Posts Categorized: Books

Why I love The Family Meal

We don’t see much innovation in cookbooks nowadays but The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria is as you’d expect from one of the world’s most innovative chefs. What most people don’t realise is that most book publishers don’t test their recipes properly. Yes, the chefs and celebrities that write them actually cook the dishes sometimes even in their home kitchens. But a recipe tester using crappy basic cookers and bog standard equipment aren’t used. It keeps the price of cookbooks down but also leads to complicated and difficult recipes that often don’t work or miss ingredients. The Australian Woman’s Weekly cookbooks are legendary because they cook everything in a crappy test kitchen. Several times. And Murdoch Books does the same. And you can be sure that Adria, the most pedantic of chefs has tested these home cooking recipes to bxggxry. The format of the book is rather than the traditional starter/main/dessert format it is split into meals of three courses. At a launch dinner at Gerald’s Bar we ate “Meal 21″, Gazpacho, Black rice with cuttlefish and Bread with chocolate & olive oil. The ingredients above are for “Meal 1″, caesar salad, cheeseburger & potato chips and Santiago cake. The recipes start by laying out the ingredients and giving a timeline for cooking. In this instance, make the Santiago cake 2 hours before, the burgers 1.5 hours before…right up to cooking the burgers five minutes before. The quantities of ingredients are given. For two, for six, for 20 and for 75, if you happen to be feeding your own brigade of chefs or the whole neighbourhood. And the process is illustrated with captions, comic-book style. Most of the recipes are accessible to normal people but occasionally you’ll find the need for a blowtorch, a nitrogen oxide syphon (or siphon) and oxy acetylene cutting equipment (just joking) in addition to pantry and fridge basics. You can find it locally for around $39.95 but as usual I’ve posted a link to my Amazon shop above where it is available for under $20.

Inside Modernist cuisine

Check out on Youtube how the cutaways were made. Finally, $484.60 9including postage) and after a three month wait Modernist Cuisine has arrived. I’ve bought it so you don’t have to but also to add to my collection of books by Peter Barham, Herve This and Harold McGee that examine the science of cooking, as I mentioned in May. Out of all of them McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (which you can buy here) is the best, detailing the science of the many chemical processes that are involved in food preparation. What Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (which you can buy here) does is take the Harold McGee concept and expand upon it, with enthralling graphics and recipes. This book is heavy, both physically and metaphorically. The six volumes arrive weighing 25kg in one large box measuring a tad more than 40cm cubed. And it is heavy in that there is a lot to take in and sophisticated kitchen equipment required to produce many of the dishes described. So far I’ve only had time to scan the chapter on stocks, which describes why smaller chunks (in the case of meat, use ground rather than chunks) create more flavour and how and why to use a presure cooker for better, quicker stocks. It certainly busts some of the myths coming out of the Masterchef kitchen. I’ll be writing regularly about my adventures with this collection of tomes.