Book review: Butter by James Martin

04 November 2021 by
Book review: Butter by James Martin

James Martin has finally got around to writing about his culinary love affair with a humble ingredient that has been used for thousands of years, explaining across 224 pages why chefs love butter and how it is a crucial component to any professional kitchen.

And you don't have to take his word for it, because scattered throughout are dedications to this hero ingredient. Paul Ainsworth says: "For me, butter is like salt; it can simply transform food from the ordinary to the sublime – from a beautiful sauce to roasting meat, fish and vegetables. I simply love it." Tom Kerridge exclaims "I would bathe in it if I could…", while Clare Smyth describes it as "the stuff that heaven is built on".

As well as highlighting British dairy farmers, milk, cheese and butter specialists, Martin walks readers through the basics, such as how to churn your own butter using double cream and salt, before introducing flavoured butters such as carrot and coriander, pink peppercorn, and chipotle and lime. Chefs may also appreciate a number of techniques in this book, including how to get the perfect nut-brown butter to accompany fish, mastering a hollandaise, or getting to grips with puff pastry lamination.

The remainder is split into savoury and sweet, with 130 recipes perfect for autumn and winter, each crying out to be eaten by a roaring log fire. Buttery classics such as croque monsieur, butter chicken curry and Dover sole meunière sit alongside pheasant Kievs, grilled lobster tails with yuzu, sweet chilli and soy butter, and a warm lentil salad with whipped goat's cheese butter. A whole roast pineapple with rum, caramel and coconut provides just the right amount of kitsch for a dinner party centrepiece, while toffee apple brioche butter pudding would liven up any autumn menu.

And if you still have any doubt of the author's love for the ingredient, then the final pages of the book, where a serious-looking Martin wearing a jumper emblazoned with ‘beurre' is being doused with litres of cream, should be enough to convince you.

Butter by James Martin (Quadrille, £22)

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