Chris Badenoch’s cookbook “The Entire Beast” is built around his passion for nose-to-tail eating and beer. Most of his recipes are European, but there are a couple of excursions into Chinese and Mexican food. While there is plenty to keep fans of nose to tail eating happy, there are enough other recipes to keep non-offal fans interested. His passion for beer is reflected in both his preference for using beer instead of wine in his recipes, and his beer recommendations for each dish. For those who don’t know very much about beer, he provides a glossary at the end. Badenoch’s passion, whilst sometimes going over the top, encourages readers to follow his cooking and drinking philosophy. Even without this enthusiasm, the recipes are still very tempting. For a first book, this is a very good effort.
Structure of the book
The book begins with an introduction by Badenoch and a few pages discussing beer. This is then followed by the eight chapters containing recipes: Pig, Cow, Sheep, Fowl, Miscellaneous Animals, Charcuterie and Salumi, Dessert, and Accompaniments and Basics. Some of these chapters are further divided into subsections (e.g. the pig chapter is divided into subsections about the head, belly, leg, and tail). The book finishes with a beer glossary, food glossary, acknowledgements, index, and bibliography.
The chapter subsections begin with Badenoch writing a few words about the part of the animal featured in that subsection. Each recipe has the ingredients listed at the top the page. In the middle of the page is the recipe name and underneath it Badenoch makes a few comments about the dish. The method is then presented, while the outside margin lists a few beers that should match well with the food.
About the author
Chris Badenoch found fame as a contestant in the Australian version of MasterChef (2009). He subsequently opened a Melbourne restaurant “Josie Bones”. This is his first book.
How is this book interesting/special/new/useful?
Fergus Henderson’s “Nose To Tail Eating” and Anissa Helou’s “The Fifth Quarter” are two of the few books in recent years where offal is the main attraction, so Badenoch’s “The Entire Beast” is a welcome addition to this area of cooking.
The vast majority of recipes in the book involve offal, and to hammer the point home, the first recipe in the book is for a roasted half pig’s head. If you’re excited by that start then you’re likely to be very keen on recipes like the smoked deep-fried bone marrow, the grilled peppered lamb’s heart, and PX chicken liver paté, but for readers who aren’t in love with offal, recipes like the stuffed roast rack of lamb and roast chicken give them something to cook as well.
As someone who is still finding his feet as a professional chef, it’s not surprising to see Badenoch taking his cue from other chefs, so you’ll find recipes that have been “inspired” by Fergus Henderson (crispy pig’s ear salad), Adam D’Sylva (bone marrow spring roll), and a local café (pressed tongue salad). The photograph of his pigeon with pumpkin puree and cherries shows a dish that would not be out of place in a high end restaurant. However, Badenoch points out that he has cooked these recipes at home and that any dedicated home cook should be able to do them.
Despite all these offal recipes, it will surprise many that some of the most eye-opening recipes are in the dessert section. All bar one of the twelve desserts have beer as an ingredient. His “beeramisu” is a dish that many will want to try (and it is one of the rare instances where Badenoch explains how the beer interacts with the other flavours in the dish) while his chocolate cigars with passionfruit curd, vanilla ice cream and raspberries would impress at any dinner party.
His beer glossary provides very good background information for thirty different types of beer. He offers brief notes about the history and flavour profile of the beers. Apart from beer experts, it would be hard to find someone who couldn’t learn something new about beer from this section.
The photography by Adrian Lander in the book is outstanding. People who normally would turn away from the prospect of eating offal would be hard pressed to deny that a dish like the pressed crumbed trotters doesn’t look tempting. There is also a welcome humour to some of the photographs, like the $1.32 price tag emphasising the thriftiness of the braised lamb neck, and the aforementioned chocolate cigars sitting on a book while its accompaniments, the ice cream and raspberries, rest in an ashtray. To my mind, the photographs do more to convince the reader to cook the recipes than Badenoch’s words.
What problems/flaws are there?
While Badenoch is passionate about beer and offal, his attempts to pass on that enthusiasm exposes his limitations as a writer. With almost every dish being described as amazing, incredible, brilliant, and so on, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and his excitement becomes irritating rather than inspiring. Badenoch needed someone with writing experience who could have asked him the right questions to extract more information about the recipes and beer and then translate those thoughts in a way that helps the reader’s understanding of what he is trying to achieve.
Badenoch writes that people should learn to properly match beer with food but he manages to omit explanations of why the beers he recommends match well with his dishes. Similarly, apart from a couple of instances he doesn’t say how and why using beer instead of wine changes the nature of a dish. If you are trying to persuade people to change their habits you need to provide a reason for them to do so. His failure to do these things means that he falls short of his aim of putting beer onto the same level as wine.
Finally, there is the minor irritation of having sub-chapters with only one or two recipes in them. The sub-chapter on pig tails only has two recipes, and the one on lamb leg has just one (a stock-standard roast leg of lamb).
Who might enjoy/use this book most?
The fans Badenoch picked up on Masterchef, beer lovers, and those who enjoy offal will find this a very enjoyable book. I also think that people with a sweet tooth will be very pleasantly surprised by the dessert recipes this book offers. My criticisms of the book would indicate a score of 3 stars, but there are so many recipes here that I want to cook that I do think it is a 4 star book
|: 4. Recommended – good
: If the person is really interested
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