“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at one’s most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”Home Cooking. (1988) Laurie Colwin.

During the carnage of the French revolution, Madame Guillotine ensured that citizens of wealth and privilege parted company with their heads, and as a direct consequence, their brigades of chefs parted company with their weekly income. A combination of the lack of home cooking facilities in the cities, coupled with a profusion of unemployed chefs aimlessly wandering the boulevards of Paris, and the stage was set for the establishment of what we now, over 200 years later, call the restaurant ‘industry’. One Monsieur Boulanger reputedly opened the first ‘restaurant’, on what is now the Rue du Louvre, in the late eighteenth century. The word itself emanates from the French verb restaurer meaning to ‘restore or refresh’ and the sign hanging from his establishment read Boulanger débite des restaurants divins (Boulanger sells restoratives fit for the Gods). Household cooks were becoming kitchen chefs.

Some years ago I was fortunate to be introduced to the acclaimed New York restaurateur and author Anthony Bourdain. He was on a book tour that passed briefly through Norwich at about the same time as I too was about to open a restaurant. We adjourned for a beer. He signed a copy of his book, Kitchen Confidential. 2000, tried to dissuade me of my restaurant ambitions and left me with the epithet “Never forget Keith, if you run a restaurant, you’re principally in the entertainment business”. Later I opened the book to find his dedication – ‘Good Luck! (Don’t say I didn’t warn you)’ I did not heed his advice and although I oversaw the successful establishment of a Michelin Bib restaurant, once sold I vowed never to repeat the experience.

Now I know and respect that modern restaurant cooking offers a frisson of culinary excitement, often transcends the predictable and seeds gastronomic memories for years, but as Bourdain pointed out, its principal task is to entertain and impress rather than please.

Home cooking is a completely different line of work, it is principally led by taste rather than technique.

Beyond restaurants, yet with irritating symmetry, TV cooking offers a gladiatorial engagement between chefs keener to spend more time in a studio than a kitchen. With Nigella cast as the raven haired temptress in a late Victorian novel, Jamie redefining the post Napoleonic weights and measures act with his own personal brand of slurp, lug and dollop, and Gordon demonstrating the salt-sprayed language of the merchant navy, the media context serves to intimidate whilst purporting to entertain and inspire. As Joyce Molyneux observed some thirty years ago in her Carved Angel Cookery Book (1990) “…that people seem to watch cookery shows for entertainment rather than because there is any prospect they might try the same things at home”. Little has altered since. Many continue to disregard the pleasures of acceding to a true kitchen experience.

For me, rewarding meals occur in the home.

Some of the simplest processes of home cooking can provide the most exciting and complex flavours and our choice of dishes help tell us who we are. Nevertheless, home cooking has always relied on sound recipes.

After many years of cooking in our various family kitchens, I have moved a little closer to competency each time I approach the oven. But this gathering proficiency has far less to do with me than the myriad of accomplished cooks and food writers that I have had the good fortune to consult. I have avoided counting my own collection of recipe books for fear that any such disclosure to my family would likely result in months of admonishment, but suffice to say the bookshelves in my kitchen and office account for some ten horizontal metres of culinary illumination.

In the course of providing breakfast, lunch or dinner, with more than the occasional snack or sandwich thrown in, I have tested thousands of recipes to near destruction and eased my way through layer upon layer of culinary discovery.

The notes and recipes that follow provide a link to those generous authors and their exciting dishes, all now cherished within my own family. As the self-effacing French philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously put it; “I have gathered a posie of other men’s flowers and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own.”