Spanish chef Ferran Adria has turned his attention from molecular gastronomy to healthy home meals. Photo: AFP
Any eager foodie who wanted to cook like the great Spanish chef Ferran Adria would once have needed a freeze-dryer, liquid-nitrogen tank and candyfloss machine, among other devices.
Not any more. The man who invented culinary foam and spherification, earning him the - unwanted - title of the ''godfather of molecular gastronomy'', is now bestowing his know-how with ordinary, everyday food. The millions of food fans who never got a chance to eat at his El Bulli restaurant, which shut its doors at the end of July, can now read about pasta bolognese, roast chicken and coconut flan.
The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria is the distillation of three years' home cooking at El Bulli, the restaurant on Spain's Costa Brava voted the best in the world by Restaurant magazine a record five times.
The book is based on the nightly ''family meal'', when the restaurant's 75 staff, from Adria down, would sit together between 6.30pm and 7pm and eat a three-course meal. It's also a joint effort with Eugeni de Diego, a head chef responsible for the restaurant's nightly family meal.
''I'd never seen anybody talk about what kitchen staff actually eat,'' Adria tells Good Living during the closing-night family meal at the restaurant. ''In most kitchens you don't find people at my level eating in their own kitchens with their kitchen staff.
''But this is what I do every day. This is what I eat every day. These aren't recipes with incredible tricks or complex methods. Day to day, we at El Bulli like to eat the same things as everyone else.''
It's a refreshingly prosaic approach to food from a man such as Adria, credited with pioneering the greatest food revolution since French nouvelle cuisine.
The book is not just a collection of recipes but also an instruction manual on how an ordinary person, busy with work and family, can run a good home kitchen, making great meals every night of the week.
There are 93 recipes organised into 31 meals of three courses. The basic rules are that each meal is healthy and balanced and must cost less than €4 ($5.40) a head.
''The aim … was to question why people don't cook at home,'' Adria says. ''It can't be about the cost. Today's menu will cost a maximum of €3.50 per person … the price of a really bad sandwich in a bar.''
One El Bulli chef made all 31 menus over 31 days. If he couldn't get all of the ingredients easily at a market or supermarket, the recipe was rejected. Wherever possible, a substitute is listed.
The recipes are given for two, six, 20 or 75 people. There are photographs to explain every step.
Take meal No.23. It's tagliatelle carbonara, followed by cod and green pepper sandwich and, for dessert, almond soup with ice-cream. Or meal No.31: Waldorf salad, noodle soup with mussels, then melon and mint soup with pink grapefruit.
On the night we visited, the family meal was noodles with shiitake and ginger, followed by chicken wings with mushrooms then fruit for dessert. The noodles are slightly oversalted and Adria acknowledges there have been ''some mistakes'' that night but excuses his staff on the grounds they are frantically busy ahead of the final opening night.
El Bulli's kitchen is run with a kind of military precision.
This, Adria says, is the most important thing home cooks can learn: how to prepare and organise a kitchen.
''The main difference between cooking at home and cooking professionally is the level of advance preparation,'' he says. ''The most important thing about this book is not the recipes. The most important thing is … our knowledge and experience of organisation in the kitchen and how people can use that in their home kitchens.''
For example, the book recommends preparing large batches of basic ingredients such as stocks and sauces, dividing them into convenient portions and freezing them.
It also includes advice on shopping. Adria has no objection to online shopping from supermarkets. But when it comes to fish his tip is ''get to know your fishmonger'', because it's best to have personal advice on the right type of fish for a given meal.
There are also basic tips such as the principles of cooking meat, how to fry chips and how to cook eggs. The book stresses the need for a well-stocked basic pantry and correct utensils.
You won't be making spherified olives or parmesan ice-cream, but you will, Adria says, be able to crank out great food every night of the week.
The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria, published by Phaidon Press, $39.95.
½ garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil, drained
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp plus
1 tsp sunflower oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
20g parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 small head Romaine lettuce
3 slices white country-style loaf
500ml extra virgin olive oil
Put the garlic, anchovies and egg yolk into a tall glass or beaker. Process with a hand-held blender until smooth. Very gradually pour in the sunflower oil while blending to make a smooth, thickened sauce that looks similar to mayonnaise. Blend in the vinegar. Stir in 20g grated parmesan. Chop the lettuce into four-centimetre pieces. Put lettuce into a large mixing bowl, add the Caesar dressing and toss well to coat the leaves. Pile the salad onto a serving dish. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Scatter with croutons and serve.
Mild olive oil can be used instead of sunflower oil, and cos and iceberg lettuce can be used instead of Romaine. The secret of a good Caesar salad is to use good ingredients and to dress the salad at the last minute.
20g parmesan, finely grated
Cut the bread into 1.5-centimetre squares. Put a deep pan over a medium heat, add oil. When hot, fry the cubes in batches for six to eight minutes until golden brown and crisp. Lift out of the oil with a slotted spoon. Transfer onto kitchen paper and drain.
If you prefer to toast the croutons preheat oven to 170C. Spread croutons out over a baking tray and bake for eight to 10 minutes.
Serve warm or cold. Makes 100 grams