Book review: The Hand & Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge

19 November 2020 by
Book review: The Hand & Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge

TV chef and best-selling author Tom Kerridge's the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, which opened in 2005, is the UK's only two-Michelin-starred pub. Everything at the Hand is elevated to "flavour-plus" which, explains Kerridge, means "ingredients tasting of what they're supposed to, but more so".

This month the legendary pub celebrates its 15th birthday with a cookbook that showcases 70 of its best dishes. As well as exquisitely styled food photography, there are step-by-step guides and behind-the-scenes shots that offer a glimpse into the inner workings of "a tiny, magical building that's constantly whirring and buzzing".

At first glance, recipes seem straightforward (oak-smoked salmon, chicken liver parfait, smoked haddock omelette) but each consists of multiple components and the successful execution of each is required to complete the whole. They call for planning, precision and stamina.

Starters include Hand & Flowers stalwarts moules marinère and salt cod scotch egg. In Mains, fish features heavily – cod with chicory gratin, red mullet stuffed with oxtail, and hake wrapped in vine leaves – and there's a wealth of meat, including pigeon, rabbit and grouse. You'll also find Kerridge's recipe for roast hog from his 2011 Great British Menu banquet, for which you'll need a "sack of potatoes and a pig". Mushroom lovers might attempt the vegetarian wellington, which consists of recipes for mushroom ketchup, mushroom duxelles, mushroom chutney and mushroom gravy.

Desserts are no less involved. One should perhaps begin with the crème brûlée (just five ingredients, inspired by Elizabeth David) and work up to the choux à la crème, which comprises 13 recipes over six pages. There's also a lime bavarois, encased in a chocolate sphere, which seems to hover on the plate like a mini UFO.

Kerridge strives for the culinary holy grail – "making simple things taste delicious" – and it's impossible to flick through this book without zoning in on the detail. Undoubtedly it will provide hours of pleasure – the challenge for most will be finding time to put it into practice.

The Hand & Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge (£40, Bloomsbury Absolute)

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