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by Georgia Glynn Smith,Nigel Slater
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  • Author:
    Georgia Glynn Smith,Nigel Slater
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  • Publisher:
    Michael Joseph; 1st Edition edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Pages:
    288 pages
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    1335 kb
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    1310 kb
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Real Cooking

`Real Cooking' by Nigel Slater (name above the title, of course)and 'Nigel Slater's Real Food' are two great expositions on the real joy of cooking. Slater characterizes his point of view in the motto to `Real Cooking' as `There is too much talk of cooking being an art or a science - we are only making ourselves something to eat.' With this sentiment, Slater dismisses the Shirley Corriher / Alton Brown `kitchen science' camp on the one hand and the Keller / Boulud / Girardet `haute cuisine' camp on the other. In some ways, this also dismisses the high-end culinary magazine crowd as you may find in `Bon Appetit', `Gourmet', and `Martha Stewart Living'. While this seems to dismiss a goodly portion of the modern culinary establishment, it really does not. Slater is certainly in the same camp as his nibs, Jamie Oliver, his good friend, Nigella Lawson, and Oliver's mentors, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of London's River Café. In fact, if I did not know that Oliver was primarily influenced by Gray, Rogers, and Gennaro Contaldo, I would have guessed that Oliver was a Slater disciple from the word `GO'. I am happy to say that there are plenty of important cookbook writers in the United States who can easily be considered to be in Slater's camp. Leading the list is probably Jacques Pepin, especially with his various quick cooking books such as his latest `Fast Food My Way'. I do not wish, however, to give the impression that Slater is all about fast cooking. He is certainly about simple cooking in the same sense that Richard Olney describes in `Simple French Food', but he is a whole lot more about being in love with the sensual qualities of food and how well those qualities of various foods mix together in the most effective way.

What is certainly true is that both Slater and Oliver represent the kind of cooking I enjoyed on my two trips to England, primarily the kind of cooking I saw at some of the better pubs in Hampshire and in London suburbs.

Both of these books are primarily about recipes and the salient qualities of particular classes of food. For a study of Slater's `philosophy' of cooking in depth, see his recent book `Appetite'. These two books are even organized in very similar ways, in that each chapter presents a particular raw material or class of raw material. The more traditionally organized `Real Cooking' has chapters on:

Fish & Shellfish

Chicken & Other Birds

Pork, Bacon, and Sausages

Lamb and other Meats

Pasta, Beans, Rice & Grains


Cheese, Snacks & Puddings

The later book, `Real Food', which is also the tie-in book for a Television Series (not seen in the US, to my knowledge) is more to the point, with chapters entitled:









The chapter on bread is a good indication of Slater's point of view, in that he gives us nothing on baking bread, but just about everything you may want (this side of Nancy Silverton's sandwich book) to know about making some really interesting and unusual sandwiches. Similarly, the sausage book says nothing about how to make sausages, only how to make the very best use of them.

True to his word in his `motto' quoted above, you will find not one word about the relative fat content of milk and cream, the emulsifying power of an egg, or calibrating the temperature of your oven. On the other hand, you will find much about, for example, the relative tastes of pork, beef, and lamb fat and the virtues of free range raised poultry. Here is one strong point of contact between the articulate and reflective Slater and the ebullient and emotional Oliver (or our own Emeril Lagasse, if you wish). Both will rhapsodize at length over the qualities of a nice thick layer of fat on a chop from an artisinally raised hog.

For those of you who do not like `chatty' cookbooks, both of these books may be preferable to the very discursive `Appetite', although both of these books do have their share of culinary poetry before the recipe details. Neither book is as extreme as `Appetite' in the direction of teaching us to cook without a book. You can easily pick out a recipe from these books and make them without a lot of background reading or culinary skill. But never confuse `simple' with `easy' or `fast'. While Slater may do the Rachel Ray gig in other books, these books have their share of slow marinades and braises. They also have their share of whisking, filtering, and thickening techniques.

The other side of the coin is that Slater's palate is extremely simple. Aside from his protein or starch of choice, few of his ingredients go far beyond the simple pantry of milk, cream, butter, basic cheeses, parsley, flour, lemon, lime, bacon, sage, thyme, bay, bread, olive oil, rice, stock, garlic, and mushrooms. Unlike Sir Jamie, Slater is about as down home English cooking as Paula Deen is about Savannah cooking.

The biggest difficulty an American is likely to have with Slater's recipes is that they are all make heavy use of metric units for weight and larger volumes in place of ounces, pounds, and cups. Even though I was a chemist thoroughly familiar with the metric system, I had to dig out a good conversion table to remind myself that a pound was about 450 grams. A lesser difficulty may be with Slater's names for common food varieties such as potatoes, although he almost always specifies `waxy' or `floury' potatoes rather than the English varietal name.

The other main difficulty with Slater's recipes is that they are all paradigms of high fat, high sodium, and high cholesterol preparations. They are definitely dishes to be eaten when the occasion calls for serious comfort food.

If you like Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson, you will really like Slater!
Simple unpretentious cooking.
Enjoyed reading and good ideas from basic ingredients
Phallozs Dwarfs
This book uses the metrics so I haven't used it yet, I am still learning the conversions. Not really familiar with the new measurements.
I love Nigel Salter recipe books, they are so easy to follow and once tried become firm favourites. What appeals is that many of them are written to cater for 2 people, as he says, there are a lot of us about. Saves having to mess around with quantities and losing way half way through the list of ingredients. I am always on the lookout for his next offering.
Rocky Basilisk
Delia Smith books are a bit of a cooking institution in UK and usually form the foundation of most cook book collections. Endearing image - Delia holding an egg smiling. It's a very useful book but I personally find her style a bit sterile.
Nigel Slater's book on the other hand offers some truly mouth watering and relatively straight forward recipes that will impress at a dinner party. There's none of this "1/2 tsp of Something-you've-never-heard-of-let-alone-know-where-to-buy-it-from" etc and this means his meals are relatively easily shopped for from a good supermarket. This is a rare feature of cook books I find! N. Slater's suggestion for cooking a roast leg of lamb with Rosemary and garlic is the best I have ever tried! This book like Delia's covers a wide range of recipe's and is more of a Jack of all trades book compared with REAL FOOD. If you already like Nigel Slater's style or you're looking for more specialised recipe book with fewer but comprehensive sections on "Chocolate" and "Cheese" then go for the authors REAL FOOD book which is again very inspiring with some excellent photo's.
Throw a dinner party, use the book and your friends will love you forever!
Nigel Slater has a great sense of humor and personality to spare. I like knowing what kind of food will "stand up to a cheap bottle of red wine," myself. Though I use only his vegetarian recipes, I haven't had a miss yet. His recipes are simply prepared with ingredients you are likely to have. Most importantly, of course, they are delicious. Reading this book is like having a chat with an old friend. It would make a great gift.