The Complete Nose to Tail: a kind of British cooking
By Fergus Henderson
Bloomsbury Publishing, £30
Anyone who has spent more than a few fleeting moments in the company of Fergus Henderson cannot fail to be moved by his gargantuan enthusiasm for life, particularly all things food, and upon reading this book I felt as if I’d been having a chat with the author – always a good sign, in my opinion!
The Complete Nose to Tail is a compendious volume, created from Henderson’s two earlier books, dating from 2004 and 2007, enhanced with additional recipes. It is a very well written and enjoyable read, as you would expect given its provenance, and has some wonderfully eccentric pictures by the talented Jason Lowe.
There is, of course, a serious side to this weighty tome, which is packed with recipes and anecdotes which cannot fail to inspire cooks of all ability levels, whether they are professional or amateur. Dishes range from gamey braised squirrel and roast pork loin to what is a personal favourite, the wonderfully simple, smoked eel, bacon and mash.
As you would expect from a Fergus Henderson book, there is a whole chapter devoted to the pig and dishes a- plenty involving offal, porcine or not, including the fabulous ‘trotter gear’ (aromatic pieces of jellied pig’s trotter). There is also a good spread of non-offal dishes, arranged in such chapters as ‘steadying puddings’, such as apple and blackberry cobbler, bread pudding and sticky date pudding, ‘smaller but often sustaining dishes’ (eg, roast bone marrow with parsley salad, deep-fried calves’brains, duck hearts on toast).or ‘basic, but vital’ (eg stocks, clarification, brining, spicing and rendering) and a wonderfully informative section by Justin Piers Gellatly on breads and baking, which includes a sensibly detailed method of making your own ‘mother’ for sourdoughs.
Another great thing for me about this book is the importance it places on the side dishes and accompaniments, something which is often overlooked, or added as a perfunctory afterthought, in so many cookbooks. Who could resist, for instance, the fantastically- named ‘orbs of joy’, better known as braised whole onions?
The section on starters, mains and puds , are, of course, packed full of good recipes too, amongst them the calf’s brain terrine, eel pie Johnny Shand Kydd, and ‘brigade pudding’, a steamed mincemeat suet pudding.
More than anything, it is the attention to quality – even for the smallest nibbles, such as hazelnut biscuits which I love with a cup of good coffee, that really make this book a must- read. I love everything from the Campari and white wine aperitif to the stomach- settling and restorative qualities of the Dr Henderson. It’s a joy to see British cooking returning to its rightful status, and this book is right at the forefront of good, tasty grub. Do beg, steal or borrow a copy, you won’t be disappointed.
By Gareth Johns, chef-proprietor, Wynnstay hotel and restaurant in Machynlleth, mid-Wales
If you like this, you’ll love these:
● Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal by Jennifer McLagan
● Offal: The Fifth Quarter by Anissa Helou