Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection
A cookbook with just eight recipes
I have a recipe book with over 650 recipes. This isn't it.
For there are only eight recipes in this book even though there are over 300 pages. Why? The clue to this is in the title.
Eight selected dishes
Heston, a well-respected chef - and a chap who is a little bizarre - chose just eight standard but popular dishes that have been abused over the years so that they bear little resemblance to the original. Take for example, a cake that you'll see on menus everywhere.
The Black Forest Gateau
When I was a kid, this was immensely popular. And the menu descriptions were certainly gorgeous; that of a delicious mix of cherries, chocolate and cream within one lovely cake. But it never lived up to its promise. It should have been great, but it was invariably a disappointment. It was, well, OK - some of the time
Traveling the world
In order to discover exactly how this dessert should be made, the author traveled to where else but the Black Forest. The analytical-chemist side of his personality comes out as he explores chocolate making, the baking of proper torte and the biscuit base, the growing of the cherries, even the distillation of the kirsch.
Home and abroad
In order to get the low-down on fish and chips, treacle tart and ice cream and bangers and mash he travels throughout the UK. In search of the perfect chicken, France is his destination. Of course, Italy plays its part too, in search of the perfect pizza recipe and the best way to create spaghetti bolognaise.
Across the pond
Steak was one of his investigations so of course, he flew across the Atlantic to America in search of steak perfection - and he includes a discourse of how British beef can be improved. I don't eat meat but his recipe includes blue cheese-infused butter and pickled mushroom - both of which I now cook regularly.
So really, it's many more that eight recipes
The vodka batter Blumenthal uses in his fish and chip recipe is now a staple in our diet (we use mushrooms, not fish). I've discovered how to make the very best roasted, mashed and chipped potatoes and how to cook carrots to perfection. I use his tomato topping recipe (from his pizza) for pasta. I can now make chocolate ganache, chocolate mousse and kirsch cream - even Jersey milk ice cream - and I use his pastry recipe a lot,
I found many revelations in this book.Perhaps the most surprising to me was Heston's assertion that a real pizza should be cooked in a very hot oven for only about a minute - certainly no longer than ninety seconds.
You can read more about this - and discover the secret - here.
I mentioned the chef's wonderful vodka batter above. This is so delicious and he recommends it strongly for preparing fried fish. As we don't eat meat, I can recommend it highly in these recipes.
Mushrooms in vodka batter - you won't believe how light this batter is. It's suitable for vegans too.
Spiced onion fritters - when I make the mushroom dish above I often double up on the batter and keep half in a jar in the fridge. Then a few days later, it takes only minutes to prepare these spicy onion fritters.
Even though this book basically only has eight recipes, you'll find many more. The lovely batter recipe, for example, was to be found in the section on fish and chips.
It's also enormous fun to read.
My copy of this wonderful bookClick thumbnail to view full-size
Oh my goodness - treacle tart
School dinners were absolutely rubbish when I was a girl. The only thing that even the dinner-ladies couldn't get wrong was treacle tart. But watch Heston Blumethal take it to a new level.
Once you've read the book above, you'll want to read more, I guarantee it! If you're buying it as a gift, it's a great idea to purchase this one too - it's the follow-up and features eight more classic dishes in need of the Blumenthal makeover.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson