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Book Review: Modern French Cooking: Recipes from Simpsons Restaurant

30 November 2006

When a Michelin-starred chef with a track record of running a successful restaurant decides to put pen to paper to write a cookbook, it's always worth taking notice.

And this is especially true of Andreas Antona, who, through his restaurant Simpsons, has been in the vanguard of raising fine-dining standards in and around England's "second city", Birmingham.

It's a surprise to find out that this is Antona's first book, but that's probably because over the past 12 years he's been busy passing his culinary knowledge and skills on in a more direct way: by training a new generation of chefs in his kitchen.

The book is straightforward, easy to follow, and contains food that is classically rooted but clean on the plate and the palate - in other words, dishes that are modern.

The structure is no-nonsense and logical - the chapters dividing into Basics; Starters; Fish and Shellfish; Meat, Game and Poultry; and, finally, Desserts. Plus points have to go to the Basics section. In here are key culinary building blocks like wholemeal bread, essential stocks, pain d'épice and a whole series of confits, tuile varations, sauces and dressings. The sort of things that every kitchen needs to master, but which often get messed up by chefs whose skills are not honed as they should be.

Elsewhere, in the main recipe sections, there is an array of recipes refined over the years at Simpsons. Herb fritters with vegetable crisps is just one that catches the eye - a great demonstration of how some often-overlooked ingredients can be crafted into a light and satisfying starter (beetroot, parsnip, carrots, parsley being the veg and herbs in question).

You could take any of the dishes from this book, put them on a menu and be safe in the knowledge that you are delivering food that people will come back for again and again.

Modern French Cooking: Recipes from Simpsons Restaurant
Andreas Antona
Absolute Press, £20
ISBN 1-9045735-5-X

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