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Book review: Chicken & Other Birds by Paul Gayler

17 September 2015
Book review: Chicken & Other Birds by Paul Gayler

Jacqui Small, £25

Paul Gayler, former executive chef at the Lanesborough and TV celebrity, is no stranger to writing cookery books. This is his 25th and he reveals an almost forensic zeal in ensuring fellow foodies get the best out of their birds.

He kicks off with a comprehensive 'Getting to know your birds' section. There's advice on poultry varieties, selecting the best bird, handling and storage, as well as a handy picture guide on everything from how to joint poultry to trussing, stuffing, checking it is cooked and making chicken stock. He even supplies roasting times. Presumably, if you follow all this, nothing can go wrong.

And so to the recipes, collected in sections ranging from roasting to summer barbecuing to poaching and everything in between. Among the more exotic dishes are Korean skewered chicken with bibimbap. Gayler describes one of its ingredients, gochujang, which is a spicy sweet red chilli paste, as one of his "favourite discoveries of the year". And before you panic, he tells you that it is easily found in Asian shops and markets.

There are simpler dishes too, such as chicken thighs with feta, lemon and oregano, as well as classics such as chicken saute Marengo, which Gayler tells us was named by Napolean's chef and is the first dish he cooked as a student some 40 years ago.

There's no need to stick to chicken either. Try squab pigeon and rump steak pie, griddled duck confit and the more labour-intensive crispy tamarind-fried quails with spicy potatoes and coconut chutney.

Then flip to the back of the book for a big treat. Here, you get recipes for flavoured butters, marinades, rubs and bastes, stuffings, chutneys and relishes, and the ubiquitous perfect gravy.

Gayler scooped the Guild of Food Writer's Cookery Book of the Year 2000 and has also been awarded an MBE and Hotel Catey for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry, so this book is no lightweight recipe collection.

Even so, while it informs it also delights. The how-to photos are clear and well labelled, but it's the beautifully plated finished dishes that will make you want to put more birds on your menus.

By Rosalind Mullen

If you like this, try these

John Torode's Chicken: and other Birds John Torode

A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood Diana Henry

A Passion for Vegetables Paul Gayler

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