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Jonathan Meades is the best amateur chef in the world - MARCO PIERRE WHITE
The Plagiarist In The Kitchen is a recipe book which is also a paean to the avoidance of culinary originality (should such a thing exist), to recipe theft, to hijacking techniques and methods, to the notion that in the kitchen there is nothing new and nor can there be anything new. Anyone who claims to have 'invented' a dish is dishonest or delusional or foaming. The very title is lifted, without permission and with the gracelessness that infects Cooking World, from Julian Barnes's The Pedant In The Kitchen (plenty more to rip off there).
Cookbooks feed off cookbooks. Their authors make botched attempts to disguise the sources of their offering. But those familiar with more than half a dozen such books are acquainted with the sensation that I've read that before in - where? The successful plagiarist, as both Michel de Montaigne and T S Eliot noted, covers his tracks.
This book exhibits an absolute candour about the provenance of its content. If I know where a recipe comes from I own up to it. However, I don't copy. I steal. Then I make it my own, which is not to say that I improve it... This might be reckoned as criminally coarse as hacking down an exquisite work of, say, Alfred Gilbert and melting it for scrap. So be it. On the other hand when a recipe has in my opinion improved by tweaking or the exclusion of certain ingredients I shall point this out with the falsest modesty known to man.
The book is, further, a deflected meditation on infections of varying gravity: 'influence', 'inspiration', 'homage', 'channeling' and so on. It proposes that cooking is at best a craft and that craft must always be the same whilst art must always be different - an unoriginal dictum by the way; it is, of course, Gore Vidal's.
What do I get if I pledge?
A cookbook – or perhaps an anti-cookbook – containing 125 recipes, the fruits of a lifetime spent thinking and writing about food.
It will feature strong typography, but no photographs, no step-by-step illustrations, no delicate line drawings, and no faux antique woodcuts.
Poulet a l'Oignon / Chicken and onions
This comes from my friend Jean-Pierre Xiradakis who serves it at La Tupina in Bordeaux, a restaurant that has been rightly hymned as 'paleolithic'. It is possibly the best restaurant in the world, certainly my favourite...Xiradakis got this dish from the writer and journalist Yves Harté who in turn got it from his mother who...
The recipe he gives in La Cuisine de La Tupina proposes that for four people a chicken should be cut into eight pieces. I prefer to use four legs since they will all cook at the same rate. I also double the quantity of onions that he prescribes (think of soup the next day).
2 kg sweet onions
4 chicken legs
1 glass of chicken stock
1 glass of white wine (optional)
a few scraps of raw ham (optional)
Slice the onions thinly. If your processor has the right kit use it. Whatever you do don't turn them to mush. Do NOT sweat them. Trust me.
Brown the chicken legs in duck fat or olive oil.
Put half the sliced onions in a high sided pan with a lid.
Add the chicken legs ( and ham scraps).
Put in the rest of the onions so that the legs are buried.
Pour in stock (and wine).
Cook at mk 4 for an hour.
As Xiradakis says you will have scented the whole house.
Guinea fowl legs with branch celery is a spin-off worth investigating. Again, slice the celery thinly but don't blanch it. Do brown the legs.
Pasta e Ceci / Pasta and Chickpeas
This one fell off the back of Alastair Little. It also derives from the version served at Mimi alla Ferrovia in Naples. There is a further correspondence, with the Cypriot houmous soup prepared long ago by the Koritsas family at their delightful café opposite Camden Town underground station
500 gr chickpeas
500 gr pasta (rombi or pappardelle)
4 sticks celery
6 cloves garlic
Soak chickpeas overnight. Cook them for a three or more hours with the hambone at a low temperature, just simmering. Sweat celery and garlic. When they're soft add nearly all the cooked chickpeas. Put the lot through the processor. Use chickpea water and oil to get a soupy consistency. Cook the pasta, add to the soup. Decorate with the remaining chickpeas - or don't bother.Read more...
This book is now in production. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.