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French Leave

French LeaveFrench Leave – John Burton Race
Ebury Publishers – 2004
Photographs by Pia Tryde

John Burton Race gave up his job as a Michelin starred chef to get back to the roots of cooking and he chose France as the base for this. He and his family moved there in 2002 and French Leave describes their journey through the first year as well as some of the recipes that they ate along the way.
The storytelling part of this recipe book is extremely heavy. A lot of it is interesting but it reads more like a journal and is spread across four huge chunks. Unlike the very light-handed methods of Tessa Kiros, Sophie Dahl or Gennaro Contaldo this feels like you are reading two books. One a biography of John Burton Race and his family and the other a very high-level cook book.
Strangely the photography taken around France are far more appealing than those taken of the food. Once again, there are not enough pictures of the recipes for my liking but almost no cookery book satisfies me on this count. The food styling and photography however, is not appealing. Whether the recipes really are fatty or the light is just off I am unsure – either way it is not encouraging me to try them out and see.
A lot of the recipes in this book are exquisite and sound completely delicious – but I would never attempt them. They are very complicated with a lot of very specific ingredients and techniques employed. This all sounds a little rough. It is not a bad cookbook and there are certainly some recipes that I will be trying out. The pot-roasted pork sounds excellent as does the pommes boulangere and the lemon cake. There’s a lot of variety and probably a few dishes that everyone would like but most have some hard-to-find ingredients so that’s something to keep an eye on.
Overall not a favourite and I’m glad I got this from the library rather than adding it to my permanent collection. I’d read another of his but would prefer something catering (pun definitely intended) to cooks rather than chefs.

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