When I purchased this cookbook in 1984, it simply blew me away. I had never seen cuisine like it: iced tomato bisque with avocado and basil sorbet; beef carpaccio with rock salt and oysters; smoked salmon and leek nest with soft-boiled quails' eggs and smoked cod roe sauce. Remember, this is 26 years ago. I was cooking in restaurants then, and I borrowed heavily from this book.
The author is British celebrity chef Antony Worrall-Thompson, whose 1981 restaurant Ménage à Trois (in Knightsbridge) was notable for being arguably the first small-plates eatery of modern times (notwithstanding tapas joints): It served only starters and puddings. This book leaves out the puddings but contains 65 recipes for small, savory plates of food. Photographs are lush, and recipes are fairly straightforward.
The two recipes I used most: a quilted mosaic of salmon and sole with nettle and sorrel sauce, as well as the recipe I'll share with you tomorrow, in which a small frying pan gets lined with layers of phyllo dough; after baking it, you've got a phyllo-dough pan with a handle that you can fill with various comestibles for a unique presentation (in this case, it gets stuffed with wild mushrooms and vegetables).
Worrall-Thompson, godson of Richard Burton, is something of a mad genius when it comes to gastronomy. As with any mad genius, he has had his share of controversies. Such as the time in 2008 when, in an article for Healthy and Organic Living magazine, he recommended the poisonous plant henbane as a "tasty additon to salads." The magazine had to send subscribers an urgent message stating the toxic nature of the plant and telling them it should never be eaten. Thompson issued this statement: "I was thinking of a wild plant with a similar name, fat hen, not this herb. It's a bit embarrassing, but there have been no reports of any casualties. Please do pass on my apologies."
His recipe for a Snickers pie was nominated by a health watchdog group as one of the most unhealthful desserts ever. It consisted of five Snickers bars, puff pastry, mascarpone, soft cheese, sugar, and eggs and was estimated to contain 1,250 calories per slice.
In between controversies, Worrall-Thompson owned and operated quite a few successful restaurants in London.
Tomorrow: How to make a phyllo frying pan.
The Elegant Chef's Guide to Hors D'oeuvres and Appetizers
Photographs by Bryce Attwell
Published by Chartwell Books, Inc.
eBay has a used copy in "good condition" for $12.