I've made noises here about celebrity chefs before, and a little while ago I posted a meal I cooked out of a Gordon Ramsay Cookbook that I picked up at the Food Show.
Now, the guys at Kamikaze Cookery (Link junkies: Language may offend. You've been warned) have taken it upon themselves to expose the glaring discrepancies between what most people are capable of cooking compared with what the Ramsays and Olivers of the world think we can manage, so I won't try to outdo them on that count.
Instead, I thought it worthwhile documenting my own attempt to pull off a recipe for Peposo - famous hunter's peppery beef stew - out of Jamie Oliver's book, Jamie's Italy. I like to think of myself as a slightly more accomplished home gourmandiser than the average kiwi bloke, so I was not daunted by the challenge.
Perhaps I should've been.
Admittedly I was trying to cook about 600g of beef rather than the 2.5kg in the recipe (I mean, who really cooks 2.5kg of stewing steak at a time? There are only 2 1/2 of us, after all!), and I was using normal stewing steak rather than beef shin on the bone, but you work with what you've got, right? I made the effort to use real french red wine, at least. And anyway, the first thing you do according to the recipe is take the meat off the bone, so why not just use deboned meat to start with?
Simple enough. Meat, onions, rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Layer it all up in an oven dish and cover in wine, topping with water to cover the meat if necessary. Then bring to a boil and place in the oven at 150c for 6 hours. Yes, I did all this. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
Then at the bottom of the recipe (not at the top, not at the "when you're layering the dish" part) it says to skim off the fat and remove the bone. Aah. I see. So the bone was meant to go in? That bone I don't have? Right. Well, I didn't. Not only that but my dish didn't have any fat to skim off. It had virtually no moisture at all. Apparently it should have.
Yes, this was quite intensely flavoured as Jamie promised, and the meat was falling apart, if a little over-dry. I wonder if I had a small army to feed rather than my modest family, and I had cooked this in the five-fold quantity suggested by JO if this might have come out better. I can only guess so.
I dished it up on buttered slabs of fresh bread (also Jamie's recipe from his first book - I tried it once and have made it that way ever since), and we agreed that it was good that we had some nice bread for dinner.
So it's worrying that if even I, with my extraordinary powers of making stuff up on the fly and trusting my instincts to salvage the various disasters that arise from my untutored approach to cooking, can be derailed by a Jamie Oliver recipe that seems so straightforward, then how much paper is being wasted in this world in the printing of celebrity chef recipe books that people will simply never use? Or if they do, they'll be disappointed, and thus the book will sit on the shelf forever gathering dust?
I make an effort to make something from one of my many cookbooks every month or so, trying to learn new things and bring a dash of variety to our meals. But if the people who sell the most cookbooks on the planet - I'm looking at you, Jamie, Gordon and Nigella - can't come to terms with what average folk are really looking for in a recipe and capable of achieving in the kitchen, then I worry that even more innocent trees will die as a result.
Please, celebrity chefs. Take a moment to consider the trees. Then pull your heads our of your @rses and give us recipes that we can cook, damn it.