Title: Heston’s Fantastical Feasts
General idea: This is not a recipe book, it’s a detailed account of Heston’s quest to create 6 of the most creative and fantastical feasts ever.
Easy reading: Once you accept the fact that you will probably never be able to cook like Heston or recreate any of the dishes, it’s really inspiring and easy to read – much like a story book.
Recipes: Unless you have easy access to liquid nitrogen and water baths, don’t even try!
Buy it if: You’d like to become inspired by a different way of thinking about food.
Don’t buy it if: You’re looking for easy new recipes to prepare after work.
PS: Heston’s dad is South African, and he even makes a reference to Biltong in the book!
As I opened the tightly sealed box from Exclusive Books, I was secretly hoping they hadn’t sent us ‘just another recipe book’, and much to my delight it was exactly the opposite. Wrapped up snugly was the new offering by Heston Blumenthal – owner of one of the best restaurants in the world (The Fat Duck) and Culinary Alchemist. I love watching his shows: In Search of Perfection, Big Chef takes on Little Chef and Heston’s Feasts on BBC Lifestyle, so I was excited to see what he was up to this time…
The book is designed to look like an old Fairytale novel, complete with monochrome hard cover, gold foiling & scripty fonts. Usually when I buy a cook book I would look at the cover, the list of recipes and some of the pictures – and if I had not known who Heston Blumenthal was, and I had found this book in the cooking section I probably wouldn’t buy it. One of the first pictures I opened up on was of an eye ball on a table, and the second was of Heston setting something on fire… Doesn’t exactly make me want to hit the kitchen and start cooking! But that isn’t the point of this book.
In Heston’s own words: “This is not so much a cook book as a culinary adventure story with recipes.” Each chapter in the book represents a different feast: A Fairy Tale Feast; A Gothic Horror Feast; A Titanic Feast; A Chocolate Factory Feast; A Seventies Feast and An Eighties Feast. Each of these feasts is then served to a (very lucky) group of guests to experience.
Heston’s style is very scientific, technical and almost arrogant, but once you get used to it, he is actually quite charming and it becomes clear that he is very talented. In Heston’s Fantastical Feasts he uses much the same approach as he did in the previous ‘Feasts’ TV series. Essentially he decides on a theme and pushes it to its limits – delving into its history, travelling to its country of origin, meeting with experts on the topic; he literally does everything to really get to the crux of a theme. And then he starts cooking. Heston has a kitchen (or rather lab) with every imaginable gadget and cooking tool, and along with a team of dedicated chefs they put Heston’s wacky ideas into edible form.
What I appreciate about him is that he doesn’t profess to get everything right every time, and most importantly, it doesn’t matter how way out his concepts are, it always boils down to the taste and quality of the food. He won’t create something just for the sake of shock value that doesn’t taste great. (There is an incident with Leaches in the book that illustrates this perfectly…)
From Lickable Wallpaper, to flaming Pumpkin Carriages, to edible Graveyards – Heston takes dining to a whole new level. And although he does give you the recipes to his Fantastical dishes, they are not really meant to be recreated (unless you have a massive budget, some liquid nitrogen, a water bath and some other complicated gadgets), they are meant to inspire.
Heston makes you think about food in a way you never even considered, and even if it makes you add just a small touch of magic to your next dinner party, I think he did a job well done. All I can say is that I can’t wait for this series to air on BBC, even if it’s just to see the guest’s reactions to the dishes!
For some fun Top Ten weirdest creations from this book, click here.
Heston’s Fantastical Feasts will be screened on BBC Lifestyle through January and December - can't wait to see the feasts I read about!