Simon Hopkinson Cooks by Simon Hopkinson
|Simon Hopkinson Cooks by Simon Hopkinson|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Twelve delicious meals for occasions. You're going to be hungry just reading the book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: September 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Simon Hopkinson loves to cook: it’s not just his profession but his passion and not a day goes by but that he cooks. I’m always nervous when I pick up books by professionals: so often they forget that the amateur cook rarely cooks for eight, ten or twelve people, but Hopkinson is wise. Most of his recipes are for four people - some you could divide or scale up if that was what you required - and they’re all designed on the basis that they’re going to be enjoyed by the family or a group of friends. So, what’s in the book? Meals - a dozen of them.
Let me elaborate. Hopkinson has provided the menus for twelve meals which would suit different occasions. You start with a drink and accompanying nibbles - and we’re not talking a glass of sherry from the back of the cupboard and some peanuts. There are cocktails (champagne cocktail, anyone?) and classic drinks such as a Bloody Mary or a Negroni. For the nibbles there are treats such as gougeres. After this you get a first course, a second course, a main course and finally a desert or traditional pudding. Does that sound like a lot of food? Well, it is, but these are not meals for every day. Most of the first and second course dishes are quite light and could be omitted if necessary. After you read the menus you might change your mind though.
The meals are finely balanced so that courses complement each other and the flavours sing. You begin each series of recipes with a discourse from Hopkinson, usually about the inspiration for the meal, how the recipes were developed or an attribution where appropriate. They’re never more than a couple of pages long and they’re all interesting, with hints about which rice he uses, for instance (and he never washes it...) and how a different ingredient would affect the recipe. It gives confidence and along with the excellent photographs leaves you feeling that you really know where you’re going. Hopkinson pleads that you don’t see this as a coffee table book - but in truth the book is so beautiful it wouldn’t be out of place on permanent display.
And now for the meals. I’ll take a selection from the twelve to give you a taster, but there really is something for every occasion. The celebratory dinner (oysters Rockefeller, black truffle omelette, fillet steak with bearnaise sauce, chips, green salad, custard pancakes with rum, the unknown soldier to drink and candied orange peel for nibbles) wouldn’t be out of place on Valentine’s Day - and several of the recipes are for two. It’s extravagant and opulent. You’d be wise to make certain that it doesn’t clash with a substantial late weekend breakfast - bullshot with devils on horseback for nibbles, baked mushrooms with tomatoes, kedgeree, veal kidneys on big fried bread and orange and pink grapefruit salad with Angostura bitters.
If you want a cosy supper after the show you could have French 75 to drink, with spiced almonds for nibbles, a cup of beef tea with Madeira, bacon du Bedat, Jansson’s temptation and vanilla custard pots - much of which you’re going to be able to prepare well in advance. Some of the names might sound as though you’ll need some unusual ingredients, but I didn’t find anything that left me wondering about where I’d get it: Jansson’s temptation, in case you’re wondering, requires butter, onions, anchovies, potatoes, cream, breadcrumbs and seasoning.
My favourite has to be the very British luncheon with Pimm’s and Lancashire cheese and onion biscuits to start, cream of celery soup, English salad, chicken pie with stewed carrots and peas with marmalade queen of puddings. I visualise it with the dining room doors wide open and the butterflies on the flowers... There are another eight meals which I haven’t touched on but they’re all of a similar standard. Instructions are clear and don’t assume too much prior knowledge or a vast array of specialist kit.
You’ll have worked out that these are special meals for occasions. There isn’t one for ‘a quick supper before I go out’. If that’s what you’re after you’d really better looking at Nigel Slater. These are meals which are going to take at least an hour to prepare and possibly a good bit longer. Some will need to be started the day before - but there’s a clear warning at the top of the recipe if this needs to be taken into consideration.
I’d like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more from the UK we can recommend Canteen: Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake.
You can read more book reviews or buy Simon Hopkinson Cooks by Simon Hopkinson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Simon Hopkinson Cooks by Simon Hopkinson at Amazon.com.
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