I was catching up on back episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s series The F-Word last night, where he’s been asking people to send in (or even just state) the most useless recipe books they had. The finalists were Ainsley Harriott, Anthony Worral-Thompson, and Delia Smith.
The first two I can understand – Harriott’s recipes don’t feel particularly accessible and even given a well-stocked Sainsburys it can be quite a slog getting hold of ingredients. I’ve never owned or tried a Worral-Thompson recipe so I can’t comment on his technique but I can imagine they’re much the same. What did surprise the erstwhile Mr Ramsay was the presence of Delia in that list.
I’m not surprised in the slightest. I own several Delia books which I’ve picked up at car boot sales, etc. over the years, and of all the recipes I’ve tried I’ve never had one success. Now I consider myself a competent(ish) home cook – not a professional or even approaching professional level, but I like to tinker and potter around the kitchen. I find that if I treat a recipe by chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay with a bit of ‘bucket chemistry’, I can extend it – sort of like an open-source kitchen I guess – but the space isn’t really there with Delia recipes and they’re such an arse to get right in the first place it’s nigh-on impossible to do it properly. Come to think of it, the last time I referred to Delia was when I needed cooking times for a goose, and that sort of stuff gets looked up in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s meat book.
We do have a lot of recipe books though, and some magazines. I should go through them and chuck out the crap, but they’re always good to browse through for ideas if nothing else. If you’re curious I occasionally note down recipes I’ve discovered/invented in my recipe archive – I strongly recommend Rachel’s dad’s chicken recipe, it’s great if you’re entertaining friends for an evening.