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"Formulas for Flavour" – John Campbell

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I am very curious about this title, but my local libraries do not have it and I always hate buying cookbooks I don't end up using.

Can anyone tell me whether or not they like this cookbook and how many dessert/pastry/bread recipes it has?


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It's kind of a cross between The Cook's Book and David Everett-Matthias's Essence, if that's any help. :smile:

Everyone I've ever recommended it to has agreed it's one of the best cookbook's around. The recipes are all really strong, maybe not as complex as Thomas Keller's, but what really makes it worth owning is the way it shows the (experienced) home cook how to replicate restaurant-level food - Campbell has just been given a 2nd Michelin star - without killing themselves with stress.

On the surface the book just shows how to recreate a bunch of starters, mains and desserts, with little reference info for stuff like bread or pastry, but by including step-by-step instructions and photos for each stage of every dish, along with useful explanations about which elements can be prepared in advance, it actually imparts loads of great practical knowledge.

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Good book. Relatively complex recipes, but a lot of hard science and explanation behind it and step by step pictures. Gives you a lot of comfort the recipes will actually WORK despite the complexity.

Not massively long but longer than the Champ Sauv book (whos brevity was its only weakness). Normal balance of starter/main/pudding recipes

Def worth getting.

Better than the restaurant, in my experience


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Its OK, but now a little dated and nothing that is not done elsewhere.

Lots of pictures, and I use the roast onion icecream recipe.

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The weekend before last, as a minor celebration of Chef Campbell’s promotion to the 2-star elite, I had a small dinner party based exclusively on some the of ‘Formulas for Flavour’ book.

The menu was:-

Roast scallop with artichoke barigoule

Turbot, braised ox tail, parsley & lemon oil

Citrus soufflé, hot chocolate ice cream

First thing to say was – the recipes look far less impressive than the taste they deliver. The flavours build on each other to create an impressive and substantial result.

Initially the quantities seemed over generous, but they worked out fine.

The recipes are generally detailed but, despite all the notes, and ‘do this now’ instructions, they are a bit disorganised and need much more careful planning if you are working on your own. I didn’t have any of the basic, starting materials and, from start to finish, it took 11 hours preparation spread across 2 days.

The second thing to be aware of is the cost of ingredients. I don’t have access to a) kitchen wholesalers or b) US food prices which can be significantly below London costs. Total ingredient cost for the menu was around US$175 for four persons. With the very large number of top-quality ingredients, the costs add up quickly. Unlike Essence which uses a lot of obscure herbs, most of the ingredients are easily found (at least in London).

I would absolutely recommend this book, but beware the troublesome journey to arrive at 2-star nirvana. The book is not expensive compared with some other personality chefs, but the binding is not of the best quality.

PS There are 10 starters, 10 mains and 10 desserts, plus a range of stocks and sauces (6 bread types).

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can you tell me what some of the desserts are? I have no idea other than the souffle, and a peach tart with black pepper ice cream.

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Dessert recipes:

Roast Plums, Honey and Yogurt Ice Cream

Chocolate and Griottine Clafoutis

Bitter Chocolate Tart, Parsnip Ice Cream

White Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Milkshake

Citrus Soufflé, Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Panna Cotta with Raspberries

‘Rhubarb and Custard’

‘Strawberry Shortcake’, Balsamic Ice Cream

Tarte Fine of Peach, Pepper Ice Cream

Tatin of Pear with Roquefort and Pickled Walnut Ice Cream

I have only tried the soufflé recipe from the dessert section and, in case you wonder, the ‘Hot Chocolate’ is not hot, it’s drinking chocolate. It was relatively simple to do. The soufflé rose as smoothly and evenly as could be hoped for, only I probably overcooked it by a couple of minutes as the texture was just very slightly rubbery on top. The dish had a great taste and looked great on the plate. The hot chocolate ice cream is really unforgettable (in a good way).

As with all the recipes in the book, most of these have multiple ingredients and are restaurant dishes. The photos are helpful both in illustrating the techniques and the final presentation.

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Maybe no one cares any more because of how old it is, but if anyone is interested in Campbell's Formula Amazon.uk have it on special for 7-8GBP. Picked up a copy because nice cookbooks are my cocaine.

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Great buy! And not as big of an investment as other books out there. Buy it, you wont be disapointed!

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