Home / Life Style / Fergus Henderson’s ‘whole animal’ recipes motivated chefs on both sides

Fergus Henderson’s ‘whole animal’ recipes motivated chefs on both sides

It is November 2009 and I’m in a brand-new dining establishment on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles called Animal. I have actually been in the city for 3 weeks, acting as a judge on a TELEVISION food contest, all British piss and vinegar to the familiar American gush, and I’m missing my family terribly. No matter, for here on the menu is roast bone marrow with parsley salad, the dish made popular by the chef Fergus Henderson at his Clerkenwell dining establishment St John. His guiding principle: “If you’re going to bang an animal on the head it’s just courteous to eat all of it.”

‘ If you’re going to bang an animal on the head it’s just courteous to eat everything’ Fergus Henderson

I scoop the hot, shaky jewels of marrow from the bones, pile them on to the toast and add a little salt. Unexpectedly, I am no longer homesick. A couple of days later I fly to Chicago and check out another new dining establishment. It’s called Publican. There it is again: roast bone marrow with parsley salad. “We completely acknowledge that we stole it from Fergus,” a chef says to me. “We have, like, 3 copies of Nose to Tail Consuming in the kitchen area.”

The books included in this series up until now have had a serious effect on legions of home cooks. Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking by Fergus Henderson is various. “It was mainly purchased by people operating in restaurant cooking areas,” says Georgina Morley, the editor who obtained it for Macmillan, publishers of the initial 1999 edition. “The basic punter simply wasn’t especially interested.” It won a distinguished André Simon award, and got excellent reviews, but it didn’t really sell.

Macmillan ultimately handed back the rights and in 2004 Bloomsbury published a brand-new edition, with an adoring introduction by the late Anthony Bourdain, who had actually ended up being a huge fan of St John and tight pals with Henderson. In 2007 there was a second volume, Beyond Nose to Tail, followed in 2012 by The Complete Nose to Tail, which brought the two books together (the edition I have).

Henderson trained as a designer and there has always been something of the art school trainee about his technique. St John, housed in a former smokehouse, is a sharp-edged white area. To those used to the velour plush of enthusiastic restaurants, its canteen vibe can appear austere. Then there are specific meals: not simply the caveman heft of the bone marrow (which Henderson easily says he picked up from the film La Grande Bouffe), but the offer of crispy pig tails to be nibbled upon, or a plate of eggs and carrots.

Similarly, the book does have motivating food shots: a sparkling boiled ham, a bread pudding overloaded in butterscotch sauce. However in other places there’s a shot of a raw pig’s head being shaved with a Bic razor, or another of a cook cradling a lamb carcass as if it were a child. The prose can also check out as a provocation. The deep-fried bunny recipe insists that more youthful animals are best. “So if you have a good friend with a gun, ask to go for the smaller sized bunnies.”

The guidelines for the pot roast pig’s head suggest using only half, “as it is an ideal romantic supper for 2. Imagine gazing into the eyes of your loved one over a golden pig’s cheek, ear and snout.” Yes. Simply envision. What truly matters, however, are the recipes for dishes anybody with an appetite will want to eat: for a slushy stew of white beans and smoked bacon or a pig’s head and potato pie, for a salad of shredded white cabbage and brown shrimps or a steamed lemon and vanilla syrup sponge.

Henderson rejects trying to provoke. “It’s just me being me,” he tells me, through e-mail. The book, he says, is “a friendly manual to use at home, to cook for family and friends. It reflects how I have constantly prepared and thought of food.” He advises us not to be scared of active ingredients “otherwise they will misbehave”. That wilful anthropomorphising becomes part of the pleasure. The celery salt dish insists the active ingredients being in the fridge for two days “allowing time for the celeriac and salt to get to know each other”. Parsley must be gently chopped “just enough to discipline it”. At the exact same time, it’s light on detail. Duck fat need to be administered in “dollops”. Herbs can be found in handfuls. Outside of the baking area, there are no temperature levels. Ovens are simply hot or medium. Was Henderson presuming a certain confidence in his readers? “Yes and no,” he states. “It exists to assist and guide and not be a hindrance.”

Paul Kahan, now executive chef of The Publican in Chicago, has actually learnt more about and prepare with Henderson throughout the years. He easily confesses he opened that dining establishment due to the fact that of the book. “It’s hugely prominent on me,” he says. “It was an eye-opener for a young American cook.” Rory Welch, head chef of Träkol in Gateshead, which serves its own take on the St John pig’s head, concurs. “It was among the first cookbooks I bought. I try to keep it pristine. There’s no fuss. It’s just robust ingredients correctly cooked.” Lee Tiernan of Black Axe Mangal, who was when head chef of St John Bread and Wine, got his copy right at the start of his career. “It has plenty of excitement and possibility and wonder,” he states, just. Henderson acknowledges the influence on dining establishment cooks. “I remember taking a trip to Australia and chefs saying they will give up cooking, however then they read Nose to Tail and they were happily back in the cooking area.”

It’s time for me to prepare. From the front area I make a rugged salad of roasted red onions, chargrilled Jerusalem artichokes, olives and peppery leaves dressed with a pokey vinaigrette (proof, I believe, that this “sort of” British cooking, requires an understanding of French essentials). I fry fat-clad duck legs till browned, nestle them in a bed of carrots, onions and garlic and put over the very best chicken stock up until the legs appear like “alligators in an overload”. Two hours in the oven provides crisp-skinned duck and one of those broths whose depths you might look into for hours on end.

I ought to constantly have a container of this batter in the refrigerator for madeleine emergencies

Lastly, I celebrate a dessert I was served at St John which I regard as among the very best: a plate of golden, still-warm madeleines. “The dish was simply there and gladly worked and they simply kept coming,” Henderson tells me. I conclude I need to constantly have a container of this batter in the refrigerator for madeleine emergencies. That’s the important things about Nose to Tail Consuming; it’s a book within which you will constantly find something exceptionally reassuring.

Nose to Tail Eating: A kind of British Cooking by Fergus Henderson (Bloomsbury, ₤ 20) is readily available for ₤ 18.20 at guardianbookshop.com

News bites

Fantastic British Menu speaker and Kitchen Cabinet panellist Andi Oliver has actually likewise made her Wadadli Cooking area home-feasting boxes offered across the country. The menus, which draw on Oliver’s Antiguan heritage, come in both non-meat and meat versions for 2 people at ₤ 58 and for 4 at ₤ 98. The latter includes spiced orange and ginger chicken wings, golden tamarind chicken thighs, her famous curry goat, green slaw, pickles and sweet potato rotis, see wadadlikitchen.com.

And one more: the Excellent Egg, with a number of locations in London, is now providing its traditional Jewish brunch choices throughout the mainland UK. There are boxes with their Montreal-inspired bagels with salt beef and home pickles, or their pastrami trout, as well as the flaky delights of babka and brownies. At thegoodegg.slerp.com.

Email Jay at or follow him on Twitter
– This article was modified on 28 February 2021 to remove a News bite after essential info altered in between the time of reporting and publication.

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