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A glimpse at the art and skill of a top chef
on 23 November 2012
There are cookbooks aimed squarely at the "I'm bored of my standard repertoire of week night suppers, and I want some inspiration". Equally, there are cookbooks aimed at "I'm having a dinner party, and I want to make something a bit special". And then there are cookbooks from Michelin starred restaurateurs and restaurants; uber aspirational, requiring a dedication to both acquiring ingredients and time given to cooking the dish that make using from these books not an exercise in cooking, but an exercise in producing a work of art, albeit a copy.
Philip Howard chef and co owner of The Squarefollow, based in Mayfair, London, with two Michelin stars, has launched a cookbook, which has been over 10 years in the writing, the first of a two, subtitled Volume 1: Savoury. The book itself is beautiful, on heavy, shiny paper stock, with each recipe simply but stylishly photographed and then written up over 3 or 4 pages or so. The 526 pages - this is not a small book - are organised into chapters on: basics, amuse-bouches, soups and consommes, salads, from the cold larder, from the hot lader, pasta, risotto, shellfish, fish, meat, and game.
Obviously, cooking food of this type is akin to a military exercise; it's immediately obvious that a brigade of sous chefs (each with a quiver of Japanese knives made by the most obscure cutler imaginable) would be immensely useful. For example, a Roast chicken consomme with stuffed wings, morels and foie gras calls for 32 ingredients, among which are 5 kg of chicken carcasses, 2 whole chickens and 2 chicken breasts.
What this book does illustrate is that at this level, the amount of work that goes into dishes of this quality is immense, and while the cost of a tasting menu at the restaurant (at £110) seems steep, it reflects that work. For those who want to have the time and patience to cook in that way at home, this book will allow you to try your hand at producing food worthy of fine dining. It is a beautiful volume and a must have for anyone interested in food and dining.