Cooking for Friends by Gordon Ramsay:
I discovered this book because I had heard about the awesome photography by Ditte Isager, and I was really curious to see it. So, I suppose I'll start there, with the photography, which is usually a secondary thought with cookbooks, but not this one. The photography makes the book. Isager's photos are both beautiful and simple, and are showcased on heavy, matte paper. She uses a palette of soft blues and light browns, combining textures of the earthenware plates and wrinkly linen fabrics. Everything seems to be placed casually, but in the back of my head I know it's painstakingly deliberate. The lighting is natural and gorgeous. Isager makes food photography look so easy, and she makes the food look so delicious!
I tried several recipes from the book, starting with a few of the desserts (of course!). The almond coffee cake is actually made with coffee, a fact that really pleased the Bachsters. It is not a very sweet cake, but they loved it. We served it with sweetened mascarpone cream on the side, as suggested, but I wish a recipe would have been given for this. I searched the internet for one, but it seems that the author would have put one in the book.
I also made the dark chocolate marquise, which also happened to be not-so-sweet. I had some reservations about cooking the mousse by beating it over a pan of simmering water - mine never seemed to get warm. So, if you are concerned about under-cooked eggs, this might not be the recipe for you. Also, I served ours with frozen yogurt....big mistake! The tangy yogurt was all wrong for it. This rich, chocolatey dessert begs for vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream on the side.
I've been trying to cut back on making pasta, but the recipe and Isager's beautiful photo sold me on the farfalle with bacon and peas. I made it, intending to give most of it to the Bachsters. But I had a taste here and there, and I was so surprised how the flavor developed as it sat for a while. I think this dish would make great leftovers.
I also made the braised red cabbage with apple, but sadly, it didn't work out for me. Unlike the desserts I tried, this savory dish was super-sweet. And DH complained that it shouldn't have cinnamon in it. But, oh, how wonderful it made my kitchen smell! I love braised red cabbage, so I might give this recipe another chance, cutting way back on the brown sugar and eliminating the cinnamon sticks next time.
Some other recipes I'd like to try are the penne with baked pumpkin and rosemary, mixed mushroom salad and the chocolate swirl cheesecake. Seriously, the gorgeous photos will have you wanting to try everything!
One odd thing about the book is the high number of photos of Gordon Ramsay. It seems as if every few pages there's a shot of him. I don't mind one or two, but it's a bit overkill here. Perhaps Ramsay was so taken with Isager's photography, that he couldn't help but jump in front of the camera. I'm sure I would have done the same, bringing all my favorite dishes into the shot with me.