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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time is often the essence...so plan ahead, 21 Mar. 2012
By 
This review is from: Heston Blumenthal at Home (Hardcover)
As Heston does tend to put a more complex spin on the art of cooking, I was worried that this would be a book deigned to adorn the coffee table but have to admit to being pleasantly surprised, and...find that we share a 'secret vice' or two!

* From 'Prawn Cocktail' on page 125: 'Confession time: prawn cocktail is my secret vice.'
Given Heston's reputation for 'tweaking' in the technical sense, I was relieved to read further on in the same paragraph:
'...Being such a prawn cocktail addict, I'm deeply resistant to attempts to muck around with the ingredients...'

Measuring in around 27.5 cm x 22 cm x 3 cm, it is far from lightweight with Heston and a heap of ingredients on the front cover! The back cover carries only one sentence: 'Classic home cooking, by Britain's most creative chef.'
Quality hardboard covers open to 408 glossy quality pages, split over main chapters:

1. Stocks
2. Soups
3. Starters
4. Salads
5. Meat
6. Fish
7. Sous-vide: Seven recipes after a detailed introduction to the 'revolutionary cooking method that is set to transform the domestic kitchen'
8. Pasta & grains
9. Cheese
10. Sides & condiments
11. Ices
12. Desserts & Sweets
13. Biscuits, snacks & drinks

The introduction, entitled 'The Essence of Flavour' runs to page 27 and includes informative sections on:

♦ Tastes and aromas
♦ Saltiness
♦ Sweetness
♦ Sourness
♦ Bitterness
♦ Umami
♦ Enhancing flavour
♦ Infusing for flavour
♦ Flavour, sight, sound and touch
♦ Food and the brain

Written to encourage rather than daunt, the Heston narrative makes interesting reading throughout, e.g.:

'The more you can create food that makes a concerted appeal to all the senses - sound, sight, touch, taste and smell - the more intense, immediate and satisfying the eating experience will be...' and this all starts at a surprisingly early stage of life, as he goes on to explain.

Each chapter opening page simply lists the following recipes with their relevant page number. This is then followed by a detailed introduction often including techniques, e.g.

◊ Cooking risotto
◊ Salting & brining fish
◊ Pickling
◊ Thickening soups
◊ Emulsions
◊ Carving meat
◊ Making jellies
◊ Cooking with chocolate
◊ Crystallizing sugar

Each recipe is well laid out in simply black on white with the title, an opening note, the quantity/number of servings, a metric list/s of ingredients and a clear method. Hints and serving suggestions are included where applicable, and an injection of turquoise blue throughout the tome denotes detailed methods/techniques, e.g.

~ How to ice-filter & egg-filter stock
~ How to peel a soft boiled egg
~ How to peel small onions & shallots
~ How to blind-bake a tart case (out with the ceramic beans:you can use coins for a flatter, more even coverage and conduct heat more efficiently!)
~ How to roast and peel red peppers
~ How to smoke food
~ How to bake a custard in a bain-marie
~ How to fry a steak
~ How to sear a fillet of fish
~ How to make ice-cream or sorbet with dry ice
~ How to make brown butter
~ How to clarify butter
~ How to make a wet/dry caramel
~ How to weigh honey and golden syrup

...and are easy to spot as you flick through, but are also cross-referenced in the index at the back.

There are some relatively straightforward recipes, but a number do require some forward planning in terms of marinating, brining, curing and/or a serious amount of (very) slow-cooking time e.g. 9 hours for 'Shepherd's pie' from page 160 and a cool 18 hours+ for the 'Braised pork belly with crackling', 2 recipes later!

My favourite recipe, to date, is an unusual (for me) combination of 'Braised chicken with sherry & cream', serving 6, from pages 146 & 147 which works very well, along with 'Cheese fondue with sherry & cloves', from pages 230 & 231, finished off with the delightful (digitally probed) 'Lemon tart' on pages 310 & 311.

Some recipes are seriously technically challenging and often span more than one page, e.g. 'Arlette with Pressed Apple Terrine' from page 315. 'Fish pie' (complete with sand & foam topping)on pages 176-178 is also a bit of fun in terms of presentation, if you have the time.

Any utensils outside the average kitchen paraphernalia are mentioned in the recipe opening note, e.g. that aforementioned 'digital probe' or 'lots of 9 cm Petri dishes', for the edible wrappers in 'Salted butter caramels wrapped in edible cellophane', from pages 337-339. A 'Specialist Kit' and 'Specialist Ingredients' section is also included at the back of the book.

From 'Specialist Kit':

I've kept the specialist kit to a minimum, but there are a few things that will make a huge difference to your cooking. A digital probe, for example, might seem a bit space-age, but using one removes the doubt about whether food is cooked or not....However, I don't want talk of technology to obscure the fact that, in the end, cooking is about intuition and emotion, about going into the kitchen and following your instincts, trying things out, having fun.'

A useful extra I forgot to mention earlier...a pastel pink ribbon marker to keep the page!

The only slight criticism I have is that there are fewer photographs of the finished dishes than you might expect but those presented, photographed by Angela Moore, are typically HB-designer spectacular!

A small taste of the other recipes contained within:

♦ Vegetable stock
♦ Pumpkin soup
♦ Marmite consommé
♦ Tea-smoked salmon
♦ Scallop tartare with white chocolate
♦ Potted duck
♦ Bagna cauda
♦ Scotch eggs
♦ Mayonnaise
♦ Peach and Parma ham salad
♦ Beef tagliata
♦ Slow-roasted rib of beef with bone-marrow sauce
♦ Chilli con carne
♦ Braised pork belly with crackling
♦ Umami broth with poached mackerel
♦ Rack of Lamb Sous-vide
♦ Crab lasagne
♦ Quinoa sushi
♦ Mushroom spelt risotto
♦ Cauliflower macaroni cheese
♦ Asparagus
♦ Blue cheese butter
♦ Bois Boudran sauce
♦ Blackcurrant sorbet
♦ Peach & Rosemary tarte tatin
♦ Lardy cake with butterscotch sauce
♦ Liquid centre chocolate pudding
♦ Golden syrup crème brūlée
♦ Strawberry sundae
♦ Pain perdu
♦ Whisky gums
♦ Pineapple marshmallows
♦ Carrot/beetroot/tomato lollies
♦ Chocolate chip cookies
♦ Shortbread biscuits
♦ Pork scratching
♦ Toffee popcorn
♦ Pimm's
♦ Hot Chocolate
♦ Raspberry sherbet : 'Remember sherbet fountains - those yellow cardboard tubes full of sherbet with a stick of liquorice poking out of the twisted paper at one end? Or sherbet dip-dabs, where a paper packet of sherbet came with its own lolly for dipping?
They're a great nostalgia trip for me...'

...Me, too!
(That other shared 'secret vice'!)
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Aug 2013 23:45:06 BDT
Silverback says:
Superb introduction to this book. Thanks for the effort, I purchased it based on your review. Cheers!

Posted on 1 Jul 2016 05:10:13 BDT
JJ says:
Outstanding comprehensive review. Thanks so much. I've now ordered the book.
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