How often have I recommended a cookbook because it is not too cheffy, has no complicated techniques, no special equipment, etc? I have encouraged my dear reader to invest in books with home-cooking-style recipes and those that support the novice. Yes Chef is somewhat different but it does nevertheless fill a long-felt want.
British food is now taking its rightful place in the culinary pantheon. We are these days respected by every country apart from France, who still bask in their own publicity. No, I am not criticising the great French culinary heritage, but I do believe that there are other nations who can reasonably be proud of their food. James Martin, chef, author, and star of the small screen, has written the foreword to this book in promotion of his peers, who have persuaded the whole world to take notice of British cooking.
I was waxing lyrical to a French friend about the good restaurants to be found in the UK. I described the fine ingredients, dedication to quality, and ethnic diversity. His only comment was that naturally we would be drawn to the cuisine of others as we had none of our own. Unfair. Yes, we have embraced dishes from afar, but that surely shows that we are open to innovation. We acknowledge that our country is indeed a melting pot, and it’s no worse for that. These chefs take what’s good, be they ingredients or recipes, and adapt them to present the diner with a marvellous array of truly New British food.
Yes Chef has a sub-title of 20 Great British Chefs, 100 Great British Recipes. The book offers us a glimpse of what’s going on in the world of British restaurants. Many of these chefs will be familiar to the general public but not all are yet household names. You will no doubt have your favourite restaurant and wonder why their chef has not been included. It’s just a matter of space. There are hundreds of chefs who would have made the grade but perhaps there will be a second volume to add to the roll-call of excellence.
The book is divided by chef rather than course or season. It includes several of my favourites but a few who are new to me. Atul Kochhar is one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs, presiding over a London restaurant noted for its innovative Indian food. Atul presents, amongst others, Soft Shell Crab with Crispy Fried Squid and a Trio of Chutneys. The list of ingredients and processes looks daunting but consider each element as a standalone recipe and the assembled dish will seem much more achievable. For the anxious there is also Pear Parcels and Star Anise Ice Cream – a stylish dish which can be made in stages.
Theo Randall of London’s Intercontinental has long been a favourite chef. After a successful career at the River Cafe with Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray he has now established himself in the restaurant which bears his name. Theo is a personable man who also teaches at his weekend cooking classes, allowing enthusiastic home cooks a peek at a real restaurant kitchen and the opportunity to learn a few tricks of the trade. He is famed for his Italian-biased dishes and has Risotto di Pepperoni as one of his recipes. Another simple one for the non-professional.
Marcus Wareing of The Berkeley is steeped in classic culinary tradition, with his first big break handed to him by the great Anton Edelmann, the executive chef of London’s iconic Savoy Hotel where Marcus learnt much of his craft. He evidently learnt well. He suggests Roasted Halibut with Sweeetcorn, Chorizo and Leeks. Another many-faceted dish but it’s all doable and the end result is stunning. A must-try from this volume.
My pick of this book is Crab and Spinach Salad with Vinaigrette of Artichokes, Green Beans, Cockles and Chives. Think of it as crab with salad and vegetables and it won’t seem so outfacing. It’s not a difficult dish but it has an unmistakable hint of luxury with which to impress your guests. A real winner and ideal for the home cook. Bruce Poole is the chef responsible for this. His restaurant Chez Bruce should be well worth a visit.
This is an unashamedly cheffy cookbook but it works. It has recipes suitable for the novice cook and others for the more experienced. The dishes are unique and thought-provoking. Yes Chef is a marvellous showcase for British chefs. It’s gift quality with striking photography by Christian Barnett making this a must-have for any serious foodie, be they cook or restaurant goer.
Compiled by: James Winter and James Bulmer
Published by: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018