If you are a regular Mostly Food and Travel Journal reader then it’s likely you have a love of good food. It’s possible that you even enjoy cooking. If either of those apply then you probably have an appreciation of good presentation. It’s the first thing one notices and we all know what they say about first impressions.
Some of us are genetically inept. We consider a well-presented meal as one which has the burnt bits hidden under the sprouts, gravy that at least moves, the blob of jam just in the middle of the rice pud and perhaps an oily thumb print as decoration. It’s sad but true. We know it doesn’t look appetising but have no idea how to elevate our culinary offerings from mundane to marvellous.
In Food Presenting Secrets Cara Hobday and Jo Dendury have penned a book which is full of techniques (over one hundred in fact) to enable you to shine at food presentation. There are expert tips and suggestions for ways to produce garnishes that you’ll see in the best restaurants. They are not all cheffy. Each technique is marked with its degree of difficulty so the less-confident among us can practise level one for a while. Even these easy exercises will stun your guests. Spaghetti of Vegetables is colourful and attractive and a good way to encourage the kids to eat something healthy. The secret is a julienne peeler. I have never thought to buy one but I can see the application now.
The novice cook is supported with not only a raft of simple ideas but also a wealth of step-by-step pictures. It’s the nature of the subject that makes it so important to have good illustrations. What would have sounded complicated in words is seen to be quite straightforward when one can observe the process and when one learns that even a chef uses a handy little gadget for this, or a crafty gizmo for that. As with many things, it’s easy when you know.
Sugarcraft has always been a minefield for the beginner. It’s the fear of molten confectionery that tends to put off many of us less daring souls. Whilst it’s true that a healthy respect for anything at boiling point is advised, it’s equally true that the end results of your efforts will be impressive. The shape-forming techniques are quite basic, it’s only the sugar temperature which is exacting. I’d start with the Sugar Baskets, before advancing to Sugar Cages – stunning when veiling a scoop of exotic ice cream or perhaps a lemon soufflé. They are not overly taxing to make …but get somebody else to do the washing-up.
Chocolate Piping is perhaps the most fun of all the presentation techniques. The process is easy and it’s a great project for kids. A few artful swirls of chocolate propped on a white meringue would look stylish. A chocolate bee landing on a buttercreamed cupcake would be charming. The possibilities are endless.
Food Presenting Secrets is a thoroughly sensible volume offering advice on how to give your dishes that professional edge. Yes, the food should still taste good but we also eat with our eyes. It’s the little touches that make the difference. The equipment is minimal and you’ll already have most of it – anything you need in addition will cost only a pound or two. There is nothing here that is beyond the home cook. This is a book that will give confidence to a novice and ideas to the more practised. A gift-quality book from the ever reliable Apple Press.
Food Presenting Secrets
Authors: Cara Hobday and Jo Dendury
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018