There is an old joke which says that if you are lost in the desert, start making a salad dressing as someone will pop out of a sand dune and tell you that you are making it the wrong way. This, in essence, is what Felicity Cloake does in her recipe book Perfect (Fig Tree, £18.99). And the idea is a good one. Cloake has done all the hard work — read all the top cookery writers, tried out their versions, and then picked the best, or ‘Perfect’ one. So you have 68 ‘perfect’ recipes.
The title is meant to be comforting, or encouraging, but it could be a little dangerous. Once you start bandying the word ‘perfect’ around you’re going to have every Tom Dick and Harry who can make a béchamel leaping out of the sand dunes and complaining. (She puts honey in her vinaigrette, which I would not countenance.)
The problem with her perfect idea is the question of its audience; someone who knows about and loves cooking will enjoy the discussions on various techniques, but those who really don’t know how to boil an egg (and there are two pages on this) will be irritated by the chat. And it is a very chatty book, in the Nigella ‘I’m your best friend’ style. Once past the soppy writing, though, (thinking about fish pies makes her feel ‘warm and fuzzy inside’) there is a lot of good sensible advice in this beautifully produced and illustrated book. Definitely one for a godchild facing a kitchen for the first time.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated October 8, 2011