I feel I must first apologize to my editor (or whatever magical force of literature that takes my writing and spins it into something enjoyable to the human eye); the sudden spike in spelling mistakes and grammar errors is completely and utterly due to my current position of writing this review with a bowl of Bruce Poole's Rice Pudding on hand. I kid you not, if I weren't under an obligation to produce a review of substantial length and detail, I'd be just as happy to leave you all with the recipe (spoiler: the ratio of heavy cream to rice is 5:1!). Unfortunately, that's just not going to fly with the boss, but I cannot say enough about this creamy, luscious, vanilla-scented bowl of perfectly al dente rice sitting in my lap.
Ok now let's move on with the review!
I'm not sure if it's been documented on this blog just yet, but European book shipments are some of the most exciting things to happen in the store; such shipments have introduced me to the wonders of Quay, Bentley and Natura, amongst many other favorite books of mine. Safe to say, this latest shipment did not disappoint at all; in addition to Bruce's Cookbook which I am reviewing here, the Ginger Pig Meat Cookbook also arrived in the same box (but more on that one in a later review!).
For those unfamiliar with the work of Bruce Poole, he mans the helm of Chez Bruce, a one-Michelin star restaurant in London, England. Though he's grouped by the Michelin Guide as a "French" restaurant, Chef Poole's repertoire extends far beyond classic Francophone fare.
Being a British publication, the measurements are all done in grams (as opposed to cups and tablespoons as per American books), which I find to be one of the biggest advantages of European cookbooks. How many times have you heard about how 1 cup of Flour can be completely different depending on how you fill the measuring tool? Seriously; it's like every American cookbook has a little section on how they expect you to measure out a cup of ingredients. I still don't understand why no one wants to use grams here, and then books could forget about that "fill measuring cup with flour and scrape to flatten" nonsense. Honestly, people, buy a scale! It's not difficult to use, and I can assure you that you'll wish you had one when you wonder why your chocolate cupcake doubles as a baseball for your child's peewee team.
Pardon my bullying as we move on with the review.
Chef Poole, in addition to providing recipes and introductions, makes sure to include anecdotes about his work in the restaurant industry and even a very nice tribute to his mentor Simon Hopkinson. One gets a true sense of personality about Bruce Poole through the pages of this book, and that's something that I feel is important in keeping a cookbook interesting and engaging.
I admit, I had very little knowledge of who Bruce Poole was, but after reading this book cover to cover, I can honestly say I've found a new chef who's culinary ideals and philosophy I respect. Poole's cooking reflects a style of dining that I like to call "Elegant Simplicity" in that he encourages people to eat at his restaurant; to kick off their shoes and relax in a casual setting before he proceeds to knock the socks off the feet of every diner onto the floor alongside aforementioned shoes and the occasional dropped jaw or two.
His food doesn't come on a fleet of stacked plates a la Thomas Keller, nor does his food look like it was delicately teased into obedience by dainty tweezers as per Mugaritz. It's clean, honest food, and I feel that embodies exactly what British fare is about at this time in it's culinary lifecycle. It's about taking well-raised, well-cared for meats and treating them gently with supporting players to flush out the goodness that every farmer, butcher and fishmonger is trying to preserve in their product. How can anyone not respect that?
Reviewed by Kevin Jeung
Bruce's Cookbook by Bruce Poole
Bruce's Cookbook by Bruce Poole
Hardcover, $39.99, 318pp