Fergus Henderson's body of work warrants little introduction. From the iconic St John restaurant in London to his books, Whole Beast and Beyond Nose to Tail, he is largely credited with making the nasty bits mainstream. His devotees in the culinary world are themselves household names, and they don't hold back their praise. Batali, Bourdain, and Bloomfield all credit him as inspiration for their own dishes, and their glowing words can be found etched on the back cover of The Complete Nose to Tail, a compendium of his first two books.
It's arranged like an art book: plenty of white space, sparse, yet meaningful copy, and plenty of photographs. The St John crew is present and accounted for, in self-effacing poses, bearing baskets of vegetables or snatching cakes off a table. They are pictured in and out of uniform; formal silliness that's highly engaging. It sets a mood that continues uninterrupted for nearly five hundred pink-edged pages.
Chef Henderson's remarks on recipes are conversational, yet cryptic, like a written version of a half-smile. His brain and hands are artist's tools, both belonging to a man who prefers explaining himself through food. And that he does, with formulas for every part a pig's body, and then some. For all the breadth and depth the book contains, it happily lacks pretension.
The Complete Nose to Tail contains a surprising amount of dessert, though when it comes to Fergus Henderson, nothing should surprise you. There is liberal use of beef suet in the pastry, and plenty of variations on chocolate and cream. Wrinkle your nose if you must, but not without preparing some of these remarkably simple recipes.
Our feature begins with Steamed Lemon and Vanilla Syrup Sponge, a cake baked in a bowl. Followed by Custard Tart and Baked Goat's Curd Cheese Cake, two dairy-heavy, but not overly rich, table desserts. Lastly, there are St John Eccles Cakes, which would not be out of place at breakfast or Christmas.
Win A Copy!
Thanks to the generous folks over at Ecco, we are giving away two (2) copies of The Complete Nose to Tail this week. All you have to do is tell us about the most clever dessert you've had or made in the comments below.