Learning to cook El Bulli-style

The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià
Ferran Adrià
£19.95, Phaidon

WHERE the allure of Jamie Oliver’s and Nigella’s books comes from the idea that you’ll cook like them, “The Family Meal” is less “cook like Ferran”, but “eat like Ferran”. The recipes are a fresh insight into the working life at the now closed former “best restaurant in the world”, El Bulli. These are the meals the staff ate every day and the wonder is that “the family” managed to find the time to cook for each other (75 people) on top of all the three Michelin starred stuff.

To cook for 75 people, you need meticulous planning, and meticulous this is. Here we have the Usborne book of El Bulli: prescriptive, simple and accessible. You don’t need prior knowledge of technicals such as fish-gutting because every recipe is pictured step-by-step – each box armed with speech bubble comments seen last in Asterix books. The recipes are organised in fascinating meals – three courses, balanced and varied.

Adrià normalises odd cuts. Veal is veal cheek, not chop. Lamb with mustard and mint is lamb neck. The step-by-step guide kept me on the straight and narrow whenever I was unsure as I cooked the lamb, and helpfully told me that while it was in the oven, I should be getting on with the chocolate truffles. I do have a quibble with recipes that call for foam (are you equipped with a siphon? I’m not, but then, I’m still saving for that ice-cream machine). Some things will sound strange (crisp omelette, for instance), and there is the Spanish penchant for peppers and salt cod (no surprise there). But, once you’ve made that leap of faith, you’ll be just as convinced as I am.