To those of you who are not familiar with Paul Gayler, let me introduce you&.. In the mid eighties British Chef Paul Gayler was what can only be termed as a hot chef. As chef director of Indigo Jones restaurant he developed a visual style of cooking that was strongly influenced by seasonal vegetables. When the life of the restaurant drew to a close Gayler was recruited to coordinate the opening of The Lanesborough Hotel (A Rosewood Hotel). From the day the hotel's doors opened it has maintained its reputation as one of London's finest luxury hotels. Thus Gayler has managed to do what so many chefs have not, transcend from a hot restaurant chef to a highly respected professional culinary hotel chef.
Based on his reputation it is not a surprise to find "A Passion For Vegetables" a great looking cook book. It is photographically driven, the pictures are artistic but still leave you with a clear inspiring impression of the finished product. The recipes are quite short, as are the methods. These shorter recipes like the Corn Bisque with Cheese and Smoked Bacon equate to being home cook friendly, (easier on the shopping basket and no real need to smuggle products out of the work place). However when put to the test in the big kitchen the Fava Beans and Salsify with Garlic Cream, worked really well when used as a garnish with herb roasted guinea hen.
It is important to note that this is not a vegetarian cook book. Some of the dishes involve meat products, most of which could be excluded with the exception of the bacon in the Corn Bisque (far too tasty to side line). The book is divided out into five chapters - soups, salads, main courses (entrees), side dishes and desserts. Each chapter starts with an introduction, giving an overview of the vegetables used and Gayler's personal thoughts on how to use them. The products are really varied ranging from the humble Brussel sprout to the slightly more exotic choi sum (Chinese flowering cabbage). The cooking styles are as varied as the origin's of the products used, with an abundance of spices to boot. The book wraps up with a vegetable based run at desserts, which yields some interesting results - Fennel and Caramelized Banana Stacks, Wicked Beet and Walnut Brownies and one of the most handsome is the Swiss Chard and Pear Tart. In this French style dessert (originating from Nice), Gayler replaces the original apples with his favored pears.
On the downside, I found the that some of Gayler's suggestions did not make sense, for example - "Leeks or spinach would be suitable to substitute for the corn in the corn bisque". What he does not mention is that if you do this, then the method will not be the same. A chef would realize that this were the case, but the average home cook would probably go ahead and boil the spinach for fifteen minutes as this is the direction given when using corn.
To summarize, a great looking, innovative book with incredibly varied dishes incorporating a multitude of flavors and techniques. What you do with it is only limited by your imagination. A great addition to the book shelf, but it should not gather too much dust!