The recession has brought with it an avalanche of cookery titles that promise to make your life somehow cheaper. We’ve seen the timely republication of Delia’s Frugal Food, the overnight success of Gill Holcombe’s How to write a book with the world’s longest title and still manage to sell it even though you think the garlic crusher is a worthwhile kitchen device, and Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett’s Economy Gastronomy. I’m in no position to judge, because I’ve read none of these books. But something about overtly frugal cooking leaves me a little cold. Yes it’s essential, and yes these books probably have interesting recipes, but that mindset doesn’t make me salivate.
So when the kind folks at Quadrille sent a copy of Jason Atherton’s Gourmet Food for a Fiver, I can’t confess to tearing open the parcel with gay abandon. Atherton’s a fine chef but I expected the economic restraints put on him to be too stifling. How wrong I was. For the book is a triumph. The recipes do a pretty cohesive bit of globe-trotting, from spiced green papaya and roasted peanut salad to paella to country pate with pickles. I made the lamb steaks with avocado, pomegranate and Arabic bread and it was magnificent. Even my sister, a relative non-cook (pun intended), flicked through it with Wimbledonian oohs and aahs. “I could do this,” she said. And that’s what is so great about this book – the food looks stunning and professional but it’s also very doable. There are even little explanations of how to plate up if you want to serve it gourm-style (though concessions are made to home cooking as well).
And each dish for a fiver a head? Hmm, I’m not sure where our Jason does his shopping but I want in. Nevertheless, this is serious food available in your home for a snip.
Gourmet Food For a Fiver, by Jason Atherton