Keep it Simple: Fresh Look at Classic Cooking

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Keep it Simple: Fresh Look at Classic Cooking

Keep it Simple: Fresh Look at Classic Cooking

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Simply printing recipes different in tone to those that had characterised food for a generation however would not, in all likelihood, have garnered Alastair Little the critical acclaim that he received though. The last of them was developed to a greater degree by another Glenfiddich Award winner: the thoroughly British The River Cottage Year. Alistair Little (British chef, author, and TV personality) puts together 100 effortless recipes that can be used in any kitchen. I have a standard oven with gasmarks, and we were clearly talking gasmark 1 and below; the temperature-conversion charts that preface basic cookbooks didn't even start at the temperature - 65 - that Mr B was proposing for one particular recipe.

I think I gave it five, and two subsequent reheatings of 45 minutes each only enhanced the tail's fork-meltingness. The recipes are organised seasonally and reflect Little's interest in Italian, Japanese, Chinese and French cookery. His cuisine is Olympian, fit for gods who have become sated and fractious after millennia of ordinary perfection. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. What we are after is "purity of effect" - which (you will have guessed by now) may involve considerable complication of means.Thus everything from peasant cooking to classic haute cuisine may, by this definition, be accounted simple. Organized by season, the book captures the spirit of Modern British cooking, which Alastair Little pioneered in the 80s and 90s at his eponymous restaurant in Soho, and presents recipes which avoid fuss and complication, but deliver great results. Do your salivary glands throb and your feet make pawing gestures in the direction of the kitchen, or do you find yourself thinking about the attractive blue neon signs of Pizza Express? A restaurant critic told me the other day Mr B also believes that if you prick each chip individually with a fork, this makes for an even finer end-product; but that for some reason (like straining our credulity) he didn't put this in the recipe. It’s immaterial whether the reader is, at any age, right at the beginning of their cooking life ( risotto), is a struggling improver learning the ins and outs of culinary terminology ( risotto nero), or is a fully-fledged kitchen demon ( osso buco with risotto Milanese).

This much loved cookbook (and the eponymous restaurant) was part of my life for far too short a time, but it was a joy to revisit the book after almost thirty many years! Honestly, unless you are an enthusiastic and well-practiced cook, you simply wouldn’t believe how many puffed-up, information-light (some downright misleading) cookery books there are out there, or at least you wouldn’t realise that until you read and consciously applied your learning from Little’s “Keep It Simple”. It was, inevitably, in that drawer where you put such things and then forget about them, where everything is tangled up - whisks with chopsticks through their wires - a shameful place. The Times obituarist rightly said of his Simple French Food that it was "one of the very few cookbooks everyone should have". He is the rare mixture of a supreme gastrotechnologist who understands the twitch and flex of every muscle, and a cook who is rococo in his imaginings.I revere Elizabeth David, yet don't cook from her as often as I know I should, or even as often as I want to. Fusion food does make its mark in this book but it would be unfair to characterise the whole work as that; some dishes may be fusion inspired but others owe clear allegiance to a particular national culinary tradition.

Alternatives to hard-to-find-ingredients and prepping advice for stress-free cooking make the recipes perfect for anybody, whether they’re beginners or masters in the kitchen. What some people might have forgotten is that British cuisine, as it is today, did not emerge miraculously in its present form from under the tyranny of heavy sauces - there was the rebellious phase of fusion food marking the journey. Like most people, I annotate my cookbooks - ticks, crosses, exclamation marks, emendations and suggestions for next time.Alastair Little is one of the unsung heroes of British cuisine One of the great classic cookbooks, the start of the British food revolution. If we make a dish once, and it turns out anything from a serious muff to a complete hash, then we don't cook it again. There are too many favourites to list but they include daube of beef and panettone bread and butter pudding. And here most people, and certainly most kitchen pedants, part company with Messrs Blumenthal and Olney, and also with Mrs David.

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