Book review – The Family Meal

10 November 2011 by
Book review – The Family Meal

The Family Meal By Ferran Adrià
Phaidon, £19.95
ISBN 978-0714862392

Just as El Bulli, the most iconic restaurant of recent times, located on the Costa Brava in northern Spain, has closed its doors, chef-patron Ferran Adrià has released a new cookbook. But it's not about 30-course menus and wondrous concoctions such as gorgonzola balloons or roses with ham wonton and melon water, which El Bulli is so famous for. Instead it's Adrià's first home cooking book and it's all about simple, everyday menus that are easy and inexpensive to reproduce. The Family Meal is a collection of almost 100 recipes inspired by the dishes eaten every day by the 75 members of staff at El Bulli, Adrià's "work family".

Most restaurants serve a staff meal to their team but usually it's a far cry from what's on the menu, often prepared by the lowest-level cooks and costing next to nothing. At El Bulli the staff meal is of great importance. Indeed Adrià decided to put almost as much effort into these "family meals" as his clients', planning the three-course menus up to a month in advance.

"If we eat well, we cook well," the chef asserts.

The book took Adrià and head chef Eugeni de Diego, who is in charge of staff meals, three years to compile and features a collection of three-course menus, with starters, mains and desserts, which are easily prepared without too much fuss. Each recipe is illustrated with numerous step-by-step photographs and conversions on how to prepare it for a small or large group - ranging from two to 75 people.

The book is divided into four different sections: an introduction of the idea behind it and its philosophy; a chapter on main ingredients and basic recipes for things like stocks and sauces; a look behind the scenes at El Bulli's staff meals; and a collection of 31 menus.

The recipes comprise a wide selection of everyday classics featuring numerous culinary influences reflecting the international nature of El Bulli's brigade. Menus include bread and garlic soup, Mexican-style slow-cooked pork and figs with cream and kirsch; or lime-marinated fish, ossobuco and piňa colada; and farfalle with pesto, Japanese-style bream and mandarins with Cointreau.

What's also noteworthy is that the book ensures that the dishes are affordable and the ingredients are widely available, with suggestions for substitute ingredients wherever possible.

This book is aimed as much at the home cook as it is at professional kitchens, giving restaurateurs food for thought on how to feed their staff well without breaking the GP. As Adrià concludes: "Restaurants around the world feed their staff every day and [with this book] we hoped we could contribute to our profession by offering varied and nutritionally balanced menus for large numbers."
Kerstin Kühn

If you like this, you'll love these:
A Day at El Bulli: An insight into the ideas, methods and creativity of Ferran AdriÁ Ferran AdriÁ , Juli Soler, Albert AdriÁ
Heston Blumenthal at Home
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