We all have our favourite TV chefs, don’t we? Some swear by Saint Delia – she’ll always hold a special place in my heart for answering many of the questions I was too afraid to ask. Others are inspired by Jamie Oliver’s throwaway style; I started by finding him a little irritating but I’ve now come to the conclusion he’s a natural cook and he’s surprisingly knowledgeable about his subject. However, I am newly converted to Gary Rhodes. I just caught a little bit of his programme about soups and I was hooked – did you see the bright green colour of that spinach soup? unbelievable! What really made me realise how professional he is was when his programme was followed by Food and Drink. I used to watch this regularly but after Gary Rhodes it looked amateurish. So I watched as much of the rest of the series as I could and bought the book, “Gary Rhodes at the table”, published by the BBC at a cover price of £18.99 (not that internet shoppers will pay that much). The first thing I noticed was that the book is very attractively produced and great for browsing through. Not all cookery books are like this, and I think it is so important. All the recipes are listed at the beginning in the contents, under course headings in the usual way: appetizers, soups, fish, mains, vegetables, desserts, savouries ... "savouries"? All is explained in a short introduction which gives a history behind the present day formal meal with its three courses, and an encouragement to experiment a little bit in the format of your menu. Given that many of us, when we cook for friends, rarely get as far as three courses, this may be a little unrealistic – but part of the attraction of a lovely cookery book is the dream of a more romantic lifestyle! The contents pages hint at interesting and exotic flavours. To make the most of Rhodes’ expertise I think you have to be fairly adventurous in your tastes, as
the list includes everything from “Crispy Prawn Cocktail” to “Seared Sea Trout with Fennel-flavoured Sauerkraut and a Red-wine Sauce”. Not one I’m dying to try, personally! The recipes are somewhere between beginner and Masterchef standard. I'd have to admit that Rhodes can make things pretty complicated. Many of the recipes have two or even three elements to them, such as a meat dish plus a vegetable dish designed to complement it. They are not usually very complicated in themselves but the whole recipe looks a bit daunting. There is also quite an emphasis on presentation, with little drizzles of coulis and such like to give that fashionable restaurant look. I’d suggest the answer, if you don’t have the time or inclination to attempt the whole thing, is to mix and match the different dishes with simpler accompaniments. That way you can keep it more manageable but still get some wonderful new ideas. For instance, there’s a recipe for Beef Goulash which I’ve tried very successfully, but I serve it with rice or plain mash instead of the Sweet Red Pepper and Parsley Gnocchi which I’m sure complements it beautifully. Similarly there’s “Two Salmons with Sorrel-flavoured Leeks and Crème Fraiche Mashed Potatoes”. This consists of both smoked salmon, which is steamed and served on the mashed potatoes, and fresh salmon which is pan-fried and served on a bed of leeks. Both of these sound wonderful; but I would be tempted to just serve one! There are lots more examples like this, including in the desserts section, such as “Iced Pear Parfait with Sweet Kirsch Cherries”. The parfait, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t) is made from pureed fruit and a sabayon of egg yolks, sugar and pear syrup whisked over simmering water, and then set in a mould. This is served with cherries cooked with kirsch, and also a poached pear. Rhodes takes presentation to new extre
mes with this one, even advising how to cut a small slice from the base of the poached half pear to make it sit up at the right angle! And don’t forget the whipped cream and home-made Melba toast to top the parfait! I think most people would feel all this was a little extreme for a dinner cooked at home. All I can say is that it sounds, and looks in the picture, absolutely mouthwatering. Each recipe starts with an introduction, which often gives useful background to the dish and tips on the best way to go about cooking and serving. For instance, for the Country Pate, Rhodes explains his choice of meats, and advises that you plan ahead and give the pate a couple of days for the flavours to mature before eating. There is also a really useful section on menus at the end where Rhodes gives suggestions about how to combine different dishes to give a good balance to the meal, and how to avoid too much stress to the cook! I hope I’ve given you a flavour (sorry) of this book. It’s one that I’m sure I’ll keep going back to, both for new ideas for what I call “weekend” cooking when I have more time, but probably still doing simpler versions of most recipes, and for when I really want to treat my friends. Trouble is, if I can make food that looks this good, I won’t be able to bring myself to let them eat it!
Gary Rhodes at the Table is a great cook book full of some of the most warming and satisfying meals. I’m not normally a fan of Mr Rhodes, but I happened to turn onto his TV Series as he was making Roast Chicken Soup. This was no ordinary chicken soup – oh no! This was a beautiful creamy looking soup into which was placed a whole roast breast of chicken. I know that all the veggies that must sound revolting, but it was the most mouth-watering chicken soup I think I have ever seen. He even managed to make Spinach Soup look appealing. This book, based on the TV Series, is separated into nine chapters. 1. Appetizers 2. Soups 3. Fish 4. Mains 5. Vegetables 6. Desserts 7. Savouries 8. Basic Recipes 9. Menus In order to get the full glory of this book onto page I shall endeavour to go through this book section by section, stopping to wipe the drool on occasion. APPETIZERS Appetizing this section is, infact, that word hardly describes how these recipes make you feel when you read them. It includes: Grilled Asparagus with Champ Potato and Tarragon Oil (Yum!) Bacon and Beans Crispy Prawn Cocktail Warm Sole Salad Spicy Vegetarian Crispy-top Pie Country Pâté Marinated Vegetables with Soft Cauliflower Cream 17 Recipes in total all of which start to make you feel hungry…. SOUPS I have already mentioned two of the soups out of the 17 recipes (I see a them here!) in this section, if they weren’t enough to get your juices going, how about some of these: Fisherman’s Soup (this looks particularly stunning) Cream of Tomato (Which I have made, and is probably the best recipe I’ve used!) Cod Brandade Soup with Leeks and Potatoes Fresh Herb Broth Winter Vegetable Soup ( I adapted this recipe to suit my tastes and it was beautiful, perfect for these cold evenings)
Soup is so much easier to make than I ever thought it was and it is well worth the effort to make your own. Hungry yet? FISH Try these out! Roast Sea Bass with Glazed Crab Mashed Potatoes (I saw him make this one on tele and it looked fantastic, especially the potato.) Tunafish Steaks on Bitter Red-wine Onions Rich Fish Stew Warm Salmon Quiche Lorraine Creamy Smoked Haddock Shepherds Pie Fillets of John Dory Poached in Shiraz Wine on Creamed Celeriac and Cabbage. (Just saying that one gets me going) Guess how many recipes there are in total in this section. 17? Could be. No, there are 20 in this one and each is easier to make than it sounds. Though be warned – if cost is important to you when your making a big fish dish, choose carefully. I went to Tesco and picked up 4 different types of fish from the Fresh Fish Counter. I had 2 whole Trout, 2 fillets of Cod, 2 fillets of Salmon and 2 fillets of Haddock. The Trout cost me just under £3.00. The Salmon, again, just under £3.00. The haddock was a little more expensive at about £4.20. But the cod – the cod was just under £8.00. The reason for this is that Cod has just become trendy again. It’s easy to cook and you can pretty much do anything with it – therefore the price has gone up. This op could go on for ever, here are some of the other delicious recipes included. MAINS Roast Salt and Peppered Duck Breast with Spicy Plums Red Wine Beef Lasagne Glazed Honey and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Buttered Forked Potatoes Hot Cheshire Pork Pies Steamed Rabbit, Fennel and Tarragon Suet Pudding Layered Mushroom and Onion Suet Pudding With Truffle Cream Sauce 30 Recipes in total to be found in the Mains chapter VEGETABLES Baked Mashed Potatoes Sautéd Butternut Squash Roast Onion (Always good!) Braised Blue Cheese Leeks
13 recipes all of which will go with practically anything. DESSERTS (My favourite chapter!) Warm Whole Lemon and Almond Pudding with Fresh Raspberries Rich Bramley Apple Millefeuilles Frozen White Chocolate Mousse with Port Wine Figs (Looks too good!) Classic Rum Baba Hot Chocolate Soufflé with Chocolate Sauce (To die for!) 21 – I’m really beginning to get hungry now – recipes in this, the most welcome section in any cook book. SAVOURIES Home Made Baked Beans on Toast Open Smoked Haddock Lasagne Dressed Crab Salad Mushroom Toasts with Melting Swiss Cheese Cheese! 13 very simple recipes for the lighter evening meal. BASIC RECIPES Fish, Chicken, Game, Lamb, Veal or Beef, Vegetable – You name it, there’s a stock recipe here for it! Mayonnaise Tomato Ketchup Fresh Pasta Home-Made Crunchy Breadsticks Crème Anglaise 30 basic recipes for useful things that are good to eat. MENUS This section contains Gary’s (I don’t suppose he’ll mind me calling him Gary?) recommendations for set menus of Two, Three, Four or Six courses using the recipes in the book. Did you make it to here? If you did – well done. Even I went off to get a quick snack between Vegetables and Desserts! So there it is – Gary Rhodes at the Table, his brand-spanking new book. It’s a good one too – an essential in any kitchen. The recipes are easy to follow, and easy to adapt to your own tastes. The RRP is £18.99. WHSmiths have on sale at £14.99 at the moment and Amazon.co.uk at only £9.69 or something around that! Buy it, cook, eat, enjoy, then eat some more. Good health!
Gary Rhodes new cook book to accompany BBC TV series.