The nice people at Dorling Kindersley recently sent me Marcus Wareing’s new book, How To Make The Perfect…
Its aim is to give the definitive recipe for those basics we sometimes struggle to master – perfect roast potatoes, perfect lamb shanks. And it certainly comes across as very confident – if I was a beginner I’d be reassured by the talk of a man who knows what he’s doing. The instructions are straightforward and easy to understand and the tips about what to do if something goes wrong are very good.
That said, you have to be wary of anything that claims to be the “perfect” anything. The fish pie, for example – the mash is piped onto the top. Piped. Have you got time to pipe your mash? Is a beginner cook even going to have a piping bag? No. You’re going to make mash and then spoon it on top, and it’s going to taste exactly as it would if it was squeezed through a bag. There’s no need for that finickityness. And lets not even talk about the amount of washing up involved in half the dishes – separate pans for frying each ingredient? Piping bags and lemon zesters and muslin bags, oh my. Lets be practical.
You could say, well, if you’re aiming for perfection you have to be willing to work hard, to put in those extra touches. And yes, if I was trying for a Michelin star, I would. But I’m not. I’m cooking at home, and I’m aiming for really great home cooking, an element of which is practicality.
But I will admit – the photos of the food make it look pretty damn good. Good enough that I’m willing to give a finickety recipe a go. And if a cook book can make a person want to really give it a go, I’d say it’s done its job well.