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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 24 March 2010
Larger and more ornate version of the Fat Cookbook, no difference in information contained within the two.
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on 17 October 2008
I had been waiting for this book to arrive for some time. When the package arrived, I was stunned by the size. On the outside, it is good looking, but not over the top. As I gingerly opened the book, marvelling at the weight and feel of the book, I felt I was being smacked in the face with flavours and sensations. I ate at the Fat Duck earlier this year and recognisable creations and happy memories stared out at me.
The true value of this book is in the feelings and the enthusiasm that it generates. You need to look to the detail and start with manageable steps. I made the pistachio scrambled egg today. I don't have a 600 pound heatable blender, but inventiveness is a key part of cookery and the feeling of achievement at pulling off a simple part of a dish is an important stepping stone towards achieving something memorable.
Most importantly, every time I look in the book I feel excited and motivated to experiment and push my own limits. So what will you do with this book? If Heston Blumenthal knocked on your door a year from now, do you want him to see it in pristine condition, sitting on the coffee table, or propped up in the kitchen, slightly the worse for wear but obviously loved and used? For me, I choose the latter.
Yes, these recipes require planning, a touch of compromise and some research. But you also feel you achieve something. Now, what shall I try next?
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This is simply the most beautiful cookbook on the market.
It is a truely huge volume and comes in a case. As you would expect from Heston in a cook who shows no compromise the book is of an equally high quality. The books hard cover is beautifully finished and embossed in silver with the Fat Duck Restaurant motifs. The pages are the thickest paper bordering on card and embossed with silver. Mutiple bookmarks add to the extravagant feel of this tomb. There are beautiful abstract drawings throughout the book which at times make it feel more like a work of art than a cookbook and perhaps that is the point. There is of course alot of detail about Hestons life and inspiration not just recipes in this book.
The recipes on which he has built his reputation are all here and laid bare in all there frightening complexity. Snail Porridge, Bacon and Egg Ice cream and Gold, Frankisence and Myrrh all lovingly detailed.
The problem with this book of course is that for most home cooks it is a step too far in complexity. I have managed to cook recipes from Essence: Recipes from Le Champignon Sauvage,The French Laundry Cookbook and Recipes from a 3 Star Chef without too much problem but the shear complexity of Hestons recipes is in another league.
The problems are two fold. Firstly obtaining some ingredients will be tricky. Liquid nitrogen for example will not be readily available to most of us.
Ingredients aside however the main problem for me is the number of components to each dish. It is not an exageration to say that most dishes have in excess of 15 components to them. Some as many as 20. That is not ingredients that is parts. i.e. 15 separate bits to make, each of which has multiple ingredients. Clearly it is impossible for 1 or even 2 chefs to do this regardless of skill. A brigade is really needed. If you therefore want to recreate his recipes at home you are going to have to leave some bits out. I am therefore a little disappointed but this is not really disappointment in the book for Heston has told me in fantastic detail how to recreate his recipes I just am unable to faithfully do it!
Despite this I love the book but it has served to make me realise that regardless of skill there are some things which you can't cook at home but as this is the second best restaurant in the world I really shouldn't be surprised!
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on 28 November 2008
The book itself is simply beautiful to look at, full of scarfe-esque artwork. The first 100 or so pages tell the story of how the Fat Duck came into being, the next 300 are full of Fat Duck Recipes, explained in intricate detail, and photographed beautifully, and finally there is a section on the science of cooking. Do not think of this as a cookbook - unless you have a kitchen that can be measured in acres, with cookware and staff to match. Even the simplest recipe would take a day working in a normal kitchen, and although I am tempted, I haven't yet tried one. Think of this more as an insight into one of the best restaurants in the world, and a glimpse into the amazing mind of its proprietor.
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on 26 October 2008
The parallels between Heston Blumenthal's new baby and Hans Christian Andersen's 1844 adventure (a better translation of the Danish 'eventyr' than `fairy tale') may not be obvious at first. But both authors' works are autobiographical, and in both we're presented with a story that speaks of struggle and self-education leading to great success in a tone that's meant to sound mildly surprised, but actually invites congratulation in a mildly toe-curling way.

Then there are the parallels in appearance. Andersen's story is a morality tale about taking the trouble to look beneath the surface towards truth in order to discover quality. The `duckling' is born into a farmyard of creatures who are all more beautiful than he, and more at home in that environment than he is.

Blumenthal's book has a tasteful cover of sorts (though it's so big and so fat that it's slightly cumbersome, elephantine in grey and pearlised ivory) though the ironised impossibility of the feather decoration on the slip case immediately challenges you to put aside expectations that the book will be `stylish'--anyone with a tidy mind will find that if one side of the slip case is `up', its reverse is inescapably `down', and the book's contents are just as challenging as the cover.

The heavily saturated colours of the illustrations inside the book, and the Scarfe-like illustrations by Dave McKean, poke a firm finger in the eye of anyone whose experience of expensive cookery books leads them to hope for something elegant. Comparing 'The Big Fat Duck Cookbook' with the fabulously tasteful productions of the Adrias (listed under their restaurant, El Bulli's name)--and make no mistake, this is clearly and deliberately designed to be compared with them--first impressions are not entirely favourable. Why is this such a big, fat, ugly duck?

There's no mistaking the answer: where other cookbooks have elegance and style, this one has substance, and in spades. The historical and philosophical introduction by Heston Blumenthal is as well written as the explanatory chapters of his 'In Search of Perfection' twins (which is to say, very well written indeed) and the recipes are a model of clarity and precision. For once, we have a chef who doesn't talk down to his audience, but who values their interest in, and enjoyment of, his food, and who relishes the idea that home cooks might get enormous pleasure from climbing the foothills of this kind of cooking before they come and enjoy the peaks he and his enormous brigade can mount at The Fat Duck.

The volume closes with a substantial anthology of scientific articles by a starry gathering of those who've contributed, each in their own way, to the development of Blumenthal's cuisine. As with the recipes, what we see here is `the real thing', not watered down stuff for amateurs but genuinely challenging and interesting material, an opportunity for cooks to develop their own creativity and to respond in their own way to new materials, techniques and ideas.

In my view, 'The Big Fat Duck Cookbook' is a huge contribution to the literature of cooking, indeed to literature. Even if it looks like an ugly duckling, the exceptional quality of the contents show it's actually a swan, and a pretty impressive one at that.
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on 19 October 2008
The whole point is that Heston's style is overblown, impractical and expensive. It is also inquisitive, investigative, testing, tasting, trying and challenging to the old doctrines. If you didn't want that you should have bought Delia's cheats book.
This book is for anyone who will happily spend time, effort and money in the pursuit of discovering the best and then ultimately introduce the findings into their cooking.
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on 10 October 2008
first off - this is not supposed to be a practical book. It's extremely unlikely anyone would pull off any of the (main) recipes. Even if you had a professional kitchen, you'd need serious investment behind you. As he says at the start, it does not compromise. I would have felt let down if it did, as I bought it because I wanted to know how the things he does are pulled off.
I also bought it because it's not meant to be followed start to finish. He goes into depth about how he arrived at dishes and concepts, how he synthesises ingredients and ideas, and the general principles behind good food. Curiosity, imagination and tenacity are far more valuable skills for a chef to learn than any specific recipe. If you buy any cookbook and just slavishly follow the recipes, I would suggest you are not ready to pick up a knife.
'Overblown' is an accusation perhaps justified towards the artwork - a lot of it is guff. But I found that if you just concentrate on the food, what he is aiming to do is grounded in the same principles that have been around for centuries: how can the ingredients be prepared the best they could possibly be? What Blumenthal is doing is the opposite of pretentious, and I find it more honest than any bore spouting about simplicity and tradition.
Also, it's 3 books in one - his autobiography, recipies, and a science textbook. A bargain at £60.
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VINE VOICEon 4 August 2009
Firstly, this is one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen. It is beautifully presented with a black box-thingy to live inside and it is beautifully illustrated with amazing photographs and drawings. It will never be allowed near my kitchen - it is far too precious - it lives on the coffee-table.

The recipes within are a combination of two basic types. There are the ones that everyone can do (though you might have to hunt around for some of the ingredients and practice the techniques lots and lots) and the ones that only a scientist (like me!) can do, because you need to get your hands on things like a rotary evaporator or liquid nitrogen (that said, I don't think I trust my lab's rotary evaporator for food-use, never mind what the HSE would say!). With that in mind, again, it's not so much a recipe book for people to cook things from but a series of things to marvel at and to understand Blumenthal's ethos and methods. I don't think Blumenthal wrote this even remotely considering that anyone would try and make anything from it - it is very clearly a work of art/labour of love and not a recipe book. Even hardened foodies like myself wouldn't consider making half of the recipes in this book, let alone have the equipment required to make them. I don't see that as a bad thing, though.

The main downside for me is that the book is far longer than it needs to be. A lot of the recipes are drawn out into various sections for absolutely no reason at all. For example, in the recipe for violet tartlets, he includes a section on how to make a violet syrup then a section on how to make the violet jelly for the tartlets. This is completely unnecessary since 100% of the syrup is used to make the jelly so why not just do what every other cook on the planet would do and have just one section on how to make the jelly, combining the two sections and saving about half a page? Unfortunately, much of the book is inflated in this way and far more space is taken up than needs to be, which means that, considering this book weighs in at 532 pages, there is a lot of dead space. I don't mind page after page of photographs, in fact, I like that. I think it's a very beautiful book, but I do mind Blumenthal bulking out recipes to fill the space when he could have just included some more recipes. This way of bulking-out the recipes struck me as rather self-indulgent and it actually makes some of the recipes seem more complicated than they actually are. I wondered if this was his intention?
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on 18 December 2011
I love the book and I will not go into the full details of this great publication, I will start with:
The book has three sections. The first, "History", covers the story of Blumenthal and the Fat Duck. Strangely, whilst the index lists significant moments in the story, they are not given headings in the essay itself. The second is titled "Recipes" and contains 30 dishes from the restaurant's degustation menu and 15 dishes from the à la carte menu. The final section, "Science", is a collection of 25 essays on the science of food. Curiously, the table of contents is on a foldout page in the middle of the book.
The Bad:
People may find the book to be prohibitively expensive. It is a very large volume, and not something that you can lie in bed to read. The table of contents is a fold out page in the middle of the book, which makes it irritating to use. Some readers will look at the size of the text and ask themselves, "Why?". Finally, I think the production values of the book will divide opinion, so there will be people who feel that the entire package to be self-indulgent.
The Good:
People with an interest in the cutting edge techniques, ingredients, and equipment being applied to cooking, and those who want an insight into how a chef creates a new dish will find plenty of enjoyment in this book. I feel this is a vastly superior book to the Alinea or el Bulli cookbooks simply due to the explanations that Blumenthal provides. The Fat Duck Cookbook will also find a home with those who simply want to read an entertaining story about a chef and his work. For those who are looking to cook something for dinner, you're better off looking elsewhere.
Thank you my lovely wife great choice..
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on 14 October 2008
As others have stated this book is beautifull. Howevr it's also has substance as well as style. It feels more like a magical tome but one that can be followed. Mysteries are revealed and expalined (such as hot and iced drinks from one glass) and whilst many state these dishes aren't meant for the home cook I disagree. SOme do require specalist eqipment beyiong the means of most people but other require just pataince or some rare ingreadiants that CAN be tracked down on the net). Ultimatly you get out of this book whgat you put in. If you want a story of discovery through food, you have it here. if you want a text book expalinin WHY thgns should be done in a certian way you have it here and if you want to challange yourself and have an adventure in your own kitchen, you have it here.
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