Celebrity chef cookbooks

Time Out reviews the best celebrity recipe books to give you culinary inspiration

Gourmet Food for a Fiver

Jason Atherton, Quadrille, £14.99

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With some notable exceptions, cookery books written by restaurant chefs – rather than cooks or food writers – have a tendency to be poncey. They can be full of costly and esoteric ingredients, or over-reliant on fiddly, time-consuming techniques (such as multiple sieving of sauces) that are a turn-off for home cooks. This new book from the acclaimed chef of Maze restaurant [editor's note: since this review was written, Atherton has left Maze and now cooks at his own restaurant, Pollen Street Social] is, thankfully, an honourable exception, and is one that the home cook can enjoy.

Since the financial crash, publishers have been rushing out budget cookery books galore – many harking back to war-time frugality. This book is different, as a quick leaf through the very appealing recipes show. The dishes are elegant rather than spare, and even humble-sounding dishes such as grilled sardines on toast, chilled cucumber soup, and rice pudding look rather indulgent. Nor is the book overtly British, as is the current trend. There are flavours from the Middle and Far East, and from throughout Europe – and there’s not a single pie in sight.

According to the foreword, the fiver in the title is based on a two-course meal for four people, but assumes an already-stocked larder of spices, condiments and store-cupboard staples. Some of these recipes actually cost more than a fiver, even if the main ingredients are bought in season. Most, however, are based on inexpensive types of fish, such as mackerel, pollack or squid; or less-expensive cuts of meat, such as pork belly, chicken thighs or lamb leg steaks.

What this book does exceptionally well is to suggest flavours that work well together, and give detailed advice on how to present and plate each dish so that it looks fabulous. The recipes themselves are fairly concise and clearly written - although some less experienced cooks might struggle a bit with the foamy sauces and quenelles. Glamour on a shoestring budget is the aim here, and that’s something all keen cooks will appreciate.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2068: April 8-14 2010

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