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The Caterer

Book review: Dabbous: The Cookbook

19 September 2014
Book review: Dabbous: The Cookbook

Dabbous: The Cookbook
Ollie Dabbous
Bloomsbury Publishing, £50

From the opening sentence of his new book, Ollie Dabbous' words are considered and to the point. Providing a dialogue which reflects his purist approach to food, he writes: "The flesh and bone of Dabbous was crystallised in my mind long before I dragged it into being."

However, Dabbous' modesty, stating on occasion that "no one has heard of me", appears at odds with the focused, single-minded personality behind this book.

Constructed around the four seasons, and interspersed with images of his urban surroundings, each quarter of the book opens with Dabbous' walk to work and the impact of the weather, air temperature and daylight on his senses before entering the kitchen.

He understands food from the changing seasons and from what he wants his guests to eat. Cooking techniques are given for experienced professionals alongside alternatives for the home cook. The recipes are precise, with clear instruction, and show a wealth of understanding, artistry and intelligence.

Dabbous, a humble man bordering on genius, pays homage to natural ingredients. The flavour combinations for some dishes are, quite frankly, bloody brave.

He certainly has balls and an assured confidence in writing about dishes simply titled tomato, sorrel, peach, mash ‘n' gravy, and all are beautifully photographed.

Nothing is overworked: food is delivered in its purest form, showing balance and harmony.

While Dabbous provides freshness to such patriotic dishes as rabbit pie, ginger beer, rhubarb and custard, elderflower cordial, potted shrimp, mackerel and gooseberry, he uses exotic global ingredients intelligently to provide impact, interest and originality.

By Gary Jones, executive head chef, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire

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