Rick Stein's career has seen him undertake culinary tours of Mexico, Spain, France and India as well as a plethora of European cities. However, in his latest book, conceived and written in the time of Covid-19, Stein, like the rest of us, is stuck at home making the most of simple pleasures around his kitchen table.
Written across three lockdowns, it is part-cookbook, part-memoir, part Covid-confessional in which the chef finds solace in exploring recipes he has stashed away over the years, planning menus in preparation for when friends and family once again take their seats at the table.
The recipes are set out as a journey through such a celebration and the book opens with bar snacks, moving through first courses, fish, poultry, meat and vegetarian dishes before concluding with desserts and drinks.
Stein describes the meat chapter as a "greatest hits", but the term could be extended across the whole book, which includes many a comforting family favourite as well as plenty of well-known Stein classics. That said, there's plenty of room in this 320-page tome for recipes from the chef's extensive travels – including a duck noodle soup from Bangkok and an egg curry found "en route to Thekkady" in India.
It also features signature dishes of friends and family, including wife Sas's beef stroganoff, which family insist is better than his, and a friend's vegetarian moussaka – the chef acknowledging that meat and fish-free cooking is not his natural forte.
Stein provides an engaging and entertaining narrative to tie these recipes together, sharing notes, stories and tips. Many of these are lessons learned from a lifetime in hospitality – such as misguided attempts to foist subtly disguised French-inspired amuse-gueules onto the guests of his flagship Seafood Restaurant in the 1980s and his tips for the best ways to get a party started. But others are reflections brought to the surface during a year that saw all forced to look closer to home for comfort, and comfort is exactly what this book delivers.
Rick Stein at Home: Recipes, Memories and Stories from a Food Lover's Kitchen by Rick Stein (BBC Books, £26)
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