They added ‘kitchen’ to the title presumably to stop this great book ending up in the Martial Arts section of the bookshop or, worse, being taken out of the library by South London youths interested in honing their street technique. It does exactly what is says on the tin and is a remarkably informative and useful book for any home cook.
Most accidents with knives occur because either the wrong knife was being used, the knife was too blunt (paradoxically sharp knives are safer as they don’t slip or skid) or because the user had the wrong technique. Marianne Lumb, a professional chef and former teacher at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, aims to prevent all that with clear instruction that covers the cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing of all foodstuffs from an avocado to a loin of lamb.
From an introduction that covers safe working practices, the anatomy of a knife, the types available and the sharpening methods and core cutting techniques, on to techniques by food groups and even cakes, this is a real reference work illustrated step by step with clear pictures.
The core techniques are invaluable, for example once you master the ‘claw grip’ for holding items steady then with the right knife its almost impossible to cut yourself, even at speed. Watch the pro chefs showing off on TV and you’ll see they all use it, it’s effective and impressive. You’ll also learn the ‘hammer chop’, the ‘Under-the-bridge’ cut, the ‘rolling chop’, the ‘cross chop’ and the rather scarily named ‘dagger’ or ‘stab’ grip used in boning.
The simple layout means you can find what you want easily. Confronted with that terror to cut, that is the mango, just turn to page 94 to find out picture by picture how to deal with it efficiently. Got a broccoli to dismember? It’s simple and more effective if you follow the rules, that way you finish with pleasing small florets and not a hacked up mess.
Of course the real challenges lie in meat at fish. Knowing how to break down a chicken will save you money as will butterflying a leg of lamb yourself (it will also give you a brilliant piece of meat for the BBQ). Fish come in all shapes and sizes and this book covers them all. With so many so-called fishmongers unable or unwilling to fillet a fish for customers any more, you can use this book to do it yourself with much less waste. And what there is, goes into the stock pot.
Most of us have never learnt any skills with knives and tend to use only the same one for everything. Marianne gets us over that learning gap, teaching what knives you really need to buy, what price to pay and how to look after purchases that will last you a lifetime and which you can pass on to your children.
Cleanly laid out, simple to follow. They should issue this book on the NHS to every new cook and, judging from A&E departments, to quite a few experienced cooks too.