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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Is This a Cookbook? by Heston Blumenthal


Every chef worth their salt knows a thing or two about celebrity chefs. Love them or hate them, they have a place in our hearts and on our television. Pioneers like our very own Alison Holst through to the inspirational Jamie Oliver and Nigella.


However, there is one who stands above the rest when it comes to the construction of some of the most remarkable mixes of science and food ever crafted, that person is - of course - Heston Blumenthal. Te bald-headed, bespectacled wonder has created recipes that are awe inspiring and equally delicious. From his famous snail porridge to his Alice in Wonderland inspired hot and cold tea (amazing, both the hot and cold elements are contained through a science driven reaction in the same cup).


All his recipes have been dutifully noted in some of the highest selling cookbooks - The Fat Duck Cookbook - but with a requirement of something akin to a PHD in cheffery in order to achieve such giddy heights of culinary feats. Even his selection of ‘family friendly’ cookbooks were challenging for most professional chefs. Famously in rivalry with other celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Blumenthal is consistently ranked one of the best innovators of the cooking world for his fantastical creations. But his cookbooks are not in the same league as other chefs who recognise the parameters which define after work food prep.


There are those who defend Blumnethal for staying true to his view of food as being more of an evening requirement and more of a holistic experience. But, perhaps bowing to public pressure, he has finally released a cookbook that fits in the realm of those less experienced home chefs. The recipes in this book are immensely more accessible without compromising on the flavours. For example, the coronation chicken sandwich is one of the most sensational flavour combinations that has become a staple of our 8 year old’s lunchbox. Who would have thought that a curried, apricoty chicken combo would be part of the diet of a child whose main sustenance has been pasta for around 2 years. Well done, Heston, well done.


Being Heston, there are some recipes that were just too out of the ordinary for the family to begin to consider. Cricket bread being a main example. Not cricket the game - like some kind of refined Saturday morning loaf, no way, not Heston - rather cricket the insect. In fact, the ‘feed the world’ section embraces alternative edibles such as crickets and mealworms as alternatives to beef and chicken. Not quite ready for that, I’m afraid.


The images, like with a lot of modern cookbooks, are sublime. They seem to capture the indescribable. Almost as if they were edible themselves, each dish is beautifully curated and presented on glossy paper stock. It’s rare that any cookbook gets a full rotation in our kitchen, but with this one, the simplicity of the recipes and the resulting flavours really captured the love of cooking and eating with (if the coronation chicken is anything to go by) remarkable results.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Atmosphere Press


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