Heston Blumenthal: In Search Of Perfection

From the man who brought the world such gastronomic oddities as egg and bacon ice-cream and snail porridge, comes the recipe book to accompany his recent TV series 'In Search of Perfection'. Probably best known for taking science into the kitchen, to many Heston Blumenthal may conjure up an image of a man who swaps kitchen utensils for welder's goggles and dry ice. So its a suprise to find his book contains eight very accessible recipes in which Heston endeavours to create his own culinary nirvana from. These eight dishes are the everyday staples that are eaten on any given night in British homes, from Bangers & Mash, via Fish and Chips to Pizza. And so here's the science bit... Heston has very cleverly chosen those recipes that we all want to make, have our own versions off, and may have room for improvement. There are no complicated techniques, we can all try our hand at cooking them, so put that Bunsen burner away. As Heston says in his introduction, these recipes are not absolute perfection, as perfection is a subjective term. It's the continuous experimentation he is interested in, taking a recipe on a journey. In his pursuit of the very best Heston travels to France for chickens, America for steak and Bologna for Bolognese, sourcing original recipes, but not ingredients, ever mindful of the reader, he constantly makes suggestions for British sourced produce. Heston's enthusiasm for food is infectious and compelling as we follow him from country to country via his kitchen in Bray. These Holy Grail type exercises make for the most entertaining sections of the book, on the trail of the best steak in New York, Heston finds himself discussing the merits of aged beef in a strip club, and the irony of two types of flesh competing with his senses, is not lost on him. Each of the chosen dishes has its own chapter, which include a historical reference, some little-known trivia, and then the part where we follow Heston on his global fact- finding mission, before making his science led version of the recipe. Some of his methods can be labour intensive, I certainly won't be roasting a chicken on a low heat for six hours, but I did try his recipe for roasties, large Maris Pipers cut into into quarters, that's the guaranteed secret of a crispy potato. You really have to admire the man's almost bonkers tenacity and patience. Heston Blumenthal's style is the complete antithesis of the Jamie Oliver 'glug of olive oil' stable of cooking, and probably all the better for it.