Thursday, 20 September 2012

Heston's Secret Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal

Memories of the Fat Duck

It used to be quite easy to get a table at the Fat Duck. You basically rang up on a Friday afternoon to sort out a table for Saturday lunch. It was extremely convenient for anyone living in west London, as they were one of the few places that did a cheapo set lunch on the Saturday (twenty-something quid - plus a bit for coffee).

The Duck itself used to be a homely sort of place - not like that posh French joint up they road which charged fifty quid for a lobster. The first time I went there they had slightly rickity wrought iron tables but when we came back they had table-clothed up (and put in new loos upstairs, too). The food wasn't bad either, although we did send back the skate-wing once because it was underdone at the bone. Chef sent it back out again, saying that was how he preferred it. I don't recall how we sorted out that one.

They had the snail porridge on at the time - it actually came as a starter on the cheapo set. Actually it wasn't all that scary - it was basically a risotto made using oats instead of rice, flavoured with the classic snails-garlic-parsley combination. For the main course I liked the duck "petit-sale" - a braised duck leg made to look like a mini lamb leg, swaddled in a lovely shiny sauce. Desserts were always quite fun - although they kept on doing a carrot-salt-toffee thing which I never quite saw the point of (I've had an aversion to salt caramel since a visiting uncle left us with a ginormous box of See's Salt Water Taffy many years ago).

The advice I used to give any friends going was avoid the tasting menu, because if you went on the a la carte you got about half a dozen inter-course bits anyway. For example you got the mustard ice-cream on a bed of red cabbage, and the green-tea snifter (originally a foam in a glass, later a nitro-blasted quenelle). Leave the tasting menu for tourists, the a la carte had plenty good. I vividly remember tiny cubes of jelly accompanying the pigeon, which went off like firecrackers on the tongue, and the intensely flavoured crab biscuit which was nothing like what I'd expected - a sort of shimmering crab glass. I always had my eye on the lasagne of langoustine and pigs trotter, but I don't think I ever tried it. The six pounds fifty supplement was too rich for us.

Heston was also out and about too. I remember having a good twenty minute chat with him one time, by the kitchen hatch. He was banging on about the bacon and egg ice-cream at the time, and how they kept on changing how they served the dish. We always hoped he wouldn't realise it was us who'd sent the skate wing back.

Then of course he got the third star and it all went crazy. We didn't go back for a long time - if only because it became such a faff to book, plus we moved away from West London. When we did finally try again, for my brother's birthday, the place had changed. The room seemed darker and and was packed to the rafters. The menu had transmogrified into a giant leather-bound slab. Against our better judgement we went for the tasting menu (after all, it was a "destination restaurant" now). But when mum asked to sub out the snail porridge (she'd never really liked it on past visits) the waiter gave a condescending smirk as if she was a scaredy tourist. It felt more like a theme park ride than a restaurant.

Then they had a power cut right after the nitro-green tea mousse, and all the customers had to be sent home. I think we ended up getting supper from a Chinese takeaway in Ickenham.

Heston's Golden Years

It's always tempting to look back with rose-tinted spectacles. Especially when you had somewhere like the Fat Duck pretty much on your doorstep (okay, a short hop via the M40/M25/M4). But I do think some of Heston's finest food writing also dates from those early years. From 2001 until 2003 - the era when he won his third star - he wrote a regular column in the Guardian, full of recipes and insights. After the *** was awarded in 2004, it was scaled down to a recipe-less magazine column before finally petering out in 2005 when he jumped ship to The Times (if I recall, he took umbrage with the Grauniad for reporting on his dodgy health and safety inspection, or suchlike).

I was never quite as impressed when he was writing for The Times. At the time they had a remarkable all-star roster of food writers (including Gordon Ramsay in his pomp), which seemed to spend the whole time giving inane recipes for homebakes. I blame slack ghost-writing.

But the early Guardian columns were quite something else. You can see iconic recipes like that Caviar and White Chocolate Buttons and the Bacon and Egg Ice-Cream being born before your eyes. Sous-vide, low-temperature cooking and popping candy are passe now, but at the time it seemed like cooking from Mars. The classics I remember from the Duck are all there - the Petit-Sale of Duck (that brine is also a great alternative to the traditional salt-rub for duck confit), the pigeon, the green-tea-lime sour (pre-nitro version). Just as White Heat captures Marco Pierre White in his pomp, this is Heston at the bleeding edge.

And as far as I know, this stuff never made it into print, at least not in its original form. When Heston did pour his formidable talents on his book, it was the quixotic Family Food, a volume about food for kids that presumably suited his stage of life but left the rest of the hard-core fans panting for something more. Then he got diverted into TV with a series of tie-in volumes that had lots of hard science, but little soul. Yes the Big Fat Duck Book did finally land in 2008, but that felt more like a tombstone than a book. For sure it's worth getting, and has all the greatest hits. But they are prettified, refined version. Not the raw originals.

But the good thing is, all those Guardian columns are still out there on the website. You just have to find them.

Introducing Heston's Secret Cookbook

I like to think of them as Heston's Secret Cookbook - the volume he never wrote detailing what he saw at the revolution. So what I've done here is a sort of culinary archaeology. I've collected links to all the articles below, with a brief note about what he discusses in each article, and what recipes are included. This is the Table of Contents

I've also taken the recipes, and grouped them into a more conventional cookbook format, each with a link going to the relevant article. As he often included two or three recipes in each article, many links are duplicated. But it lets you see when this might have looked like, if he'd adopted a more conventional approach. This is the Recipe Index at the end of the post.

So feel free to browse, and cast your mind back to a more innocent time. When savoury ice-creams were shocking, rather than something you find in the supermarket. And foams were fun.


Heston's Secret Cookbook - Table of Contents

ArticleTheme (Date)Recipe
The appliance of scienceIntroduction to food science (10-Nov-01)Green Tea and Lime Sour
Confit salmon with lentils
Herve This's chocolate Chantilly
Bean there, done thatNot cooking vegetables in salted water (17-Nov-01)Haricots verts a la Crème
Salad of haricots
Runner beans with cucumber
Love me tenderLow temp meat cooking (24-Nov-01)Saddle of lamb
Gigot a sept heures
Braised shoulder of lamb
The proof of the pudding…Tenderising with pineapple (08-Dec-01)Roast pineapple
Pineapple and chilli jelly
Crab Syrup
Let the festivities commenceHeston's Christmas meal (15-Dec-01)Pot-roast pork
Pears poached in red wine
Where's the sense in that?Playing with preconceptions about food (22-Dec-01)Spice mix for chicken or fish
Parsnip cereal with parsnip milk
Beetroot jellies
A whole new bowl gameStocks and soups (05-Jan-02)Butternut squash soup
Lentil soup
Clear chicken soup
Absorbing experienceRisotto (12-Jan-02)Basic risotto
Cauliflower risotto
Pea risotto
Soak it and seeBrining meat (19-Jan-02)Petit sale of duck
Two preparations for fish
Butter them upPotatoes (02-Feb-02)Basic potato recipe
Good old-fashioned mash
Crushed potatoes
Pommes puree
Sunday bestPerfect Sunday lunch (09-Feb-02)Roast chicken
Roast potatoes
Buttered cabbage
Cut and driedPasta (16-Feb-02)Spaghetti carbonara
Gratin of macaroni
Spaghettini with clams
The heat is offLow temperature roasting (02-Mar-02)Roast rib of beef
A sauce for the roast
Beef juices
The light fantasticDesserts with Herve This (09-Mar-02)Chocolate fondant
Rice tuile
Avocado rice
Mind over matterPerception of taste vs. flavour (16-Mar-02)Strawberry soup
Fine and dandyMackerel (27-Apr-02)Rilettes of macherel
Escabeche of mackerel
Red peppers marinated with anchovies
Weird but wonderfulFlavour matching (04-May-02)Caviar and white chocolate discs
Beetroot and green peppercorn jelly
Mango puree
Cream crackerIce cream (11-May-02)Vanilla ice cream
Mrs Marshall's almond cornets
Mrs Marshalls' apple ice cream
Top tipsAsparagus (25-May-02)Pot-roast asparagus
Parmesan ice cream
Asparagus soup
A burst of flavourFlavour encapsulation (01-Jun-02)Bacon and egg ice cream
Caremlised brioche
Tomato and red pepper 'jam'
Tea jelly
Drink and thriveCooking with alcohol (08-Jun-02)Red wine sauce for fish
Coq au vin
Good fry dayEgg & chips (22-Jun-02)Chips
Fried egg
Ahead of the gameFood technology research (29-Jun-02)Blue cheese chantilly
Paint the town redTomatoes (06-Jul-02)Tomato fondue
My heart belongs to umamiUmami (13-Jul-02)Marinted squid with Parmesan
Poached sea bream with konbu borth
Salad of green beans and tomatoes
Bursting with pleasureFlavour encapsulation (again) (20-Jul-02)Butternut squash and red pepper soup
Vanilla ice cream with encapsulated flavour bursts
Keep a lid on itCooking in a cocotte dish (24-Aug-02)Cocotte of duckling and chicory
Cocotte of potatoes and peas
Cocotte of cod
Lord of the ringsOnions (31-Aug-02)Onion puree
Maliks onion bhajee
Dried onion slices
The nutty professorPistachios (07-Sep-02)Pistachio ice cream
Pistachio scrambled egg
Sugared pistachios
You won't know till you try…Food for kids (28-Sep-02)Cream of tomato soup
Pot-roast cod
Couscous salad
Mission possibleVegetables for kids (05-Oct-02)Braised lettucs
Glazed carrots
Gratin of potatoes
Keep them sweetDesserts for kids (19-Oct-02)Jacks' raspberry crunch
Nectarines poached with star anise and rosemary
Great shakesJelly (26-Oct-02)Mead and sichuan peppercorn jelly
Beetroot and orange jelly
Kir Royale jelly
Under coverBraising (02-Nov-02)Rognonnade of veal
Chicken with vinegar
Braised turnips
Happy ever aftersBritish desserts (09-Nov-02)Vanilla junket
Rice pudding
Basil blancmanger
A flash in the panLiver (30-Nov-02)Sauteed calve's liver with cream of bacon sauce
Parfait of chicken livers
Black olive puree with red mullet liver
Take your timeStewing meat (07-Dec-02)Beef juice
Chicken broth
Ox cheek (or oxtail) stew
It's a crackerChristmas recipes (14-Dec-02)Mince pie ice cream
Hazelnut red wine drink
A Christmas version of Mrs Blumenthal's cheesecake
Accidentally on purposeIdea generation (04-Jan-03)Carrot toffee
Butternut ice cream
Dried carrot
Shuck it and seeRecipes from Sydney (11-Jan-03)Liam Tomlin's freshly shucked oysters with Vietnamese dressing
Tetsua Wakuda's slow roasted rack of lamb with miso and blue cheese
Neil Perry's confit of green-lip abalone with fine noodles, mushroom, soy and truffle oil
Practice makes perfectRestaurant-level cooking (18-Jan-03)Poached Anjou pigeon breast, a pastilla of its leg with cherries, pistachio, cocoa and quatre epices
Mind over matterFood memory (01-Feb-03)Crab ice cream
Vanilla-pine sherbert dib-dab
Sardines on toast ice cream
Memory is everything?Food memory (again) (08-Feb-03)Crushed meringue and pistachio with soya sauce mayonnaise
Toothpaste and mouthwash
Celeriac soup, curried marshmallow, bacon
Hang on in thereHanging meat (15-Feb-03)Steak with sauce moelle
Potatoes sauteed from raw
Golden WonderLemon tart (01-Mar-03)Lemon tart with butter-based filling 1
Lemon tart with butter-based filling 2
Custard-based lemon tart
Flour powerPastry (08-Mar-03)Shortbread pastry
Chocolate shortbread
Make ends meatSpag bol (15-Mar-03)Bolognese sauce, or ragu
Wilted baby spinach with mortadella
Mortadella chilli oil
Gaga for AgaAga cooking (29-Mar-03)Brine
Shoulder of pork
Pot-roast pork
It's a choux inChoux pastry (05-Apr-03)Profiteroles
Vanilla ice cream
Chocolate sauce
It's crunch time!Spring vegetables (12-Apr-03)Charlotte of vegetables
Tomato fondue
Olive puree
The secret ingredientPopping candy (24-May-03)Popping candy base
Chocolate mousse
Chocolate glaze
Heston Blumenthal easySimple cooking (31-May-03)Toasted cheese
Marinated peppers with anchovies
Confit tomatoes
No messingEton mess (28-Jun-03)Eton mess
Strawberry juice
Mini marvelsLentils (05-Jul-03)Braised lentils
Lentil soup
Lentil tuiles
Gee WhiskEmulsions (12-Jul-03)Mayonnaise
Bearnaise sauce
It takes all sortsLiquorice (09-Aug-03)Liquorice made for treacle
Liquorice jelly
Liquorice ice cream
The acid testAcidity and fruit (16-Aug-03)Balsamic mousse
Raspberry juice
Raspberry jelly
If the cap fitsMushrooms (13-Sep-03)Duxelle
Bouillon de champignons de printemps comme un cappuccino
Dried mushrooms
Taste not, want notFlavour combinations (again) (20-Sep-03)Cauliflower puree
Braized shoulder of lamb
Poached peaches with pistachio and almonds
Fire awayBlowtorching food (27-Sep-03)Chicken in salt crust with hay
Jasmine crème brulee
Magic dustQuartre-epices (11-Oct-03)Quartre-epices
Ballotine of foie grast with quatre-epices
Jellied beef
We have blast offMicrowaves (18-Oct-03)Nicholas Kurti's stuffed profiteroles
Braised' shallots
Game onGame (26-Oct-03)Loin of venison
Sauce poivrade
Fried muscat grapes
The twist in the tailStewing cheap cuts (15-Nov-03)Oxtail stew
Pickled daikon
Parsnip puree
The great all-rounderCouscous (22-Nov-03)Couscous with hazelnut and rosemary
Couscous-c'est moi au pain perdu
Sweet couscous
Chill outWinter vegetables (06-Dec-03)Pumpkin risotto
Mushroom tart
Osso bucco of carrots
Golden globeOranges (13-Dec-03)Carrots glazed with orange and cumin
Terrine of blood oranges
Orange bavarois
Net gainsFish (20-Dec-03)Macherel tart
Escabeche of red mullet

Heston's Secret Cookbook - Recipe Index

How it works: Links take you through to the full article containing the featured recipe. Note that components which go together to form a final dish may be split between categories - but obviously the source link will have them all together. If a name comes up twice its because he used the same dish in different articles (although actually the recipes themselves are often subtly different).

Meat, Fish and Fowl



Soup, Pasta, Risotto and Eggs

Desserts, Jellies and Ice-Creams




Sauces, Pastry and Drinks

Sauces (Savoury)


Sauces (Sweet)

Drinks and foams


  1. Sainthood beckons, Jon. This blog is very quickly becoming essential reading.
    Tom Blach

  2. Thanks for your kind words Thom - much appreciated!

    Still thinking about what to write about next week. Maybe some of the American cookbooks - thankfully I have plenty to choose from!

    Enjoy the weekend... J

  3. Great post, but I would rather have all of the posts in one file, how do I download the lot in one go to one file ..... tried website downloader and pagenest but cannot get them to work, any ideas??

  4. Great post, had no idea that existed, but I would rather have all of the posts in one file, how do I download the lot in one go to one file ..... tried website downloader and pagenest but cannot get them to work, any ideas??

  5. Hi Anonymous, yes I considered pulling them all out, reformatting them and dumping them into a pdf, but I suspect that would run afoul of a number of copyright laws!

    Nonetheless I do agree it would be nicer to have saved down copies - if only because who knows the Guardian could pull them tomorrow!

    An easy way would be to use the "save link" function embedded in most browsers (on Chrome its Alt-Left click on the link) which allows you to zap down the list of links and save them down quite easily. I have no idea if this is legal or not (what's the different between this and what offline readers do saving down web pages for offline readers), but that would be an easy way to archive the content at least, giving you time to reorganise it at your leisure.

    I'm sure there are more fully featured offliner readers that can pull page + links at a swoop. A cursory Google search pulls up throws up this article with links to interesting resources...

  6. I understand that you cannot do it and post, and I know I can do save as .... But I wanted to do it more automatically, I tried two tools, but I could not get any to work. I will have a look at the page you found and see if I can get any of them to work, thanks a lot!!!

  7. Wow this is amazing! Thank you for putting so much time and energy into this!
    I found your blog a while ago and finally had some time to go over the old posts. What a pleasant surprise to stumble upon this post, it's a great resource.

    1. Hey Henrik thanks for the comment. Its always great to have feedback, even better when its positive!

      Its interesting how much stuff is out there on the web but ignored because it is unindexed - the Heston material is only the tip of the iceberg I think. For example I think the recipe for pretty much every chef's signature dish you can think of is freely available online (I just randomly thought "Astrance foie gras raw mushroom thing"... and here it is )

      As I said just a matter of finding it and making it more accessible!


      PS I can thoroughly recommend the duck petit sale recipe.

  8. Wow, thank you so much! This is a brilliant job you've done here putting all of this together!

    Kind regards from the Netherlands.

    1. You're very welcome! Putting together that hyperlink-in-html-table was much more painful than it looked!!!

      PS I take donations in Appelstroop ;-)

  9. F*ck me this is staggering work! And here was me thinking I'd done a decent job with my own recipe index. This makes a mockery of my efforts. Bravo! Let me know if I've missed any:

    1. Hullo cheers for that. Yes looks like you've had pretty the same idea as me - although your index looks more comprehensive.

      BTW hope you noticed HB's new book "Historic Heston" is out this week. Actually I ran across a pile of copies in Hatchards on London's Picadilly yesterday. It's a big volume (same format as Fat Duck cookbook) which is basically "Dinner: The Cookbook". £125 (though £77 on Amazon) - although watch as out because the FD book had a cut price reprint a year later so it may be worth waiting...

      Keep it up. J

  10. I've been keeping an eye on it and it's staggering price. I think you;re right they may release a more accessible cut price version. We did get the full-spec FD book and it's nice and all, not sure I can justify that expense a second time! Did you catch the 4 recipes from Historic Heston that were printed in the FT?

    1. Hey I did pick up a copy in the end - trying to write u a piece on it. I would say its good and still seems to be available <£80. I've been a bit hot and cold on Heston's recent books (many of them seem rather by-the-numbers-tv-series-tie-ins) but this one has a lot of substance (although some of it no doubt ghost written!) and fleshes out a lot of his historic-brit-cooking-schtick (which I was always always quite cynical on - to be honest rice and flesh looked just like risotto milenese by another name).

      Yep saw the FT recipes very much gives a flavour of whats in the full book.

      On balance its def worth getting. J

  11. Wheee! More recipes! Thanks guys!