Shane Osborn's, Starters

30 November 2004
Shane Osborn's, Starters

I've been eagerly awaiting Shane Osborn's first cookbook for a while - he is, after all, a renowned two-Michelin-starred chef with a huge amount of talent. So I opened his Starters with anticipation and excitement. However, my initial flick through its pages left me feeling that my anticipation had been a little misplaced.

Most of the dishes featured are versatile and can be made as a starter or main course, which is great for the domestic cook. But professional chefs, I feel, might be disappointed if they rushed out and bought the book, as it is quite basic.

From my point of view, I felt a bit let down that the food didn't more truly reflect Osborn's cooking at Pied … Terre (the London restaurant where he is head chef). When you go into Pied … Terre you enter a culinary emporium, and it's a pity the book doesn't portray more of that in its pages.

There's no doubt the book is aimed at the consumer market and its concept - starter dishes - is cleverly simple. Having said that, I feel that some dishes would be unachievable for most domestic cooks - for instance, a terrine of foie gras, wood pigeon and ham hock. In contrast, the basic recipes at the back of the book are very general and not precise enough. Phrases such as "makes about" are used, which can be very misleading.

The style of the food borders on the rustic, again, quite different from that served at Pied … Terre. The ingredients are superb, though, and the photographs are very well laid out, clear and aesthetically pleasing.

Not all the recipes featured had accompanying photographs, however, and I think this is a shame, particularly for domestic cooks who would benefit from a visual of the plated dish to work towards. Some are not captioned, and the reader is left to guess at what they are, which is not ideal.

Among the recipes themselves, I personally didn't find the roasted spring carrots with star anise and tarragon an appetising starter: served as a main-course garnish with pork fillets and baby turnips it would be perfect, and more in line with what I would expect from someone of Osborn's calibre.

The caramelised endive tart with walnut and roasted pear is, without a doubt, the jewel in the crown of his dishes in the book. It shows real technical know-how, finesse, and a love of food - a pure reflection on his restaurant and what it has achieved.

Overall, I found Starters a frustrating book in the sense that it didn't, as I hoped it would, inspire me to go out and try all the recipes at once. However, it did allow me glimpses of what the man is made of.

Adam Culverwell, head chef, Kilworth House hotel, North Kilworth, Leicestershire

Shane Osborn's Starters Shane Osborn
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN 1-84400-118-0

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