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  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.
More Floydie memories here.