Of course there had to be an accompanying book, and this one represents the show very well. It contains all of the recipes that featured on the show which is a decent amount. There are 4 main chapters: starters, fish, meat and puddings. Very straight forward. Then the recipes are split into basic, intermediate and advanced. Then amongst these recipes are 'skills' lessions on how to make various elements such as making crepes or bechamel sauce or how to clean or prepare squid. These skills pages are well illustrated and explained, great for a beginner and for anyone who wants to extend their knowledge. I know how to peel a prawn and make mayonnaise but I'd be grateful for a detailed description on how to make tortellini or how to make a smoker (as seen below).
There are also some notes about ingredients by Gizzi Erskine. Can't say I've actually read these, I'd rather dip straight into the recipes, but she gives info on things like herbs and different cuts of meat. Nothing too new but a nice addition in a teaching cookbook.
At the back of the book there are some super-advanced recipes which featured at the end of the series to really test the school's pupils, by different guest-chefs. There are some of the recipes that I think I could tackle. I'm happy making roasted pork belly but I think I'd have to gear myself up to make Eric Lanlard's apple souffle with salted butter caramel sauce. Sounds and looks delicious though.
I then tried the Mackerel with Gingered-Rhubarb Hollandaise and Pickled Rhubarb. I used smoked mackerel, again as I couldn't get fresh. I think it worked well as it balanced out the pickled rhubarb. It was another advanced recipe and I can see why as it contained a few elements. The pickled rhubarb was simple to make and was surprisingly nice! It isn't left in vinegar for too long so it isn't too strong. Then I made a rhubarb and ginger puree which is then added to a hollandaise sauce. It's the first time I've ever made a hollandaise sauce and I've heard it can be tricky to make but it wasn't a problem. Again I feared that it would make a pretty sour and unappetising sauce but far from it, it was delicious with the mackerel and I'd certainly make it again. I think this would impress a lot of people at a dinner party.
Then lastly I wanted to try one of the desserts. I made the Fine Apple Tarts with Pecan and Maple, ignoring the accompanying custard as I was happy without. Again this was an advanced recipe. There are no basic dessert recipes, examples of intermediate recipes are Lemon Posset with Butter Shortbread or Dutch Apple Pancakes with Cinnamon and Clove Sugar (I'm hoping to eat some pancakes next week in Amsterdam!). I was pleased with how my tarts turned out, this was the prettiest one though! They took ages to cook, longer than was specified but it's probably because our big oven is rubbish and draughty! I tried to follow the skills page on how to beautifully slice and fan apple segments but I failed slightly. But hey, they're homemade and they looked it!! I used a mix of nuts as we didn't have many pecans left.
I was mostly pleased with my results from this cookbook. The meat dishes look interesting too, the Pork and Fruit Wellingtons look really appetising. There are a few recipes for guinea fowl, kidneys and veal which make the book a little more interesting and there are some good skills page on how to prepare different cuts. I think it would make a great book for a budding chef. I don't think this is something you would necessarily give as a gift to a student or someone moving away for the first time unless they were a real foodie. The food is quite sophisticated and not always the cheapest ingredients. I would recommend it for all levels though and there are enough recipes I'd like to make for me to consider adding it to my book collection.