KARAAGE 6.0 by Tim Anderson

Izakaya_Day2_13855
第6版の唐揚げ DAI ROKU-BAN NO KARAAGE

I‘m calling this Karaage 6.0 because it is, if memory serves, the sixth karaage recipe I’ve written. And it’s the best one … so far. There are so many variations of making karaage it’s hard to settle on a ‘perfect’ version. For this one, I’ve stripped it back to basics, with a really simple, classic marinade. The only thing unusual about it is that it uses a seasoned flour and white wine rather than sake, which gives a lovely fruity acidity that works perfectly with the chicken – a brilliant idea I heard about from chef Jon Sho of the excellent Knightsbridge sushi bar Kaké, as well as the food
writer and karaage pop-up chef Melissa Thompson.

SERVES 2_4
FOR THE MARINADE
10 garlic cloves
20 g (¾ oz) ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
100 ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup)
white wine
3 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

FOR THE SEASONED FLOUR
150 g (5 oz/1¼ cups) cornflour (cornstarch)
100 g (3½ oz/scant 1 cup) potato starch
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
400 g (14 oz) (about 4–6) chicken thighs, boneless and skin on
about 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) oil, for deep-frying
lemon or ponzu, store-bought or homemade, to serve (optional)

METHOD
For the marinade, blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor until no big chunks remain; alternatively, you can finely grate the garlic and ginger and just stir everything together. For the seasoned flour, simply stir all ingredients together until well mixed. Cut the chicken thighs into quarters (or thirds, if they’re quite small) and toss through the marinade, then leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

To cook, heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 180ºC (350°F). Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off, then dredge in the seasoned flour, ensuring that all the nooks and crannies are well coated.

Carefully lower the chicken into the oil in small batches, checking the temperature periodically to ensure it is between 170–180ºC (340–350°F) and fry for about 8 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, use it: the chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of at least 65ºC (150°F). If you don’t have a thermometer, use a knife to cut into the biggest piece of chicken at its thickest point. If it’s still raw, keep cooking for another few minutes until it is cooked through.

Remove the cooked chicken from the oil and drain on paper towels. Karaage is juicy and flavourful enough to be enjoyed without a dip, but it’s also great with ponzu, or just a wedge of lemon.

Cook more from this book
Fish Finger Hand Rolls by Tim Anderson
Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter by Tim Anderson

Read the review

Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

Fish Finger Hand Rolls by Tim Anderson

Izakaya_Day2_13878

FISH FINGER HAND ROLLS
フィッシュフィンガー手巻き FISSHU FING  TEMAKI

This dish was inspired by recipes by two cooks that I, and many others, idolise: Ivan Orkin and Nigella Lawson. In Orkin’s excellent The Gaijin Cookbook, he provides a guide for hosting a temaki party, a great way to enjoy sushi at home that requires
no particular skill or technique. You simply bring cooked and seasoned sushi rice, some choice fillings, nori and condiments to the table, and let everybody assemble their own little temaki, or hand rolls. It’s brilliant – we did this a few days after Christmas when I was craving Japanese food but had no fresh fish in the house.

Enter Nigella. Lately, everybody has been talking about her fish finger bhorta, a recipe she borrowed (with permission) from the journalist and activist Ash Sarkar. Basically, it’s a sort of dry curry made with smashed-up fish fingers; the kind of thing that’s so ingenious yet so simple that it has made us all wonder why we haven’t been making it our whole lives. Indeed, it’s certainly got me thinking why I’ve never utilised fish fingers in anything more interesting than a sandwich before.

This must have been in the back of my mind when I reached for them to use in our temaki party. If you think about it, it makes sense; fried seafood is no stranger to sushi, after all. I texted my friend Yuki (of Bar Yuki fame) a photo of my invention, expecting her to laugh at me. Instead, she simply replied, ‘Yummy, it’s like ebi-fry temaki!’ – referring to the perennial favourite, panko-crusted fried prawns (shrimp). So there you have it: fish fingers are just the poor man’s ebi-fry, and they make a killer temaki.

MAKES 8 LITTLE HAND ROLLS; SERVES 2-4
200 g (7 oz/1 cup) rice
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
40–50 g (2 oz) daikon, peeled, or radishes
iced water
8 fish fingers
Japanese Mayo (see below) or Tartare Sauce (see below)
1 handful of pea shoots
2 sheets nori
soy sauce, as needed
wasabi, as needed

METHOD
Cook the rice according to the instructions on page 219. While the rice is cooking, stir together the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Once the rice is cooked, spread it out in a large bowl or tray and sprinkle over the seasoned vinegar. Mix the vinegar through the rice using a rice paddle or spatula with slicing and turning motions. Let the rice cool to room temperature before making the rolls.

Slice the daikon or radishes very thinly – use a mandoline if you have one, and if you don’t, use a very sharp knife and take your time. Cut down the length of the daikon,
rather than across, so you have rectangles rather than circles. Stack the slices of daikon up and cut them again into very thin shreds.  Transfer this to a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes and leave to soak for about 20 minutes (if you don’t have ice, just put the bowl in the fridge).

Cook the fish fingers according to the manufacturers’ instructions, but I would recommend giving them a few minutes extra to get really crisp. Drain the daikon and dry it well with paper towels. Toast the nori by waving each sheet back and forth 15–20 cm (6–8 in) over an open flame on the hob, for about 30 seconds each. Cut each sheet into four squares.

Bring everything to the table along with chopsticks, side plates and little dip pots. To assemble, hold a piece of nori in your hand, then use the chopsticks to pile in a little mound of rice, then top with the mayo or tartare sauce, then some daikon and pea shoots, then the fish fingers. Wrap it up like something halfway between a taco and a burrito, and eat with your hands. Dip it in the soy sauce and a little wasabi with each bite.

NOTES:
JAPANESE BROWN SAUCE AND JAPANESE MAYO
Japanese brown sauce has many variants, such as tonkatsu sauce, yakisoba sauce, okonomiyaki sauce and takoyaki sauce. They all fall under the category of what’s simply called ‘sauce’ in Japan, as they have similar flavours, with slight variations in terms of consistency and balance. Tonkatsu sauce is a good choice if you need something that will work well in a variety of recipes. You can make it at home but I would strongly recommend buying it. The same goes for Japanese mayo, known for its creamier, eggier, deliciously MSG-enhanced flavour. The brand Kewpie seems to be everywhere these days, and while it is expensive, it’s worth it. Normal mayo just doesn’t cut it.

FOR THE TARTARE SAUCE
20 g (¾ oz) pickled ginger (any kind), very finely chopped
4 tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp English mustard
½ tsp dried dill
1 handful of chives, finely sliced

Stir together all the ingredients until well mixed.

Photography: Laura Edwards

Cook more from this book
KARAAGE 6.0 by Tim Anderson
Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter by Tim Anderson

Read the review


Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter by Tim Anderson

Izakaya_Day1_13551
ペッパーステーキの醤油ガーリックバター焼き PEPP  SUTĒKI NO SHŌYU G RIKKU BAT  YAKI

One of my very favourite lunch spots in Japan was a little fast food shop called Pepper Lunch. Pepper Lunch is a chain, with over 200 branches in Japan and even more outside Japan. It’s not exactly the pinnacle of Japanese gastronomy, and my Japanese colleagues teased me for liking it so much, but damn, did they do some good pepper steak. It was cheap – suspiciously so – but it was always cooked perfectly and it was also really good beef, highly marbled and incredibly tender. Of course, the seasonings were so tasty (lots of pepper, lots of garlic, lots of soy sauce) that you probably could have cooked an old shoe in them and it would have tasted reasonably good. So this is my loving homage to Pepper Lunch.

SERVES 2
1 tbsp oil
1 ribeye steak, 300–400 g (10½–14 oz) and ideally at least 2.5 cm (1 in) thick, patted dry with paper towels
a very generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp honey
20 g (¾ oz) butter
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

METHOD
Set a frying pan (skillet) over high heat and add the oil. Season the steak all over with the pepper. When the oil is smoking hot, lay the steak in the pan and cook it on one side until nicely browned, about 2–3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, again for about 2 minutes. By this point the steak should be rare; keep cooking for a further 2 minutes for medium-rare and another 2 minutes after that for medium, flipping the steak every 20 seconds to form an even crust and cuisson. When the steak is cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan and leave to rest on a chopping board.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the water, then set the pan back over the heat and add the soy sauce, sake, honey, butter and garlic. Simmer for 4–5 minutes until the liquid reduces slightly and the garlic infuses into the gravy, then remove from the heat. Slice the steak into bite-size cubes, about 2 cm (¾ in) wide, and toss through the pan sauce.

TIP
Use your senses and intuition cooking steak or, better yet, a probe thermometer, to gauge the steak’s doneness. And remember: if you’re not sure how cooked it is, err on the side of rare. You can always cook it more. If you’re using a cut other than ribeye, slice the steak across the grain as you usually would; otherwise, the meat will be too
tough and chewy.

Cook more from this book
Fish Finger Hand Rolls by Tim Anderson
KARAAGE 6.0 by Tim Anderson

Read the review


Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

Med by Claudia Roden

Med by Claudia Roden
What’s the USP? An exploration of dishes from across the length of the Mediterranean by one of the most iconic names in food writing today, Claudia Roden. As well as being an instantly recognised figurehead of Middle Eastern cooking, Roden has previously written no less than four books on the wider Mediterranean cuisine (and another two focussing more closely on the food of Italy and Spain). So, not exactly a USP – but given that this is the octogenarian’s first book in a decade, perhaps the words ‘a cookbook from Claudia Roden’ are enough in themselves.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s lots to enjoy here, even if Roden’s written segments won’t occupy more than an evening of light reading. Opening with a section that explores both the theme of the book and the influence Roden’s own life journey has had on her food, Med sets itself up to be both a welcome addition to the shelves of existing fans and a suitable introduction to new fans.

Deeper into the book, both chapter and recipe introductions alike offer a good balance of the practical and the personal: glimpses into Roden’s experiences shimmer alongside useful tips and ideas for ingredients that can be substituted. There has always been a very passionate cultural anthropologist Claudia Roden that looks over the shoulder of the Claudia Roden that cooks the dishes and passes them out to her family for testing, and it’s a pleasure as ever to hear the snippets of history and humanity that are commonplace throughout Med.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Would the grand dame of Mediterranean cooking do that to you? Roden’s recipes are clear, concise and to the point, with coherent instructions and – thanks to the popular awareness the author herself played a significant role in developing across the UK – ingredients that are widely available in supermarkets. Even ingredients like harissa and pomegranate molasses that might not have been so readily available at the time of release for her last Mediterranean cookbook in 2007 have since become staples of Tesco’s aisles.

What’s the faff factor? For the most part, Med offers up relatively simple dishes that are full of flavour. One of the elements that unites the cuisines of the broad range of nations that have the sea in common is the quality of ingredients used. Very often this means that dishes allow those ingredients to speak for themselves, and require very little alchemy from the home cook. The fifteen or so salads in the book are a perfect example of this. Roden’s instructions for the vibrant Citrus Salad with Green Leaves read closer to flower arranging than cooking, and result in an intensely tangy, fresh dish. Even the Store-Cupboard Mediterranean Salad, which calls for piquillo peppers, tinned tuna, black olives and plum tomatoes has only two sentences of actual recipe.

Elsewhere in the book, Roden is a keen champion of ready-made pastry, making even the most complex dishes a good deal more achievable. Nowhere is this more apparent than her Chicken and Onion ‘Pies’ with Moroccan Flavours, which look incredibly elaborate, but should come together with relative ease in forty-five minutes or so.

How often will I cook from the book? There are plenty of options to keep the home cook occupied here, which is bound to happen when a title can draw from the cuisines of around twenty different countries. Roden the cultural anthropologist is excellent at sharing the origins of dishes – or owning up to those few recipes that are more a collection of fine ideas than a replica of anything already in the world.

Killer recipes: Spaghetti with Prawns Provençal, Bullinada, Chicken in a Spicy Honey Sauce Buried in Vermicelli, Yoghurt Cake, Parfait Mocha Praliné

Should I buy it? The only real qualm anyone might be able to muster with Med is that there isn’t much in the book that you couldn’t already find fine versions of elsewhere – either in Roden’s own illustrious back catalogue, or amongst the pages of very many fine Mediterranean cookbooks already in print. But the recipes are consistently very tempting and offer a thorough insight into both the dishes of the sea and the way the different nations have interacted with one another over the centuries. Med will be a welcome addition to the shelves of Roden’s long-term fans, and a useful all-rounder for those who have yet to explore the wealth of flavours on offer across the Mediterranean countries.

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

Buy this book 
Med: A Cookbook
£28, Ebury Press

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

Your Home Izakaya by Tim Anderson

Your Home Izakaya by Tim Anderson

What’s the USP? A Japanese cookbook inspired specifically by the cosy izakaya bars of Japan. More casual than restaurants, izakayas are often compared to Spain’s tapas bars and, occasionally, to English pubs. The latter feels a little like a stretch, though – the delicious snacks izakayas offer are a big part of their appeal, and whilst I’m a big fan of Smith’s Scampi Fries, it’s pretty hard to romanticise their role in pub culture.

Who wrote it? Tim Anderson, the former Masterchef winner who went on to found Nanban. He left the restaurant last year to focus on, amongst other things, his cookbooks. Nanban’s loss is our gain. Your Home Izakaya is Anderson’s fifth book, and an interesting take on the increasingly crowded Japanese cookbook market. Focusing on the casual dishes most likely to be found in izakayas, Anderson’s book continues his refreshingly unprecious look at the cuisine. Fusion dishes abound here, the result being an engaging and very approachable collection.

Is it good bedtime reading? Whilst not exactly a lot of reading, there’s more than you’ll find in a lot of cookbooks – and those few lengthier chunks of prose are very enjoyable. Opening and closing with the pandemic reflections that you suspect will be commonplace on our shelves for the next year or two, and supplemented with the standard explanations of cuisine-specific ingredients, Anderson also finds room for touching tributes to individuals and practical explanations of technique. Occasionally a recipe will start a page later than you’d expect thanks to a particularly effusive introduction.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Ingredients are listed with clear and precise measurements for Brits and Americans alike, but it’s fair to say that Anderson’s prose-heavy instructions can be a little hard to follow – at least in a literal sense. Recipes are written in chunky paragraphs that often contain a dozen or so steps. It looks nice, but makes it easy to lose your place as you switch between stove top and cookbook.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson lives and works out of London, and with one or two optional exceptions the city should be able to offer everything you need. That said, those shopping in small cities and towns will want to find out where their nearest Asian supermarket is and stock up – from dashi powder to daikon radishes, there are plenty of ingredients here that won’t be popping up in your local Asda.

What’s the faff factor? Two of Anderson’s biggest books to date have been his Japaneasy titles, which specialised in simple dishes. If you’re looking for really quick and easy recipes then these will remain your best bet – but much of the ethos present in those books has been carried over to Your Home Izakaya too. Yes, dishes like Braised Pig’s Trotter with a Crispy Crust require a bit of waiting, but anyone willing to eat pig’s trotter is usually willing to wait for it too.

How often will I cook from the book? Eager home cooks may find themselves pulling this from their shelf on a very regular basis – there’s plenty to love here, and dishes like Cheese Dakgalbi, Chicken Katsu Curry Spaghetti and Fluffy-Creamy Omurice lend themselves to a rich and filling weeknight dinner.

What will I love? Another hangover from his last book, Vegan Japaneasy, is the wealth of vegan and vegetarian friendly recipes here. Whilst the tail end of the book tends to weigh a little heavier with meaty recipes, the opening chapters are overwhelmingly veggie, and readers will find it easy to put together tasty menus that suit their own needs.

What won’t I love? It’s actually pretty hard to find a flaw in Your Home Izakaya – the photos are vivid and tempting, each recipe comes complete with suggestions both for other dishes that might share a table and the best drink to serve alongside your meal. The biggest issue is those hefty paragraphs in the recipes, but it feels like a petty sticking point.

Killer recipes: The Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter was a brilliant success when cooked on a quiet weekday evening, and served (as per the book’s suggestion) over rice with an egg yolk on top. Elsewhere, there’s Furikake Potatoes, Japanese Fish and Chips, a fantastic section on yakitori including some delicious Chicken Thighs with Yuzu-Kosho. Tucked away between the desserts (Sake Glass Jelly with Seasonal Fruit!) and some useful essentials like Dashi are a smattering of cocktails – a Salted Grapefruit Shochu Highball being a particular highlight.

Should I buy it? Fans of informal Japanese cooking will be well served by this thoughtful (and fun!) new cookbook by Tim Anderson. Those looking to replicate high-end dishes or create perfectly formed sushi will be better off looking elsewhere. But if you want to explore the cuisine whilst having a little fun, I’d suggest turning directly to page 161 – Prosciutto-wrapped Crab and Avocado Sushi Rolls.

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

Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

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

Cookbook 2021 round up: the ones that got away

Crave by Ed Smith

‘Most of the time we simply cook the things we do so that we can eat what we fancy, it’s no more complicated than that,’ claims food writer and rocketandsquash.com food blogger Ed Smith in his introduction to this, his third cookbook. So he’s arranged about 100 recipes under six ‘flavour profiles’ that include fresh and fragrant, tart and sour, chilli and heat, spiced and curried, rich and savoury and cheesy and creamy so that his readers can easily find a dish that suits their current craving. It’s a nice conceit and gives a sense of order to an eclectic collection of recipes that pinballs from curried brisket noodles to haggis wontons with chilli oil, and chicken, sour cream and dill pickle soup to pork belly, butter beans and deli olives. While Smith’s the sense of adventure is invigorating, it somewhat prevents a clear, distinctive and unique voice from emerging. Nevertheless, Crave is a handy book to have around when you want something that bit different.

Defining dish: Scotch bonnet and papaya pork collar steaks with a red pepper fruit salad. 
Cuisine:
International
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three Stars
Buy this book: Crave: Recipes Arranged by Flavour, to Suit Your Mood and Appetite £25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Spicebox by Grace Regan


Entrepreneur and food writer Grace Regan of Spicebox restaurants in Walthamstow and Leytonstone address the elephant in the room in the opening paragraph of her introduction to this collection of ‘vegan curry house favourites’ saying that, ‘As a white British woman who cooks curry for a living I am well aware I tread sensitive ground. It is crucial for me to acknowledge there is a fine line between paying respect to the culinary history of India and cultural appropriation’. Regan’s get of jail free card is her ‘deep love and respect for India’. Whether that argument holds water is up to the individual reader, as too is the decision to search out other sources of Indian vegan (and vegetarian) recipes in books such as Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy Vegetarian or Indian Vegan and Vegetarian by Mridula Baljekar. But if you’re happy to go along for the ride you’ll find lots of dishes familiar from British high street curry houses given a vegan twist including cauli tikka masala, sweet potato and broccoli madras and jackfruit vindaloo.

Defining dish: Tofu veg balti
Cuisine:
Indian
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three Stars
Buy this book: SpiceBox: 100 curry house favourites made vegan £20, Ebury Press

Vietnamese by Uyen Luu


If you’re new to Vietnamese cooking, I can’t think of a better introduction to the cuisine than this engaging and beautifully designed book from London-based food writer, food stylist, photographer, blogger and supper club owner (phew!) Uyen Luu. Newbies will be instantly put at ease by the introductory chapter that includes a simple explanation of the essential storecupboard ingredients that make up the Vietnamese pantry. Just make sure you have something sweet (sugar, honey, palm sugar), something sour (rice wine vinegar, yuzu), something hot (chilli sauce), something salty (fish sauce), something umamu (miso) and a supply of fresh ingredients such as ginger, shallots, garlic and lemongrass and you are well on your way to your first Vietnamese dish.

The book is crammed full of exciting and enticing dishes (all styled and shot by Luu herself), some that may well be familiar such as banh mi, seafood spring rolls or chicken pho, and others that may be new to readers such as lacy, sizzling crepes made from rice flour and tinted yellow with turmeric that are filled with prawns, beansprouts and coriander. The book covers everything from Vietnamese style salads and noodles soups to quick mid-week meals such as stir fried beef and asparagus with flat rice noodles and desserts including coconut and mango pudding with sago tapioca balls.  An absolute joy from start to finish.

Defining dish: Shaking beef with watercress salad and tomato rice 
Cuisine:
Vietnamese
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book: Vietnamese: Simple Vietnamese food to cook at home £22, Hardie Grant

Afro Vegan by Zoe Alakija

A vegan cookbook like no other, with West African recipes created by British Nigerian cookery writer and art director Zoe Alakija who is also the co-founder and creative director of Roundtable Journal, a print magazine for women. Using a pantry of basic ingredients that includes Nigerian honey beans, cashews, coconut, garri (fermented cassava flour) scotch bonnet peppers and plantains among others, Alakija blasts away any remaining preconceptions people may have that vegan food is boring with imaginative and delicious dishes such as Lebanese-Nigerian roast chickpea sahwarma. Publisher Hoxton Mini Press have maintained their usual high standards of production with a striking  and vividly colourful design (Alakija did her own art direction on the book).

Defining dish: Classic Jollof
Cuisine:
West African
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars
Buy this book: Afro Vegan: Family recipes from a British-Nigerian kitchen £20, Hoxton Mini Press

Australia: The Cookbook by Ross Dobson

What is Australian food? 350 recipes and 432 pages later, I’m still not entirely sure. There are distinctive ingredients that help define Aboriginal Australian native bushfood (a chapter of the book is dedicated to the subject) such as wattleseed, warrigal greens, desert quandong and of course kangaroo, but otherwise it appears just about anything can be claimed as Australian cuisine. Hence you’ll find recipes for eggs Benedict (‘Eggs Benny’), cauliflower cheese, roasted tomato soup, chicken parmigiana (‘Chicken Parmi’ – if you learn anything from this book its that Aussies love to abbreviate) pad Thai with king prawns and lemon drizzle cake alongside more recognisably Australian items such as Anzac biscuits, Lamingtons, Moreton Bay bugs with aioli and, er, Thai kangaroo salad.

Recipes from three ‘guest chefs’ (Dan Hunter of Brae, Mark Olive from Dapbeto’s Midden and O Tama Carey of Lankan Filling Station) give some small insight into what modern Australian gastronomy is currently up to with dishes such as Hunter’s red flowering eucalyptus ice cream with quandongs stewed with rhubarb and mead, and a meaty introduction throws light on the history of Australian food, but that doesn’t prevent the book being a slightly perplexing read. If everything and anything can be Australian food, is there even such a thing? (the very same question could easily be asked of British food). That said, it’s a decent enough collection of diverse recipes and would make the ideal present for someone who likes to cook but doesn’t want to compile an enormous collection of cookbooks – there’s enough ideas here to keep someone occupied and well fed for a very long time.

Defining dish: Meat pie
Cuisine: Australian
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Stars
Buy this book: Australia: The Cookbook £35, Phaidon Press

Rockfish by Mitch Tonks

A concise (at 144 pages, the book is a fair bit slimmer than it appears in the illustration above) introduction to the joys British seafood by chef and restaurateur  Mitch Tonks. In addition to the enticing, sustainable recipes such as crispy fried salt and pepper cuttlefish, the evocative images of the sea and the coast will have you packing your bags for the South West of England to visit one of Tonks’ Rockfish restaurants.
Defining dish: Poole clam chowder with fried bread
Cuisine:
Seafood
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars
Buy this book: Rockfish: The Cookbook £23.50, Jon Croft Editions

Home Farm Cooking by Catherine and John Pawson

Welcome to the super-stylish, refined and privileged world of architect John Pawson and wife Catherine where nothing in their beautiful house set on an English country estate is out of place. Mainly because, as Pawson is the most famous minimalist in Britain, there is very little to be out of place.

After you’ve got over being green with envy at their stupendous living arrangements (there’s lot of interior-porn in the book) you can have a look at the collection of recipes which is, well it’s fine in a vaguely healthy ‘Oh, we love the River Cafe and just adore Tuscany, we summer there every year’ sort of way.  The recipes are the type you might find in glossy food mags. Nothing wrong with that of course, but as a collection it feels a bit rootless and lacking any real personality. There’s a ceviche and a wild mushroom risotto; there’s Piedmontese peppers and roast rib of beef, and teriyaki tofu and baked salmon with dill and herb mayonnaise and a fish pie and…lots of other stuff.

It’s a lovely looking thing, perfect for a coffee table and if you cooked from the book you’d certainly eat well, but you’d be far better off going straight to the source rather than settling for this admittedly beguiling facsimile. I’d start with Simon Hopkinson and see where you go from there.

Defining dish: Stir-fried sea bass with soy ginger and vegetables (‘inspired by Alastair Little’s recipe in his cookbook Keep It Simple‘ – see what I mean?) 
Cuisine:
International
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Two stars
Buy this book: Home Farm Cooking £35, Phaidon Press

Leon: Happy Guts by Rebecca Seal and John Vincent

A bright, colourful little book filled with over 100 high-fibre and omega-3 rich recipes designed to promote gut health that authors food writer Rebecca Seal and Leon restaurants CEO John Vincent claim ‘can mean a longer, healthier life’.  Five chapters titled Ways to Eat More Fibre, Eat The Rainbow, Eat Lively, Omega-3 and Lower Sugar contain dishes such as corn cakes with poached eggs and spicy roast tomatoes; cucumber, seaweed and sesame salad, and pear frangipane. Recipes and methods are short and sweet and will provide plenty of inspiration for mid-week meals that will probably do you more good than ordering in a pizza when you’re knackered after work. Come to think of it, the more you cook from this book, the less likely you are to be knackered after work in the first place (don’t hold me to that, I’ve done no research but it sounds plausible).

Defining dish: Roast broccoli and beans with tahini sauce
Cuisine:
International
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Stars
Buy this book: Happy Leons: Leon Happy Guts: Recipes to help you live better £16.99, Conran

The Turkish Cookbook by Ghillie Basan

The food and cooking of Turkey as seen through the eyes and taste buds of food writer and traveller Ghillie Başan.  A lengthy introductory section explores the country and Turkey’s defining ingredients and precedes a comprehensive selection of recipes for meze and salads, soups and hot snacks, vegetable dishes, pulses and pilaffs, seafood, meat and poultry and sweets. The design of the book may be a little dated but its a still a very decent introduction to the subject.
Defining dish: Lamb kebab in puff pastry
Cuisine:  Turkish
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three Stars
Buy this book: The Turkish Cookbook: Exploring the Food of a Timeless Cuisine £20, Lorenz Books

Taste! by Glynn Christian

Encyclopedic advice on how to identify the best ingredients available in British delis and how to use them once you get them home from a legend among food writers, Glyn Christian. An update of his 2005 book Real Flavours, Christian leaves no shelf unexplored with entries covering pulses, breads, charcuterie chocolate, chutney,  grains, herbs, seafood, oils, vinegars, teas; the list goes on and on. There are no recipes and this is not the sort of book you would sit down and read, but it is the perfect reference volume for when you want to ensure you are getting the best ingredients for a particular recipe before you go out shopping, or just when you fancy honing up on a foodie topic like olives or cheese. A must have for every serious foodie. 
Cuisine:
International 
Suitable for:
Curious cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars
Buy this book: Taste!: How to Choose the Best Deli Ingredients £25, Grub Street

Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier
What’s the USP? Everything you need to know in order to do Christmas the River Cottage way, which roughly translates as sustainable, organic and do-it-yourself. After reading this book you’ll be ready to start knocking up your own homemade mince pies, gifts and decs while necking copious amounts of rumtopf. That sounds like a Merry Christmas to me.

Who wrote it? Lucy Brazier is a writer and course tutor at River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s HQ in Axminster that offers courses in cooking, gardening and artisan skills.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a multi-award-winning writer and broadcaster and environmentalist committed to seasonal, ethically produced food. He is the author of numerous cookbooks and has fronted many TV series including River Cottage for Channel 4, the series that first brought him to the nation’s attention. His campaigning TV programmes have included Hugh’s Fish FightHugh’s War on Waste and Britain’s Fat Fight.

Is it good bedtime reading? You’ll want to get comfortably tucked up in bed with Christmas at River Cottage ideally a year ahead so you can put in to action all the advice in the ‘Planning Ahead’ chapter and begin growing your own produce and buying all the preserving kit you’ll need to make your own jams, pickles, booze, non-alcoholic drinks, syrups and cordials and fermented drinks. You’ll be in the perfect place as you’ll be exhausted just reading about all the work in store for you, never mind actually doing it. And that’s before you get to ‘Decking the Halls’ where you’ll learn how to craft your own willow Christmas wreath,  make tree decorations from dried orange and apple slices and how to make your own calendar in the ‘Advent’ chapter.

What’s the faff factor? It depends if you view the planning-ahead required to make things like red cabbage and beetroot pickle which needs to be prepared several weeks in advance, or marrow and chilli relish that needs six months to mature. But there are plenty of do-on-the-day recipes such as quick kedgeree and kale with anchovy cream that are straightforward enough.

How often will I cook from the book? If you take the homemade ethos to heart, then you may be cooking regularly from the book throughout the year making the jams, preserves and pickles in time for the big day, otherwise, it’s going to be mostly useful to you once a year.

What will I love? The book covers everything you need for a homespun festive break, from table decorations and drinks to the Christmas roast with all the trimmings and your own homemade Christmas pudding.

Killer recipes: Lentil salad with herby dressing; midwinter vegan tart; curried potato tart; beef and stout stew; mulled wine; prune and apricot stollen; Yule ham; Christmas Eve pizzas; turkey au vin.

Should I buy it? If you’re no longer satisfied with store-bought decorations and a turkey breast joint from Iceland and you want to get seriously hands-on with Christmas preparations all year round, then this is an essential purchase. Even for the less dedicated, there’s plenty of inspiration to make your Christmas a bit more special and personalised than it might usually be.

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

Buy this book
Christmas at River Cottage
£22, Bloomsbury Publishing

Grains for Every Season by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg

Grains for every season by Joshua McFadden
What’s the USP? Intensely nutritious but often overlooked by home cooks who are uncertain how best to cook with them, whole grains have a lot to offer. Grains for Every Season looks to open their world up to the reader, offering a wealth of different dishes that span familiar grains like barley and quinoa, as well as less common offerings such as millet and buckwheat.

Who wrote it? The James Beard Award-winning pair Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. Their last book (McFadden’s first) was the critically-acclaimed Six Seasons, which offered ‘a new way with vegetables’ – here the pair are determined to give whole grains their due instead, highlighting their desire to put flavour first at every point. The rich nutritional value of their ingredients are highlighted, but frequently seem to be considered no more than a convenient bonus, which is frankly rather nice. Earlier this year Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s solid Eat Better Forever spent entire chapters unpacking the health benefits for using whole grains, but the recipes themselves were less than inspired. McFadden’s book is packed with variety and flavour, whilst also teaching the reader enough about each grain to help them incorporate the food better into their own dishes.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not particularly – the introduction aside, Grains for Every Season isn’t packed with prose. Each grain has a very useful but relatively brief introductory page that covers how it tastes, how it should be prepared, how it is good for you, and why McFadden is such a fan. The recipes themselves are given a brief explanation, but insomniacs aren’t going to find much to occupy them here.

But then, that’s not why we’re here – Grains for Every Season isn’t intended as a grand tome laying out food philosophies. Instead, McFadden and Holmberg are simply keen to make cooking with grains a good deal less intimidating for the average person. And they excel at doing this.

The recipes manage to hit all the homely, comforting notes you’d expect. A Lightly Curried Lamb, Cabbage, and Barley Soup offers exactly the warmth a reader might anticipate, but includes an inspired extra little punch of flavour. This is McFadden’s flavour-first approach peeking through, and over the course of the book these little touches appear time and again, lifting the grains and presenting them anew.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Clarity is always welcome in a cookbook, and the recipes here are thorough and specific – though this can occasionally result in a rather wordy page within which your place can easily be lost as you step away from the book to your prep and back again. Ingredients are listed with both US and metric measurements, and rarely ask for anything too difficult to source. Your biggest sourcing issue if based outside of the US will be kosher salt, though I’ve been buying it in bulk from online retailers ever since Samin Nosrat more or less insisted upon me doing so in Salt Fat Acid Heat.

What’s the faff factor? Try as they might, the authors cannot wholly expel the effort necessary to fully enjoy many of these grains. McFadden champions toasting his grains regularly throughout the book, though he does make an effort to save the reader some time by revealing that he doesn’t tend to soak grains before cooking, finding that the time saved in cooking doesn’t warrant the forward planning. Nevertheless, dishes call for all sorts of different preparatory methods, and some of these can be quite time consuming. Salads are usually a relatively quick dish to knock together, but the Rye Berry and Roasted Cauliflower Salad will take almost two hours to prepare if you haven’t already got some cooked rye berries sitting somewhere in the house.

How often will I cook from the book? There’s plenty of argument for this being a book that finds its way down from your shelf at least once a week. Knowing the many health benefits from eating more whole foods, it’s hard to ignore the value of a cookbook that presents so many varied, flavoursome approaches to cooking grains. There are simple, easy-to-cook ideas that will suit weeknights (Whole Wheat Pasta with Crab, Cream, Olives and Habanero could be readily pulled together in the time it takes to cook the pasta, and is a perfect example of the unexpected-yet-inspired flavour combinations that run throughout the book), and more elaborate dishes that will better suit a leisurely Sunday afternoon, in which you can spare three or so hours in which to simmer the beef for your Beef and Swiss Chard Soup with Spelt.

What will I love? The four seasonal spreads tucked throughout the book are a particular treat. Each one introduces a different dish: pilaf, grain bowls, stir fries and pizza. Presenting a simple method and offering up seasonal adaptations, these spreads are bright moments in an already excellent book.

Killer recipes: Seafood Stew with Hominy and Warm Spices, Super Fudgy Chocolate Oat Layer Cake with Chocolate Oat Milk Frosting, Farotto (a risotto-esque dish that uses farro in place of the rice and comes with several variations), Toasted Rye Cabbage Rolls

Should I buy it? Grains for Every Season is a beautifully written, carefully considered cookbook that is filled with originality and, importantly, flavour. But it is also something far more useful: an accessible and above all else tempting introduction to cooking with one of our most underused sources of nutrition. Anybody keen to explore whole grains in earnest should consider Grains for Every Season their first port of call.

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

Buy this book
Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way with Grains
£32, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

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

Marcus’ Kitchen by Marcus Wareing

Marcus's Kitchen

What’s the USP? Approachable home-cooked recipes cooked up during lockdown by a Michelin-starred TV chef at his country home.

Who are the authors? Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs with the Michelin-starred Marcus restaurant at the swish Berkeley Hotel. he is also well known as the stern taskmaster on the BBC TV series Masterchef: The Professionals. He rose to fame in the 90’s as Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man, heading up a number of restaurants including the original Petrus in St James’s Street. His falling out with Ramsay is well documented.

Wareing’s co-author for the first time (replacing Wareing’s former business partner Chantelle Nicholson) is chef Craig Johnston, a Masterchef: The Professionals winner and now Wareing’s head chef.

Is it good bedtime reading? As with Wareing’s last book, not really. A short introduction plus recipe introductions and that’s your lot.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? As usual you’ll need a reliable fishmonger for large scallops to pan fry and serve with celeriac and chimichurri slaw or halibut to bake with lovage and serve with white asparagus (another two ingredients you will probably need to hunt down) but you should have no problem tracking down most of the ingredients in this book.

What’s the faff factor? That will depend greatly on what chapter of the book you’re cooking from. Quinoa salad with cottage cheese and roasted onions from ‘Tight for Time’ should take 20 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook if the timings given in the book are correct. On the other hand, prawns with a bisque and tomato fregola from ‘Something Special’ requires 2 to 2.5 hours of prep time and 1.5 hours to cook the dish.

How often will I cook from the book? A lot. Over the course of eight chapters (in addition to the two named above, there’s Market Garden, Simply Essential, Weekend Wonders, Baking, Worth the Wait and Kitchen Foundations) Wareing has compiled more than 100 recipes for pretty much any occasion, mood, inclination, ability, budget and appetite. It’s versatile is what I’m trying to say.

Killer recipes? Marcus’ Kitchen is all killer and no filler, but to give you some examples:  barbecue pork burgers (these are great, although I dialled down a bit on the quantity of Marmite when I made the recipe); rosemary and malt glazed lamb belly with salsa verde; roasted onion tarte tatin with cheddar mascarpone; Korean-style fried monkfish with sesame pickles; baked chilli beef with sweetcorn cobbler; pork loin in black bean sauce (an excellent, easy mid-week family dinner); sautéed potato gnocchi with broccoli, rocket and parmesan. Basically, you can let the book fall open anywhere and you’ll find something you want to cook.

What will I love? We are in similar territory as Waring’s previous book Marcus Everyday, at home in his stunning East Sussex hideaway Melfort House (beware: the photos of Wareing’s amazing kitchen garden may make you very jealous indeed) where he’s created dishes aimed at home cooks rather than his fellow professional chefs (although I’m sure they’d appreciate them too). There’s a huge variety of global influences here, from Indonesian to Italian and Peruvian to Middle Eastern, reflecting the way many British home cooks love to compose a weekly menu, hopping around the globe to avoid culinary boredom (there are plenty of British dishes too, albeit with a twist such as English muffins with brown crab and miso or brown sauce-glazed ham with onion gravy).

Should I buy it? It seems as though lockdown provided Wareing with the chance to really concentrate his efforts on the book which I think may well be his best yet. It’s a book I’ve already enjoyed cooking a lot from and it’s one I can see myself returning to again and again in years to come.  It’s true that there may be more authentic sources for a banh mi recipe than a white bloke from Southport, but that doesn’t stop Marcus’ Kitchen from being a joy to cook from and an essential purchase for every keen home cook.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book: Marcus’ Kitchen: My favourite recipes to inspire your home-cooking 
£22, HarperCollins

Best Cookbooks of 2021 Part 2

Andy Lynes chooses his favourite cookbooks of 2021

Simply Raymond
‘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.’
Read the review
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

Essential Ollie Dabbous

‘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.’
Read the review
Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book: Essential £30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Roots by Rob Howell
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.’
Read the review
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

Hawsworth The Cookbook
‘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.’
Read the review
Cuisine: Canadian/International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook £33.99, Appetite By Random House

Neil Perry Everything I Love to Cook
‘With its near-encyclopaedic length and career-spanning content, the book would make a fitting finale to Perry’s 40 years in the professional kitchen. But with so many vibrant, inventive and delicious recipes, it seems that Perry has a lot more yet to share.’
Read the review 
Coming soon
Cuisine: Australian/International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Everything I Love to Cook: 150 home classics to return to £30, Murdoch Books

Sambal Shiok by Mandy Yin

Read the review 
Coming soon
Cuisine: Malaysian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook £25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Selin Kiazim

‘Kiazim has a distinctive culinary voice all her own which would be enough to make Three an enticing prospect. The fact that she is generous enough to want to help her readers develop their own style makes it a must by for both young novice cooks and those who are more experienced but in search of some new inspiration.’
Read the review
Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginner / confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book: Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking £25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Italian Deli Cookbook

‘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.’
Read the review
Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book: The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients £26, Quadrille Publishing

Marcus's Kitchen
‘It seems as though lockdown provided Wareing with the chance to really concentrate his efforts on the book which I think may well be his best yet. It’s a book I’ve already enjoyed cooking a lot from and it’s one I can see myself returning to again and again in years to come.’
Read the review
Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book: Marcus’ Kitchen: My favourite recipes to inspire your home-cooking £22, HarperCollins

Ottolenghi Test kitchen

Read the review
Coming soon
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book: Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love £25, Ebury Press

Sicilia by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon
Cuisine: Sicilian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book: Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily £26, Bloomsbury Absolute

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

monk captures chef Yoshiro 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.’
Read the review
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

Let’s Eat Italy by François-Régis Gaudry and Friends

Lets Eat Italy
What’s the USP? A deep dive on Italian food culture in an ‘oversized, obsessively complete, visual feast of a book’. And the marketing folk at publisher Artisan really do mean over-sized. This is the sort of coffee table book that might be better suited to artful placement on a picnic bench. Never mind doorstop tomes, this book is the size of an actual door. You get the idea: woe betide anyone looking to fit this onto an Ikea bookshelf.

Who wrote it? Credited to ‘François-Régis Gaudry and friends’, this is a collaborative effort from the team behind 2018’s similarly massive Let’s Eat France. A popular restaurant critic across the Channel, Gaudry has compiled a team that includes well over seventy contributors, including pieces by regulars from his radio show On va deguster.

Is it good bedtime reading? In so many ways, Let’s Eat Italy is perfect bedtime reading – each section offers a stand-alone deep dive into a single facet of Italian cooking. They are beautifully designed, as indebted to a Wes Andersonian sense of style as they are Italy’s own innate relationship with design. It makes for a book that one can pore over, page by page, or simply dip into as they like.

There are in-depth looks at different ingredients, from a ‘Spotlight on Capers’ to sumptuous photographic spreads on artichokes, Italian citrus fruits, tomatoes and more. Perhaps you are more interested in exploring the terroir of the nation’s cuisine, exploring the impact Venice’s lagoon has on its food. There are, of course, plenty of recipes too – regional specialties uncovered and offered up for home cooks to discover on their own turf.

All told, it’s rare to open Let’s Eat Italy and not find yourself at least briefly enamoured by its contents. Amongst the three hundred or so topics there are remarkably few duds – an occasional look at Italian food in American pop culture sheds no new light, but elsewhere even those sections without any immediate obvious use (charts of native cattle breeds) or beautiful enough to distract the reader for a moment.

The only real problem, then, is the sheer size of it, which simultaneously renders it readable only on a large table, or propped up on one’s knees whilst sitting on the sofa. But equally with the design so lovingly attended to, it’d be a crime to print it any smaller than it already is.

How good is it as a cookbook? Oh, absolutely useless. The recipes are tempting, sure – but who has room on their counter for a cookbook the size of a tabloid newspaper? I have enough difficulty sourcing real estate for the toaster. Recipes also tend to form only a small percentage of the page they are on, with the vibrant photography and elaborate histories of each dish taking priority to Gaudry and his pals. Better, then, to explore the dishes that tempt you most and then seek them out elsewhere – a decent Italian cookbook like Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy or, more recently, Rachel Roddy’s A to Z of Pasta will cover most of the bases here.

Should I buy it? Let’s Eat Italy is surplus to almost any cook’s actual needs – but then, that’s also true of all the best cookbooks. This is a luxury, to be treasured and perhaps even revered a little. The sort of book that sits in a home like an alternative religious text – an illustrated Bible of Italian food culture that will have as many devotees as it does naysayers. But here’s the kicker: the real Bible doesn’t have a three page illustrated spread dedicated to salumi.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks, and hungry folk who have no intention of cooking but do fancy lusting over authentic local specialties.
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Let’s Eat Italy!: Everything You Want to Know About Your Favorite Cuisine
£45, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

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

A Festive Fumble by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

L1450308

6 servings

For the ‘independent’ crumble:
50g butter, diced (or use 50ml vegetable oil, for a vegan crumble)
75g light wholemeal cake flour or wholegrain spelt flour
50g porridge oats or fine oatmeal 50g ground almonds or hazelnuts 100g almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, roughly bashed or chopped, or 100g cooked chestnuts, crumbled
30g sugar (soft brown, golden granulated or demerara)
A pinch of salt

For the Bramley and verbena compote:
Juice of 1 lemon
1kg Bramley or other cooking apples
12 dried lemon verbena leaves (see book)
50–100g caster sugar

To serve:
Plain yoghurt, lightly whipped cream (or a mixture of both)

For the crumble, preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5 and have ready a large baking tray. Either rub the butter into the flour in a large bowl to get a coarse breadcrumb texture then stir in the other ingredients, or soften the butter first and mix everything together in one go with your hands (which is the best approach if you’ve used oil).

Either way, break the mix into chunky clumps and spread out in the baking tray. Bake for 15–20 minutes, stirring the mix at least once, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely. If you are not using it straight away, store the crumble in a jar, or sealed tin or plastic container for up to a week.

To make the compote, put the lemon juice into a large pan. Peel, core and slice the apples into the pan, tossing them with the juice as you go so they don’t brown. Add the dried lemon verbena leaves, sugar and 2 tbsp water.

Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and cook gently, stirring occasionally to help the apples break down, for about 20 minutes until you have a slightly chunky purée. Taste and add more sugar if you like – but keep the compote nicely tart because it will be paired with the sweet crumble. You can either serve your compote straight away or let it cool then chill it.

To assemble your festive fumble, divide the apple compote between serving glasses or bowls. Add a generous dollop of yoghurt, whipped cream or a combination of the two. Top with a layer of crumble mix, and tuck in – swirling your fumble as you eat.

Variation
Citrusy Bramley compote
Instead of lemon verbena, use the finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange; also include the grated zest of the lemon used in the recipe. Add to the lemon juice in the pan as you start the apple compote and proceed as above, but don’t add the 2 tbsp water.

Cook more from this book
Chestnut and Chocolate Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
My Favourite Stuffing by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Christmas at River Cottage
£22, Bloomsbury Publishing

Extract taken from Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier, with seasonal notes and recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £22)
Photography © Charlotte Bland

Chestnut and Chocolate Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Chesnut and Chocolate Cake
This is one of my family’s favourite chocolate ‘pudding’ cakes, and I make it at least once every Christmas (and not infrequently for birthdays and other celebrations too). It’s delectably tender, fudgy and chocolatey, and not too sweet or over-rich. You can serve it warm from the oven, with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, but it’s also good made a day or two ahead and served cold or at room temperature.

Serves 10–12
250g peeled cooked chestnuts (vacuum-packed or tinned are fine)
250ml milk
250g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), broken up
250g unsalted butter, roughly cut up
4 medium eggs, separated
100g caster sugar

You will also need:
A 25cm springform cake tin

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C/Gas 3, and grease and line your 25cm springform cake tin.

Put the chestnuts and milk into a pan and heat until just boiling. Take off the heat and mash well with a potato masher – you are aiming for a creamy purée, with just a few crumbly bits of chestnut. Set aside.

Put the chocolate and butter into a second pan and place over a very low heat. Keeping a close eye, to ensure that the chocolate doesn’t get too hot, melt them gently together, stirring now and then. Allow to cool a little.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until blended and creamy (they don’t need to reach a ‘moussey’ stage). Stir in the warm (not hot) chocolate mixture and then the chestnut purée, to create a well- blended batter.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they hold stiff peaks. Take one spoonful of egg white and mix it into the batter to loosen it, then fold the rest in lightly, trying not to knock out too much air. Carefully transfer the mixture to the prepared tin. Bake for 25–30 minutes until the cake is just set but with a slight wobble still in the centre.
To serve warm, leave to 22, a little then release the cake from the tin. Slice carefully – it will be very soft and moussey. Alternatively, leave the cake to go cold, when it will have set a bit firmer.

Cook more from this book
A Festive Fumble by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
My Favourite Stuffing by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Christmas at River Cottage
£22, Bloomsbury Publishing

Extract taken from Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier, with seasonal notes and recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £22)

Photography © Charlotte Bland

 

My Favourite Stuffing by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

My Favourite Stuffing
Serves 6–8

500g fresh or vac-packed chestnuts 2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 head of celery, tough outer stems removed, finely chopped
12 plump prunes, stoned and roughly chopped
6–8 sage leaves, chopped
A couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and chopped
100g fresh (or stale) breadcrumbs 50g hazelnuts, roughly bashed,
and/or pumpkin seeds (optional) Sea salt and black pepper

If you are preparing whole chestnuts from scratch, make a small slit in the skin of each one, then blanch in boiling water for about 2 minutes to ease peeling. Drain and, once cool enough to handle, peel off both the tough outer skin and the thin, brown inner skin. Now simmer in unsalted water for 15–20 minutes, until completely tender. Drain and leave to cool. Put the chestnuts (home-cooked or vac-packed) into a bowl and break up roughly with a fork – they should be crumbled rather than puréed.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sweat for 10–15 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the prunes, chestnuts, herbs and some salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for another 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat.

When the mixture has cooled a little, mix in all but a handful of the breadcrumbs until well combined. You can add a dash of warm water or veg stock if that’s needed to bring it together.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Oil an ovenproof dish and pile in the stuffing, packing it down fairly firmly. Rough up the surface a bit with a fork, then scatter over the reserved breadcrumbs and hazelnuts and/ or pumpkin seeds if including. Trickle over a little more oil, and bake for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and crisp on top. Serve hot.

Cook more from this book
A Festive Fumble by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Chestnut and Chocolate Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Christmas at River Cottage
£22, Bloomsbury Publishing

Extract taken from Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier, with seasonal notes and recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £22)
Photography © Charlotte Bland

Advent by Anja Dunk

Advent by Anja Dunk

What’s the USP? Oh, brace yourself for this, because it’s been a while. We’re always talking about cookbooks’ USPs around here, but really, how often does a book strike you as truly stand out? Truly unique? So you’ve written a book about vegan Chinese food? How quaint. What’s that? Your book looks at meals that can all be cooked in a single pan? WELL I NEVER.

Not today, my friend. Advent is a cookbook that offers twenty-four chapters (see what they did there?) that are all dedicated specifically to the world of German Christmas baking. Now that – that is a USP.

Who wrote it? Anja Dunk, who is perhaps best known for her 2018 book Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings, which dove head first into contemporary German cooking (and had one of the more satisfying titles to say aloud that year).

Germany goes hard on Christmas, from the famous markets that coax pensioners out by the coach-load in non-pandemic times to their over-the-top advent calendars that make even my Lego one seem a little uninspired (though today I got to build a very festive vaccination centre, so it’s not exactly like Lego are pulling their creative weight here either). Baking is a facet of German Christmases that we are perhaps under familiar with here in the UK. Sure, we all know our lebkuchen and stollen, but how many of us can really claim to know what differentiates a spritzgebäck from a gewürzplätzchen? Here comes Dunk, with a seasonal barrage of goodwill (and a wealth of biscuit options).

Is it good bedtime reading? Dunk opens her book with a festive introduction filled with personal anecdotes and cultural insights, painting a vivid picture of a Christmas that runs in close parallel to our own British traditions. Recipe introductions vary, and though many tend towards the short and sweet, others take a moment to expand on unfamiliar ideas or offer a peek into German homes. It’s all very cosy, and whilst it may not keep you occupied for long, Advent begs to be read whilst tucked in under a duvet, plotting the treats that will see you through to the new year.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Books about baking need a lot of specificity, and Dunk doubles down on this, offering measurements for both European and US readers. She also makes sure to give tactile advice that will reassure infrequent bakers that they aren’t totally off-track (“the dough is pretty tacky and so won’t look all that neat,” she kindly informs us of her Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti, confirming that it will all even out in the oven).

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? No big asks here – in fact, the nature of cosy festive baking means that should you struggle to source ingredients from the shops, you can likely find some knocking about at the back of your Nan’s kitchen cupboard.

How often will I cook from the book? It’s about Christmas baking, so in all honesty you’re unlikely to get much use out of Advent from January through mid-November. Nevertheless, there are a few recipes that will be welcome year-round, from ‘German pizza’ Flammkuchen to the aforementioned biscotti coverage. Those with a particular fondness for home baked biscuits may consider this a vital purchase, though.

What will I love? The sheer coverage of the relatively niche corner of German cooking that Dunk has dedicated her book to. Beautifully presented and smartly organised, this is a title that does everything it claims to, and does so with elegance that few other cookbooks offer. There’s also a pair of exceptionally thoughtful contents pages at the back, listing all the vegan and gluten-free recipes respectively.

What won’t I love? Because the book clings so tightly to the Germanic Christmas tradition, with only a few recipes drawing on immediate neighbours, it can feel a little bit repetitive. Perhaps it would have been more interesting to have replaced one of the marzipan chapters with other European festive bakes.

Killer recipes: Jam-filled Lebkuchen Hearts, Cherry and Almond Florentines, Dried Pear Fruit Loaf, Spiced Chocolate and Prune Fudge Pake, Linzer Biscuits, ‘Fire Tongs’ Punch

Should I buy it? A lovely addition to the bookshelf for fans of baking and Christmas treats, this is an excellent book that you will only use for one month a year. But what a month it’ll be.

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

Cook from this book
Christmas Stollen (Weihnachtsstollen) by Anja Dunk
Christmas Wreath (Weihnachtskranz) by Anja Dunk

Buy this book
Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

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

Best Cookbooks of 2021 Part 1

Stephen Rötzsch Thomas’s Top 10 Cookbooks of 2021

An A-Z of Pasta Rachel Roddy

‘It’s very rare that a cookbook offers such universally loveable dishes that it can, without hesitation, be suggested to one and all.’
Read the review

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

New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes by Sam Sifton 

‘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.’
Read the review

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

Janes Patisserie

‘There’s scarcely a recipe in the book that you couldn’t guiltily consume single-handedly if left alone with it’
Read the review

Cuisine: British/American
Suitable for: Beginner cooks and beyond
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book: 
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press

One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones


‘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.’
Read the review

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

Herb Mark Diacono

‘An excellent point of reference for anyone seeking to better exploit the rich and flavourful world of herbs’
Read the review


Cuisine:
 International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy the book
Herb: A Cook’s Companion
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Chetnas 30 Minute Indian
 
‘Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian is a chance to inject authentic flavours and a little variety into your dinnertime, and all for a small commitment of time’
Read the review


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
£20, Mitchell Beazley

Lets Eat Italy
 
Read the review
Coming soon


Cuisine:
Italian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: TBA
Buy this book
Let’s Eat Italy!: Everything You Want to Know About Your Favorite Cuisine
£45, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

Asian Green Ching He Huang


‘Ching-He Huang has added a genuinely valuable title to the vegan cookbook shelf’
Read the review

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

Advent by Anja Dunk

Read the review
Coming soon

Cuisine: German
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: TBA 
Buy this book
Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Grains for every season by Joshua McFadden


Read the review
Coming soon

Cuisine:
International 
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: TBA 
Buy this book
Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way with Grains
£32, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

Barbecued lamb cutlets with lemongrass and ginger by Neil Perry

Neil Perry Cookbook
Neil Perry Cookbook

Serves 4

Lamb cutlets are one of the great things to barbecue, and there is something really nice about piling them up on a plate and picking them off one by one. Holding onto the bone and chewing on the meat is wildly satisfying. Creamed corn (page 390) makes a good side.~

12 lamb cutlets
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve

For the marinade
2 lemongrass stalks, tender inner stems only, thinly sliced
3 cm (1¼ inch) knob of ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
3 tablespoons chopped mint
¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Remove the cutlets from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
For the marinade, use a mortar and pestle to pound the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and salt to a rough paste. Add the coriander and mint and pound for a further minute, then stir in the olive oil.

Transfer the marinade to a large bowl, add the chops and mix well, then leave for about 1 hour to marinate.

Heat the barbecue to hot and clean the grill bars. Put the cutlets on the hottest part of the grill and cook for about 2 minutes each side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

To serve, place the lamb cutlets on a platter. Mix a little olive oil into the juices left on the resting plate and pour over the cutlets. Finish with a good grind of pepper, then serve with lemon wedges.

Variation
Get your butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb, boning it out and flattening it, then spread with the marinade and leave to marinate for 3 hours at room temperature. Barbecue until a thermometer registers the core temperature of the meat as 55°C (131°F), about 20 minutes, then remove and leave to rest for 15 minutes – during this time the internal temperature should rise to 59–60°C (138–140°F), to give you some seriously delicious pink lamb. Carve into slices and serve with lemon wedges.

Cook more from this book
Crispy pork belly with red onion, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds by Neil Perry
Flourless chocolate cake by Neil Perry

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book

Everything I Love to Cook: 150 home classics to return to
£30, Murdoch Books

Crispy pork belly with red onion, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds by Neil Perry

Neil Perry Cookbook
Neil Perry Cookbook

Here is one of Spice Temple’s classic dishes that I think is perfect for summer, served with rice and perhaps some steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (page 399). The pork itself is easy to cook – just remember to allow a day or two beforehand for the skin to dry out – and it has many uses. By the same token, the red onion, coriander and peanut salad is great with, say, the meat from a store-bought roast chook, shredded off the bone and tossed through, to make a super-quick dish for a busy weekend.

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) pork belly
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
½ spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced
Large handful of roughly chopped coriander (cilantro), leaves and stalks
Handful of unsalted peanuts, toasted in a dry frying pan and crushed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan
1½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
2 teaspoons peanut oil
Sea salt

Place the pork belly on a wire rack set over a plate (to catch any drips) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least a day to dry the skin out; 2 days would be even better.

Remove the pork from the fridge about 3 hours before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F).

Put the pork belly on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, score the skin deeply in a diamond pattern and rub generously with salt. Return the pork belly to its wire rack and place in a roasting tin.

Roast the pork for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C (325°F) and roast for a further 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is blistered and crispy.

Remove the pork from the oven, cover with foil and set aside in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes.

Cut the pork belly into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes. Place all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss together, then add the pork and mix through. Divide between four plates and serve.

Cook more from this book
Barbecued lamb cutlets with lemongrass and ginger by Neil Perry
Flourless chocolate cake by Neil Perry

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book

Everything I Love to Cook: 150 home classics to return to
£30, Murdoch Books

Flourless chocolate cake by Neil Perry

Neil Perry Cookbook
Neil Perry Cookbook

Serves 10
Flourless chocolate cake This cake was on my first dessert menu at Barrenjoey House in 1982, and is now a firm favourite with my daughters, who’ve mostly had it as their birthday cake for all of their young lives. The reason it’s been kicking around for so long is that it’s just a terrific cake, with a heavenly texture like a chocolate soufflé – and it behaves like one too. With no flour to hold it up, it rises as it cooks and falls as it cools, so do not freak out when it sinks in the middle.

400 g (14 oz) good-quality dark chocolate, broken up
6 eggs, separated
150 g (5½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2½ tablespoons Cointreau
300 ml (10½ fl oz) pure (whipping) cream
Cocoa powder, for dusting
Lightly whipped cream, to serve
You’ll also need a 900 g (2 lb) loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Lightly oil your loaf tin, then line it with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water; don’t let the water boil, or you might scald the chocolate. Carefully lift the bowl of chocolate off the pan and leave it to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and two-thirds of the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the Cointreau and beat until well combined, then add the chocolate and mix until completely incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form.

In another bowl, start whisking the egg whites until soft peaks start to form, then gradually add the remaining sugar and keep whisking until firm peaks form.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, followed by the whisked egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the tin, then sit it in a deep baking dish or roasting tin and add enough hot water to come about 2.5 cm (1 inch) up the outside of the loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150°C (300°F) and bake for a further 45 minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the cake inside for 20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely.

To serve, carefully run a knife around the inside edge of the tin, then turn over the tin onto a plate – the cake should slide out easily. Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut into slices, dipping the knife into hot water after each cut. Place on plates, dust with cocoa powder and serve with lightly whipped cream.

Tip
This cake keeps well for 2 days at room temperature; don’t put in the refrigerator or it will become hard and unpalatable.

Cook more from this book
Barbecued lamb cutlets with lemongrass and ginger by Neil Perry
Crispy pork belly with red onion, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds by Neil Perry

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book

Everything I Love to Cook: 150 home classics to return to
£30, Murdoch Books

Winter Fattoush and Tamarind-Glazed Short Rib by Selin Kiazim

Selin_Kiazim-Three-419_Glazed_Short_Rib
This dish is a real feast of contrast. If you have time, cook the ribs low and slow on a barbecue for an extra level of smoky flavour. I first made this dish for Cook for Syria, to raise funds for Unicef, back in 2016. It is by no means a traditional fattoush, and I encourage you to go out and try the real thing if you get the chance (or prepare the original at home).

Serves 4

4–5 Tbsp sumac dressing (see below)
3–4 Tbsp parsley oil (see below)
4–5 Tbsp tamarind glaze (see below)
100g (3½oz) croutons (see below)
4 beef short ribs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 pears, cut in half, core removed
80g (2¾oz) cavolo nero, stalks removed and the leaves torn into pieces
extra-virgin olive oil
½ cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed, thinly sliced
8 breakfast radishes, finely sliced and placed into iced water
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
¼ head radicchio, roughly chopped
8 leaves yellow chicory (endive), roughly chopped
1 small handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
4 Tbsp mint, leaves picked
sea salt flakes (kosher salt)
4 Tbsp thick yoghurt
4 Tbsp pistachios, toasted and chopped

Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5. Prepare the sumac dressing (page 81), parsley oil (page 55), tamarind glaze (page 40) and croutons (page 46). Season the short ribs with fine salt, place into a roasting tin and into the oven for 3–4 hours or until the meat is falling away from the bone. Pick the meat off the bone into large chunks, once cool enough to handle.

Heat a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, add the tamarind glaze and short rib pieces along with 2 Tbsp of the butter. Cook until all of the meat is coated in the glossy glaze. Keep warm. Put the remaining 2 Tbsp of the butter into a large, ovenproof frying pan, gently melt and add in the pears, cut-side down, and brown for 1 minute. Place into the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool. Cut into large chunks.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil with a little fine salt. Add in the cavolo nero and boil for 3–4 minutes or until tender. Drain, and allow to cool slightly before dressing with a little salt and olive oil while still warm.

To assemble the salad, in a large bowl, mix together the cucumber, cavolo nero, radishes, spring onions (scallions), radicchio, chicory (endive), herbs, croutons and pears. Season with sea salt flakes (kosher salt) and sumac dressing, to your liking.

To serve, spoon a dollop of yoghurt on the plate and place a pile of salad to one side. Scatter over some pieces of short rib, drizzle around the parsley oil and sprinkle the pistachios over the top.

Sumac Dressing
Zingy and light, this dressing is perfect tossed through salad leaves but also works well with chilli-spiked dishes thanks to its almost cooling effect.

Makes 150ml (5fl oz) VG

125ml (4fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic, finely grated
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp sumac

Whisk, blend or shake the whole lot in a jar. Season to taste. It will store well in the fridge for 2–3 weeks.

Parsley Oil
Basil and parsley, thanks to their full-on flavour, make my favourite herb oil. They also provide a sexy finish to a plate. If you want to make a straight parsley oil, then just use one big bunch of parsley and omit the basil. If you would prefer chive oil, then replace the basil with one big bunch of chives.

Makes 85ml (2¾fl oz) VG

25g (1oz) parsley, big stalks
removed, roughly chopped
200ml (7fl oz) grapeseed oil

Prepare a bowl of iced water. Bring a pan of water up to a rapid boil, add the herbs and cook for 15 seconds. Take the herbs out and immediately dunk them in the iced water. Squeeze all the excess water from the herbs and roughly chop (reserve the
iced water). Make sure you have really squeezed them and they are as dry as they can be.

Place the herbs into a high-speed blender with the oil and blitz, starting on the lowest setting for 30 seconds and then on to the fastest setting for 2–3 minutes, or until the herbs are as fine as they will go. Don’t worry if the oil heats up through blending – this is a normal part of the process and helps the colour of the herbs release into the oil.

At this point you need to decide on whether to leave herby bits in the oil or strain them off. If straining, line a fine sieve (strainer) with muslin (cheesecloth) and place over a bowl that fits within the iced water bowl. Pour the oil mix into the lined sieve and leave to drip for 1–2 hours. If you are leaving the bits in, then simply place the oil into a bowl over the iced water to cool. Store in a squeezy bottle or container in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Tamarind Glaze
Tamarind is one of my favourite ways to bring acidity to a dish. In fact, it is probably
more sour than acidic but acts in that same lip-puckering way a good acid does. Making your own tamarind pulp is very easy. Simply take 2 blocks (400g/14oz) of tamarind, break them up into a pan and cover with water. Place over a low–medium heat and cook for 30 minutes or until you see the seeds have all separated and the pulp is a purée consistency.

Makes 200g (7oz) VG

150g (5½oz) tamarind pulp
50g (1¾oz) dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Place the ingredients in a pan over a medium–high heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While still hot, push the mix through a fine sieve (strainer) – this will take a bit of effort. Discard the seeds and scrape every last bit of the remaining pulp into a container. Store in the fridge (for up to six weeks), or pour into
ice-cube trays and freeze.

Croutons
The idea behind a crouton is to preserve stale bread – any bread for that matter, from sourdough, pitta and ciabatta, right through to focaccia and rye. Croutons that soak up the juices from a plate of food are the dream. There are two methods I like to use to make croutons:

1
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4. Take your stale bread and cut or tear into 2–3cm (1in) pieces, drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt flakes (kosher salt) and scatter in one even layer over a baking sheet. Place into the oven for 15–20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Check the progress of the croutons every 5 minutes – the ones on the outside might be ready sooner than those in the centre.

2
Fill a large frying pan (skillet) around a quarter of the way up with fat (clarified butter, ghee, duck, beef or whatever you’d prefer) and place over a medium-low heat. Cut or tear the stale bread into 1–2cm (½–¾in) pieces and place into the hot fat, ensuring the bread is all in one layer. If you like, at this point you could add in a crushed clove of garlic and a sprig of rosemary or thyme. Cook the croutons for 10–15 minutes, stirring every so often, until they are golden and crisp. Drain through a sieve (strainer) and then onto paper towels to absorb excess fat. Season with sea salt flakes (kosher salt).

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginner / confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Three by Selin Kiazim

Selin Kiazim

For her second book, Selin Kiazim of modern Turkish-Cypriot restaurant Oklava in London offers her readers no less than ‘the essential foundations to redefine everyday cooking’; the three building blocks of acid, texture and contrast that ‘turn good dishes into knockout dishes’. Mimicking its title, the book is divided into three sections. Part one covers ‘know how’ including sourcing ingredients, the importance of tasting and basics such as herbs, oils, and vinegars. It also discusses those essential foundations of acid (to brighten and balance flavours); texture (adding mouthfeel and interest, provided for example by croutons, dried fruit or cured meat), and contrast, personified for Kiazim by the cool crunch of a winter fattoush salad against the sweet and sour warmth of a tamarind glazed short ribs.

In the second part, Kiazim offers ideas and inspirations; short recipes for glazes, toppings, spice mixes, marinades, condiments, dressings and pickles that can add acid, texture and contrast to any number of preparations. They are also referred back to in the full recipes that form part three, so that a dish of smoked haddock and leeks is served with citrus dressing and sherry caramel, the recipes for which appear in part two, as does the alternative serving suggestion of spiced mayonnaise.

The structure of the book encourages the reader to think about how dishes are built and how easily, with a little consideration, elements can be swapped in and out while maintaining those essentials of acid, texture and contrast. That said, you will almost certainly want to cook Kiazim’s original versions. Who could resist steamed aubergines with beef scratchings and chilli dressing; verjus cabbage with kapuska (a fragrant Turkish beef and cabbage stew) and sea vegetables, or seared bavette with smoked anchovy and gem lettuce with miso and crispy shallots?

Kiazim has a distinctive culinary voice all her own which would be enough to make Three an enticing prospect. The fact that she is generous enough to want to help her readers develop their own style makes it a must by for both young novice cooks and those who are more experienced but in search of some new inspiration.

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

Buy this book
Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Cook from this book
Winter Fattoush and Tamarind-Glazed Short Rib by Selin Kiazim

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine. 

Christmas Stollen (Weihnachtsstollen) by Anja Dunk

Christmas stollen by Anja Dunk

Stollen is a quintessential part of German Christmas, and the most renowned version originates from the East German city of Dresden, where it is called Christstollen. It is sold in Christmas markets up and down the country, but in Dresden itself they even have a special festival (Stollenfest) just before the second Sunday of Advent, where a giant-sized Stollen is marched through crowds of appreciators and admirers on the streets to many oohs and aahs before it is cut up and sold off in pieces.

Butter is one of the key ingredients that make a Stollen dough so rich, the others being eggs and boozy dried fruit. Just as important as what goes into the Stollen itself is what it is covered by, which is usually more butter and two layers of sugar. The first layer is a fine vanilla-scented caster sugar, and the second a flurry of snow-white icing sugar. This type of traditional Stollen requires a maturing period of a couple of weeks before it tastes its best. It’s quite hard when first baked, but after some time in a tin wrapped up snugly in foil, it softens and develops a moister texture. I usually bake Stollen in the first week of December.

Often a Stollen is filled or flecked with marzipan too, which I like very much – if you choose to add marzipan to this recipe simply roll some out into a sausage shape and nestle it in the centre.

MAKES 1 LARGE STOLLEN (SERVES 10–12)
75g (2½oz) mixed peel
175g (6oz) raisins
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g (2½ cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
50g (¼ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150g (²⁄₃ cup) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into cubes
1 egg
20g (¾oz) fresh yeast, or 10g (¹⁄₃oz) dried
150ml (₅⁄₈ cup) tepid whole milk
60g (2oz) flaked (slivered) almonds

To coat
50g (3½ tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
50g (¼ cup) vanilla
sugar (see page 12)
50g (generous ¹⁄₃ cup)
icing (confectioners’)
sugar, plus extra to serve

Put the mixed peel and raisins into a bowl, spoon over the rum and vanilla extract and set aside to infuse while you prepare the dough.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, spices and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and egg. Crumble the yeast (or sprinkle if using dried) into the tepid milk and stir to dissolve. Pour the yeasted milk into the flour mixture and, using your hands, bring the ingredients together until a rough dough is formed. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with the heels of your hands for about 10 minutes until it becomes more elastic. Form it into a neat ball and nestle it into the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1–3 hours until visibly larger in size.

As the amount of butter in this dough is hefty, it won’t double in size when it rises; you’re looking for the dough to expand roughly by half its size again. (Alternatively, put the dry ingredients and lemon zest into the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the butter and egg. Pour in the yeasted milk and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic. Cover and set aside, as above.)

Knock the dough back with your fist and add the almonds and boozy dried fruit (along with any liquid) to the dough. Knead the fruit and nuts through for a couple of minutes until evenly incorporated. Form it into a neat ball and nestle it into the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside in a warm spot for
about 20 minutes for a short second rise.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour, gently tip the dough out and roll into a rectangle 30 × 15cm/12 × 6in. Lay the dough on a large baking sheet lined with non-stick baking parchment, take one of the long sides and fold it three-quarters of the way back over the dough to create a classic Strudel shape. Lay a tea towel over the shaped Stollen and put in a warm place for a third rise of 30 minutes, by which time the Stollen should have risen slightly again. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F.
Bake for about 50 minutes until browned all over, checking after 30 minutes; if it looks quite brown already, cover it with a layer of foil to stop it from burning (butter-rich yeasted doughs tend to colour quite easily).

Transfer the baked Stollen to a wire rack and, while still hot, brush all over with the melted butter, repeating until there is no butter left. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the top, then sift the icing sugar over that. Allow the Stollen to cool fully before wrapping tightly in a double layer of foil. Store in an airtight container for at least a week (I think it’s best to leave it 2) before slicing and serving. The Stollen will keep well for a good 2 months. When ready to serve, dust with a little icing sugar again.

Cook more from this book
Christmas wreath (Weihnachtskranz) by Anja Dunk

Read the review
Coming soon
Buy this book
Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas
£25, Quadrille

Christmas wreath (Weihnachtskranz) by Anja Dunk

Christmas wreath by Anja Dunk
This might well be the prettiest thing to have come out of our kitchen all year. It has a light and fluffy, yet rich, moist and indulgent crumb. I know some of you might find glacé cherries a little too much, and you probably aren’t wrong – aside from a handful of recipes, this one included, I’m inclined to agree. They are, after all, a shallow ingredient that’s more about looks than taste.

MAKES 1 LARGE WREATH, SERVES 8–10
450g (3¼ cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
30g (2 tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
20g (¾oz) fresh yeast, or 10g (¹⁄₃oz) dried
180ml (¾ cup) tepid whole milk
200g (1 cup minus 1 tbsp) Quark
50g (3½ tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
50g (1¾oz) raisins
60g (2oz) glacé cherries, chopped
30g (1oz) flaked (slivered) almonds, roughly chopped
1 egg, beaten for the glaze
100g (¾ cup minus ½ tbsp) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp water

To decorate
30g (1oz) glacé cherries, halved 30g (1oz) flaked (slivered) almonds, toasted

Put the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Crumble the yeast (or sprinkle if using dried) into the tepid milk and stir to dissolve. Pour the yeasted milk into the flour mixture, add the Quark, butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest and, using your hands, bring everything together into a rough
dough. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until elastic. Form it into a ball and nestle it into the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm spot to rise for an hour, or until considerably risen in size. (Alternatively, put the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, pour in the yeasted milk, add the Quark, butter, lemon zest and vanilla extract and knead for 5–8 minutes until elastic. Cover and set aside, as above.)

Knock the dough back with your fist and add the raisins, glacé cherries and flaked almonds. Gently knead until evenly incorporated.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 30cm/12in long sausage. Carefully lift the dough onto a large baking sheet lined with non-stick baking parchment and shape it into a wreath, taking care to stick the ends together to join.

Cover the wreath with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has visibly grown by at least half its size again. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F.

Brush the top of the wreath with beaten egg and bake for about 25 minutes until rusty brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, mix the icing sugar, lemon juice and water together. Drizzle the glaze over the top and decorate with the cherries and almonds.

This is best served fresh the day it’s baked.

Cook more from this book
Christmas Stollen (Weihnachtsstollen) by Anja Dunk

Read the review 
Coming soon

Buy this book 
Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Indian Vegan and Vegetarian by Mridula Baljekar

Indian Vegan and Vegetarian
What’s the USP? Why, it’s a big old book of vegan and vegetarian dishes drawn from the eternally diverse world of Indian food. Two hundred of them, in fact, organised by region.

I think you’ve misunderstood the concept of ‘USP’. It is true that this is far from the first Indian cookbook to hone in on the plant-based cookbook trend. There are already much-loved offerings from the likes of Madhur Jaffrey, Meera Sodha and Romy Gill.

This new title comes from Mridula Baljekar, an award-winning cookbook writer who has sold over a million copies of her titles, which frequently focus on the regional cuisines of India. This latest volume has a pretty flashy look by her usual standards – the vibrant cover art echoing the style of Gill’s recent Zaika, as well as Yasmin Khan’s Palestinian doppelgänger Zaitoun.

So a contemporary new look for Baljekar’s books? Well, not quite. The insides of the cookbook feel curiously dated. From the writing to the design, and even the glossy paper of the pages, Indian Vegan & Vegetarian has a distinctly textbook-esque vibe. The lengthy introductory section is filled with sub-headings and stock photos. Regional maps could be drawn straight from a Year 8 Geography lesson.

Textbooks do tend to be rather useful though, don’t they? They do! And Baljekar’s book is no different. Though it lacks stylistic pizazz, it is packed tightly with excellent recipes, pairing suggestions, practical advice and cultural insights. There are tips for variations and techniques that will aid the home cook, and the tremendous range of delicious and varied dishes manage to almost exclusively use readily accessible ingredients.

How often will I cook from the book? For those living their lives out of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, this could prove a definitive volume on their shelves. The sheer breadth of ideas on offer here mean that you could easily draw from this a couple of times a week without getting bored. The regional chapters allow readers to build up culturally-connected menus with ease too – Baljekar’s recipe introductions frequently include directions to appropriate accompaniments.

Very few of the dishes leap out as being genuinely innovative or even particularly exciting, though. Baljekar offers up plenty of authentic dishes, but those looking for dinner party show-stoppers or even something to brighten up a weekend dinner would be better served exploring other recent releases. Though the design of this book might allude to an era where bold ideas for vegan meals were a rarity, these days few major cookbooks are released where there are not at least a few delicious options.

Killer recipes: Baljekar’s Crushed Parsnips in Mustard Oil represent one of the few occasions where the book rears away from traditional Indian ingredients, and as such comes across not only as one of the most tempting recipes present, but also a potential way to inject some imagination into the sides at Christmas dinner.

Elsewhere the Batter-fried Spinach Leaves bring an echo of tempura to proceedings, and the Cinnamon and Clove Cheese Curry is a stand-out that combines some unexpected flavours in a very satisfying way.

Should I buy it? Baljekar is not offering anything new in Vegan & Vegetarian Indian. In fact, she’s continuing her long-standing tendency towards producing modest but thorough Indian cookbooks that forgo showmanship in favour of authentic regional expertise. This isn’t a must-buy volume, but it’ll be a rare home cook who can’t draw regular inspiration from it nonetheless.

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

Buy this book
Indian Vegan & Vegetarian: 200 traditional plant-based recipes
£20, Lorenz Books

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

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
£20, Mitchell Beazley

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
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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
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Read the review

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