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Keep it Simple: Fresh Look at Classic Cooking

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And here most people, and certainly most kitchen pedants, part company with Messrs Blumenthal and Olney, and also with Mrs David. I had read several of his recipes for slow cooking, in which he gave oven temperatures in centigrade. A restaurant critic told me the other day Mr B also believes that if you prick each chip individually with a fork, this makes for an even finer end-product; but that for some reason (like straining our credulity) he didn't put this in the recipe. Unsuprisingly, I rediscovered timeless classic recipes that are still appropriate for cooking in the 2020's. A decade late his book, Keep it Simple (1993) was published and quickly became a bestseller, a handbook for small restaurants, and the new-trend of gastro pubs in Britain.

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Olney was one of the guests, and I later heard that when the waiter poured him a glass of red wine, he sipped it and sent it back. It’s immaterial whether the reader is, at any age, right at the beginning of their cooking life ( risotto), is a struggling improver learning the ins and outs of culinary terminology ( risotto nero), or is a fully-fledged kitchen demon ( osso buco with risotto Milanese).

Alternatives to hard-to-find-ingredients and prepping advice for stress-free cooking make the recipes perfect for anybody, whether they’re beginners or masters in the kitchen. I quite want to cook some of what Mr Blumenthal does: though when he tells me that the best way of cooking a steak is to flip it every 15 seconds, making 32 flips in all for its eight-minute cooking period, I am inclined to wonder who will be minding the chips and mushy peas while I flip four steaks 128 times, so I say Pass. The publisher of Simple French Food meanly had the book glued rather than sewn, and the pages you use regularly just fall out when you open it. Alastair understands that not everyone is a culinary genius in the kitchen, and each recipe is straightforward and works.

Honestly, unless you are an enthusiastic and well-practiced cook, you simply wouldn’t believe how many puffed-up, information-light (some downright misleading) cookery books there are out there, or at least you wouldn’t realise that until you read and consciously applied your learning from Little’s “Keep It Simple”. But in practice, most domestic cooks feel that failure is indeed a disgrace, and that it would take some years of therapy to convince them otherwise.

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