that a lot of the material has been omitted or cut down to cram each recipe into a 15 minute slot, whereas three or four times this would have been more fitting.