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The Caterer

Book Review – Heston Blumenthal at Home

29 November 2011 by
Book Review – Heston Blumenthal at Home

Heston Blumenthal at Home Bloomsbury, £30
ISBN 9781408804407

Heston Blumenthal is one of the most innovative chefs in the world. His cooking at the Fat Duck and, more recently Dinner, as well as his numerous television programmes have helped make him a household name. But you rarely hear his name mentioned without reference to snail porridge or bacon and egg ice cream and his cooking isn't the kind even the keenest of hobby cooks would attempt to recreate at home.

With his latest book he aims to change that. Heston Blumenthal at Home is designed to bring the Fat Duck to family kitchens around the country. However, it's a far cry from the kind of cookery books Delia Smith, his co-star on the Waitrose adverts, would pen.

The book starts with a chapter on the essence of flavour, which discusses the difference between taste and flavour, explains the five different tastes (saltiness, sweetness, sourness, bitterness and umami) and provides information on how to enhance flavours through specific pairings, encapsulation or infusion.

Recipes are spread across 13 chapters ranging from stocks to soups, salads, meat and fish, with each starting out with an in-depth explanation of Blumenthal's unique view and understanding of ingredients and cooking methods.

There are simple recipes such as green bean and radish salad; crab lasagne; roast chicken and the ultimate cheese toastie (made using a washing up sponge). But plenty of the dishes require a lot more effort than most home cooks will be prepared to put in, like liquorice poached salmon with liquorice jelly, vanilla mayonnaise and soy marinated roe; or braised pork belly with crackling, with a cooking time of 18 hours.

A chapter dedicated to sous-vide explains why Blumenthal feels water baths will revolutionise domestic kitchens, listing the benefits of the cooking technique as well as a detailed explanation on how to prepare, cook and store sous-vide cooked foods. Recipes here range from a rack of lamb to cocotte of pork with black pudding sauce, and scrambled eggs with brown butter, many of which home cooks might find just a tad intimidating.

A subsequent chapter on ices encourages readers to use frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) in place of traditional ice cream makers, while chapters on kit and ingredients offer advice on using anything from a blowtorch to a refractometer and cooking with unusual products such as dried konbu or soya lecithin.

The book provides a unique insight into this great chef's mind and culinary ethos. However, the precision of many of the cooking techiniques and specialist equipment required for some recipes is likely to find it being used more in the professional rather than the home kitchen.
Kerstin Kühn

If you like this, you'll love these:
The Family Meal Ferran AdriÁ
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The Big Fat Duck Cookbook Heston Blumenthal
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Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food
Jeff Potter

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