You’re going to be seeing a lot more of Gizzi Erskine that’s for sure. Magazine editors and TV commissioning editors all look for looks in their female cooks; the men can resemble Arthur Mullard , or even Greg Wallace , but not the women.
Gizzi with her Stray Cats/Breakfast at Tiffany’s image and daring full back tattoo is therefore being lovingly lapped up by the Charlottes and Tobys, but she does have the qualifications too? Well she was one of the presenters of Channel 4’s Cook Yourself Thin and having been to one of her bread making classes I can vouch for her pedagogic expertise.
Cookbooks, as we know, fall largely into three categories. Top chefs fixing in print their works of art for posterity – hard to read, even harder to cook anything from – they are really designed to go on the bookshelf and not the worktop. There are the TV chef books, tied in with the series for maximum quick sales. And then there are the practical books written by home economist types – good recipes, unshowy, attainable but a bit dull to look at.
Gizzi’s book is harder to categorise because at present she is none of those things. At a brainstorming meeting at the publishers someone, undoubtedly blonde, came up with the concept of ‘magic’, perhaps noting that Gizzi could pass for Samantha’s sister in the 60’s TV series Bewitched. Having got this easy catch they ran wildly off with it. On the cover Gizzi, wearing enough mascara to join Kiss, is throwing Photoshop’ed stardust in the kitchen with feigned glee.
Inside, things get better, if you read the recipes and try and ignore the bits in between, which often feature the adjective ‘sexy’ for no good reason except that marketing thinks that, like tweeting, it works on a certain demographic.
The recipes are all very alluring however and all very well shot. The tips and tricks sections are very useful -checking fish freshness, how to skin and peel fish and shellfish, various methods of cooking etc. Good advice too on batter and how to deep fry for successful results and without 999 calls to the fire brigade.
The bread making and baking pages are very good indeed and so are the meat pages. Everything is here to make sure you can achieve reliable results, which has to be the main purpose of any recipe book.
Gizzi covers all culinary bases with world cuisine and she is particularly good on Asian cuisine as she is of Far Eastern provenance herself on one side of her family. She gets her recipes from relatives as well as from her travels.
Black Cod with Plum Miso, Five Spice Pork Belly, Chicken Katsu Curry, Lamb Chops with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Pineapple Cake with Lime-Soured Cream Frosting and Blond Rocky Roads and the Chilli Cornbread are just some of the winners.
Ignore the hype. Read between the puff and you’l enjoy a practical and inspiring cookbook.