I've entertained copiously from this book, and, whilst some recipes are very time-consuming, others are delightfully simple. Very imaginative recipes and generally not requiring the best supermarket in the world to source ingredients; a standard butcher and a good greengrocer are sufficient. The 'basic foundation recipe' section at the beginning is a boon, although reference to Mastering the Art ... is necessary to flesh out the instructions for sauces etc.
In Cooking For Friends, Raymond Blanc demystifies his cuisine, showing how anyone can make simple and delicious food in a relatively short time without resorting to modern-day conveniences. He demonstrates that you do not need to spend hours to produce a superb family meal or a complete dinner party for friends.
The book imparts a sense of adventure, giving confidence to anyone wishing to experiment. It is perhaps both the most exciting and the most practical book for the home cook ever written.
In the introductory chapters Raymond describes the intense satisfaction of using your creativity to give to your family and friends something that nature has provided; he expounds the principles of cooking, the equipment needed, and helps you to recognise quality - so enabling you to demand it from your butcher, fishmonger and green grocer.
The heart of the book consists of a multitude of mouthwatering but easily prepared recipes, arranged around the preparation of a dinner party or simple meal - soups, hors-d'oeuvres, fish, meat course and a range of delicious desserts. He also writes on making your own bread, petits fours, liqueurs, preserves and jam and gives wine suggestions - everything for an enjoyable meal in a warm, relaxed atmosphere.
Sure, some of the main ingredients aren't on every supermarket shelf, but for the relatively inexperienced, there are so many recipes in this book that have as their starting-point the foods that ARE accessible, that, once you've made them, (and if you do exactly what you're told they never fail), you just can't wait to stumble across some pigeon breasts and fillets of hare.
For each dish the ingredients and the prep are nicely split into sections: the main, the coulis, the garnish, etc. and there isn't an intimidating number of ingredients. Most are in your larder already. Nothing is left to chance. Cut this 5mm thick, weigh 20g of that, roast the next thing for 7 minutes. Don't approximate, just do it, and your guests tell you it tastes like food cooked by Raymond Blanc. You amaze yourself and the next thing you need is the crockery to do it justice.
First of all remember that Ray White isn't Delia, he quite rightly assumes you know how to boil water without burning it and that you don't start planning a dinner party based on whats in the fridge. Secondly, read the recipes all the way through, especially the instructions, he has a nasty habit of throwing in the odd "place in fridge for 24 hours" about half way down in the third paragraph, not much good when your guests have already hit the road. And finally - enjoy it, yes it can be complicated, long winded and require some stretching of the old "cullinary skills" but the results are divine (often on the first attempt too!). Very few ever have the chance, or budget, to have RB cook for them, this is the next best thing and guaranteed to win brownie points from lovers, friends, family and the mother-in-law just for having gone to the effort. Last of all remember that most of these recipes are based on classic french cooking, which means that if french peasants can do it, so can you.
I've had two copies of this book and I love it. Monsieur Blanc has an extraordinary palate, and the rare ability to produce complex dishes where none of the ingredients are lost (see the restaurant cookbook). Here, however, he chucks the fussing about and gives straightforward, simple dishes which work when you cook them. Should be on everybody's shelf.
Another triumph. I was over the moon with "recipes from Le Manoir Au Quat' Saisons" and this book is just as good. all the stages explained so easily, no need to spend hours over the stove when the guests arrive, so much forward planning is allowed for. Photographs provided to show presentation and Raymond's wine recommendations are "spot on". When is the next book coming on the market?