Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian
Cookbooks are my major indulgence, and my shopping habits go something like this: I see one that I covet, I ask myself, "Do I really need it?" - the answer is usually "yes" - then I buy it. The only way I could stop myself would be to not look in bookshops.
Still, it took me a while before I could bring myself to buy this book. It wasn't just the price, although that had something to do with it (in Hong Kong, if you can find it, it costs about HK$2,000). Even when I looked in stores overseas (where it was usually priced at about €75/HK$775), they were out of stock, or else the cost of shipping such an oversize, heavy book was off-putting.
So I'm glad to finally have this in my hot little hands - I got it via the Book Depository (bookdepository.co.uk) for HK$800, with free shipping.
Sat Bains, whose full name is Satwant Singh Bains, is a Roux Scholarship winner and chef-proprietor of Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham, England. The restaurant won its second Michelin star in 2011. This book has a limited-edition print run of 10,000 copies, comes in a firm slipcase and is coffee-table sized.
While it doesn't come close to being the most difficult book in my collection, it's not one for the dilettante. The use of "molecular" cooking techniques and ingredients is surprisingly minimal (unless you consider agar agar - which has long been used in Asian cuisines - a modernist ingredient), although the liquid nitrogen will be difficult to source. It's also one of the few books in which I've seen instructions to use bronze gelatine, which has a different setting strength from that of silver and gold gelatine.
Each of the 68 dishes in this 400-plus page tome comes with a full page photo of how it should look. They all call for multiple components and for those of us living in Hong Kong the hardest part will be finding ingredients such as nettles, elderberries, seven-year-old parmesan or pheasant eggs. The recipes, each introduced with a "flavour profile" (salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami), include "ham/egg/peas" (made with poached duck eggs, pea sorbet, sourdough croutons and Shonka ham); "duck liver/muesli" (duck liver granita, pickled cranberries, savoury granola); nitro summer salad (beetroot, celery, tomato, basil and pea juices frozen with liquid nitrogen); and pig's head (pig's head terrine with smoked haddock croquettes, pickled beetroot and piccalilli).