By Ferran Adria
Phaidon Press, $29.95, 383 pages

When the iconic El Bulli restaurant closed, the culinary dreams of many food lovers were dashed. Although they can’t fully be rekindled through a cookbook, The Family Meal, by Ferran Adrià (chef at El Bulli), provides an experience more personal because the home chef can actually replicate the dishes of a master chef. “Family meal” refers to the three course meal often served to the staff at restaurants before they open for the dinner service. Adrià follows this format in the book by presenting 31 menus, each with three courses. Prior to the menus there are lists of frequently used ingredients and recipes for basic sauces and stocks. At the end is a glossary and an index of ingredients and recipes. Each menu is preceded by a shopping list (including substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients) and a helpful organizer for preparing the meal. A unique and highly useful tool is Adrià’s scaling recipes for 2, 6, 20, or 75 diners – success can be achieved whether cooking for two or for a family reunion.

The precise instructions combined with gorgeous step-by-step photos make this a cookbook that chefs of all skill levels will enjoy. For those already familiar with the basics there are still numerous innovative ideas (toasting saffron?!) and unusual food combinations (salmon stewed with lentils, watermelon marinated in lemon syrup) to keep their interest. The only “oddity” that stuck out was Adrià’s repeated use of canned vegetables (peas and corn) as opposed to fresh or frozen. This is out of sync with the fresh feel of the recipes. Beyond that, this is a book that will delight and inspire home chefs.


Reviewed by Catherine Gilmore,