French pastry chef, Eric Lanlard
There are, feels Eric Lanlard, encouraging signs in the UK when it comes to food. And, seeing how Eric is: a) a hugely experienced patissier; and b) a Frenchman, he knows what he’s talking about.
While some people are inevitably watching the TV cookery shows and buying the books and never venturing near the kitchen, things are improving.
“People are definitely more aware of good food and good ingredients,” he explains over coffee at his lovely Wandsworth café, Cake Boy. “The interest is definitely there. I was doing demos for the Jubilee and all the kids and teenagers were asking questions about baking!
“Food is getting better in this country and you can find good ingredients everywhere. And,” he adds, with a sense of satisfaction, “baking has been top of the agenda for the last three or four years.”
It certainly has, thanks to shows such as The Great British Bake-Off and Eric’s own show Baking Mad. The success of that has spread to the best-seller lists and this month sees the publication of Eric’s fourth book, Tart It Up! You can probably guess what sort of food it covers but, as a small departure, it’s the first of Eric’s books to feature savoury recipes.
“We’ve always done savoury things here at Cake Boy,” explains Eric, “and you do savoury tarts and pies and things like that as part of your training as a pastry chef. Over the last year, we’ve been asked more and more for savoury recipes.”
And what recipes they are. It’s impossible to get through the book without your mouth watering, there’s a great focus on British ingredients – “it’s what I have access to” – at least one recipe that will defy established convention – “real men will eat quiche if it’s a good one!” – and a lot of support for local markets and small suppliers. “If you start with good ingredients, you have less to do,” explains Eric. It also suits Eric well: as he admits with a laugh “I’ve never had a sweet tooth!”
That fact is made all the more remarkable when Eric reveals that he knew he wanted to be a pastry chef from a very young age.
“I have no explanation,” he says. “There was nobody in my family in the industry, but apparently I was five or six when I said ‘I’m going to be a pastry chef.
“We used to go every Sunday to the patisserie – on Saturday in France you make cakes, on Sunday you buy them – and it wasn’t just making the cake, I loved the whole concept. When I was 10 I knew what my shop would look like, the cakes, the decoration, the shop, the boxes, the packaging!
“But I was too ambitious as a kid,” he admits. “Other kids would be making Rice Crispy cakes, I wanted to make éclairs...” Eric smiles. “There were a lot of disasters.”
That’s certainly not the case now, and the book, as well as providing great inspiration and recipes, covers the basics of pastry making in good clear style.
“I’m very proud of this one. I think the books are getting better, and the team is so good. The main thing is to keep it accessible. You don’t want to scare the readers. I try to show you don’t have to have thousands of pounds of equipment. Everybody’s got flour, sugar. You can get baking powder easily. You don’t need specialist ingredients. All the recipes are tested, in a normal oven. And we have a lot of pictures and clear instructions. And,” he adds with a grin, “calories. There are a lot of calories...”
Tart It Up is published by Mitchell Beazley on 18th June 2012 priced £18.99. Buy this book at a discount from Saga Bookshop.