Raymond Blanc’s latest series, How To Cook Well, seemed for us to be the promise of Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course, French-style. Ramsay takes you painstakingly through a variety of cooking techniques and tips, from how to sharpen knives to how to make brilliant breakfasts. Even though Blanc’s series is shorter (6 hours as opposed to about 10), it seems on the face of it to provide more than just a whistle-stop tour, going through widely-used but perhaps less fully-exploited techniques, including baking, poaching, roasting and slow-cooking.
There are many good things about this series (which is at the time of writing is just over halfway through, with all aired episodes available on iPlayer), not least the jovial Raymond himself, who frequently enlists the help of the long-suffering Adam. Always a delight to watch, he is highly reminiscent of cartoon chef Gusteau from Ratatouille, and it’s not just the accent: at any moment he can be expected to utter something that, in essence, reminds us of Gusteau’s catchphrase: “anyone can cook”. He is accessible and encouraging at all moments, whether he’s boiling an egg or making exquisite ravioli. Equally, the recipes are built up nicely throughout each episode, ranging largely from the very simple (“anyone can cook” indeed!) to the jaw-droppingly complicated (reminding us of the sheer scale of his talent). Every episode leaves viewers feeling like they want to make – and eat – what he has made, thanks to the refreshing use of the traditional techniques explored.
The one disappointment (possibly due to the length of the series) is perhaps that the individual techniques used (within the broader category of roasting, baking et cetera) are not fully explained – but for this, one supposes, purchase of Blanc’s books is necessary. The devil’s in the details, and so, it seems, is the money, but that’s usually the case with cookery programmes. In any event, the series comes highly recommended – and with episodes on frying and grilling still to come, he should have some French ideas that are perfect for a British summer.