Noble Rot 16 (1)

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bull's pizzle, or a very different take on the St. John classic, a glass of. Madeira and a slice of seed cake. The occas
George Reynolds uncovers some mythical gastronomic texts Images by Tom le French




* NB No actual chefs were involved in the making of this article

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ere at Noble Rot we are – of course – connoisseurs of the most delicious restaurant dishes and finest wines, but love to turn our hands to cookery, too. In this issue we had originally intended to run a list of favourite cookbooks compiled by the usual roster of celebrity chefs, but after a period of soul-searching we realised that we’re not fucking Buzzfeed, and that you, our beloved Rotters, deserve so much more. So, having over the years heard whispers about a number of mythical cookbooks – written by the good and great of gastronomy, but otherwise practically forgotten by history – we scoured Britain to try and find the lost legends that you almost certainly will not have on your shelves. Not all of them contain recipes you’ll actively want to make for yourself – but all have a story worth telling. And isn’t that the point of any good cookbook in the first place?


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From Bollock to Arsehole by Fergus Henderson A true labour of love from the high priest of modern British food, this book should rightfully take its place alongside Nose to Tail Eating as one of the movement’s most important texts. And indeed, the interest generated around its launch was sizeable – only to subside mere weeks later as home cooks ran aground on some of the most challenging recipes the medium had seen. The signature mordant Henderson wit is on full display, but somehow could not entice people to attempt sow’s teat braised in Sauternes, soused bull’s pizzle, or a very different take on the St. John classic, a glass of Madeira and a slice of seed cake. The occasional bold supper club pops up from time to time proposing to take some of the tome’s most intimidating assemblies, but it truly takes a genius on Fergus’ level to make his infamous spotted dick (“not that kind”) anything more than actively disgusting.

The Toast Cookbook by Nigel Slater Writing The Toast Cookbook – an ill-advised tie-in to Nigel Slater’s 2003 memoir – was a contractual obligation revealed to Slater just 36 hours before it was due for delivery to his publisher. The need to fill the stipulated 200 pages in as little time as possible may explain the slightly superfluous nature of some of the dishes (there are separate recipes for peanut butter on toast, raspberry jam on toast and PB&J on toast, each occupying a doublepage spread; in addition, after pouring out his childhood’s most painful memories just a few months earlier, Slater’s heart is clearly not in this exercise. Curt introductions (“I ate this once on holiday; I liked it”), combined with increasingly disinterested instructions (“It’s just toast; you just toast the bread, in a toaster”), make for not just one of the least essential cookbooks ever written, but one of the most depressing, too.

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The passage on cauliflowers is essential reading, but unprintable in a family publication such as this

Actually, I Hate Pomegranates by Yotam Ottolenghi This short, self-published work was hastily pulled from shelves by Ottolenghi’s team just days after it hit the market. The dominant theory is that by the publication of Jerusalem, Yotam had had enough. In the foreword, he explains: “I like eating that Mediterranean/Middle Eastern stuff from time to time, but no one likes anything that much. Sometimes a man just wants a pie and a pint, you know?” As well as featuring recipes for the dishes the author actually likes to eat, the author is unstinting in his criticism of what he considers unfairly overrated ingredients such as Persian limes (“shit”), Za’atar (“edible asbestosis”) and rosewater (“like rimming a granny”). The passage on cauliflowers is essential reading, but unprintable in a family publication such as this.

Antony Worrall Thompson – With Attitude! by Antony Worrall Thompson As the rap/hip hop craze went mainstream in the 1980s, food media churned out more than a few well-intentioned but disastrously executed attempts to cash in. This is perhaps the worst-executed of all, exhibiting both cynicism and blatant lack of cultural sensitivity. Dishes like Pimp’s Brioche and Antony’s Wiggity-Wiggity Waffles are bad enough; the sight of Worrall Thompson, on the tie-in TV show, referring to some pan-fried scallops as “these sweet little bitches” is one that will unfortunately live even longer in the memory.

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Let’s be ‘Aving Ewe by Delia Smith When the Mutton Marketing Board noticed a concerning drop in sales in the summer of 2006, they turned to the only celebrity chef that could arrest the slide. The resulting collaboration is notable particularly for its monomaniacal attempts to substitute ovine products into recipes where they surely do not belong: Coq au Vin (Except It’s Made With Hogget); Lamb and Eggs; a very ahead-of-its-time Mutton Tonnato. A cover featuring a heavily made-up Delia in a sheepskin coat led to predictable headlines, and was swiftly replaced.

Jamie’s 30 Second Meals by Jamie Oliver 2013 saw a bizarre arms race between two of the UK’s most celebrated celebrity chefs, as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver traded blows over who could promise home cooks dinner on the table in the shortest possible time. Oliver started the craze with his Fifteen Minute Meals, before Ramsay shot back with Top Ten in Ten just months later. Oliver’s Fastest Ever Dinners promised three courses in an average of three minutes each; the conflict escalated after Ramsay tweeted “Oi, Speedy Cuntzales – this is how you sell a book!” at Oliver after Three Stars in Three Minutes (which disclosed recipes for replicating a full dégustation menu from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in just 180 seconds) stormed to the top of the charts. Oliver’s follow-up, Me Two, bombed, and many thought the race was over with Gordon in 60 Seconds, released just in time for Christmas. Somehow, though, Oliver managed to slice the time in half, offering turbo-charged meals such as Speedy Supermarket Ceviche to a delighted public. In early 2014, Which? conducted research concluding that the average time to cook any of these meals was still a little over 45 minutes.

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