Thursday, 13 October 2016

Book Review: Shaun Hill, Salt is Essential and Pierre Koffmann, Classic Koffmann

These two books arrived today, representing a combined 100 years of cheffing.


I commend to anyone interested in food the new book by Shaun Hill: Salt is Essential and other things I have learned from 50 years at the stove.

I intended to quickly skim through them both, but I couldn't put down Salt is Essential and ended up reading it from cover to cover.  It is pleasantly discursive and full of bons mots and opinions, which, like the book's title, had me saying "Oh yes" and nodding like the Churchill dog.  Struggling to find negatives, I think there were about three or four things throughout the book, with which I disagreed, and he has an annoying habit of saying "myself" when he means "me."

I could quote many and large passages from the book, but would probably end up being sued for copyright breach, so I will content myself with this comment on a recipe for fish pie: "This used to be a pub lunch standard before they discovered goat's cheese and rocket salad. It is now poorly made, if ever, with mean fillings of cheap fish.  Lobster will also do nicely if you are short of prawns."

The recipes are a mix of the familiar and comforting to the less familiar, the latter seemingly being primarily from the Baltic and Central Europe.

By contrast, I found the Koffmann book a bit of a disappointment.  It's a lovely cookbook, with a particularly snazzy bookmark, and all your Koffmann favourites are there.  But there's not much more than recipes and numerous quotes about how lovely "Pierre the Bear" is from his protégés.  It almost seems a bit of a Festschrift with recipes.  It also has a very annoying tic of incorporating both the British and American editions into the one book, with the result that throughout American translations are given in parentheses.  For example, the recipe for the famous trotter is probably about half as long again as it needs to be, as every time trotter is mentioned, "pig feet" is appended in parentheses.

Interestingly they both have recipes for salmon confit in goose fat (claimed by Koffmann as his creation, but that's not acknowledged by Hill).  Once you cut out the flannel of making petits pois à la française and a pea purée from the Koffmann recipe, the two recipes are - of course - very similar, although strangely Koffmann specifies the goose fat should be heated to 50°C (which is naturally glossed as 122°F), while Hill specifies 40°C. 

1 comment:

Lee Burns said...

Good reviews, Ta. I like bits of story and chat with my recipes, I'll keep an eye out for the Shaun Hill.