Saturday, 3 May 2008

Can chefs write recipes for the home cook?

This Post was written by Fiona Beckett from The Frugal Cook

I've just been looking at one of Gordon Ramsay's recipes in the Times today - an Easy Bouillabaisse. So far so good, we all like easy, but it contains 1 kilo of pollack, 600-800g of clams and mussels and 800g of assorted other fish. For 4-6 people.

I know I'm fixated on frugal cooking but that seems to me to be way beyond what most people - even Times readers - can afford to spend on a meal.

The problem with chefs is that they live in an unreal world where the cost of ingredients like this can be offset on the menu. They also tend to find it difficult - unless they have a resident home economist in tow - to scale down recipes for the average household. Who can forget the River Cafe's notorious chocolate nemesis cake which dramatically collapsed on almost everyone who tried it?

So what's your experience of trying chefs' recipes? Do you find they generally work? If not, what are their shortcomings? Do you have any favourite chefs you go back to again and again? I'd love to hear.


Alex said...

Hate to be difficult but I've never really found any problem with chefs' recipes. Admittedly, I tend not to follow any recipe letter for letter, but I've had great success with Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay and James Martin (these are the last three that come to mind!).

Bear in mind that every recipe has its place. I'm not sure that Gordon Ramsay would be suggesting you knock up a bouillabaisse (easy or otherwise) for a quick weeknight supper. Whereas if you were having a group of friends round for dinner (when you might splash out a bit on ingredeints) it sounds perfect.

I'm not even sure it would be that expensive: I only ever buy fish from the market (have you seen how expensive it is in the supermarket? OMG!) and it's usually really good value, even the shellfish.

Margaret said...

Sometime ago it was well documented that often a recipe written by a chef just didn't work, due to scaling down and the domestic kitchen etc.
I have had a few spectacular failures in the past! On a positive note though, some recipes have been brilliant.
If Gordon thinks Mr and Mrs Times are going out to buy that lot......well what can you say!
I don't actually think I could buy pollack where I live.

Helen said...

To be honest, I don't tend to follow recipes but just use them for inspiration. On the occasion that I've followed some of Nigella's cake recipes though, they've gone spectacularly wrong and I know other who have had the same experience.

Alex said...

I remember reading something a couple of years ago about the number of recipes in one of Nigella's books that just didn't work. I can't stand her, so I don't have any of them to comment. I did try her chocolate fondant recipe a couple of years ago and it worked brilliantly though ...

Fiona Beckett said...

Nigella is a self taught cook rather than a chef so she probably takes more pains than most (even though like Alex I find her finger-licking TV appearances pretty hard to stomach)

The problem with chefs is that many of them base their recipes on the dishes they offer in their restaurants so, as I said, they sometimes find it hard to scale down or be realistic about what ingredients a home cook can easily source. It's not easy to get the ingredients Gordon was recommending in the average supermarket and not many people have a decent fishmonger nearby.

Laure Moyle (Chardon) said...

Hi Fiona, not sure about putting p[olack in bouillabaisse for a start ( sorry, me French!!!)? anyway, agree with the others above, some "chefs" recipes can go horribly wrong (not sure why though), khowever I make a great fish soup out of a can of tomatoes, a few dry ingredients and a massive bag of fish bones and heads from my fishmonger, completely free of course. Thought the frugal cook in you might like that. if you'd like the recipe, email me at

Fiona Beckett said...

I think the point is that pollack isn't an endangered species, Laure, so therefore sustainable. But not traditional, no. Your recipe sounds great though so do send it over!