1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Back to front excellent.,
This review is from: Formulas for Flavour: How to Cook Restaurant Dishes at Home (Paperback)
If you open this book like a normal western book, (i.e. reading from left to right), the first page after the foreword and introduction is a recipe for roast salt cod and clam chowder. The first page of that is a photograph, the second is a list of ingredients with a tip about thinking ahead, and the next two pages are the method and photos of the process. The same format is repeated for each recipe throughout the book. There are 30 recipes spread out like this with photographs. After that, there's a chapter on bread with 7 bread recipes (no photos). Then a chapter on stocks and nages with 6 recipes (no photos, a chapter entitled basic recipes which starts with pasta dough, and includes fish mousse, Mirepoix, tapenade, Chlorophyll, herb oil, strawberry dressing, puff pastry and brandy snap, among others. Then there's a chapter on Science and Methodology which tells you details about what happens to the food in the preparation process as well as some interesting bits on hardness of water and then there's a chapter giving you notions about the kinds of things you need to take into account when composing your own dishes, eg balance of flavours, portion size, presentation. After that there's a glossary and notes on the recipes and finally an index and a list of suppliers and sources. There is no list of chapters at the front and it does feel like the course in this book is for practical people who like to be hands on first and then maybe find out about the theory. In my case, I like to understand the theory first, so I really enjoyed the back pages. Have not yet tried the recipes as they look time consuming and sometimes are set out over several days, even though they are beautifully presented and probably worth the effort for a gastronome. The other thing about these recipes is that they are quite modern and display an interesting mix of flavours such as sweet with sour (balsamic strawberries), textures (including savoury tuiles) and temperatures hot with very cold (such as risotto with ice cream).
There's no doubt that following the method in this book would take one's cooking to a lofty level even if only once in a blue moon. I do wonder, though, who has the time to do this on a regular basis, unless you intend to become a professional - because it is definitely worked for a home cook with the normal equipment one finds at home and nothing more (though I don't have a foam whisk which is required for foams). You could, though, prepare the constituent parts of a dish individually, just to taste on your own and that would be practice in itself.
One tiny niggle is that occasionally, as a bi-lingual French English speaker and writer, one finds the odd typo/spelling/grammatical mistake, which can change the meaning slightly. For instance, the word "fondue" is misspelled "fondu" consistently: in French one talks about "une fondue", which is a particular kind of dish, but in the glossary the misspelled word is used. The word "fondu" (meaning melted) is a state of being, not a dish - as in "le fromage fondu" (the melted cheese). But if your kitchen French is so good that you can register these slight errors, your culinary skill may be sufficiently high not to care anyway.
It is not an all embracing course but it goes a long way.
I would, in any event, recommend this book for its sheer beauty. It is a work of art, beautifully photographed, very well explained and made with the utmost delicacy and care and skill - just what you'd hope for in a true professional. Thanks to John Campbell for his generosity in sharing his know-how with us and for Heston Blumenthal in recommending him.