Nostalgic Delights by William Curley makes you feel warm and cosy the moment you pick it up. The rich golden background of the cover photograph depicting Hazelnut Rochers immediately transports you to a happy place, a land where we do not have to worry about calories or waist size so long as we exercise moderation. It makes you want to order a vast list of ingredients before you have even opened the book to ensure you can make all the confectionary inside.
This is the third book by William Curley, and we are shown how with the correct patisserie equipment (now readily available) we can make restaurant-worthy confectionary, cakes and patisserie in our own homes. In addition to some 1980’s British favourites (and let’s admit it we did like them) such as Arctic Roll and Black Forest Gateau, he also incorporates some rather more elegant French classics such as Charlotte Royal and nostalgic twists on chocolate bars of our childhood, such as Toblerone and Walnut Whips.
The chances are if you are in 40+ like me that you may have eaten his creations without knowing it in some of the finest dining rooms of the 1990’s. I refer to Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire (one of my all-time favourites), Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons (beautiful but a bit too delicate for my tastes) and MPW at the Oak Room (I preferred Harveys). Since 2004 William has been working for himself with a boutique in Richmond followed by a dessert bar. By 2011 his creations were in such demand he opened a concession within Harrods and has been decorated with too many awards to mention.
But what of the book. Is it as straight forward as the publishers claim to make the delights within? Lets be clear and say that initially it appears that this is not a book for casual cooks. Exactness and a degree of patience and determination are required for a number of the dishes. Tempered chocolate features heavily at first which is not hard but does take a certain amount of accuracy to get right. As a side note, I actually worked in a chocolate factory once and managed to spill 6 tonnes of the stuff. I was pleased that I did not have to clean it up!
Pastry is about being delicate and as mentioned above ensuring your are exact and can make your creations look elegant. These are all very doable and to be honest you will be hard pressed to resist having a go. Everything looks amazing, it is so hard to pick individual favourites out but the Jaffa Cake Tarts are very appealing is the Praline Viennetta. The recipes get a lot easier when it comes to afternoon treats and Williams way of presenting them is just mouth watering. Chocolate hobnobs, cookies, Viennese whirls and the like are all present before he gets into the Petit Fours which look so elegant and perfect. Cherry drops, Allumettes, Rocher Noix de Coco and my favourite, Whisky Tablet.
This is certainly a book for your collections. Very well presented, with stunning photography by Kevin Summers it is one you will come back to time and time again. It is what I refer to as a Sunday afternoon cook book, one that you can take your time over in a relaxed manner and focus on creating something rather magical.