Pizza: A book by Pizza Pilgrims by James and Thom Elliot

Pizza by Pizza Pilgrims

What’s the USP? The ultimate book about pizza! As well as recipes, Pizza offers up interviews with figures central to the pizza-eating world, pop cultural insights, and lessons in etymology and maths.

Who wrote it? Brothers James and Thom Elliot, who are best known as the founders of Pizza Pilgrims – a small chain of restaurants that evolved out of a single street food stand in London. Named after a toe-to-top journey through Italy that the brothers undertook in 2011 as an attempt to discover the secrets of great pizza, the brand has since become one of the most celebrated names to hoist a margherita upon the British people.

Is it good bedtime reading? Look, this is nothing if not filled with bedtime reading. In fact, it’s probably better not to think of Pizza as a cookbook, but rather food writing with added recipes. The book comes in just shy of 270 pages, and yet features only 26 pizza recipes, plus some pizza-adjacent ideas that bring the total recipe count to 30.

It’s hard to know exactly how to feel about this number. Pizzas are relatively intuitive things once the dough is made, and the overwhelming majority of the recipes that make the cut are both innovative and enticing. There are only so many pizzas one needs to be told how to make, after all. I’m not convinced there is much need to spell out how to put together a Hawaiian, for example, so it’s hard to fault the brothers for excluding it.

The rest of the content falls broadly into one of three categories. Firstly, there’s the genuinely interesting stuff, like a deep dive on the perfect pizza dough, and the city guides that champion the best pizzerias in Naples, Rome, and a smattering of other cities across the world.

Secondly, there’s the missed opportunities. Chief amongst these is the four-page section that looks at collaborative pizzas the Pilgrims have created with other restaurants over the years. Given the relative lack of actual pizza recipes in the book, it seems a tremendous waste to list twelve delicious sounding hybrids like the Dishoom-inspired Bacon & Egg Naan Pizza and not provide the means to create them at home.

Finally, there’s the filler – and, frustratingly, much of the book falls under this category. In an attempt to create a definitive text on pizza, the Elliots have included some genuinely useless sections. A two-page spread entitled ‘Pizza-Loving Celebrities’ lists thirteen famous people who have publicly professed to liking one of the most popular foods on the planet. There are four pages on the best fictional pizzerias and, later on, a further four pages on pop culture moments for the dish. Both of these amount to little more than a slightly wordy Buzzfeed list. Home Alone gets significant coverage in each.

Occasionally, the book gets really desperate – a gallery of pizza box designs customers have drawn up over the years, an advert for their ‘pizza in the post’ DIY delivery service and, most bafflingly, one-dimensional interviews with corporate figures from Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. There might be some interesting insights to be found in the development kitchens of these brands, but half a page with the UK operations director of Domino’s ultimately amounts to nothing but empty calories.

Oof. So you’re not a fan, then? Well, see this is the problem. Perhaps eighty percent of this book is useless to a serious home chef – but the twenty percent that remains is brilliant. The recipes frequently show the value of the brothers’ initial pilgrimage through Italy, demonstrating a depth of knowledge and understanding that results in genuine learning opportunities.

My favourite choice at my local takeaway is a light ham and sweetcorn affair that is revealed here to be a version of the Mimosa pizza. I had no idea that it was something of a nostalgic favourite in Naples, where children think of it in much the same way that Brits might think of fish fingers and chips.

The Elliots also champion the frying pan as their preferred method for cooking pizzas at home – an idea I might have been unconvinced by before, but will likely be my standard going forward. These sorts of revelations are worth the price of admission by themselves.

I’m not going to deny, either, that there will be audiences who lap this up. The style of the book reminds me of cash-in influencer titles at times, and for better or worse, it will appeal to plenty of people as a result. It might also offer an excellent entry point for pizza lovers who perhaps haven’t previously considered making their own at home. 

What will I love? The recipes are faultless, even if there aren’t all that many of them. Alongside those inexplicable big brand takeaway interviews, there’s also a lovely conversation with Antimo Caputo, who makes flour that enjoys a cult status in pizza circles. It’s worth taking a moment, too, to celebrate the inspired cover design, which mocks up a takeaway pizza box with joyful, tactile precision.

What won’t I love? The recurring feeling that the publishers are trying to make the book thick enough to charge twenty quid for. The frustration that instead of achieving this by including more recipes, they threw in filler pages with titles like ‘Pizza Facts’. The sheer incredulity you feel when the first fact on the ‘Pizza Facts’ page – that the pepperoni pizza emoji is the most used emoji in the US – is so obviously, quantifiably not true that it renders the entire page pointless. It’s the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji, by the way, and you (or the publisher’s fact checkers) can confirm that with one four word Google search.

Killer recipes: There are no duds amongst the recipes, but the Mimosa, Datterini Filetti and Mortadella & Pistachio pizzas are particular highlights.

Should I buy it? This is definitely a browse-in-the-shop-first book. Anyone really passionate about homemade pizzas will benefit from the advice here, and I suspect this would be a great book for a young person who is getting increasingly ambitious in the kitchen. More confident cooks might want to consider if they can really afford to give up valuable space on their cookbook shelf to a title that barely fits the description of ‘cookbook’ in the first place, though.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

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

Buy this book
Pizza: History, recipes, stories, people, places, love (A book by Pizza Pilgrims)
£20, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

The Whole Bird by Thomas Keller

The Whole Bird_Credit Deborah Jones
“The Whole Bird”
Poached Breast with Leg Rillettes, Crispy Skin, and Sauce Suprême

Makes 4 servings

Poularde
1 (3½-­ to 4-­pound/1,500-­ to 1,800-­gram) poularde

Poularde Leg Confit
150 grams kosher salt
45 grams sugar
1.5 grams thyme leaves
1.5 grams lemon zest (grated on a rasp grater)
1 gram freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves
5 grams thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
Duck fat (optional)

Poularde Stock
1,200 grams chicken stock (page 285)
leg Rillettes
100 grams mousse base (recipe follows), made with 200 grams reserved poularde leg meat
5 grams Burgundy mustard
2.5 grams roasted garlic puree (page 133)
1.5 grams kosher salt
1 gram minced shallot
Two grinds black pepper

Sauce Suprême
200 grams heavy cream
100 grams whole butter, cut into cubes and chilled
Lemon juice
Kosher salt
Armagnac

To Complete
Activa GS (transglutaminase), for dusting
Burgundy mustard

Special Equipment
Meat grinder with a medium die, chilled in the refrigerator
Chamber vacuum sealer (optional)
Immersion circulator (optional)

Poularde—a chicken slaughtered before reaching sexual maturity at around three months—from Four Story Hill Farm is exquisite, and Corey has developed an ingenious dish that puts the whole bird to work and a whole bird on the plate. Legs are both confited and used to make a mousse; the confit and mousse are then combined into a kind of rillette. These are spread on top of the breast, which is then poached gently. The skin is ground and rendered into cracklings, then used to coat the layer of rillettes. It’s both an ode to the poularde as well as a show of respect to Sylvia and Stephen Pryzant, who in raising this bird achieved a kind of benchmark for the breed. I couldn’t name a single chef in the country who had poularde on their menu before the Pryzants came along.

Of course, the beauty of this dish is that here two elements, the chicken and the sauce, are in fact extraordinary creations. The piece of chicken comprises every part of the chicken.

And the sauce. A sauce suprême, chicken stock thickened with a roux and finished with cream, is an elegant French sauce. Here Corey combines this classical idea with an Asian technique used for tonkatsu ramen broth. In classic French cuisine, stocks are simmered gently and skimmed continually to remove fat and impurities, while tonkatsu ramen broth is boiled heavily so the fat is emulsified into the broth. Corey takes that idea and applies it here, boiling his stock ramen-­style (see page 285), but then goes further: he blends more chicken fat into the stock with a hand blender as he’s chilling it. To finish the sauce, he combines this rich stock with reduced cream, mounts it with butter, and flavors it with lemon zest and Armagnac, creating this wonderfully rich and delicate version of sauce suprême.

I should note that Corey calls this “sauce suprême” knowing that it’s nothing like the classic—but for good reason. He once served it at a dinner attended by Daniel Boulud and Jean-­Georges Vongerichten, two of New York’s best French-­born chefs, and they kept delighting in the sauce and calling it an incredible sauce suprême. Corey tried to explain that they were mistaken, but they insisted it was the best sauce suprême. He was so honored, he continues to call it by this name.

For the Poularde
Cut the legs from the poularde. Remove and reserve the skin from the legs. One leg will be used for the confit and the other to make the mousse base. Remove and reserve the skin from the rest of the poularde. Cut off each side of the breast, keeping the small tender attached to each breast.

Remove the bones from one leg and weigh the meat. You will need 200 grams to make the mousse base; if you do not have 200 grams, trim off some of the meat that remains on the carcass. Rinse the bones and feet (if they were on your poularde) under cold running water to remove all visible blood. Remove and discard any organs still attached to the bones. Cut the bones into 1-­inch (2.5-­centimeter) pieces and reserve them for the poularde stock.

Keep all parts of the poularde refrigerated in an airtight container until you are ready to use them, up to 2 days.

Grind the skin through the chilled medium die of a meat grinder and place it in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes to render. The fat will separate and the skin will become crisp and golden brown. Strain the fat through a chinois or fine-­mesh strainer into a bowl and let cool to room temperature; reserve the fat for the stock. Drain the fried skin on paper towels and let cool until crisp, then chop it very finely and reserve it for finishing the dish.

For the Poularde Leg Confit
Mix the salt, sugar, thyme, lemon zest, and pepper in a bowl. On a piece of plastic wrap, make a bed of just less than half of this cure. Lay the bone-­in poularde leg on the bed of cure and pat the remaining cure over and around the sides of the leg. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2½ hours.  Rinse and dry the cured poularde leg.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, set an immersion circulator in a water bath and heat the water to 80°C (176°F). Place the cured poularde leg, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves in a sous vide bag. Place the bag in the sealer chamber and vacuum seal. Cook in the water bath for 5 hours.

If you do not have a chamber vacuum sealer, preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Place the cured poularde leg, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves in a small heavy-­bottomed pan and add duck fat to cover. Cover with a cartouche and cook in the oven for about 2 hours, until completely tender.

Remove the bag from the water bath or the pan from the oven and let the leg cool in the fat. Remove the leg from the fat and dry it on a clean kitchen towel. Carefully pick the meat from the bones, removing any veins. Shred the meat as finely as possible and chop. Reserve the meat for the rillettes.

For the Poularde Stock
Combine the reserved poularde bones and feet (if using) and the chicken stock in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Boil for about 30 minutes, until the stock has reduced by half. Do not skim or reduce the heat at any point.

Strain the stock through a chinois or fine-­mesh strainer into a clean pot, bring to a boil, and reduce the stock by about two-­thirds to about 200 grams. Strain the reduced stock into a narrow vessel and nestle the container in an ice-­water bath to cool.

When the stock has cooled, using a hand blender, blend in 55 grams of the reserved rendered poularde fat on high speed.

Refrigerate the stock in an airtight container until ready to use, up to 3 days. Once the emulsion is set, it can be reheated or cooled without any risk of breaking.

For the leg Rillettes
Combine 75 to 100 grams of the chopped poularde leg confit with the mousse base, mustard, roasted garlic puree, salt, shallot, and pepper and mix until completely homogenous. Transfer to a disposable piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 day.

For the Sauce Suprême
Bring the cream to a gentle boil in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot over medium-­high heat, adjusting the heat as necessary, and reduce the cream by a little more than half to about 75 grams. Add 200 grams of the poularde stock to the pan and reduce the sauce by half. Rapidly stir the butter into the sauce (this will improve the richness, body, and shine of the sauce).  Season with lemon juice, salt, and Armagnac to taste. Keep in a warm spot until serving.

To Complete
Lay the two poularde breasts on the work surface with the tenders facing up. Using a paring knife, very carefully remove the white tendon on each tender. Peel the tenders back but leave them attached to the breasts. Lightly spray the exposed side of the breasts with water and sprinkle the surface lightly with Activa (shake it through a small fine-­mesh strainer or from a shaker). Fold the tenders back into place. Turn the breasts over.

Wipe the work surface with a slightly dampened kitchen towel. Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap, each about 9 inches (23 centimeters) long. Smooth the plastic so that there are no creases. Spray the plastic lightly with nonstick spray. Lay a breast on each piece of plastic, about one-­third of the way up from the bottom edge. The length of the breast should run the direction of the length of the plastic. Pipe a line of the rillettes down the center of each breast.

Use a small offset spatula to spread the rillettes evenly into a ¼-­inch (6-­millimeter) layer across each breast, spreading it to the edges of the breasts. Fold the top of the plastic up and over each breast to meet the other side.

Continue to “flip” the breasts in the plastic, keeping the bottom of the breast flat and the rillettes in a natural dome. Keep the plastic wrap tight. Pull the ends of the plastic tightly, then trim them and tuck under the breast to hold its shape.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, set an immersion circulator in a water bath and heat the water to 60°C (140°F). Place the breasts in a sous vide bag. Place the bag in the sealer chamber and vacuum seal. Cook in the water bath for 45 minutes. Remove the bag and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove the breasts from the bag and remove the plastic wrap.

If you do not have a chamber vacuum sealer, preheat the oven to 180°F (80°C). Put the poularde in a wide 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot (just large enough to hold the pieces of poularde without their touching each other) and add enough water to cover by 1 inch (2.5 ­centimeters). Remove the poularde and set aside in a bowl. Bring the stock to 180°F (80°C). Return the poularde to the pot, cover with a lid, and place in the oven. Poach for 30 to 40 minutes, until an instant-­read thermometer inserted into a breast reads 160°F (71°C). Remove the poularde breast from the stock and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove the breasts from the plastic wrap.

Slice each breast in half on a slight bias. Using a small pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the breast with mustard. Carefully cover the top of the breast with the reserved crispy skin. Spoon the sauce suprême on each serving plate and place a piece of the poularde alongside.

Mousse Base
Makes 370 grams

200 grams lean protein
30 grams egg whites
5 grams potato starch
4 grams kosher salt
90 grams heavy cream
40 grams crème fraîche, preferably Kendall Farms

Special Equipment
Meat grinder with a medium die

This recipe works well with all types of lean protein, including chicken, pike, scallops, raw lobster, beef, or veal.

Refrigerate a medium die for a meat grinder, food processor bowl, and food processor blade until cold. Cut the protein into ½-­inch (1.25-­centimeter) dice. Grind the protein twice through the chilled medium die into a bowl.

Transfer the protein to the chilled food processor bowl and process until smooth. Add the egg whites and process briefly to emulsify. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the bowl and the lid of the food processor. Add the potato starch and salt and process briefly to combine. It is important not to overwork the mousse, as the friction of the blade will overheat the mousse and cause it to break.

With the machine running, slowly add the cream to maintain the emulsification. Scrape the sides and the lid of the food processor again. Add the crème fraîche and process until the mousse becomes smooth and develops a nice shine.

Transfer the mousse to a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath to chill. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the mousse, smoothing out any air bubbles, and refrigerate until cold. For longer storage, transfer the mousse to an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Golden Chicken Stock
Makes about 5,500 grams (5½ quarts/5.5 liters)

2,500 grams chicken wings
450 grams chicken feet
3,750 grams (3¾ quarts/3.75 liters) cold water
2,000 grams ice cubes
225 grams carrots, cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) dice
225 grams leeks (white and light green portions only), cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) dice and rinsed to remove any dirt
225 grams onions, cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) dice
20 grams garlic cloves, roots removed, crushed
20 grams fresh thyme
20 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

We call this golden because of the color that the abundant carrots give to the stock (as always, we add the vegetables at the end). It’s also very concentrated (we often water it down if its flavor could become too pronounced if used in, say, making risotto) and, from the additional chicken feet, very gelatinous. For chefs at The French Laundry (per se also has a fortified chicken stock—see Ramen-Style Stock—that is based on the golden chicken stock), it’s an all-purpose tool each night on the line, used for braising and glazing and finishing. Because it’s so rich and flavorful, we can use more stock and less butter to obtain a beautiful glaze, and a very nutritious one that the vegetables can absorb.

Rinse the chicken wings and feet thoroughly under hot running water to remove visible blood and place in a 15-quart (15-liter) stockpot. Cover with the cold water. Set the stockpot slightly off center over the burner. (This will cause any impurities that rise to gather at one side of the pot, making them easier to skim off.) Bring slowly to a simmer, skimming continually. Once the liquid is at a simmer, add the ice; this will cause the fat to congeal. Remove the fat and skim off as much of the impurities from the surface as possible. Bring the stock back to a simmer and cook gently for 90 minutes. Remove any excess fat as necessary.

Add the carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and slowly bring the liquid back to a simmer, skimming frequently. Simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, skimming often. Turn off the heat and let the stock rest for about 20 minutes; this allows any particles left in the stock to settle at the bottom of the pot.

Set a chinois over a large container. Carefully ladle the stock off the top, disturbing the bones as little as possible so that the impurities that have settled to the bottom are not mixed into the stock. Once you reach the bones, tilt the pot to reach the stock; once again, be extremely careful not to move the bones. Do not press on the solids in the strainer or force through any liquid that does not pass through on its own. Discard any stock at the bottom of the pot that is cloudy with impurities. Nestle the container in an ice-water bath to chill.

Cover the container with a lid and store the stock in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.

Roasted Garlic Puree
Makes 250 grams

10 large heads garlic
Kosher salt
15 grams extra-­virgin olive oil

While this may seem like a lot of puree, it has many uses. It can be used to make roasted garlic bread (added to the dough itself), roasted garlic aïoli, garlic hummus, and garlic butter. It imparts a garlic flavor to items such as pasta sauce without adding the strong, pungent flavor of raw garlic.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Place a baking rack over a sheet pan.Slice off just enough from the top of each head of garlic to expose the tops of the cloves. Place the heads of garlic in a medium saucepot and add water to cover. Bring the water to a boil over medium-­high heat. Turn off the heat and remove the garlic. Lightly season the garlic with salt.

Place the heads of garlic in the center of a 12-­inch (30-­centimeter) square of aluminum foil and fold up the sides to form a foil tray. Drizzle the olive oil over the garlic and cover with a second piece of foil, crimping the foil along the edges to seal the two pieces together. The sealed pouch will steam and roast the garlic at the same time.

Place the pouch on the baking rack and bake for 1 to 1½ hours, until the garlic is cooked through and light golden brown in color. Remove the garlic from the foil and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Place a fine-­mesh strainer or tamis over a bowl. While the garlic is still warm, push the whole heads of garlic, cut-­side down, against the strainer, pressing the garlic cloves through; discard the skins. Let the roasted garlic puree cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones

Cook more from this book
Fish and Chips
Peaches ‘N’ Cream

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

Fish and Chips by Thomas Keller

FIsh and Chips_Credit Deborah Jones

“Fish and Chips”
Ale-­Battered Blowfish with Malt Vinegar Jam

Makes 6 servings

Malt Vinegar Jam
7 grams caraway seeds
225 grams malt vinegar, preferably Sarson’s
225 grams water
50 grams light brown sugar
1 gram fleur de sel
7 grams agar-­agar

Split Pea and Ale Batter
30 grams dried split peas
250 grams Cup4Cup gluten-­free flour
8 grams kosher salt
300 grams dark ale, plus more if needed

To Complete
Canola oil, for deep-­frying
6 cleaned blowfish tails, 2 to 3 ounces (55 to 85 grams) each
Kosher salt
All-­purpose flour, for dusting the fish
Freeze-­dried peas, crushed between your fingers
Blanched fresh peas, warmed, for garnish
Mint leaves, preferably nepitella

Special Equipment
Chamber vacuum sealer (optional)
Cast-­iron deep-­fry pan (optional)
Infrared thermometer gun (optional)

We have fun serving common dishes, such as this British middle-­class staple—fish and chips with mushy peas—in unusual ways. This one is very straightforward: ale-­battered fish, deep-­fried, with a sweet-­sour malt vinegar jam and a garnish of peas and fresh herbs. We get blowfish, caught off Georges Bank, from Wulf’s Fish, but you can use any firm white fish—cod, of course, is traditional and excellent. The tempura batter uses freeze-­dried peas and gluten-­free Cup4Cup flour, which creates a very crisp crust and holds that crispness longer. It’s a great flour for all such crispy batters. The vinegar jam is gelled with agar, and we like to finish the dish with nepitella, an Italian mint with a flavor that’s almost a cross between oregano and mint.

For the Malt Vinegar Jam

Lightly toast the caraway seeds in a small sauté pan over medium-­low heat, continuously swirling the pan to ensure that the seeds are toasting evenly without burning, until fragrant. Let cool, then grind the toasted caraway seeds in a spice grinder until they are cracked but not ground to dust.

In a 1-­quart (1-­liter) saucepot, bring the vinegar, water, brown sugar, and fleur de sel to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the agar-­agar and boil gently, whisking continuously, for 1 minute to activate the agar-­agar. Transfer to a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath. Chill, undisturbed, until the jam base is completely firm and set.

Coarsely chop the jam base and transfer it to a blender. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to high, blend the jam until it is completely smooth, using the tamper to keep the jam moving. Pass the jam through a chinois into a container and season with the ground caraway.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, place the container, uncovered, in the sealer chamber. Run a complete cycle on full pressure to remove any air bubbles incorporated during blending. This will give the jam clarity and shine.

The jam can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For the Split Pea and Ale Batter

Grind the split peas to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Transfer the pea powder to a bowl, add the flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. Whisk the ale into the dry mixture. If the batter is too thick, thin it with a bit more ale. The batter can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour before frying the fish.

To Complete

Fill a cast-­iron deep-­fry pot with about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of canola oil. (If you do not have a cast-­iron deep-­fry pot, use another heavy pot with sides at least 8 inches/20 centimeters high.) Heat the oil to 350°F (180°C).

Season the blowfish with salt and lightly coat with the flour. Holding the blowfish by the tail, dip it in the batter to fully coat the flesh, leaving the tail exposed. Carefully lower the blowfish into the hot oil and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, turning the fish once or twice, until the batter is evenly colored and crisp and the fish is just cooked through. Transfer the fish to a paper towel to drain.

Fill a disposable piping bag with the malt vinegar jam and pipe the jam into a small squeeze bottle.

Arrange the fried blowfish on serving plates and sprinkle with the crushed freeze-­dried peas. Garnish the plate with beads of the malt vinegar jam, blanched fresh peas, and mint.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones.

Cook more from this book
The Whole Bird
Peaches ‘N’ Cream  

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan


Peaches ‘N’ Cream by Thomas Keller

p.302 Peaches and Cream_THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, PER SE

Peaches ’n’ Cream
Whipped Ricotta and Pecan Sandies

Makes 10 servings

Canned Peaches
1,000 grams water
200 grams granulated sugar
20 grams ascorbic acid
5 freestone yellow peaches

Pecan Sandies
240 grams whole butter, at room temperature
63 grams confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
5 grams kosher salt
284 grams all-­purpose flour
100 grams raw pecans, chopped

Whipped Ricotta
15 grams granulated sugar
15 grams water
300 grams whole-­milk ricotta
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Zest of 1 lemon
200 grams mascarpone cheese
100 grams crème fraîche

Peach-­Scented Jelly
3 sheets silver leaf gelatin
50 grams lemon juice
To Complete
Fresh basil buds
Maldon salt

Special Equipment
Combi oven (optional)

The Napa Valley has some of the most amazing peaches you will ever taste, and at The French Laundry we are lucky enough to get the best of the bunch, all picked at perfect ripeness. But when they’re in the full flow of the summer season, they drop off the trees in such abundance that we can’t possibly serve them all. So we do what farms and households have been doing for hundreds of years: we put them up—preserve them. The process actually intensifies the flavor of the peaches and gives us the syrup they’re preserved in as a fabulous by-­product to include with their preparation. We usually can about 15 quarts of peaches in the summer; then we serve them around Christmastime, a special summer treat near the winter holidays. (Use perfectly ripe peaches with no bruises for canning. Firmer varieties work best; if they’re too soft, they can lose their shape.)

The syrup is seasoned with lemon and sugar, thickened with gelatin, and brought just to the setting point to create a thick, shiny glaze over the cold peaches. We finish the peach with basil buds from the garden (Genovese basil produces a white flower, Thai basil and lime basil produce a beautiful pink flower, and opal basil has a purple flower). We serve it with something creamy, here our housemade ricotta with mascarpone and crème fraîche, seasoned with vanilla and citrus. And for crunch, pecan sandies seem to be everyone’s favorite.

For the Canned Peaches
Stir together the water and sugar in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot (this is a 20% sugar solution). Heat just enough to dissolve the sugar without reducing the liquid and keep warm while you blanch the peaches.

Prepare an ice-­water bath and have it close to the cooktop. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Dissolve the ascorbic acid in 4,000 grams (4 quarts/4 liters) water in a 6-­quart (6-­liter) container and set aside.

Score the skin (not the flesh) of the bottom of the peach with a small 1-­inch (2.5-­centimeter) X. Drop 2 of the peaches into the boiling water and blanch for 30 to 40 seconds (see Note). Using a long-­handled slotted spoon, immediately transfer the peaches to the ice-­water bath to prevent further cooking. Using a paring knife, gently peel the peaches and set them on a tray. Repeat to blanch and peel the remaining peaches.

Cut the peaches vertically in half; separate the halves and remove the pits. Check the inside of the peaches to ensure they are good quality, with no mold or bugs. Drop the peaches into the ascorbic acid solution to prevent oxidation while you sterilize the jar.

If you have a combi oven, sterilize a clean 1-­quart (1-­liter) mason jar at 100°C (212°F) for 10 minutes. Otherwise, place a wire rack at the bottom of a large pot, fill the pot with enough water to submerge the jar, and bring the water to a boil. Place the jar on the rack in the pot, making sure it is submerged, and boil for 10 minutes. During the last minute, add a slotted spoon to sterilize it as well.

Meanwhile, bring the sugar solution to a gentle simmer. Remove the peaches from the ascorbic acid solution and place them in the sugar solution. Gently simmer for 3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Using clean tongs, transfer the jar to a clean kitchen towel.

Keeping the jar free from any foreign contamination at this point is crucial; you want to keep a clean, sterile environment within the jar. Tilt the jar and, using the sanitized slotted spoon, gently scoop one peach half at a time from the sugar solution and lower it into the jar, rounded-­side down, until all the peach halves are in the jar. Return the sugar solution to a boil, then pour it into the jar, covering the peaches and leaving 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of headspace at the top of the jar. Gently tap the jar on the counter to remove any air bubbles trapped by the peaches.

Place the lid on the jar and tighten it to fingertip-­tight (just until you feel resistance) to allow air to escape during the canning process. If you have a combi oven, process the jar at 100°C (212°F) for 20 minutes. Otherwise, check the pot you used to sterilize the jar; if there is not enough water to keep the jar submerged, add additional water. Bring the water to a boil. Stand the canning jar on the rack in the pot, making sure it is submerged, and boil for 20 minutes.

Remove the jar, tighten the lid all the way, and stand the jar upside down on the counter. Let cool to room temperature. Turn the jar right-­side up, clean the outside of the jar, check the lid for a proper seal, and label it with the date. Press the center of the lid; if it pops, the jar is not properly sealed. Remove the cap, reseal it, then steam or process in boiling water as before.

Properly sealed, the peaches will keep without refrigeration in an area not exposed to light for up to 6 months. The ideal temperature for long-­term storage is 40° to 70°F (4.5° to 21°C). After the jar has been opened, the peaches will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Always use a clean utensil, never your fingers, to remove peaches from the jar.

For the Pecan Sandies
Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line a sheet pan with a nonstick silicone baking mat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to medium, cream the mixture until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and pecans and mix on low speed until just combined, being careful not to crush the pecans. Transfer the dough to a work surface and press it with the heel of your hand as necessary to bring it together.

Place the pecan dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to ¼ inch (6 millimeters) thick, doing your best to keep a rectangular shape. From time to time, lift the top sheet of parchment and, using a dough cutter, push the edges to straighten them. (Keeping the dough a uniform rectangle will give a higher yield when cutting the cookies.) Slide the parchment onto a sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. (If frozen, defrost before baking.)

Cut the cookie dough into 2 by ½-­inch (5 by 1.25-­centimeter) batons. Using a small offset spatula, transfer them to the lined sheet pan, leaving 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) between them. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until golden.

Meanwhile, put some confectioners’ sugar in a small fine-­mesh sieve. Remove the cookies from the oven and, while they are still hot, immediately dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar. Let cool.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

For the Whipped Ricotta
Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepot just enough to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let the simple syrup cool completely.

In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk, whisk together the ricotta, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth. Add the crème fraîche and whisk until smooth. Finally, whisk in the simple syrup. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

For the Peach-­Scented Jelly
Submerge the gelatin in a bowl of ice water to bloom (soften) for about 5 minutes.

Set a cooling rack over a half sheet pan. Open the jar of peaches and pour 250 grams of the syrup into a small saucepot. Arrange the peach halves cut-­side up on the rack and refrigerate while you make the jelly.

Add the lemon juice to the syrup in the saucepot and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Remove the softened gelatin from the ice water and squeeze out any excess water. Add the gelatin to the hot syrup and whisk to dissolve. Strain the syrup through a chinois or fine-­mesh strainer into a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath to cool, stirring from time to time. Watch closely; as the syrup cools, it will begin to set, and you need to catch it right at the setting point, when it has thickened and begun to gel but still has fluidity. When the syrup reaches this point, remove the peaches from the fridge and spoon the syrup over them in a thick layer. Refrigerate to set the jelly completely, at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

To Complete
Remove the peaches from the refrigerator. Crush the basil buds lightly between your fingers to release their scent and flavor and sprinkle them over the peaches. Finish each peach with a little Maldon salt.

Place a large spoonful of the whipped ricotta in each serving bowl or on serving plates. Gently rest a peach half on top, cut-­side up. Serve with a stack of pecan sandies on a plate alongside.

Note
Blanching peaches loosens their skins, making them easier to peel. The heat helps to separate the skin from the peach so the peels slip off.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones.

Cook more from this book
Fish and Chips
The Whole Bird

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

A Love for Food by Carole Bamford

A Love For Food Carole Bamford

What’s the USP? An updated edition of the 2013 cookbook from the none-more-middle-class Daylesford organic farm in the Cotswolds.

Who wrote it? According to her website  ‘Carole Bamford has been a champion of sustainable, mindful living for over 40 years. As the founder of Daylesford Organic, she is recognised as a visionary in organic farming and food retail.’ She is also the wife of Brexit-backing JCB billionaire Lord Anthony Bamford.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not if you pop along to a Daylesford Organic store. The ‘flagship’ on the farm in Kingham is as jaw-droppingly lovely as it is expensive (there are a number branches in London too). You can also buy Daylesford Organics produce through Ocado.  That said, you will have little trouble tracking down the ingredients for most of the recipes at your local supermarket, (stick to the organic aisle if you want to keep in Lady Carole’s good books).

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? If you read the introduction (and the  acknowledgements page at the back of the book – does anyone do that apart from me?) you’ll discover that long serving Daylesford chef John Hardwick ‘created’ the recipes and a great job he’s done of them too.

Little details like giving not just the diameter of the pastry case for a Bledington Blue Cheese and Broccoli tart, but the depth too make all the difference. In this instance, you now know exactly what cookware to use to ensure you get the correct ratio between tart and filling – too often recipes need trial and error to get just right.

Not every recipe is perfect however; Ginger Biscuits were a cakey disaster for me (according to a chef friend who I consulted after my disappointing effort, the mixture should have been chilled before baking which is not stipulated in the book).

What’s the faff factor? The recipes are very much designed for the home kitchen. Some, like home made corned beef,  will take time and planning ahead but most will be plain sailing for any keen cook.

How often will I cook from the book? A Love for Food is definitely the sort of volume you’ll be glad to have on your shelf when it comes time to plan your weekly menus (which, if you read this blog is almost certainly something you do). It will be well thumbed and food spattered in no time. There are also a decent number of baking, pickling and preserving projects for when you have more time on your hands (for example, during a pandemic).

Killer recipes: Slow cooked lamb shoulder with white beans and salsa verde; curried cauliflower, red pepper and nigella seeds; Rita’s baked eggs and onions; ham hock terrine with piccalilli; seven seed sourdough; vanilla rice pudding with apple and blackberry compote.

What will I love? At nearly 400 pages, there’s room for 150 recipes that cover everything from breakfast, things ‘on toast’, egg dishes, soups, salads and vegetables to savoury tarts and pies, fish, meat, puddings and baked goods, so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

What won’t I like so much? Not applicable.

Is it good bedtime reading? A three page introduction is supplemented by articles on sustainablility and the environment, the market garden, Daylesford’s creamery and cheese room, it’s bakery and the farm’s animals. In addition there are page long introductions to every chapter and each recipe has its own introduction. In short, plently to keep you informed and entertained outside of the kitchen.

Should I buy it? It looks great the recipes are varied and enticing and it’s a good read. What’s not to love?

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
A Love for Food: Recipes from the Fields and Kitchens of Daylesford Farm
£30, Square Peg

Faviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End by Magnus Nilsson

Faviken 4015 Days

‘Why would anyone write a book about a closed restaurant? And who would want to read it?’ That’s the question chef and author Magnus Nilsson poses in his fifth book, and the second about his restaurant Fäviken, which closed in December 2019. For those of us who made the journey to the remote hotel and dining room in rural Jämtland in Sweden, the book acts as a thrilling reminder of Nilsson’s distinctive culinary style. Who else would serve diced raw ox heart with marrow from a bone that was theatrically sawn in half in the middle of the dining room?

For those who didn’t make it, Nilsson delivers much more than a mere ‘here’s what you could have won’ experience (although an eight page complete list of dishes served at the restaurant in chronological order is included). By contrasting text from the first Fäviken book published in 2012 with new writings, Nilsson offers an insight into the evolution of his cooking over the restaurant’s decade-long lifetime.

One of Nilsson’s most famous creations, almost burnt cream (served as an accompaniment to roasted king crab leg), developed from a combination of accidentally burning cultured milk for a sorbet, which he realised as he poured it away ‘actually smelled pretty good’, and tasting the residue of a cream sauce from a cooling pan. The result, Nilsson says, ‘was perfect, deep and toffee-like from the caramelised proteins and lactose’.

Nilsson further explores the notion of creativity in one of the book’s 17 short essays, using English social psychologist George Wallas’s five-stage model that divides the creative process into preparation, incubation, intimation, illumination and verification to explain how his dishes go from theoretical idea to  the plate.

Erik Olsson’s photographs that span the life of the restaurant provide a visually stunning counterpoint to  Nilsson’s recipes, stories, anecdotes and musings. Who would want to read a book about a closed restaurant? When it’s somewhere as remarkable as Fäviken, and written by someone as talented as Nilsson, who wouldn’t?

This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine.

Cuisine: Nordic 
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars 

Buy this book
Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End (FOOD COOK)
£45, Phaidon 

Vanilla crème brûlée by Tom Kerridge

creme brulee6363

Vanilla crème brûlée is one of those classic desserts that everyone knows about and loves. And it’s been on the menu at The Hand & Flowers right from the very start. As far as I’m concerned, the key to a properly perfect brûlée is to have three distinct flavours that you taste – vanilla, eggs and caramel – so that it’s not just a sweet, creamy dessert. And I’ve got Alex Bentley to thank for teaching me that. This is 100% the brûlée recipe I was cooking as a young chef at Monsieur Max, where he was head chef. I think Alex was given or inherited the recipe from Max Renzland, the restaurant’s chef-patron. Apparently, it was an old Elizabeth David recipe; she must have learnt it during her travels in France, so goodness knows how old it really is.

Until Alex taught this recipe to me, most crème brûlée recipes I’d come across were sweet and made only with egg yolks. This one uses whole eggs and just a small amount of sugar. It was a game changer for me. I suddenly knew how to make a magical crème brûlée. The technique that really brings the dessert to life is its caramelisation on top. Instead of just melting the sugar, Alex taught me to caramelise it really heavily. At Monsieur Max, customers sometimes complained that the sugar was burnt, but that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to be; the caramelisation makes it taste toasty and nutty. You end up with a smooth, vanilla dessert that’s creamy with a bittersweet crunchy topping.

We match it at The Hand & Flowers with an Innis & Gunn craft beer rather than a dessert wine. The beer’s aged in old whiskey barrels so it has this really rich toffee, creamy flavour, which harmonises beautifully with the
crème brûlée.

serves 6

750ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 medium free-range eggs
30g caster sugar

Put the cream and vanilla pod into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until smoothly blended. Bring the vanilla-infused cream back to the boil, then slowly pour onto the beaten egg mixture, whisking as you do so to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over a medium-low heat until the custard thickens and reaches 88°C (check the temperature with a digital probe). Immediately remove from the heat and pass through a fine chinois into a clean bowl.

Press a layer of cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool for 20 minutes or until the custard is at room temperature. Pour the custard into a high-powered jug blender (Vitamix) and blitz for 30 seconds; this will lighten it slightly.

Now pour the custard into crème brûlée dishes or ramekins, dividing it equally (about 125ml per dish). Cover each dish with cling film, leaving a small gap on one side, to allow any moisture to evaporate. Stand the dishes on a tray and place in the fridge to set; this will take about 3 hours.

Caramel glaze
200g demerara sugar

When ready to serve, sprinkle a generous, even layer of demerara sugar over the surface of each set custard. Wipe the edge of the dish with a clean cloth.
Using a cook’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar, starting from the edges and working towards the centre. Take the caramel to a dark brown – this dish is all about  balancing the rich creamy egg custard with the slightly bitter caramel flavour.
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Slow cooked duck

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Slow cooked duck by Tom Kerridge

duck6033

We already had a great little business, but Great British Menu became one of the most pivotal moments in the pub’s history. The programme is very special: it shines the spotlight on quality British produce and showcases food and restaurants around the UK, which is brilliant because that underlines that our world isn’t just about London and the Southeast.

To get to the final, you compete in ‘heats’, and in 2010, my cook-off location was Waddesdon Manor, which is near Aylesbury. So, to me, the obvious thing to cook was something with Aylesbury duck. These ducks taste amazing and they’re from a small-scale producer – everything Great British Menu is about. Since an important part of our Hand & Flowers menu includes chips on the side (we’re a pub, after all), I decided to make the ultimate chips, cooked in duck fat.

I needed peas, too. So, I went down the route of petits pois à la française, except, instead of using bacon, which you’d normally do, I used crisp-fried duck leg confit. And then I finished the dish with a gravy that uses honey from the Waddesdon estate.

It all added up to a winner. I remember one Saturday night after the banquet was televised, we did 84 covers and served 78 portions of duck in one sitting. The success of this dish has been extraordinary.

serves 4

To prepare the duck
2 large Aylesbury ducks, about 2kg each
3 tsp ground mace

Remove the legs and wings from the ducks and take out the wishbone (reserve for the faggots, gravy etc., see right and overleaf). Remove the excess fat and skin, placing it all in a frying pan. Now carefully cut away the backbone; you should be left with the crown.

Place the pan of fat and skin over a low heat to render the fat out. Set aside for later use. Score the skin on the duck crowns and rub in the mace. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the duck crowns and sear on all sides for 5–10 minutes to render the fat and give the skin a good golden colour. Remove the
duck crowns from the pan and allow to cool.

Put each duck crown into a large vacuum-pack bag and vacuum-seal on full pressure. Immerse in a water-bath at 62°C and cook for 1½ hours. Lift out the vacuum-pack bags and remove the ducks. Carefully cut the breasts from the crowns. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Duck gravy
500g duck bones and wings, chopped
A little vegetable oil for cooking
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3cm pieces
4 celery sticks, cut into 3cm pieces
1 onion, peeled and diced into 3cm pieces
1 garlic bulb, cut across in half, through the equator
150g runny honey
4 cloves
2 litres chicken stock (see page 400)
50ml soy sauce
About 500g unsalted butter
Lemon juice, to taste (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan185°C/Gas 6–7. Put the chopped duck bones and wings into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 25–30 minutes until golden brown and caramelised.

Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrots and colour until darkly caramelised. Add the celery, onion and garlic and similarly colour until well browned.

Remove the duck bones and wings from the roasting tray and add them to the saucepan. Drain off the excess fat from the roasting tray, then add the honey and cloves to the tray. Place over a medium heat and take the honey to a dark golden caramel. Add a splash of the chicken stock and the soy sauce to deglaze the tray, stirring to scrape up the sediment.

Add the liquor to the duck bones and vegetables. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock and reduce down by half, to 1 litre. Pass the liquor through a muslin lined sieve into a clean pan and skim off any excess fat from the surface. Add 250g butter to every 500ml duck liquor and reduce down until it has emulsified into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add a little lemon juice if required. Set aside for serving.

Duck faggots
250g minced duck leg (skin on)
50g minced chicken liver
50g breadcrumbs
1 medium free-range egg
5g salt
2g cracked black pepper
100g caul fat, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

Put all the faggot ingredients into a bowl and mix well until evenly combined. Divide and shape the mixture into 50g balls. Wrap each one in caul fat to enclose. Steam the duck faggots at 100°C for 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool, then chill until needed. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7.  Place the faggots on a baking tray and bake for 8 minutes. Hold the faggots in the duck gravy until ready to plate up.

Duck legs & peas
2 duck legs
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp rock salt
2 bay leaves
About 300ml duck fat
500g freshly podded peas
4 tbsp runny honey
A little vegetable oil for cooking
2 large banana shallots, peeled and finely diced
100ml chicken stock
2 Gem lettuces, finely sliced
20 small mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Fan 130°C/ Gas 2. Put the duck legs into a large ovenproof pan or flameproof casserole. Tie the spices together in a muslin bag and add them to the pan with the rock salt and bay leaves. Pour on enough duck fat to cover and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 3½ hours or until the duck legs are soft. Leave them to cool in the duck fat. Once cooled, remove from the fat and place in the fridge. Meanwhile, add the peas to a pan of boiling salted water, bring back to the boil and blanch for no longer than 1 minute. Immediately drain and refresh in iced water. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7. Place an ovenproof heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck legs, skin side down, and place in the oven for 10–12 minutes to crisp up. Remove the duck legs to a plate and add the honey to the pan. Allow to caramelise, then pour over the duck legs and allow to cool. When ready to serve, heat a little oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and sweat for 10–15 minutes until softened. Add the peas and stock and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, flake the duck leg. Stir the duck meat into the peas with the lettuce and mint. Divide between 4 small serving pots.

Duck fat chips
15 large potatoes for chipping
2.5 litres duck fat for deep-frying

Cut a slice from the top and bottom of each potato, then press an apple corer through from top to bottom to make round cylinder chips. Put the cut chips into a colander under cold running water to wash off some of the starches. Now add the chips to a pan of boiling salted water, bring back to a simmer and poach for about 10 minutes until just soft, but still holding their shape. Drain on a perforated tray and leave
to cool.

Heat the duck fat in a deep-fryer to 140°C. Lower the chips into the hot fat in a wire basket and deep-fry for 8–10 minutes until the oil stops bubbling. Remove the chips from the fryer, drain and leave to cool. Set aside until needed. When ready to serve, heat the duck fat to 180°C and deep-fry the chips for about 6–7 minutes until golden
and crispy. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and season with salt.

To serve
2 tbsp runny honey
50g unsalted butter
Pea shoots, to garnish

Just before serving, preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Heat a little oil in a heavy-based ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down, and fry for 3–4 minutes to crisp up the skin, then place in the oven for 4–5 minutes to heat through. Pour off any excess fat from the pan, then add the honey and butter and turn the duck around in the pan to coat in the honey glaze.
Remove the duck breasts to a warmed plate and rest in a warm place. Increase the heat under the pan to caramelise the honey glaze then pour it over the duck breasts.
Serve the duck breasts with the duck legs and peas, duck faggots, gravy and chips. Finish with a garnish of pea shoots.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Smoked haddock omelette by Tom Kerridge

Smoked-haddock_621

A delicate, beautiful omelette is one of those pure dishes that makes you realise great food does not have to be about hundreds of ingredients on a plate. It’s about allowing a simple product to sing. I learnt that lesson back in the day when I worked for Gary Rhodes and we used to do a lobster omelette which showcased the chef ’s technique rather than putting a load of fancy things on the plate.

This smoked haddock omelette, which has been on The Hand & Flowers menu pretty much since we opened, started off as a lobster one. But I took a sharp, commercial learning curve early on. Starting out, of course, we had no accolades and were relatively unknown, so there was no reason for customers to spend what, at the time, was the equivalent of £30 or £35 on an omelette, even if it had lobster in it!

I still loved the idea of an omelette, so we tried an omelette Arnold Bennett (a fluffy open omelette created at The Savoy in the 1920s for the novelist, playwright and critic). Most people didn’t know who Arnold Bennett was, so we just called it ‘smoked haddock omelette with Parmesan’ and after a first couple of bumpy weeks it became one of our most popular dishes.

There is no reason why this dish should ever change. I can’t improve it. The flavour profile of the humble omelette is heightened with gently poached smoked haddock, a brilliant glaze made from hollandaise sauce and a béchamel sauce flavoured with the fish poaching liquor. So, even the glaze has got that lovely smoked taste, which really drives the flavour.

Actually, this omelette is probably my favourite dish on the menu. I am very pleased to say the lobster version has reappeared at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill in London some 14 or 15 years down the line, and has gone on to become one of our most Instagrammed dishes. Thank you Gary Rhodes…

serves 4

Poached smoked haddock
1 side of smoked haddock, 600g,
skin and pin bones removed
600ml whole milk

Check the smoked haddock for any tiny pin bones. Bring the milk to the boil in a wide-based saucepan. Carefully lay the smoked haddock in the pan, ensuring it is covered by the milk. Place a lid on the pan, turn off the heat and leave the fish to poach in the residual heat for about 10 minutes. Once the haddock is cooked, remove it from the milk and gently flake the fish into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pass the milk through a fine chinois into a clean saucepan and keep to one side.

Smoked fish béchamel
250ml smoked haddock poaching
liquor (see left)
15g unsalted butter
15g plain flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the smoked haddock poaching liquor to a gentle simmer. In a separate pan over a medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually ladle in the warm poaching liquor, stirring as you do so to keep the sauce smooth. Cook gently over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Pass the sauce through a fine chinois and cover the surface with a piece of baking parchment or cling film to prevent a skin forming. Set aside until needed. (You won’t need all of the fish béchamel but you can freeze the rest.)

Omelette glaze
4 tbsp warm smoked haddock
béchamel (see left)
4 tbsp hollandaise sauce
(see page 403)
4 medium free-range egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently warm the béchamel in a saucepan then pour into a bowl and whisk in the hollandaise and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass through a chinois into a warm jug or bowl. Keep warm to stop the glaze from splitting.

To assemble & cook the omelette
12 medium free-range eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
100g aged Parmesan, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Crack the eggs into a jug blender and blend briefly to combine. Pass through a chinois into a measuring jug. Place 4 individual omelette pans (we use Staub) over a low heat. Take the smoked haddock from the fridge, remove the cling film and lay on a grill tray. Warm under the salamander or grill. To each omelette pan, add 1 tbsp butter and heat until melted and foaming. Pour the blended egg into the pans, dividing it equally. Using a spatula, gently move the egg around in the pans until they start to firm up. Remove from the heat; you want the eggs to be slightly loose, as they will continue to cook off the heat.

Season the omelettes with salt and pepper and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over their surfaces. Divide the flaked smoked haddock between the omelettes, then spoon on the glaze to cover the fish and extend to the edge of the pans. If the glaze spills over the side of the pan, wipe it away, as this will burn on the side when  blowtorching. To finish, wave a cook’s blowtorch over the surface of the omelettes to caramelise the glaze. Allow the glaze to become quite dark, as the bitterness will balance out the richness of all the other ingredients.

Cook more from this book
Slow cooked duck
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Vegetarian round up: The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year and Italy: The World Vegetarian

What’s the USP? Two USPs, actually! Having explored meat-free options from India and Japan with their initial installments earlier this year, Bloomsbury’s ‘World Vegetarian’ series takes its first step into Europe with Christine Smallwood’s volume on the food of Italy. Meanwhile, Nicola Graimes follows up 2015’s The Part-Time Vegetarian with a seasonal take on her flexitarian cooking.

Are they good bedtime reading? Once the recipes are out of the way, there’s not a lot of extra-curricular writing in Smallwood’s book on Italy. Like many cookbooks that form part of a larger series, this is a fairly utilitarian affair. This isn’t a book for reading over cosy winter evenings, but rather a practical volume you can take down from the shelf when you need dinner on the table in forty minutes.

The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year has a lot more to offer on this front – the division of a cookbook by seasonal availability has been something of a trend in the last couple of years, and lends itself brilliantly to vegetarian cooking (as Nigel Slater demonstrated with his brilliant Greenfeast books). So here we have practical advice about how best to utilise your freezer, how to minimise your food waste and, of course, handy lists of which vegetables are in season when.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? One of the most underrated elements of vegetarian cooking, I think, is that recipes are usually incredibly easy to source. Dishes rely on the flavours of the vegetables and the method of cooking to extract as much flavour as possible out, and as such rarely call upon more hard-to-source ingredients. Smallwood’s book, drawing as it does from a cuisine that has been so warmly taken in and appropriated by Britons, features nothing but instantly recognisable ingredients that can be found most anywhere you care to shop. Graimes might send you out into the world for hoisin sauce or silken tofu, but you’re not going to consider that much of a challenge, are you?

How often will I cook from the books? Both titles are filled with interesting and vibrant dishes – though Italy: The World Vegetarian probably has the upper hand on this front. Smallwood’s dishes are ready made for weeknight cooking, and you could easily find yourself picking out a simple but effective recipe from this book once or twice a week.

Graimes’ Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year asks a little more from the reader – both in terms of culinary skills and commitment of time to the dishes. The results are equally as tempting, though, so will likely find their way onto your dinner table a couple of times a month without any trouble.

What will I love and what won’t I love? For all of The World Vegetarian’s positives, the book is just a bit, well, drab. It’s hard to really put your personality into a pre-existing format – and in terms of Smallwood’s involvement this is much more ‘Gary Barlow takes over X-Factor’ than ‘Taika Waititi shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe’. We’re spoiled for vegetarian cookbooks at the moment, and sheer practicality isn’t necessarily enough of a selling point to really make a mark. This is something The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year understands – it’s significantly more vibrant, and the reader gets a much stronger sense of Nicola Graimes’ voice and personality. It’s also, dare I say it, more fun. The flexitarian options allow for the entire thing to feel more interactive, more of a loose guide than the overt instruction manual vibes of Smallwood’s book.

Killer recipes: Italy: The World Vegetarian’s highlights include Sciatt with Cicoria, Spicy Farro Soup and Assassin’s Spaghetti. The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year travels a little further afield to offer Sesame Empanada Pie, Mushroom Noodle Larb and Spiced Leek Flatbreads with Mint Aioli.

Should I buy it? Both will find a place on any vegetarian’s shelf. Smallwood’s entry to the World Vegetarian series is perhaps better suited for cooks seeking to expand on their own repertoire of dishes – though it’s probably the more useful of the two offerings, it lacks the pizazz we tend to seek in the books we give to others. The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year, however, has exactly that. It’s accessible and fun – and the flexitarian element means it will be equally loved by both vegetarians and those looking to cut their meat-consumption down in the future.

Cuisine: Italian/Global
Suitable for: Beginners/Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars/Three stars

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

Buy the books
The Part-Time Vegetarian’s Year: Four Seasons of Flexitarian Recipes
£25, Nourish Books 

Italy: The World Vegetarian
£20, Bloomsbury Absolute

Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden

Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
Stark is no ordinary Michelin-starred restaurant. In December 2016, chef proprietor Ben Crittenden, formerly of the West House in Biddenden, converted a sandwich shop in Broadstairs and, working alone in a tiny kitchen, served creative tasting menus to a dozen customers a night. A rave review on the Guardian in 2017 was followed by a Michelin star in 2019. This year, Stark moved to larger premises in the same road and there are plans to turn the original restaurant into a tapas bar.

It’s fitting then that Stark is also no ordinary cookbook. In addition to the recipes, 42 of them such as Hake, mushroom, dashi, and Poussin, korma, grape (there are also a dozen tapas dishes including a wagyu slider), the extraordinary story of the restaurant is told with breath-taking honesty from both sides of the pass, Ben in the kitchen and Sophie, whose contributions appear in bold text in the book, front of house.

In his introduction, Ben Crittenden says ‘there’s no sugar coating or PR spin’ and he is true to his word. At one point in his career, the pressure of work coupled with a draining extended daily commute see Crittenden contemplating steering his car into the central reservation rather than face another day in the kitchen. On a business trip to San Sebastian, he recalls standing on the ledge of a hotel balcony, ready to jump.

But it’s Sophie Crittenden’s voice that really sets this book apart. Being able to understand the devasting impact of a severe lack of work-life balance on the couple’s relationship and family life (the Crittendens have three children) is sobering. Their personal life is laid out so barely that at times it feels like eavesdropping on a private conversation. But that searing honestly is what makes Stark such a compulsive read and so valuable to anyone considering following in the Crittenden’s footsteps and opening their own restaurant.

This review was first published in The Caterer magazine.

Cuisine: Progressive British
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

Cook from this book
Duck liver parfait
Poussin, korma, grape
Pecan pie, banana, chocolate

Duck liver parfait by Ben Crittenden

B27A4528
300g duck livers
100g foie gras
100g hazelnut butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp curing salt
100ml madeira
100ml port
100ml brandy
200g shallots
4 garlic cloves
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
5 eggs
400g melted butter

Roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Sweat down with the thyme and bay for 5-10 minutes. Add the Madeira, port and brandy and reduce until barely any liquid is left. Allow to cool slightly then blitz in the Thermomix with the livers, foie gras, hazelnut butter and the 2 salts. Then add the eggs and blitz again. Then slowly add the butter on speed 7 until it is thoroughly mixed. Now pass through a fine sieve into a container. Cover the top with cling film on the surface of the parfait mix and allow to set over night. Divide into 2 vacuum pack bags and seal. Cook at 63c for 1 hour then empty the mix back to a blender and blitz for 30 seconds or until smooth. Now allow to set in the fridge ready to serve.

ORANGE PURÉE
1 orange
100g sugar
300ml orange juice
Ultratex

Cut the orange into 6 and vacuum with the sugar and orange juice. Cook sous vide 85c for 5 hours or until the skin is soft. Add to bender and blitz on full until smooth. Add a tbs of Ultratex and blitz. Check consistency add more Ultratex if needed until you reach a smooth thick purée.

DUCK LEG
150g course sea salt
1 tbs black pepper
1 bulb garlic
1/2 bunch thyme
8 fatty duck legs
4 shallots
50ml brandy
25g parsley

Blitz the salt, garlic, thyme, and peppercorns. Rub this cure mix into the duck legs, cover in a container and leave for 24 hours in fridge. Wash off the salt mix and place the duck legs in vacuum pack bags (3 per bag). Cook at 88c for 6 hours. Dice the shallots and sweat. Add the brandy and reduce by 1/2. Remove the ducks from bags. Flake the flesh down and mix with the shallots. Allow to cool slightly and add chopped parsley then using cling film roll into neat ballotines.

GINGER BREAD
225g self-raising flour
20g ground ginger
Pinch salt
100g demerara sugar
100g butter
100g treacle
175g golden syrup
1 egg
150g milk

Heat the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup gently until the butter has melted. Beat into the flour, ginger and salt and mix well to ensure there are no lumps of flour. Beat the egg and milk together and slowly add to the mix. Divide into 2 inch ring lined with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 160c. Remove from the rings and refrigerate overnight so the cakes firm up. Then slice as thinly as possible into discs and dehydrate for minimum of 8 hours.

TO SERVE
Toasted hazelnuts
Chervil

Cook more from this book
Poussin, korma, grape
Pecan pie, banana, chocolate

Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

Read the review

Poussin, korma, grape by Ben Crittenden

B27A9579
BRINE
2 litres water
120g seasalt
40g sugar
1 bulb garlic
1/2 bunch thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
10 poussin crowns

Bring the water to the boil with everything except the poussin and simmer until the salt has dissolved. Chill in the fridge and then submerge the poussin for 24 hours. Drain and discard the brine. Pat dry the crowns.

POUSSIN MARINADE
40g mild cheddar
100g single cream
100g natural yogurt
1/2 bunch mint leaves
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
1/2 lemon juice
1 green chilli
2-inch knob ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves
2 tbs sunflower oil
2 tbs gram flour
1/2 tsp turmeric

Mix the gram flour and oil with the turmeric in a pan. Cook out gently for 5 minutes or until the flour turns slightly golden. Blitz in a blender with all the other ingredients. Smother the poussin in the marinade. Cook in BBQ at 220c for 10-12 minutes. Remove and rest under heat lamps for 10-15 minutes. Remove the breasts and serve 1 per portion.

KORMA SAUCE
2 tbs sunflower oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 cardamon pods
2 blades of mace
½ tsp garam masala
1-inch knob ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, grated
100g cashew paste
100g single cream
100g natural yogurt
200g cashew milk
Pinch salt
Lightly toast the cardamom pods, mace and garam masala for a minute. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook lightly for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook in Thermomix at 90c, speed 5, for 40 minutes. Then blitz on full and pass through a fine sieve.

ONIONS
2 red onions
50ml white wine vinegar
25g sugar
10 mint leaves
Pinch salt
Thinly slice the onions on a mandoline. Salt lightly and leave for 1 hour. Wash off the salt and dry off a little on a J cloth. Whisk the sugar and vinegar together until dissolved. Chop the mint and mix everything together and vacuum seal on full pressure.

TOASTED CASHEWS
100g blanched peeled cashew nuts
500g sunflower oil
1/2tsp mild chilli powder
Pinch salt

Heat the oil to 160c. Add the nuts and stir constantly until golden brown. Drain from oil onto a J cloth and dust in chilli powder and season with salt.

CORIANDER OIL
300ml sunflower oil
2 bunches coriander
Pinch salt

Heat the oil and salt in a Thermomix for 5 mins at 80c. Add the coriander and cook at 80c for 4 minutes on speed 8 then blitz on full for 1 minute. Pass through muslin and chill immediately.

TO SERVE
Red grapes, thinly sliced
Coriander cress
Coriander oil

Cook more from this book
Duck liver parfait
Pecan pie, banana, chocolate

Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

Read the review

Pecan pie by Ben Crittenden

B27A8496

SWEET PASTRY
450g plain flour
150g icing sugar
Pinch salt
225g butter
1 egg
50g cream

Add everything except the egg and cream to a food processor and pulse to bring the ingredients together, Then add the egg and cream and pulse to create a stiff paste, being careful not to over work. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour then roll out to about 3mm thick and line 2.5” tart cases. Trim excess and line the inside of the cases with cling film. Fill with rice or baking beans and place in freezer for an hour. Set oven to 190c and bake the cases for 8 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160c and bake until the pastry is cooked through. Remove the baking beans and make sure the bottoms are cooked, which should take about 20 minutes in total.

PECAN PIE
250g golden syrup
50g treacle
85g fresh bread crumbs
80g ground pecans
1 egg
150g cream
1 lemon zest
100g toasted pecans

In a blender, blitz everything except the toasted pecans until smooth. Decant into a container and refrigerate overnight. Crumble the toasted pecans into the base of the cooked tart cases. Set oven to 170c. Give the batter mix a good stir and then spoon into the cases on top of the crumbled pecans. Bake for 10 minutes at 170c then turn the oven down and bake for a further 10 minutes at 150c. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

BANANA SORBET
5 ripe bananas
50g glucose
1/2 lemon juice
Blitz everything together and freeze in Pacojet canisters. You don’t need to heat anything just blitz and freeze.

CHOCOLATE PURÉE
150g 70% Valrhona chocolate
50g cocoa powder
150g sugar
400g water
Ultratex to thicken

Bring the sugar and water to a simmer and pour over the chocolate and cocoa powder. Mix well and chill in the fridge overnight. Beat with a whisk to loosen and then add Ultratex a teaspoon at time. Mix well and leave 10 minutes between adding to allow time to absorb the moisture. When thickened pass through a fine sieve and decant into bottles.

CANDIED PECANS
100g pecans
225g sugar
125g water
Pinch salt
Bring 125g sugar, water, nuts and salt to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 100g of sugar and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Drain off the syrup and bake the nuts on parchment paper for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 150c.

TO SERVE
Lemon balm

Cook more from this book
Duck liver parfait
Poussin, korma, grape

Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

Read the review

Lemon meringue pie with English blackberries – star anise by Glynn Purnell

Lemon meringue pie
For the blackberry parfait
500ml blackberry purée
1 star anise
160g caster sugar
40ml cold water
75g egg whites
1.5g citric acid
375ml double cream
Packet of popping candy

Slowly bring the blackberry purée and star anise to a boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the star anise and pass through a fine sieve.
Prepare some 3-4cm rubber dome moulds.

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and water. Stir gently and place on to a medium heat with a sugar thermometer in the pan.

Put the egg whites into an electric mixer bowl with the whisk attachment fitted.
When the sugar syrup reaches 100°c, begin whisking the egg whites slowly. As the syrup reaches 110°c, increase the whisking speed of the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 116°c, the egg whites should have formed soft peaks.

Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites, whisking constantly. Once all the syrup has been added to the egg whites, turn the electric mixer speed up and continue whisking until the meringue is thick, glossy and cool.

In a large round bowl, semi-whip the double cream. Fold 350ml infused Blackberry purée and citric acid into the cooled Italian meringue, then fold into the semi-whipped cream in two stages. Add the popping candy to taste, then pipe into dome moulds, smoothing the tops with a palette knife. Freeze the parfait in the moulds for 24 hours.

For the sweet pastry
270g salted butter
180g caster sugar
2 large eggs
540g plain flour

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment fitted, cream the butter and sugar together, do not over-mix. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
Sift the flour and fold into the mix gently until it just starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and finish by hand to ensure the dough is not over worked.

Divide into two, flatten to 2 cm in thickness and cling film. Reserve in the fridge for up to ten days or freeze for up to four weeks.

Preheat oven to 160°c.

Roll the pastry to 2mm in thickness and line some 8cm tart cases with the pastry. Cover the pastry with cling film or silicon paper and fill with baking beans.
Blind bake for 12 minutes, then remove the baking beans. Return to the oven for a further five minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Once completely cool, remove from the tart rings and store in an airtight container lined with food safe silica gel. Keep in a cool, dry place.

For the lemon curd
12 large lemons
450g caster sugar
300g salted butter, diced
540g eggs
600g egg yolks

Zest the lemons and reserve the zest. Juice the lemons. You need 600ml of lemon juice. In a medium sized saucepan bring the juice up to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the lemon juice to approximately 150ml. It should resemble a glaze and be a slightly deeper colour. Empty the reduced lemon into a clean saucepan and add the sugar and butter. Bring this to a boil, stirring often.

Once boiling and all the butter has melted, whisk in the eggs and egg yolks and cook out over a medium heat, until the curd is thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Cover in a clean bowl with cling filmed pressed down to touch the lemon curd. This prevents condensation and water dripping onto the curd. Leave to cool in the fridge. Once cool, place the curd in a jug blender and blend until smooth. Reserve in vacuum pac bags in the fridge until needed.

For the Italian meringue
250g caster sugar
250g water
15g SOSA Albumina powder (dried egg whites)

In a suitable sized saucepan, bring 200g of the sugar and 120g of the water up to 118°c over a medium heat. While the sugar syrup is coming up to temperature, place the Albumina powder, 50g caster sugar and 130g water into an electric mixer bowl. Using a hand whisk, gently mix the ingredients together, then place the bowl onto the electric mixer.

When the sugar syrup reaches 100°c, begin whisking the egg whites slowly. As the syrup reaches 110°c, increase the whisking speed of the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 118°c, the egg whites should have formed stiff peaks.

Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites, whisking constantly. Once all the syrup has been added to the egg whites, turn the electric mixer speed up and continue whisking until the meringue is cool.
Decant the meringue into piping bags and store in the fridge or freezer for up to two days.

For the blackberry and star anise gel
1 litre blackberry purée
4 star anise
0.5g vanilla powder
10g agar-agar

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the blackberry purée, star anise and vanilla powder to a boil, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for ten minutes. Place the pan back onto the heat and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, remove the star anise and put to one side. Add the agar-agar and continuously whisk and cook for two minutes to activate the agar-agar. Pour the mix into a lightly greased, high sided tray and leave to set for two hours in the fridge.

Remove the set gel from the tray and roughly chop. Place into a Thermomix blender and blend on a medium-high speed for two minutes. Turn the blender off, scrape the sides of the jug down and blend again for two minutes on a medium-high speed, until you have a smooth and glossy gel.

Store in vacuum pac bags for freshness. Place into a squeezy bottle for service.
Wash the star anise to remove any purée, then dehydrate to completely dry out.
Once dry, blend the star anise in a spice grinder to a fine powder. Seal in a vacuum pac bag to reserve.

For the frozen blackberries
2 punnets of fresh blackberries
Liquid nitrogen

Wash the blackberries and dry them on kitchen towel. Put the blackberries into an insulated nitrogen container. Completely submerge the blackberries in liquid nitrogen and leave for three minutes. Once the blackberries have completely frozen, lift them out of the nitrogen with a slotted spoon and place into a large sous vide bag. Fold the ends of the bag over and lay the bag on a flat surface with one hand covering the folded end. Bash and roll the frozen blackberries with a rolling pin so the filaments separate. Empty the bag into a small metal Gastronorm container and half cover with liquid nitrogen. Reserve in the freezer until needed.

To serve
Lemon balm
Star anise powder

Pipe the lemon curd into a cooked pastry case and smooth the top with a palette knife. Place a dome of parfait in the centre of the tart on top of the lemon curd. Place the tart case onto a pastry turntable and start turning on a low speed. Fit the desired piping nozzle onto a piping bag with the Italian meringue and pipe your desired pattern onto of the tart, starting in the centre of the top of the parfait and working down as the tart spins on the turntable. Once the meringue is piped, lightly colour the meringue with a blowtorch. On a large flat white plate, sporadically pipe dots of differing sizes of the blackberry gel. Place the tart on top of one of the dots or around the centre of the plate. Refresh the frozen blackberries in liquid nitrogen and spoon liberally around the plate. Garnish with lemon balm and a pinch of star anise powder.

Cook more from this book
Monkfish masala with red lentil
Haddock and Eggs – Cornflakes – curry oil by Glynn Purnell

Buy this book
A Purnell’s Journey
£85, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon: There And Back Again: A Purnell’s Journey

Read the review

Monkfish Masala with Red Lentils, Pickled Carrots and Coconut Garnish by Glynn Purnell

Monkfish masala
SERVES 4

FOR THE PICKLED CARROTS
3 CARROTS, PEELED AND SLICED
1 TABLESPOON FENUGREEK SEEDS
1 TEASPOON AJWAIN SEEDS
1 TEASPOON BLACK MUSTARD SEEDS
½ TEASPOON ONION SEEDS
1 TEASPOON CUMIN SEEDS
1/3 TEASPOON CHILLI FLAKES
1 TEASPOON SALT
VEGETABLE OIL – ENOUGH TO COVER THE CARROTS
1. Preheat the oven to 90˚c / gas mark ¼, or the lowest setting.
2. Spread the carrot slices out on a baking tray and put in the oven overnight, or for 8 hours, until dried out. Pack the carrot slices into a sterilised airtight jar.
3. Mix all the spices and salt with enough vegetable oil to cover the carrots, pour over the carrots in the jar and seal. Leave for a couple of weeks (longer if you can) in a cool place before serving.

FOR THE MONKFISH
300G ROCK SALT
4 X 130G MONKFISH FILLETS
4 TABLESPOONS MASALA SPICE MIX
25G BUTTER
4. Sprinkle the salt over the monkfish fillets and leave for 5-6 minutes to draw out the moisture.
5. Rinse the salt off thoroughly under cold running water. Wrap the monkfish in a clean tea towel and leave overnight in the fridge.
6. Spread out the spice mix on a plate and roll the monkfish fillets in the mixture. Seal each fillet in a vacuum food bag and cook for 11 minutes in a water bath at 63˚c. Alternatively, wrap each fillet in heatproof clingfilm. Heat a saucepan of water until it reaches 63˚c on a cooking thermometer, add the wrapped fillets and cook for 11 minutes, keeping the temperature constant.
7. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat until foaming. Remove the fish from the bags or clingfilm and then sear on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crisp all over.

FOR THE RED LENTILS
SPLASH OF VEGETABLE OIL
½ ONION, PEELED AND CHOPPED
1 TABLESPOON MILD CURRY POWDER
225G DRIED RED LENTILS
500ML CHICKEN STOCK
½ RED CHILLI, FINELY CHOPPED
2 HEAPED TABLESPOONS CHOPPED CORIANDER
JUICE OF ½ LIME
SALT
8. Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a saucepan and sweat the onion over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry powder, then add the lentils, stir well and cover with the stock. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
9. When the lentils are cooked, stir in the chilli, coriander and lime juice and season to taste with salt. Set aside.

FOR THE COCONUT GARNISH
400ML CAN FULL-FAT COCONUT MILK
1 KAFFIR LIME LEAF
PINCH OF SALT
½ FRESH COCONUT, FLESH ONLY, THINLY SLICED INTO STRIPS ON A MANDOLIN
10. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and add the lime leaf and salt. Simmer over a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until reduced by half.
11. Heat a frying pan until hot and toast the coconut strips for about 2 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.

TO SERVE
CORIANDER SHOOTS (SPROUTED CORIANDER SEEDS), TO GARNISH
12. Spoon the lentils onto each serving plate. Carve each monkfish fillet in half and place one piece of monkfish on top of the lentils and the other piece next to them. Drizzle over a bit of the reduced coconut milk, then garnish with the toasted coconut strips, pickled carrots and coriander shoots.

Cook more from this book
Haddock and Eggs – Cornflakes – curry oil
Lemon meringue pie

Buy this book
A Purnell’s Journey
£85, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon: There And Back Again: A Purnell’s Journey

Read the review

Haddock and Eggs – Cornflakes – curry oil by Glynn Purnell

haddockegg-1
For the Haddock Milk Foam
4 litres whole milk
2 fillets yellow dyed haddock
2 fillets Arbroath smokies
Trim from 6 fillets naturally smoked haddock including skin etc
(this is the trim from the home-cured smoked haddock and in the brandade mix)
54g Agar
6g Xantham Gum

1. In a large saucepan, heat all fish in the milk and slowly bring to a boil while stirring occasionally.
2. Once boiled, remove from heat and transfer to a large container and cool at room
temperature. Cover and leave to infuse in the fridge for 24 hours.
3. Pass into a clean container. Remove 3 litres of the infused milk and reserve the rest in the fridge until needed.
4. Bring 3 litres of the haddock infused milk to the boil with the Agar, whisking occasionally. Once boiling, whisk continuously for two minutes.
5. Remove from heat and pass into a clean container. Leave to set in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours, or until fully set.
6. Once set, blend back with 900ml of the reserved haddock milk and Xantham gum.
7. Split into 450g portions and seal in vac pac bags. Reserve in the fridge until needed.
Always weigh the haddock milk to check the ratios are correct. If you have less then 3900ml, use these ratios to adjust the mix as necessary:
18g Agar Agar per litre
1.75g Xantham Gum per litre
Blend back with 300ml of haddock milk per litre

For the Smoked Eel Brandade
140g smoked eel, diced
70g cod
70g smoked haddock
120g salted butter, softened
120g warm dry mash potato
1 lemon
Milk, to cover

1. Place the smoked eel and fish into a saucepan.
2. Cover the fish in milk, bring to a simmer and cook gently.
3. Once the fish is cooked, pass off the mixture, reserving the milk and keeping it warm.
4. Mix the cooked fish mixture with the warm mash potato.
5. Put the fish and potato mixture into an electric mixer with a paddle attachment fitted. Beat in the softened butter for 30 seconds.
6. Add 20ml of the reserved milk and beat until fully incorporated. Add more if the mix is too dry.
7. Season with the zest and juice of the lemon.
8. Pipe into even ballotines on top of cling film. The ballotines should be approx. 1.5 inches in diameter and 20 inches in length. Roll the ballotine in the cling film to form a tube and twist the ends of the cling film over and over until they can’t twist any more. This should form an airtight tube and the ends of the ballotine should be sealed up due to the pressure. Tie these ends to seal and freeze the brandade mixture.
9. Set up a pane station with flour, beaten egg and a 50:50 mixture of breadcrumbs and cornflake crumbs.
10. Carefully remove all the clingfilm from the brandade ballotines and portion into 3-inch cylinders.
11. Pane the cylinders in the flour, egg and breadcrumb and cornflake mix. Reserve on a tray in the fridge until needed.

For the Curry Oil
1 litre sunflower oil
2 tablespoons mild curry powder

1. Place the oil and curry powder into a large vac pac bag and seal to remove all air.
2. Place into a water bath at 65˚c for four hours. Remove and leave in the fridge for 12 hours.
3. Hang the mixture through a muslin cloth set over a bowl but do not push through. Vac pac the passed oil into medium bags and reserve in the fridge until needed.
4. Decant the oil into squeezy bottles once it is at room temperature.

For the smoked haddock
6 haddock fillets
Coarse rock salt
Sunflower oil

1. Skin the haddock fillets.
2. Submerge in the salt for 4 minutes.
3. Removed the haddock from the salt. Thoroughly wash off the salt and dry.
4. Rub the haddock fillets in sunflower oil.
5. Set up a hot smoker with oak chips. When the smoker is ready, place the fillets on to the wire rack and smoke for 10 minutes.
6. Remove the haddock fillets from the smoker and leave to cool completely. Seal in a vac pac bag and keep in the fridge until needed.

For the Baked Cornflakes
250g Cornflakes
250g salted butter, melted
10tbsp milk powder
2tbsp caster sugar
1tsp table salt

1. Preheat oven to 140˚c.
2. Mix all the ingredients together. Spread out evenly onto a tray lined with a silpat mat. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven. Once cooled, place in a blender and pulse blend until a crumb-like consistency is achieved. Reserve in an airtight container until needed.
To serve one portion
1. Deep fry the brandade croquettes at 170˚c for 2-3 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove and drain.
2. Heat 40g of the smoked haddock in the oven until warm.
3. Separate an egg yolk, removing all the white, and carefully drop the yolk into a pan of water at 50-55˚c. Poach gently for no longer than two minutes. The yolk should be just sealed on the outside.
4. Place the haddock into the bottom of the serving bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of chopped chives, a splash of curry oil and add a teaspoon of the baked cornflakes.
5. Get the ISI gun containing the haddock foam. Give it a good shake and squeeze gently to form a dome of haddock foam which should just cover the haddock in the bottom of the bowl.
6. Carefully remove the poached egg yolk from the water and place into the centre of the haddock foam. Season with sea salt and drizzle the top with curry oil. Serve with a brandade croquette on the side.

Cook more from this book
Monkfish masala with red lentils
Lemon meringue pie

Buy this book
A Purnell’s Journey
£85, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon: There And Back Again: A Purnell’s Journey

Read the review

Smoked Cod Cakes by Maura O’Connell Foley

Maura_CodCakes_057

These cod cakes can be made in advance and frozen for up to one month, making them ideal to be served at any time of day, be that breakfast, lunch or a light supper with Tartare sauce and a green salad. The cakes can also be deep-fried for a crispier result in a canape or starter size. To do so, shape the mixture into small balls (golf ball size) and deep fry in hot oil until golden brown.

Ingredients

  •  Makes around 15-20 small cakes
  • 450g undyed smoked cod
  • 285ml cold milk, for poaching
  • 285ml water, for poaching
  • 45g butter
  • 45g plain white flour
  • 285ml whole milk
  • Sea salt and cracked
  • black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 55g freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or
  • mature Coolea gouda cheese
  • 115g fresh soft white breadcrumbs
  • Oil and clarified butter to shallow fry, or oil for deep fat frying

Method

Place the cod in a medium saucepan and cover with the milk and water. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, then reduce to a low heat to gently poach for 5 minutes or until the cod flakes easily. Remove the cod from the poaching liquid and flake into chunky pieces, removing any bones, sinew or skin.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the flour and cook for a further 2 minutes, continuing to stir with a whisk. Turn up to a medium heat and gradually pour in the milk, continuing to stir and cook for at least 6 minutes until the sauce is a very thick consistency (like choux pastry). Season to taste. Turn down to a low heat and add the eggs slowly, stirring vigorously to blend and ensure a smooth consistency. Stir in the cheese. Remove from the heat.

Gently mix in the fish, being careful to keep the fish in generous chunks. With the breadcrumbs in a bowl nearby, take heaped tablespoons of the cod mixture and gently coat in the breadcrumbs, not pressing or handling too much. If shallow frying, make small little cakes. If deep fat frying, shape into small round balls (golf ball size).

Place on a tray and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge before frying, not covering to avoid soggy breadcrumbs.

Heat enough clarified butter and oil in a wide frying pan to cover the base, then shallow fry for 3 minutes either side until golden brown. Repeat in batches until all the cakes are cooked. Alternatively, deep fry in batches until golden brown.

Tartare Sauce
Tartare sauce is a classic sauce for deep fried fish or any fried fish in general. The key to this sauce is its piquancy. I serve it with crab cakes and smoked cod cakes. Capers grow wild in a bush in the Mediterranean and should be much more expensive given that they must be handpicked, only when ripe and at a specific time of day. They are also cultivated, but even then, they cannot be picked by machine. If using salted capers, ensure you rinse off the salt. Large capers can be chopped; if using small capers, do not chop.

Ingredients
Makes 250ml

  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 15g English mustard
  • 215ml sunflower oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves, flat leaf or curly
  • 3 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped if large or whole if small
  • Sea salt and cracked
  • black pepper

Method

Beginning with the base of a mayonnaise, place the egg yolks and mustard in a food processor and start the machine running. Very slowly, trickle in the oil through the funnel, being careful to avoid splitting the mayonnaise. Once the mixture starts to thicken, the oil can be added more confidently and quickly. Add the vinegar, adding more mustard if desired. Tip into a bowl and finish by mixing through the chives, parsley and capers. Season to taste.

Cook more from this book
Twice Baked Cheese Soufflé by Maura O’Connell Foley
Rum and Walnut Tart with Rum Butterscotch Sauce by Maura O’Connell Foley

Buy this book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

Read the review 
Coming soon

 

Twice Baked Cheese Soufflé by Maura O’Connell Foley

Maura_Souffle_018

This recipe includes a soft and hard goat’s cheese. Instead of goat’s cheese, for the hard cheese a mature cheddar, pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano can be used and for the soft cheese a soft blue cheese would work well. These can be prepared several hours in advance with a first initial bake and then a second bake just before serving. Lovely served with a small organic green salad and a hazelnut dressing.

Ingredients
Makes 4
Ramekin Lining:
• 30g hazelnuts (about 20 hazelnuts)
• 60g soft white breadcrumbs
• 30g softened butter

Soufflé:
• 15g butter
• 15g plain white flour
• 100ml milk
• 60g hard goat’s cheese, grated
• 2 egg yolks, beaten
• 6 egg whites
• 60g soft goat’s cheese for centre filling, chopped
• ½ tsp lemon juice
• Sea salt

Hazelnut Dressing:
• 1. tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp hazelnut oil
• 1 tsp local honey (warmed to help it combine), plus extra to taste
• Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Method

To toast and skin the nuts, preheat the oven to fan 160°C / fan 325°F / gas mark 4. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the skins crack and the nuts are light golden. Once roasted, rub the nuts in a dry cloth to remove the skins. Pulse in a processor for a few seconds to bring the nuts to a coarse crumb consistency. Combine the hazelnut crumbs and breadcrumbs.

To prepare the ramekins, generously brush the butter over the sides and bottoms of the ramekins. Coat with a generous layer of hazelnut breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to fan 170°C / fan 340°F / gas mark 5.

Make the base of the soufflé by melting the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, to a pale golden colour. Gradually add the milk,  continuing to stir, to a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the hard goat’s cheese, egg yolks and season with sea salt.

In a large dry bowl (essential for whipping egg whites), beat the egg whites with the sea salt until slightly thickened. Add the lemon juice and whisk to stiff peaks. Take a quarter of the egg white mixture and mix this into the cooled soufflé base until well combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture until well combined.

Half fill the ramekins with the soufflé mixture, place the soft goat’s cheese in the centre then cover with the remaining soufflé mixture, filling the ramekin to the top.

Run your thumb around the ramekins to clean the top edge – this helps the soufflé to rise. Place each of the ramekins in a roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to a depth of two thirds around the ramekins.

Bake for 15 minutes for the first bake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. At this point, the soufflés can be set aside if preparing in advance and chilled in the fridge for up to 6 hours only.

For the second bake, heat the oven to fan 200°C / fan 400°F / gas mark 7. Loosen the soufflés in the ramekin with a palette knife or small knife. Return the soufflés to the oven, this time with no water in the roasting tray, and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly risen.

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients into a jar, tightly seal and shake vigorously. Add local honey and seasoning to taste, then shake again. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Serve the soufflés immediately with a green salad and hazelnut dressing.

Cook more from this book
Rum and Walnut Tart with Rum Butterscotch Sauce by Maura O’Connell Foley
Smoked Cod Cakes

Buy the book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

Read the review
Coming soon

Rum & Walnut Tart with Rum Butterscotch Sauce by Maura O’Connell Foley

Maura_ Walnut_Rum_Tart_027
Ingredients
Serves 8

Pâté Sucrée:
• 125g plain white flour
• 55g butter, softened
• 55g icing sugar
• Pinch of sea salt
• 1 egg

Rum Butterscotch Sauce:
• 30g butter
• 70g light brown sugar
• 70g golden syrup
• 90ml cream
• 45ml dark Jamaican rum

Walnut Filling:
• 300g walnuts, roughly chopped
• 150g caster sugar
• 120g butter, melted
• 150g honey
• 5 egg yolks
• 100ml cream
• 50ml dark Jamaican rum

Equipment:
23cm / 9in flan tin

Method
For the pâté sucrée, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt to a food processor and blend to a fine crumb. Use a fork to lightly beat the egg and then add to the food processor and pulse to bring the pastry together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour in the fridge.

To  make the butterscotch sauce, place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook to a smooth and shiny syrup. Carefully add the cream (as it will splutter) and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle bubble then simmer for 3 minutes. Add the rum and remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to fan 160°C / fan 325°F / gas mark 4.

Roll out the pastry to 2-3mm / 0.1in thick and use to line a 23cm / 9in flan tin. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

To make the walnut filling, gently mix together the walnuts, sugar, butter, honey, egg yolks, cream and rum in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry and bake in oven for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and set with a slight wobble.

Allow to set for at least 1 hour before serving with the butterscotch sauce and if desired some vanilla ice-cream.

Cook more from this book
Twice baked cheese souffles
Smoked cod cakes

Buy this book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

Read the review
Coming soon

Ekstedt by Niklas Ekstedt

Ekstedt by Niklas Ekstedt
What’s the USP? The subtitle for Ekstedt is ‘The Nordic art of analogue cooking’, which makes the book sound like one of those lifestyle books that seek to teach us all the true meaning of a nation’s idealised characteristic by expanding on a single word with complex meaning, be that ‘hygge’, ‘ikigai’ or ‘nunchi’.

‘Ekstedt’ is not a Swedish word for analogue cooking, but rather the surname of the Michelin-starred chef who has become almost synonymous with the practice. This massive coffee-table cookbook seeks to reconcile home chefs with the revived Nordic traditions of cooking over an open flame. That’s what ‘analogue cooking’ means – cooking without the use of gas or fire. So don’t expect any dishes that can be reheated in the microwave later.

Who wrote it? Niklas Ekstedt is something of an icon in the Nordic food world. Over the last twenty years or so, Ekstedt has run four fine-dining restaurants across Sweden, and has grown increasingly interested in traditional Nordic cooking techniques. His latest eponymous restaurant cooks entirely over open flames – and it’s this approach to food that he espouses in his second book. Actually, it’s also the same approach he took to his first book. But this one’s out now, ready for Christmas, looking all monolithic and filled with worthy prose and grounded, earthy photographs of fishermen and very beautiful (but very small) dishes.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s certainly reading, though how good it is will depend on how much you like fantasy writing. That is, the fantasy that you’ll ever actually cook anything from this book.

There’s an introduction in which Ekstedt speaks of the self-evaluation he had to do when his third fine-dining restaurant didn’t do quite as well as his first two. There’s a chapter on the techniques you’ll use throughout the book, from using your wood oven (you have a wood oven, right?) to cooking over embers, or ‘hay-flaming’ a dish. That’s where you get your hay (you have hay, right?), bosh it into a pan, set it on fire, and chuck some scallops or something on top. Actually, that’s not fair. It’s more complicated than that. Which is exactly what you were hoping for, isn’t it? Oh, and don’t forget flambadou, where you baste a dish with burning fat that you’ve melted in your red-hot cast-iron cone on a stick (you have a red-hot cast-iron cone on a stick, right?)

Elsewhere, there’s well-meaning Radio 4 documentaries essays on reindeer herding with the Sami and fishing off of Lofoten, Instagram’s favourite Norwegian archipelago. Ekstedt also offers short introductions to each of his recipes – though these frequently amount to little more than a sentence.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? HA! Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahaha. Haha. Ha.

No.

No, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Why would you even ask that? It’s not like the first recipe in the book is for smoked moose heart. Oh, can’t get your hands on a moose heart? Ekstedt doesn’t actually offer any advice for substituting it for another ingredient, but later on does offer a completely different heart recipe: this time it needs a reindeer’s.

Other fun ingredients to ask the guy restocking the shelves in Sainsbury’s about: ättika vinegar, cloudberries, meadowsweet, birch wood, reindeer blood, chickweed, nasturtium leaves, redfish collars, ‘a branch of juniper, fresh and green’, dried reindeer, vendace roe, and bladderwrack seaweed.

I guess you could try B&Q for the birch wood, and maybe you can juice that reindeer heart from earlier to get the 250ml of blood you’ll need. When you see the words ‘veal sweetbreads’ and consider them one of the more accessible ingredients you’ve seen recently, you know you’re in trouble.

My favourite, for what it’s worth, is the casual request for 400ml of fresh bovine colostrum, which the glossary at the back of the book helpfully defines as ‘the milk a cow produces during the first days after calving’. Expect a rush on your local dairy farm come spring, then.

What’s the faff factor? Do you even need to ask? Look, one of the joys I have when I sit down with a new cookbook is this: I take some little multi-coloured index stickers and mark out all of the recipes I’m keen to try. On most cookbooks, I manage to find at least eight to ten really tempting dishes that I can’t wait to get to work on. In a really great cookbook, like Claire Thomson’s recent Home Cookery Year, I find myself marking off every other page. In reading through Ekstedt, I didn’t reach for my bookmarks even once.

This isn’t to say that the book isn’t filled with things I’d love to eat. In fact, I’d be more than happy to stick a fork into almost every recipe in here. Maybe not the butternut squash, fermented salsify and vegetable foam – but even then that’s only because I’m not sure what the best utensil is when reckoning with foam. It’s got to be a spoon, right?

The problem is just that everything in here is so damned impractical. If – and it really is a huge, wobbly ‘if’ – you manage to source all the ingredients for a given dish, you’ve still got to cook the bastard. And that’s not easy in a book that champions ‘analogue cooking’. Ekstedt has made no noticeable concessions for the home chef, except that he lets you flambadou your beef fat in a pan. A typical recipe might ask you to ‘hot smoke the parsley root for 10 hours every day for 1-2 weeks until it is dried out’. Who does he think I am? I think Niklas Ekstedt has mistaken me for his sous chef.

As a final kicker, the end result of all your hard work will be an authentic Michelin-star level dish. Which sounds fantastic, until you remember how big a dish is in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The semi-raw hay-flamed sea bass, sorrel & Swedish ponzu takes longer to announce than it does to eat. Three slices of the sea bass per person, with three (three!) sorrel leaves as accompaniment. Ekstedt says his recipe serves 4 as a middle course, but he doesn’t tell us how many middle courses he’s expecting us to have in what is now apparently a tasting menu that we’re expected to put together from this self-indulgent collection of impossible wonders.

How often will I cook from the book? Never. You will never cook from this book. It will sit on your shelves, untouched and forgotten except for the occasions when you reach for something adjacent to it – something useful, with primary ingredients like chicken, or pork – and pick it out for a moment, open it to a random page – let’s say ‘Langoustine, charcoal cream and cold-smoked parsnip’, allow yourself a few good minutes to stop laughing at the idea you would ever find it within your energy limits to ‘place the langoustines on an untreated wood plank and sear each tail for 8-10 seconds with burning beef fat from the flambadou’, and then place it straight back onto the shelf until the next time you need decent laugh.

Should I buy it? Only if Niklas Ekstedt is coming round your house for tea, and you want to make him like you by shelling out forty(!) pounds(!) on pretty pictures of things you will never eat.

Cuisine: Nordic
Suitable for: Professional chefs with access to Scandinavian deer hearts
Cookbook Review Rating: One star

Buy this book
Ekstedt: The Nordic Art of Analogue Cooking

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

A Purnell’s Journey: There and Back Again by Glynn Purnell

Weighing in at 6.5kg and standing over a foot tall, Glynn Purnell’s third book dwarfs his previous two volumes. Printed on high quality matt paper and presented in a clamshell box lined with the same pattern as the wallpaper in Purnell’s eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s a lavish production. But what do you expect from a chef with ego enough to anoint himself ‘The Prince of Birmingham’? 

Purnell tells his story in a series of chapters titled with postcodes that relate to where he has lived or cooked. It begins in B37, his childhood home in the Chelmsley Wood council estate in Solihull where the closest the young chef came to foraging was helping his father carry home boxes of meat purchased in pub car park deals. The book then follows Purnell’s route to Michelin success in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre via stints at the Birmingham Metropole, Simpson’s in Kenilworth and Hibiscus in Ludlow, with detours for stages at Gordon Ramsay’s Aubergine and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. 

Although Purnell relates how he came to national attention and won his first Michelin star at Jessica’s in Edgebaston in 2005, the recipe for the restaurant’s signature dish of veal with caramelised squid is sadly not included. Instead, there are a selection of Purnell’s restaurant’s ‘greatest hits’ including monkfish masala with red lentils, pickled carrots and coconut garnish that ably demonstrate the chef’s knack for creating memorable dishes that stand the test of time.

Purnell is undoubtedly a macho chef and the book charts his passions for boxing, shooting, fishing and football. But there’s more than just testosterone on display here. His detailed description of the evolution of his signature haddock and eggs, cornflakes and curry oil dish proves Purnell to be a creative, thoughtful and reflective cook. 

With just 33 recipes, you may feel the need to buy Purnell’s other books to understand the full extent of his culinary talents, but There and Back Again serves up a generous enough helping of amusing anecdotes and stunning visuals to justify its hefty price tag.   

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine.

Cuisine: Progressive British
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
A Purnell’s Journey
£85, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon: There And Back Again: A Purnell’s Journey

Cook from this book
Haddock and Eggs – Cornflakes – curry oil
Monkfish masala with red lentils
Lemon meringue pie

Persian Lamb Neck Soup by Matty Matheson

Persian Lamb Neck SoupServes 6
PREP TIME: 4 HOURS, PLUS 2 HOURS INACTIVE TIME

I have only had this soup at a restaurant once in my life, and I loved it so much but have not gone back to where I had it because we had to sit on the floor pretty much, and if you know me, the big dog eating some interactive soup on the floor isn’t the greatest. So, make this in your home, and yes, it’s a lot of work, and some recipes are easy and some are hard, and now let’s get to work and build out a beautiful soup that’s gonna make your tongue explode in joy!

3 pounds (1.3 kg) lamb necks
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
300 g diced white onions
60 ml tomato paste
2 quarts (2 L) lamb stock, or water
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
150 g canned chickpeas, drained
150 g canned white beans, drained
60 ml lemon juice, plus more as needed
50 g garlic, thinly sliced
60 ml white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
6 flatbreads
180 ml plain Greek yogurt
40 g mint leaves
60 g tarragon leaves

Place the lamb necks in a shallow container and season with the turmeric, salt, and pepper. Keep in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the lamb necks on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Brown them in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer them to large Dutch oven, reserving the rendered lamb fat from the bottom of the baking sheet. Add the onions, tomato paste, and lamb stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes, chickpeas, white beans, and lemon juice; simmer until the meat and potatoes are fork-tender, about 1 hour. Taste for seasoning; the broth should be tangy and bright. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

Put the garlic in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, 60 ml water, and sugar and bring to a boil; pour over the garlic. Cool and reserve for the soup.

Use a slotted spoon to remove meat, beans, and potatoes from the broth and transfer them to a large bowl. Use a fork to pull the meat off the bones; discard the bones. With a potato masher, mash the meat, beans, and potatoes into a soft uniform paste. If it’s a little dry, add broth and continue mashing until fully broken down and emulsified.

Strain the stock through a fine chinois or strainer and heat it back up in the pan. Season with salt and lemon juice. This is a two-part meal: the broth and the meat paste. Serve the broth in soup bowls drizzled with rendered lamb fat and sprinkled with the pickled garlic. Put the meat paste in a serving bowl, spread it on the roti, dollop yogurt over it, and top with the herbs. Eat the little meat breads with your hands.

Cook more from this book
Green Curry Beef Ribs
Molasses Bread in an Apple Juice Can 

Read the review 

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

Molasses Bread in an Apple Juice Can by Matty Matheson

SERVES: 8
PREP TIME: 1 HOUR, PLUS 1 HOUR INACTIVE TIME

Apple juice in cans are gonna fly off the shelves from this day on, I swear. Every family in the Maritimes has made a version of this recipe. Making cylinder-shape bread using a large apple juice can is scrappy and great for recycling. You get to drink shitty apple juice, which is great as well. Please make the eff ort to find these cans; it’ll make this process way funnier and an instant family tradition that your kids will love forever.

240 ml warm water (46 to 53°C)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
160 ml molasses, such as Crosby’s Fancy, plus more for serving
90 g old-fashioned rolled oats
240 ml hot water
300 g whole-wheat flour
660 g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 (1.05 L) cans Allen’s Apple Juice, or other similar-size cans
Unsalted butter
Sea salt (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the warm water and sugar, then sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let sit for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes foamy and fragrant; this indicates the yeast is active and alive.

In another medium bowl, combine 160 ml of molasses and the oats; stir to incorporate. Pour the hot water into the molasses and oat mixture, stir with a whisk, then add the yeast mixture; whisk to fully incorporate. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer running, add the whole-wheat flour slowly (so you don’t get flour all over yourself). Then add the all-purpose flour and kosher salt and let it come together. Raise the speed to medium and knead the dough for 2 minutes, or until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and cut in half.

Grease the inside of the cans with butter. Transfer the dough halves into the cans. Drape a kitchen towel over them and place in a warm area for 1 hour, or until the dough is double in size.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 175°C.

Place the cans on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the bread has a crispy shell and you can puncture the centre with a wooden skewer and it comes out clean.

Set the cans on a wire rack and let the bread cool for 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the cans and let cool further. Once you’re ready to dig in, slice a thumb-wide piece and smother with cold butter, molasses, and a pinch of sea salt, if you like, for a real treat. Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to a week. After a week, the bread can be turned into bread pudding (see my first cookbook for the recipe).

Cook more from this book
Green Curry Beef Ribs 
Persian Lamb Neck Soup

Read the review 

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

Green Curry Beef Ribs by Matty Matheson

Green Curry Beef Ribs_p180

Serves 4-6

PREP TIME: 3 HOURS

Meat and rice is the new meat and potatoes. And braised beef ribs in spicy green curry is great for any meal— breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Real flavor-building, real spice, real tasty meals for the whole family. Building your skills and your palates are very important to keep things exciting in your home life. And guess what, the day after, shred this beef and make little rotis; add some cheese, even. Fuck this shit up.

FOR THE BEEF SHORT RIBS:
4½ pounds (2 kg) beef short ribs, meat removed from the bone and cut into 1½-inch (4 cm) cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
200 g diced onion
100 g diced celery
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
75 g seeded and diced jalapeño chile
100 g diced leek, white and green parts only
2 stalks lemongrass, cut in half and smashed with the side of a knife
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tablespoon ground Thai spice (equal parts toasted ground cardamom and toasted ground cumin)
880 ml beef and bone marrow stock
240 ml canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice

FOR THE PICKLED GARLIC:
4 garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin
2 bird’s eye chiles, sliced
2 tablespoons white vinegar

FOR SERVING:
30 g sliced scallions
60 g cilantro leaves, stems diced
steamed jasmine rice, or naan bread

Make the short beef ribs: Season the short ribs with the salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown the short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the short ribs to a plate and pour out about 70 percent of the fat from the pot.

Add the onion, celery, garlic, jalapeño, leek, and lemongrass to the pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger, curry paste, and toasted spice mix and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the short ribs and any juices from the resting plate. Add beef stock to barely cover the top of the short ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low; simmer until the short ribs are tender, 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the lemongrass and whisk in the coconut milk. Taste the broth for seasoning. Add the lime juice and salt as needed.

While the beef is cooking, make the pickled garlic: In a small nonreactive bowl, combine the garlic and chiles. Heat the vinegar in a small skillet until bubbling. Pour the hot vinegar over the garlic and chiles and let sit for 1 hour.

To serve: Generously divide the curry into serving bowls. Garnish the bowls with little spoonfuls of pickled garlic and lots of chopped scallion and cilantro leaves. Enjoy with jasmine rice or a big piece of grilled naan.

Cook more from this book
Persian Lamb Neck Soup 
Molasses Bread in an Apple Juice Can

Read the review 

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

 

Classic puff pastry by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

Classic Puff Pastry

I always assumed puff pastry was invented in France. It is so dominant throughout French food culture, evident in the windows of every pâtisserie, that this is an easy assumption to make. However, Spanish recipes for puff pastry precede the French with the first documented appearance right at the beginning of the seventeenth century, while the first French recipe appears mid-century.

A classic butter puff pastry is a laminated dough that rises due to the power of steam. When making the dough, many thin, alternating layers of fat and dough are created so that, when cooked at a high enough heat, the fat melts to leave a pocket of air in the dough. The moisture in the dough and fat then boils to create steam, which causes these pockets to expand. Before you cook puff pastry, it is important to make sure the oven is at the correct temperature so that this transformative process occurs quickly, allowing the structure to form and be locked in.

This recipe creates a puff pastry that rises evenly and is neater than rough puff, so it is better suited to dishes like vol au vents where a little refinement is needed. Honestly, it is a myth that puff pastry is difficult to make. All that is required for success is planning, patience, and following the instructions closely. This recipe creates a large batch of dough – if you’re going to spend an afternoon making puff pastry, you may as well make plenty – so divide it into smaller amounts based on the recipes you plan to make before wrapping and freezing for later use.

MAKES 1.5KG

For the dough
350g strong flour
200g plain flour
15g table salt
115g butter, softened and diced
250ml ice-cold water

For the lock-in butter
500g chilled butter, diced
50g strong flour

First prepare the dough. If making the pastry by hand, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, butter and water. Using your fingers, gently mix to an even dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it for 5 minutes or until smooth.

If making the pastry using a mixer, sift the flour into the mixer bowl and add the salt, butter and water. Using a dough hook, work at a medium speed for a few minutes to incorporate the butter into the flour until it forms a smooth dough.

Flatten the dough into a neat rectangle, wrap it tightly in clingfilm and rest in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the lock-in butter. Thoroughly clean and dry the bowl and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the butter and flour in the bowl and either work the flour into the butter using a wooden spoon for 5–10 minutes, or use the mixer working at a low speed for 2 minutes or until everything is well incorporated. Scrape the butter mixture onto the lined tray and, using floured hands, shape it into a square about 1cm thick. Place the butter mixture in the refrigerator until just chilled but not completely hard. (It is important that the chilled dough and lock-in butter are similarly firm, otherwise they will not roll together evenly and this may cause rips and holes in the dough.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large square that is twice the size of the lock-in butter. Place the butter in the centre of the dough but at an angle so that the corners point towards the edges of the dough. Making sure you do not trap any air, fold the corners of the dough over the butter, bringing them into the middle like an envelope. Lightly pinch together all the joins to seal and completely encase the butter.

Roll out the dough and butter into a rectangle roughly three times as long as it is wide, using the sides of your hands to make sure the edges are neat and square. Dust any excess flour from the surface of the dough. With the shortest side closest to you, visually divide the dough horizontally into thirds and very lightly dampen the centre third with a little water, then fold the bottom one third of the dough over the centre third. Repeat by folding the remaining top third over the double layer of dough, then tightly wrap the dough in clingfilm. Lightly press your finger into the bottom right-hand corner of the dough to make an indentation which signifies the first turn and how the dough was positioned on the board before you put it into the refrigerator.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Chilling the pastry between each roll out and fold allow the butter to harden so that clean, even layers of dough and butter are built up.)

Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface with the indent in the same position as before at the bottom right-hand corner. Next, turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise. Roll out the dough into an 18cm by 25cm rectangle and repeat the folding process. Make sure all corners and sides are straight. Wrap the dough in clingfilm again and this time make two indents on the dough in the bottom right corner. Chill in the refrigerator for a further 30 minutes.

Repeat the turning and folding processes two more times, each time chilling the dough for 30 minutes and marking with indents in the bottom right-hand corner to make sure the dough is turned in the correct direction. After the final turn, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes and then it is ready to use.

This classic puff pastry dough can be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer. If freezing, weigh out the dough into the quantities needed for individual recipes – it will take less time to thaw and you won’t be potentially wasting any dough. To use the dough from the freezer, allow it to come back to refrigerator temperature overnight.

Cook more from this book
The ultimate sausage roll
Hot pork pie 
Glazed apple tart  

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

The ultimate sausage roll by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes
In an attempt to find the perfect example, we have tested different flavours and textures for the filling of our sausage rolls at The Pie Room. It always comes back to one thing: simplicity. The filling should be tasty but not overcrowded with too many flavours and textures. The addition of a little chopped bacon and a few thyme leaves
to Cumberland sausagemeat are the only changes we make, but the devil is in the detail. For me, the key to the Ultimate Sausage Roll actually lies in the ratio of meat to pastry. When the meat takes longer to cook, the crisper the pastry will be.

Serves 4

400g rough puff pastry (see book for recipe or use classic puff pastry or shop-bought puff pastry)
2 egg yolks beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for brushing
pinch of black sesame seeds
pinch of white sesame seeds
Plum and Star Anise Chutney, to serve (see page 248)

For the filling
700g Cumberland sausages, skins removed
150g streaky bacon, finely chopped
25g thyme, leaves picked
⅓ teaspoon table salt
large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Equipment
large plastic piping bag
(optional)

Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to 5mm thick in a 40cm x 25cm rectangle. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined tray and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the sausagemeat, bacon, thyme, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well with your hands. Fill a large plastic piping bag with the sausagemeat filling. If you don’t have a piping bag, shape the filling into a 6cm wide sausage and wrap tightly in clingfilm, firmly twisting the ends. Chill the filling in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Remove the rolled-out pastry from the refrigerator and dust off any excess flour from the surface. Leave the pastry on the parchment paper.  Using kitchen scissors, snip the tip of the piping bag to make a 5cm wide opening. Working from one end of the pastry rectangle, slowly pipe the sausagemeat filling down the length of the pastry 6cm inside one edge.

Alternatively, remove the clingfilm from the sausagemeat, unwrapping it over
the pastry rectangle, and place the filling 6cm inside one edge of the pastry. Lightly brush the larger exposed area of pastry all over with egg wash, leaving the narrow 6cm border clear. Fold the egg-washed pastry over the filling to meet the narrow border, align the pastry edges and press firmly together. Lightly dust the tines of a fork with flour and tap off any excess. Working down the length of the seam, firmly press the ends of the fork into the pastry to leave an impression of the tines. Whenever necessary, dust the fork with more flour to stop it sticking to the pastry.

Lightly brush the sausage roll all over with egg wash and return to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the egg wash to dry. Brush a second layer of egg wash over the sausage roll and then, using a sharp knife, lightly score the top of the pastry with diagonal lines all the way down its length. (This gives the pastry a little stretching room and stops it from tearing open at the seam.) Return the sausage roll to the refrigerator to chill for a further 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C/gas mark 6½.

Trim a little off the fluted seam of the pastry to neaten it into a straight edge, then brush a final layer of egg wash all over the sausage roll. Sprinkle the black and white sesame seeds along the top of the roll. Pop the tray into the preheated oven and bake the sausage roll for 25 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the filling with a digital probe thermometer – you are looking for 75°C or above. If necessary, return the sausage roll to the oven and check the temperature again every 5 minutes until it reaches 75°C. Alternatively, insert a metal skewer into the centre of the sausage roll and then press it against your hand – it should be very hot to the touch.

Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the sausage roll to a wire cooling
rack. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before cutting the sausage roll with a serrated
knife into eight equal slices. Serve warm with spoonfuls of chutney

Cook more from this book
Hot pork pie 
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic puff pastry

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Hot pork pie by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

Hot Pork Pie

 For centuries, pork pies have firmly held a place in British food culture as a way to use up cuts of pork less desirable than, say, fillet or loin, but truly delicious when handled with care. The most common style of pork pie found in the UK is the cold, jellied picnic pie, however my preferred way to serve a pork pie is piping hot, just out of the oven. The pastry is crispier, the fats are still unctuous, juicy and melting, and the herbs are fragrant.

The first time I ate a hot pork pie was at a pub in the West Country: I remember so clearly wondering why we had never served a hot version in the Holborn Dining Room. As soon as I went back to work, I immediately set about rectifying that. In this recipe, a traditional pork pie dolly (a smooth wooden tool) is used to shape the dough. You can find a dolly easily online, but you could also use a jam jar or a well-buttered metal ring of the same diameter. Roll the pastry into a circle, use it to line the ring, fill and press on a lid, then carefully remove the pie from the ring. Try using a dolly though – you will feel like a character from a Dickens novel (dressing up as one is not necessary, though fully applauded).

SERVES 4

800g hot water crust pastry
plain flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for brushing

For the filling

500g pork shoulder, half minced and half roughly chopped
120g smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
100g lardo, cut into 1cm dice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1½ teaspoons fine table salt
30g sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
a few good twists of freshly ground black pepper

To serve

mashed potato
Onion, Stout and Thyme Gravy (see below)

Equipment

7.5cm diameter pie dolly and digital probe thermometer
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Weigh out the pastry dough into four balls weighing 150g and four smaller balls weighing 40g. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the 40g dough balls and roll out to 5mm thick circles. Lay the pastry circles on the lined baking tray and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, work everything well for a few minutes until the mixture holds together. Split the mixture evenly into four balls and set aside.

Take one of the 150g dough balls and gently flatten it out into a circle until it is slightly wider than the pie dolly. Dust the pie dolly well with flour, centre it on top of the dough circle and then firmly press it down into the dough. The dough will rise up the sides of the dolly and puff out like an inflatable swimming ring. Lift the dolly out of the dough and dust it with more flour. Return the dolly to the centre of the dough and, cupping the edges of the dough in your hands, squeeze it up the dolly while at the same time turning and also pushing down on the dolly. Imagine a pottery wheel as you turn and squeeze, keeping the pastry as tight to the dolly as possible.

Periodically, pause to lift out the dolly and dust with more flour to prevent the pastry from sticking to it. Keep working the pastry dough in this way until the wall of the pastry case is about 7–8cm in height and the base is 5mm thick. Carefully remove the dolly from the pastry case and pack it with one of the balls of pork meat filling.

Repeat with the remaining 150g balls of dough until you have four pie cases filled with the pork meat filling. There should be a slight excess of pastry at the top of each case, so gently curl that outwards to form a collar.

Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C/gas mark 6½.

Take the pastry lids out of the refrigerator. Wet the pie collars with a little water and lay the lids on top. To join, firmly press the collars and lids together. Crimp the edges into the middle and then transfer the pies back onto the lined baking tray.

Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, make a small hole in the top of each pie to allow the steam to escape. Avoiding the base, brush the wall and lid of each pie with the egg wash and return the pies to the lined baking tray.

Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake the pies for 35 minutes or until the core temperature reads 70°C on a digital probe thermometer. If you don’t have a probe thermometer, insert a metal skewer into the centre of a pie and leave it there for 10 seconds – when it comes out, the skewer should be piping hot. Remove the pies from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving with mash and gravy.

Onion, Thyme & Stout Gravy

Serves 8

1 litre beef stock
440ml stout
40g butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 Spanish onions, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon table salt
15g plain flour
4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked

Place a pan over a high heat, pour in the beef stock and stout and leave to reduce by two-thirds. Meanwhile, melt the butter and oil in another pan and add the onions and salt. Gently cook the onions for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until they start to brown. Do not rush cooking the onions; any water in the onions needs to evaporate fully in order for the natural sugars to caramelise. Add the flour and thyme to the pan with the onions and, stirring continuously, cook for a further 2 minutes.

Once reduced, gradually add half the stock to the pan with the onions. Stirring continuously, bring the stock with the onions back up to heat and allow it to thicken. Add the remaining stock to the pan and cook further until the gravy is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the gravy is too thick, add a splash of water. If the gravy is too thin, continue to reduce it for a little longer.

Hot Water Crust Pastry

Traditionally used to encase cold pork pies, hot water crust pastry is one of the oldest British pie dough recipes. With early origins showing ingredients as just flour and hot water, it was likely in the Medieval times that it developed into what we now more closely know: flour, hot water and lard. It would have been used to make huge pies for banquets, encasing goose, venison and whole swans. Over time this pastry technique has changed little; it is still worked with while hot as it firms up as it cools. In The Pie Room, however, we have worked hard at adapting the traditional recipe to form a slightly lighter, crispier crust, that is fresh with the flavour of herbs and that can be worked with at a cooler room temperature and even used again after refrigeration.

Makes 1kg

200ml water
160g lard
2 rosemary sprigs
10g salt
500g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten

Combine the water, lard, rosemary and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and wait for the lard to melt fully, then turn off the heat and allow to infuse.

Sift the flour into a bowl. Using either a round-bladed knife or the paddle attachment of a mixer, start to work on a medium speed. Add the egg and mix until thoroughly dispersed through the flour – this will take 2–3 minutes.

Remove the rosemary from the pan with a fork and then bring the water and fat mix to a boil. Slowly pour onto the flour and egg mix, scraping the bowl and paddle halfway through to prevent any lumps from forming. Mix for 2–3 minutes until well combined.

Allow the dough to cool on a tray between parchment paper until the heat has dissipated and then chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator before using.
This hot water crust pastry dough can be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer. If freezing, weigh out the dough into the quantities needed for individual recipes – it will take less time to thaw and you won’t be potentially wasting any dough. To use the dough from the freezer, allow it to come back to refrigerator temperature overnight.

Cook more from this book
The ultimate sausage roll
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic puff pastry 

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Glazed apple tart by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

The slightly more elegant sibling of the classic apple pie, this tart is a stunning dessert. It has similar flavours to a tarte tatin as the sugar caramelises as it cooks. You could serve this tart with clotted cream to balance the sweetness of the apples.

Serves 6

300g classic puff pastry (or shop-bought)
200g frangipane (see below)
80g caster sugar
80g unsalted butter, softened
6–8 Pink Lady or Granny Smith apples
20g icing sugar
clotted cream, to serve

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a large circle about 5mm thick. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined baking tray and rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the refrigerator or freezer. Trim the edges of the pastry into a neat circle that measures 24cm in diameter and return to the refrigerator or freezer.

Once chilled, remove the pastry from the refrigerator or freezer, and preheat the oven to 185°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6. With the pastry still on the lined baking tray, and leaving a border of 2cm around the edge, spread around 200g of the frangipane evenly across the pastry.

Using a pastry brush, mix the caster sugar and softened butter together to make a paste.

Peel and core the apples. Using a mandoline, slice the apples to 2mm thick. Take just over one-quarter of the slices and fan them out in a circle around the outer edge, keeping in line with the edge of the frangipane. Roughly brush the apples with some of the butter mixture.

Repeat with the remaining apple slices and butter mixture to create concentric circles until the pastry is covered. Make sure the top layer of apple slices is evenly coated with the butter mixture.

Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake the tart for 30 minutes or until the apples are starting to caramelise and the pastry is beginning to crisp up.

Remove the tray from the oven. Using a sieve, dust the tart with the icing sugar and then lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top of the apples. Take a second baking tray and lay it on top of that parchment paper. Using a dish towel or oven gloves to protect your hands, quickly flip the tart over so the apples are now facing downwards on the new tray. Lightly press down the top tray and then remove it and the original parchment paper. Return the tart to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven. This time place a serving plate or platter on top of the pastry, and then flip the tart again. Check the apples are evenly glazed and caramelised. If it needs a little longer, flip the tart back again and return it to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Serve warm with spoonfuls of clotted cream.

Frangipane

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, deseeded, seeds retained
5 medium-sized eggs
225g ground almonds

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds together until the butter has turned pale and creamy. Add one egg at a time, whisking until each is fully incorporated before adding another.  Once all the eggs are incorporated, use a large metal spoon to fold in the almonds until well mixed.

Cook more from this book
The ultimate sausage roll
Hot pork pie
Classic puff pastry

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

What’s the USP? ‘The book for pie lovers the world over’, The Pie Room is intended to be your first port of call for pie (and pie-adjacent) recipes.

Who wrote it? Calum Franklin, the executive head chef of Holborn Dining Room – a sort of eat-in altar to pies tucked in the Rosewood London Hotel. Since opening in 2014, Franklin’s pies have been winning plaudits from all corners, from food critics to Instagram, where over 100,000 users watch in awe as he shares his intricate, luxurious creations.

It’s through Instagram, in fact, that I first became aware of Franklin’s cooking. Though I am not a particularly big fan of the pie myself, there’s something irresistible about his posts. These are pies as sustenance, as delicacy, and as art – all at once.

Sorry. We skipped over something important there. Sorry?

You don’t like pies? Ah.

What’s wrong with you? Look, look, I get it. Pies are one of the few quintessentially British food traditions that remain a part of our day to day lives, sold over the deli counter at Morrisons, or awash with gravy at the football. They’re also, frequently, not particularly interesting. We rest on our pie laurels, as a nation. Where elsewhere we innovate and reinvent our food to move with the times, pies often remain more or less the same as they always have – heavy on the stodge, uninventive in their flavours and…

They called you ‘Pie Muncher’ at school, didn’t they? Well, yes, that might come into it a little too. But here’s the thing – who better, then, to take this book on and see how functional it is as a manual to all things pie? After all, Franklin’s book takes in all sorts of pie forms, includes extensive information on pastry-making, and aims to show off the dish at its very best.

So how does the book fare when preaching to the unconverted? Pretty damn well. Franklin knows his audience, so has plenty of time to spare for all the big names in pastry. If you’re looking for a recipe for a massive bloody sausage roll, a suet pudding, or a classic gala pie, you won’t be disappointed. But Franklin also makes room for more unusual ideas – a Keema-Spice Cottage Pie with a cumulonimbus potato topping, or a Moroccan Chickpea & Feta Pie, hidden beneath filo pastry that has been scrunched up like torn wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

What’s the faff factor? Not nearly as bad as it could be. Franklin acknowledges the effort involved in making your own pastry from scratch, and is happy to accept that his dishes will work just as well with a shop-bought pastry. In fact, he doesn’t even give a recipe for filo pastry, claiming that ‘I don’t see a big enough difference in handmade and shop-bought filo that justifies the time needed to make it’.

I’ve taken on a couple of the recipes from the book so far – ‘Nduja Stuffed Brioche, and the Hot and Sour Curried Cod Pie. The former definitely took some time – I was making a brioche dough from scratch, and leaving it overnight to prove. The process itself was simple enough, though, and yielded beautiful results (as well as enough leftover dough for a brioche loaf the following morning).

The Hot & Sour Curried Cod Pie was a much quicker process. If, like me, you opt to use ready made puff pastry, it could just about work as a midweek dinner. Again, the end result was a delight – the tamarind, tomatoes and chillies all playing off one another perfectly. It’s likely to find its way back into my kitchen a few times this winter.

How often will I cook from the book? The nature of pie-making (and the potential mess you’ll need to clear up) might be enough to keep this book on the shelf much of the time. But for weekend treats and impressive dinner party dishes, this will be worth at least a few visits a year.

Killer recipes: Both the dishes I tried out proved to be worth more than the price of admission, to be honest – but there’s also the Red Onion, Carrot & Hazelnut Tatin, a ridiculously over-indulgent Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pie, a Honey & Five-Spiced Glazed Ham that looks set to liven up any Christmas lunch, and a Panettone & Gianduja Pudding that I suppose I could leave a little room for after, too. And, of course, the Beef Wellington recipe you’d expect.

Should I buy it? This isn’t going to be a cookbook everyone is going to find useful – but it’s a lot more accessible than I expected it to be, and has definitely converted this pie-skeptic. For those among us who really do aspire to eat all the pies, this is essential. For everyone else, it’s still a pretty excellent book.

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

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Cook from this book
Hot Pork Pie
The Ultimate Sausage Roll
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic Puff Pastry

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

Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson

Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson

What’s the USP? A comprehensive guide to cooking at home with ideas and techniques from a top restaurant chef, covering everything from bread to cake with dips, dumplings, curries, pies and much else in between.   

Who wrote it? Matty Matheson is a Toronto-based chef and restaurateur and former roadie for heavy metal band At the Mercy of Inspiration. Until  2017, he was executive chef of Parts and Labour and sister restaurant P&L Burger. He has his own food and drink festival Matty Fest that launched in September 2019.

Matheson’s career took off in 2013 when he recorded the Hangover Cures and Keep It Canada series of videos for the Munchies YouTube channel which led to the Vice TV channel series It’s Suppertime and Dead Set on Life (both of which are available to view for free in the UK on the ALL 4 website here and here). In early 2019, he launched of his self produced web series Just a Dash on his YouTube channel which now also features a Home Style Cookery that includes recipes from the book such as The Inedible Seven-Layer Dip (and no, that’s not a typo, just typical Matheson humour). 

At the age of 29, Matheson suffered a heart attack after a sustained period of alcohol and drug abuse but eventually became sober. His larger than life personality and post-modern approach to food television that simultaneously celebrates and undercuts the form can be seen in this video, recorded for Gozney ovens website where he demonstrates his mother’s broccoli-chicken cheddar curry casserole, the original recipe for which, he says in the book ‘was probably on the side of a can or a box’ (it’s also a glorious dish). This is the follow up to his debut ‘A Cookbook’. You can read our five star review here

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? If you’re in the UK, you may want to substitute cheddar for the American cheese in the pickled hot pepper queso and braised beef ribs recipe. It won’t taste the same, but otherwise you’ll need to stump up around £25 to buy a pound of the stuff from Amazon. You may also need to find an online retailer for the Oaxaca cheese in the same recipe.

Matheson uses Kosher salt throughout the book. Although common in the US, it is less easy to get hold of in the UK, although it is stocked by specialist online suppliers (this article on souschef.co.uk explains exactly what it is and why chefs love it). If you can’t find it, then you may have to adjust the amounts specified in the recipe as kosher salt crystals are larger than table salt so you may not need as much.

Otherwise, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all tracking down what you need; these days, you can even buy Indonesian chilli and dried shrimp sambal oelek (used in a recipe for yuzu cucumbers, among others) from Waitrose. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Despite being aimed primarily at the North American market, gram and ml equivalents are given for the many cup measurements  which makes this book eminently usable in the UK. You will need to be aware of not getting lost in translation with some of the terms used however; American granulated sugar is the equivalent of UK caster sugar, rutabaga is swede etc. 

What’s the faff factor? Matheson says that ‘I’ll admit that maybe my first book was selfish because I didn’t worry about people cooking from it’ and it’s certainly true that some of the recipes were unashamedly restaurant territoy. For this follow up, it’s obvious that he’s taken more care to ensure the dishes are more achievable for a home book. You’ll still encounter some things like leek and mackerel terrine that wouldn’t look out of place on a posh restaurant menu and with multiple elements that need bringing together and require some skill to do so. That said, there is also a recipe for macaroni and tinned tuna casserole, so there’s something for everyone.  

How often will I cook from the book? Matheson is all about big bold flavours, comforting carbs, cheese and all the ‘bad’ things. He’s the Anti-Deliciously Ella and thank fuck for that. There are many, many tempting recipes (see below) and Home Style Cookery will definitely get plenty of use if you like Matheson’s style (and I really do), but maybe just not everyday.   

Killer recipes: I could just list every dish in the book, but stand-outs include molasses bread in an apple juice can; roti; burn your tongue Caesar salad; fingerling potato supreme; oxtail and mirepoix pierogis; green curry beef ribs; Nashville hot halibut sandwich and molasses cookies stuffed with dulce de leche. 

What will I love? Although it would be wrong to say this is the only cookbook you’ll ever need – it doesn’t quite have the same scope as Home Cookery Year for example – at 368 pages, Matheson has packed a lot in and pretty much delivers a dish for every occasion, drawing on a wide range of global culinary influences in the process.     

What won’t I like so much? If you’re on a diet, this book is not for you. 

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the two-page introduction, there’s a one page intro to each of the 12 chapters (bread; stocks; vegetables; dips, purees and spreads; dumplings and pasta; curries, soups and a stew; sandwiches; fried foods and cast-iron cookery; roasts, bakes and a pie; smoked; grilled and desserts). Don’t skip the recipe introductions; they are full of nuggets of food lore, tips, mini-memoirs and Matheson’s trademark humour.    

Should I buy it? Matty Matheson is one of the most exciting and original voices to have emerged on the cookery scene in the last five years or so. His first book was a must buy. This one is even better. That makes it a must-must buy. Probably. 

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

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson

Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson

What’s the USP? Less of a unique selling point, and more of an all-encompassing approach to the cookbook, Home Cookery Year is a 400 page, 200+ recipe doorstop tat seeks to offer seasonal ideas for every possible situation, from midweek dinners to elaborate dinner party feasts.

Who wrote it? Claire Thomson, who has made something of a habit of releasing practical, down-to-earth cookbooks over the past five years. Her first title focused on cooking for families, and last year saw her release New Kitchen Basics, which offered a wide range of recipes based around ten classic ingredients.

If you’ve come across her this year, though, chances are it will have been during lockdown. Her 2017 title The Art of the Larder is one of the most informative titles on store-cupboard cooking available, and likely saw a healthy boost to sales around the tail end of March. It’s also the book that first introduced me to Thomson – albeit one that I didn’t enjoy as much as I’d expected to. Rather than re-invigorate the store-cupboard, it frequently reminded me of how drab tins and dried pulses can be. With that in mind, I find myself approaching this new book rather tentatively. Thomson has been inspired, she says, by the ‘evergreen’ cookbooks her mother had (‘and still has’) on her shelves. Paired with a title that Thomson herself admits is more honest than fashionable, I’m ready for a collection of practical, if dull, recipes.

This is heading for a delightful twist, isn’t it? Oh, you know me so well. The book’s an absolute bloody delight. Thomson’s straight-forward approach and practical application of her expertise means that from the outset, tHome Cookery Year is a joy to navigate. Though she has aspirations towards the simple, accessible and everyday cooking of all your mum’s favourite TV chefs of the 70s, her taste buds are firmly of the moment. This is an old-fashioned cookbook in spirit only.

Home Cookery Year is set out seasonally, with a chonker of a chapter for each season. These are split further, to allow the reader to find recipes that fit the bill whether they’re looking for a quick midweek supper, a budget meal from the larder, something a little more luxurious, and so on.

What’s the faff factor? Everything in the book is built towards accessibility. With a few (very rare) exceptions, you’ll be able to get all the ingredients from your local supermarket. Thomson’s recipes are straight-forward, even when they yield beautifully complex dishes and flavours. Even the recipes under the ‘leisurely weekend cooking’ headings are only listed as such because of the time they take, or the mess they’ll make.

How often will I cook from the book? Look, this is not something I get to say very often, but here goes: you could cook from this book every single day for a year and not get bored. The depth and variety within these pages is astonishing. Take Autumn, for example: the midweek offerings alone include comfort foods with a twist (Smoked Haddock with Curry Butter & Poached Egg), international staples (Goan Green Chicken, Nasi Goreng) and quick, simple recipes that are bound to impress anyone (Fig Leaf Pilaf with Aromatic Tomato Sauce & Toasted Almonds). The store cupboard dishes roam from an unctuous Cavolo Nero Polenta Soup to Sichuan classic Dan Dan Noodles.There are inspired takes on classic game recipes, simple yet irresistible desserts by the dozen and, most outrageously of all, a recipe for Duck and Damson Bao that is as good as anything I have in my healthy collection of far more specialised Chinese cookbooks. And that’s just Autumn.

Killer recipes: That Duck & Damson Bao, obviously. But also the Fried Potato Masala Toastie, or the Pasteis de Nata, which I am thrilled to finally have a decent recipe for. Or hey, how about the Crab Gnudi with Butter Baked Cherry Tomatoes & Tarragon. I put down the book and went to the other room to tell my wife about the Beer-brined BBQ Chicken with Mustard & Miso Mayonnaise Sauce. She was very understanding.

The desserts alone deserve a separate paragraph – the Cherry, Marshmallow & Dark Chocolate Chip Cobbler, the Peach & Dulce de Leche Cake, the Blackberry & Bay Brownies made with Rye. Look, there’s over 200 of these bad boys in here, and I honest-to-god reckon I’d eat every damn one of them.

Should I buy it? Oh god, like, twice over, at least. One for you, and one for anybody in your family who loves to cook. Because here’s the thing: with Christmas coming up faster than any of us are truly comfortable with, the bookshops are filled with brand new cookbooks vying for your attention. And this year, like every other, the big names like Nigella and Jamie are going to get the lion’s share of the sales.

Fun fact: I’ve worked in a bookshop at Christmas, and I’ve seen the absolute demolition of cookbook stock that happens on Christmas Eve. But the problem with gifting cookbooks is that you either have to go broad, which means celeb chefs, and the risk of giving your mum her third copy of the new Ottolenghi, or you need a deep insight into their personal tastes and their specific desire for a particular cuisine. This book lets you opt firmly for column A, whilst avoiding the obvious titles and throwing in some unexpected regional dishes to boot.

With Home Cookery Year, Claire Thomson has created exactly what she intended to: a five-star all-rounder that you will be using on a weekly basis for years to come. This is accessible, exciting cooking at its very finest, and though it’s up against bigger titles and starrier names, it might just be the best cookbook to give without discretion this Christmas.

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

Buy this book
Home Cookery Year: Four Seasons, Over 200 Recipes for All Possible Occasions
£30, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

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

Japanese Cooking for the Soul

japanese cooking for the soul_fc_100%

What’s the USP? A collection of 70 Japanese dishes ‘inspired by’ chefs from the Hana Group (the name behind 14 Asian food concepts that’ll you’ll find in supermarkets and other retailers around the globe including Sushi Gourmet, Wok St and Poke-Lele) that celebrate the Itadakimasu ritual of gratitude and reflection.

So, spirituality meets global commerce? Sounds grim. Yeah, probably best to ignore the veneer of mindfulness that’s been applied to the faceless, corporate behemoth that’s behind Japanese Cooking for the Soul to try and make it look more human (spoiler altert: they failed) and stick to the meat of the book which is the rather good recipes.

They’re authentic then? I think we’ve all agreed authenticity is a problematic and nebulous concept when applied to food in the modern global age haven’t we? Or maybe we’re about to roll all of that back and enter a new age of puritanism. In any event, some may raise an eyebrow when they discover that the recipes have been written by former Good Housekeeping Cookery Editor Emma Marsden. If you insist on your Japanese recipes being written by a chef or food writer from Japan or of Japanese heritage, then this book is not for you. If however you’re in the market for an approachable selection of dishes that include sushi and maki; teppanyaki and noodles; poke and Japanese salads; gyoza and dim sum; robata, ramen and tempura, as well as some desserts, then you can’t go far wrong.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? You will need to find a fishmonger who deals in sushi-grade fish if you want to tackle salmon and tuna sushi or cristal salmon rolls, but you’ll find most, if not all of what you need at the supermarket. Online stores like Sous Chef will be able to fill in any gaps.

What’s the faff factor? By their very nature, things like sushi or shumai dumplings will take a bit of care and attention and the assembly of various elements, but there are plenty of straightforward dishes like grilled salmon in balsamic onion glaze and stir fried rice with chicken that you can knock up on a work night without too much sweat.

How often will I cook from the book? It’s easy to imagine the book becoming well thumbed and food splattered in no time at all. It’s full of delicious and achievable dishes suitable for quick mid-week diners, and for when you want to spend a bit of hobby-time (is that a thing? Lets assume it is) in the kitchen and prepare a feast.

Killer dishes: Pork and cabbage gyoza; yakitori chicken skewers; beef ramen; prawn tempura with spring onions; teppanyaki duck and many more.

Should I buy the book? If you don’t have any other Japanese cookbooks in your collection, this will serve as a fine introduction to the subject. If you want to delve much further into the cuisine, try Japan:The Cookbook. But at fifteen quid, or less if you click on the link below, this is something of a bargain and a purchase you won’t regret.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Japanese Cooking for the Soul: Healthy. Mindful. Delicious.
£14.99, Ebury Press

A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

What’s the USP? A celebration of communal eating, offering up advice and recipes that will allow you to host the perfect dinner party!

Wait a moment. Are we supposed to be having dinner parties at the moment? Oh, Christ. It’s complicated, isn’t it? I think so. I think we can host dinner parties as long as only one other household is invited.

What if I make everyone sit in the garden? Well, given we’re in September now, so you’d look like a bit of a tyrant. 

I’m lost. Yes, we’re all a bit lost here. Look, the general vibe is yes, you can host a dinner party, but no, you probably shouldn’t. I doubt Bloomsbury were planning for a global pandemic when they commissioned Skye McAlpine’s latest cookbook though.

Skye McAlpine? The Times columnist and daughter of the late Baron McAlpine of West Green, yes. Real salt-of-the-earth type. This book reads, funnily enough, a little like a modern take on the society handbooks of old. No etiquette guidelines, thankfully – but plenty of ideas on table setting, menu planning and why you should skip on starters (too formal, apparently). 

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s plenty to be getting on with in the opening chapter, where McAlpine runs through all of the above, champions the napkin, and encourages us to place bowls of fruit and veg on our table for decorative purposes (‘gnarly lemons’, red onions and – in a move that was also popular with colonial Britons – pineapples). Beyond here, though, we’re in standard cookbook territory: chapter and recipe introductions, and idyllic claims about the ‘wonderfully renaissant quality’ of a potato dish, or the ‘virtues of a good Tuscan bread salad’.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Nope – McAlpine does do a fantastic job of making sure almost every ingredient you could possibly need will be readily available at your average supermarket. Occasionally you might want to try a butcher instead, but for the most part you’ll get by just fine with off-the-shelf cuts.

What will I love? The way the book is split up is rather brilliant, with sections for mains (rather gratingly referred to as ‘stars’ because they ‘look and taste extravagant and impressive’), sides, sweets and extras. The first three of these chapters are then divided based upon the mode of preparation – ‘throw together’, ‘on the hob’ or ‘in the oven’.

McAlpine also puts a lot of work into helping you to create a cohesive menu for your socially-distanced/morally-inadvisable/maybe-just-happening-in-the-distant-future dinner party. Most recipes finish with suggestions for possible accompanying dishes, and an extensive section at the end of the book suggests set menus based on loose themes, seasons, the number of people attending, or how long you have spare for prep. It makes a book that might otherwise seem a little overwhelming a great deal more accessible.

What won’t I love? McAlpine’s decision to skip out on starters makes sense once you realise that the section would have nabbed many of its dishes from the mains anyway. Several of the salads and soups here feel like they’d have been a better fit as a starter than a ‘star’ course, and the Carpaccio of Figs with Lardo, Honey & Rosemary is clearly better suited to being a side, or perhaps even finger food for when your guests first arrive. Also, and this is a very personal thing, the fennel and parmesan puree is no doubt delicious, but looks like a giant platter of baby food.

Killer recipes: It’s all very Italian here, continuing McAlpine’s love for the food she grew up with in Venice. Highlights include the Tagliatelle Gratin, which looks like a cross of carbonara and macaroni cheese, and the Salted Honey Ice Cream – four words I am very happy to see together.

Should I buy it? This is by no means an essential cookbook – but it will be very welcome for a select demographic. In a lot of ways, A Table For Friends covers the same ground as Diana Henry’s popular How to Eat a Peach from a couple of years back. Whilst Henry’s title arguable offered a more varied and interesting selection of dishes, McAlpine’s is much more practical a tool for the dinner party host, and offers myriad mix-and-match options for dishes (where Henry instead presented a collection of pre-curated set menus).

If you are one to regularly host dinner parties, and are looking to serve light Italian-influenced dishes, you can do no wrong here. If you’re looking to cook for two, frankly, there’s still plenty of adaptable recipes that would more than work for a Tuesday night (and that handy index-by-time at the back will help you find which ones fit the bill). Ultimately, though, I’d have liked a wider catalogue of influences to draw ideas from. There are three recipes for roasted potatoes, two roast chickens (and a roast poussin to boot) and three or four tomato salads, depending on how you’d like to call it. There’s a lot here to like, but this is definitely a cookbook that requires a quick browse in the shop to determine whether it’ll fit your needs, your tastes, and your personality.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

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

Buy this book 
A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Sicilian Couscous Salad by Skye McAlpine
Spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce by Skye McAlpine
Berry Cloud Cake by Skye McAlpine

Dirt by Bill Buford

Dirt by Bill Buford

What’s The USP? A food memoir by esteemed American writer and editor Bill Buford about his five-year odyssey to master the art of French cooking. The book contains detailed descriptions of the preperation of some dishes but there are no recipes and it is not a cookbook.

Who’s the author? Bill Buford has been a writer and editor for the New Yorker since 1995. Before that he was the editor of Granta magazine for sixteen years and, in 1989, became the publisher of Granta Books. He is also the author of Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany. He was also a contributor to Daniel: My French Cuisine by Daniel  Boulud.

What’s the story morning glory? There are several main threads to the book: Buford’s experiences working in various Lyonnaise kitchens; his wider food related experiences in Lyon and the surrounding region; his academic exploration into the the Italian influence on French cooking, and how the relocation from New York to Lyon affected Buford’s home life with his wife and young twin sons. Along the way, we also meet Buford’s mentors, the late Washington-based chef Michel Richard and Michelin-starred, Lyon-born and New York-based chef Daniel Boulud.

Why do I want to read 400 pages about an old American white bloke indulging his personal obsession for French food? Admittedly, you could hardly call Dirt a zeitgeist read. Its publication in 2020, more than 10 years after many of the events of the book (Buford’s two part BBC documentary Fat Man in a White Hat, which shares much of the same material as the book was released back in 2010. You can watch the whole thing here) and when the conversation around food writing has shifted firmly towards diversity, isn’t great timing. That aside, Buford is a great writer, a master storyteller and attacks his subject with enormous vigour and infectious enthusiasm. You will learn a great deal about the history and techniques of French cuisine and be hugely entertained along the way.

What won’t I love about the book?  There is an awful lot going on. By the end of the book, Buford has spent time in Michel Richard’s kitchen,  relocated his entire family from New York to Lyon, trained at Institut Paul Bocuse, worked at Merer Brazier restaurant and Philippe Richard Artisan Boulangerie, helped slaughter a pig, visited an artisan bakery and mill, gone river fishing, made Beaufort cheese, attended the  Bocuse D’or and Meilleur Ouvrier de France cooking competitions, as well as several gastronomic conferences, made an academic study of the Italian influence on French cuisine and introduced his readers to dozens and dozens of characters including many of Lyon’s major culinary players, even the late-great Paul Bocuse himself.

By the time Buford is hiking up the Grande Montagne de Virieu, Belley to visit the abbey of Saint Sulpice in order to follow in the footsteps of food writer Brillat-Savarin for some bloody reason, I felt exhausted. I’d spent too much time inside the head of someone whose obsession I shared but couldn’t keep pace with.

One of Buford’s greatest assets as a writer is his ability to totally immerse himself in a subject. In his first book, Among The Thugs he got so close to 1980s English soccer hooligan culture that he almost became a hooligan himself. It constitutes one of the most extreme examples of what the New York Times has described as ‘participatory journalism’ and is a must-read. But that Zelig-like quality can also be a liability; Buford becomes so much a part of his subject that he can at times lose objectivity.  The various strands that make up Dirt are obviously equally important and interesting to Buford, but that doesn’t necessarily hold true for the reader. There are some clunky gear changes between personal memoir, reportage, description of cooking techniques and dishes and academic historical study.  It feels like four books in one, but maybe that just means it’s good value.

Should I buy the book? If you’ve read and enjoyed Buford’s previous books, Dirt will not disappoint. If you’re unfamilar with French cuisine, this is an excellent introduction to the subject and even if you’re a Francophile, you will almost certainly learn something new. Buford may be guilty of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the book (actually, there are kitchen sinks) but it is nevertheless an extremely readable book, albeit one that will probably appeal most to the food and restaurant nerds among us.

Cook Book Review rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Dirt: Adventures in French Cooking
£16.99, Johnathan Cape

Jikoni by Ravinder Bhogal

Jikoni by Ravinder Bhogal

What’s the USP? A ‘proudly inauthentic’ cookbook, that mashes together flavours from across the globe – with particularly heavy influences from South Asian and African cuisines and a whole lot of love for tamarind.

Who wrote it? Jikoni is the passion project of Ravinder Bhogal, the chef and restaurateur behind the Marylebone joint of the same name. Born in Kenya to Indian parents, Bhogal grew up in Britain, and has clearly learnt a joyful irreverence towards the strict cultural boundaries we impose upon food. This, as someone who regularly makes katsu curry schnitzel with spätzle, is an idea worth getting behind. You get the sense that Bhogal would have no qualms adding chorizo to a paella, if she thought the dish called for it.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s plenty to be getting on with here, with short essays to open each chapter, occasional treatises on ingredients or dishes, and vivid descriptions to introduce each recipe. Bhogal’s writing is locked into the language of the contemporary cookbook, which is to say that the heady nostalgia and wide-eyed admiration of the food she grew up with doesn’t necessarily feel new or exciting to read, but will have you salivating over the very concept of a samosa nonetheless.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The short answer is yes, probably. Whilst the majority of ingredients are easy enough to find, many recipes have at least one addition that will stump your local supermarket. Often these are optional, though, allowing you to choose an inauthentic recreation of Bhogal’s inauthentic dishes.

As an added bonus, most elements of the dishes are created from scratch, meaning the number of ingredients frequently tumbles deep into double figures. The Duck and Pistachio Pierogi with Hot Yoghurt Sauce and Pul Biber Butter requires around 30 individual ingredients, including multiple varieties of some: dried and fresh mint, ground allspice, and allspice berries. Stocking up for even two or three of these dishes will be enough to topple most spice racks.

What’s the faff factor? Max faff. All the faff. Here’s the thing: everything in Jikoni looks, and no doubt tastes, absolutely delicious. But my god, is it a lot of effort. Take the Prawn Toast Scotch Eggs with Banana Ketchup. That is, without a doubt, one of the top five most appetising recipe names I’ve ever seen in a cookbook. Prawn toast scotch eggs. Jesus Christ. Even at a conservative estimate, I reckon I could devour six of those right now – and that’s before we even consider that the recipe calls for quail eggs. Did I say six? Let’s double that, easily.

But now take a moment to ruminate on that title. Scotch eggs are a faff at the best of times. But we’re replacing the sausagemeat with raw tiger prawns that need peeling, deveining and processing into a suitable substitute? And then we’re making our banana ketchup from scratch? Don’t get me wrong – it’s all very do-able. But this is not a weeknight dinner cookbook. This isn’t even a weekend treat cookbook, for the most part. This is a dinner party host seeking redemption for all their past sins cookbook.

Killer recipes: Bhogal’s recipes are frequently a little overwhelming at first glance, but when they tempt you, boy do they tempt you. The inspired Duck Rendang looks as tasty as anything I’ve seen this year, and I’m sure I’d have made it multiple times already if I only had an easy source of fresh turmeric and galangal (and dried bird’s eye chillies, and shrimp paste). In fact, the curries are frequently attention grabbing, from Goose Leg Qorma to the Massaman Pork and Peanut Curry with Pineapple Relish. The Oyster Pani Puris, too, look incredible – but also seems like the most complex and stressful dish in the whole book, despite a very reasonable seven ingredients.

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

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

Buy this book
Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Lamb and Aubergine Fatteh
Lemongrass Poussin with Green Mango and Peanut Salad
Banana Cake with Miso Butterscotch and Ovaltine Kulfi

Sicilian Couscous Salad by Skye McAlpine

siciliancouscous-1106

If you were being pedantic, you would cook couscous in a couscoussière,
a Moroccan clay pot in which you slowly steam the grains over a bubbling stew. The way I do it is rather less romantic and utterly inauthentic, but it is quick and convenient without compromising either on the flavour or the delightful fluffy texture of the cooked grains.

You could of course serve couscous plain, dressed with a little oil and lemon juice, even a smattering of aromatic spice – cinnamon, nutmeg and so forth – to go with pretty much anything. But, inspired by the way they cook it in Sicily, I throw in salty caper berries, a good tin of oily, almost meaty tuna and sweet aniseedy fennel.This makes for a vibrant centrepiece more than substantial enough to serve on its own.

H A N D S O N T I M E
15 minutes

H A N D S O F F T I M E
15 minutes, for the couscous to swell

F O R 6
300g couscous
1 vegetable stock cube 400ml boiling water
70ml extra virgin olive oil
20g flaked almonds 10–12 caper berries, halved
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
400g tinned tuna, drained
A handful of rocket juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Pour the couscous into a large heatproof bowl. Dissolve the stock cube
in the measured boiling water, then pour the boiling stock over the grains, cover and set aside for 10–15 minutes to swell up.
When all the liquid has been absorbed, use a fork to fluff up the grains, then douse generously with one-third of the oil.

Now add the almonds, caper berries and fennel and toss everything together well. Add the tuna, breaking it up with a fork and mixing it through the salad. This will happily keep for a day in the fridge. Lastly throw in the rocket (if it sits in the dressing, it will wilt). Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and dress with what is left of the oil. Toss again and add salt and pepper to taste.

SERVE WITH…

This is perfect picnic food alongside some good hard cheese, cold ham or salami and a loaf of bread; I favour DAMPER BREAD (see book for recipe), wrapped neatly in a clean tea towel and served with lots of salty butter. I don’t think you’d want for much more.

AND FOR PUDDING…

Strawberries with a pot of clotted cream and a good solid picnic cake such as PISTACHIO BUTTER CAKE WITH MARZIPAN ICING (see book for recipe)… but on this occasion leave it uniced; instead, just dust it with icing sugar.

Cook more from this book
Spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce
Berry Cloud Cake

Buy the book

A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Read the review
Coming soon

Spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce by Skye McAlpine

lemon spaghetti

I don’t often trust myself to cook pasta for more than four people, because the timings are too delicate. As they say in Naples: ‘people wait for pasta, not the other way round.’ Overcooked pasta is a cook’s worst nightmare, while pasta eaten cold when it should be hot is not much better. But this recipe – like eating a bowl of sunshine – is so simple that even I can happily chat and bring it together at the same time. I prepare the sauce in advance and leave it covered on the hob, then, while the pasta is bubbling, slice the lemon, shuffle everyone to the table and assemble the dish once they are sitting down, so they eat it hot.

HANDS ON TIME

20–25 minutes

F O R 4

2 lemons
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
220ml single cream
1 egg yolk
350g spaghetti
A small bunch of thyme Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, finely zest both the lemons and toss the zest into a deep frying pan, then add the olive oil and set it over a medium heat. Gently fry the zest for a few minutes until it begins to take on a deep, vibrant yellow colour.

Now pour in the cream and the egg yolk, mix well with a wooden spoon, then reduce the heat and leave to gently cook for 5–10 minutes, giving
it a stir every now and then.

Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water, and, when it begins
to gallop, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente according to the packet instructions. Finely slice one-third of a lemon.

When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water (roughly 1⁄4 cup). Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemons into the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, then toss the pasta into the frying pan. Add the reserved cooking water, throw in the lemon slices and toss everything together so the pasta is well covered with sauce.Tear up the thyme sprigs, sprinkle generously over and serve immediately.

SERVE WITH…

You need little more with this, as it’s pretty much a meal in itself. Perhaps a nice green salad with OLGA’S PEPPERY VINAIGRETTE (see book for recipe).

AND FOR PUDDING…
Something easy-going, such as a LAVENDER HONEY PANNACOTTA (see book for recipe), or STRAWBERRIES IN LEMONY SYRUP (see book for recipe).

Cook more from this book
Berry Cloud Cake
Sicilian couscous salad

Buy the book

A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine
A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Read the review
Coming soon

Berry Cloud Cake by Skye McAlpine

summer berry cloudcake-1403

An ode to the fruits of British summer. If you are catering for friends with dairy intolerance, you can also make this with whipped chilled coconut cream, which is every bit as good.

HANDS ON TIME
25 minutes

HANDS OFF TIME
1 hour baking
1 hour cooling

FOR 8–10
Flavourless oil, for the trays
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar, plus 2 tbsp
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
850ml double cream
150g blackberries
300g raspberries
300g blueberries
30g flaked almonds
Thyme sprigs, redcurrants and flowers, for decoration (optional)

Heat the oven to 150 ̊C/fan 130 ̊C/Gas 2. Oil 3 baking trays and line with baking parchment. Draw a circle on each roughly 23cm in diameter (I trace around a cake tin).

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they begin to peak, then add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the while.When all the sugar has been added and the mixture is glossy, gently fold in the cornflour and the vinegar. Spoon the meringue on to the baking trays, spreading it out to make 3 discs. Bake for 1 hour, then switch the oven off and leave the meringues in there to harden for another hour.You want the meringue to be crisp so that it can support the weight of the cream. You can make the meringue up to 3 days in advance and store it in an airtight container.

To make the filling, whip the cream with an electric whisk until peaks form, but take care not to over-whip it, or it will lose that silky quality.

Take the first meringue disc and spoon roughly one-third of the cream on top, then sprinkle with one-third of the berries, half the flaked almonds and 1 tbsp caster sugar. Top with the second layer of meringue and repeat. Top with the third meringue, spoon on the last one-third of the cream and decorate with berries, thyme sprigs and flowers (just make sure they’re not noxious), if you like.

SERVE WITH…
Everyone loves BUTTERY LEMON ROAST CHICKEN (see book for recipe), cooked so the skin is golden and crisp and the meat succulent, almost sweet. To go with it, THE SIMPLEST ROAST POTATOES (see book for recipe), A REALLY GOOD GREEN SALAD (see book for recipe) and plenty of good bread (I love WALNUT SODA BREAD, see book for recipe, but good bread from the bakery will do just as well). You literally can’t go wrong. Follow with this dreamy, creamy concoction and strong espresso or mint tea (just mint leaves in a pot of boiling water). If you’re cooking for a crowd, this works every bit as well: just scale up to two (or three) birds and perhaps make a second cake.

Cook more from this book
Spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce
Sicilian couscous salad

Buy the book

A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Read the review
Coming soon

Lamb and Aubergine Fatteh by Ravinder Bhogal

190628_LambFatteh_009

Fatteh is a layered feasting dish. This one features lamb, aubergine and pulses, ladlefuls of garlic-spiked tahini yoghurt sauce and spicy tomato salsa, all topped off with fried shards of flatbread, pine nuts and almonds – and that most iconic Middle Eastern ingredient, pomegranate. This is a great recipe for a crowd. With every bite, your guests will luxuriate in different flavours.

SERVES 6

4 tbsp olive oil
4 lamb shanks
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
2 tsp allspice berries
2 tsp coriander seeds
6 green cardamom pods, bruised 1 tsp black peppercorns
2 red onions, unpeeled, cut into quarters
1 whole garlic bulb, halved crossways
2 aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
1 × 400g tin chickpeas, drained 2 Lebanese flatbreads

Groundnut oil, for deep-frying 1 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tbsp pine nuts
Seeds from 1⁄2 large pomegranate 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp sumac
Handful of parsley leaves
Sea salt and black pepper

For the sauce
250g yoghurt
1 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed

For the salsa
1 heaped tsp Turkish pepper paste (biber salcasi) or good-quality harissa
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped Large handful of finely chopped parsley
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp Turkish pepper flakes (pul biber) 1⁄2 tsp dried mint

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large flameproof casserole over high heat and sear the lamb shanks all over. Add the cinnamon, allspice, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, peppercorns, onions and garlic and fry for 1 minute. Pour in 1.5 litres of water, then cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
In the meantime, place the sliced aubergine on a lined baking sheet, drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until soft, then set aside.

Make the sauce by simply mixing all the ingredients together.
For the salsa, put the paste, oil and lemon juice into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined, then add the tomatoes,red onion, green pepper, parsley, sumac, Turkish pepper flakes and dried mint.
Take the lamb out of the oven and add the chickpeas, then cover again and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.

Using scissors, cut the Lebanese bread into bite-sized shards. Fill a large, heavy-based saucepan a third full with the deep-frying oil. Heat the oil
to 180°C – if you don’t have a thermometer, you will know the oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Fry the flatbread for 1 minute, or until golden and crisp, then drain on kitchen paper.

Heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the almonds and pine nuts until golden and toasty, keeping a close eye on them as they can quickly burn. Drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, lift the lamb shanks out of the casserole and onto a chopping board. Shred the meat with two forks, then lay over a serving dish. Fish out the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and tumble over the lamb, along with a few ladlefuls of the stock to moisten the lamb. (Keep the rest of the stock to make soup another time.) Cover the lamb and chickpeas with
the aubergines, arranging them in a single layer, followed by the tomato salsa and dollops of the yoghurt sauce. Finish with the fried flatbread, almonds, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, sesame seeds, sumac and parsley.

Cook more from this book
Lemongrass Poussin with Green Mango and Peanut Salad
Banana Cake with Miso Butterscotch and Ovaltine Kulfi

Read the review

Buy this book
Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Lemongrass Poussin with Green Mango and Peanut Salad by Ravinder Bhogal

SpatchcockLemongrassPoussin_206

This wildly flavourful roast poussin is inspired by the fragrant and punchy flavours of Thailand. If the weather permits, throw it on the barbecue and cook it in the seductive plumes of its smoke. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

SERVES 6

6 poussins, spatchcocked 3 tbsp rapeseed oil

For the marinade
Large thumb of ginger, grated
5 garlic cloves
2 lemongrass stalks, sliced
Large handful of roughly chopped coriander, leaves and stalks
50g light brown sugar or palm sugar
250ml light soy sauce

For the dressing
1⁄2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
Small thumb of ginger, finely grated
1 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp groundnut or rapeseed oil
A few drops of sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 small shallot or 1⁄2 red onion, finely chopped

For the salad
2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
3 green (unripe) mangoes, peeled and cut into matchsticks
100g mixed cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
Handful of Thai basil leaves
Handful of coriander leaves
Handful of mint leaves, torn
75g peanuts, roughly crushed

To make the marinade, put the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, coriander and sugar in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the soy sauce. Add the poussins and massage well, using your fingers to gently loosen the skin so you can get some of the marinade underneath it. Cover and leave in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

Take the poussins out of the marinade and set aside. Strain the marinade into a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then let it bubble and reduce for about 10 minutes until you have a lovely glaze.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6.
Pour the oil into a large ovenproof frying pan over medium–high heat, add the poussins and fry, skin side down, until crisp and well browned. Brush over the glaze, then transfer to the oven and roast for 30–45 minutes, glazing again halfway through the cooking time.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by shaking together all the ingredients
in a screwtop jar. For the salad, use a mortar and pestle to pound the chillies, garlic and sugar to a smooth paste. Stir in the fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice and 2 tablespoons of warm water. Taste and adjust the flavours as necessary with more sugar, fish sauce, vinegar or lime juice until you have that classic Thai balance of hot, sweet, salty and sour, then transfer to a large bowl. Lightly pound the mango with the pestle and mortar to tenderise, then add to the bowl and pour in the dressing. Crush the tomatoes with the mortar and pestle, then add to the bowl, along with the red onion. Just before serving, add the herbs, toss to combine and scatter with the peanuts. Serve the poussins with the salad on the side.

Cook more from this book
Banana Cake with Miso Butterscotch and Ovaltine Kulfi
Lamb and Aubergine Fatteh

Read the review

Buy this book
Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

The Rangoon Sisters Cookbook by Amy Chung and Emily Chung

Rangoon Sisters

What’s the USP? An introduction to the flavours and dishes that are central to Burmese cooking. Bright, tempting recipes for salads, stews and assorted Burmese treats are balanced with an overview of the nation’s love for food.

Who wrote it? As the title suggests, the book was written by the Rangoon sisters. The siblings made their name running incredibly popular supper clubs for the past seven years (and raising over £10,000 for charity in the process). The book draws on the food they’ve created for these supper clubs over the years, as well as traditional Burmese dishes and the flavours they were raised with in their Anglo-Burmese childhood home in South London.

Is it good bedtime reading? The Rangoons fill their book with engaging and entertaining prose. Alongside personal and family histories, there’s plenty to read on Burmese cooking, the individual flavours and the history and influences behind individual dishes.

Given the in-depth approach that the book has to all the above, it is perhaps a little surprising that the book doesn’t touch upon any of the recent political issues that Myanmar has had. Many UK readers will only really be familiar with the nation through these ongoing events, and though it is wonderful to see and celebrate another side of the region, it is perhaps something of a missed opportunity for the Rangoon sisters not to address this at all.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? There are a few ingredients scattered across the recipes that will require access to an Asian supermarket, but for the most part the sisters do a fantastic job of recreating Burmese dishes with relatively easy to find ingredients. For those flavours that aren’t necessarily so familiar, there’s a brilliant (and extensive) rundown at the beginning of the book, with nearly ten pages of detail on different ingredients.

What’s the faff factor? Pretty low, all things considered. It’s easy to see why their supper clubs have gone so well – the recipes are all straight-forward and require no exceptional technical skills – but the results are never anything less than tantalising.

How often will I cook from the book? Though the recipes are all simple enough, most are fairly hands-on, and so this isn’t necessarily a school-night cookbook. Still, there’s plenty of variety in here, with more than enough to tempt you back on a regular basis.

Killer recipes: I’m a sucker for an interesting egg dish, and the kyet u hin curry is damn near irresistible. The sisters’ butter bean stew is guaranteed to make it onto the table as an easy-but-impressive side next time you have guests over, too. But the headliner of the Rangoon Sisters cookbook must be their famous mango and lime cheesecake – made with a ginger nut base, and kindly presented here with storage advice (a generous gesture given the likelihood of anything surviving the first call for ‘seconds, anyone?’).

Should I buy it? Absolutely. One of the better trends in cookbooks over the last few years has been the proliferation of titles focusing on cuisines hitherto ignored by the average British palate. When done well, these can be both a brilliant insight into eating habits around the world, and a much-needed injection of new flavours into our own diets.

The Rangoon Sisters is filled with lovingly crafted and surprisingly accessible recipes, and makes for pretty decent bedtime reading to boot. Credit is due also to food stylist Aya Nishimura, who has put together some of the most appetising looking dishes I’ve seen in print. If you’re looking to expand your taste horizons a little, this is an excellent place to start.

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

Cuisine: Burmese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
The Rangoon Sisters: Recipes from our Burmese family kitchen
£20, Ebury Press

Which Wine When by Bert Blaize and Claire Strickett

Which Wine When by Bert Blaize and Claire Strickett

What’s the USP? An accessible and practical introduction to pairing wine with food from takeaways to Sunday lunches and everything in between.

Who are the authors? Sommelier Bert Blaize has worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and The Clove Club in Shoreditch. He has won the title of the UK’s Top Young Sommelier, and currently takes care of the wine at Serge et le Phoque in London’s Fitzrovia. Claire Strickett’s has worked in kitchens, then restaurant marketing, publicity and recipe writing for leading chefs and restaurateurs, including Skye Gyngell, Rowley Leigh, Russell Norman, Gail’s Bakery and Byron.

Food and wine matching? That’s all a bit elitist, isn’t it? If you’re in a posh restaurant and the sommelier is pressuring you to have the premium wine flight to go with your already ruinously expensive tasting menu, then it certainly can be. But Blaize and Strickett are coming from a very different angle on the subject. As explained in the introduction, the book ‘doesn’t assume you know much about wine, have a big budget or hang out in trendy wine stores. It just assumes you’re a greedy person who wants to know more about which wine to drink when but doesn’t know where to start.’

So should I take the book along with me when I next go to a fine dining place in order to fend off the sommelier’s advances on my wallet? Not really. There’s a couple of pages dedicated to the authors’ top ten tips for drinking wine in restaurants but this is more for when you’re cooking or ordering-in food at home and want to buy a nice bottle or two to go with your meal.

What can I expect to find in the book then? The ‘wine basics’ chapter is designed for genuine wine newbies, the sort of people who have previously only drunk fruit-flavoured cider, alcopops, tequila slammers and one-armed scissors. For those that know their Viognier from their Vermentino, the book becomes more interesting during the central six short chapters (the book is less than 200 pages long) where all the matching actually happens.

What do I get for my tenner? A total of 79 dishes (including snacks and cheeses) each get a one-page (about 200 words) entry with matching wine. Each is broken down into the same question-led format (not a million miles away from the style of the reviews on this site) that asks and answers ‘What’s The Wine?’, ‘Why This Wine’, ‘If you can’t find this, go for…’, and ‘If all else fails, asks for…’.  For example, in the Home Cooked Classics chapter,  sausage mash and gravy is paired with South African Shiraz for its warm smoky flavours and cracked black pepper notes. A Syrah/Shiraz from the Rhone or Australia or any spicy, medium-bodied red are offered as alternatives. In addition, there are ‘at a glance’ charts covering what wines to drink with Chinese, Indian, Mexican and  Japanese food, pizza, roasts, fish and hot puddings that offer dozens of more food and wine pairings.

What if I’m an experienced wine drinker? Will I get anything out of Which Wine When? Depends. When was the last time you considered drinking Asti Spumante with Goan fish curry, Manzanilla sherry with fried chicken or pairing your lamb doner kebab with a cheeky glass of off-dry Mosel Riesling?

Fair enough. So, I should buy it then? If you like your wine books light-bodied with a well balanced, simple structure and just a little bit fruity, this is for you.

Suitable for: Aspirational drunkards
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Which Wine When: What to drink with the food you love
£9.99, Ebury Press

Chicken Katsu Noodles

Chicken Katsu Noodles

There’s lots of wonderful textures to this recipe from the crunchy strips of crispy chicken katsu to the silky udon noodles. The miso sauce combines nutty sesame seeds, salty soy and miso, plus a dash of mirin for a touch of acidity. Use the Middle Eastern sesame paste, tahini, if you can’t get hold of the Japanese version, neri goma.

Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
400g (14oz/5 cups) wedge white cabbage, any hard core removed, finely sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
½ red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
4 x 150g (5oz) portions straight-to- wok udon noodles
4 tbsp teriyaki sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE CHICKEN KATSU
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
cornflour, to coat
1 egg
7–8 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
sunflower or vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

FOR THE MISO SAUCE (MAKES DOUBLE)
50g (2oz) white miso
50g (2oz) caster sugar
1 tbsp honteri mirin
30g (1¼oz) sesame seeds
15g (½oz) neri goma (black sesame paste)
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
2½ tbsp soy sauce

First make the miso sauce. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir together until combined. Set aside.

Next, make the chicken katsu. Put the chicken breasts on a board and slice each one horizontally through the middle into two thin pieces. Lay between two sheets of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin to flatten until they’re around 1cm (½in) thick.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons cornflour into a shallow dish. Beat the egg in another separate dish and put the breadcrumbs into another. Dip the chicken pieces first in the cornflour (patting off any excess), then in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs until they’re coated all over.

Heat 1–2 tablespoons oil in a large, flat frying pan over a medium-high heat. Fry the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, until golden on one side (about 4–5 minutes), then turn over and fry on the other side until golden, about 4–5 minutes. Check the chicken is cooked – it should no longer be pink in the middle. Lift out onto a plate, sprinkle with a little salt and keep warm.

Heat the 2 tablespoons oil on the teppan or in a large, flat frying pan. As soon as the oil is hot and looks as though it’s shimmering, add the cabbage, spring onions and red pepper. Stir-fry for 3–4 minutes on a high heat, until the veg are starting to turn tender. Lower the heat to medium.

Add the noodles to the cabbage mix, stir to break them up, sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons cold water and season well. Drizzle over half the miso sauce (see tip) and half the teriyaki sauce, then continue to cook, tossing every few minutes until everything is heated through.

Slice each of the cooked chicken breasts on a board into 6 pieces. To serve, divide the noodle mixture between four bowls and top with the chicken, then drizzle over the remaining teriyaki sauce.

TIP
Store the remaining quantity of miso sauce in the fridge and use within five days.

Cook more from this book
Chicken Ramen
Veggie Crunch Rolls

Buy the book
Japanese Cooking for the Soul: Healthy. Mindful. Delicious.
£14.99, Ebury Press

Read the review 
Coming soon

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Chicken Ramen

Chicken-Ramen

The base of this ramen comes from making a simple chicken stock – just simmer the bones of the chicken and some vegetables in water to garner the goodness. You can make the chicken stock up to four days ahead if you need to and keep it stored in the fridge. It freezes well, too, for up to three months.

Serves 4

FOR THE RAMEN
1 x quantity Chicken Chashu (recipe included in book), chilled
2 medium eggs
10g (¼oz) dried black fungus mushrooms
200g (7oz) dried buckwheat noodles (or see tip in book for soba noodles)
1–2 tbsp Mayu garlic oil, or to taste (or see tip in book)
200g (7oz/4 cups) beansprouts
125g (4½oz/1²/³ cups) iceberg
lettuce, shredded
1 carrot, shredded or coarsely grated

FOR THE CHICKEN STOCK
2 chicken carcasses
6 black peppercorns
1 medium carrot
1 garlic clove, smashed
½ leek
1 small onion, halved

Start by making the chicken stock. Put the chicken carcasses into a large pan. Add the peppercorns, carrot, garlic, leek and onion. Pour over 2 litres (3½ pints) cold water, then cover the pan with a lid. Bring to the boil and, as soon as the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook on a very low simmer for 1 hour. Strain into a clean pan – there should be around 1.4 litres (2½ pints) stock. Add a splash more water if it needs topping up.

When you’re ready to make the ramen, take the chicken chashu out of the fridge to come up to room temperature.

Next, cook the eggs. Carefully lower the eggs into a saucepan of boiling water, reduce the heat a little and simmer for 7 minutes. Lift into a bowl of iced water and leave for 4–5 minutes. Remove and peel off the shells. Set aside.

While the eggs are boiling, put the dried black fungus mushrooms in a bowl of hot water and set aside to rehydrate.

Cook the noodles in a pan of boiling water, according to the instructions on the pack. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water.

Put the chicken on a board, discarding the string, and slice into finger-width strips.

Pour the stock into a large pan and stir in the garlic oil. Add the noodles and the beansprouts, reserving a handful to garnish.

Divide this evenly among four large soup bowls. Divide up the chicken, black mushrooms, reserved beansprouts, lettuce and carrot equally and put on top of each bowl. Finally, slice the eggs in half and put a half on each bowl, then serve.

Cook more from this book
Chicken Katsu Noodles
Veggie Crunch Rolls

Buy the book
Japanese Cooking for the Soul: Healthy. Mindful. Delicious.
£14.99, Ebury Press

Read the review 
Coming soon

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Veggie Crunch Rolls

Veggie_Crunch_Rolls

The combination of crisp vegetables, sweet teriyaki sauce, spicy mayo and crisp fried onions is sublime here.

Serves 4

180g (6oz/scant 1 cup) sushi rice
3 tbsp seasoned vinegar for sushi rice
4 nori half sheets
4 long slices of cucumber
1 small carrot, around 80g (3oz), cut into very fine matchsticks
8 slices avocado
teriyaki sauce, to drizzle
Spicy Mayo (included in the book ), to drizzle
ready-made fried onions, to sprinkle

TO SERVE
soy sauce, wasabi and sushi ginger

Make the rice according to the instructions on page 14, using 220ml (8fl oz/1 cup) water and the seasoned vinegar. Divide the rice roughly into four portions.

Put a sheet of nori on top of the sushi mat, shiny-side down and with the longest edge lying horizontally. Spread a portion of the rice to cover, then flip the nori over. Arrange a length of cucumber in the middle of the nori, followed by the carrot, spreading it out to the ends. Add a couple of slices of avocado and spread out again so it is even. Roll up to make an inside-out roll. Do the same again to make three more rolls.

Slice each into eight pieces, then drizzle with the teriyaki sauce, a little spicy mayo and top with the fried onions. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi and sushi ginger.

Cook more from this book
Chicken Ramen
Chicken Katsu Noodles

Buy the book
Japanese Cooking for the Soul: Healthy. Mindful. Delicious.
£14.99, Ebury Press

Read the review 
Coming soon

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Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley

Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley

What’s the USP? Environmentally responsible cooking is ostensibly at the centre of Eat Green – a cookbook that looks to create dishes from sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients. The author, Melissa Hemsley, offers up plenty of recipes, all of which will look loosely familiar to fans of her previous cookbooks as one half of Hemsley + Hemsley.

Hemsley + Hemsley? Weren’t they involved in the whole ‘clean eating’ controversy a few years back? Oh no, the Hemsley sisters were very much not involved in the ‘clean eating’ fad. At least, not if you ask them. Back in 2017 the sisters distanced themselves from the movement, just days before being featured in a BBC Horizon documentary on its dangers. At the time, they argued that the term was poorly defined, and they’d never advocated it directly.

“We’re not interested in making anyone feel fearful of food, scared of food, confused about food. We’re the opposite. We never talk about weight, diets, calorie-counting,” Melissa told the press.

So they weren’t part of the fad? Well, not according to them – but the problem with ill-defined movements is that people don’t always agree on where the border falls. Certainly the Hemsley sisters’ books bore many similarities to other titles circling the movement. Their dishes eschewed gluten, grains and refined sugars. Whether mentioned weight and diets or not, there was always a very distinct sense of virtue to the lifestyle their books represented.

Eat Green doesn’t exactly seem free of preachy virtuosity, as titles go. No, and Melissa Hemsley definitely talks up the importance of sustainable eating. She doesn’t spend much time examining why it’s important – but then, that in itself is refreshing. We know the environment is spiralling out control, and Hemsley’s introduction treats our understanding as a given – as it should be.

The recipes themselves do their best to live up to the challenge the title sets. A chart at the beginning provides a helpful map of seasonal fruit and veg, and there are tips scattered throughout for avoiding waste – a really lovely idea that’s executed nicely. Hemsley also offers up suggestions for locally-sourced alternatives where possible. She ignores miso in favour of British-grown fava bean umami paste – which is a bit more of a mouthful than miso on a couple of fronts. 

So Melissa has moved on from clean eating in favour of something that’s more objectively a good idea? Well, yes and no. The central focus of the book is definitely sustainable, ‘green’ eating. But as far as the recipes go, nothing much has changed at all. Nothing here would have looked particularly out of place in either of the Hemsley + Hemsley books.  The whole collection clings closely to what you’d expect from ‘clean eating’ at every possible opportunity.

How do you mean? The ‘Celebrations’ section of the book features such extravagant dishes as chickpea caprese salad and ‘mushroom mince’ lettuce cups.

Ah, gotcha. In fact, there’s a remarkable lack of excitement and variety to the recipes on display. There are multiple pancake and galette recipes, and at least a dozen salads that look more or less the same in their photos – piles of loose leaves and chickpeas, etc, that you can tell will be fighting to roll off your cutlery every bit as hard as you are fighting to get them in your mouth.

It feels as if Hemsley was so eager to present green eating that she neglected to include any imagination. The goal, though worthy, should allow much more varied and interesting dishes than are on show here. As a guide, Tim Anderson’s Vegan JapanEasy, reviewed earlier this year, was overflowing with hugely exciting and endlessly appetising ideas – even though its remit was much tighter.

Alright, alright. Calm down, you’ll have a seizure. After this and that Gill Meller review last week, I’m getting the idea you might not have much room in your heart for the sustainable cooking movement. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s incredibly obvious that we all need to spend a lot more time thinking about our food habits and doing our best to limit their impact on the world we live in. It’s just…

Yes? Well, why is nobody fun writing a cookbook on sustainable cooking? Why is it always left to people who think a chai parsnip and carrot cake is the best dessert we can manage in our new, environmentally-conscious world?

Killer recipes? The Bubble and Squeak with a Japanese-Inspired Dipping Sauce is a stand-out anomaly, as is the Braised Chicken with Lettuce, Peas and Radish Greens and Mash in a Flash. The one bit of the book that is genuinely brilliant, though, isn’t even a recipe: just before the index Hemsley includes an ‘A-Z of Odds, Ends and Leftovers’ that offers plenty of excellent ideas on how to use those annoying bits and bobs that sit about in the fridge unloved – the tired old fennel, the spare carrot, and so on.

Should I buy it? Look, if you have the Hemsley + Hemsley books, or enjoy any of their contemporaries, you’ll likely get some use out of this too. But this isn’t anywhere close to what I’d call an insightful or particularly useful guide for the average home cook.

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

Cuisine: English
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: One star

Buy this book
Eat Green: Delicious flexitarian recipes for planet-friendly eating
£22, Ebury Press

root, stem, leaf, flower by Gill Meller

root stem leaf flower

What’s the USP? Go wild (go wild!) go wild in the country, where nettles in a bush are absolutely free. It’s time to eschew meat and fish for all that lovely fruit and veg that you know will do you good. And here’s Gill Mellor with dirt on his hands and love in his heart to show you ‘how to cook with vegetables and other plants’.

Who is the author? You’ll know Gill Mellor from such books as Outdoor Cooking: River Cottage Handbook No.17 and Time by Gill Meller previously reviewed on this site and awarded a whopping 4 stars (I must have been feeling generous that day. I’m kidding. Or am I?). As I mentioned in that review, Meller is an alumni of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage organization and is a chef, food writer and teacher. His first book Gather won the Fortnum and Mason award for Best Debut Food Book in 2017.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a fairly chunky introduction to the book and the recipe introductions are interesting and informative, but this is a cookbook for the kitchen rather than one for the bedside table. If you actually enjoy what there is to read will depend on your tolerance for Food Writing with a captial F and capital W; the stuff that usually results from an English degree and a lifetime reading Elizabeth David, Richard Olney and Nigel Slater. It’s the sort of adjective-heavy prose where radishes have a ‘tussle of coarse green leaves on top’ and you find ‘lucent green’ gooseberries among a ‘burr and wrangle of thorns’.

It will also depend on your tolerance for being told how to shop and cook. There is nothing particularly radical in Meller’s suggestion to eat organic, local and seasonal, or in his assertion that ‘we need to be eating less meat and fish’ and that what we do eat should come from ‘ethical and sustainable sources’ and from ‘animals that have led natural, happy lives’. But it’s easy for him as a professional food writer to say that and less easy for those working full time with a family to feed and limited time and financial resources to live up to those lofty ideals. Meller places all the onus on the individual to do the right thing and makes no suggestion that changes should be made at the food supply chain level in order to make produce that meets his stringent criteria easily available and affordable to all. Instead, there is the implication that you are falling short as a human being if you don’t buy organic, sustainable, ethically produced goods. And frankly, fuck that.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? If you are going to adhere to the Meller mantra of organic, sustainable, ethically produced stuff, then you will be narrowing the field substantially. However, most of the actual ingredients are not that obscure and you should be able to track them down without too much effort, especially if you are willing to eat ordinary people’s food. You’ll die sooner and be killing the planet with every single bite, but at least you’re not a serial killer with someone chained up in your cellar. Are you? I mean, if you are, I don’t approve obviously, but it’s interesting, isn’t it? I know lots of people are bored with serial killers but I think there’s an enduring fascination. Drop me a line, there’s a contact widget somewhere on this site, tell me about your sickness.

What’s the faff factor? Have we stopped talking about serial killers already? Oh well. WHAT’S THE FAFF FACTOR? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW? IS THAT REALLY WHAT’S BOTHERING YOU RIGHT AT THIS PRESENT MOMENT IN TIME? Sorry, I don’t know why I’m shouting. I haven’t had my meds today and lockdown is really starting to get to me. Faff factor, yes, good point. You should know about that before you buy a book. You work hard for your money, you don’t want to waste it on something you’re never going to use. It’s a reasonable question. I don’t know why I’m making such a big deal about it. I mean, I write the bloody questions myself, it’s not as though someone is dictating to me what I need to tell you. So, faff factor. Faaaaaaaaf faaaaaactor. Try saying that out loud. It’s funny. Like the Shadrack scene in Billy Liar.You know the bit. Actually, you’re probably too young. Or from a country where they never showed the film on the telly. You should stream it. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, faffing about. No, the recipes are fine really, they’re mostly short and straightforward. You can judge for yourself; I’ve posted a couple of recipes for you to try (the publisher only allowed two instead of the usual three for some reason. Gill’s special. So special.) The links are at the bottom of the page because this is such a well-designed site.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? You will find the odd ‘small pinch of sea salt’ which is fine, and a ‘small handful’ of this and that which is OK if you’ve got small hands or know someone who has that could come to your house and grab a handful of herbs for you, although exactly how small their hands need to be isn’t really clear. Just be sensible about it. Perhaps ask a child. No, don’t do that. Unless you’re related to them, then it’s OK.

More annoying is ‘the juice of half a lemon’. Why do recipes rarely give ml measures for lemon juice? I mean, it’s a liquid just like any other isn’t it? And the amount you put in a recipe will affect the final result. I don’t know if you’ve bought a lemon recently, but the amount of juice that you get out of them varies massively from a meager teaspoon to a flood. They are as unpredictable as, erm, something that it’s politically correct to describe as unpredictable. I’m not sure what that might be. Me. I’m unpredictable. The amount of juice you get out of a lemon is as unpredictable as the mood I’ll be in when I wake up on any given day. And that’s pretty unpredictable. Imagine the mood I’m in now, writing this. You don’t want to know.

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you imagine you might fancy ‘tomatoes in the hole’ instead of toad? That’s the question you need to ask yourself. Ultimately, the amount you use this book will depend on precisely how middle class you are. That’s just the truth. Take this stupid quiz and find out. When you discover that the stupid quiz appeared in the Mirror and you decide you don’t want to take it because you don’t want anything to do with that disgusting rag, congratulations, you are middle class and you will cook from this book a lot. If you do decide to take the quiz, it doesn’t matter what your score is, you have read something in the Mirror and are by default not middle class and the book will collect dust languorously on your shelf. Power to the people.

Killer recipes: Do we have to do this? OK (sighs) they include: sweetcorn, rosemary and smoked cheddar soufflé; squash, lentil, tomato and rosemary pie; salted chocolate pumpkin tart; asparagus and quinoa salad with peas and broad beans.

What will I love? The photography by Andrew Montgomery is up to his usual very high standards and there’s a good amount of variety in the recipes, given the relatively narrow subject matter. That was sensible wasn’t it?

What won’t I like so much? Meller’s editors have failed to dissuade him from writing poems. I love poetry. I read lots of it, from Renaissance to 21st Century (give Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough a go) and I even write some myself. I’m just not convinced a cookbook is the right platform for it. Or maybe I just don’t like Meller’s poems. Sorry Gill.

Should I buy it? This book isn’t really for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. There’s nothing really wrong with it, so if you need some inspiration in the fruit and veg department and you feel the stylistic issues I’ve outlined above won’t be problematic for you, then go ahead. Oh, I forgot to mention the recipe titles. Unnecessarily overwritten, arch and twee constructions like ‘A tart for May’ and ‘Aubergines and roast tomatoes for everything’ are like fingernails down a blackboard to me (the same goes for the book’s title and the lack of capitals). But most of them aren’t like that, they’re just normal so it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let it put you off. I know it probably wouldn’t but I’m just saying. It’s honestly more about my odd sensitivities to certain tropes of Food Writing, which I think far too much about, than anything else. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s fine, really.

(Have you had enough of this yet? I could go on all day like this. Once I get on a roll it’s difficult to stop me. What shall we talk about next? No, maybe you’re right, let’s leave it there. Till next time then.)

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

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants
£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Cook from this book
Courgette flatbreads with lots of herbs and goat’s cheese
Raspberry and rhubarb crumble

Courgette flatbreads with lots of herbs and goat’s cheese by Gill Meller

Courgette flatbreads Gill Meller

Cooking courgettes slowly with garlic and olive oil has to be one of my favourite ways to deal with this summer vegetable. Fistfuls of herbs go in at the end, then you could simply pile the courgettes on to warm bruschetta, but these flatbreads are infinitely better.

MAKES 3

FOR THE FLATBREADS
500G (1LB 2OZ) STRONG WHITE BREAD FLOUR,PLUS EXTRA FOR DUSTING
1 TSP FINE SEA SALT
1 TSP FAST-ACTION DRIED YEAST
2 TSP CRUSHED FENNEL SEEDS
FINELY GRATED ZEST OF 1 LEMON
2 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, PLUS EXTRA FOR GREASING
4 TBSP NATURAL YOGHURT

FOR THE TOPPING
4 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 GARLIC CLOVES, THINLY SLICED
1.2KG (2LB 10OZ)COURGETTES, SLICED INTO 5MM (¼IN) ROUNDS
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF DILL, CHOPPED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF MINT,LEAVES PICKED AND THINLY RIBBONED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF BASIL, CHOPPED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF CHIVES, CHOPPED
150G (5½OZ) SOFT GOAT’S CHEESE
PINCH OF CHILLI FLAKES (OPTIONAL)
SEA SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Make the flatbreads. Place the flour, salt, yeast, fennel seeds and lemon est in a large bowl. Add the oil, yoghurt and 275ml (9½fl oz) of water and mix everything thoroughly until it forms a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until soft and smooth. (You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook for this part.) Shape the dough into a rough round and place in a lightly oiled bowl; cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to make the flatbreads, start the topping. Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add half the olive oil and when it’s hot add the garlic and sizzle for a few seconds, then add the courgettes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the courgettes slowly over a gentle heat,stirring regularly, for about 25 minutes or so, until they break down but still retain a little of their shape. They should be soft without colouring too much and almost spoonable in texture.

Take the pan off the heat, stir all but a handful of the herbs into the courgettes, then season again to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Place 3 baking sheets in the oven (alternatively, bake one at a time if you have limited oven space) and heat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/475°F/ gas mark 8.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then cut it into 3 equal pieces. Form each piece into a nice neat round and leave to rest for 20 minutes or so. When you’re ready to bake the flatbreads, roll out the pieces of dough. They want to be quite thin, but don’t worry if they’re not especially round, that doesn’t matter.

Take the hot baking sheets out of the oven and place a rolled-out dough on each. Spread the courgette mixture evenly over the top of each. Dot the goat’s cheese over the top of the courgette mixture and trickle all over with some of the remaining olive oil. Add the chilli flakes, if using, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, too.

Place the trays in the oven for 12–14 minutes, or until the dough is puffed up and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and slide onto a board. Sprinkle with a few reserved herbs and serve.

Cook more from this book
Raspberry and rhubarb crumble by Gill Meller

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants
£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Read the review

Raspberry and rhubarb crumble by Gill Meller

Raspberry and rhubarb crumble Gill Meller

When you sit down to a bowl of warm raspberry and rhubarb crumble, it’s easy to forget that the apple ever existed at all. In fact, you forget anything that begins with A, or anything green. For in that moment, your world literally crumbles away, leaving you with reds and gentle, sugary pinks and the magic that happens when these two ingredients are cooked together. I like to pack my crumble topping full of oats and bake it separately from the fruit, at least for a while. It becomes remarkably crunchy this way.

SERVES 4

FOR THE OAT CRUMBLE
100G (3½OZ) PLAIN FLOUR
PINCH OF FINE SEA SALT
100G (3½OZ) UNSALTED BUTTER, CUBED AND CHILLED
75G (2½OZ) UNREFINED CASTER SUGAR
75G (2½OZ) JUMBO OATS

FOR THE FILLING
ABOUT 400G (14OZ)RHUBARB STALKS, TRIMMED AND CUT INTO 2–3CM (¾–1¼IN) PIECES
ABOUT 200G (7OZ)RASPBERRIES
100G (3½OZ) UNREFINED CASTER SUGAR
1 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

First, make the oat crumble. Heat the oven to 175°C/155°C fan/335°F/gas mark 3–4. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub them thoroughly together until you have formed clumps and lumps. Line a large baking tray with a piece of baking parchment. Tip out the mixture onto the tray and distribute evenly. Set aside.

Make the filling. Place the rhubarb in a 25cm (10in) baking dish. Add the raspberries, sugar and vanilla along with a couple of tablespoons of water and tumble everything together. Place the dish of fruit in the oven as well as the tray of crumble and bake for 20 minutes, turning the crumble mixture over three or four times during baking, until clumped together, biscuity and golden. Spoon the crumble mixture onto the fruit and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb and raspberries are soft, the juices are bubbling away and the crumble is
golden brown.

Cook more from this book

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants
£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Read the review