Tom Kerridge’s Hand And Flowers Cookbook: Brilliant, complex British food

an onion tarte tin

A faint smell of onions lingers in our kitchen the day after attempting Tom Kerridge’s Onion Tarte Tatin (pronounced TARTETATAN in this household).

And it’s no wonder. Over the day, close to 3kg of various onion varieties have been peeled, poached, pureed, sautéed and sous vide’d.

See also: A straightforward sausages with onion gravy recipe

The recipe requires a stock made into a caramel, a soubise (I’d not heard of that one before), a chutney and a sauce enhanced with vin jaune (I hadn’t heard of that either). You also need to toast hazelnuts, mustard seeds and deep fry thyme for a garnish.

Given this epic 6-hour effort, you will hopefully forgive me using shop-bought puff pastry for the tarts.

Close to a hundred pearl onions have been processed, three giant Spanish whites and seven red onions have gone into what, in the end, was four dainty little tarts.

Was it worth it? Probably, as a one-off!

The huge pile of onions required

It was a tasty dish and the combination of elements all worked really well (although I messed up the caramelised onion coating).

But it really demonstrates the amount of effort required to produce a dish at this level, the legions of chefs needed, and the food price.

It has also introduced me to a wide range of new flavour combinations with onions. The majority of elements used sugar in some way, but I think my favourite flavour was the vin jaune sauce.

Other components relied heavily on balsamic and cider vinegar to add sharpness.

The rest of the book

This was one of the simpler recipes on offer in a compelling insight into the Hand and Flowers – the only pub on earth with two Michelin stars.

Tom and his wife Beth took on the tenancy in 2005.

It’s clear from their business’s brief history in the front of the book that they were at the vanguard of British pubs elevating their food to new heights.

While there is really only a sketch of Tom’s background, you get a good overview of every dish that features; perhaps its history, some tasting notes or some cooking tips.

The onion recipe, for example, points to the pub’s focus on developing staff. Tom explains that its origins are with junior sous chef Rikki Hughes.

Should you buy the book?

As already mentioned, the dishes are complex, and many require specialist equipment (a pacojet?!)

I don’t think I’ll be trying any more recipes in their entirety. Still, I am left thinking about elements of other recipes – the Hand and Flowers carrot, for example. Or the triple cooked chips.

Or the pork belly… Or slow-cooked duck… I could go on.

So, in short, this is a book that will most probably make you want to visit the restaurant – I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the selection of recipes.

As you read, it may offer some inspiration for your cooking, but it certainly isn’t something you will be thumbing through to search for a quick weeknight supper.

And that’s just fine, because that’s not its purpose. It is a celebration of an English pub serving primarily British dishes that has won recognition for being one of the best places to eat in the world.

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