25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2001
I purchased this book and Alfred Portale's 12 Seasons Cookbook at the same time. Both are gorgeous to look at and flip through, but I find myself going to this one time and time again for recipes I actually plan to try. Clearly, Gordon Ramsay is a man in love with food and his craft. Don't let what you may have heard about him (e.g., he does not roam through the dining area of his top rated restaurant to glad-hand patrons and solicit their thoughts, believing that anything leaving his kitchen is perfect and beyond criticism) deter you from picking this up!
I found the one theme, intended or not, that makes this a favourite is that many components of the various recipes are interchangeable. For example, there is a great recipe for a lobster and mango/baby spinach salad. I was shopping for ingredients and found the lobster sub-par, so I managed to substitute his marinated tuna recipe in with great success. Same goes with recipes for various pureed sauces and soups. And particularly useful are discussions on the best of seasonal ingredients (notwithstanding that many may not be available to the average cook due to cost, or geographical limitations)
Overall, a top notch book and highly recommended.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2006
Gordon Ramsay's A Chef for All Seasons is a cookbook you can use for those super special occasions: when you want to impress those friends, who love to cook themselves, or when you just want to eat really awesome food yourself. A lot of the recipes call for expensive ingredients, like lobster, goose fat, the obligatory truffles and foie gras. But there are also quite a few recipes with more common ingredients, which are real gems. I just want to mention the Veal Chops with a Cream of Winter Vegetables (even Gordon calls this "a nice recipe for a mid-week dinner") and the Pillows of Ricotta Gnocchi with Peas and Fèves.
The recipes is divided into four chapters, one for each season, which is a great plus in a cookbook. Each chapter contains recipes for starters, entrees and desserts. The last chapter is Basic Recipes and Techniques, which contains instructional photographs. Finally, the index has entries for each ingredient used.
It's great fun to read about how things are done in Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, e.g. "Boil the potatoes still in their skin until just tender. Drain and peel them while hot. (We do this wearing rubber gloves to protect our hands.)" in the recipe for Pillows of Ricotta Gnocchi with Peas and Fèves.
His perfectionistic style makes some recipes seem harder than necessary. After following his recipe closely the first time I make it, it is usually easy to see some shortcuts without sacrificing the quality of the end product (I imagine that Gordon will wholeheartedly disagree with this).
To conclude, I would highly recommend this cookbook for the experienced cook, who wants to surprise others (or her/himself) with great food.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
These are the words Charlie Trotter described Ramsey's cooking. I bought this based upon a recommendation about new, hot cookbooks coming out. Sometimes one is really disappointed with the final product.
By first inspection, I imagined this was another of those letdowns. Beautiful photos, seasonal recipe organization,and what appeared to be bland style recipes.
But upon trying several, this book delivers Trotter's assessment: purity and elegance. Although tried only Cauliflower and Sorrel Soup, Tomato And Parmesan Gratinee Tarts and Duck Breasts with Endive Tarts, this food is elegant and tastes are clean, distinct and so, so satisfying.
Anxious to explore this hot London cook even more.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2008
Not only is this cookbook chocked full of interesting recipes, but it is gorgeous! The photos accompanying each season are breathtaking - if you can appreciate the subtle beauty of food itself.
First off, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Chef Ramsay enjoys the flavor of lavender and chocolate as much as I do! I used to make white chocolate and lavender truffles for the spring and I was thrilled to see a recipe for "Mille-Feuille of Chocolate with Lavender": a light dark chocolate ganache with steeped lavender piped over layers of puff pastry. He even serves lavender flavored ice cream on the side! Simply beautiful.
Obviously, the chapters are divided by the four seasons. At the beginning of each chapter, Chef Ramsay informs us as to why the vegetables, fruits and meats belong in each season. Followed are the recipes which may seem a bit daunting to the average chef. As in his other books, there is a good mixture of easy dishes that make this cookbook worth its weight.
Spring recipes that were fun and easy included "Whiting with Lemon and Parsley Crust", "Ricotta Gnocchi with Peas and Fava Beans" and "White Chocolate and Lemon Mousse".
Summer recipes include "Lobster with Mango and Spinach Salad", "Poached Salmon with Gewürztraminer Sauce" and "Loin of Beef with Watercress Puree".
Fall recipes that were a joy to make are "Lentil and Langoustine Soup (I substituted Cray Fish for the Langoustine)", "Tomato and Parmesan Gratinee Tarts" and "Monkfish with Creamy Curried Mussels" (a bit expensive but makes a great romantic dinner for two!). Winter recipes we enjoyed were "Smoked Haddock and Mustard Chowder", "Seafood in Nage with Carrot Spaghetti" (you do have to make the Nage(a vegetable broth) ahead of time but it is totally worth it!) and "Veal Chops with a cream of Winter Vegetables" (we actually substituted the Veal for Chicken and it worked well. Pork chops might also work, but you are not going to get the same texture.)
Again, at the back of the book is a plethora of cooking techniques, broth recipes and miscellaneous kitchen information.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
`A Chef for All Seasons' by the English high tempered chef, Gordon Ramsay looks like and is very much of a `follow the trend' book, just as `healthy eating' and `quick cooking' themes are bandwagons on which cookbook writers jump to squeeze another ounce of interest out of their audience for their latest book. Unlike some other seasonally or calendar oriented books such as Alfred Portale's `The 12 Seasons', Nigel Slater's `The Kitchen Diaries' and Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette various `Twelve Month' cookbooks, the recipes in this book offer little real guidance to when it is best to make these various recipes. As the author himself says, for him, summer begins in early May and most of the best produce is available closer to autumn than in high summer.
Except for a very few fruits and vegetables such as fava beans and strawberries in spring, tomatoes and corn in late summer, there is little reason aside perhaps from cost from restricting oneself to strictly seasonal produce, except for price. While my favorite local supermarket carries excellent asparagus the year around, it's price jumps from $1.99 to $2.99 in late summer, to drop back a dollar in March, and briefly drop to $1.69 (a pound) in May and June. So, I don't eat asparagus at $3 a pop, but do eat it every other month. Similarly, I don't make dishes with beefsteak tomatoes quite as often in the winter and spring as I do in high summer, but I don't eschew them entirely in winter. So, unless you are willing to literally graph out prices and availability of produce based on supermarket prices in your area, most seasonal considerations seem like a waste of time. Because, if you can't get it at all (like fresh fava beans in October), the question is moot, and if you can get it at a reasonable price and at a reasonable quality, the small difference between seasonal and off seasonal produce shipped in from Chile probably won't make a big difference to you, especially when you are looking at Master Ramsay's recipes, where the prep and cooking time are worth far more than that extra dollar you may pay for off season blueberries.
The other side of the coin is that Gordon Ramsay's recipes are very, very good without using excessively expensive ingredients except as options and they are (relatively) easy for `haute cuisine' dishes. So, this book is more of an argument to select Gordon Ramsay as your primary source for fancy dishes, instead of Eric Rippert or Albert Portale or Tom Colicchio or Joel Robuchon or Michael Romano or Charlie Trotter. Compared to many of these chef / authors, Ramsay is equally as fussy, but manages to follow the dictum of using the best ingredients and being as careful as possible not to muck them up. And, unlike some of his preachier colleagues, he concentrates on the simple procedures rather than on the gratuitous yapping about using fresh ingredients. For us in the peanut gallery, we pick the best that we can get without traveling 20 miles out of our way. Even foodies have a life beyond cooking and marketing.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ramsay's style, it is very, very French in technique with lots of creamy sauces, soups, and confits. It may not be the kind of thing you would pick for a low calorie diet, but it is not quite as fat laden as the provincial cuisine of southwestern France (see Paula Wolfert's excellent new edition on the subject). As usual, the most sprightly and revealing blurb on the back cover comes from the always eloquent Tony Bourdain, who describes this as `...food porn at its most lush...', a far more original approbation than the overworked `decadent'.
I confess I was not immediately as impressed with this book as I have been with some of Ramsay's other books, but this is largely due to what seems like less general information on cooking technique and more space on the recipes themselves. There is, however, still a fair amount of gems on various foods here. For example, he gives an excellent argument for preferring your mangoes firm and not quite ripe to the squishy red ones soft to the touch. But, the very best part of the book for the foodie cook is the last section on `basic recipes and techniques', especially if your library is not already filled with tomes from Jacques Pepin, the CIA, and James Peterson on basic kitchen skills. The most interesting recipe here is the one for `Vegetable nage' that on the surface is very similar to a vegetable stock, but it seems to be a cross between a veggie stock and a court bouillon. It is not cooked as long as stocks and it seems to have a longer refrigerator life than meat or fish stocks. While this is a classic French term and concept, I have not seen recipes for it in many other books. By pure coincidence, I noticed a very similar recipe in the book `Full On Irish' by Irish Michelin starred chef, Kevin Dundon which he describes as a kitchen garden vegetable stock. I don't even recall seeing this in Deborah Madison's great works on vegetable stocks.
All of Ramsay's measurements are Yankee friendly, as everything is measured by cup, spoon, or count and not by gram or liter. He also does a better job of displaying ingredients lists so that units and ingredient names are all put on separate lines or columns. Unfortunately, he does not do this in the `basic recipes' section. But, since almost all items are simply counts, the problem is not acute.
This is another reason to make Gordon Ramsay your celebrity chef/writer of choice, especially as his books are reasonably priced and very attractive to look at, with full oversized pages of well-chosen pics (but without captions!).