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Sunday, 6 May 2012

Len's lasagne lesson

Len talks pasta
When I last chatted with Len, he indicated that he was still writing everyday. While the hope remains that he'll re-discover the spark and turn that writing energy into a new thriller - perhaps Bernard and Fiona's life post-Wall - when any new writing by Len does appear it is often in small, self-contained projects that pique his interest.

One such project is a new limited edition book by Baseline Magazine, a company and website devoted to design, and in particular type design. In What's cooking? Famous designers on food, the publishers have invited over 40 of the world's leading designers and type creators to talk about how food influences their approach to design. As it says in the introduction by the magazine's Veronika Reichart, in the case of Len Deighton: "he taught spectacle-wearing Michael Caine to cook in the Ipcress File movie. Is there more to be learned about food than meets the eye? Len will give us a cooking lesson."

That lesson is about the perfect lasagne. Going back to his roots in the fifties and sixties as one of the UK's top young graphic designers, Len illustrates his missive on pasta with new illustrations which follow the classic designs from his famous Action Cook Book, which also featured in Ipcress File

According to Len, for the best lasagne:
"Steam is the most important desirable constituent. In the case of lasagne I was made aware of this in the winter of 1977 when despite the cold weather I tried to avoid having a pasta course in my dinner at Sabatini, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Florence. Sabatini's head waiter claimed that the lasagne on the menu was a light dish. Since avoiding a pasta course in Italy is a capital offence I yielded. He was correct and it transformed my life; or at least it improved my cooking. The head waiter explained how cooked lasagne sheets arranged in wavy layers traps air, makes steam and thus makes a heavy dish into a light one."
Details from Len's cook strip design showing
how to make the perfect lasagne
Len goes on to provide a recipe that ensures your next lasagne will be light as a feather. It's an interesting chapter, a mixture of writing and design, and harks back to his earlier books on food and cooking.

Also included in the book is an entry from Len's friend - and designer of the recently re-released books from Harper Collin - Arnold Schwartzman. He talk about the memories linking ice cream and the cinema, and provides a recipe for the perfect ice cream.

The book retails at £15, and is available from the Baseline website.

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