Happy Cooking by Candice Brown

Candice Brown Happy Cooking

What’s the USP? The blurb describes Happy Cooking as a cookbook filled with recipes to make you smile! Which sounds incredibly twee, and a little bit exhausting – which is a huge shame, because if you venture even so far as the introduction you’ll quickly discover that Happy Cooking is a little more than that. From comforting treats to dishes that will keep an anxious mind occupied, the book is actually a much more mindful approach to mental health and cooking.

Who wrote it? Candice Brown, who some might recognise as the winner of series seven of The Great British Bake Off. Brown has been busy since her win, opening up a pub in Bedfordshire and, like so many of us, living with a number of mental health problems. In a candid opening, Brown talks about her depression, PTSD, chronic phobia and recently diagnosed ADHD.

Happy Cooking, then, is her attempt to broach these subjects whilst acknowledging the role food has in helping us face up to, or simply cope with, our own mental health. No ‘guilty food chats, no rules and no judgement’.

Is it good bedtime reading? Perhaps not as much as you’d expect. Brown doesn’t lean in particularly hard to the theme, beyond short introductions to each chapter. Often the intros to the recipes themselves don’t refer to mental health at all, and would sit just as happily in any other cookbook. This could have been an annoyance but, in all honesty, is actually quite welcome. Mental health – and depression in particular – is such an amorphous and individualistic beast that any attempt to provide confident and universal answers will always come across as misjudged and ill-informed. Better, then, to keep it to personal experiences, and broad ideas that are easy to identify with.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not at all – this is straight-forward cooking with very few of the dishes coming from any further afield than western Europe. Sriracha is about as exotic as this book gets, and supermarkets don’t even bother sitting that in their international food sections anymore. You’ll find sriracha with the other condiments now. Heinz does a version. Heinz!

What’s the faff factor? How much faff do you want? Brown has smartly recognised the different ways we approach cooking when struggling with our mental health. There are times when you need rich and comforting food quickly, but simply do not have the energy for anything complex – the Fancy Eggs that open Brown’s initial ‘Quick Pick-Me-Ups’ chapter look delicious, and will readily sate this desire.

At other times, the troubled mind relishes the escapism of cooking, and getting lost in more hands-on and prescriptive tasks like an elaborate recipe can help to fill that space. The ‘Keep-Your-Hands-Busy Cooking’ chapter, as well as confirming Brown’s fondness for the hyphen, is filled with these, from Bacon, Cheese and Chive Croquettes to Apricot and Amaretto Pastel de Nata.

How often will I cook from the book? There are lots of recipes here, though the nature of the chapter on nostalgic foods means that many dishes are very familiar. Brown offers nothing new in her recipes for various roast meats or ‘proper’ fish and chips. But those looking for recognisable flavours and simple, cosy meals will no doubt be able to dig something up regularly.

Killer recipes: Pork Meatballs with Creamy Mustard Broccoli and Orzo, Kedgeree Hash Browns, Apple and Pear Sweet ‘Dauphinoise’

Should I buy it? A lovely premise for a cookbook is let down a little by the underwhelming range of dishes on offer – though a few gems do shine through. The question is, who will enjoy this best? Fans of the Great British Bake Off will certainly discover a few recipes to quench their thirst, and those trying to understand how best to cook around their own mental health needs may draw a few scant ideas. Ultimately, this feels a little like a missed opportunity.

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Happy Cooking: Easy uplifting meals and comforting treats
£22, Ebury Press

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

The Female Chef by Clare Finney and Liz Seabrook

The Female Chef

What’s the USP? Interviews with and recipes from 31 leading British chefs/cooks (despite the book’s title, there is much debate in the introduction and the interviews about which is the correct/preferred title) including Angela Hartnett, Thomasina Miers, Andi Oliver, Gizzi Erskine, Ravinder Bhogal, Olia Hercules and er, Elizabeth Haig (click here to catch up on the controversy that has recently sprung up around Haig).

Who wrote it? Food writer Clare Finney won Food Writer of the Year in Fortnum and Mason’s Food and Drink Awards in 2019. She contributes to a wide variety of national publications. This is her first book. Liz Seabrook is a portrait and lifestyle photographer.

Is it good bedtime reading? Finney ponders the question Cooks or Chefs? in her  introductory essay, a question more fraught than you might imagine. Finney says that the words ‘cook’ and ‘chef’ are ‘inherently gendered’ and that ‘several women in this book have chosen to reject the label ‘chef”. However, she also explains that ‘the question ‘Do you consider yourself a chef or a cook?’ continued to prompt an extraordinary array of discussions’. I don’t have room to detail the various viewpoints here but the 30 short interviews (Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn of the now closed Hang Fire Southern Kitchen in Barry are interviewed together) are well worth reading to discover them for yourself.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The first recipe in the book is Anna Jones’ Dhal with Crispy Sweet Potato and Quick Coconut Chutney.  Ingredients include ‘2 sweet potatoes’ no size or weight indicated, ‘olive oil for drizzling’,  ‘vegetable or coconut oil for frying’ a ‘thumb-sized piece of ginger’ (my wife’s thumb is roughly half the size of mine) ‘bunch of fresh coriander’ (according to my local Asda, a bunch is either a 30g bag or a ‘growers selection’ which is about three times the size and would be enough coriander for a week’s worth of recipes). There are plenty of other recipes in the book with similarly vague ingredients lists, although with 30 different contributors (Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni restaurant in London has failed to cough up a recipe for some reason) the accuracy waxes and wanes as you might expect as the recipe writing style varies.

You may say at this point, well, can’t you just use your common sense you annoying (male) pedant. To which I would respond, have a look at these recipes for Pasta Salad by professional chef, baker and YouTuber Brian Lagerstorm which include gram weights for every ingredient including the water and salt to boil the pasta in and all the vegetables (he does specify ‘a splash of olive oil’ to dress the cooked pasta with directly after cooking but I’m going to let him off that one minor detail as it is an instinctive part of the process).  They are just very well developed and written recipes that anyone could follow. Cookery books are manuals and should have the appropriate level of detail. If you bought a woodwork book and it said ‘drill a hole in some bits of wood and screw them together’ you’d quite rightly be pissed off that it didn’t specify the type of wood, size of the hole and the type of screw (that’s a very male example isn’t it. Or is it?).  Recipes are really not that different. Although if you’re cooking up screws and bits of wood I  don’t want to eat at your house.

Will I have difficulty finding the ingredients? With dozens of contributors, all with their own unique styles, the book covers a lot of culinary ground, so it’s not surprising that one or two more difficult to track down ingredients appear in the recipes. Erchen Chang of BAO restaurant in London uses doubangjiang (fermented broad bean paste) for her Braised Pork Gua Bao that’s available in Chinese supermarkets or online at Sous Chef, and Pamela Brunton of Inver in West Scotland pairs Gigha Halibut (which, unless you have a top class fishmonger nearby, you can order from the Fish Society) with coastal greens such as sea blite and sand wort (again, the Fish Society has something similar). Good luck finding tasso ham for Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn’s Shrimp and Tasso File Gumbo though, you might have to make your own.

How often will I cook from the book? There are some recipes, like Angela Hartnett’s Anolini that requires chuck beef, veal rump, Italian sausage, beef brisket, smoked bacon, Toulouse sausage, a free range chicken and much else besides that might be once a year or even once in a lifetime cooks. However, there are plenty of everyday dishes like Skye Gyngell’s Leek, Potato and Parsley Soup and Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s Sundried Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Quiche that make this a genuinely useful book to have on your shelf.

Killer recipes: Wadadli spiced roast chicken and coconut gravy; beef kofta; apricot tarte tatin; braised squid, parsley and potatoes; Thai noodle soup; Tahini and preserved lemon cookies; fish curry and pumpkin maize meal.

Should I buy it? Eight of the 29 recipes (as mentioned above, Ravinder Bhogal hasn’t contributed a recipe and Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn contribute one between them) have already been published elsewhere so if you already have a large cookbook collection it might be worth checking how many of the recipes you already own if that is your main reason for buying the book.

Finney’s prose can at times tend towards the overheated (for example, of Thomasina Meirs’ Wahaca Mexican restaurant group, she claims that ‘it’s impossible to overstate the impact the chain has had on our culinary landscape’. Um, OK) but she has succeeded in identifying a group of genuinely interesting talents, some of which may be new names to readers or at least under-reported, which makes this a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in the modern British restaurant scene.

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
The Female Chef: 30 women redefining the British food scene
£28, Hoxton Mini Press

At Home by Rick Stein

Rick Stein at Home
What’s the USP? Lovably grumpy old German sausage Rick Stein returns with his ‘what I did in lockdown’ opus. Prevented from his usual globetrotting tendancies by the worldwide lurgy, Rick regals us with ‘recipes, memories and stories from a food lover’s kitchen’.

Who wrote it? After more then a quarter of a century years on British TV screens and getting on for 50 years (!) of running his world famous The Seafood restaurant in Padstow Cornwall, Stein is something of a British national treasure. He’s written numerous cookbooks (many of them with an accompanying TV series) about his world travels that include France, Spain, India, the Med, the Far East, and Mexico.

Is it good bedtime reading? The clue is in the ‘memories and stories’ part of the subtitle. If you’ve seen Rick on the telly, you’ll know he loves an anecdote and to generally bang on about stuff and he’s in his element in this book. He pontificates about the joys of cooking in lockdown in the book’s main introduction (a subject we can only pray will soon be purely historical in nature) and provides substantial  introductions to each of seven chapters which cover bar snacks, first courses, fish and shellfish (of course; Stein is still the English culinary Poseidon), poultry, meat, vegetarian and desserts and drinks.

In addition, there are short, chatty essays on the subject of sourdough, gadgets, the art of stocking making, low calorie cooking for a quiet night in, Christmas, avoiding food waste (Stein is somewhat obsessive about this subject and keen to use ‘wrinkly shrivelled mushrooms, yoghurt that’s so out of date it nearly catching up with itself next year, little blocks of rock hard cheese, garlic clovres and ginger almost dried out, excessively bendy carrots, squishy tomatoes and red peppers’ and even dumps chopped up left over pizza into his nasi goreng), recipes that helped him get through lockdown, recipe testing, store cupboard ingredients, foraging and preserving.  With most of the 100 recipes coming with substantial introductions, this could serve as your cookbook at bedtime for at least a week.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The very first recipe in the book, feta and spainach filo ‘cigars’, calls for a ‘big pinch’ of chilli flakes. Elsewhere, there’s a ‘small handful’ and ‘handful’ of coriander and a ‘good handful’ of parsely (what might be the exact differences I wonder?). More annoyingly, the recipe for slow-cooked pork carnitas tacos needs a ‘handful’ of radishes, yet Rick is able to weigh out 150g of pitted green olives to go into his beef and pork meatballs with a spicy tomato sauce. Generally speaking however, ingredient list and methods are well written and detailed enough so that you shouldn’t  have trouble following the recipes, especially  if you are a confident cook.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Although Stein draws inspiration from around the globe, the vast majority of ingredients will be stocked by large supermarkets. Exceptions may include Arbroath smokies, oysters, scallops, gurnard, grey mullet, sea bream, John Dory, red mullet, espelette pepper, Chinese salted black beans, pandan leaf, goose, sea buckthorn berries and sloes.

How often will I cook from the book? As indicated by the chapters listed above and Stein’s well known freewheeling global cooking style, there is a lot of variety to the recipes and you will find something appropriate for any day of the week and pretty much any occasion, from an easy mid-week meal of chicken and prawn stir fry to a roast goose with sage and onion stuffing and apple sauce fit for Chritmas Day.

Killer recipes: Deep fried coconut prawns; stir fried salt and pepper squid with red chilli and spring onion; hot smoked salmon kedgeree; tarka dal, chicken fricassee with morels; crisp Chinese roast pork; apple tarte tatin and much else besides.

Should I buy it? If you are an avid Stein cookbook collector you may recognise a few of these recipes, but apprently every one has been re-cooked and slightly tweaked so don’t let that put you off. If you are new to Stein, this is a great place to start with a wide ranging collection of accessible and delicous recipes that you will want to cook again and again.

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Rick Stein at Home: Recipes, Memories and Stories from a Food Lover’s Kitchen
£26, BBC Books

An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy

An A-Z of Pasta Rachel Roddy
What’s the USP? A very satisfying premise indeed, and more or less what it says on the box: An A-Z of Pasta takes readers through the pasta world via an alphabetical exploration of pasta shapes.

Not all pasta shapes, though – depending on who you speak to, there are anywhere between 350 and 600 varieties out there, and that’s a bit much even those of us who can shovel away pasta like our bodies have mistaken gluten for oxygen. So instead we have an A-Z of (50 shapes of) Pasta, and that’ll do for now.

Who wrote it? Rachel Roddy, who is fast making her name as one of the finer food writers out there. Roddy moved to Rome in 2005 and has been writing about her experiences with food ever since – from blogs to Guardian columns to cookbooks. Five Quarters, her first book, won a couple of awards. She could well be on track for some more with this, her third.

Is it good bedtime reading? Here’s the thing: An A-Z of Pasta is more or less the perfect cookbook. I’m going to get that out of the way now so that we can just sit back and enjoy the rest of this review without anybody stressing about anything. It’s a bloody brilliant book filled with bloody brilliant recipes and it makes for such good bedtime reading I’m half tempted to put up a food-writing shelf in my bedroom specifically for those times when I’m sleepy and I want to think about tomorrow’s dinner. Besides Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus and perhaps Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat I cannot think of a cookbook that reads more satisfyingly than this.

Roddy’s smartest trick here has been fitting a narrative around the pasta shapes she describes. Whilst the alphabetised form of the book allows for readers to readily dip in and out, to find the recipes they want for the shapes they desire, the reward for those who start at the beginning and work their way through all the way from A-Z is a full and rich understanding not just of the making and cooking of pasta, but also the fascinating culture that surrounds it.

We are introduced in turn to the six categories of pasta shapes, from the tiny pastine that are cooked and served in broth, to the strascinati that are formed by being dragged along a surface. Pastas we have already visited are called upon to help explain those we are yet to discover, and history unfurls and repeats itself in different forms and different regions and, most importantly, different delicious dishes.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? One of the best things about pasta is that it is an incredibly simple dish to create – or better still on a Wednesday night, to buy in. Roddy is very aware of this, and it’s to her credit that a book filled with such love that her reverence never gets in the way of simplicity. There is no judgement to be found for those who prefer to buy dried pasta over making their own – no silly gate-keeping over what is and is not allowed in the world of pasta. Break your spaghetti in half if you find it easier, goddammit.

The recipes themselves echo this simplicity. Measurements and instructions are clear, with timings a little more forgiving to take into account the varying needs of different pasta types.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Even post-Brexit Italian food is European food is British food, and the overwhelming majority of ingredients are easily sourced from your local supermarket or even the cornershop over the road in many cases. Occasionally a more traditional Italian ingredient will pop up – guanciale makes a few appearances – but Roddy offers simple and accessible alternatives in these cases.

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you eat pasta? For me the answer to both these questions looks to be set for the foreseeable future as ‘two to three times a week’. We love pasta in the UK. As one of the quickest and most satisfying midweek dinner options we let it fill our diets, and I can’t be the only person who looks at his meal plans for the week and thinks ‘right, maybe not quite so much pasta, though’.

The biggest problem with pasta, in fact, is that it’s so easy to turn into a meal that we tend to fall into repetitive patterns, or allow ourselves to be satisfied with a jar of Dolmio dumped over some penne and a few cut up sausages. Which is silly, really, because so many fantastic and flavoursome dishes can be knocked together in more or less as much time as it takes for the pasta to boil.

An A-Z of Pasta is the perfect solution to this. There are quick and delicious dishes to suit every season here, from the cosy alfabeto Chicken Broth that will see us through the long winter ahead to Fresh Capelli d’Angelo with Prawns and Lemon that’ll take less than five minutes to cook and offer a bright burst of flavour on a summer’s day.

Killer recipes: All of it. Damn near every single thing. I cooked the Bucatini all’Amatriciana for my visiting parents and I think they finally believe that I, their married 33 year-old son, will be able to survive in the world. There’s a Fregula with clams or arselle that looks so good I’m convinced you could make a living by starting a restaurant and serving nothing else. The Tagliolini with chanterelles and datterini tomatoes would guarantee a marriage proposal on a second date, and the Pappardelle with duck is enough to have you call the wedding off just so you never have to share your food again.

It’s impossible to narrow down the best dishes here, simply because there is so much variety, and so much temptation that your favourites might vary from day to day, and mood to mood. Today the ultimate comfort food that is roast chicken served atop orzo that has been cooked in its juices, tomorrow the lightness of farfalle served with smoked salmon and mascarpone.

Should I buy it? It’s very rare that a cookbook offers such universally loveable dishes that it can, without hesitation, be suggested to one and all. And… well, this isn’t an exception. Look, if you have problems with gluten, An A-Z of Pasta is not going to be a big priority for you. But for everyone else, this book is a solution to a thousand different questions. What can I have for dinner if I want to be eating in twenty minutes time? What can I serve guests at my dinner party that looks and tastes impressive, but won’t cause me to have a nervous breakdown whilst I prepare it? What can I ask for this Christmas whilst simultaneously gifting to every single family member I’ve ever seen consume even a single strand of spaghetti? Here you go. Your answer is here.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
An A-Z of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes
£25, Fig Tree

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous


This recipe is a meal in itself, but can obviously be served alongside some mashed potato and gravy, if you like. The decoration on top is optional, but it is far easier than you think. Just scatter it on and you can’t go wrong.

Serves 5-6

Bechamel
500g whole milk
½ white onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves
¼ teaspoon ground mace
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
50g unsalted butter
25g plain flour

Pie filling
8 corn-fed chicken thighs
4 tablespoons garlic oil
2 carrots, peeled and quartered, then sliced across into 1cm pieces
25g salted butter
1 leek, quartered, then sliced across into 1cm pieces
1 celery stick, peeled, halved, then sliced across into 1cm pieces
100g shiitake mushrooms, halved
3 garlic cloves, crushed
200g canned sweetcorn, drained
100g frozen peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves
finely grated zest of ½ lemon

Assemble
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk or cream
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, defrosted

To decorate (optional)
spring onions, shredded
red onions, cut into slim petals
fennel fronds
tarragon sprigs
pansies
——-
Bechamel
~ Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan then add the onion, spices, mustard and salt, cover and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Pass through a sieve.
~ Heat the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the flour and mix until smooth.
~ Add the hot infused milk a bit at a time and whisk to combine until smooth. Once all the milk has been added, bring to the boil, whisking continuously, then remove from the heat.

Pie filling
~ Preheat the oven to 180oC.
~ Season the chicken with salt and roll it in the garlic oil, then place on a roasting tray and cook for 40 minutes, skin side up, until the skin is crispy and the meat is tender.
~ Leave to rest for 20 minutes. Discard the bone and sinew and flake the meat, reserving any juices. You don’t need the skin here, but you can use it for an extra decoration of chicken crackling, if you like. (Or just eat it.)
~ Sweat the carrots in the butter in a saute pan for 5 minutes, lid on, then add the leek and celery, season lightly with salt, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cover and cook for a final 5 minutes.
~ Add the sweetcorn, peas, thyme and tarragon, then remove from the heat and mix in the chicken and bechamel with the lemon zest. Check the seasoning and leave to cool.

Assemble

~ Preheat the oven to 190 oC.
~ Mix the egg yolk and milk or cream in a small bowl to make an egg wash.
~ From the first sheet of pastry, cut out a circle using the top of an ovenproof frying  pan as a guide. This is the lid.
~ Cut a circle of greaseproof paper large enough to cover the base of the same ovenproof frying pan and come all the way up the sides. Use this as a guide to cut out a circle of pastry of the same size. This is the base. Place the circle of pastry in the pan, pushing it flat against the sides.
~ Fill with the cooled chicken pie mix, making sure it doesn’t cover the top of the pastry rim.
~ Top with the pastry lid, pinching the edges of both pastry circles together to crimp and join.
~ With some of the pastry trim, you may cut out some leaf shapes or make a simple lattice to garnish the pie.
~ Brush with egg wash and leave for 10 minutes, then brush again with egg wash and place in the oven.
~ Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170 oC and cook for another 20 minutes.

To decorate
~ Scatter over the vegetables, herbs and flowers, if using, and return the pie to the oven for a final 5 minutes for the decorations to crisp up, then serve.

Cook more from this book
Grilled bream with pink grapefruit by Ollie Dabbous
Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous

Read the review

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Grilled bream with pink grapefruit by Ollie Dabbous

ESSENTIAL_050820_BREAM_7543_AW

Gilthead bream is one of the best-quality farmed fish you can buy. It is always consistent in quality and very good value; not as meaty as sea bass, but with lovely oily flesh and crisp skin. It is great cooked over the barbecue or under a hot grill. This dressing is as delicious as it is simple. Feel free to chop and change as you wish: lemon and mint would work brilliantly, as would blood orange and sage.

Dressing
2 pink grapefruits, segmented with 6 tablespoons of their juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Chardonnay vinegar
1 tablespoon clear honey
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and crushed

Bream & fennel
2 fennel bulbs
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
100ml white vermouth
2 gilthead bream, scaled, filleted and pin-boned by your fishmonger
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt

DRESSING
– Mix everything together and warm through in a pan. Do not heat it too much, or the grapefruit segments will cook and collapse.

BREAM & FENNEL
~ Preheat the grill to its highest setting.
~ Slice the fennel lengthways as finely as possible on a mandolin or with a sharp knife, then mix in a roasting tray with the fennel seeds and vermouth. Season lightly with salt.
~ Lightly season the fish on both sides with fine salt, spoon 1 tablespoon of the oil over each fish fillet, then place skin-side up on top of the fennel, to cover the bulk of it.
~ Grill under the preheated grill for about 8 minutes, until the fennel has wilted but the fish is cooked through and has a crispy skin.

To serve
~ Divide the fennel and fish between 4 warmed bowls and spoon over the warm grapefruit dressing.

Cook more from this book
Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous
Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous

Read the review

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous

ESSENTIAL_260820_TARTIFLETTE_0076_AW
A French mountain dish of potatoes with bacon, onions, cream and a whole Reblochon cheese. This is probably your recommended weekly calorific intake in a single bowl, but it is the sort of dish you eat just once a year. And well worth it. Maybe plan a long walk for afterwards, or beforehand, to build up an appetite. Actually, definitely have the walk first as, realistically, you’ll be asleep within
minutes of your last mouthful. Reblochon is a washed rind cheese, and you need that
pungency to cut through the bacon and the cream. No need to peel the potatoes, as the skins add taste and texture here. This is most definitely a meal in itself; serve with a crisp green salad in a sharp mustardy dressing.

1kg Charlotte potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled, sliced 1cm thick
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
200g Alsace bacon, or pancetta, or smoked streaky bacon, chopped into
1cm lardons
30g salted butter
2 white onions, sliced
250g white wine
300g double cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed, plus 1 garlic clove, halved
1 Reblochon cheese

~ Season the potatoes evenly with the salt, then place in a single layer in a steamer basket.
~ Steam over a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes until just cooked through.
~ In this time, colour the lardons in the butter until golden and the bacon fat has rendered. Strain through a sieve, reserving the fat.
~ Return the fat to the pan and add the onions, season lightly with salt and fry until light golden: about 5 minutes.
~ Return the bacon to the pan, then pour in the wine.
~ Bring to the boil, then add the cream and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the crushed garlic, followed by the steamed potatoes. Leave to cool to room temperature.
~ Preheat the oven to 180 oC.
~ Meanwhile, cut the cheese. First, cut a thin round from the top of the whole cheese, about one-third of its total depth. Slice the rest into 1cm slices.
~ Rub a round ovenproof dish with the halved garlic clove, then spoon in a layer of potatoes, followed by a layer of cheese. Repeat twice more, finishing with the cheese disc on top.
~ Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then glaze under a preheated grill until golden and bubbling. Serve.

Cook more from this book
Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous
Grilled bream with pink grapefruit by Ollie Dabbous

Read the review

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Essential by Ollie Dabbous

Essential Ollie Dabbous

Ollie Dabbous of Michelin-starred Hide in Mayfair has finally followed up Dabbous: The Cookbook, published back in 2014. Whereas that debut book featured dishes from his now closed eponymous London restaurant, Essential is a collection of recipes for what Dabbous calls ‘boldly refined home cooking’ where ‘simple techniques, good taste and concise ingredients underpin every dish.’

That refinement might be something as simple as using milk and yeast to lighten dumplings served with a luxurious version of mince made with red and white wine, beef stock, mustard, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, or spreading a croque monsieur with garlic truffled butter. That sort of attention to small details that make a big difference crops up time and again over the book’s more than 300 pages that include recipes for grains, dairy and eggs, vegetables, leaves, shellfish and fish, meat, fruit and berries and sugar and honey.

While the book ably does its intended job of invigorating a home cook’s repertoire, providing exciting and interesting ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, you can expect more unusual and restaurant-friendly dishes (Dabbous is, after all, one of the most inventive and distinctive chefs of his generation) such as carrot tartare with sunflower seeds, mustard and tarragon; grilled quail with pistachio, mint and orange blossom, or roast venison with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and rye.

The short Larder chapter contains ideas for flavourings, marinades and pickles that cooks will want to return to again and again to brighten up any number of dishes. Dabbous says the store cupboard miso, soy, rice wine vinegar, mustard, honey and vinegar marinade he spreads on aubergines before frying works just as well on salmon or chicken, and says Amlou, a Moroccan concoction of toasted almond, honey and argan oil is an alternative to peanut butter than can be served on toast or with cheese or baked fruit.

With everything from a comforting venison toad in the hole and onion gravy to a light and sophisticated grilled bream with pink grapefruit, as well as baking projects that include an exotic fig leaf cake, Dabbous has covered all the bases and created a cookbook that’s as essential as its title suggests.

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous
Grilled bream with pink grapefruit by Ollie Dabbous
Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous

Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras

What’s the USP? Well, it isn’t a cookbook, for one.

Oh. Right. You do know this is a cookbook review blog, right? The clue is right there in the title. Yes, yes, but Gastro Obscura has earned its place on our shelves too. It’s decidedly cookbook-adjacent.

Insofar as that’s where you’ve put it on your shelves? No – in that it’s a big and beautiful hardback about food that has come out just in time for Christmas. Gastro Obscura is a food-based spin-off to the globally-minded Atlas Obscura website. The original site – and its first book by the same name – is a crowd-sourced collection of weird and wonderful attractions around the world, be they strange museums, unusual folk traditions or unexpected attractions.

And let me guess – Gastro Obscura is the same thing, but for food? You got it. Organised by continent, and then by country, there are almost five hundred entries. From ‘North Korean Diplomacy Noodles’ to Jeppson’s Malört, an almost undrinkable liquor from Chicago, the book touches upon every corner of the globe.

I imagine it makes pretty good bedtime reading? Maybe more ‘cosy late night armchair reading’ – it’s a pretty hefty thing. But it is infinitely explorable. Very much fitting into that mould of intriguing coffee table books that are intended to be dipped into on a whim, I still managed to read the whole thing cover-to-cover in a matter of days.

There’s an element of focus that the food theme provides that gives Gastro Obscura a little more purpose than the original book (which has admittedly sat on our bookshelf, mostly unread, since being gifted to my partner a couple of years ago). Where that first title could be a little hit and miss, everything here brings you back to those inescapably fascinating questions we all have about food – why do we eat what we eat? What is everyone else having for dinner tonight? And, most importantly: can I have some?

‘Can I have some’? Yes! One of the smartest additions to the book is a little paragraph next to each entry that tells you how to go about trying the food in question. This might be a fairly general tip (“The days of cocaine-laced bordeaux are over, but try regular bordeaux – it’s very good.”) or, more frequently, a tip directing you to a direct source. If I ever find myself in Botswana’s Okavango Delta you can bet I’ll be heading to African Horseback Safaris to try their pizza made in a termite hill oven.

This all sounds very out of reach. In many cases, the entries absolutely are. The Siberian sashimi competition at Festival Stroganina sounds remarkably difficult to get to, and I doubt I’ll find myself at any of the Antarctic base stations listed here. But for every genuinely obscure choice, there’s plenty of Gastro Not-So-Obscura options. The section dedicated to the US is huge, and if I ever find myself on the east coast in late September, you better believe I’ll be making the detour to West Virginia’s annual roadkill cook-off.

In fact, there’s plenty of very accessible entries here – sauna sausages in Finland, a full marathon that includes 23 glasses of wine in (you guessed it) France – even a secret subterranean cave bar in my hometown of Nottingham that I had no idea existed. There is also a smattering of recipes – though they are surprisingly tame (Finnish mustard, Korea’s budae jjigae) and frustratingly not listed together in the index, meaning you are left to stumble upon them in the course of your reading.

Should I buy it, then? If you love trying unusual foods, or exploring other cultures, there’s much to love here. But let’s not ignore this book’s true raison d’être: a Christmas present for difficult-to-buy-for relatives. Not everyone is a fan of big hardbacks they’re only going to flick through sporadically – but if you’ve got a friend or family member who is really into their food, this could be the perfect Christmas present for them. I, for one, am in the process of writing an email to everybody I know informing them that, thank you very much, but I already own Gastro Obscura. I know how those buggers think.

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Curious foodies
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide (Atlas Obscura)
£32, Workman Publishing

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Gelupo Gelato by Jacob Kenedy

Gelupo Gelato Jacob Kenedy

What’s the USP? This little square book offers up a wide selection of recipes for various ice creams and associated forms – ‘a frosty masterclass in the simple art of gelato’, or so the publishers claim.

Who wrote it? Jacob Kenedy, who is perhaps best known for his restaurant Bocca di Lupo, a favourite of London food critics since 2008. He has since opened the neighbouring Gelupo, a gelateria of similar renown. Here, then, is the recipe book for the latter venture – a small but dense volume that runs the gamut from classic favourites (fior de latte, pistachio, hazelnut) to less expected flavours (rice, for instance, or the elderflower, cucumber and gin granita).

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s no denying that Kenedy squeezes plenty of extra reading into the book, starting with an extended introduction to gelato. That said, the information in this section can be a little confusing; Kenedy claims that gelato is simply the Italian word for ice cream and that there is no difference between the two – only to admit in the very next sentence that ‘there is something a bit special about Italian gelati’. This isn’t all that useful if you’re trying to get your head around the differences – which most writers do not struggle to identify (fat content is a major factor).

Elsewhere the book offers more useful insights, though – the importance of scraping the bowl in a game where ingredient ratios can make such a big difference, the best way to store gelato (pre-freezing your containers to aid that transition to the freezer). Each recipe has an introduction too – many draw on the cultural significance of the flavours, whilst others simply espouse the virtues of a particular combo.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Yes. Many of the recipes rely on the use of stabilisers like locust bean gum powder and glucose syrup. Thankfully, Kenedy is happy to offer more supermarket-ready alternatives, like arrowroot and light runny honey. That said, his willingness to compromise for home cooks is not limited – both the hazelnut and pistachio recipes specifically require pastes that need to be sourced online. This is a shame when these two flavours are so iconic in the gelato world – perhaps Kenedy is keen to maintain authenticity here, but I’m much keener on the idea of actually being able to make the damn ice cream.

What’s the faff factor? Ice cream is never a simple task, regardless of what cookbooks try to tell you. Even the smoothest of processes for a churned ice cream will involve creating a custard base, giving it time to cure in the fridge, and then wrestling with your maker of choice. Kenedy spells out each step fairly clearly here, but he can be a little vague in his instructions – perhaps the result of not knowing precisely which equipment the reader is using.

How often will I cook from the book? How often does anyone actually use their ice cream maker? I bought one earlier this summer and quickly went on something of an ice cream making bender – I still have the remnants of malted milk, strawberry, peach and cherry and chocolate ventures in my freezer right now. But once that initial burst fades – maybe once a month? At a push? If you live with someone who you’re trying to justify the purchase to?

What will I love? Hands down the stand out feature of the book is its absolutely gorgeous contents page. No dull list here: instead, each flavour in the book is represented by a minimalistic coloured circle laid out in an 8×10 grid. It’s an impactful start to the book that would look just as good framed on the living room wall of some beautiful couple who are absolutely not the type to consume ice cream ever.

What won’t I love? For all the variety and exciting flavours, there are a few more familiar options that have been left out. Strawberry ice cream is off the table – instead you’ll have to opt for a strawberry granita, wild strawberry sherbet, or strawberry & pink peppercorn. All told, though, the book’s problem isn’t the lack of choice (Kenedy has filled it with a ridiculous selection to suit every taste), but the lack of precision and attention to detail.

Killer recipes: Lemon & Rosemary, Whisky & Vanilla, Pear & Blackberry Crumble, Roast Plum Sorbet

Should I buy it? If the flavours tempt you, and you already have a very solid grasp of the art of ice cream making, then Gelupo Gelato has some great ideas. For most people, though, this title shouldn’t be the top of the list when learning to create ice cream at home – there are more useful books like Dana Cree’s Hello, My Name is Ice Cream that are better suited for that.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Gelupo Gelato: A delectable palette of ice cream recipes
£14.99, Bloomsbury Publishing

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan

Chetnas 30 Minute Indian

What’s the USP? ‘Quick and easy everyday meals’ boasts the front cover – something you might not expect from Indian cuisine. As much as Britain loves Indian food, it’s clear that for those of us without an Indian background to influence our home cooking, there are two distinct camps. You have what we’ll call the ‘Dishoom Cookbook Show-offs’, who see authentic Indian flavours as something one can only achieve by committing the better part of the weekend to toasting dry spices, creating luscious sauces and slowly stewing a difficult-to-come-by cut of meat that they had to bribe the butcher to source for them. And you have the ones who fry up some chicken breast chunks and dump a jar of Patak’s Tikka Masala on top before serving alongside a sachet of microwaved rice.

I have, it should be made clear, repeatedly found myself in each of these camps. A mercenary in the ongoing war: flavour vs. convenience. Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian, then, should be a dream addition to my shelf – rich and delicious Indian food that can be pulled together in around half an hour.

Who wrote it?  The ‘Chetna’ in question is Chetna Makan, who placed 4th in The Great British Bake Off in 2014. Though her initial foray into cookbooks, The Cardamom Trail, focused on bakes with a distinctly Indian flavour profile, her four titles since have steadily tipped the balance away from baking and into Indian cooking. This title, her fifth, does feature a chapter on ‘Bread, Rice & Noodles’, but even here the breads are fried or grilled. Hardcore GBBO fans will have to make do with the Butter Almond Biscuits, the Rose & Pistachio Cake with Cardamom Toffee Sauce or the Glacé Cherry & Orange Cookies – all tucked away at the tail end of the book.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not really – there’s a three page introduction to the book, which is mostly tips to help you make the most of your time. After that, it’s straight into the action – no chapter intros, and only a short paragraph to lead into each recipe.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? For the most part, no – Chetna’s approach to home cooking is built around doing so in the UK. As such, spices tend to be fairly commonplace. Occasionally you might need to visit a specialist to find dried fenugreek leaves or amchur – but you’ll usually be able to Google an easy substitute in a pinch.

What’s the faff factor? Decidedly non-faffy. The whole point, after all, is to create a meal in half an hour. And unlike some chefs on a time limit (I’m looking at you, Jamie), Chetna’s recipes won’t have you charging around the kitchen juggling awkward tasks, or expect your ingredients to have magically chopped themselves beforehand. Everything I tried was done in 30-40 minutes, even working at my decidedly leisurely pace.

Part of this comes down to shortcuts – Chetna makes no secret, and has no shame, about her use of tinned tomatoes or pulses. She encourages the reader not to be shy of pre-prepared ginger and garlic options – an opinion I’ll happily go ahead with. If you need me to finely slice or chop these, I’m all for it, but you’ll never see me mince garlic again as long as I live.

How often will I cook from the book? If you’re looking for a way to liven up your weekday dinners, you’ll get a lot of use out of Chetna’s book, which has enough variety to offer at least a couple of meals a week.

What will I love? The simplicity is one thing, but more than anything else, it’s the sheer range of ideas on offer. Chetna hasn’t allowed the thirty minute dinners brief to diminish any of her ambition, and tucked away among the more familiar faces of butter chicken are a vibrant green Yoghurt Lentil Curry, ambitious but delicious Peas-stuffed Fried Flatbread and an entirely unexpected breakfast noodle dish, Upma Vermicelli.

What won’t I love? Not everything I tried was a hit. My Black-eyed Bean & Mushroom Curry looked delicious in the book, but came across decidedly flat. A recommendation for a longer, gentler cooking option might have turned out better, but in the half an hour I was working to, the result was disappointing. Other dishes, though, come out gorgeously. The Masala Chicken looked ugly and unconvincing, until the moment it hit the pan, and suddenly came together into a warming delight.

Killer recipes: Coconut Curry Leaf Prawns, Peanut Haddock Curry, Malvani-style Chicken Sabji, Tamarind Aubergine Curry, Paneer Pav Bhaji, Ginger & Chilli Chutney

Should I buy it? I’m not sure there’s a greater challenge in Britain’s kitchens right now than how to keep cooking interesting. The pandemic, working from home and the constant effort of, you know… existence. Oof. It’s no wonder so many of us are feeling fatigued and uninspired in the kitchen at the moment.

Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian is a wonderful balm to that – a chance to inject authentic flavours and a little variety into your dinnertime, and all for a small commitment of time that will leave you the rest of the evening to dedicate to something you love: Love Island, perhaps. Scrolling through TikTok until 3am. Or my personal favourite: ever-spiralling climate anxiety. Either way, it’ll be nice to do it on a full stomach.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Chetna’s 30-minute Indian: Quick and easy everyday meals

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Cookbook review round up Summer 2021

East London Food by Rosie Birkett and Helen Cathcart

East London Food

What’s the USP? A second edition of the best selling guide to the restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries and food shops of East London written by an expert resident.

Who is the author? Rosie Birkett is a food writer with columns in the Sunday Times and Good Food Magazine and the author of A Lot on Her Plate and The Joyful Home Cook. Special mention must go to photographer Helen Cathcart, whose portraits, food and location shots really bring the East London Food world to life.

Why do I need a guide to East London Food? Over the last decade, East London has emerged as the culinary powerhouse of the capital with Michelin-starred restaurants, artisan bakeries and breweries and everything in between.  If you want to expereince some of the best food in the UK, you have to visit East London, and this book is your essential guide.

Can I cook from it though? There’s just a baker’s dozen recipes, the one disappointment of the book. I would have swapped some of the perfunctory one paragraph write ups of some of the included places (most get several well researched and written pages) for more recipes. But you do get things like butternut squash, whipped yoghurt, harissa and crispy sage from Morito in Hackney and Chicken and Girolles Pie from the Marksman pub in Haggerston.

Should I buy it? If you are a restaurant nerd, someone who travels to eat or a Londoner that wants to know more about their cities culinary DNA, it’s a must.

Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
East London Food (Second Edition): The people, the places, the recipes
£30, Hoxton Mini Press

Foolproof BBQ by Genevieve Taylor

Foolproof BBQ Genevieve Taylor

Whats the USP? Barbecue recipes, it’s no more complicated than that.

Who is the author? According to her website, ‘Live fire and BBQ expert, Genevieve Taylor is the author of eleven cookery books including the bestseller, Charred, a complete guide to vegetarian barbecue, The Ultimate Wood-fired Oven Cook book and How to Eat Outside.’ She’s also something of an all-rounder having written books on soup, stew, pie and er, marshmallow (it’s not easy being a food writer, I can tell you. You’ve got to take the gigs when you can get them).

Killer recipes:  Devilled chicken wings with spicy tomato relish; lemon and oregano souvlaki with tzatziki; spicy coconut lamb chops; cajun fish tacos with slaw and line cream.

Should I buy it? If you’re partial to a bit of barbecue and fancy a lively collection of globally inspired skewers, burgers, sandwiches, grilled meats, seafood, vegetables and even desserts, with some delicous sounding sauces, slaws and relishes thrown in for good measure then you won’t go far wrong. Not life changing, but a reliable little volume that will no doubt become a summer regular.

Cuisine: Barbecue
Suitable for:
Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Three stars

Buy this book
Foolproof BBQ: 60 Simple Recipes to Make the Most of Your Barbecue
£12.99, Hardie Grant Quadrille

Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson

Super natural simple

What’s the USP? Its, uh, a vegetarian cookbook. In 2021, that rates of course as one of the rarest of all the USPs. Hardly ever see a vegetarian cookbook. Or a vegan one come to think of it. They should publish more of them. Help save the planet wouldn’t it? This one is for when your pushed for time and need simple recipes with only a few ingredients and you’ve misplaced your phone and can’t get a Deliveroo. You know, those times. Again, not many books with simple recipes for when your hectic life doesn’t allow you to spend too much time in the kitchen. I think the idea could catch on.

Who is the author? I have to admit to being ignorant of Heidi Swanson until this book arrived on my doormat, but she is a big noise in America. Voted one of the 100 greatest home cooks of all time by Epicurious.com (I’m not on that list for some reason and I’m seriously good, so that gives you some indication of the quality of that particualr line up), she’s the author of several other New York Times bestsellers with the words Super Natural in the title. She definately isn’t Alison Roman. Or Deb Perelman.

Killer recipes: Ten ingredient masala chilli;  grilled corn salad with salty-sweet lime dressing; grilled rice triangles; spicy chickpeas with kale and coconut; feisty tofu with broccoli, chilli and nuts.

Should I buy it? Look, there really isn’t such a thing these days as a really bad cookbook; the industry has becme so adept at churning them out that you will get something out of this. It looks pretty good in a bright, modish retro sort of way and there’s enough content to warrant the price (you’ll get it cheap on Amazon anyway). I get the feeling that Swanson’s earlier books might have more about them, but I’ve never read them so I can’t be sure. Fans will be delighted by the book no doubt and probably furious at this review, but, that’s life isn’t it? One thing that might influence your decision is that fact that Swansons website has over 700 recipes for free on it. Something to think about.

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Suitable for:
Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Three stars

Buy this book
Super Natural Simple: Whole-Food, Vegetarian Recipes for Real Life
£22, Hardie Grant Books

Take One Fish by Josh Niland

Take one fish by Josh Niland

Chef Josh Niland of Sydney restaurant Saint Peter revolutionised fish cookery in 2019 with the publication of his first book The Whole Fish Cookbook. His approach applies Fergus Henderson’s nose-to-tail philosophy to seafood, ‘shifting the focus to valuing diverse species and all parts of their edible components’, allowing professional chefs and very keen home cooks to achieve up to a 90 per cent yield from a wide range of fish rather than the usual 45 per cent that’s represented by the fillets alone.

Niland’s second book shows there’s still much milage in the idea with a collection of strikingly original creations.  Fish offal is put to imaginative use in dishes such as Salt and Pepper John Dory Tripe (paned and deep-fried cured stomach) and a John Dory liver terrine that looks just like it’s foie gras equivalent and that’s served with brioche made with rendered fish fat harvested from species such as snapper and kingfish.

Niland often treats fish like meat, aging some species for up to four weeks. He transforms yellowfin tuna loin into ‘nduja by grinding and adding a spice mix of paprika, black pepper, fennel seeds, nutmeg and chilli flakes (and more of that rendered fish fat) while whole flounder is butchered down to French trimmed bone-in chops and prepared gai yang style, a spicy Thai dish usually made with marinated and charcoal grilled chicken.

You’ll need to bone up on your knife skills to reverse butterfly red gurnard that’s flavoured with tikka marinade and served with spiced chickpea yoghurt, or to remove the spine and gut a mackerel from the top down so that it can be stuffed with shallots, pine nuts and currents and served with an agro dolce dressing. But there are less demanding recipes too, like swordfish schnitzel, and salted sardine fillets and globe artichokes on grilled bread.

Not every cook wants a dehydrator (even if they’ve got one) full of snapper’s swim bladders or mason jars of heads, bones and scraps fermenting into garum (which Niland makes into a caramel and uses to top a custard tart), but Take One Fish is so full of delicious, different and, with some care and attention, doable ideas that no serious cook should be without a copy.

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Professional chefs/very confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating
£26, Hardie Grant Books

A version of this review was originally published in The Caterer magazine.

Salted caramel-stuffed NYC cookies by Jane Dunn

009_JP_SaltedcaramelCookies

When thinking of cookies, you may think crunchy, or you may think gooey and soft. But do you think a gooey soft centre of caramel? Well, you absolutely should! These
cookies have a molten caramel centre that is absolutely incredible, along with a salted cookie dough.

Makes: 8
Prep: 20 minutes
Chill: 30–60 minutes
Bake: 12–14 minutes
Cool: 30+ minutes
Lasts: 3–4 days, at room temperature

125g unsalted butter
175g soft light brown sugar
1 egg (medium or large)
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
250g milk chocolate chips or chunks
8–16 soft caramel sweets

Beat the butter and soft light brown sugar together until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat again. Add the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt and combine until a cookie dough is formed, then add the chocolate chips or chunks and mix until they are evenly distributed.

Portion your dough out into eight balls – each should weigh about 110g. Once rolled into balls, flatten slightly and put 1 or 2 soft caramels in the middle, then wrap the cookie dough around the caramels and re-roll into balls. Put into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or in the fridge for an hour or so. While the cookie dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Take your cookies out of the freezer or fridge and put onto the lined trays (I do four cookies per tray) and bake for 12–14 minutes. Once baked, leave the cookies to cool on the trays for at least 30 minutes as they will continue to bake while cooling.

CUSTOMISE:
You can substitute the caramels for spreads, such as chocolate and hazelnut spread or biscuit spread. Simply freeze teaspoons of spread for at least 30 minutes, then wrap the cookie dough around the frozen spread in the same way. The milk  chocolate can be switched to white or dark chocolate. Make the cookie dough chocolate by using 250g plain flour and adding 35g cocoa powder.

Cook more from this book
Banana, chocolate and hazelnut muffins by Jane Dunn
Chocolate Cherry Babka by Jane Dunn

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press

Banana, chocolate and hazelnut muffins by Jane Dunn

085_JP_BananaChocHazelMuffins

Makes: 12
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Lasts: 2–3 days, at room temperature

3 overripe medium bananas, mashed
200g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
50ml sunflower or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
275g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
200g chocolate hazelnut spread

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan and get your muffin cases ready – I like to use tulip-style muffin cases. Put the mashed bananas, soft light brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla extract into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the self-raising flour and salt and mix again until just combined – make sure you don’t overmix. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin cases; they should be about three-quarters full. Melt the chocolate hazelnut spread slightly in the microwave until smooth and add a teaspoonful to each muffin. Use a skewer to swirl this in slightly. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they are baked through and springy to touch.

CUSTOMISE:
If you want these muffins to be extra chocolatey, you can add up to 175g chocolate chips into the mix, after you add the self-raising flour and salt. The chocolate hazelnut spread can be left out if you just want banana muffins – or you can spread some more on top after baking if you want an extra chocolate hazelnut boost! Use caster sugar instead of the soft light brown sugar if you want a lighter flavour. Baking with overripe bananas is the best – it means they don’t go to waste, and you get something delicious out of it. The bananas create a yummy flavour, as well as making part of the best muffin batter – so when you mix this with a bit of chocolate hazelnut spread, you have a winner. These muffins are always a hit, whether it’s for breakfast, a dessert or just because you fancy something sweet!

Cook more from this book
Salted caramel-stuffed NYC cookies by Jane Dunn
Chocolate Cherry Babka by Jane Dunn

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press

Chocolate Cherry Babka by Jane Dunn

113_JP_ChocCherryBabka

Babka has always fascinated me as it’s just so beautiful to look at – just look at the swirls and patterns in the bake! It’s deceptively easy to make, and always has absolutely winning results. This one is Black Forestinspired with the chocolate filling and cherries, but you can easily chop and change it. It’s 100 per cent worth the proving time – so much so that you’ll want to experiment and make it over and over again!

Makes: 8
Prep: 3–4 hours
Prove: 1½ hours
Bake: 50–60 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Lasts: 2–3 days, at room temperature
150g strong white bread flour,
plus extra for dusting
150g plain flour
25g caster sugar
7g dried yeast
75g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
125ml full-fat milk
1 egg

FILLING:
40g unsalted butter, plus extra
for greasing
40g soft light brown sugar
75g dark chocolate, chopped
25g cocoa powder
200g pitted cherries, halved

GLAZE:
50g caster sugar
50ml water

Sift both flours into a large bowl, add the caster sugar and dried yeast and mix together. Rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gently heat the milk in a small pan until warm but not piping hot – it should just be starting to steam. Mix the warm milk and egg into the dry ingredients. Knead the dough together for 7 minutes; it will be sticky at first, but it will soon come together. Once kneaded, it should be springy to touch, and not sticky. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the top of the bowl with clingfilm and let the dough rise
for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the butter and soft light brown sugar in a pan and stir until melted. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Stir until the chocolate has melted and mixture is combined – it might look grainy, but that is fine.

Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and roll out to a rectangle about 40 x 30cm. Gently brush the surface with the chocolate filling, then sprinkle over the cherries.

Roll the dough up quite tightly from long side to long side until it is a long sausage shape. Carefully cut the dough lengthways down the middle. Twist the two halves around each other until fully twisted into a sort of two-strand plait. Place the twisted dough into a lightly buttered 900g loaf tin, making sure the dough is level and not sticking up at the sides. Cover the tin loosely with clingfilm and leave the babka to rise for another 30 minutes or so. Towards the end of this second prove, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.

Bake for 50–60 minutes until golden brown. Cool the babka
in the tin for at least 10 minutes, and then carefully remove and cool fully on a wire rack while you make the glaze. Heat the caster sugar and water in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave the mixture to cool slightly and brush over the babka.

CUSTOMISE:
The cherries can be left out for a chocolate babka – or you can flavour the filling with the zest of 1 large orange, 1 tsp peppermint extract or 1 tsp coffee extract. You can also flavour the dough with the flavourings above. If you want an extra kick, you can
swap the fresh cherries for cherries soaked in kirsch out of a jar!

Cook more from this book
Salted caramel-stuffed NYC cookies by Jane Dunn
Banana, chocolate and hazelnut muffins by Jane Dunn

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press


Jane’s Patisserie by Jane Dunn

Janes Patisserie

What’s the USP? It’s a baking cookbook from an influencer. Does that count as a USP? It doesn’t feel like it should count as a USP. The cookbook world seems to have almost as many influencers as it does TV chefs these days, and it’s easy to be cynical the moment you see Zoë Sugg’s name on the cover of something. But in a world of rushed out books cashing in on popular Insta accounts and fair-to-decent runs on Great British Bake Off, perhaps we can identify the real unexpected USP of Jane’s Patisserie: it’s actually really quite good.

Who wrote it? Jane, of course. More specifically, Jane Dunn, who launched her blog in 2014 while she was training at cookery school. She’s since grown a formidable following – Ebury’s press release is filled with large follower counts for the blog, her Instagram and her Facebook. The visual vibes the book gives off fit this audience neatly – bright and perfectly composed pictures of elaborate cakes that seem custom made to attract a quick double tap in-app.

Is it good bedtime reading? The big cliché about recipe blogs is well known: each recipe is preceded by acres of SEO-friendly storytelling about how much the author loves autumn, or the wonderful time they had at the local farmer’s market. Jane can be a little guilty of this on her blog, where you’ll have to scroll through an obscene amount of near identical photos of her Peanut Butter NYC Cookies before you can actually discover how to make them – but not so here. A short paragraph precedes each recipe, and then it’s all business.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Not even remotely. In fact, this is where Jane’s Patisserie really shines. Recipes and ingredient lists alike are separated into different sections for each element of the bake, and there are frequently bonus sections featuring technical tips or ideas for customisation.

What’s the faff factor? Baking always has at least a medium faff level, doesn’t it? But Jane’s clear instructions, and the useful guide to how long each recipe will take means that home cooks can dive into any bake in the book with confidence that there’ll be no little surprises along the way.

How often will I cook from the book? More than you really should, most likely. Baking books are the most dangerous breed of cookbooks, because if you really connect with the full range of recipes within, you’re essentially just committing yourself to consuming several dozen kilograms of sugar. And Jane’s Patisserie is overloaded with tempting, simple treats that would send a dietician into a shame spiral just by looking at them. There’s a whole section dedicated to cheesecakes, for a start – and themes often reappear elsewhere in the book. Chocolate Cheesecake Doughnuts, for example, or Cheesecake Truffles, or Chocolate Cheesecake Crêpes. You will cook from this book regularly, right up until the moment you keel over.

What will I love? The little touches throughout – the fact that each recipe comes with every bit of information you might need, right down to how long the dish will last once you’ve made it, and how it should be stored.

What won’t I love? It’s a small qualm, but if you’re feeling cynical you may tire of the relentless cheeriness of the book’s tone. The only acid in this book comes from the fruit in your tarts and babkas.

Killer recipes: Red Velvet Cheesecake, Cookies & Cream Drip Cake, Banoffee Cupcakes, Chocolate Raspberry Rolls, Sticky Toffee Brownies, Key Lime Pie, Malt Chocolate Fudge

Should I buy it? Jane’s Patisserie is an instantly accessible and incredibly practical book – an ideal starting place for young chefs or those who are new to baking. The treats aren’t exactly subtle – Jane’s is a high-street patisserie serving bold flavours, rather than a subtle Parisian shop selling delicate bites and viennoiseries. But there’s scarcely a recipe in the book that you couldn’t guiltily consume single-handedly if left alone with it. It leaves the reader wishing that more cookbooks were put together with this much care and attention to detail.

Cuisine: British/American
Suitable for: Beginner cooks and beyond
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

1419_AbsolutePress_Ben_Tish_Sicilia_2020-09-14_Peter_Moffat
Unlike similar puddings that use flours for thickening, this very simple posset-style pudding really showcases the zingy, fragrant flavour of the lemons. The mix of cream and mascarpone is not only rich and indulgent, but fresh too. Unwaxed lemons will give the best flavour. I like to make this in the early winter months when Sicilian and Amalfi lemons are bursting into season.

Mulberries aren’t as common in the UK as they are in Europe but if you can find them, perhaps in a Middle Eastern supermarket or a specialist fruiterer, they are utterly delicious. They resemble an elongated blackberry with denser flesh and a singular sweet-sour aromatic flavour. Blackberries will make a very good alternative.

Serves 4

For the lemon cream
2 large unwaxed lemons with unsprayed leaves
150g caster sugar
150ml double cream
300g mascarpone

For the berries
250g mulberries or blackberries
150ml good red wine
60g golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon honey

Zest the lemons and squeeze the juice; you need 80ml juice. Put the lemon zest and 80ml juice in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

In a separate pan, heat the cream and mascarpone over a medium-low heat, bringing just to a simmer – do not let it boil (otherwise it may separate). Remove from the heat, add the lemon mixture and whisk. Cool slightly, then strain through a fine sieve into bowls. Cool completely, then leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours or until firm and chilled.

While the lemon cream is chilling, prepare the stewed berries. Place the fruit in a saucepan, just cover with water and add the wine, sugar and honey. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruits are very tender but still holding their shape. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruits from the liquid to cool. Boil the remaining liquid until syrupy. Let this cool, then pour over the berries. Chill.

To serve, spoon some of the berries on to each cream. Delicious with biscotti.

Cook more from this book
Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish
Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish

4_Aeolianstyle_Summer_Salad
This dish is all about the tomatoes. It’s hard to perfectly replicate a delicious, fresh salad from Sicily’s Aeolian islands when in the UK, yet we produce many delicious varieties of tomatoes that will stand up well in comparison. I’d use a plum vine or a Bull’s Heart tomato – ensure they are ripe, but not over ripe.  I like to use a sweet-sour grape must (saba) for the dressing, which is smoother and fruitier than a vinegar, but an aged balsamic will also do nicely.

Serves 4

10 medium-sized, medium-ripe, sweet red tomatoes (vine-ripened are best), sliced into rounds
2 tablespoons plump capers
2 handfuls of pitted green olives
2 tropea onions or small red onions, finely sliced
6 anchovies in oil, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
10 basil leaves, torn

For the vinaigrette
2 tablespoons saba (grape must) or balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the grape must and extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.

To assemble the salad, carefully arrange the tomato slices on a serving plate and sprinkle over the capers, olives, onions, anchovies and herbs. Season well, then drizzle over the vinaigrette.

Leave the salad for 5 minutes, so all the flavours come together, before serving.

Cook more from this book
Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish
Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Herb by Mark Diacono

Herb Mark Diacono

What’s the USP? Your first port of call for anything and everything to do with herbs – from the garden to the kitchen, Herb takes you through every practical question you might have. It also offers a wealth of herb-led recipes to try for yourself.

Who wrote it? Mark Diacono, who has form in exploding a single concept into a deeply useful and entertaining cookbook. His previous title, Sour, won plenty of awards for its exploration of fermentation, flavour and, presumably, Haribo Tangfastics. Herb follows much the same idea, and offers not only straightforward recipes but also an education that will allow the home cook to better utilise our leafy green friends in all their forms.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s absolutely loads to dive into here – the first ninety pages or so are filled with Diacono’s readable prose, which combines practical ideas with personal experience. A sprawling section details a good number of the big hitters on the herb scene, as well as several more niche options that are close to Diacono’s heart (sweet cicely, scented geraniums). This chapter is worth the price of entry in itself, offering growing and harvesting advice, and a wealth of suggestions for flavour pairings.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The majority of the book is given over to recipes, each built around the herb – though thankfully using them not as a focal point, but for their collaborative flavour boosting properties. Though Diacono writes with a loose and informal manner to his recipes, they are simple and clear, and a delight to follow.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? This will depend very much on where you are sourcing your herbs from. The idea, of course, is to grow a good deal of them yourself, and to cook seasonally in order to make the most of what’s available. If you rely on supermarkets and other food retailers, you may struggle to dig up the more obscure or seasonal herbs here. I’ve not been able to find fresh curry leaves for months now, so as delicious as the Curry Leaf Kedgeree looks, I’ll have to wait a little longer to try it for myself.

How often will I cook from the book? In theory, there’s nothing to stop Herb from being a book pulled out regularly for a weeknight dinner. Dishes like Mackerel with Raisins, Orange and Picada might look restaurant-ready, but could be pulled together over a rather leisurely half hour. Every dish here looks like it would comfortably hold its own on a dinner party table, too.

What will I love? The range of dishes is excellent – there’s a wide spectrum of national cuisines represented, tasty offerings for meat-eaters and vegans alike, and a heftier dessert section than one might expect for a book dedicated to leafy herbs.

What won’t I love? The bouncer at the door, as Diacono refers to himself on a page dedicated to explaining his decisions regarding the inclusion of certain herbs and the exclusion of others. This means that there’s no room for specialised details on the likes of herby seeds, garlic, or other herb-adjacent properties. It also means readers looking for the author’s least favourite herbs will be out of luck. There’s nothing here for fans of lemon balm (“for people who dislike themselves enough not to grow lemon verbena”). But this is a small complaint – the main bases are very much covered, and by sticking to personal preferences Diacono is able to focus on what he knows and loves best.

Killer recipes: Crab and Chervil Linguine, Lamb Dhansak, Green Seasoning Lamb Rundown, Mole Verde, Tarragon and Olive Oil Ice Cream, Thyme and Parsley Honey Bread and Butter Pudding

Should I buy it? An excellent point of reference for anyone seeking to better exploit the rich and flavourful world of herbs, Mark Diacono’s book will prove an indispensable and oft-visited entry on your cookbook shelves.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy the book
Herb: A Cook’s Companion
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Outdoor Cooking by Tom Kerridge

Tom Kerrige Outdoor Cooking

What’s the USP? They say it’s the ‘ultimate modern barbecue bible’. We say, steady on there old chap, it’s a nice book of barbecue recipes including marinades, sauces, ribs, steaks, joints, fish, skewers, wraps, burgers, subs and salads from a well known chef. That’s enough isn’t it?

Who wrote it? Chef Tom Kerridge has become known for his dramatic weight loss and series of diet-friendly TV shows and books including Dopamine Diet, Lose Weight and Get Fit, and Lose Weight For Good. His real claim to fame however is as proprietor of The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the only two Michelin starred restaurant in the world. He also runs The CoachThe Shed and The Butcher’s Tap in Marlow, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London and The Bull and Bear in Manchester. He is also the founder of the Pub in the Park, a touring food and music festival. Earlier in his career, he worked for such British restaurant luminaries as Gary Rhodes and Stephen Bull in London and David Adlard in Norwich.

Is it good bedtime reading? Well, sort of. There’s a breezy 10 page introduction where Kerridge reminisces about a aubergine he once ate at 3am in Singapore and talks about how we all used to drag woolly mammoths back to our camps back in the day, which is, uh, well it’s certainly something. He also urges his readers to ‘enjoy the process’ of barbecuing which is difficult to argue with, and shares his barbecue tips which include ‘anything goes’, ‘just go for it’ and ‘relax’. Thanks for that Tom.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You might need to go to a fishmonger for prawns, squid and scallops that are worth your time barbecuing and a butcher for pheasant, but let’s be honest, you are never going to drag the barbecue out in game season are you? Other than that, there is very little that you won’t be able to find in Asda. They’ve even got gochujang paste for the butter that accompanies Kerridge’s beer can chicken (there is some controversy over this method of cooking, just give it a Google. Kerridge does not address this in the book.)

What’s the faff factor? Let’s set aside the hassle of setting up the barbecue in the first place; if you’ve bought a barbecue book, you must have factored that in already.  There are a few recipes like a seafood platter that’s served with three different flavoured butters that are a bit of work, or a Fennel and ‘Nduja Spiced Porchetta that requires some advanced planning and a bit of skill to execute, but one thing’s for sure, this is Kerridge in approachable mainstream media chef mode rather than a delve into his two Michelin-starred repertoire, you’ll need The Hand and Flowers cookbook for that. For the most part, you’ll find thankfully short ingredient lists and encouragingly straightforward methods.

What will I love? I’m not sure that Outdoor Cooking is the sort of book you fall in love with, but it’s colourful, easy to read and to use. With a little bit of thought and adaptation of the cooking methods (you can figure out how to cook a meatball without resorting to a Kamado Joe can’t you?) you could prepare many of the recipes without going within 10 foot of a barbecue, which may appeal to BBQ-refusing readers (like me.)

What won’t I love?
In no sense whatsoever is this anything like approaching an ‘ultimate bible’. What even is an ‘ultimate bible’ other than the worst sort of marketing BS? It’s a cookbook with some recipes.  It’s a good cookbook with some very nice recipes (see below) but it’s not biblical in either proportion, at just 240 pages, or in scope or in ambition. There are just three pages in total on equipment and barbecue cooking technique for example. In a page of thanks at the back of the book, Kerridge marvels that, ‘What we have managed to create in such a short space of time is heroic’ and that he is ‘a fan of not overthinking books’. To be honest, we can tell. There is a feeling of Outdoor Cooking having been put together in fairly short order, but because Kerridge and Absolute are ‘ultimate’ professions, they can get away with it, just about.

Killer recipes: Squid and chorizo skewers; glazed pork skewers with pickle mooli; barbecued chicken BLT; smoky pastrami burgers; pork ribs with yellow barbecue sauce; spicy pork burgers with romanesco salsa.

Should I buy it? If you are a casual barbecue cook who is looking to go beyond their usual repertoire of bangers and burgers, this book will provide plenty of globetrotting inspiration.

Cuisine: Barbecue
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Tom Kerridge’s Outdoor Cooking: The ultimate modern barbecue bible
£22, Bloomsbury Absolute

monk by Yoshihiro Imai

monk Light and Shadow on the Philosopher's Path by Yoshihiro Imai

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from monk in Kyoto, a 14 seat restaurant located on the philosophers path on the outskirts of the city where locally sourced ingredients are cooked with fire and the signature dish is, surprisingly, pizza.

Who wrote it? Yoshihiro Imai is the chef and owner of monk. Born in the small village of Mito-city, 60 miles northeast of Tokyo, Imai studied sociology at university, but an interest in baking bread and a stint working in a mountain resort hotel in Karuizawa lead Imai to take a job as a chef at enboca, a nearby pizza restaurant. Imai opened a sister restaurant to enboca in Kyoto in 2010. Inspired by a short internship at Noma, Imai opened monk in 2015.

Is it good bedtime reading? Food writing often falls flat when it aspires to any sort of  literary merit, lapsing into adjective-heavy, pseudo-poetic cliché that manages to express little more than the author’s desire to be taken seriously at all costs, including the text’s clarity and use to the reader. But, in a series of beautifully written essays about his life, career and culinary philosophy that includes subjects such as Oharah village market; Yoshida Farm cheese from the mountains of Okayama, and Yu Sasaki, ‘the mushroom whisperer’ of Iwate prefecture in Honshu, Imai communicates what is obviously a very deeply felt and considered passion for ingredients, the process of cooking and the nature and art of hospitality with a welcome directness and simplicity. For example (just one of many):

‘For us at monk, lighting the oven each day has become part of our daily lives, and we spend the entire day living with fire. The guests who join us at the counter end up gazing at the flames in silence during gaps in their conversation. Fire must have some kind of power to bring us back to our roots, to something ancient within us, and inspire philosophical thoughts. By cooking almost everything entirely by the heat of the fire at monk, I hope our guests can connect with this part of them through the food we share with them.’

What does it look like? There is an elemental simplicity and beauty to Imai’s food. Even a bowl of turnip soup looks like a work of art – swirled with purees of turnip greens and carrots and served in an elegant grey and blue-flecked artisan ceramic ‘vessel’ (of a large dark blue dish made by Taniai-based ceramicist Teppei Ono, Imai says, ‘Looking at it, I get the sensation that this is not a plate, but a hole in space through which one can peer into a deep ocean.’) The signature pizzas – made perhaps with fresh nori or fiddlehead ferns and koshiabura (the sprouts of a wild tree) – are extraordinary. Kyoto itself, depicted through the seasons (the book is divided into spring, summer, autumn and winter) looks like heaven on earth, with lush greenery, vibrant blossoms, crystal waters and open blue skies in the spring and summer; rich red and orange foliage in the autumn and a land of moss and frosts in the winter. At the risk of repeating myself on this blog, the publisher Phaidon are past masters at creating visually pleasing cookbooks, but monk is simply ravishing.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you want to follow the recipes to the letter and you don’t live in Japan, you are going to run into problems. Try tracking down Shogoin turnip, shirako bamboo shoots (‘the fresh heads of the shoots before they appear above ground’, explains Imai), seri (Japanese parsley), yomogi (Japanese mugwort), or nanohana blossoms in Middlesbrough(or London, probably).

What’s the faff factor? If you have a wood fired oven and you can navigate your way through the ingredients lists, finding reasonable substitutes for items that Imai sources locally in Kyoto, then often the recipes are fairly straightforward to execute. Some dishes, including slow-roasted napa cabbage; tomato soup, and the pizza dough recipe could even be adapted for a domestic oven, with a bit of tweaking. The reality for many home cooks however will be that this is a book to read, enjoy, marvel at and dream of visiting monk one day to experience it all for yourself, rather than try and replicate at home. Professional chefs are more likely to have the skills resources and suppliers to make more practical use of the book, especially those based in Japan.

What will I love? monk captures Imai’s distinctive, individual and inspiringly soulful culinary expression.  It’s a complete pleasure to read and to gaze at Yuka Yanazume’s gorgeous images.

What won’t I love? This is probably not a book that you will be cooking from on a regular basis.

Killer recipes: pea soup; suyaki pizza crust; romaine lettuce, egg and yomogi; cherry leaf roast beef; octopus, red shisho and red onion; assorted roasted vegetables, summer; plum lemon verbena and green tea oil.

Should I buy it? If you are passionate about modern gastronomy and love to travel to eat, this book is for you.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy the book 
monk: Light and Shadow on the Philosopher’s Path
£29.95, Phaidon

Mina’s Chicken Paprikash by Ella Buchan and Alessandra Pino

Chicken Paprikash

Unlike Dracula’s cold cuts, this traditional Hungarian dish – also known as Paprika Hendl – is a warm welcome in a bowl, thick, rich and shot through with the subtle smokiness of paprika. Serve the pink-sauced stew spooned over ribbons of black tagliatelle – usually coloured by squid ink or activated charcoal – for full Gothic effect. It’ll taste just as lovely accompanied by noodles, potatoes or rice, though. Or simply eat it with a spoon, perhaps with some chunky bread to mop up the sauce.
For a vegetarian version, try chickpeas in place of chicken, or simply roast extra veg like mushrooms, courgettes and leeks and add after step two.

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 tbsp olive oil
1kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 tbsp butter
2 onions, sliced into fine strips
2 cloves garlic
2 red peppers, sliced into fine strips
6 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp hot paprika
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
300ml sour cream
350g black tagliatelle, to serve (optional)

Method
1. Gently heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or stewpot and add the chicken, cooking for around 4-5 minutes on each side to brown. Remove and set aside.
2. Using the same pan, reduce heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and pepper, cooking for a minute before adding the paprika.
3. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on a low-medium heat for around half an hour, until chicken is tender. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to packet instructions.
4. Combine a few ladlefuls of the sauce with the sour cream, then add back to the pan, stirring gently. Continue cooking until heated through, and serve over the pasta – or your chosen accompaniment.

This recipe is extracted from A Gothic Cookbook which is crowdfunding with Unbound Publishing. Readers can get 10% off pledges up to £100 by using the code PAPRIKA10 between Tuesday 13 July and Thursday, July 15. Click here to take advantage of this limited time offer. 

Cook more from this book and read an extract

Rice pudding with apple compote and milk jam by Rob Howell

Rice pudding - 227

Muller Rice was a regular treat growing up and I love them to this day – ‘madeleine’ memory flavours are always the best. This is Root’s take on Muller Rice which we serve cold on top of an apple compote. The puddings can be made in advance and will keep very well in the fridge for a good few days along with the milk jam.

SERVES 4

FOR THE APPLE COMPOTE
20g caster sugar
3 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3mm dice

FOR THE MILK JAM
65g caster sugar
280ml whole milk
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

FOR THE RICE PUDDING
100g pudding rice
650ml whole milk
50ml double cream
65g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla seeds (scraped from ½ vanilla pod)
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

First, make the apple compote. Tip the sugar into a medium saucepan and add the sliced cooking apples. Place the pan over a medium heat and allow the apples to break down for about 5 minutes, until soft. Transfer the apple mixture to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Return the purée to the pan and add the diced Granny Smiths. Place the pan over a low heat and cook the sauce for about 2–3 minutes, until the apples have softened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Make the milk jam. Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, for approximately 15–20 minutes until you have a dark brown caramel. Leave to cool. (Any leftovers will store in the fridge for up to 5 days.)

Rinse the pudding rice in a bowl and repeat until the water runs clear. Tip the rice into a large saucepan and add the remaining pudding ingredients. Place over a low heat and cook, stirring well, for 15 minutes, or until the rice is softened but still has a little bite.

Spoon the apple compote equally into the bottom of each bowl. Top with equal amounts of the rice pudding and spoonfuls of milk jam, adding as much as you wish. Serve warm or cold.

Cook more from this book
Buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce by Rob Howell
Roasted carrots with spiced pumpkin seeds, peaches and crème fraîche by Rob Howell

Read the review

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Roasted carrots with spiced pumpkin seeds, peaches and crème fraîche by Rob Howell

Roasted carrots - 133
Carrots simply roasted with honey or agave syrup and some herbs is pretty much carrot heaven. The peaches are a lovely addition, but you could also use apricots, pears or, if you wanted something a little more exotic, kimchi.

SERVES 4

FOR THE SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS
100g pumpkin seeds
1 pinch of paprika
1 pinch of allspice
1 pinch of ground coriander

FOR THE PICKLED CARROT
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly with a mandolin
pickle liquid (see below)

FOR THE ROASTED CARROTS
2 bunches of carrots (about 16 carrots), green tops discarded
6 thyme sprigs
6 rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons runny honey or agave syrup
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
juice of 1 orange
2 peaches, destoned and sliced, to serve
100g crème fraîche, to serve
fennel fronds, torn, to garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the pumpkin seeds. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas Mark 4. Scatter the pumpkin seeds over a baking tray and scatter over the spices. Give it all a shake to combine. Place the tray in the oven and roast the seeds for 10–15 minutes, until they are lightly coloured and nicely toasted. Leave to cool, then transfer to a food processor and blitz to a crumb. Set aside.

Make the pickled carrot. Place the thinly sliced carrot in a bowl and pour over pickle liquid to cover. Set aside.

Increase the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Make the roasted carrots. We don’t peel our carrots, as we feel the softer skin of the variety we use adds to the texture of the dish, but you can peel yours if you prefer. Place the carrots in a baking tray and scatter over the herbs and garlic, and drizzle over the honey or agave and the rapeseed oil. Season well and toss everything together in the tray. Place the tray in the oven and roast the carrots for 15–20 minutes, then add the orange juice to the tray and roast for a further 2 minutes, or until the carrots are tender but retain a good bite (the exact cooking time will depend on the size of your carrots).

Chop the roasted carrots into random sizes and divide them equally among 4 plates. Scatter over the pumpkin-seed crumb, then drizzle over any roasting juices. Add the peach slices and the pickled carrot. Finish with a nice spoonful of crème fraîche and garnish with the fennel fronds.

PICKLE LIQUID
Just like vegetable stock, we keep pickle liquid in the restaurant kitchen at all times ready to go. This is our base pickle recipe. You can tailor the pickle as you wish, adding extra flavourings such as citrus peels, spices or aromatics. Make a large amount to keep in the fridge for use as the occasion demands.

MAKES ABOUT 1 LITRE
600ml white wine vinegar
400ml caster sugar
300ml white wine

Place the ingredients in a saucepan with 300ml of water. Whisk them together and place them over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Leave the liquid to cool, transfer it to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to use.

Cook more from this book
Buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce by Rob Howell
Rice pudding with apple compote and milk jam by Rob Howell

Read the review

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce by Rob Howell

Buttermilk fried celeraic - 27

SERVES 5

Forget fried chicken, this celeriac is all you will need to satisfy your KFC cravings. The sauce is easy to make and demands just a few specialist ingredients, though nothing you can’t find in a large supermarket, and will help transform all sorts of dishes. It also keeps very well.

FOR THE SAUCE
150g gochujang paste
100ml dark soy sauce
50g light brown soft sugar
25ml mirin
75ml rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
50ml sesame oil
50g stem ginger and
1 tablespoon syrup

FOR THE FRIED CELERIAC
1 celeriac
1 litre cooking oil, for frying, plus 1 teaspoon for rubbing the celeriac
200g buttermilk (or oat milk for a vegan version)
dredge (see below)
2 teaspoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
sea salt

For the sauce simply place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little water if needed to reach a nice, saucy consistency. Keep in the fridge in a sealed container until needed.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Rub the celeriac with the teaspoon of oil and then rub over a good amount of sea salt and wrap the celeriac tightly in foil. Cover with a further 4 layers of foil – this helps the celeriac almost steam itself and leaves it with an amazing texture. Bake for about 1½ hours (the exact time will depend on the size of your celeriac), until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Then, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool in the foil for 2 hours or so.

Remove the foil and then, using a knife, remove the celeriac skin, taking as little flesh away as possible. Using your hands, tear the celeriac flesh into small chunks – different sizes is best, so you end up with some nice, small crispy bits alongside some lovely large pieces.

Pour the cooking oil into a deep pan until two-thirds full and heat the oil to 180°C on a cooking thermometer or until a cube of day-old bread turns golden in 60 seconds (or preheat a deep-fat fryer to 180°C).

Get 2 mixing bowls: put the buttermilk (or oat milk) in one of them and the dredge in the other. Using your hands, place the celeriac pieces into the buttermilk or oat milk first, then into the dredge. Make sure the celeriac pieces have a good coating on them. Fry the pieces in batches, for about 3 minutes per batch, until golden and crisp. Set aside each batch to drain on kitchen paper, while you fry the next. Once all the pieces are fried and drained, place them in a clean mixing bowl, season them slightly with salt and coat them in the sauce. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped coriander and toasted sesame seeds.

DREDGE

Our chef Josh Gibbons brought this fantastic recipe with him when he joined us and it’s been used with most things imaginable ever since. In the book I’ve used it with the celeriac dish on page 26 and the chicken recipe on page 210, but don’t stop there and be free to use it as you wish.

400g strong white bread flour or gluten-free flour
40g corn flour
2g baking powder
6g garlic powder
8g onion powder
10g white pepper
6g smoked paprika
5g cayenne pepper
3g ground turmeric

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl, then transfer to an airtight container and store in a dry place. The dredge will keep for 6 months or more.

Cook more from this book
Roasted carrots with spiced pumpkin seeds, peaches and crème fraîche by Rob Howell
Rice pudding with apple compote and milk jam by Rob Howell

Read the review

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

The Curry Guy Thai by Dan Toombs

Curry Guy Thai

What’s the USP? An introduction to Thai cooking, The Curry Guy Thai seeks to show readers how to recreate their favourite Thai takeaway recipes at home. 

Who wrote it? Dan Toombs, the self-styled ‘Curry Guy’ of the title. The Californian crossed the Atlantic to settle in the UK way back in 1993, and has been something of an obsessive since discovering our nation’s fabulous curry tradition. After starting a curry recipe blog in 2010, Toombs’ popularity began to rise – and his work ethic no doubt has something to do with that. The Curry Guy Thai is his seventh book. His first, The Curry Guy, came out just four years ago. 

Is it good bedtime reading? Toombs enjoys giving context to each recipe through relatively detailed introductions, but there isn’t much to keep you entertained beyond those. It would have been nice to see some lengthier chapter introductions that explored the different aspects of Thai food. The country’s cuisine has exploded in popularity of the past few years, and whilst it is available on a much wider level than that of other Southeast Asian nations, there is still plenty of education to offered to a nation who still don’t really understand the difference between green and red curries (it is not, Toombs notes, the spice levels). 

What’s the faff factor? This was my first foray into the Curry Guy series and, having seen them all over the cookbook sections for the last few years, I was surprised by certain things. With the mass market publication Toombs’ books have received, their relatively low price (this title has an RRP of £15), and their lack of physical heft (around 150 pages here), I had assumed Toombs was putting out quick recipes that could offer busy families a way to enjoy a semi-authentic takeaway-style dish on a weekday night. 

In reality, The Curry Guy Thai offers an earnest attempt at authenticity wherever possible. This is great, in theory – a genuine way to explore Thai cooking at home and capture the flavour of a good takeaway or even restaurant dish. Unfortunately this also means committing yourself to a little more time and effort. 

Ingredients lists are pretty long, and frequently stretch beyond the local supermarket shelves, asking you to seek out galangal or lime leaves. With the focus more on true replication than home cooking, Toombs offers recipes that require deep frying when perhaps a shallow fry or oven-based alternative might have been more practical for the reader. 

Is it the best way to explore Thai cooking then? The problem quickly becomes that of the competition. It’s been two years since Kay Plunkett-Hogge put out Baan, which has quickly become the benchmark for Thai cookbooks in the UK. That one might have been marketed a little more squarely at enthusiastic hobby cooks, but in truth it outperforms The Curry Guy Thai in every field – more authentic, easier recipes and much more practical for regular weeknight dinners. 

There are options to save your energy – allowances for the use of ready made curry pastes instead of the time-consuming homemade version – but when I tried these within the context of the recipes I found them underwhelming. 

What will I love? The book does a good job at collecting all of your favourite takeaway dishes, meaning you’ll be able to put together a Thai feast of your own if you ever want to. 

What won’t I love? Very few of the recipes are as quick and easy as you’d like, so that Thai feast is going to be quite a bit of work. 

Killer recipes: Prawn Toasts, Duck Jungle Curry, Thai Holy Basil and Chilli Chicken Stir Fry, Red Pork Nugget Curry, Choo Chee Salmon 

Should I buy it? If you’re a fan of the existing Curry Guy books, this will fit in perfectly on your shelf and offer more of the same stylistically whilst expanding the canon into Thailand. Otherwise, maybe take a moment to explore the other options before committing to this fairly middle-of-the-road cookbook. 

Cuisine: Thai
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy the book 
Curry Guy Thai: Recreate Over 100 Classic Thai Takeaway Dishes at Home
£15, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

The Alchemist Cocktail Book by Holly Tudor, Felix Crosse and Jenny McPhee

The Alchemist Cocktail Book

What’s the USP? Modern and classic cocktail recipes from the UK cocktail bar group The Alchemist, established by the late and much admired restaurateur Tim Bacon.

Who are the authors? Holly Tudor (Cocktail Development, Bar Specialist and Head Bartender at The Alchemist, Media City in Salford); Felix Crosse (Head of Bars at The Alchemist group) and Jenny McPhee (Head of Brand for The Alchemist).  They are not credited on the cover, instead ‘The Alchemist has asserted their right to be indentified as the author of this work’. They are however acknowledged in the note ‘Recipe and content compiled by’ in the book’s front matter, although I had to Google their job titles.  I’ve never fully understood publisher’s reluctance to put author’s names on the cover of books of this sort. Of course The Alchemist name is what will catch the reader’s attention and will drive sales, but the book is not just a compilation of content; it hasn’t come from nowhere, someone has sat down in front of a computer and written it, it has been authored and that should get proper recognition. Rant over.  

Is it good bedtime reading? No. Just a one page intro and then your into a list of essential cocktail equipment and recipes for basic cocktail elements like L&G, an infusion of sugar and citrus peel. All very useful but more a practical instruction manual than chillaxing reading material.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There are elements of what used to be referred to as ‘molecular mixology’ in the book so you’ll need to refer to the list of specialist suppliers for sodium alginate powder and calcium lactate powder if you want to use the spherification process to create garnishes like rhubarb caviar for your drinks. You also need to find 24 edible gold sheet flakes to make gold vanilla spheres and garden mint flavour drops to make garden caviar. Unless you are already a cocktail enthusiast, you’ll also need to stock up your home bar with everything from marmalade vodka to coconut rum and crème de pêche liquer to velvet falernum (sugar cane, lime, almond and clove liqueur); the list goes on and on.

What’s the faff factor? Drinks range from the now classic simple and straightforward Cosmopolitan (just shake together vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice and Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City – the TV show that made the drink famous – is your slightly pissed up glamorous aunt) to the Legal One which requires infusing your own cardamom gin, making Tropical vermouth by dehydrating pineapple wedges (you’ve got a dehydrator, right?) and adding them to white vermouth along with some pineapple flavour drops you’ve ordered from your specialist supplier and leaving to infuse for 12 hours before straining. You can then place your dry ice pellets in your bong – no, really – and pour in your shaken gin, vermouth, lime juice, tonic water and pineapple and coconut syrup creation. The recipe screams LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS but I suppose someone might give it a go.

How often will I use the book? How much of a raging lush are you? Seriously though, if you are looking for a fun new hobby, this book is a great introduction to the bartender’s art and you might well disappear down an alcohol-infused rabbit hole, discovering new drinks and techniques that are as much about flavour and texture combinations (foams as well as the aforementioned spherified ‘caviars’ are a big thing in the book)  as they are getting hammered, although they are about getting hammered, let’s not get too hammered to forget that. It will also come in handy for the more casual drinker looking for something easy to knock up to help welcome in the weekend.

Killer recipes? Tropic Swirl (vodka, passion fruit liqueur and a mix of fruit juices); Hot and Cold Espresso Martini; Porn Star Martini; Paloma; Dead Red Zombie (a mix of rums, Grand Marnier, various juices and a teaspoon of the deadly sounding Zombie Mix made with absenthe and marashino cherry liqueur).

What will I love? With its list of equipment, basic bar tending essentials, foams, spirit batches and infusions, shrubs and syrups, speherificaions and list of specialist suppliers in addition to the recipes, the book has everything a budding modern home mixologist needs. Just add Alka-Seltzer for the morning after.

Should I buy it? If you are looking to shake up your drinks repertoire and are willing to put some time, money and effort into it, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. But the book is also worth the relatively small investment to have a range of reliable, classic cocktail recipes easily to hand.

Cuisine: Cocktails
Suitable for: Beginners and cocktail enthusiasts
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
The Alchemist Cocktail Book: Master the dark arts of mixology
£16.99, Ebury Press

Root by Rob Howell

Roots by Rob Howell

What’s the USP? A collection of modern, inventive vegetable-forward, often vegan recipes that also includes seafood and meat dishes. 

Who’s the author? Rob Howell is the head chef of Root, the Bristol restaurant that’s set in a converted shipping container on the city’s Wapping Wharf.  

Is it good bedtime reading? Aside from a brief introductory section that includes a forward from Root’s co-founder Josh Eggleton, an introducton from Howell himself and notes on  seasonality, produce and seasoning, the bulk of the reading material lies in the short but informative recipe introductions. So one more for the kitchen than the nightstand.  

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Salsify is still one vegetable that’s still a little tricky to get hold of, at least in the UK, so crispy frying it and serving it with roasted garlic mayo might take a little bit of effort, similarly kolrhabi for a slaw to accompany grilled flatbreads with babganoush. You’ll need a good cheesemonger for ewe’s curd to add to turnip and apple-filled chicory leaves and a decent deli for smoked rapeseed oil to add to yoghurt to serve with salt-baked beetroot.  You’ll hopefully have a good butcher who will get you ox heart to grill and serve with pickled red cabbage and sweetbreads to glaze with Marmite and maple syrup (God, that sounds good), plus a reliable fishmonger for pretty much everything in the fish chapter. That aside, the recipes include many accessible ingredients.  

What’s the faff factor? This is a book by a chef based on recipes from a small plates restaurant so you won’t be surprised that many dishes require several elements to be prepared and then brought together; easier to do in a professional kitchen compared to a domestic one. Often, you’ll need to put quite a bit of effort into something that will only be big enough to form one course of a meal. Therefore recipes such as oysters two ways (fresh with chilli ginger and gherkin and crispy with tartare sauce) or grilled red mullet with a sauce made from the bones will remain dinner party fodder. However, there are plenty of dishes like chilli and ginger Sharpham Park spelt with chestnut mushrooms or courgette ragu baked in a marrow that are  straightforward and satisfying enough to make a delicious mid-week meal.  

How often will I cook from the book? Although the book probably sits in the hobby/weekend-cooking category, there are dozens of delicious sauces, dressings, dips, relishes, pickles and savoury jams that you’ll want to add to your regular repertoire, as well as simple salads and vegetable courses that could be adapted as side dishes, making it a book that you’ll want to refer to often.    

Killer recipes? Roasted squash with kale pesto, squash barigoule prune puree and Old Winchester;  buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce; crispy potato and cheese terrine; hassleback parsnips with honey-mustard mayonnaise; heritage tomatoes with grilled focaccia, aubergine puree and tomato jam; baked seaweed hake with tikka masala-style sauce and bok choi; chicken schnitzel with garlic, parmesan and fresh anchovies; carrot jam-filled doughnuts with mascarpone vanilla cream. 

What will I love? The ‘larder’ chapter will help modernise your cooking with recipes for trendy items like seaweed vinegar, burnt onion puree, kale pesto and pickled wild garlic capers.  

Should I buy it? Root is bursting with exciting and inspirational ideas that any keen cook will delight in. The accent on vegetables is bang on trend and will help those of us in search of help in cutting down our meat intake.  One of 2021’s essential purchases. 

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars 

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang

20-02-17 - Crispy King Trumpet Mushrooms - 006
Serves 2

This is my vegan version of a famous Sichuan pork dish, Hui guo rou, where the meat is boiled in an aromatic stock, then sliced and fried until crisp, and finally stir-fried with chilli, fermented salted black beans and a host of Chinese seasonings. Instead of pork, I am using meaty king trumpet mushrooms. This dish is perfect served with jasmine rice.

kcal — 410
carbs — 80.3g
protein — 10.0g
fat — 7.6g

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
300g (10½oz) king trumpet mushrooms, sliced into 1cm (½in) rounds
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 tbsp yellow bean paste
1 tbsp fermented salted black beans, rinsed and crushed
1 spring onion, trimmed and sliced on the angle into julienne strips (optional)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
pinch of golden granulated or caster sugar
pinch of ground white pepper
cooked jasmine rice, to serve (see page 194)

Place a wok over a high heat until smoking, then add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the ginger and cook, tossing, for few seconds, then add the mushrooms. As they start to brown, add the rice wine or sherry, then stir in the chilli bean paste and the yellow bean paste, followed by the fermented salted black beans. Add the spring onions, if using, and stir-fry for less than a minute. Season with the dark soy sauce, tamari or light soy sauce, sugar and ground white pepper and give it all one final toss. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

Cook more from this book
Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang
Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang

Read the review  

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang

Smoked Tofu & Broccoli Korean Ram-don - 029
Serves 4

kcal — 552
carbs — 57.9g
protein — 30.2g
fat — 21.9g

This is inspired by the beef ram-don in the Korean movie Parasite. I wanted to make a vegan version using chunky smoked tofu, mushrooms and long-stem broccoli. The result is a more-ish, umami-rich, addictively spicy noodle dish. To make the dish speedier, I place the aromatics (garlic, ginger, shallots and chilli) in a food processor and then just add them to the wok.

200g (7oz) dried ramen or udon noodles
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
2.5cm (1in) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled
3 shallots
2 red chillies, deseeded
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
200g (7oz) smoked tofu, drained, rinsed in cold water and sliced into 2cm (¾in) cubes
400g (14oz) firm tofu, drained and sliced into 2cm (¾in) cubes
200g (7oz) fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
150g (5½oz) long-stem broccoli, florets sliced lengthwise and stalks sliced into 0.5cm (¼in) rounds
2 tbsp vegetarian mushroom sauce
1 tbsp clear rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced on the angle into 1cm (½in) slices

Noodle seasoning (per bowl)
1 tsp dark soy sauce and Chiu Chow chilli oil
1 tbsp each tahini and sweet chilli sauce
sprinkle of shichimi togarashi pepper flakes

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Rinse under cold water and drain well, then drizzle over the toasted sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside in the colander until needed.

Place the garlic, ginger, shallots and red chillies in a small food processor and blitz to form a paste. Mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp water in a small bowl or cup to make a slurry. Set aside until needed. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the aromatic paste and cook, stirring, for a few seconds until fragrant. Add both kinds of tofu and the mushrooms. Season with the rice wine and dark soy sauce and toss together well for 1–2 minutes until all the ingredients are coated.

Add the broccoli and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Stir in the mushroom sauce, rice vinegar and tamari or light soy sauce. Pour in the cornflour slurry to thicken the cooking juices in the wok, and toss to mix well.

Pour some boiling water over the noodles in the colander to reheat them, then divide them between four bowls.

Place a ladleful of the tofu, mushroom and broccoli mixture on one side of the noodles in each bowl, and top with the sliced spring onion. Dress the noodles by drizzling over the dark soy sauce, Chiu Chow chilli oil, tahini and sweet chilli sauce, followed by a generous sprinkle of shichimi togarashi pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

Cook more from this book
Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang
Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang

Read the review 

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang

Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle - 014

Serves 2

Who doesn’t love sweetcorn soup? This soup brings out my inner child. The chunky sweetcorn kernels are so satisfying, but I like to add shavings of black truffle for a nutty, rich and decadent treat. If you are a die-hard vegan, then omit the truffle. Truffles are a fungus, but sometimes pigs are used to sniff for them. Whether or not you agree with this depends on your own personal stance. Truffle or no truffle, this Chinese-style sweetcorn soup never fails to hit the spot.

kcal — 247
carbs — 32.9g
protein — 6.8g
fat — 10.5g

1 large tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2.5cm (1in) piece of fresh root ginger, grated
340g (12oz) can sweetcorn, drained
100g (3½oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground white pepper
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced into rounds
shavings of black truffle (optional), to garnish

In a small bowl, mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp cold water to form a slurry. Set aside until needed. Heat a wok over a high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, bouillon powder and rice wine or sherry, along with 600ml (20fl oz) water. Bring to the boil, then add the fresh shiitake mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Season with the tamari or light soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, salt and ground white pepper. Pour in the cornflour slurry and stir gently to thicken. Add the spring onions and give the soup one final stir. Divide between two bowls. If using truffles, grate generously over each bowl, then serve immediately.

Cook more from this book
Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang
Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang

Read the review

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Cooking on the Big Green Egg by James Whetlor

Cooking on the Big Green Egg by James Whetlor

What’s the USP? A user manual for the Big Green Egg ceramic barbecue (referred to from here on as BGE) that’s a big hit with professional chefs, keen home cooks and barbecue enthusiasts alike, with recipes.

Who’s the author? James Whetlor is probably best known as the owner of the Cabrito goat meat business. He is the author of Goat (read our review here) and is a former chef who worked in London and for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage in Devon.

Is it good bedtime reading? There is plenty for the BGE owner to get their teeth into with a meaty introductory chapter that covers everything from lighting and using your egg, to setting up your egg, fuel for your egg, tools and equipment for your egg and a guide to ingredients.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You will need to head to Whetlor’s Cabrito website if you want to make goat shoulder with pomegranate raan or whole roast kid; your butcher for ox heart to make pinchos morunos and a specialist shop or online retailer for the ancho and pasilla chilles required to make recipes like pork or ox cheeks with masa harina soft tortilla or mole sauce.  There are other examples but in the main, you should have little trouble tracking down the majority of the ingredients required.

What’s the faff factor? This will depend on your view on BBQ, bearing in mind that you have to prepare your BGE before you get to cook anything on it.  Some will view it as a pleasure, others a pain, although the latter probably wouldn’t have splashed a grand on a sizeable ceramic lump in the first place. In terms of the recipes themselves, they range from a simple seared onglet à l’échalote to a more involved pork shoulder with vindaloo spices. 

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you barbecue? In his introduction, chef Tom Kerridge would have you believe that ‘Big Green Eggs can become a way of life’ and that ‘Once you’ve….tried some recipes in this book, you’ll be barbecuing in February’. For most of us, in the UK at least, barbecuing is very much a summer pastime. That said, if you’ve invested in a BGE then you might well be motivated to make as much use of it as possible.

Killer recipes? At the risk of labouring a point, there are some great recipes in this book, but they will only really be of interest to BGE owners.  Some may work on other BBQ set ups, but I’m not sure why, with so many other more general BBQ books on the market, you would take the risk. That said, whole crown prince squash stuffed with pumpkin seeds and chillies; hispi cabbage with jalapeno buttermilk and ancho dressing; lamb ribs with tamarind glaze; lamb chop bhuna; paratha and orange blossom honey and pistachio pastilla all sound delicous. The short chapter on sauces and condiments including mango ketchup and harissa is extremely handy.

What will I love? The embossed cover that replicates the scaly surface of a real Big Green Egg is just great.

What won’t I like? If you don’t own a BGE, have a guess.

Should I buy it? If you’re paying a minimum of £780 for a Big Green Egg (that will get you a mini version. A basic starter pack of accessories will cost you another £134. You can pay up to £1,665 for an XL egg) you’d think you might get an instruction manual and recipes thrown in for that sort of money. Mind you, if you have that amount of disposable income, what’s another £25?

Although there are some great recipes in the book which feasibly may work on other barbecues (such as the strikingly similar Kamado Joe), the whole affair is so obviously BGE-specific that there is really no point owning this book unless you have splurged on a BGE.

Cuisine: Barbecue/International
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Cooking on the Big Green Egg: Everything you need to know from set-up to cooking techniques, with 70 recipes
£25, Hardie Grant/Quadrille

Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, harissa by Raymond Blanc

SIMPLY RAYMOND by Raymond Blanc. Headline Home 2021
PREP 10 MINS / COOK ABOUT 4½ HOURS / MARINATE 1 HOUR (BUT NOT ESSENTIAL)

When I was about 12 years old, I was introduced to the food of Algeria, and by strange means. This was during the Algerian War, and in France there were camps for Algerian refugees. One such camp was close to my village and, with my friend René, I would go and visit these intriguing, kind and friendly people. They fed us well. I remember seeing whole lambs roasted on the spit and, as the meat was turned, it was also painted with the spicy juices. For my young palate, it was perhaps a bit too spicy. I was the stranger who was drawn in, and have never forgotten their kindness. This dish does not require a whole lamb. When it comes to slow cooking lamb, the shoulder is the best cut, meltingly tender and incredibly tasty. When harissa is added, this is a wonderful dish, and the chickpeas will only complement it. A shoulder of lamb varies in weight, becoming heavier as the year progresses. A 2.5kg shoulder, like the one in this recipe, will take about 4½ hours; one weighing 3kg will need 5½ hours. Aim to remove it from the fridge 4–5 hours before cooking to come to room temperature.

1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
100g rose harissa
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2.5kg new season’s
shoulder of lamb
300ml water

For the chickpea salad
1 jar (230g) piquillo peppers
2 preserved beldi lemons
a large handful of curly or flat-leaf parsley
2 tins (400g) chickpeas
sea salt and black pepper

TO PREPARE Mix together the salt, cumin and harissa, and then add the extra-virgin olive oil. Place the lamb in a roasting tin. Lightly score the skin of the lamb and rub it all over with the salty harissa mixture. At this point, you can leave the lamb for an hour, allowing the harissa flavours to infuse, but this is not essential.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. Cover the lamb shoulder loosely with foil, and return it to the oven to roast for a further 2 hours. Now baste the lamb, add the water and return it to the oven for 2 hours, again loosely covered with foil.
While the lamb is roasting, chop the piquillo peppers, finely chop the preserved lemons (skin and pulp) and coarsely chop the parsley. Put them to one side; you will need them to finish the dish.

Remove the lamb from the oven. Spoon out most of the fat from the tin, leaving the roasting juices. To the warm roasting juices, add the chickpeas, peppers and lemon. Add the parsley too and season with the salt and pepper. Toss together and bring to the boil on the hob. Place the lamb shoulder on a platter with the chickpea salad. Bring the lamb to the table and invite your guests to help themselves. The lamb will be tender enough to fall from the bone with a spoon, though it can be carved if you prefer.

Cook from this book 
Mussel and saffron risotto by Raymond Blanc
Pear almondine by Raymond Blanc

Read the review

Buy this book
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home – The Sunday Times Bestseller, includes recipes from the ITV series
£25 Headline Home

Mussel and saffron risotto by Raymond Blanc

SIMPLY RAYMOND by Raymond Blanc. Headline Home 2021
PREP 20 MINS / COOK 40 MINS

Mussels and saffron are united harmoniously in this classic risotto. There’s no need for that constant stirring. Instead, the rice is stirred towards the end of the cooking time to activate the starches, a trick you can use with any risotto you make.

SERVES 4

For the mussels
1kg fresh mussels
1 onion
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
100ml dry white wine

For the risotto
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
200g carnaroli rice (or arborio)
2 bay leaves
a couple of pinches of saffron powder or strands
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 pinches of sea salt flakes
100ml dry white wine
300ml water (or fish stock)

To finish
50g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
a handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
100g cooked peas (optional)
a handful of baby-leaf spinach (optional)
½ lemon, for squeezing

TO PREPARE First, the mussels. Ensure that all the mussels are tightly closed and not damaged before you begin to cook; any mussels that are damaged or open should be discarded. The preparation can be done in advance. Wash the mussels in a large bowl and under cold running water. Mussels that float at this stage are not very fresh, so discard them. Remove any barnacles and beards, but don’t scrub the shells as this can end up colouring the cooking juices. Drain.

Finely chop the onion and peeled garlic and grate the cheese. In a large saucepan over a medium heat, sweat half the onion, the bay leaves and thyme in the butter for 1 minute. Increase the heat to high, add the mussels, pour in the wine, cover with a lid and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a sieve over a large bowl and discard any mussels that have not opened. Reserve the cooking juices, you will need about 200ml to make the risotto. Once the mussels have cooled, pick the mussels from their shells, leaving a few in their shells for decoration, and put them all aside.

Now, to the risotto … Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the remaining onion, cover with a lid and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and stir in the rice. Add the bay leaves, saffron and cayenne pepper and lightly season with salt. Stir and continue to cook on a medium heat for 2 minutes, until the grains of rice are shiny. Pour in the wine and let it boil for 30 seconds – bubble, bubble – and stir. Pour in the mussel cooking liquor and the water or fish stock and stir again. Now cook on the gentlest simmer, with just a single bubble breaking the surface. Cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes, but it mustn’t boil. 4

Now it’s time for 5 minutes of some serious and fast stirring. At full speed, stir the risotto. The grains rub against each other, extracting the starch, and this gives the rice its creaminess. Yet every grain remains whole, unbroken. Taste – the rice should have a slight bite. Add the cheese, butter and parsley to the risotto, along with the cooked peas and spinach, if using, all the cooked mussels and a strong squeeze of lemon. Stir, taste and correct the seasoning just before serving. 

Cook more from this book
Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, harissa by Raymond Blanc
Pear almondine by Raymond Blanc

Read the review

Buy this book
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home – The Sunday Times Bestseller, includes recipes from the ITV series
£25 Headline Home

Pear almondine by Raymond Blanc

SIMPLY RAYMOND by Raymond Blanc. Headline Home 2021

It’s rare to find a dessert that is both simple and extraordinarily delicious. Pear Almondine is one of my favourites. You can find some excellent preserved Williams pears in jars or tins, ideal for this recipe. This dessert is a template to accommodate many other fruits and flavours. For baking like this, I like to use a baking stone. However, if you don’t have this, it will still be a winner.

SERVES 6
6 pear halves, tinned or jarred
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for brushing the tin
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium egg (preferably organic or free-range)

To serve
a handful of flaked
almonds (for extra flavour, first toast them in a dry pan)
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Butter (or oil) a tart ring, about 18cm x 2cm. Cut a long strip of greaseproof paper to stick to the inside. Place the lined tart ring on a lined baking tray or baking stone. Drain the pears and slice them in half again if they are large. In a large bowl, mix the softened butter and sugar. Then add ground almonds, cornflour, vanilla and egg, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin, spreading it evenly.

Arrange the pear halves evenly around the outside of the tart, resting them on top of the almond sponge mixture, and with the tip of each half meeting in the middle. According to size of the pears, you may require the base of half a pear to fill a space in the centre. Scatter with almonds. Bake the tart on the middle shelf of the oven, on the preheated baking stone or baking tray, for 20–25 minutes, or until golden. Leave the cake to cool for a few minutes before removing it from the ring. Before serving, dust with icing sugar.

VARIATION
In a saucepan, reduce the syrup from the jar, let it cool and add a dash of Poire William, the pear liqueur. After baking, puncture the pears with a fork and pour over the syrup. It adds colour and flavour.

Cook more from this book
Mussel and saffron risotto by Raymond Blanc
Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, harissa by Raymond Blanc

Read the review

Buy this book
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home – The Sunday Times Bestseller, includes recipes from the ITV series
£25 Headline Home

Book extract: A Vegetarian Monster: Revenge, Betrayal & Berries in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from A Gothic Cookbook by Ella Buchan and Alessandra Pino

Frankenstein main image
Food humanises Dr Frankenstein’s cobbled-together creation and raises the question: who is the real monster here?

An existential crisis doesn’t sound all that appetising. Nor does a jumble of long-expired body parts, cobbled together to create something resembling a human. And nor do gaping, stomach-churning chasms of icy loneliness. Yet this enduringly classic tale of the created and the creator, nature and nurture, and the pursuer and the pursued is an endless source of discussion worthy of the most salubrious of dinner parties.

The kind that Mary Shelley might have hosted or attended with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, holding court over a table groaning with glazed meats and platters laden with jewel-hued fruits. (Though Shelley may have abstained from the meat; the poet spent long periods as a vegetarian.) Guests glugging ruby wine and contributing bon mots might have included Lord Byron, who was present when the seeds of Frankenstein were sown.

In fact, one of the world’s most famous Gothic novels might not exist at all if it weren’t for Byron. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (she was yet to marry), Shelley, and his fellow Romantic poet Bryon were among the luminaries holidaying in Lake Geneva in 1816, which “proved a wet, ungenial summer”, according to Mary’s introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. Conversation ducked and scurried down dark, Gothic avenues and, after long discussions dissecting ghost stories and musing on the horror genre, Byron had a proposal: they each pen their own terrifying tale.

After days struggling against writer’s block, Mary – then aged just 18 – created her monster after a particularly terrifying) “waking dream”. It wasn’t (and isn’t) a ghost story in any traditional sense, but it seems safe to say that her story cast a creepy shadow over the others. The novel was published in 1818 and has since been published in more than 300 editions and turned into several movies (perhaps most famously James Whale’s 1931 version, starring Boris Karloff as the droopy-lidded, bolt-necked monster).

Its themes of exile, misery, loneliness and guilt elevate it above a simple horror story and place it firmly in the complex Gothic genre, with a sprinkling of pioneering science fiction. Much discussed, too, are the novel’s parallels with the creation story and the Fall of Man, spelled out when Victor Frankenstein’s creation quotes Satan in John Milton’s epic biblical poem Paradise Lost:

‘all Good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good.’

The creature didn’t ask to be created; abandoned, rejected and betrayed by Victor, he morphs into the dangerous monster others already believe him to be. But is he really a monster? Or is Victor the monster for playing God in the most godless of ways: digging up bodies and using science to bring forth life? Their relationship is at the heart of the novel’s moral muddiness (a point on which it was criticised when it was released – The Quarterly Review described its “unmeaning hollowness”).

Common confusion over the eponymous character – with the creature often misidentified as Frankenstein – reflects this ambiguity. Literary critics have pointed out the sympathetic nature, eloquence and even innocence of the so-called monster. There’s a thin, blurred and sometimes invisible line between perpetrator and victim.

Yet there is one aspect in which this line is drawn quite clearly, if you grab a knife and fork and really dig in – and that’s food.

If there’s any uncertainty and moral fogginess when it comes to the creature’s innocence – and perhaps whether he should be considered “human” – then his diet should quash those doubts. He eats, for a start – and familiar foods, at that. He’s a sentient, living, breathing being, and that poses serious questions as to the ethics of Victor’s experiment. He brought the creature into a world that would inevitably reject him.

Mary Shelley doesn’t underplay her character’s vegetarianism; it isn’t incidental to the story’s central themes. On the contrary, she makes much of his choice to eschew the flesh-eating habits of humans. It becomes a device to emphasise his empathy and how connected he is to nature, perhaps more so than his fellow man. She throws in a conundrum for readers to wrestle with: how do you categorise a vegetarian monster?

The creature’s diet becomes even more significant in light of Percy Shelley’s vegetarianism, and indeed that of his friend Lord Byron. In the 1860 edition of his Life, Letters, and Journals of Lord Byron, Thomas Moore recalls the poet asking him, over dinner: ‘Moore, don’t you find eating beef-steak makes you ferocious?’ While Shelley’s 1813 poem, Queen Mab, he blames humans devouring the “mangled flesh” of lambs for “nature’s broken law”.

In Frankenstein, vegetarianism simultaneously highlights the creature’s separation from human society (unlike them, he doesn’t “glut” his appetite with meat) and becomes a symbol of his inherent goodness. Of course, goodness is corruptible.

Banished to the wilderness by Victor, who’s horrified by his own experiment, the creature observes a family living in a cabin in the woods. He gently observes their rituals, mainly revolving around food: preparing breakfast, gathering around the table, building and lighting fires for cooking, foraging for roots and plants. Their diet, he notices, is “coarse but wholesome”. It’s simple; uncomplicated by modern society and technology. Pre-Fall, if you like. The creature mimics their routine and attunes to the changing weather and seasons.

Moved by observing their interactions and sensitive to their poverty, he makes a conscious decision to only eat fruit and nuts. He will not steal from them, he vows to himself, because that would leave them hungry. The softness he shows in these moments endears us to him. And it makes his murderous rampage later in the novel – driven by repeated rejections and injustices – all the more shocking. He metamorphosises from a philosophical, gentle grazer, hungry for friendship, to a furious being consumed by fury and bent on revenge.

His reaction is both human and monstrous. The first kill he makes for food is an act to taunt Victor, gifting him with a dead hare as he leads him to “the everlasting ices of the north”.

In a desperate, final attempt to be accepted and forgiven, the creature uses his diet as a bargaining tool with his creator. If Victor would only “build” him a female companion, and allow him to be free, he could be happy subsisting on foraged acorns and berries. He describes a kind of utopian ideal that once again evokes Eden and the Fall of Man:

‘If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again; I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion will be of the same nature as myself and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food. The picture I present to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in the wantonness of power and cruelty.’

Sadly, there isn’t such a happy ending for the creature (nor for Victor, nor for anyone for that matter). The creature becomes the monster after all – one who murders from a very human impulse for revenge, out of anger that he has been judged and rejected by a world he skipped into, innocently and happily as a child, or perhaps a lamb.

The creature entered his dysfunctional life drawn to the earth, feeling a deep connection to the soil, flowers and nature. His final, heart-wrenching monologue describes the “cheering warmth of summer” and his wonder at the “warbling birds”. He tells how he was “nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion”. He longed for companionship, for “love and fellowship”. Spurned, he retaliated against a world that had turned its back on him. There is again a reference to Paradise Lost: “The fallen angel becomes a malignant devil.”

Frankenstein’s creature, hollowed out by hunger and his unsated appetite for human kindness, is utterly, hellishly alone.

Acorn Bread

Frankenstein acorn bread image

Frankenstein’s creature ate them raw, freshly plucked from the oak tree (or foraged from the woodland floor). It seems his stomach was a little stronger than ours, as unprocessed and uncooked acorns contain tannins that can be toxic to humans. They also have a rather unpleasant, bitter taste, so you probably wouldn’t want to nibble on them, anyway. Leave them on the tree for the squirrels (and any wandering, cobbled-together creatures) and instead get hold of some acorn flour to make this dense, crumbly, delicately sweetened bread. It has a similar texture to cornbread, and is perfect for sharing. Omit the spices if you prefer something more savoury – a pinch of chilli flakes will give it a kick, and pair wonderfully with a hunk of cheese.

Makes 1 medium loaf
Ingredients
250g acorn flour
100g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A little freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
25g unsalted butter, melted
1 medium egg, beaten
250ml milk

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 6) and grease a medium (2 lb/900g capacity) loaf tin.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients, including the cinnamon and nutmeg (if using), in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
3. Whisk together the milk, egg and melted butter and pour into the well, mixing gradually with a wooden spoon until well combined.
4. Bake for around 20 minutes, until a skewer or sharp knife inserted into the middle comes away clean.
5. Remove from the oven and leave for around 10 minutes in the tin, then tip on to a wire rack to cool. (You might want to tear some off and slather it with butter before it loses all its oven-warm loveliness, though.)

Shepherd’s Breakfast

Shepherd's Breakfast from Frankenstein

While crunching on acorns and foraging berries and roots might not be hugely appealing, the “shepherd’s breakfast” – which the creature “greedily” devours, having unwittingly frightened away its preparer – sounds pretty delicious. It’s a simple platter of bread, cheese, milk and wine. This dish takes those humble plate-fellows and turns them into a warm, oozily baked savoury bread pudding. A warning, though: it can serve six people as a side but, should you be tempted to dig in a spoon just to try a little, don’t be surprised if you get carried away and end up with an empty dish, a full belly and hungry guests.

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 medium loaf of day-old or slightly stale bread, sliced
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Handful of fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary etc), chopped
100g hard cheese (you can use cheddar or a mix), grated
200ml whole milk
2 eggs
200ml double cream
1tsp English or Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

For the caramelised onions:
2 red onions, finely sliced
1tbsp olive oil
50ml or balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
Glug of red wine
Salt and pepper

Method
1. For the onions, heat the olive oil over a medium heat, add onions and and sauté for a few minutes or until soft. Add vinegar, sugar and wine, increase heat and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are sticky. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Beat together the softened butter and garlic, stir in herbs and add a pinch of salt. Spread this mix over each slice of bread, then quarter each one into triangles.
3. Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and grease a large baking dish. Arrange a layer of bread on the bottom, top with a layer of onions and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat the layers until the ingredients are used up, ending with cheese.
4. Whisk together the milk, eggs, cream, mustard and a little salt and pepper. Pour over the bread, pushing down so it soaks up the liquid.
5. Rest for 5 minutes then bake for 25-30 minutes, until puffy and lightly golden.

Berry Bite Squares

Berry bites

Our creature spends his first few days of existence subsisting on berries and the occasional acorn. He was happy (or, at least, willing) to do so, but we wonder if he would have enjoyed these crumbly, moreish fruit crumble squares a little better? Most probably. You can make these with pretty much any in-season fruit, from apples to rhubarbs. Eat for breakfast, afternoon tea, a snack, on a picnic…

Makes around 12 squares

Ingredients

For the crumble:
175g unsalted butter, melted
180g plain flour
125g soft brown sugar
150g rolled oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt

For the filling:
1 large egg at room temp
150g caster sugar
30g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
400g berries (blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants etc)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 6). Grease and line a 20cm (8in) square tin (or similar).
2. Combine the dry ingredients for the crumble in a bowl, pour in the butter and mix.
3. Tip around two-thirds of it into the tin and press down firmly to make a base.
4. For the filling, whisk together the egg and sugar, then slowly add the flour, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir in the berries so each is coated.
5. Pour this over the base, then loosely sprinkle over the remaining crumble mix.
6. Bake for around 40-45 minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.

working cover

Extracted from A Gothic Cookbook by Ella Buchan and Alessandra Pino, with illustrations by Lee Henry. Find out more here.

The New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes by Sam Sifton

New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes by Sam Sifton

What’s the USP? Sometimes food doesn’t need to be put together using precise  measurements and exact times – No-Recipe Recipes is all about the big, flavourful ideas and less fussy about what you need to do and when. Every dish here is described in loose and accessible terms so that the home chef can amble carefree through the cooking process. 

Who wrote it? Sam Sifton, the founding editor of The New York Times’ cookery website. His weekly What To Cook This Week column on the site has, since 2015, always featured a No-Recipe Recipe of his own – an easy to throw together sort of a dish that might have been influenced by something he’s eaten in a restaurant, or the passing comment of a chef friend, or simply the desire to combine two flavours and gleefully eat them. 

Is it good bedtime reading? On the one hand, there isn’t an awful lot to read besides the short and enthusiastic introduction to each recipe. On the other hand, though, the recipes read so conversationally that they become a genuine pleasure to read in their own right. This is a book that can be taken to bed and flicked through with hungry eyes as you picture yourself breezily moving around the kitchen – a splash of fish sauce here, a generous pinch of oregano there. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The entire book is annoyingly vague recipes. That’s sort of the point. Thankfully, Sifton’s bright and engaging writing – he clearly loves being in the kitchen almost as much as he loves food – enables the reader to confidently join him on his quest. 

The book’s brief introductory section convincingly champions Sifton’s approach. Cooking without recipes is a valuable kitchen skill, we are told: ‘It’s a proficiency to develop, a way to improve your confidence in the kitchen and makes the act of cooking fun when it sometimes seems like a chore’. 

The no-recipe recipes themselves certainly echo the ‘cooking is fun’ mentality. It’s impossible to resent vague instructions when they are written with as much relish as Sifton’s. The frankly obscene Cheese Ravioli with Duck Liver Mousse Sauce calls for a ‘huge amount of unsalted butter’, whilst his Roasted Shrimp Tacos with Cumin and Chile demands ‘a whole mess of peeled and deveined shrimp’. 

What’s the faff factor? It would be a bold move to expect readers to create lavish and complex dishes with only the loosest of instructions, so perhaps unsurprisingly the book is filled with nothing but the simplest dishes. The Tomato Sandwich recipe is four sentences long, and calls for only bread, butter, mayonnaise and tomato – but Sifton still manages to make it seem like an unmissable addition to a hot summer’s day. Even the most complex of dishes will come together in under half an hour and create only the most minimal of washing up. 

How often will I cook from the book? I have had this book for about a month now and can confidently say that I am cooking from it at least twice a week. It has already become the first book I pull from the shelf when I’m planning my weekly shop, despite being the title that arguably requires the least planning of the lot. 

Every one of Sifton’s No-Recipe Recipes is a temptation. They are easy to buy for and fun to cook. Above all else, the gentle thrill of cooking off-book, of trusting your own instincts and finishing, every time, with something genuinely delicious is a real confidence boost for new and old home cooks alike. 

What will I love? Though the book is designed to be minimalist and simple, it is still filled with useful information. Dishes frequently come with easy modifications that can be made – either to replace more obscure ingredients, or to offer a different flavour profile. Separate ‘Tips’ sections will help beginner cooks learn key kitchen lessons, or occasionally share Sifton’s own tasting notes (he recommends avoiding chicken or vegetable gyoza for his blasphemous yet irresistible Pot Stickers with Tomato Sauce). 

What won’t I love? It’s a small complaint, but the cloth-bound cover isn’t ideal for a book that will see as much use as this one. It picks up all sorts of filth, and thanks to some spilt flour and the eager attention of two cats, my copy already looks a fair bit older than it should one month in. 

Killer recipes: It would be impossible to make enough noise about the aforementioned Cheese Ravioli with Duck Liver Mousse Sauce, which must be the most outrageously indulgent dish it’s possible to compile in under twenty minutes. But pretty much every dish in here will inspire at least some level of food lust. 

Highlights include Crab Rangoon Burgers, Quick-Broiled Pork Chops with Peanuts and Gochujang, Ham and Radicchio Toast, and Asparagus and Boursin Tart. 

Should I buy it? Of course you should. Sam Sifton’s book is not a book about the joy of cooking – it’s an instruction manual that will help you discover it for yourself. This would be a brilliant gift for someone who is just discovering the world of cooking, with bright and easy recipes that feel like an accomplishment once finished. Student cookbooks are so often drab and patronising affairs that, at best, will help someone make a competent but uninspiring lasagne. From now on, let’s send our freshers off with No-Recipe Recipes tucked in their suitcase – I would have eaten a lot less £5 pizza delivery deals if I’d known how easy it was to knock-up Sifton’s Black Bean Tacos or Sloppy Joes. 

At the same time, confident cooks who have long since found their footing in the kitchen will still find a wealth of inspiration here – fresh new flavour combinations and easy dishes that can be pulled together quickly when you’re tired after work.

No-Recipe Recipes everything you want from a cookbook – it is simple, irresistible and innovative. But above all else, it reminds you exactly how fun cooking can be.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes
£20, Ebury Press

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Simply Raymond by Raymond Blanc

Simply Raymond

What’s the USP? A collection of straightforward, mostly French recipes inspired by both the rustic country cooking of the author’s late mother and the simple recipes in Edouard de Pomaine’s classic 1930 book Cooking in 10 Minutes.

Who’s the author? A pioneer of the UK’s fine dining scene Raymond Blanc has trained and inspired many of the country’s leading chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Marco Pierre White. His beaming smile first adorned a cookery book back in 1988 with the publication of Recipes from Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. Thirty-three years later, Blanc is still smiling on the cover of his thirteenth cookery book, still running the two Michelin-starred Le Manoir and still cooking chicken with morels and Jura wine sauce from his native Franche-Comté, a version of which appears in both his first and latest book.

Is it good bedtime reading? A ten page introduction and decent length recipe introductions are supplemented by a series of short essays entitled ‘My Love For’ that cover everything from courgettes to tomatoes and aubergines to apples.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The vast majority will be stocked in your local big supermarket but you may need to visit a deli for things like dried morels and comté cheese. Blanc’s passion for fruit and veg may inspire you to seek out a good local greengrocer or veg box scheme if you haven’t already (supermarket versions seem to be getting worse and worse in my experience, flavourless and bland).

What’s the faff factor? When Blanc says ‘simply’ he means it.  All the recipes have a prep and cook time and usually you will be spending a matter of minutes preparing the dishes. Some of the more sophisticated offerings take longer, for example roast celeriac fondants with celeriac jus require 40 minutes to get ready for an hour in the oven, but they are the exception that proves the rule.

How often will I cook from the book? With granola bars for breakfast, tomato soup for lunch and leftover turkey curry for dinner, plus a TV snack of rosemary and Parmesan popcorn and cut and come again cake for afternoon tea, when won’t you be cooking from Simply Raymond?

Killer recipes? The book may have a noticeably French accent with recipes for moules Provençal, tartiflette and pear almondine, but Blanc’s love of global cuisine comes through in dishes such as tuna ceviche, Japanese-style; slow roasted shoulder of lamb with harissa and the northeast Indian dish of kadai (mixed vegetables in spicy gravy), a recipe contributed by Shailesh Kumar, a chef from the Brasserie Blanc restaurant group.

What will I love? The book is full of delightful little twists and surprises such as flourless crepes made only with over-ripe bananas, eggs and salt; mayonnaise made with chickpea water, and flatbreads that are simply equal quantities of flour and yoghurt.

Should I buy it? Straightforward and accessible, the recipes in Simply Raymond will provide much inspiration for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner snacks and sweet treats. That’s enough to put a smile on any cook’s face.

Cuisine: French
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars

Buy this book
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home – The Sunday Times Bestseller, includes recipes from the ITV series
£25 Headline Home

Cook from this book 
Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, harissa by Raymond Blanc
Mussel and saffron risotto by Raymond Blanc
Pear almondine by Raymond Blanc

One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones

One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones

What’s the USP? It’s a cookbook that offers ideas on how to live and eat more sustainably, with a selection of plant-based recipes that offer ‘a greener way to cook for you, your family and the planet’.

Sorry, I should have explained. USP means ‘unique selling point’. Haven’t we seen all this before? It’s certainly true that sustainable and plant-based cookery is very much on trend in the cookbook world at the moment. That said, the quality of the books has been fairly high all round, so it seems a little bit petty to call them out on it. Is anybody really complaining about the influx of interesting new ways to eat your veg?

Besides, One Pot, Pan, Planet has real pedigree. Anna Jones has made a name for herself as a columnist for The Guardian, and with her first three cookbooks (A Modern Way to Cook, A Modern Way to Eat and The Modern Chef’s Year). All three were built around healthy and overwhelmingly vegetarian cooking. Anna Jones hasn’t adapted to meet the current trends; the current trends have finally caught up with Anna Jones.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s plenty to read here, with recipe-free chapters on sustainability scattered amongst the dishes. it’s not exactly great bedtime reading, unless you enjoy falling asleep with questions of biodiversity and soil health on your mind. Jones writes to inform rather than entertain, and though these sections are both enlightening and useful, they aren’t quite the same vibe as a chef rambling on amiably about sea urchins off the Amalfi coast, or the joys of growing your own rhubarb.

That said, Jones does make space for a spectacular chapter on vegetables that sits right in the centre of the book. Galloping through a list of ten well-loved veg, the chapter gives essential rundowns on when to buy each ingredient, how to prep and cook it, and what flavours it pairs with, before offering up ten no-nonsense ideas for each one. Nothing groundbreaking, perhaps – but immensely practical.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Generally speaking, absolutely not. This is simple and accessible food using ingredients you’ll be able to pick up anywhere.

What’s the faff factor? Again, Jones strives for simplicity. As the title suggests, most dishes can be completed in a single pot or pan. All can be achieved on a single planet, but that’s not really an achievement. The idea behind this is that the cooking process, too, plays a part in sustainable cooking. Using a single dish requires less energy for the heating process and less water for the washing up.

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you want to skip on the meat? For vegetarians and vegans there are enough dishes here (and enough variety) to cover most meals if you’re really short on cookbook funds. Meat-eaters looking to cut back on their intake can readily fill their meat-free days with the filling and hearty dishes on offer here, from Arepas with black beans & salsa verde to Lemongrass & tofu larb.

Killer recipes: Sweet potato, ginger & coconut stew, Corn risotto, Golden rösti with ancho chilli chutney, Carrot & peanut nasi goreng, Chocolate & muscovado fudge cake

Should I buy it? There has been no shortage of excellent sustainable plant-based cookbooks over the past year or two, but One Pot, Pan, Planet still manages to stand out as one of the very finest. With creative and varied dishes that are built to be as achievable as they are sustainable, Jones has written a book that would be at home on any shelf.

Cuisine: Vegan
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
One: Pot, Pan, Planet: A greener way to cook for you, your family and the planet
£26, Fourth Estate

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Roasted Italian sausages with borlotti beans and ’nduja sauce by Theo Randall

20200313_TheoRandall_W1_BorlottiBeansSausages_035
Dried borlotti beans from the protected area of Lamon, in the Veneto, are the finest dried borlottis available. You don’t have to use these specifically, of course, but if you are lucky enough to come across a packet, you are in for a treat. Combined with lovely, flavoursome sausage and the spiciness of ’nduja, they are heavenly. Make sure you have a good bottle of Chianti, or other super-Tuscan red wine to drink alongside – it’s essential.

Serves 2
250g (9oz) dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
2 garlic cloves, 1 whole, 1 finely sliced
1 plum tomato
2–3 sage leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
4 Italian sausages
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
100ml (3½fl oz) red wine
400g (14oz) tomato passata
75g (2½oz) skinned ’nduja
2 tbsp mascarpone
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g (7oz) purple-sprouting, calabrese or longstem broccoli, cooked and seasoned with olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to serve

Drain the soaked beans and rinse under cold, running water for a couple of minutes. Place the rinsed beans in a large saucepan and pour in cold water so that the water comes 10cm (4in) above the level of the beans. Add the whole clove of garlic, along with the plum tomato and sage leaves. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 40 minutes, skimming off the foam from time to time, until the beans are soft enough to crush to a mash with your thumb.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking water. Remove the tomato, sage and garlic and place them in a bowl. Using a hand-held stick blender and a little of the bean cooking water, blend to a smooth paste. Add the paste back to the beans and check the seasoning. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/315°F/Gas Mark 2–3.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan on a medium heat. When hot, add the sausages and cook for 5 minutes, turning frequently, until brown all over. Remove them from the pan
and set aside, leaving the sausage fat and olive oil in the pan.

Add the celery, sliced garlic, onion and carrots to the pan and cook gently for 5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the red wine and cook for a further 2 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the passata, cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the ’nduja and stir well. Place the sausages on top of the passata mixture and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through. Remove from the oven, dollop over the mascarpone and check the seasoning.

Warm the cooked borlotti beans and stir through the remaining olive oil. Place on the table for everyone to help themselves, with some steaming hot purple sprouting broccoli served alongside.

Cook more from this book
Twice-baked squash and fontina soufflé by Theo Randall
Chocolate, espresso and vin santo pots with cantuccini biscuits by Theo Randall

Read the review

Buy this book
The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Twice-baked squash and fontina soufflé by Theo Randall

20200312_TheoRandall_W1_Souffle_033
Known in Italy as sformato di zucca, this dish was one of the first I mastered, more than 30 years ago, when I was an apprentice at Chez Max in Surbiton, just outside London, where the chef-owner Max Magarian became a huge influence on my approach to cooking. I must have made thousands of these delicious soufflés (the only difference in this one is the cheese choice) and I can still remember how excited I was when Max told me I had made them perfectly.  If you’re lucky to get hold of a black winter truffle, it will bring out the best in the soufflé. You will need ten moulds and ten gratin dishes to make this (just reduce the quantities if making fewer).

Makes 10
500g (1lb 2oz) butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
olive oil, for roasting
300g (10½oz) fresh spinach
90g (3¼oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
90g (3¼oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for flouring
1 litre (35fl oz) whole milk, hot
300g (10½oz) fontina, grated
10 organic egg yolks
12 organic egg whites
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish
200g (7oz) fontina, grated
100g (3½oz) Parmesan, finely grated
500ml (17fl oz) double (heavy) cream
shavings of black truffle (optional), to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Butter and flour ten 180ml (6½fl oz) metal or ceramic moulds. Place the squash in a roasting tin, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Cover the tin with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until soft. Remove the foil and continue baking for a further 15 minutes, so the squash dries out. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then put through a mouli (or use a potato masher) until you have a fine purée. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Boil the spinach for 2 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Drain in a colander and push out any residual liquid with the back of a spoon. When the spinach has cooled, squeeze it with your hands until just damp. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then add the hot milk. Stir with a whisk until there are no lumps and you have a smooth white sauce. Add the squash purée, along with the fontina and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and stir in the egg yolks.

Preheat the oven again to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Transfer the mixture to a clean, large bowl. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the butternut squash mixture. Pour the mixture equally into the prepared moulds, filling all the way to the tops. Place the moulds into a roasting tin, then pour boiling water into the tin so that it comes half way up the sides of the moulds. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the soufflé rises and goes a light golden colour. Remove the tin from the oven (but leave the oven on), then remove the moulds from the tin and leave to cool.

To finish, grease 10 small gratin dishes. Divide the cooked spinach between each dish in an even layer. Remove the soufflés from the moulds and place one in each dish on top of the spinach. Sprinkle over the grated fontina and Parmesan then gently pour some cream over each soufflé. Season each dish with salt and pepper and bake them all for 10 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. Finish with shavings of fresh black truffle.

Cook more from this book
Roasted Italian sausages with borlotti beans and ’nduja sauce by Theo Randall
Chocolate, espresso and vin santo pots with cantuccini biscuits by Theo Randall

Read the review 

Buy this book
The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Chocolate, espresso and vin santo pots with cantuccini biscuits by Theo Randall

2020602_TheoW2_ChocolatePots_075

I first tasted vin santo many years ago at Paolo di Marchi’s estate Isole e Olena, in Chianti, Tuscany. After the vineyard tour, we came to a brick outhouse that had no windows, and was breezy but dry. There were bamboo mats full of the most beautifully coloured grapes that were starting to shrivel up like raisins, soon to be pressed for their juice to make vin santo. That evening, after a huge meal and lots of Paolo’s other wines, we had a glass of vin santo and a plate of homemade cantuccini biscuits. I use vin santo in lots of sweet dishes, especially ice cream, but I love chocolate, too, so I came up with this recipe. What could be better?

Serves 6

For the cantuccini

2 organic eggs
2 tbsp honey (chestnut honey is best, if possible)
1 tbsp Amaretto or brandy
zest of 1 unwaxed orange
250g (9oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
150g (5½oz) caster (superfine) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
150g (5½oz) whole almonds50g (1¾oz) shelled pistachios

For the chocolate pots
100ml (3½fl oz) whole milk
25ml (1fl oz) vin santo
300ml (10½fl oz) double (heavy) cream
200g (7oz) 80% dark (bittersweet) chocolate (use 70% if you can’t find 80%), chopped
50g (1¾oz) caster (superfine) sugar
4 organic egg yolks

First, make the cantuccini biscuits. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, honey, Amaretto or brandy, and orange zest. Add the flour, sugar and baking powder. Using your hands, mix everything together to a dough, then add the almonds and pistachios. Mix well to distribute the nuts evenly through the dough.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Wet your hands and then roll out each piece of dough into a log about 3cm (1¼in) wide and 20cm (8in) long. Place the logs on a baking sheet, cover with a sheet of baking parchment and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Bake the chilled cantuccini logs for 30 minutes, or until they are a golden brown. Remove from the oven (but leave the oven on) and transfer (off the baking sheet) to a wire rack to cool. When they are cool, using a bread knife, cut the cantuccini at a 45 degree angle into pieces 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick.

Place the cantuccini, spaced well apart, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Return tot he oven for 10 minutes until crisp and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and transfer (off the baking sheet)  to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, place in a sealed container or serve straight away with the chocolate pots. (If you’re storing the biscuits, it’s very important that the cantuccini are fully cooked before you place them in the sealed container, otherwise the residual heat will make them go soggy.) 

To make the chocolate pots, pour the milk, vin santo and cream into saucepan and place on a medium heat. Bring to the simmer, then turn off the heart and add the chocolate. Leave for 1-2 minutes for the chocolate to soften. Using a spoon or a whisk, stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. 

Whisk the sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is pale and creamy. (Alternatively whisk by hand in a bowl for about 5 minutes.)

If using a machine, reduce the speed to its lowest setting. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate mixture and mix until an even colour. (Or do this in a bowl by hand.)

Pour the mixture into individual serving dishes (ramekings, glasses or cups will work). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then serve with cantuccini biscuits and really good, hot espresso. 

Cook more from this book
Roasted Italian sausages with borlotti beans and ’nduja sauce by Theo Randall
Twice-baked squash and fontina soufflé by Theo Randall

Buy this book
The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Read the review

Asian Green by Ching-He Huang

Asian Green Ching He Huang

What’s the USP? Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East, or so says the cover. So, quick and simple vegan meals that are drawn from a number of Asian cuisines. 

Who wrote it? Ching-He Huang, who has been pumping out Asian-influenced takes on the cookbook zeitgeist for the last fifteen years or so. In the past this might have meant lining up with the problematic ‘clean eating’ scene, but right now it’s equals a timely and very welcome collection of vegan recipes. 

Is it good bedtime reading? Not really – there are a couple of glances at the impact of Covid-19 and the importance of eating sustainably, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a cookbook without these. Huang’s recipe introductions are short, too, so there isn’t much here that lends itself to a leisurely read. But then, that’s not why this book exists. With each recipe garlanded with nutritional information and a neat infographic demonstrating preparation and cooking times, it’s clear that Huang wanted to create something that will help you make decisions (and meals) quickly and without too much labour. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? In keeping with the clean design and nutritional breakdowns, Huang’s recipes are precise without over explaining. She also makes sure to include imperial measurements alongside the metric ones, so your mum can cook along as you knock up some Teriyaki Tempeh with Long-Stem Broccoli. There’s an extensive glossary at the back and also (albeit inexplicably separated from the former) a brief but fantastic UK-to-US glossary that introduced me to the fact that Americans don’t have golden syrup. A stunning revelation. 

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? This is always a risk with Asian cooking. As nice as it is to see fish sauce as standard on the shelf of your local Tesco, it’s fair to say that a lot of the continent’s tastiest condiments are yet to make it there, and are often recreated rather unconvincingly as an own-brand offering when they are – here’s looking at you supermarket gochujang. 

Similarly, vegan options in supermarkets have been enjoying a steady increase over the last few years. If you’d wanted to source yourself some tempeh in 2015 you’d have had to wrestle with some soybeans yourself, but head to a bigger branch nowadays and you might have some luck. 

And so, yes, there are ingredients here that could cause problems to those who aren’t able to access superstores or specialist markets – Chinkiang black vinegar or seitan, for example – but most recipes are wholly accessible, and will only become more so as we seek more sustainable and (perhaps counter-intuitively) more global ways of eating. 

What will I love? There’s absolutely loads of variety here. Huang’s recipes are light and full of colour. There are bold re-imaginings of iconic meat dishes in her Veggie Ants Climbing Trees or the fantastic take on the infamous Ram-don from Parasite, found here having traded in the beef for chunky tofu and mushrooms. Sweetcorn fans, in particular, will have plenty to occupy themselves with; Huang seems to have a thing for it, and I’m in no mood to complain. 

There’s something for everyone, with enough fresh ideas to inject new life into a vegan diet, and plenty of dishes that will tempt those of us looking to cut back on our meat consumption. Dishes are quick to make, and the nutritional information will be incredibly welcome to carb and calorie counters alike. Oh, and there’s a plump little dessert section too, something that is all too often skipped entirely in Asian cookbooks. 

What won’t I love? There’s not much to pick apart here, though it’d have been nice to get more pictures. The photography and food styling is brilliant here but too often dishes are skipped when a visual guide would have been useful. I’m curious about the Five Spice Seitan and Sweetheart Cabbage with Sweetcorn and Chilli, but having read through the recipe a few times I’m still unsure what I’m aiming for, and if it will be a big enough portion, or something better served with a portion of rice. These are small worries though. Small worries for greedy boys like me. 

Killer recipes: Mama Huang’s Onion, Tomato and Enoki Soup; Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle; Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms; Sweetcorn Dad Dan Noodles, Spicy Chilli French Bean Mapo Tofu; Hawaiian Sticky Mushroom and Pineapple Fried Rice. 

Should I buy it? Ching-He Huang has added a genuinely valuable title to the vegan cookbook shelf with Asian Green. It is accessible, simple and offers more variety for home cooks looking to skip the meat. Most importantly, though, it’s absolutely loaded with delicious food. 

Cuisine: Asian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Cook from this book 
Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang
Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang
Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Eat Better Forever by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

9781526602800

What’s the USP? Diet culture has taken hit after hit over the past few years, with increasingly popular movements highlighting the many problems that come from committing yourself to short-term bursts of meat-only consumption or eating like somebody who hasn’t yet invented indoor plumbing.

Better, then, is to simply commit oneself to eat better forever. Which in this case of this book means sticking by seven fairly simple rules:

Eat plenty of whole foods
Eat a varied diet
Eat some gut-friendly stuff now and then
Don’t eat a lot of refined carbs
Eat fats, but only the good kinds
Think about the nutritional content of your drinks
Be mindful about your eating

It’s all fairly sensible stuff, to be honest. But that’s all part of the appeal. Eat Better Forever isn’t about throwing confusing new ideas about food in your face – it’s about helping you to better understand what you already know, and give you some ideas about how to use that knowledge to change the way you eat for good.

Who wrote it? Mr. River Cottage himself – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall/Huge Furry Toadstall/Hugh Fearlessly Eatsitall (delete as appropriate). Hugh’s been going hard on the veg content for a few years now, but here he sets out a healthy plan for living that extends beyond his numerous ideas of what to get up to with a courgette.

Is it good bedtime reading? For the most part, yes! The book is split almost directly in half, with the first two hundred pages dedicated almost entirely to each of his seven rules. These chapters are easy and enjoyable to read. They don’t necessarily reveal anything too surprising, but the opportunity to better understand the science between the ideas we generally are only exposed to in passing is very welcome.

It helps, too, that Hugh never comes across as preachy. He simply explains why something is good (or bad) for you, and presents ideas on how to change your eating habits to accommodate those facts. Nothing he suggests feels too overwhelming, and the opportunity to change the way you eat for the better often feels not just attainable, but exciting. Sometimes it all feels a little too easy. When we’re told that Hugh’s plan for cutting back on alcohol entailed the introduction of ‘alcohol-free days’, it sounds like a sensible (if not particularly fun) way to go about things. Hugh, we’re told, aims for ‘two a week, minimum’, which even in the midst of a pandemic seems like a relatively low bar to aim for.

How often will I cook from the book? That depends on how you feel about Hugh’s practical suggestions for living with his seven rules. The 50/50 split between manifesto and recipes gives you plenty of opportunity to think on the guidelines presented and the small adjustments you might make to your current diet as a result of them. I found the first half of the book to be an invigorating and at times inspiring read, which made it all the more disappointing when I reached the recipe section and found, well, page after page of recipes that would not have looked out of place in a diet book.

Everything looks clean, fresh and, well, a bit dull. The whole foods chapter suggests incorporating more seeds into your diet, which sounds lovely until you see Hugh’s suggesting for a slice of toast scattered with loose seeds and a few raspberries, or a plate comprising of nothing but slices of oranges and apple and just enough pumpkin seeds to guarantee no single bite isn’t ruined by a misplaced texture.

There are plenty of recipes to tempt you here – a ‘curried beanie cullen skink’, or an Asian Hot Pot that looks to be drowning in umami. But for the most part, the refreshing ideas presented in the book’s opening chapters are revisited under much harsher light and by the uninspiring dishes that follow.

What will I love? Hugh’s seven rules are well thought out and easy to apply to your existing cooking habits. Though I found myself completely turned off by a hefty chunk of his recipes, not a day has passed since reading Eat Better Forever where it hasn’t impacted my decisions in the kitchen. That’s a fantastic thing, and if this book serves only to build the foundations upon which your own take on healthy eating can be built, that’ll be worth more than the cover price.

What won’t I love? Whilst the initial ideas feel applicable to every household, it’s hard to imagine fussy children (or adults) adapting to the one-note recipes offered up here.

Killer recipes: Curried Beany Cullen Skink, Mussel Soup with Leek & Potato, Spicy Fish Fingers with Tomato and Bean Salad, Curried Carrot Blitz

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Buy the book
Eat Better Forever: 7 Ways to Transform Your Diet
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Seedy Almond Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Overnight Oats by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
Spicy roast parsnips with barley, raisins & walnuts by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

The Italian Deli Cookbook by Theo Randall

Italian Deli Cookbook

Theo Randall’s third cookbook is a pean to instinctive cooking inspired by store cupboard ingredients.  Divided into 17 ingredient-themed chapters, the book covers much of what you’d expect to find on an Italian deli’s shelves, from tinned and smoked fish to olives and cheese, and salumi and Italian sausages to olive oil and vinegars, and much else besides.

Dishes such as wild rocket and cannelini bean soup with pesto; roasted lamb rump with polenta and creamy olive and anchovy sauce, and vegan dark chocolate and coffee tart with coconut ice cream and croccante demonstrate Randall’s knack for writing attention-grabbing and delicious sounding recipes.

You’ll have to buy Randall’s first book Pasta if you want his excellent pasta dough recipe but, in keeping with the book’s theme, he has included seven dishes made with dried pasta including orecchiette with anchovies and cima di rappa (bitter greens with a ‘turnip-like flavour’ and a signature Randall ingredient)  and spaghettini with garlic, chilli and parsley, a staff-food favourite from his time as head chef of The River Café.

For Randall, the devil is in the detail. He recommends tracking down dried borlotti beans from the protected area of Lamon in Veneto which, he says, combined with roasted Italian sausages and ‘nduja sauce, are ‘heavenly’; specifies pagnotta, a Puglian semolina bread for a bruschetta of courgette, olive and ricotta salata, and suggests spaghetti from Gragnano in Southern Italy (recognised as the home of dried pasta) for his take on spaghetti alle vongole.

There are other instantly recognisable classic Italian dishes in the book, but each has Randall’s imprimatur. So fritto misto is finished with mint and chilli, potatoes are roasted with balsamic, pancetta and red onion, and tuna carpaccio is accompanied by fennel and lemon. Even Randall’s version of tiramisu has an unusual genesis and is inspired by the recipe of a pizzeria in Antigua.

But fundamentally, Randall is not aiming for novelty or difference for difference sake, but rather to make ‘simple food with exceptional ingredients’. The Italian Deli Cookbook is further evidence that he is the master of that particular craft.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

A version of this review first appeared in The Caterer magazine. 

Buy this book
The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Cook from this book
Roasted Italian sausages with borlotti beans and ’nduja sauce by Theo Randall
Twice-baked squash and fontina soufflé by Theo Randall

Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Caramel Pots De Creme

This was one of the original desserts on the Nightingale menu and it’s still going strong. So simple, but so good.

NOTE  If vanilla bean is unavailable, use good-quality paste or essence.

Serves 6

Crème Fraîche
300mL (1¼ cups) heavy cream
100mL (7 Tbsp) buttermilk

Pots de Crème
415mL (1⅔ cups) cream
160mL (⅔ cup) milk
5g (1½ tsp) salt
¼ vanilla bean, split and scraped
100g (½ cup) sugar
6 egg yolks

Vanilla Breton
60g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) pecans
200g (1½ cups) pastry flour
12g (scant Tbsp) baking powder
3g (1 tsp) salt
¼ vanilla bean, split and scraped
130g (⅔ cup) sugar
130g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) butter
3 egg yolks

Butterscotch Sauce
45g (3 Tbsp) butter
145g (¾ cup) brown sugar
120mL (½ cup) cream

Whipped Crème Fraîche
200mL (¾ cup) cream
15g (2 Tbsp) icing sugar

CRÈME FRAÎCHE
Combine the cream and buttermilk in a stainless-steel bowl. Cover with cheesecloth and leave to culture and thicken in a warm spot in your kitchen for 24 hours, then refriger- ate overnight.

POTS DE CRÈME
Bring the cream, milk, salt, and vanilla to a simmer in a pot over low heat. Place a thick-bottomed pan with tall sides over medium heat. Add the sugar in 3 additions, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, allowing it to melt between addi- tions. Cook until dark amber in colour, then add the cream. Be careful as the mixture will bubble violently. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 40ºC (105ºF). Place the egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot caramel and cream into the egg yolks while constantly whisking to create a custard. Refrigerate overnight.

VANILLA BRETON
Grind the pecans to a fine powder in a food processor. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the pecan powder. Rub the vanilla into the sugar to free the seeds, then sift together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar with the butter on medium speed, then add the egg yolks in 3 additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients and blend to form a soft dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

BAKING  
Preheat the oven to 135ºC (275ºF).  Strain the refrigerated custard through a fine-mesh sieve. Fill six 240mL (8 oz) jars with the custard to the halfway point. Place the jars in a shallow baking dish and fill the dish ⅓ full with simmering water. Transfer to the oven and cook until the custards are just set and jiggle when gently shaken, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven, then the jars from the dish, and allow to cool.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Increase the heat of the oven to 175ºC (350ºF). On a lightly floured work surface, roll the chilled pastry into a rectangle that is 0.5cm (¼ in) thick. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the sugar and about 50mL (3 Tbsp) of the cream. Stir to dissolve, then bring to a simmer and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the remaining cream. Chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.

WHIPPED CRÈME FRAÎCHE
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream, 90mL (about ⅓ cup) of the crème fraîche, and the icing sugar. Whip until the cream holds medium peaks. Refrigerate the remaining crème fraîche for up to 1 week.

SERVE 
Spoon the whipped crème fraîche into the custard pots. Top with shards of Breton pastry. Drizzle with butterscotch sauce.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth

Read the review

 

Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth

Roasted Duck Breast

Duck is rich, and I wanted to make this dish as light as possible. Instead of a traditional sauce—like a reduction finished with butter—being in Vancouver, where our population is now almost a third Chinese, I thought of XO sauce. It’s very tasty and has good texture, a little heat, and some acidity too. It really works.

NO TE  In the restaurant we allow the duck to air dry for a few days, uncovered in the fridge; this helps the bird to retain more moisture when it cooks. You can prepare the XO sauce up to several days before serving; it helps the flavour to develop.

Serves 6

Macadamia Nut Purée
125g (1 cup) macadamia nuts, skin off
Salt
Splash Banyuls or champagne vinegar

XO Sauce
85g (5 Tbsp) brunoised bacon
150mL (⅔ cup) canola oil
30g (⅓ cup) dried shrimp, soaked and drained
30g (⅓ cup) dried scallops, soaked and drained
80g (½ cup) minced garlic
80g (½ cup) minced ginger
20g (1 Tbsp) tomato paste
15mL (1 Tbsp) Sriracha-style chili sauce
Fish sauce
Salt

Rice
1.5L (6 cups) water
3g (1 tsp) salt, plus more for seasoning
240g (1¼ cups) Carolina gold rice
30–45g (2–3 Tbsp) butter, cut in small cubes
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 sprig cilantro, finely sliced

Duck
large duck magrets (400–450g/ 14–16 oz each)
Sea salt

Garnish
6–12 pieces gai choy, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in half
15g (1 Tbsp) butter Sea salt

MACADAMIA NUT PURÉE
Preheat the oven to 160ºC (315ºF).  Place the nuts on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and toast until fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl. Cover with water (at least 10cm/4 in above the nuts; you should have double the volume of water as nuts) and soak in the fridge overnight.

The next day, drain the nuts and reserve the water. Blend the nuts on high speed for at least 5 minutes and up to 10 minutes, using as much water as required to form a smooth purée. Season with salt and a splash of vinegar. Set aside at room temperature.

XO SAUCE
Render the bacon until crispy in a medium pan over low heat, using a small amount of oil. Remove the bacon, but keep the fat in the pan. Add a bit more oil to the pan and fry the dried shrimp and scallops until slightly crispy. Remove the shrimp and scallops and return the pan to heat.

Once the pan starts smoking, add the remaining canola oil and caramelize the garlic and ginger. Add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Return the shrimp, scallops, and bacon to the pan and add the chili sauce and any remaining oil. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes on very low heat, stirring often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Adjust the seasoning with fish sauce, salt, and more chili sauce as needed.

RICE 
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).  Bring the water and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over high heat. Add the rice, stir once, and as soon as the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender with no hard starch at its centre, about 15 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Shake the colander to drain excess water.

Distribute the rice evenly on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and allow the rice to dry for about 5 minutes, gently turning from time to time with a spatula. Dot the rice with the butter and sprinkle with salt. Return the baking sheet to the oven and allow the rice to warm through, occasionally turning, until the butter has melted and the rice is hot, about 5 minutes. Mix in the onions and cilantro and keep the rice warm.

DUCK
Trim the excess fat around the duck magrets. With a sharp knife, score the skin of the magrets in a crosshatch pattern, making the squares as close together as possible without cutting into the meat. Set aside on paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Season the duck magrets with salt on both sides. Place the duck breasts in a hot non- stick cast-iron pan (skin side down without any oil) over medium-low heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, moving from time to time (but not flipping) to ensure an even colouring and crisping of the skin, while continuously draining out the rendered fat.

Flip the magrets and cook for 3 minutes on the meat side. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, loosely covered with a piece of foil. When ready to serve, slice the magrets in 6mm (¼ in) slices. Season with sea salt.

GARNISH
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the gai choy for 1 minute, then quickly sauté in a hot frying pan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Transfer to paper towel to absorb excess fat.

Gently heat the XO sauce. Divide it between 6 serving plates. Smear the macadamia nut purée on the side. Place a portion of gai choy and rice on each plate. Add the duck slices.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Read the review

48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth

48 Hour Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs are such a great application for sous vide cooking. You get very little moisture loss so the meat turns out incredibly juicy. It gets soft, then you chill it to set it up, and grill it or roast it to finish. It’s a rich, fatty cut, so instead of saucing it with a reduction we glaze them and serve them with black pepper jam with loads of shallots, and a bright, refreshing green papaya salad. When we put this on the menu at West as a starter, we couldn’t keep up. We had to bring it back on the opening menu at Hawksworth.

Serves 6   

Beef Short Ribs
1.3kg (3 lb) bone-in beef short ribs
2 sprigs thyme, stems removed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt
Pepper

Compressed Melon
100mL (7 Tbsp) water
100g (½ cup) sugar
½ honeydew melon, in 18 cubes 2cm (¾ in) each
3 juniper berries

Black Pepper Jam
30mL (2 Tbsp) grapeseed or canola oil
½ onion, chopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 knobs ginger, peeled and chopped
15 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ bunches scallions, sliced
15g (1 Tbsp) dried fermented black beans
½ Thai chili, seeded and coarsely chopped
10g (1½ Tbsp) pepper
125mL (½ cup) soy sauce
125mL (½ cup) water
100mL (7 Tbsp) hoisin sauce
Sugar

Green Papaya Salad
65mL (¼ cup) water
50g (¼ cup) palm sugar
2 lime leaves
½ fresh jalapeno or red Thai chili, seeds removed
15mL (1 Tbsp) fish sauce
250mL (1 cup) fresh lime juice
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt
⅓ green papaya, peeled and sliced into very fine julienne

Beef Short Ribs Glaze
100mL (7 Tbsp) hoisin sauce
50mL (3 Tbsp) yuzu juice
30mL (2 Tbsp) light soy sauce
¼ orange, juice

Garnish
Sea salt
12 leaves Thai basil

BEEF SHORT RIBS
Rub the beef short ribs with the thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, then cover and refrigerate for 5 hours. Transfer to 1 or more vacuum-seal pouches. Seal with a vacuum sealer and cook in a water bath at 63ºC (145ºF) with a sous vide immersion circulator for 48 hours. Remove from the water bath, cool the ribs, and remove from the bags. Trim the excess fat and bones and portion in 170g (6 oz) rectangles.

COMPRESSED MELON
Bring the water to a boil in a small pot over high heat. Whisk in the sugar until it dis- solves, to create a syrup. Cool rapidly over an ice bath. Place the cubed honeydew melon in a vacuum-seal pouch with the syrup and juniper berries. (You can also use a regular ziplock bag but the flavour will be less intense.) Seal with a vacuum sealer and refrigerate for 2 hours.

BLACK PEPPER JAM
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium to high heat. Add the onion, shallots, ginger, and garlic and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the scallions, black beans, chili, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes longer. Add the soy sauce, water, and hoisin sauce and reduce by ⅓. Cook until the mixture is thick and jammy and coats the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning and balance with sugar as required. While the mixture is still hot, blend it in a food processor until smooth but not puréed.

GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
Combine the water with the palm sugar, lime leaves, and chili in a small pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Blend for 1 minute with an immersion blender until combined. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and shallot and stir to combine. Season with salt. Refrigerate until cool. When ready to serve, mix the papaya with the dressing.

BEEF SHORT RIBS GLAZE
Whisk all the ingredients together until combined.

SERVE  
Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Cover or brush the short rib pieces with half of the glaze and heat in the oven until hot through, about 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking, brush with the remaining glaze. Cut each rib rectangle in half. Smear some of the black pepper jam on each of 6 serving plates and place the short ribs on top. Season with sea salt. Add the melon and papaya salad, and garnish with the basil leaves.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Read the review

Hawksworth: The Cookbook by David Hawksworth

Hawsworth The Cookbook

What’s the USP? Dishes drawn from the 30-year career of one of Canada’s most high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, with stories and anecdotes of kitchen and restaurant life. 

Who’s the author? David Hawksworth is chef propriator of the eponymous Hawksworth restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and the more casual Nightingale restaurant and Bel Cafés, all in Vancouver. He is the winner of 2012 and 2013 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year and for four consecutive years, Best Upscale Dining, as well as enRoute magazine’s top three Best New Restaurants, and Maclean’s magazine Restaurant of the Year. In 2008, he became the youngest chef inductee in to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.  In 2013 he launched the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation and has had a culinary partnership with Air Canada since 2015. 

Is it good bedtime reading? The story of Hawksworth’s career is told through a series of memoirs dotted throughout the book. His time in the UK make for particularly entertaining and enlightening reading. When staging at Marco Pierre White’s The Restaurant, Hawksworth was warned never to look at the great chef during service, ‘Look him in the eye, then you’re a target – you’re finished’. As opening chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Petit Blanc in Oxford, Hawksworth recalls having to cut the door to the meat locker in half and crawl in and out on his hands and knees because it was blocked by a staircase.   

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Hawksworth’s contemporary Canadian food might exalt west coast produce like spot prawns, sablefish and sockeye salmon, but they can be easily substituted for more readily available alternatives if you’re based outside of Canada. 

The book includes not only fine dining dishes with ingredients that might be harder to source such as squab for pot-au-feu with parsley dumplings but also recipes from his more casual Nightingale restaurant and Bel Cafés, such as crispy buttermilk fried chicken and clam spaghetti, the ingredients for which are more straightforward to track down. 

What’s the faff factor? It varies hugely from recipe to recipe.  The average home cook is not going to tackle a sophisticated creation like foie gras, artichoke, truffle and madeira jus on a Wednesday night after getting home late from the office. On the other hand, you could knock up a bowl of Blue Hubbard Squash soup in about 45 minutes. Even easier, once you’ve marinated chicken overnight, spicy chicken and green papaya salad would take less than 30 minutes to complete. 

How often will I cook from the book? For the most part, you will need to set aside a decent amount of time to cook many of the recipes in the book. However aside from a few showpiece dishes like mosaic of venison, duck and quail and ‘Symphony of the Sea’ that’s made with prawns, oysters, scallops, halibut and salmon which will probably remain restaurant-only creations, recipes like 48-hour beef short ribs with black pepper jam; salumi pizza; roasted cauliflower with green harissa and sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate chunk cookies will mean the book’s glossy and beautifully designed pages will soon gather the stains of regular kitchen use.   

Killer recipes? In addition to distinctively west coast dishes such as  there is an unmistakably European accent to the recipes in his first cookbook. That’s no surprise, as Hawksworth spent the 1990s working in some of the best UK kitchens of the time including The Square and Marco-era L’Escargot. Dishes include a mosaic of venison, duck and quail taught to Hawksworth by Gary Jones at Le Manoir, and a yellowfin tuna-wrapped crab salad inspired by Bruno Loubet’s whole seabass stuffed with panzanella that was on the menu at Isola when Hawksworth worked there.  Vancouver is a famously cosmopolitan city and Hawksworth reflects that in dishes like spicy chicken and green papaya salad and jungle pork curry.

What will I love? Although aimed at a North American audience, ingredients  are listed with grams and ml measurements as well as cups, making the book perfectly usable for UK readers. 

Should I buy it? In his foreword, Phil Howard says, ‘I know for certain that you will not regret investing in this book – and the knowledge of this chef’. I can only concur.  

Cuisine: Canadian/International 
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs 
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

A version of this review first appeared in The Caterer magazine. 

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth