Book review: 'Is This a Cookbook? Adventures in the Kitchen' by Heston Blumenthal

24 November 2022 by
Book review: 'Is This a Cookbook? Adventures in the Kitchen' by Heston Blumenthal

It's Heston Blumenthal's first book in a decade, but as the title asks: is this a cookbook? It certainly has recipes, from the traditional: steak with pan jus, fish cakes with tartare sauce or chilli con carne with spiced chocolate, to the more intriguing: green gazpacho, popcorn chicken and a kimchi potato cake ‘disco bonito'. The pages delve into the brain of the mad (kitchen) scientist we've all come to admire, but it does seem a step away from his previous works, with liquid nitrogen taking a back seat.

This new addition to the Blumenthal collection is more of a visual scrapbook, with recipes interspersed with little notes, hacks, thoughts and jokes (why did the tomato blush? Because it saw the salad dressing, of course) as well as line drawings of the man himself by the talented Dave McKean. This approach makes the contents playful and more accessible to the everyday cook, while still satisfying an adventurous chef's need to discover something new.

Because on closer inspection, the book does indeed provide new ideas and weird and wonderful interpretations of recipes. How about bacon and egg porridge (which clearly leans on his famous bacon and egg ice-cream)? Or parsnip granola? Or just take the recipe for what you may think looks like a pretty straightforward stir-fry, which in fact calls for mealworms. This sits in the chapter entitled ‘Feed the World', which explores alternative edibles, including a recipe for a cricket protein bar and cricket ketchup. Other chapters touch on gut health, fermentation and mindful eating through the humble sandwich, where he advises us to slow down, listen to our gut and live in the moment.

Blumenthal swaps molecular gastronomy for quantum gastronomy in the introduction, expanding on the thought-provoking ideas you'd expect from the chef. The book would make the perfect Christmas gift, offering much food for thought for 2023 and beyond. In fact, it might take a while to wrap your head around the term ‘quantum gastronomy'. Luckily for the reader, the enjoyment of the recipes doesn't depend on fully understanding the science.

Is This a Cookbook? Adventures in the Kitchen by Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury (£27)

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