Let me start by way of a confession…. I have never cooked from a Bill Granger recipe. I have no idea why but for some very strange reason I have overlooked his books when adding to my ever growing collection. So I was really delighted to receive a copy of Bill’s Basics from Quadrille Publishing in the post, and even more so when I read through its contents.
The ‘Basics’ in the title seems to be two-fold – firstly this book contains over 100 classic recipes, many of which will be familiar to most and some of which will more than likely be the basis of many home cooks’ repertoires. There are both old familiars, such as French Onion Soup, Coq au Vin, Bolognese, Fish and Chips, Carrot Cake and Tart Tatin, which sit side-by-side with more modern-day classics that reflect our cultural diversity and changing lifestyles such as Sweet & Sour Pork, Laksa, Tagine and Thai Beef Salad – dishes that have become regulars in homes the world-over. It appears however that Bill has tweaked each recipe to reflect his vibrant and fresh style of cooking.
The second ‘Basic’ theme, and the one that will interest many, is that Bill has pared back many of these classics to make them more accessible by keeping ingredients lists to a minimum and his methods and instructions clear and concise. This was certainly the case with the first recipe that I tried from this book, a Lamb curry with yoghurt and tomatoes which consisted of a fairly simple list of ingredients that I had in my cupboard and three simple short paragraphs by way of instruction. I picked this because I couldn’t quite believe it’s simplicity and yet it was probably the best curry I have made at home to date (and there have been quite a few). I also liked the fact that this curry wasn’t all about heat – it was simple, fresh and mild, which made it far more suitable for family dining with children than some of the more complex curries I have tried.
Bill’s Basics contains ten chapters, starting aptly with Breakfast, for it is this and more specifically his scrambled eggs that Bill first became famous for, then Baking, Soup, Salads, Rice, Pasta and Bread, Chicken, Meat, Seafood, Vegetables and Desserts. I love that each recipe is given a full-page with a beautiful accompanying photograph occupying the page opposite. If Bill recommends a side dish or condiment the recipe is thoughtfully provided beside the main recipe on the same page, eliminating any need to flick back and forwards between pages, which can be most annoying.
My second endeavour from Bill’s Basics was his Lemon Drizzle Loaf – a classic cake updated by use of polenta which produces an amazingly moist cake with just the slightest crunchy exterior. This cake was light and zingy and so delicious that my husband and I polished off the entire loaf within 24 hours of it leaving the oven, much to my embarrassment.
Leafing through Bill’s Basics I find myself noting so many recipes that I want to try, some of which are dishes that I have cooked many times before from different recipes, but I am lured by the fact that everything in this book looks so fresh. It is because of this that I think this book would appeal to many, whether experienced in the kitchen or not.
So, in light of my confession at the start of this post, I will finish with an act of contrition in that I will most certainly be adding more Bill Granger books to my collection in future. And if you are thinking of buying someone, or indeed yourself, a cookbook for Christmas, I think you would do well to buy this one.