on 19 October 2011
As other reviewers have noted, it's a handsome well-produced book. I have found the writing style excellent: clear, almost conversational, and friendly. The chapter introductions alone give you great explanations about the subjects to follow. I also really like the typography and layout. The font used is classic, and very easy on the eye, and reminds me of some of the better books my mum used in the 70's. The recipes themselves are not broken down into too many steps, and are nicely padded with white space, which all helps to put you at ease, and keep the metaphorical temperature down. The photos are amazing too.
I much prefer this to the "In Search of Perfection" books, where single recipes spanned a chapter, and often several days preparation.
The recipes I have tried so far have been superb, although I agree that the "roast chicken" mentioned by another reviewer reads a little unsettling (I haven't tried it yet). At one end of the scale, the US FDA recommends a minimum internal temp of 74C for poultry, at the other, an excellent German book I have devoted solely to low-temperature cooking of meat suggests an OVEN temperature of 75C for chicken breasts! In the same way that it's become permitted/encouraged to serve pork with a glimmer of pink now, which never used to be the case, I think the boundaries are being "investigated" when it comes to chicken too. The big unknown is the true quality & condition of the bird in your fridge... Equally, as most people are still hard-wired to recoil from chicken with any hint of pink (unless it's tandoori pink!) the good cook will use their nous to prepare it in a way that is most palatable to their diners, as that reviewer did.
I also like the fact that some real sweet recipes are included, i.e. like you'd get from the sweetshop, not just desserts. That's always been a slightly mysterious subject, and the recipes here are a relatively easy way of surprising and confounding people who might otherwise be sceptical of this type of cooking. Drinks, snacks and side-dishes are here too, so you can jazz up even the simplest get-together with a few clever touches.
Other than the sous-vide stuff (which is only a small section anyway), the equipment demands are fairly modest. The only disingenuous note was that "dry ice can now be bought online". Yes it can, but the best offer I could find had a "minimum order value of £120" and was about 40kg. Which is going a bit far for 4 portions of ice-cream. Maybe some enterprising suppliers will take note and produce a CO2 Gift Set ;-)
All in all, highly recommended.
on 5 October 2011
This book is absolutely stunning. I had been losing faith in Heston with his every so slightly gimmicky TV shows of recent past. However this book has completely restored my faith in him.
I have been inspired more by this book than most on my book shelf of 100. Yes the recipes tend to take a lot of time and some use not so traditional methods, but everything is backed up with reason and each technique has a through explanation, each of which make you excited to use what you have just learned. Moreover, every recipe is possible at home (which maybe the exception of a few sous-vides and dry ice items) and will achieve great results.
I have completed two recipes from this book so far, the pea and ham soup and the chicken and ham pies. Both have been extremely successful and some of the best food i've cooked at home.
Follow the instructions and buy good ingredients and you will take your cooking to another level.
Overall, one of the greatest surprises i've had when buying a cook book.
on 25 January 2016
Who is responsible when a recipe in a cookbook is riddled with mistakes? The celebrity chef or the publisher which in this instance is Bloomsbury. I tried making the lemon tart recently and was appalled by the many mistakes in the recipe.
1. Recipe calls for a 20cm tart tin. Are you kidding me? The pastry and filling would be enough for 3 x 20cm tins. Try the recipe and hurrah for you if you manage to fit everything into a 20cm tin.
2. The baking time was also off. I know my oven. It is very accurate and I don't have this problem with recipes from other cookbooks.
3. And even using a 26 cm tart tin, I had so much leftover filling, I actually made a couple of four inch tartlets.
4. After freezing the dough for half an hour, how do you fit it into the tart tin? The pastry was stiff as a board. I had to wait for the dough to soften and was wondering why the dough needed to be in the freezer as it had already an hour of resting in the fridge. I'm sure there is a reason for freezing the dough but it's not explained.
The tart itself is very good and the filling is very easy to make. So please take note of my comments if you are going to try the recipe. And I suggest only using the recipe for the filling. I don't think the pastry recipe is all that great and it requires a lot of chilling time.
on 21 March 2012
As Heston does tend to put a more complex spin on the art of cooking, I was worried that this would be a book deigned to adorn the coffee table but have to admit to being pleasantly surprised, and...find that we share a 'secret vice' or two!
* From 'Prawn Cocktail' on page 125: 'Confession time: prawn cocktail is my secret vice.'
Given Heston's reputation for 'tweaking' in the technical sense, I was relieved to read further on in the same paragraph:
'...Being such a prawn cocktail addict, I'm deeply resistant to attempts to muck around with the ingredients...'
Measuring in around 27.5 cm x 22 cm x 3 cm, it is far from lightweight with Heston and a heap of ingredients on the front cover! The back cover carries only one sentence: 'Classic home cooking, by Britain's most creative chef.'
Quality hardboard covers open to 408 glossy quality pages, split over main chapters:
7. Sous-vide: Seven recipes after a detailed introduction to the 'revolutionary cooking method that is set to transform the domestic kitchen'
8. Pasta & grains
10. Sides & condiments
12. Desserts & Sweets
13. Biscuits, snacks & drinks
The introduction, entitled 'The Essence of Flavour' runs to page 27 and includes informative sections on:
♦ Tastes and aromas
♦ Enhancing flavour
♦ Infusing for flavour
♦ Flavour, sight, sound and touch
♦ Food and the brain
Written to encourage rather than daunt, the Heston narrative makes interesting reading throughout, e.g.:
'The more you can create food that makes a concerted appeal to all the senses - sound, sight, touch, taste and smell - the more intense, immediate and satisfying the eating experience will be...' and this all starts at a surprisingly early stage of life, as he goes on to explain.
Each chapter opening page simply lists the following recipes with their relevant page number. This is then followed by a detailed introduction often including techniques, e.g.
◊ Cooking risotto
◊ Salting & brining fish
◊ Thickening soups
◊ Carving meat
◊ Making jellies
◊ Cooking with chocolate
◊ Crystallizing sugar
Each recipe is well laid out in simply black on white with the title, an opening note, the quantity/number of servings, a metric list/s of ingredients and a clear method. Hints and serving suggestions are included where applicable, and an injection of turquoise blue throughout the tome denotes detailed methods/techniques, e.g.
~ How to ice-filter & egg-filter stock
~ How to peel a soft boiled egg
~ How to peel small onions & shallots
~ How to blind-bake a tart case (out with the ceramic beans:you can use coins for a flatter, more even coverage and conduct heat more efficiently!)
~ How to roast and peel red peppers
~ How to smoke food
~ How to bake a custard in a bain-marie
~ How to fry a steak
~ How to sear a fillet of fish
~ How to make ice-cream or sorbet with dry ice
~ How to make brown butter
~ How to clarify butter
~ How to make a wet/dry caramel
~ How to weigh honey and golden syrup
...and are easy to spot as you flick through, but are also cross-referenced in the index at the back.
There are some relatively straightforward recipes, but a number do require some forward planning in terms of marinating, brining, curing and/or a serious amount of (very) slow-cooking time e.g. 9 hours for 'Shepherd's pie' from page 160 and a cool 18 hours+ for the 'Braised pork belly with crackling', 2 recipes later!
My favourite recipe, to date, is an unusual (for me) combination of 'Braised chicken with sherry & cream', serving 6, from pages 146 & 147 which works very well, along with 'Cheese fondue with sherry & cloves', from pages 230 & 231, finished off with the delightful (digitally probed) 'Lemon tart' on pages 310 & 311.
Some recipes are seriously technically challenging and often span more than one page, e.g. 'Arlette with Pressed Apple Terrine' from page 315. 'Fish pie' (complete with sand & foam topping)on pages 176-178 is also a bit of fun in terms of presentation, if you have the time.
Any utensils outside the average kitchen paraphernalia are mentioned in the recipe opening note, e.g. that aforementioned 'digital probe' or 'lots of 9 cm Petri dishes', for the edible wrappers in 'Salted butter caramels wrapped in edible cellophane', from pages 337-339. A 'Specialist Kit' and 'Specialist Ingredients' section is also included at the back of the book.
From 'Specialist Kit':
I've kept the specialist kit to a minimum, but there are a few things that will make a huge difference to your cooking. A digital probe, for example, might seem a bit space-age, but using one removes the doubt about whether food is cooked or not....However, I don't want talk of technology to obscure the fact that, in the end, cooking is about intuition and emotion, about going into the kitchen and following your instincts, trying things out, having fun.'
A useful extra I forgot to mention earlier...a pastel pink ribbon marker to keep the page!
The only slight criticism I have is that there are fewer photographs of the finished dishes than you might expect but those presented, photographed by Angela Moore, are typically HB-designer spectacular!
A small taste of the other recipes contained within:
♦ Vegetable stock
♦ Pumpkin soup
♦ Marmite consommé
♦ Tea-smoked salmon
♦ Scallop tartare with white chocolate
♦ Potted duck
♦ Bagna cauda
♦ Scotch eggs
♦ Peach and Parma ham salad
♦ Beef tagliata
♦ Slow-roasted rib of beef with bone-marrow sauce
♦ Chilli con carne
♦ Braised pork belly with crackling
♦ Umami broth with poached mackerel
♦ Rack of Lamb Sous-vide
♦ Crab lasagne
♦ Quinoa sushi
♦ Mushroom spelt risotto
♦ Cauliflower macaroni cheese
♦ Blue cheese butter
♦ Bois Boudran sauce
♦ Blackcurrant sorbet
♦ Peach & Rosemary tarte tatin
♦ Lardy cake with butterscotch sauce
♦ Liquid centre chocolate pudding
♦ Golden syrup crème brûlée
♦ Strawberry sundae
♦ Pain perdu
♦ Whisky gums
♦ Pineapple marshmallows
♦ Carrot/beetroot/tomato lollies
♦ Chocolate chip cookies
♦ Shortbread biscuits
♦ Pork scratching
♦ Toffee popcorn
♦ Hot Chocolate
♦ Raspberry sherbet : 'Remember sherbet fountains - those yellow cardboard tubes full of sherbet with a stick of liquorice poking out of the twisted paper at one end? Or sherbet dip-dabs, where a paper packet of sherbet came with its own lolly for dipping?
They're a great nostalgia trip for me...'
(That other shared 'secret vice'!)
on 13 February 2012
I love watching Hestons antics and thought this book would be a way for me to replicate some more simple techniques at home but to be honest even for a half decent cook the stuff in here is still way to complex to do at home and the simple recepies on the TV seriers are probably the easiest bits of the book. for example opened at a random page for fish pie and it has 26 ingredients. Its a lovely hard back coffe table book and is interesting to read but can't see my fella comming home from a hard day at work on the building site to settle down to liquorice poached salmon or bruleed chucken liver parfait. I am not dissing the book but think its more for a a foodie who throws posh dinner parties than someone like me who was look for more of the stuff like on the TV show like how to cook steak, cauliflower cheese etc. the chicken and ham pie was brill although i didn't do all the brine saoking etc as i dont have all sunday to make 1 pie.
on 17 October 2011
This book is high quality. Nicely bound, nice finish, nice size. Hefty, in fact. A value. Pricing was very reasonable and shipping fast (and free!) to Sweden.
Heston has much to share and you cannot help but bring your game up a notch following his techniques.
However, you must have some knowledge going in, or you may disappoint. Take, for example, his roast chicken. The techniques (brine, slow/low roasting and finishing) are excellent. The details, well, perhaps missing or even inaccurate.
If you cook a chicken in a low oven and remove when the internal temperature reaches 60C, you will be serving pink, bloody meat. There will not be enough temp 'bounce' during resting to ensure a finished bird (because of the low/slow cooking method and the reduced deltaT between internal temp and the highest temp of the bird - a reduced thermal inertia, if you will. I even took it to 62C in anticipation, knowing I would need to reach nearly 66C for the bird to be just done). After resting, there will not be any internal temp rise during the last, finishing step of browning the bird at 240C for up to 10 minutes.
I haven't read the entire book in detail to discover any other caveats (I happened to fancy a roast chicken last night, Sunday evening. Good thing I had enough chicken I browned in the roasting pan for my sauce. I was not able to serve anything except the majority of the breast, my family's least favourite part. The rest was too pink/under-cooked. Now, I suspected this would be the case but I wanted to faithfully try Heston's approach. I utilized an accurate oven thermometer and a digital probe, which I have calibrated for accuracy.)
When I cook chicken sous vide I usually take it to about 64, and still find some people prefer it done a bit more, though to me it is perfect there. Is Heston wrong on this one? Possibly. I would at least suggest he add some more information to the recipe, enabling the reader to better manage his or her expectations... especially when it comes to bloody chicken bones.
So, overall, an excellent addition to your collection, but be careful.
This is really a brilliant, well presented and excellently photographed tome. I have enjoyed leafing through and reading this book and being prepared to cook some of these marvellous recipes.
The book is a well made and study hardcover, running to just over 400 pages. There is no softcover and the book is very robust and (with coated pages) well able to survive the rigours of a busy kitchen. It nicely includes a cloth bookmark (several would have been nice) and as noted earlier there are plenty of illustrative photographics, almost all of the food and several of the chef.
The book starts with a dose of theory on flavour with a number of fun exercises demonstrating some of the theorhy behind Hestons wonders. From them we enter the book proper with chapters on Stocks, Soups, Starters, Salads, Meat, Fish, Sous-Vide, Pasta and Grains, Cheese, Sides and Condiments, Ices, Desserts and sweets, Biscuits, snacks and drinks. Each chapter contains a section on theory and technique such as how to make a good stock, how to cook meat etc. All very relevant and attainable at home with a minimal of skills, as Heston says - most good cooks will already have most of the equipment.
Each chapter then contains 10 - 20 recipes which allow one to push the boat out with ones repetoire of fun, or even dinner
party food (tip - Practice first). Nothing is overly difficult and should be attainable by any decent cook. There are a few recipes which call for some really specialist ingredients such as Whiskey Ice Cream; however most ices and sorbets (for example) will work in an Ice Cream maker.
This book is wonderful and magical. In its pages you will find delicious recipes which will help you grow as a cook, but above all they are fun. Highly recommended
on 25 February 2013
yes, it's a beautiful, solid book. very well thought out with great selection of classics and more adventurous recipies
BUT - the recipes are often flawed by incorrect proportions or errors. Eg the peach tarte tatin with rosemary comes with about 400ml of rosemary caramel to "drizzle" on top. 400ml? that's close to a pint glass worth of caramel for an average size tarte!! You need half that much (or less) otherwise you won't see the fruit as shown in the picture.
Another example would be the spiced potted duck which he calls for the fat used to cook the duck legs be mixed back in with the shredded duck. Only problem is you do that if you do this you'll end up with a seriously salty mix (the fat absorbs the salt used to cure the duck earlier). Better half the fat used, and mix in the unsalted fat instead (as recommended by Gordon Ramsay in one of his recipes)
A pity, as the book on paper is amazing, but let down by poorly checked recipes.. each & every dish needs cooking twice with the 2nd attempt with major adjustments
on 10 November 2011
My first Heston Blumenthal. Didn't really know much about him before I saw some of the reviews here. Very happy with the purchase. It's more than a cookbook, it's an education in food. Some of the recipes are big and serious but there are plenty of very simple ones there too. One of my favourite aspect is that he does common recipes very well (something as simple as mayo and salad dressing) Highly recommended
on 28 September 2011
Perhaps Heston's best yet. It combines the why of the method with clear easy
to follow recipes. Most of the recipes are accessible to anyone with a
pan and a knife, though there is plenty for us fanatics who do have a
thermometer probe in our kitchen.
From explaining a simple and effective way of removing fat from stock
to make a consommé by freezing, to poaching salmon in oil to retain its
flavour this is still more of traditional cook book compared to his other books, in that it is full of recipes.
So far I've tried the mashed potatoes (72 degrees); sous vide haddock and the consommé all with great success.
The instructions made all this surprisingly easy. In short, Heston fans will not be disappointed, and people wanting a recipe book of food to enjoy with their friends will not be disappointed.