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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 31 December 2004
Firstly, this is a great book - right up there with my all-time favourite cooking books. There are some inspirational recipes in there, and even the apparently more traditional ones are discussed in such thorough detail beforehand that you are forced to think through the whole process of preparation and cooking. It really does make you regard these recipes in a new light. Having just acquired a digital temperature probe, I'm especially keen to try the low-temperature cooking that Blumenthal champions.
The only quibble I have with the book is that for one that claims to be aimed at getting children involved in cooking, I could find very few practical techniques or methods or recipes for achieving this. There's a fair bit of theoretical discussion about the merits of getting children involved in cookery, which I fully endorse. There are also some interesting food tasting experiments, which kids could find fun (and so could adults!) Apart from that, though, the other references to children are almost exclusively about simply urging the reader to get their children involved, about how much Blumenthal's own children enjoy a particular recipe, or how they themselves enjoyed making it. Mr Blumenthal is lucky - I can't imagine my own children tackling those particular recipes (too daunting), and some more specifically children-oriented recipes would have been nice. Blumenthal does explicitly distance himself from "gimmicky...happy parent monthly magazine" style recipes in the foreword, but I can't help feeling that in trying to avoid that particular trap he's swung the pendulum too far the other way.
Nonetheless, for adults it's a great book. Don't hesitate to buy it.
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on 4 May 2004
I have never before read a cookery book that has excited me in this way. This book is revolutionary and worthy of it's many awards. I have heard of the author and his restaurnt The Fat Duck before and thought that the dishes would be difficult to follow and indeed they were the exact opposite! I have used the recipes with my two daughters age 4 and 16 and we have all enjoyed the experience. Mr Blumenthal manages to not only create delicious food but recipes that let you understand and respect the ingredients. My husband and i have used the recipes successfully for diner parties and also with the children for our midweek pasta nights. Well done Mr Blumenthal and Thank you. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!!!
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on 5 May 2010
I first came across Heston Blumenthal a couple of years ago, when I was given "Further Adventures in Search of Perfection" as a Christmas present. I liked that book's obsession and story, but the recipes were all too complex to even consider trying to do at home.

Family Food is a different story - it's about balancing the "how" with the "why."

Many cookery books tell you what to do, in a very prescriptive way - exact temperatures, exact amounts, exact cooking times. Blumenthal on the other hand tries to explain WHY you might want to cook a piece of meat to a particular temperature, and then gives advice on how to get the inside to that temperature, rather than assuming that your oven works in the same way as his.

Others have noted that the "getting children involved" aspects of the books seem to just be ongoing requests to parents that they should do so... but I've found that the recipes do seem to lend themselves to having places where children as young as five can get involved in a helpful way, and hopefully increase their knowledge of real food as something that doesn't come in a plastic carton from a supermarket.

The book isn't perfect - there are the odd things left out (macerate rhubarb for 2 days - but is that in the fridge or at room temperature, Mr. B???) but there are two compelling reasons why I have to give this 5 stars:

- It's the book we use more than any other, ahead of Delia and even Conran (our previous winners.)

- The sight of my five-year old son, stirring away following one recipe and then turning round to tell his mum "I'm so clever", as he mixed and mixed.

Oh, and if you're buying this book and don't already have one, you'll end up needing a meat thermometer. Trust me on this.
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on 26 October 2006
Although I do not have children I was drawn to the book by Blumenthal's awesome reputation. The book is very easy to follow he even points out where problems might occur and how to prevent them. Like me he too is dismayed by the way companies are marketing junk food at children and when I read his intro especially about a certain juice company I knew we were indeed kindred spirits. So if you hate juice that is actually just chemicals and teddy bear faced sandwich meat this is the book for you, he draws on his experience with his own children as to how to get children to open up to new tastes and flavours and I think the book is brilliant the recipes taste just as good for an adult!!!
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on 19 March 2003
A fantastic new direction for cooking! Heston Blumenthal treats the food with new and traditional techniques that really, get the best from produce. There is alot of those old myth's and wives tales that are proved to be so wrong, using science to dispell them. He also passes on his own enthusiasum for food, which in turn is then passed down to children, making them interested in eating new things, widening their appreciation of food, as they have been involved in preparing the food that they eat. Once you try cooking a roast chicken at low temperature, you'll never go back, its amazing. I found that the way that he explains about what happens to food when we cook it, fasinating and easy to understand. A must for anyone interested in food and even better if you have children.
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on 28 March 2010
I bought this book after watching and reading much from Heston, but apart from his chips didn't feel that able to use much from his recipes apart from an attitude of enquiry. So it seemed that as there was a family cookbook that it would be a sensible thing to get it and try that. It works!

I had the book on the bedside table for a week and read it cover to cover. It is very 'doable' and the text interesting. Then we started to work through the book and almost every time the results have been very good and surprisingly easy. The one occasion when it didn't work out was the slow cooked lamb but that was down to not having oven thermometer which was my failure. This has been corrected with a visit to Ikea.

It has also been a very good forum to talk about the process of cooking with my children and to get them involved. A great cookbook. Wish he wrote some more in a similar vein.
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on 10 March 2003
If you read Heston Blumenthal's column in the Guardian - put aside your prejudices. His column is notable for its championing of weird and rather unappetising food marriages - innovation at the cost of edibility! However, this book is really thoughtful and a brilliant way of getting your kids into the process of cooking. Also some of his recipes are very good indeed - even some of the really basic stuff makes you stop and think - he actually has a recipe for cheese-on-toast that could be life changing (it's baked rather than grilled, with wine and scope for other additions). My son (who is 12) uses it all the time. It hasn't made him like aubergines (nothing short of magic would do that) but it has converted him to lentils!
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on 22 March 2004
Awarded his third Michelin star a scant month before Family Food came out in paperback can't be bad publicity for Heston Blumenthal. The problem this book might have is explaining itself: who it is for and what is it for?
Perhaps a quarter of the book is an exposition of an attitude towards children and food. The skills they need. Why their involvement is helpful. How a child's enthusiasm is to be encouraged. How their attitude is to be shaped. That last point applies to parents too.
It's interesting stuff, but it's by no means a primer on the subject. There are no guidelines on safety and supervision. At what age should a child be allowed to pour hot water from a kettle or attempt to chop an onion? Perhaps more seriously lacking are guidelines around hygiene for handling food. There's a fairly eyebrow raising point about touching eggs, but much is taken for granted.
The remainder of the book uses a comparatively gentle range of recipes to illustrate the Blumenthal food aesthetic. The style and content is much toned-down from his column in the Guardian. No recipes for toothpaste and sparkling mouthwash or snail porridge. Instead what largely remain are some good, but unsurprising, template recipes.
Critically, many of these seem hardly suitable for everyday cooking. The fresh pasta for example requires 10 egg yolks. Yet there are also recipes of undisguised brilliance and simplicity: the pear with star anise is pure revelation.
There remains a portion of the book which is dedicated to the low temperature cookery. The technique, like all of Blumenthal's recipes, is based on scientific principles. It does require specialist equipment (unless you already happen to own a digital temperature probe) and a certain experimental willingness.
I was left wondering if the temperature being used were high enough to kill any bacteria on the product and the instructions for measuring the internal temperature of the food are much too vague. This has often been a frustration with Blumenthal's recipes. He encourages novel approaches without giving quite enough detail to feel comfortable about following them.
Overall though, it's an interesting and encouraging book. There are snippets of useful information (how calcium in tap water turns your green beans dull) although not as many of these as I was hoping for. The same might be said for the suggested food experiments.
However, it's really only tangentially about children and family food. It would perhaps have been a better book with the children left in the garden to play.
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on 2 February 2015
There are some nice recipes in there but... So kids love Ketchup, why not take 5kg Tomatoes and make 500ml of your own (with the 3 page recipe)? If your answer is: No thanks, I got kids and no time for this shenanigans then that's basically the thrust of my critique. £4 on 2nd had OK but not a penny more.
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on 1 December 2009
Expert cookery made simple by one of the masters. Take for instance gratin potatoes. With a very simple twist on the traditional method heston not only shows us how to enhance the flavours but also reduces the fats by using more milk than double cream. I actually used Elmlea to reduce it further. Try his triple cooke chips...This is truly a great book with simple tips for the young, old, amature and experienced.
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