Andy Bates: Modern Twists on Classic Dishes by Andy Bates
|Andy Bates: Modern Twists on Classic Dishes by Andy Bates|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Gorgeous flavoursome food, but it's for the experienced cook rather than the novice.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 192||Date: October 2012|
|Publisher: Accent Press|
|External links: Author's website|
I do tire of cook books which regurgitate what are essentially the same recipes time after time. Sometimes food writers rework their own recipes - a tweak here, a change of emphasis there and you can have the same dish many times over, so it's a real breath of fresh air when you find a book which seems to have new ideas, or genuinely new approaches to classic dishes. Andy Bates has a classical background (working in a Michelin starred restaurant by the time he was seventeen and time in France to hone his skills) but his business is a stall in London's Whitecross street market. So - a perfect combination of technical knowledge, experience and knowing what people really want to eat.
The food is what I call gutsy - big flavours from genuine food which lacks all pretension. Think of a chicken and ham hock pie with the flavour enhanced by the fact that the ham has been simmered in what amounts to a stock for several hours and this stock is then reduced to a jelly to pour into the cooked pie. It's the sort of food which you buy from a really good butcher, who makes them on the premises. There's also a Mediterranean grilled vegetable pie which works on a similar principle. There are pasties and pies for every taste (black pudding and pear pie, anyone?) - and it's easy to see why Andy Bates had his own television programme called Street Feasts. It's that sort of food.
If there's one food which could tempt me to buy a deep fat fryer then it's Scotch eggs. I've tried other methods of cooking them, but it's not the same and I've not bought one since I took a batch back to a shop and pointed out that they should have shelled the eggs. Bates' recipes completely bypass the 'standard' Scotch egg and go straight for the flavoursome with a black pudding version, one for vegetarians, a smoked haddock version and the more exotic Thai red curry. There's plenty of advice about how to make the eggs so that they don't fall apart - and to produce that all-important slightly-runny yolk.
Bates isn't quite as inspired when he's producing puddings and desserts, but there's nothing that's going to leave you unsatisfied. I loved the Coffee Cups - it's that tablespoon of Nutella in the bottom of the espresso cup which makes all the difference. And - of great importance to me - he's pretty good with meringue tarts and is capable of going beyond the standard lemon meringue. So, good food and despite the fact that I've not long finished breakfast I could tuck in right now.
But, as ever with such books, the devil is in the detail. Take the photographs. By page seven there are five pictures of Bates. Yep - I know - appealing young man, but it's not what I buy a cookery book for and it's padding. And I have to mention that picture on the title page. It looks as though Bates is either parked rather badly on double yellow lines or he's cycling into oncoming traffic. Either way it doesn't inspire confidence. Moving on from the photos themselves there's the question of presentation. In the picture of the honey cheesecake the dish is topped with some sugar work (and rather elementary sugar work at that) but it's not a part of the recipe and to my mind detracts from what should be a simple, genuine pudding. And don't even get me started on that 'fine dining' stripe of food on the picture of halibut steak, chorizo, refried beans and guacamole...
It wouldn't stop me trying the recipes though and I looked through the book for something to tempt. A lot of the pies and tarts are for eight to ten people and for most families that's going to be 'an occasion' rather than a family meal. Even some of the Scotch egg recipes are for eight and that's quite a lot of one dish for a small family to use up. Mind you, the vegetarian Scotch eggs serve eight but are formed around four eggs. Giving half a Scotch egg does seem just a little bit niggardly. There's more niggardliness with the mini chorizo sausage rolls where 200g of chorizo and one rolled sheet of puff pastry serves ten. It might make ten but when other recipes indicate the number of people the dish will serve it's misleading to say the least.
Obviously - if you're experienced in the kitchen - you're going to spot that you might have to be wary of the 'five loaves and two small fishes' syndrome. It's not a book for the novice. The recipe for coronation chicken sandwich instructs that you confit the chicken legs by submerging them in the goose fat... Now, we speak of little else in these parts but not everyone is going to be aware of what they should be doing. Why not explain and give people confidence? It's a sandwich recipe, for gawds sake.
Yes, I know. High horse. Dismount. I'm just cross that food with gorgeous flavours which people should want to make cannot be made effortlessly accessible. Nevertheless, I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then we think that you might enjoy East End Paradise: Kitchen Garden Cooking In The City by Jojo Tulloh.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Andy Bates: Modern Twists on Classic Dishes by Andy Bates at Amazon.com.
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