Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Keith Floyd, author, flamboyant TV chef and bon viveur par excellence, died of a heart attack last night. I loved his style; the man even managed to die stylishly, having enjoyed a last meal of oysters and partridge with champagne. I had a Bristolian's affection for this honorary West Country man who opened his first restaurant in that town of my childhood. And what a "cook's cook" he was, rarely giving precise quantities, instructing you to "whack this in there" or "throw some of that in the pot", encouraging you to have the confidence to make your own judgements, as often as not with a full glass in his free hand as he did so.

A fitting tribute to Floydie on this blog, I feel, would be to write about some of my favourite Floyd recipes and so I shall do just that:

I think the first Floyd TV series I followed was Floyd on France and from the 1987 book of the series I was inspired to cook, for the first time, a chicken roasted with masses of garlic. I have tried many recipes for such a dish since, and many of them - their authors losing their nerve, it seemed to me - told you to count your garlic cloves and use 12, or at the most 20. Any experienced cook will realise that this is ridiculous, as the authors cannot possibly know how pungent the garlic is in your part of the world, or how big the cloves are. There's no such wimping out in Floyd's book, however, and you are instructed to use a kilo of the stuff. And it is to Floyd's recipe that I return again and again.

From Floyd on Italy [1994] I learnt to make tomato sauce and it is this recipe that forms the basis of my own to this day. In the introduction to this volume, Floyd writes:

"What is Italian food? Spaghetti bolognese, lasagne with coleslaw and deep-pan pizzas filled with culinary garbage? No. A thousand times no...... Whereas thinly rolled dough spread with chopped tomato and topped with anchovies and cheese and zapped into a wood-fired oven is heaven - you just don't need prawns and artichoke hearts, mushroom and chicken tikka pieces in a pastry shell and even if you do you can't call it a pizza. "

He goes on to describe what Italian food really is and I have yet to read a better description.

On a roll by then, I cheerfully cooked my way through Floyd on Spain [1992] and I hope I did it with a little duende. The Granada-Style Chicken, with bananas, sweet potatoes and carrots, is a revelation. Next [in the order in which I bought the books] came Far Flung Floyd [1993], about the food of South-East Asia and I remember tearfully cooking recipes from this book while my mother was ill. Cooking, you see, was the only "normal" thing I did during a period that turned my life upside-down. The Tamarind Chicken became a standby and I served it with rice to which I added slices of pineapple. When we think about key points in our lives, we often remember peripheral details such as what we smelt, tasted or cooked. It is no coincidence that the most important events of life, and death itself, are marked by feasts.

I came late to Floyd on Britain and Ireland [1988] and bought it mainly to read, rather than to cook from. This book is a tribute to those of my countrymen and women who, in Floyd's words,

"would rather put an extra half-hour of love into a casserole than a stock cube."

Here we have the essence of Floyd, for however much "whacking and throwing" he did, and even when he appeared to be slapdash, he cooked with love.

The last book in my Floyd collection is Floyd Around the Med [2000]. I never mastered the Provençal Omelette Cake but still cook the Chicken with Lemons and Raisins:

"1 free-range chicken. 'How heavy?' I hear you cry. Well, I don't know. If there are 2 - 4 of you, get a small one; more of you, get a great big one or two small ones!"

Cincin, Floydie. Thank you for the recipes. And keep stirring it up, wherever you are.
Keith Floyd, 28.12.43 - 14.9.09.


Mopsa said...

and wasn't he a hoot?

Trubes said...

That was a lovely and touching tribute to Keith Floyd Welshcakes, so beautifully written.
Interestingly, extracts from his memoirs are being published in the Daily Maily this week.
A jolly good and sometimes, hillarious, read too.
It may be in the on-line edition, should you wish to read it.

Hope you and Miss Simi are well.


James Higham said...

Yes, a sad day for gastronomes everywhere.

CherryPie said...

A lovely tribute, very fitting :-)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, indeed, Mopsa. Hello, Trubes. Thank you. I will look for the articles you mention online. We are fine, thanks. How are you and Chloe? Hi, James. He will be missed. Thank you, Cherie.

Trubes said...

Hi again Welshcakes, I am still struggling with RA but Miss Chloe is in the peak of health.
Looking forward to a holiday in La Mata in S.Spain soon.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

Thank you for your thoughts.

We raised "a little slurp" to Keith last night. He was the first of the TV chefs, and so much more likeable than many who came after him.

To this day, when something we cook turns out disgusting, we mime the action of throwing the plate out of shot and someone will make that stupid dog-yelping noise. Cue collapse of all stout parties.

May he rest in peace.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Trubes. Sorry you're struggling - I do empathise. Glad Chloe is fine. I'm sure you'll have a lovely holiday. Hello, Weekend Yachtsman and welcome. A "little slurp" is a fine tribute, that Floydie would have appreciate. Thanks for sharing your story here.

Apologies to you both for the late reply.


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