Book review: Gourmet food for a fiver by Jason Atherton

We haven’t had a book review for a while, have we? Let’s get straight back into it with this copy of Gourmet food for a fiver by Jason Atherton.

He’s the clever clogs behind the dishes at the Michelin-starred Maze. The premise of the book is that you can have fine dining for a fiver per head, by which he means a light-ish two-course meal (starter and main, or main and dessert) without drinks.

Without a doubt this is dinner party food, or a hearty lunch for foodies, and the recipes are all to serve four people. It’s easy enough to scale the portions up or down too. In order for it to truly be a meal for a fiver you have to have quite a few store cupboard staples already otherwise you’ll be buying in extra ingredients that can cost a fair bit for a whole bottle or packet.

It also helps if you live near a decent fishmonger or butcher, as there are many ingredients that work out great value for money and are very tasty indeed, but you’re unlikely to get them from the average supermarket. Likewise, some of the flavourings would be best purchased from an Indian grocery shop, or a Chinese or Thai supermarket.

The book also relies on seasonal foods, things that are at their best and also hopefully cheaper because they’re plentiful. I’d say that you’d need to be a fairly confident cook to tackle some of the dishes, intermediate to advanced level mainly, but you’d be able to make some real show-stoppers.

It’s the chef-y touches that really make this book, including the ‘plating up’ directions. It’s all designed to look beautiful when you serve it up, and each recipe is accompanied by a full page colour photo. The desserts are stunning.

If I’m going to be niggly, some of the chef-yness is also a slight drawback at times as the home cook cannot haggle for trade discounts on ingredients and loses out on economies of scale. One example is the creation of a pudding that’s entirely made from staple ingredients, which then has ’15g of fresh coconut’ shaved over the top of it – fine of you’re making 20 in a restaurant kitchen, not within budget for the average home cook as it’s impossible to buy this amount on its own. This is where experience and ability to improvise comes in handy, as a little grated chocolate or sprinkle of toasted dessicated coconut could be possible substitutes.

In summary: a very beautiful cookbook with fresh, innovative recipes and seasonal ingredients. Not one for beginners, but definitely a book to consider if you’d like to shake up your romantic dinner repertoire or try something new when you’re feeding your foodie friends. Worth it for the desserts alone.

Gourmet food for a fiver by Jason Atherton is published by Quadrille Ltd and has an RRP of £14.99. It’s currently available from Amazon priced £7.70 and qualifies for free Super Saver delivery.


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One Comment

  1. Normally I give the book review tome away in a competition, but I like this one so much I’m going to have to keep it. Sorry! Bad Penny.

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