RECIPES FROM HOME
By Raymond Blanc
This book declares its original intention to be a ‘book of no-nonsense recipes’, with strong resonance for the type of food that the author’s beloved mother would have served in her kitchen at home. Originally conceived as a ‘quick and simple’ collection, the arrival of the dreaded Coronavirus meant that many people now had more time to spend in the kitchen and the selection of recipes could expand to meet this new reality.
Covid also brought tragedy to the Blanc family, with the death of Raymond’s beloved Maman during the pandemic, and Blanc himself falling victim to the virus and spending a month in hospital.
So the origins of this book, which started as a simple homage to the cooking of his early life, became something altogether more eclectic.
Look and feel
It’s an attractive book with beautiful styling from Adam Johnson and images from Chris Terry. The chapters are laid out in a logical sequence, from breakfasts through snacks, soups, salads, various mains to cheese and desserts. There are periodic feature pages where the author waxes lyrical about a specific ingredient such as ‘my love for apples’, ‘my love for courgettes’ etc. Confusingly, for me at least, the recipe immediately following these vignettes is not generally one that features the ‘special’ ingredient. Overall, instructions are clear and potential variations to recipes are helpfully called out in side panels.
What sort of food is it?
There’s a bit of everything in here. There are simple dishes such as salads and baked cheese, and low and slow recipes such as slow-roasted shoulder of lamb. The small dessert section is wonderful. If I have a quibble it would be that I would struggle to figure out what this could be my ‘go-to’ book for. There are great recipes for family suppers, recipes that could star at a dinner party, and then simple ideas such as Rosemary and Parmesan Popcorn. I’m just not sure what event or occasion would have me reaching for this particular cookbook over another. All the same, I have marked loads of recipes that I want to try so it’s not going to be gathering dust any time soon.
So far I have cooked Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Lentils (pg 198) – the sweet potatoes were delicious but the lentils were a bit lost, I’ll do this again with a bit of a twist. The Beef Braised in Red Wine (pg 182) and the Chicken Braised with White Wine and Mustard (pg 169) were both lovely. Onion and Bacon tart, pictured, (pg 163) went down a treat for dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day. The Marmalade Duck (pg 156) was a simple recipe that didn’t really work for me, but I think the problem may have been that I used the ‘marmalade of marmalades’ (Seville) and there was a tangible ‘breakfast’ vibe going on with the flavour – a less classic marmalade might have delivered more of a ‘duck a l’orange’ hit.
Obscure equipment needed?
No, definitely not. For example, the courgette salad recipe suggests using a peeler or regular knife, a mandolin is mentioned but very much ‘if you have one, and please be careful’.
Ingredients easily available?
Yes, you absolutely won’t be looking up substitutions on the internet for loads of hard-to-find ingredients. There is the odd recipe with very specific requirements that might not be so easy to source – beetroot salad includes ruby, candy and golden baby beetroot – but these are few and far between.
Who is it for?
I think this book would be more at home in a small cookbook collection than in a large one. It’s not sufficiently specialised to claim a niche in a big selection, but it does contain a decent array of things to try any day of the week, and mostly easy to prepare.
Reach for this book at 3pm on a Saturday and you’ll definitely find something delicious to cook for that evening’s meal without any last minute fuss or panic, even if you have mates coming around.