Book review: Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes

15 September 2014
Book review: Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes

Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes
Tom Kerridge
Absolute Press, £25

Tom Kerridge is a phenomenon. He makes approachable and alluring dishes on the telly, runs one of the country's finest restaurants in Marlow, and is soon to
open a second along the road. He also writes excellent cookbooks: this is the second one, following on from the success of last year's Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food.

Part of the secret of his success is that the dishes are familiar, just rarely made in the conventional way. They are, however, always appealing. Brown ale gravy to partner pork meatballs, for example, is not a challenging recipe, but it sounds just like something you might want to eat. There are three gravy recipes, in fact, for this is a world of pasties and pies, soups and dumplings, and crackling pork.

The shepherd's pie recipe gives the key to the book's style. It isn't a quick and easy confection with a few ingredients put together and left to braise. It is a meticulous series of steps: lamb shanks are braised slowly rather than mince being fried off with a few vegetables.

The mashed potato topping is treated with care and precision. Small wonder that Kerridge's food tastes so good, but tough luck on those who imagined that
all it involves is an easy compilation of readily available ingredients and a little extra time in the oven. I'm not sure his fan base will appreciate the reality of making this quality of food, but the book is a great help to those of us in the commercial kitchen.

Kerridge may work in a pub, but he has a pedigree of experience in some of the finest restaurants. He worked at the Capital hotel in Knightsbridge, where I myself was once head chef about 1,000 years ago, at Adlards in Norwich and at Calcot Manor in Tetbury. The dishes in this book reflect that base of craft skill, as well as a heartier, more English style.

How about crab fritters with saffron mayonnaise, seafood tarts with seaweed salad or crispy quail with kohlrabi slaw to start, followed by whole satay chicken or Barnsley chop with cumin and coriander? The puddings are as you would hope: treacle tart with mascarpone ice-cream, clootie dumplings with ginger custard and grown-up doughnuts.

I have only managed to eat once at the Hand & Flowers and need to return in case some of these dishes are on offer.

By Shaun Hill, chef-proprietor, the Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid

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