Heston Blumenthal At Home by Heston Blumenthal
British foodie Heston Blumenthal's earlier "mad scientist" books have gone into the too-hard basket, as far as I'm concerned. Snail porridge? Bacon-and-egg icecream? Yuck.
But this is different. Blumenthal, who taught himself to cook, has come back to earth with an inviting collection of practical recipes that still demand some ambition. It's also a very good learning tool: although he keeps the technology down, relatively speaking, he does offer advice on devices and tips that will make cooking easier and better.
He starts out with a useful discourse on the very essence of flavour, before launching into the foundation of many dishes: stock, leading naturally to some impressive soup recipes.
The starters section includes tips on curing, smoking and pickling; the scale of sophistication moves between a mushroom jelly with mushroom cream to a recipe for scotch eggs.
And his salad section, for example, explains why and how to rehydrate leaves and why you shouldn't overlook the humble iceberg in the face of all that peppery rocket in supermarket bags. His recipes for mayonnaise and vinaigrettes are simple and perfect.
The meat and fish sections include advice to brine your chicken overnight before roasting along with his secret ingredients for chilli con carne and a fish pie with a hilarious "sand and sea foam" topping.
On he forges: sous vide (for which you need a machine), pasta and grains, cheese (the ultimate toastie, involving the insertion of a washing-up sponge), sides and condiments (like triple-cooked chips, parsley butter, pickled cucumber), ices (uh-oh, bacon-and-egg icecream), desserts and sweets, and biscuits, snacks and drinks.
A special book and one, I hope, that will become well-used.