Palestine on a Plate by Joudie Kalla

Palastine on a plate

What’s the USP? Authentic Palestinian home cooking using ingredients and methods handed down from the author’s mother and grandmother.

Who’s the author?  Joudie Kalla is a London-based supper club cook and former owner of Baity Kitchen restaurant in Chelsea.

Is it good bedtime reading? A fairly meaty introduction covers some biographical ground as well as some of the basics of middle Eastern flavours and specifically the food and ingredients of Palestine.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Thanks to Ottolenghi, Middle Eastern cooking is now almost as familiar to British home cooks as Indian, Chinese and Thai so you should have few problems finding all you need between the supermarket and your local deli. if you don’t live in an area with a Middle Eastern store nearby, you may have to head online for the likes of sujuk (a spicy Middle Eastern sausage) and Kalla’s favoured Palestinian olive oil (there’s a very handy list of stockists, many of them online,  at the back of the book).

What’s the faff factor? The subtitle of the book is ‘Memories from my mother’s kitchen, so the recipes are very much from the domestic realm rather than being adapted from restaurant dishes. Think simple and straightforward rather than complex and fiddly.

Killer recipes: Middle Eastern courgettes stuffed with lamb; Palestinian pearl cous cous tabbouleh; freekeh salad with marinated chicken and pomegranate salad;  Palestinian sesame handbag bread; fried red mullet with preserved lemon and lentil salad.

What will I love? This is a vibrant, colourful and often healthy style of cooking that’s very approachable and will add variety and flavour to your weekly menu.

Should I buy it? Kalla has entered a crowded market that’s been pretty much cornered by the aforementioned Ottolenghi and his collaborators (the newly published Falastin by his co-author’s Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley which is also about Palestine is already a number one best selling book – the books of Greg and Lucy Malouf are also excellent). Nevertheless, there are enough delicious recipes in Palestine on a Plate to make it a worthwhile purchase.

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

Buy this book
Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen

Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes by Tim Anderson

09.30.19TimVegan_CroquettesPrep_007(Kare¯ Korokke)

Makes 16 croquettes, which is a lot
(enough for 4 servings as a main, 8 as a side), but they freeze well

In Japan, they have something called curry pan, or curry bread, which is essentially an oblong doughnut filled with Japanese curry, so you can have curry in a convenient hand-held format. That recipe is nice, but it’s a bit tricky for a book calledVegan JapanEasy (maybe my next book will be called Vegan Japanslightlymoredifficult), so here’s an alternative: curry croquettes, which are perhaps even better because they’re more crunchy on the outside. Win-win!

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 hot red chilli, finely diced
150 g (5 oz) sweetcorn (from a tin is fine)
2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
salt, to taste
vegan egg replacer, equivalent to 8 eggs, prepared according to the manufacturers’ instructions, or 2 x recipe quantity of Batter for Breadcrumbing (page 46)
about 80 g (3 oz/scant ⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging
about 150 g (5 oz/3½ cups) panko breadcrumbs
about 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) oil, for deep-frying (or less for shallow-frying)

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender, 10–15 minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, saute the onions and chilli in the oil over a medium-high heat until they soften, then add the corn and continue to cook for several minutes until everything starts to brown a bit. Add the spices and cook for another few minutes to make a thick paste, then remove from the heat. Mash the potatoes and stir in the onion-cornspice mixture, and add a generous amount of salt.

When the mash is cool enough to handle, divide itinto 16 equal balls and then squash each ball into a kind of oblong patty shape. Lay the potato patties out on baking sheets lined with foil and transfer to the freezer to firm up for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the egg replacer or batter. Dredge the patties in the flour, then dip in the eggreplacer or batter, and then the panko, ensuring they are all well-coated. At this point the croquettes can be frozen on the baking sheets, or cooked straight away. (The cooking process is the same from frozen or chilled.)

Preheat your oven to 100C (210F/Gas .). Heat the oil in a wide, deep saucepan to 180C (350F). Carefully lower the croquettes into the hot oil, in batches of 4–6, and fry until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a wire rack and keep hot in the oven with the oven door slightly open, until ready to serve.

ALTERNATIVE METHOD
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F/Gas 7). Pour enough oil into a non-stick, flat-bottomed frying pan (skillet) to come up to a depth of 5 mm (. in) and place over a medium-high heat. Carefully lower in the croquettes and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the par-fried croquettes to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the middle of a croquette comes out feeling hot to the touch.

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Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
French Onion Ramen

Japanese mushroom parcels with garlic and soy sauce by Tim Anderson

05.13.19_VeganJapaneasy_D4_MushParcels_024

SERVES 2 AS A SIDE OR 1 AS A MAIN

I always associate this preparation, or simple variations thereof, with izakaya – the wonderful Japanese drinkeries-cum-eateries where the food is highly varied but always conducive to drinking loads of good sake or beer – typically salty, snacky, shareable, crowd-pleasing dishes with bold but not over-the-top flavours. This is exactly that kind of dish, mushrooms simply steamed in a foil parcel with plenty of garlic and soy sauce – tearing open the foil is like opening a present on a particularly garlicky Christmas morning. It’s lovely on its own but I would strongly recommend enjoying this with sake – nothing too fancy, as the earthier flavours of cheaper sake are perfect for this mushroomy garlic umami funkbomb.

200 g (7 oz) Japanese mushrooms (such as enoki, shimeji (beech), shiitake and eringi (king oyster)– often supermarkets sell an ‘exotic’ mushroom pack containing a few of each of these, which are perfect)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons sake
1½ teaspoons olive oil
3–4 garlic cloves, crushed and thinly sliced
a few grinds of black pepper
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
You will also need some sturdy kitchen foil

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (430°F/Gas 9). Prepare the mushrooms: for enoki or shimeji, cut off their bottoms and break up any large clusters; for shiitake, simply remove the stems; for eringi, cut them into roughly bite-size pieces.

Stir together the soy sauce, sake, olive oil, sliced garlic, black pepper and parsley. Toss the prepared mushrooms with the soy sauce mixture.

Set a wide piece of kitchen foil (about 40 cm/ 16 in long) into a shallow bowl or dish, and place the mushrooms and the sauce into the middle of the foil. Gather up the sides of the foil to cover the mushrooms, crimping them together to form a tight seal. Place the parcel on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Transfer the parcel to a plate, taking care not to tear the foil. Serve with the parcel closed and open it at the table.

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
French Onion Ramen
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes

French Onion Ramen by Tim Anderson

05.13.19_VeganJapaneasy_D4_FrenchRamen_022 3

FRENCH ONION RAMEN
SERVES 4

I can never figure out why French onion soup ever went out of style. It’s just so good. I had some that my great aunt Jean made a few years back at a family get-together in Wisconsin and it made me think, ‘I should eat French onion soup every day!’
Suddenly fixated on French onion soup, my thoughts quickly turned to ramen. The molten onions mingle beautifully with the noodles so you get a lovely sweetness and silky texture in every bite, all bathed in a rich, beefy broth that just happens to contain no beef. The onions do take a while to caramelise properly, but for comfort food I think it’s worth the wait.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 brown onions, halved and thinly sliced
pinch of salt, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) or granulated (raw) sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons ruby port or red wine
1.2 litres (40 fl oz/4¾ cups) Mushroom or Triple Seaweed Dashi
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
a few grinds of black pepper, or more, to taste
4 tablespoons soy sauce, or more, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin, or more, to taste
1 tablespoon Marmite (yeast extract)
1½ teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
200 g (7 oz) fresh spinach, washed
¼ Savoy cabbage, cut into thin strips
4 portions of uncooked ramen noodles
4 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
80 g (3 oz) bamboo shoots (if you can, use Japanese menma – pickled bamboo shoots)
a few drops of sesame oil and/or truffle oil
60–80 g (2–3 oz) vegan cheese (‘Cheddar’ or ‘Italian-style’), grated (shredded)
4 slices of good-quality bread, toasted

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or casserole (Dutch oven) and add the onions and the salt. Cook over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until they soften, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 45–50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. After about 15 minutes, the onions will start to caramelise, so make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan when you stir to prevent them from catching and burning prematurely. When the onions are just starting to brown, stir in the sugar and add the garlic. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, you will have to stir and scrape often to ensure the onions don’t burn. (If it’s proving difficult to scrape up the stuck bits, add a splash of water, which should help them release nicely.)

Add the sake and the port or wine. Add the dashi, bay leaves, thyme and black pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, then stir in the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mirin and Marmite. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like it – it should be fairly salty and slightly sweet. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems and discard. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the broth into a small dish and leave to cool. Stir the cornflour into the cooled broth to make a thin slurry, then stir it back into the soup and bring to the boil to thicken the broth slightly.

Bring a large saucepan full of water to the boil and blanch the spinach for 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water. Drain well, pressing out any excess water. In the same pan, boil the cabbage for 3–4 minutes until just tender, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Let the water return to a rolling boil, then cook the ramen until al dente, according to the packet instructions. Drain well.

Divide the ramen among 4 deep bowls and ladle over the soup. Gently stir the noodles through the soup to ensure they aren’t sticking together. Top each ramen with the spinach, cabbage, spring onions, bamboo shoots, sesame or truffle oil and vegan cheese. Serve with the toast on the side to soak up the broth once the noodles have all been slurped away.

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson


Vegan Japaneasy

What’s the USP? Full Ronseal vibes here – Vegan JapanEasy is a cookbook filled with easy vegan Japanese recipes. I’m really not sure you need me to tell you that, actually.

Eesh. Sorry I asked. Alright then, who’s the author? Tim Anderson was the youngest winner of Masterchef when he and his Japanese-influenced dishes came out top back in 2011. Since then he’s opened his own restaurant – Nanban – and three vibrant Japanese cookbooks, including 2017’s JapanEasy. This, its vegan spinoff, is his fourth.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s definitely plenty to read in here. Of note are the usual pages detailing Japanese ingredients you’ll want to familiarise yourself with, punched up with useful ideas on each ingredient’s uses outside of Japanese cuisine.

Anderson writes lovingly and respectfully about Japanese culture and cuisine, and his occasional treatises on dashi or Japanese curry roux are always entertaining – as are his recipe introductions, which are occasionally longer than the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson’s whole thing is ease, and sourcing the ingredients is no different. Most ingredients are widely available but at worst will warrant a trip to an Asian supermarket. The recipes generally avoid any mock-meat and non-dairy cheeses as well, opting instead for light, delicious looking vegetable numbers.

What’s the faff factor? Do you really need to ask? Nothing in Vegan JapanEasy should throw the average home cook. That said, some dishes do require a little time or, in the case of the ramen recipes, a glut of ingredients – so not every dish is going to cut it for a weeknight dinner.

Killer recipes Teriyaki-roasted carrots; jackfruit karaage; kimchi miso hotpot; cauliflower katsu curry;  Japanese style celeriac steak; fridge drawer fried rice.

What will I love? Anderson’s non-pretentious approach to cooking means that not only does everything look delicious, it’s also tantalisingly do-able. Dishes like Pesto Udon are so simple, and yet so tempting, that there’s a good chance you won’t eat anything else ever again.

What won’t I love? The only slightly grating factor is Anderson’s fondness for ranking the ease of each dish at the bottom of the recipe. Given that ease is the premise of the entire book, it’s entirely unnecessary and instead ends up as a destination for some fairly poor dad jokes that wear thin pretty quickly: “the only cult I’d join is the Not Diffi Cult, and this recipe would be our Kool-Aid”

Should I buy it? In short, yes. Anderson’s book is as practical and imaginative as any other Japanese cookbook on the market. In fact, even as a meat-eater, Vegan JapanEasy has a more appealing range of recipes than the original carnivore-friendly JapanEasy title.

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

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

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes
French Onion Ramen

South by Sean Brock

South Sean Brock

What’s the USP? A collection of Southern American recipes from one of the foremost modern exponents of the cuisine

Who is the author? Chef Sean Brock is the founder of the awarding winning Husk restaurant group with branches in Charleston, Nashville, Greenville and Savannah. Since stepping down from his role as culinary advisor to The Neighborhood Dining Group’ that included Husk as well as McCrady’s, Tavern, and Minero, Brock has announced four new projects in Nashville: Joyland Audrey Red Bird and an unnamed project at the Grand Hyatt. Profiled in an episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table  and featured in a season of the PBS series Mind of a Chef, Brock has established himself as the leading proponent of the culture, traditions and heritage ingredients of Southern cuisine.

Is it good bedtime reading? A 12 page introduction provides some background to Brock’s career and why he is so passionate about Southern cuisine; the ‘microregions’ of the American South (which, Brock says ‘has as many cuisines and comprises a region nearly the same size as Continental Europe’) and how key dishes such as shrimp and grits and cornbread vary from microregion to microregion. Additionally, there are articles on fireplace cookery; smoking; grilling; how to take care of cast iron pans; how to cook a pot of greens and fresh field peas or butter beans; an introduction to cornbread; how to make butter; preserving and canning, and how to make vinegar. So go ahead, take Brock to bed.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in America, you’ll be able to take advantage of the two page list of resources at the back of the book to track down the likes of Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice, Rosebank Gold Grits and Hominy Corn; Kenny’s Farmhouse Dry Fork Reserve Asiago cheese; sorghum syrup, seed and flour; Lindera Farms honey vinegar and Bob Wood’s country ham. If you’re outside of America, then you’ll need to do a little research to identify the best substitutions, but on the whole you should be able to cook the majority of the recipes in the book albeit not to Brock’s high level of authenticity.

What’s the faff factor? Recipes vary from a relatively straightforward chicken breast with black pepper and peanut butter gravy, or pork shoulder steak with grilled mushrooms, to shrimp and grits that requires the preparation of four other linked recipes: oven roasted tomatoes; braised fennel; pressure cooker grits and crispy pigs ears.  You’ll also need to make your own crab roe bottarga if you want to make Brock’s recipe for grilled oysters with green garlic butter (although he does say you can substitute a good ready made mullet bottarga).

How often will I cook from the book? Once you’ve sorted out what ingredients you might need to either omit or find alternatives for, you’re sure to find yourself returning to the book often. There’s a fantastic recipe for fried chicken, a great cheeseburger, some amazing looking biscuits (the savory scones, not the one’s you’d dunk in your PG Tips)  and lots of delicious salads like grilled asparagus and cracklin’ salad and sides such as charred corn or grilled carrots that will brighten up any meal. There’s also enough weekend projects including condiments, pickles and preserves to keep you going for months.

Killer recipes? See above, but also pork prime rib with mustard onions; pit cooked chicken sandwiches; bacon jam; pea and hominy succotash; blackberry cobbler, and buttermilk pie.

What will I love? The food, as photographed by Peter Frank Edwards, looks fantastic. At 376 pages, the book covers a lot of ground and is a great introduction to South American cuisine.

Should I buy it? Unless you already own Heritage, Brock’s first book, you probably won’t have a book quite like South in your collection. Although some of the recipes might seem to be covering familar ground, you’ll want to have Brock’s version of grilled chicken wings with a West African style BBQ sauce as well as to experiment with some of the more recherché dishes such as Lowcountry fish-head stew.

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

Buy this book 
South
Artisan, £30

Coddle by Jp McMahon

Phaidon Irish Food Bible

CODDLE

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour
Serves: 8

Coddle, or Dublin coddle to be more precise, is a dish made up of leftover sausages and bacon. Traditionally, the sausages and bacon were cut up and combined with onions and potatoes and left to stew in a light broth. Though often unappetizing to look at, the dish was made famous by several Irish writers, from Jonathan Swift to James Joyce and Sean O’Casey. Modern versions include barley and carrots. It is essentially a dish that grew out of poverty and famine and then migrated into the working-­class areas of Dublin at the beginning of the twentieth century to become a dish of central importance to the people who lived there. Often it contained a drop of Guinness (or it was eaten with plenty of pints and soda bread). It is said that the housewives would prepare the coddle during the day and it would sit on the stove until the men returned home from the pub. The word itself is derived from the verb ‘to coddle’ or ‘to cook’ (from French caulder). With its associations of poverty, it is surprising to find ‘authentic’ recipes, especially given the status of the dish as being made with whatever leftovers were to hand (as in pig’s trotters/feet, pork ribs, etc.). Some associate it with the Catholic Church’s insistence of abstaining from meat on a Friday. Coddle was a way of using up the bacon and sausages on a Thursday. In this recipe, I fry the ingredients before covering them with the stock, but traditionally they were just layered and simmered until cooked.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed (canola) oil, plus extra if needed
  • 500 g sausages, cut into pieces if preferred
  • 500 g streaky (regular) bacon, cut into pieces
  • 500 g onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 kg (9 medium) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper

 
METHOD:

Warm the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the sausages and bacon and fry for about 10 minutes until they have a nice colour. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a little more oil if necessary. Reduce the heat and fry for about 10 minutes so that the onions caramelize slowly.

When the onions have a nice colour, return the sausages and bacon to the pan and add the thyme and bay leaves. Cover with the chicken stock (broth) and return to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the potatoes. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Add the chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper and serve.

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Buy this book
The Irish Cookbook (Food Cook)
Phaidon, £35

Take One Tin by Lola Milne

Take one tin

What’s the USP? Practical storecupboard meals, with recipes that stray a little from the drab usual suspects.

Who’s the author? Lola Milne isn’t necessarily the most obvious author for a cookbook – her work in the food industry has mostly been behind the camera, as an in-demand photographer and food stylist. This does pay dividends in the book though, with vibrant and beautifully shot dishes livening up what could have easily been a fairly unexciting premise.

What’s great about it? Milne’s focus on long-life products and storecupboard staples feels decidedly modern, and will appeal to people of all ages – perfect for knocking together something for the family when you’ve not had a chance to get to the shops. By focusing on tinned foods as a starting point, Milne has found it easy to put together a collection of recipes that are entirely without meat. Vegetarians will delight, and a wealth of pescatarian dishes ensures plenty of variety throughout the book.

You can’t help but feel that the timing of Take One Tin’s publication will prove a little fortuitous for Milne, too. As much of the world contemplates societal lockdowns and potentially long isolation in the wake of Covid-19, this cookbook will prove an increasingly useful addition to many homes.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not at all. A two-page introduction and two short sentences at the beginning of each recipe. Three, if you’re lucky.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The very nature of Take One Tin ensures that there are no real surprises on the ingredient lists. Whether or not you have trouble securing what you need will come down solely to how well your local supermarket is dealing with any panic buying that might be going on.

What’s the faff factor? What faff factor? Milne’s recipes are all remarkably simple affairs. A bit of pan-frying, maybe. Mix a few items together and chuck them in the oven for a bit. Whilst Milne’s food-styling skills ensure dishes look very impressive, the actual work necessary to pull them off won’t faze the average home cook in the slightest.

How often will I cook from the book? In normal day-to-day life? Maybe once every couple of weeks. These are easy and practical recipes that many people will happily call on when they don’t want to work too hard for their dinner. In a global pandemic? Take One Tin might just prove invaluable.

Killer recipes? Jackfruit & kidney bean chilli, crab thoran, Sri Lankan mackerel curry, banoffee pie with hazelnut cream.

Should I buy it? There are a few storecupboard-centric cookbooks out there, and whilst others might cover more ground (Claire Thomson’s excellent The Art of the Larder being one), Take One Tin is a great deal more accessible, and balances the genre’s practical aspects with genuinely exciting and contemporary ideas.

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

Buy this book 
Take One Tin: 80 delicious meals from the storecupboard

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas who is a Brighton-based writer, and is exactly the sort of person who posts his dinner on Instagram. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.

The Irish Cookbook by Jp McMahon

The Irish Cookbook

What’s the USP? The Irish Cookbook arrives with impeccable timing, following the country’s Michelin success last October. It now boasts three, two-star restaurants and 18 one-star establishments across the Republic and Northern Ireland. It’s an indication of how far the country’s food scene has evolved; a decade ago there were just seven starred restaurants in total.

Who’s the author? Jp McMahon is a Michelin-starred chef and culinary director of the EATGalway restaurant group that includes the one star Aniar. He is also the founder of the annual Food on the Edge culinary congress.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s more than just recipes in this 400-plus page book with a scope that goes far beyond modern restaurant food, delving back to pre-Neolithic times in a scholarly introduction titled ‘A Little History of Food in Ireland’ that forms part of the book’s attempt to answer the question ‘What is Irish food?’.

Killer recipes? Organised into 15 chapters, McMahon comprehensively covers Ireland’s rich and diverse natural larder from the superlative shellfish (oyster pie; sea urchins with buttermilk and tarragon) to the plentiful wild game (grouse and poteen; venison and barley stew), freshwater fish (pike with gooseberries and sherry; perch baked in milk) and much else besides.

McMahon is keen to point out that it is more than the dishes that ‘emerged in the space created after the (potato) famine’ such as boxty potato pancake and traditional Irish stew, although both are included among the book’s 500 recipes, the former in its most austerely authentic form made with just lamb neck, onions, potatoes, thyme and parsley. The 80s are represented by crab with curry mayonnaise and pineapple while the contemporary Irish repertoire includes smoked eel porridge.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? A good fishmonger will be required for the likes of sea urchins, razor clams, wild salmon and smoked eel, and you’ll probably need to get your rod out and go and catch pike, perch and carp yourself.  You might need an online supplier for seaweed and be up for a spot of foraging for things like nettles, wild garlic.  There are however many recipes that won’t cause you any shopping bother at all.

What’s the faff factor? This is mostly home cooking rather than complex cheffy stuff and many of the recipes are short and to the point.

How often will I cook from the book? There’s a really good variety of dishes and lots that would work when you’re time poor mid-week.

What will I love? McMahon has included an index of Ireland’s wild plants, seaweed and fungi eaten by the country’s first settlers and which he sees as the future of Irish food. Nettles are rolled around cream cheese, made into a puree and soup and transformed into wine, while steamed asparagus is wrapped in sea lettuce and deep-fried rabbit legs are served with wild garlic mayonnaise.

Should I buy it? McMahon makes the sensible caveat that ‘no book is definitive’ and it is questionable how uniquely Irish some of the recipes such as steak and kidney pie and lamb hotpot actually are, but The Irish Cookbook is nevertheless an impressive achievement and one that will shed new light on a hitherto undervalued cuisine.

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

Buy this book
The Irish Cookbook (Food Cook)
Phaidon, £35

The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland

The Whole Fish Josh Niland

What’s the USP?  How to utilise every inch of a fish from top lip to anal fin, with recipes.

Josh who? Only one of the most talked-about, influential chefs on the planet. OK, unless you live in Sydney, you may not have heard of his restaurant Saint Peter, but his revolutionary, sustainable, zero-waste approach to fish cookery has caught the eye of everyone from Nigella Lawson to Rick Stein.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a lot of text in the book besides the recipes including a foreword from Australian food writer Pat Nourse, Niland’s own introduction, and articles covering topics such as the reasons why we don’t currently cook more fish at home, sourcing fish, storing and dry-ageing fish, fish butchery and treating fish in the same way as meat (the heart of Niland’s fish philosophy), curing fish, using fish offal and ‘fishues’ i.e. issues with fish.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The short answer is yes. Unless you live in Australia or elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, getting hold of the varieties of fish specified in some of the recipe titles such as blue mackerel and wild kingfish will be impossible. Niland does, however, provide plenty of alternatives (john dory in the case of the kingfish) but you will definitely need an excellent fishmonger if you are going to cook from the book, supermarket quality fish just isn’t going to cut it.

What’s the faff factor?  This is restaurant-style cooking with few concessions made for the home cook. There are 20 ingredients in the base of the bouillabaisse-style Saint Peter’s Fish Soup recipe including 15kg of various seafood, plus about another 2kg of seafood for the ‘finishing garnishes’ (it feeds just six people). There are some more simple dishes such as fried whitebait, crumbled sardine sandwich and fish and chips (although you’ll need to start making the recipe 4 days ahead of when you want to serve it because of the processes required for the triple cooked chips).

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you fancy a fish fat chocolate caramel slice? For many home cooks, much of the book will be of curiosity value only and time, effort and energy will be required to tackle things like fish black pudding or milt mortadella. Professional chefs will doubtlessly find this book invaluable. Niland’s approach dramatically increases the potential yield per fish from 45 per cent (the fillets) to potentially over 90 per cent which can be converted into revenue, making the extra effort worth their while.

Killer recipes? Swordfish bacon and egg English muffin; smoked eel and beetroot jam doughnut; BBQ red mullet, corn and kelp butter; BBQ glazed cod ribs; Yellowfin tuna cheeseburger with salt and vinegar onion rings; grilled (fish) sausage, celeriac, peas and onion sauce; fish sausage roll; fish wellington. 

What will I love? This is an original and unusual approach to a well-worn subject. You won’t have a book on your shelf quite like it. It’s a reflection of a well-thought-through and fully rounded culinary philosophy that gives a new perspective on preparing and cooking seafood.

Should I buy it? If you’re a professional chef, then you really need to add this book to your collection. Even if you don’t plan to dry-age your own fish or start serving fish eye chips (no, really; you blend the eyes, mix them with tapioca flour to make a batter which is then steamed, dried and finally deep-fried), you will gain new knowledge that could help your business. For passionate home cooks that love seafood, this will be at the very least a real eye-opener and will provide some absorbing and challenging weekend culinary projects.

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

Buy this book
The Whole Fish Cookbook: New ways to cook, eat and think

Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing

Marcus Everyday

 

What’s the USP? Approachable, achievable family recipes from a Michelin starred TV chef.

Who are the authors? Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs with three restaurants: Marcus, The Gilbert Scott and Tredwells and as a stern taskmaster on Masterchef: The Professionals. He rose to fame in the 90’s as Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man, heading up a number of restaurants including the original Petrus in St James’s Street. His falling out with Ramsay is well documented.

Wareing’s co-author for the sixth time is Chantelle Nicholson (their previous books include The Gilbert Scott Book of British Food; New Classics and Marcus at Home among others). A New Zealand-born lawyer turned chef whose CV includes The Savoy Grill and Petrus, she opened The Gilbert Scott as general manager and is currently back in the kitchen as head chef of Tredwells in Coven Garden and is the author of Planted her debut solo cookbook outing.

Is it good bedtime reading? Only if you fall asleep really, really quickly. A three-page introduction plus brief chapter and recipe introductions and that’s your lot.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Apart from lavender flowers, whole smoked ham hock, fresh bergamot and ripe pears (who has ever found a ripe pear?) you should have no problem tracking down 99 per cent of the ingredients in this book. Even things like fresh turmeric, Gordal olives and white miso should be available in your local Waitrose.

What’s the faff factor?  The book’s raison d’etre is to fling out the faff, so you can mostly expect short ingredient lists and straightforward methods. That’s not always the case however and the prep and cooking times that are provided for all the recipes range from 5 minutes prep and under 10 minutes cooking time for a caramelised banana split up to 1 3/4 hours prep and 3 3/4 hours cooking time for confit of duck ravioli with cucumber and a peanut, sesame and chilli dressing. But at least you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

How often will I cook from the book? No one actually cooks from one book every day, do they? It’s a bit of a self-defeating title really. If people did buy the book and cook from it every day then that’s HarperCollinsPublishers out of business pretty sharpish, or at least Marcus Wareing’s career as a cookbook writer cut mercilessly short. But there is certainly a wide enough range and variety of recipes to keep us cuisine-hopping Brits satisfied for quite some time with everything from celeriac, ham hock and barley hot pot to Thai chicken salad  and prawn tomato and chilli linguine in between. There’s also guidance on fermenting, pickling, jam and chutney making for when you’re in the mood for a bit of a project, so there’s little chance of this turning into Marcus Collecting Dust Everyday.

Killer recipes? Recipes that may well become regular standbys include hassleback potatoes with red wine and pork ragu; haddock with lentils, basil and mascarpone; beef and garden herb meatballs with roasted tomato sauce; barbecued lamb ribs with chimichurri sauce and chocolate and peanut caramel tray bake. 

What will I love? This is a kinder, gentler Marcus; the family man at home in his East Sussex hideaway Melfort House, gardening and cooking with his kids and grinning for the camera in his casual blue denim shirt. It’s the sort of aspiration lifestyle stuff you’d associate with the likes of Bill Granger or Donna Hay, but Wareing pulls it off. The recipes are very much ‘home cookery’ as Wareing likes to call it with not a hint of Michelin-starred hubris.

Should I buy it? There are many books already on the market aimed at this style of cooking (not least the excellent Bill Granger Every Day) but Marcus Everyday ticks enough modern trend and trope boxes including vegan, vegetarian, healthy eating, low waste cooking, preserving and barbecuing to make it a useful addition to any collection. It will be of particular interest to newbie cooks or those in need of updating and broadening their style and repertoire.

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

Buy this book
Marcus Everyday: Easy Family Food for Every Kind of Day
Harper Collins Publishers, £20

 

 

The Incredible Lemon Pie from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

279 Tarte Citron.jpg

Lemon meringue tart (pie)

Per 6 amici

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Chilling time: overnight
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredienti
For the pastry (pie dough)
90 g/3 and 1/4 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
20 g/ 3/4 oz (scant 3 and 1/2 tablespoons) ground almonds (almond meal)
50 g/1 and 3/4 oz (generous 1/3 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
2 large (US extra large) eggs
150 g/5 oz (1 and 1/4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the lemon custard
1 leaf (sheet) gelatine
3 unwaxed lemons
3 eggs
70 g/2 and 1/2 oz (1/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
140 g/5 oz (1 and 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
For the Italian meringue
230 g/8 oz (scant 1 and 1/4 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons water
juice of 1 lemon
4 egg whites

Come fare

Make the pastry. In a bowl, soften the butter with a spatula. In a mixer with a paddle (flat beater) attachment, beat the softened butter, ground almonds (almond meal) and icing (confectioners’) sugar until smooth. Then add the eggs, one at a time, while beating. Incorporate the flour and salt. Mix the pastry dough until crumbly. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Make the lemon custard. Soften the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Zest two of the lemons and squeeze all three. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Combine the lemon juice, sugar and butter in a pan and bring to the boil. Gradually add the eggs, incorporating with a whisk. Cook over a low heat until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.

Pour the mixture into a bowl. Squeeze the gelatine and incorporate. Add the lemon zest. Use an immersion blender to mix well. Put into an airtight container and rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4). Roll out the pastry dough into a 6-mm/1/4-inch-thick disc. Grease a tart pan with butter and line with the pastry. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Make the Italian meringue. Dissolve the sugar into 2 tablespoons of water and the lemon juice in a pan over a low heat. Bring to the boil and cook until the mixture reads 120°C/250°F on a cooking thermometer. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, put a little of the syrup in a spoon and let one drop fall into a glass of cold water. If it forms a small, soft ball, the syrup is ready. In a grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Pour the syrup in a thin stream into the meringue while whisking until the mixture cools.

Fill the pastry case (shell) with the lemon custard. Use a plastic spatula to cover the tart with meringue, creating a dome in the centre. Caramelize with a chef’s blowtorch. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

Cool to know
‘If it’s not big, it’s not big enough’ is one of our mottos, so now you know why our meringue stands 20 cm/8 inches high…

Cook more from this book 
La Gran Carbonara
Green Pizz’

Read the review 

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

Green Pizz’ from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

121 Green Pizz.jpg

Rapini (broccoli rabe) cream, finocchiona, mozzarella and pecorino pizza

Per 1 pizza

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredienti

2 bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) or Tenderstem broccoli (broccolini)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1/2 quantity (250 g/9 oz) Pizza Dough (see below)
5 thin slices of finocchiona or salami
90 g/3 and ¼ oz fior di latte (or mozzarella di bufala), roughly cut
70 g/2 and ½ oz (3/4 cup) grated pecorino, plus a few shavings to garnish
Salt

Come fare

Chop half the rapini (broccoli rabe) stalks (stems) and remove the leaves. Cook the rapini for 2 minutes in a large pan of salted boiling water. Drain, then immerse them in a large container of ice water to stop further cooking. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Make the rapini cream. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a high heat. Chop the remaining rapini stalks and fry with the anchovies for 15 minutes over a medium heat. Process everything in a food processor until you have a smooth cream.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9. Cover a baking sheet with baking (parchment) paper. On a floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a circle about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter and about 2 cm/ 3/4 inch thick.

Place the pizza base (crust) on the baking paper. Cover it with the rapini cream and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the chopped rapini, finocchiona slices and mozzarella. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated and shaved pecorino. Don’t wait, serve and enjoy immediately!

Cool to know
Finocchiona is a type of traditional Italian salami from Tuscany. Its name comes from ‘finocchio’ – meaning ‘fennel’ in Italian – which, along with pepper, gives this salami its distinctive flavour.

Neapolitan Pizza Dough
A tip from Giuseppe Cutraro

Per 2 pizze

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Rising time: 8 hours

5 g/1/8 oz (13/4 teaspoons) fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon fast-action dried (active dry) yeast
300 g/11 oz (2½ cups) soft (pastry) flour, such as Italian type ’00’
1 generous tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fine salt

Come fare

Dissolve the yeast in 200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) of lukewarm water. Sift the flour and add half to the water. Work by hand for 10 minutes, without leaving any lumps, gently mixing the liquid with the flour and kneading the resulting dough well. Incorporate the remaining flour,olive oil and salt.

Continue to knead by hand for 15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and comes off the work surface very easily.

Put into a bowl, cover with a wet cloth and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm room (about 24°C/75°F).

Dust a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the dough into two and put the dough balls onto the baking sheet. Cover with a cloth or lid without touching the dough and leave to rise in a warm room for 6 hours. The pizza dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.

How to stretch pizza dough

Neapolitan pizza-making is an art form (now recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO). Giuseppe Cutraro, our chief pizzaiolo, ‘made in Napoli’, explains how to stretch the dough. Professional tips below…

You begin by dusting your work surface (preferably marble to keep the temperature at about 20°C/70°F) with flour.

Put the dough on the work surface and start by stretching it with your hands to form a circle about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter. And here’s where things get a little tough: twirling the pizza with your hands. Unlike what you might think, you don’t toss the dough high into the air, even though it looks like a really cool thing to do. This can even be done on the work surface: make the dough into a circle by rotating it, or by repeatedly lifting it with the left hand while holding it with the right. These actions allow the dough to be stretched uniformly.

Then lay the dough on the work surface and start pushing it from the centre towards the edges with your finger, which pushes the air to the edges and creates a raised lip that is light and puffed when cooked. We pizzaioli call it a cornicione (‘cornice’). It’s the hallmark of genuine Neapolitan pizza – generous edges, about 2 cm/¾ inch, which puff up at 430°C/800°F in the wood-fired pizza oven.

Giuseppe started learning the trade at the age of 15, at the historic Starita a Materdei pizzeria in Naples. We will probably never equal his pizza-making skills, but we can at least pretend.

Cook more from this book 
La Gran Carbonara
The Incredible Lemon Pie

Read the review 

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

La Gran Carbonara from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

191 La Gran Carbonara.jpg

Spaghetti carbonara

Per 4 amici

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
30 minutes or less, 5 ingredients or less

Ingredienti

3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks
90 g/3 oz (1 cup) grated pecorino cheese
90 g/3 oz (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon pepper
400 g/14 oz spaghetti
8 slices of guanciale (cured pork cheek/jowl), finely sliced

Come fare

In a bowl, mix the whole eggs and egg yolks with the pecorino, Parmesan and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain, reserving the cooking water.

In the meantime, add the guanciale slices to a dry frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and sear for 5 minutes, or until crispy. Add 1 tablespoon of the pasta cooking water, followed by the spaghetti.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the egg mixture and mix briskly. The eggs should not cook too much and the consistency of the sauce should be creamy.

Transfer to a large serving dish and serve immediately.

Cool to know
You heard right: real Italian carbonara sauce is made without cream. Our chef Filippo La Gattuta makes a spectacle of serving it straight out of a big pecorino wheel at our London trattoria Gloria.

Cook more from this book
Green Pizz’
The Incredible Lemon Pie

Read the review 

Buy this book 
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

Big Momma Cucina Popolare by Big Momma

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

What’s the USP? The surprisingly ‘serious’ cookbook from the bat shit crazy French-owned Big Momma Group of Italian restaurants that operates a total of 10 venues in France and the UK with Gloria and Circolo Popolare in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia respectively. In her review for the Times, Marina O’Loughlin said about Gloria that ‘the interior is over-upholstered, overdecorated, over the top, a shrieking hen-party antithesis to contemporary style. Food arrives in lurid ceramics’. She loved it.

What does it look like? O’Loughlin’s description holds true for the book, from the red cartoon cockerels strutting across the cover to the big brash food styling featuring the aforementioned ‘lurid ceramics’, heaped with colourful food, shot against clashing floral backgrounds and with ridiculous punning titles like ‘Egg Sheeran’ and ‘Eat Me Baba One More Time’.

Is it good bedtime reading? Only if you like reading recipes at bedtime. Besides, the garish visuals will give you nightmares.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? A few bits and pieces like cuttlefish, whole octopus and guanciale may take a bit of effort, but you should have no problems for 90 per cent of the dishes with the remainder requiring a decent fishmonger or deli.

What’s the faff factor? The Big Momma Groupo might be young, dumb and full of rum (there are eight recipes in the book that call for the spirit) but this is restaurant food so you’ll need to be prepared on occasion to put your back into cooking some of the dishes, making and stuffing your own pasta and pizza dough and preparing ingredients like confit tomatoes.

Killer recipes?  Zuppa di pomodoro; pizz’n’roll (rolled pizza with fontina cheese); melanzane in carrozza (aubergine fritters with provolone cheese and tomato confit); carpaccio Sorrentino (beef carpaccio with courgettes and almonds); pasta e ceci con gamberi (pasta with chickpeas and prawns); big lasagna; the incredible lemon pie. 

What will I love? This is an exuberant and fun book, but it’s also packed with tips from the Big Mamma Group chefs on things like how to make pizza dough and pasta, how to make the perfect risotto and how to choose truffles and fresh fish.

What won’t I like? This is an in-yer-face book and you are either going to love the blousy visual style or hate it. Same goes for those groan-inducing dad-joke dish titles like Poulpilove, Elton Mess, Purple Rice and Dipsy Winky.

Should I buy it? If by some miracle you haven’t really cooked Italian food at home, this is a colourful, vibrant way to get started. It would also make the perfect present for someone who is a fan of the restaurants.

Cuisine: Italian 
Suitable for:
For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

Cook from this book
La Gran Carbonara
Green Pizz’
The Incredible Lemon Pie

The Twelve Cookbooks of Christmas

There’s no better Christmas present to give a true foodie than a new cookbook. Here’s my selection of a dozen of the best new releases from the last few months that will please the gourmet in your life, whether they are serious hobbyist cooks, professional chefs or just in need of some fresh inspiration for midweek meals.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

What the publishers say:  The hotly anticipated cookbook from the group behind London’s Gloria and Circolo Popolare restaurants.  Italian restaurant group Big Mamma burst onto the London food scene earlier this year with the opening of Gloria, the 70’s Capri-style trattoria in the heart of Shoreditch. This little corner of Italy hosted an explosive menu, mixing old Italian classics with ingredients sourced direct from small producers in Italy, plus a few fun twists from Head Chef Filippo La Gattuta. In June, in the wake of the success of their first opening in London, French owners Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux opened Circolo Popolare – a sunny Sicily style trattoria in Fitzrovia, with immediate show-stopping dishes, from giant Pizzas al metro to XXL desserts.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes features 130 best recipes from the Big Mamma team. Some delicious, easy-to-prepare, imaginative twists from true classics such as La Gran Carbonara and Tiramisu, to some of the most creative Italian recipes today, including Pizza Nera Con Cozze and Sfoglia Lasagna. The book includes much-loved dishes from Gloria and Circolo Popolare, and some amazing Pizza Yolo, Lob’star Pasta, Ravioli Di Ricotta, Daft Punch and Eat Me Baba One More Time.

Full review coming soon

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95 (phaidon.com)

Cook from this book: coming soon

Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing

Marcus Everyday

Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs and as a stern taskmaster on Masterchef: The Professionals. But in his new book (the sixth he has co-authored with Chantelle Nicholson, Group Operations Director for Marcus Wareing Restaurants), he presents a kinder, gentler Marcus; the family man at home in his East Sussex hideaway Melfort House, gardening and cooking with his kids and grinning for the camera in his casual blue denim shirt. It’s the sort of aspiration lifestyle stuff you’d associate with the likes of Bill Granger or Donna Hay, but Wareing pulls it off. The recipes are very much ‘home cookery’ as Wareing likes to call it; approachable, achievable and not a hint of Michelin-starred hubris. Recipes that may well become regular standbys include hassleback potatoes with red wine and pork ragu; haddock with lentils, basil and mascarpone and beef and garden herb meatballs with roasted tomato sauce.

Read the full review 

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

Buy this book
Marcus Everyday: Easy Family Food for Every Kind of Day
Harper Collins Publishers, £20

Rick Steins Secret France

Secret France Rick Stein

Restaurateur and seafood expert Rick Stein takes a meandering journey through rural France from Normandy in the north to Provence in the south. In addition to the usual suspects like snails in garlic butter,  omelette aux fines herbes, croque monsieur and steak frites, Stein has gone off the beaten track and unearthed pounti, a ham and chard terrine from the Auvergne; wild boar stew with pinot noir from Alsace, and boles de picolat, meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette from Prades in the Pyrenees. Fans of Rick Stein will not be disappointed. If you are new to the food of France this is a great introduction, and if you are a Francophile, you will enjoy revisiting old favourites and discovering new dishes to add to your repertoire.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books, £26

Black Axe Mangal by Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

Lee Tiernan runs the cult north London restaurant Black Axe Mangal and this is his first book. His pizza oven is emblazoned with the faces of the rock group Kiss and the flavours of dishes like pig’s tails with pickled chicory; braised hare, chocolate and pig’s blood with mash; oxtail, bone marrow and anchovy and the signature squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are turned up to 11.

The liberal seasoning of salty language and peppering of softcore glamour shots may be off-putting to some, but the step by step instructions on the key skills of grilling, smoking and baking that help define Tiernan’s food, along with the story behind his success, provide an insight into one of the UK’s most exciting and original chefs and make Black Axe Mangal an essential purchase.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Cook from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

The Quality Chop House

Quality chop house

Recipes and stories from a landmark London restaurant that’s been trading in one form or other since 1869. You get a very real sense of what the Quality Chop House is all about. If you are already a regular, it will make you want to go back immediately and if you’ve never been you’ll be desperate for a table. Keen cooks willing to invest time and some money to create restaurant-quality dishes like mince on dripping toast; pastrami cured salmon; corn and marmite butter; truffled potato croquettes, and the signature confit potatoes at home will absolutely devour this book.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Cook from this book
Confit potatoes 

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray

Downton Cookbook

The acclaimed historian, cook and broadcaster Annie Gray takes the fictional Downtown Abbey as a jumping-off point to chart the history of British country house cooking in a series of short articles and recipes including Palestine soup; cabbage as they served it in Budapest; mutton with caper sauce; the queen of trifles; beef stew with dumplings; treacle tart; rice pudding. Downtown fans will love it, but it’s such a sumptuously produced book with lovely food photography by John Kernick that it will appeal to anyone with an interest in British food and its history.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook
White Lion Publishing, £25

Signature Dishes That Matter by Christine Muhlke et al

Sig dishes

A collection of 240 restaurant dishes that spans six centuries from the first-ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first-served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018. It is a fascinating read and an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine. It’s perfect for bedtime reading and could provide inspiration for a spectacular retro-themed dinner party.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir 

Dishoom

The cookbook of the eight-strong Dishoom all-day dining Indian restaurant group inspired by the Persian-style Irani cafes of Mumbai.  There’s recipes for mid-morning snacks like keema puffs, lunch dishes including aloo sabzi (vegetable curry served with bedmi puri bread), afternoon refreshments such as salted laksi, ‘sunset snacks’  pau bhaji, a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted Bombay bread buns and dinner dishes such as soft shell crab masala, lamb biryani and spicy lamb chops. Besides the delicious recipes, the book looks beautiful, is a great read and gives you more than enough detail about Mumbai to plan a truly sybaritic holiday there.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant: From Bombay with Love
Bloomsbury Publishing, £26.

The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver

St John

The long-awaited follow up to 2007’s Beyond Nose to Tail from one of the UK’s most distinguished and influential chefs Fergus Henderson and his business partner Trevor Gulliver. The publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of the opening of St John restaurant near Smithfield market in London, world-famous for dishes such as roast bone marrow with parsley salad that celebrate offal. Adding The Book of St John will bring something distinctive to your cookbook collection and might well expand your culinary horizons with dishes such as crispy lamb’s brains; pig’s tongues, butter beans and green sauce; chicken, bacon and trotter pie and Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

Cook from this book
Welsh Rarebit 
Grilled lamb hearts, peas and mint
Salted caramel and chocolate tart 

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Food of Sichuan

The Food of Sichuan is a revised and updated edition of Sichuan Cookery, originally published in 2001. It’s an authoritative and comprehensive investigation of the styles, techniques and ingredients of a lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine with over 100 recipes, 50 of them new to the revised edition including bowl steamed belly pork with preserved vegetables; fragrant and crispy duck, and pot-sticker dumplings with chicken stock. The quality of the writing, the depth and breadth of the research and the sheer reassuring heft of the thing tell you this is the only book on Sichuan cooking you’ll ever need.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Food of Sichuan
£30, Bloomsbury

Cook House by Anna Hedworth

Cook House Anna Hedworth

If you’ve ever dreamed about making a career in food, self-taught chef and restaurateur Anna Hedworth’s story of how she opened a restaurant in a shopping container in Newcastle upon Tyne will provide you with the information and inspiration to take the leap. If you want to try out techniques like cooking over open-fire and preserving and fermenting for the first time, this book will be of particular interest. But even if you just want to add a few more delicious go-to recipes to your repertoire such as red pepper, paprika and rosemary soup with sourdough croutons; chicken, courgette and pea salad with aioli and sourdough crumb or dark chocolate and almond cake, Cook House is well worth adding to your collection.

Read the full review 

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

Buy this book
Cook House
£25, Head of Zeus

The Shore by Bruce Rennie

The Shore

A collection of highly inventive and original seafood dishes from one of the best seafood restaurants in the country, The Shore in Penzance. Chef Bruce Rennie worked with Michelin starred Edinburgh-based chef Martin Wishart as well as Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein before opening The Shore in 2015. An extended introductory chapter covers Rennie’s own story, his relationship with the land and Cornwall and running the restaurant. Recipes are arranged into six, eight-course tasting menus which reflect Rennie’s love of Japanese and Indian flavours in dishes such as mackerel, sashimi style, sesame, beetroot and wasabi sorbet and cod with dal, cauliflower, lime pickle, onion bhaji and coriander.

Read my foreword to the book

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Dedicated home cooks/professional chefs

Buy this book
The Shore
£25, A Way with Media

Rick Stein’s Secret France by Rick Stein

Secret France Rick Stein

What’s the USP? Restaurateur and seafood expert Rick Stein really needs no introduction. After 25 years on British TV screens and 45 years of running his world famous The Seafood restaurant in Padstow Cornwall, Stein is something of a national treasure. He’s written numerous cookbooks (many of them with an accompanying TV series) about his world travels that include Spain, India, the Med, the Far East, and Mexico. Now he’s returned to France, a country he first wrote and broadcast about 15 years ago with his cookbook and TV series French Odessey. He takes a meandering journey through rural France from Normandy in the north to Provence in the south, making 10 stops along the way including Alsace, Champagne, the Haute Jura and Burgundy

What’s great about it? In addition to the usual suspects like snails in garlic butter,  omelette aux fines herbes, croque monsieur and steak frites, Stein has gone off the beaten track and unearthed pounti, a ham and chard terrine from the Auvergne; wild boar stew with pinot noir from Alsace, and boles de picolat, meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette from Prades in the Pyrenees. Food and travel photography by James Murphy is glorious, bringing France to vivid life and making the food look extremely appetising. Introductions to the book, chapters and recipes are informative and Stein’s distinctive voice comes across loud and clear.     

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? There are a few things that you will need to seek out, but there is a very handy suppliers list that will sort you out for most things including Kampot pepper, snails, brik pastry, Banyuls vinegar, and Bockwurst sausage (the latter coming from that obscure vendor Lidl). As you’d expect from Rick Stein, there is a chapter devoted to seafood and you will certainly want to visit a fishmonger for bream, palourde clams, lobster, octopus, brill and scallops (the list goes on). 

How often will I cook from the book? Although a few of the recipes will take some planning ahead, there are many that will suit a midweek supermarket-shopped meal such as deep-fried pork chops with parsley; lamb chorba (a very delicious North African stew with chickpeas and orzo pasta that’s flavoured with harissa and ras-el-hanout,  cooked for Stein by an Algerian fisherman in Cassis) and spelt risotto with spring vegetables.

What’s the faff factor? Stein may be a chef, but he’s a self-taught one and generally eschews too much complexity. There are more involved recipes such as The Flavours of Bouillabaisse with Gurnard and Fennel which has a long ingredients list, requires the making of a shellfish stock and the preparation of both confit tomatoes and green pistou sauce, but mostly, the dishes are approachable and very achievable.

Should I buy it? Fans of Rick Stein will not be disappointed with his latest effort. If you are new to the food of France this is a great introduction, and if you are a Francophile, you will enjoy revisiting old favourites and discovering new dishes to add to your repertoire.

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

Buy this book
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books, £26

Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs with Sesame Bread by Lee Tiernan

069 Vietnamese eggs

This is a dish we used to serve as staff meal at St. JOHN Bread and Wine from time to time. I’m not sure why we called it Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs, but it’s basically scrambled eggs with Asian flavours, and it’s fucking tasty. If you can’t be bothered to make the Sesame Bread by all means use whatever bread you have at home, but preferably something with a bit of texture, like sourdough. Sweet coffee goes well with this. Or even a White Russian.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT non-stick frying pan (skillet) rubber spatula

SERVES 4

3–4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
2 red chillies, finely chopped
3 spring onions (scallions), whites thinly sliced, greens reserved
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), stems sliced, leaves left whole and reserved
25 g (1 oz/2 tablespoons) butter
8 eggs, beaten
fish sauce, to taste
salt

FOR THE SALAD
400 g/14 oz bean sprouts
reserved greens of the spring onions (see above), finely sliced
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Chillies (page 201)
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Onions (page 200)
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1⁄2-1 lime
reserved coriander leaves (see above)

TO SERVE
4 BAM Flatbreads (pages 56–63), topped with sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil after cooking
8 rashers BAM Bacon, or shop bought, grilled (page 50; optional)
dried baby shrimp (optional)
2 tablespoons shop-bought crispy fried onions

In a non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a low heat, soften the garlic and ginger in a little oil for 2 minutes. Add the chillies with a pinch of salt and cook for a further minute. Add the whites of the spring onions (scallions) and the coriander (cilantro) stalks and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Don’t cook the latter for too long as they will lose their vibrant green colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next, toss all the salad ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined, and set aside.

Wipe the non-stick frying pan clean, and then get the pan hot over a high heat. Melt the butter in the pan and add the garlic, ginger and chilli mix. When it starts to sizzle, add the eggs and stir with a rubber spatula. Turn the heat down to low. Keep stirring and turning the eggs, then add a good splash of fish sauce, bearing in mind that this is all the seasoning the eggs are going to get. I like to go pretty heavy with it – at least 1⁄2 tablespoon – but really it depends how salty and funky you want it. I’d recommend tasting a little of the egg once it’s mixed in to check. Continue to cook the eggs for around 2 minutes – you want them just cooked and super silky, as opposed to dried out and rubbery.

Place the breads on plates. Distribute the scrambled eggs onto each bread and top with the salad. Add the bacon and dried baby shrimp (if using) and the crispy fried onions. Serve with steak knives for ease of eating

PICKLED RED CHILLIES

These pickled chillies cut through fatty meat and add the welcome hit of spice I’m always craving. We use them a lot at BAM. Reserve the vinegar to use in a salad dressing after you’ve used all the actual chilli.

MAKES ABOUT 800 G/13⁄4 LB

250 g/9 oz red chillies
350 ml (12 fl oz/11⁄2 cups) red wine vinegar 175 g (6 oz/3⁄4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar

In a small bowl, whisk the sugar into the vinegar until it has dissolved.

Blister the chillies under a hot grill, over the coals of a barbecue or with a blow torch, then cut into 5 mm (1⁄4 inch) chunks. Combine the chillies and vinegar in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

PICKLED RED ONIONS

MAKES 800 G (13⁄4 LB/3 CUPS)

1 tablespoon salt
4–6 red onions, thinly sliced
125 g (41⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) red wine vinegar

In a colander or sieve set over a sink, dis- tribute the salt over the sliced onions and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the onions are salting, dissolve the sugar into the vinegar in a saucepan over a low heat. When the liquid has cooled, add the onions. Tip into an air- tight container.

These can be used after a few hours, but will be better after a few days in the refrigerator.

Cook more from this book
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review

Pressed Octopus and Szechuan Vinaigrette by Lee Tiernan

095 pressed octopus

This dish is one of the more aesthetically pleasing items on the menu at BAM. We set the octopus once poached so that when we cut a slice, the octopus resembles marble or terrazzo. Pressing isn’t essential so don’t stress out if you don’t have time or can’t be bothered. If you can be bothered, however, you will need two interlocking 450 g (1 lb) loaf pans. Octopus isn’t that cheap, so take care when cooking.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT
2 x 450 g (1 lb) interlocking loaf pans weights, such as tin cans

SERVES 4

FOR THE OCTOPUS
1 large Galician double-sucker octopus, washed and cleaned
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 lemon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon light olive oil

TO SERVE
150 g (5 oz/1 cup) freshly podded peas
dash of Lemon Oil (page 198)
1 teaspoon black chilli flakes
1 large handful pea shoots, trimmed at the last possible moment
50 ml (1 3⁄4 fl oz/1⁄4 cup) Szechuan Vinaigrette (page 199)
sea salt flakes, to taste
75 g (23⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) Turmeric Pickled Onions (page 200)
4 tablespoons deep-fried baby anchovies (see method on page 115)

Place the octopus in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Add the rest of the octopus ingredients, apart from the oil, then bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and, using a cartouche
(a circle of baking/parchment paper that fits snugly on top of the saucepan) weighed down with a plate, keep the octopus submerged. Cook for roughly 1 hour, depending on size, until poking the octopus with a skewer meets minimal resistance. Allow to cool in the cooking liquid until you can comfortably handle the octopus.

Place the octopus on a large chopping (cutting) board and have a quick scout for any fennel seeds or peppercorns and discard them. Cut the tentacles away from the body then slice off a piece to taste for seasoning, adding a touch of salt if required. We discard the head as the texture is pappy – it’s small and tends to overcook. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl and toss the tentacles in the light olive oil.

Line one loaf pan with a double layer of cling film (plastic wrap). Lay the tentacles lengthways and fold over the cling film, placing the second pan (bottom-side down) on top. Press with a heavy weight, such as a tin can, and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight. This will last for 3–4 days.

Cut the pressed octopus into slices and arrange on a platter. Dress the peas with the dash of Lemon Oil and the chilli flakes, and lastly mix in the the pea shoots.

Shake the Szechuan Vinaigrette vigorously then apply generously over the octopus. Sprinkle over a pinch or two
of sea salt flakes on top and heap the pea salad on top. Spike the salad with slithers of vivid-yellow Turmeric Pickled Onions, and finally scatter over my favourites, the crispy deep- fried baby anchovies.

SWEET SZECHUAN VINAIGRETTE

I will go into work after being off for a couple of days, and Trick will have developed a better method to cook some- thing, refined a sauce, or experimented with something new. It’s the most fulfilling facet of the cooking process for me – experimenting. I came in one day to find something labelled ‘Sweet Szechuan Vinaigrette’. I squirted some on the back of my hand, tasted it and was immediately hooked. I eat this on its own over plain rice, it’s that good – particularly good on the leftover rice that’s caught slightly at the end of service, when you realize you haven’t eaten all day and you’re absolutely famished. I love the way this works with octopus (page 94), but it is extremely versatile. Think cold roast chicken, pork terrines, duck, ham – anything that benefits from a little zip.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

old frying pan (skillet) fine sieve

MAKES 300 ML (10 FL OZ/11⁄4 CUPS)

50 g (2 oz) green Szechuan peppercorns
250 ml (8 fl oz/generous 1 cup) rapeseed or sunflower oil
100 g (3 1⁄2 oz/1⁄2 cup) palm sugar
1 tablespoon spicy Chinese hot chilli bean paste (also known as spicy broad bean paste)
100 ml (31⁄2 fl oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorn oil (prickly oil)

In a heavy-based pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, toast the peppercorns over a medium heat. I like to take a slower approach when toasting Szechuan peppercorns, as the oil they release can burn and end up tasting bitter. Look for a touch of colour. You will be able to smell when the peppercorns are ready by the intoxicating aroma. If I could bottle that smell, I would smother myself in it like a teenage boy applies Lynx deodorant. Turn the heat down and add the oil to the peppercorns. This might bubble up and spit, so stand back, then turn off the heat.

In a separate pan (one you care a little less about) start a dry caramel with the palm sugar over a medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble, after about 2 minutes, reduce the heat and cook for 1–2 minutes until caramelized – slightly too much colour and the vinaigrette will taste burnt. Remove from the heat and whisk in the bean paste and vinegar, dis- solving all the sugar. Add this mix to the infused oil and allow to cool completely.

TURMERIC PICKLED ONIONS

MAKES ABOUT 400 G (14 OZ/11⁄2 cups)

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) white wine vinegar
125 g (41⁄2 oz/1 g cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

Set a small sieve or colander over the sink, add the onions and toss with the salt.

While the onions are salting, bring the vinegar, sugar, turmeric and mustard seeds to the boil in a saucepan, stirring the liquid at first to dissolve the sugar. Once boiled, take off the heat and allow to cool.

When the liquid is cool, add the onions and tip into an airtight container. They will turn a vivid yellow colour after a day or two in the refrigerator, but can be used a couple of hours after making. They will keep for 1 week, chilled.

Cook more from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review

Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit by Lee Tiernan

093 crispy fkn rabbit

This dish from start to finish is all Tristram Bowden (aka Trick), one of the best chefs I have ever had the privilege to work with. It bridges BAM’s transition into a zero-genre restaurant where we can put whatever we like on the menu. We sell colonies of Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit weekly, it’s one of the tastiest dishes we sell and it’s well worth putting in the effort to make this at home for friends if you have the time. I would encourage you to get ahead by cook- ing and pressing the rabbit a couple of days in advance of serving it, so the meat is well set and firm when you crumb and cook it.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT casserole dish (Dutch oven) 2 x 1.3 kg (3 lb) loaf pans weights, such as tin cans digital thermometer

MAKES 10–12 PIECES

FOR THE RABBIT
1 large rabbit, jointed, offal trimmed (you can ask your butcher to joint the rabbit)
sunflower oil, for roasting and deep frying
8 plump cloves garlic
125 ml (41⁄4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) white wine
200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) dark chicken stock (broth)
100 g (31⁄2 oz/1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) butter
400 g/14 oz lardo in one large piece
200 g/7 oz chicken livers, trimmed
1⁄4 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grape must mustard
salt

FOR THE COATING
100 g (31⁄2 oz/2 cups) panko breadcrumbs
50 g (2 oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
3 eggs, beaten

TO SERVE
2 tablepoons black peppercorns and 2 tablespoons salt, blitzed to a fine powder
4 tablespoons Pickled Mooli (page 201)
1 x quantity Apple and Chilli Sauce (page 198)
lime quarters

Preheat your oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
Coat the rabbit pieces (minus the offal) with a smattering of oil and season with salt. Put a large casserole dish (Dutch oven) over a medium heat and flash fry the rabbit until golden for 8–10 minutes, adding the garlic for the last 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the chicken stock (broth) and butter, bring to a bubble and nestle in the lardo. Cover the dish with a layer of baking (parchment) paper and a double layer of aluminium foil, cover, and steam for 1–11⁄2 hours, until the meat just starts to come off the bone. Leave covered and allow to cool.

When the rabbit is cool enough to handle, flake the meat from the bone (do not shred). There are a few tiny bones so keep a careful eye out. Remove the skin from the lardo (if necessary) and dice into 1 cm (1⁄2 inch) cubes. Meanwhile, reduce the cook- ing liquid by half. Mix the lardo and the rabbit together in a large bowl, then pour over the cooking liquid.

Set a frying pan (skillet) over a high heat and fry the rabbit offal and chicken livers until they are just cooked, around
3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and roughly chop. Collect all the juices from the chopping (cutting) board and add them
to the meat mixture. Mix in the parsley and mustard and taste for seasoning.

Line a 1.3 kg (3 lb) loaf pan with baking paper. Spoon the rabbit mix into the loaf pan, cover with more baking paper, place the second loaf pan, base-side down, into the pan, and weigh down with tin cans or metal weights – remember this has to fit into your refrigerator – and press down evenly. In addition, if the rabbit isn’t pressed hard enough it’ll flake apart when it comes to portioning and frying. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Turn the rabbit out of the pan. If it’s reluctant, put the pan in a sink of hot water for a few seconds to loosen the fat a bit. Lay the pan on its side and coax the rabbit out using the baking paper. Whatever you do, don’t start slamming the pan against your work surface, as you run the risk of the rabbit breaking apart. Slice the terrine into 12 equal-sized pieces. If they are a little soft, pop them in the refrigerator until they firm up.

Place the breadcrumbs, flour and eggs into three separate dishes and line a baking sheet with baking paper ready to receive the crumbed bunny fingers. With your left hand, flour the first finger. Shake off any excess flour. Using your right hand toss
the finger in egg. Place the eggy finger in the crumb. Use your left hand to coat the finger in crumbs and place on the baking sheet. It might sound a little patronizing me telling you what hand to use and where, but it is way cleaner to use dry floury fingers to toss whatever you happen to be crumbing than both fingers being covered in egg, which will pick up more and more crumbs. Once all 12 fingers are crumbed, chill for 1 hour.

Heat a decent glug of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fingers for 4–5 minutes, or until golden and crisp on all sides. Alternatively, heat a deep-fat fryer to 160oC/320oF and fry in batches. You are looking for an internal temperature of 75°C/165°F. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with the salt and pepper mix and serve piping hot, with the Pickled Mooli, Apple and Chilli Sauce and fresh lime on the side.

APPLE AND CHILLI SAUCE

This is the sauce we serve with the Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit (page 92) but it’s magical with pork or pressed pig’s head.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

blowtorch mini food processor

MAKES 1 LITRE (34 FL OZ/41⁄4 CUPS)

300 g/11 oz medium-heat red chillies
4 plump cloves garlic
2 banana shallots
vegetable oil, for frying
175 ml (6 fl oz/3⁄4 cup) cloudy apple juice
125 ml (41⁄4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) apple cider vinegar
125 g (41⁄4 oz/generous 1 cup) palm sugar
3 Pink Lady apples, peeled and cut into 1 cm (1⁄2 inch) dice soy sauce, to taste

Blacken the chillies with a blow torch, on a barbecue or under the grill (broiler).

Blitz the garlic and shallots to a paste in a small food processor. Add to a large frying pan (skillet) with a good glug of oil and cook until fragrant, avoiding any colour.

Purée the chilli and add to the garlic and shallot mix. Cook over a medium–low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure the mix isn’t catching.

Add the apple juice and cider vinegar and dissolve the palm sugar into the sauce. Simmer the sauce over a low- medium heat for 10–15 minutes, again being vigilant to make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the pan.

Stir in the apples when cool and add soy to taste. I add about 1 tablespoon of dark soy but find the salt levels vary from brand to brand, so add a little, then add more until you’ve achieved the level of seasoning you’re happy with.

Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until needed. This will keep well for a week or so.

PICKLED MOOLI

Up there with my all-time favourite pickles, this is a good combination of vinegar flavour with a decent fermented edge. A polite warning though… this pickle omits a powerful fart-like aroma when you open the lid after a few days in the refrigerator. It always tickles me when the smell catches people unaware and they start looking around suspiciously for the culprit.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

mandoline with ribbon attachment or vegetable peeler

MAKES 150 G (51⁄3 OZ/1 CUP)

300 ml (10 fl oz/11⁄4 cups) white wine vinegar 150 g (5 oz/3⁄4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar 4–5 star anise
1 red chilli
1 mooli (daikon)
1 tablespoon salt

Simmer the vinegar, sugar and anise over a gentle heat. Allow to cool completely.

While the pickle liquid is cooling, prepare the mooli. Peel the mooli then top, tail and slice in half widthways so it’s easier to manage. If you have a ribbon attachment on a mandoline that’s perfect for achieving the bootlace strands we serve at the restaurant. Watch your fingers and use the guard when pushing the mooli through the mandolin. If you don’t have one of these, use a vegetable peeler.

Put the shaved mooli into a sieve and toss with the salt. Leave to sit for 10 minutes.

Add the mooli to the pickling liquid, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This pickle only needs a few hours before it’s good to eat, but will last a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Cook more from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review

New releases round-up December 2019

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray

Downton Cookbook

So, this is a quick and nasty cash in on a world-famous TV franchise, right?Well, it will undoubtedly make a few quid off the Downtown name, but there is nothing quick and nasty about it.  Written by the acclaimed historian, cook and broadcaster Annie Gray this a pukka piece of work that takes the fictional Downtown Abbey as a jumping off point to chart the history of British country house cooking in recipes and a series of short articles

Killer recipes:  Palestine soup; Cabbage as they served it in Budapest; mutton with caper sauce; the queen of trifles; beef stew with dumplings; treacle tart; rice pudding.

Should I buy it?: You don’t have to be a Downtown fan to buy this book but it will help if you are one. There are quite a lot of photos from the set of the TV series which won’t mean much to those who don’t follow the show. That said, it’s a sumptuously produced book with some lovely food photography by John Kernick and the quality of the writing and recipes means it will appeal to anyone with an interest in British food and its history.

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

Buy this book
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook
White Lion Publishing, £25

Super Sourdough by James Morton

Super Sourdough James Morton

Another book about sourdough, really? Yes, really. Like the shelves aren’t already heaving with them. If you don’t own the ten year old Tartine Bread: (Artisan Bread Cookbook, Best Bread Recipes, Sourdough Book) by legendary San Francisco baker Chad Robertson then you really need to rectify that massive mistake immediately, and then you can still buy Super Sourdough. Although Morton’s 20 page recipe for Pain au Levan shares many striking similarities with Robertson’s 40 page Basic Country Bread recipe, what Morton is particularly good at is helping novice bakers through the process every step of the way. The troubleshooting guides on sourdough starters and bread making are particularly useful and reassuring.  

Should I buy it? If you’ve never made sourdough before and are looking for a new hobby, this is a great place to start. It’s not just an instruction manual; once you have mastered the basics of sourdough there’s plenty of fun to be had knocking up Chelsea buns, pizza, crumpets and even cornbread. 

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

Buy this book
Super Sourdough: The foolproof guide to making world-class bread at home
Quadrille Publishing Ltd, £20

Week Light by Donna Hay

Week Light Donna Hay

So what is this, the 900th Donna Hay cookbook? Calm down mate. She might be the self -styled ‘Australia’s leading food editor and best-selling cookbook author’ and have sold ‘over seven million copies worldwide, with the books translated into 10 languages’ but in fact this is ‘only’ her 29th book.

That’s still about half a dozen more books than Charles Dickens ever wrote. What has she got left to say about food that anyone wants to hear? Well, how about, ‘No longer the side dishes, the back up dancers, the understudies, vegetables have EARNED THEIR PLACE to be front and centre on your plate’ (capitals, Donna Hay’s own).

Radical. Except didn’t Bruno Loubet say something very similar about 5 years ago with his brilliant book Mange ToutIts unlikely that there’s much overlap between Hay and Loubet’s audience. And there’s nothing truly new in cooking anyway is there, so stop quibbling.

Sorry, but before we go any further, WTAF is that title all about? That has got to be the weakest pun in the history of publishing.  It’s never explained or referred to at all in the book, it’s almost as if it was an after thought. Weeknight/Weeklight? Who knows?

So what’s the USP then? Healthy food that’s easy to prepare and which ticks all the modish boxes of the last few years including ‘bowl food’ like cheat’s chilli cashew tofu larb; a version of banh mi made with marinated tofu; chipotle chicken and cauliflower tacos, and ‘pizza’ made with a base of mashed sweet potato, almond meal, flour and eggs.

Christ on a bike. She knows how to suck the fun out of food doesn’t she? Actually, a lot of the dishes look extremely appealing in a fresh, green sort of way. Perfect for when you want your weeknight to be weeklight!

Just drop it, it doesn’t work does it? Don’t let the stupid title put you off. If you can stomach the endless shots of Hay being the perfect Aussie mum to her perfect Aussie kids in perfect Aussie settings and the relentlessly upbeat tone of the whole thing, then you might actually get a lot use out of the book.

Are you actually suggesting I buy Weakpun? There are worse things you could spend £20 on. And you don’t want your veggies to be understudies and back up dancers for the rest of their lives do you?  After all, they’ve EARNED THEIR PLACE front and centre.

They earn it every weeklight baby, every weeklight.  

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

Buy this book
Week Light: Super-Fast Meals to Make You Feel Good
Harper Collins, £20

Dishoom

by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir 

Dishoom

Dishoom, oh I love that place. The breakfast bacon naan rolls are to die for.  Get you, Mr London hipster. Some of us have to settle for a greasy caff.

Actually, there’s now eight Dishooms, inspired by the Persian-style Irani cafes of Mumbai, including branches in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh so its long past being a hipster hangout, if it ever was you suburban ninny.  OK, I know, I’ve read the book’s introduction thank you very much. Dishoom is an all day dining destination,  so there’s recipes for mid-morning snacks like keema puffs, lunch dishes including aloo sabzi (vegetable curry served with bedmi puri bread), afternoon refreshments such as salted laksi, ‘sunset snacks’ like…

Sunset snacks? They’ve made that up! Its a thing apparently; street food from vendors on Girgaum Chowpatty beach including pau bhaji, a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted Bombay bread buns. Of course there’s also recipes for dinner dishes such as soft shell crab masala, lamb biryani and spicy lamb chops.

I’m still hungry, what’s for pudding? No one gets to pudding in an Indian restaurant. But if you do have room then there’s the likes of basmati kheer (rice pudding with cardamom and a brulee topping) or berry Shrikhand (a type of thick, sweetened yoghurt popular amongst Gujarati families).

I’ve got loads of recipe books from modern Indian restaurants already, why do I want another?  Besides the delicious recipes, the book looks beautiful, is a great read and gives you more than enough detail about Mumbai to plan a truly sybaritic holiday there.

So I should buy it then? Does a naan roll have bacon in it? Get clicking the link below.

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

Buy this book
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant: From Bombay with Love
Bloomsbury Publishing, £26.

Sticky Toffee Pudding by Francis Coulson

096 sticky toffee pudding

Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel United Kingdom 1970s

50g (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to butter the dish
175g (6 oz) dates, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs
175g (6 oz) self-raising flour (all-purpose flour plus 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
vanilla ice cream, to serve

For the sauce

300ml (1⁄2 pint) double (heavy) cream
50g (2 oz) demerara sugar
1 dessertspoon black treacle (molasses)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Butter a baking tin about 20 cm x 13 cm (8 x 5 inches).

Boil the dates in 300ml (1⁄2 pint) water until soft (some dates are softer than others, so will need more cooking), then remove the pan from the heat and drain any liquid. Add the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat well. Mix in the flour, date mixture and vanilla extract and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until just firm to the touch. To make the sauce, boil the cream, sugar and treacle (molasses) together. Pour over the top of the sponge until it is covered (there will be some left over), then place under a hot grill (broiler) until it begins to bubble. Remove, cut into squares, and serve with the remaining sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Cook more from this book
Stuffed Pg’s Trotters with Morels
The crunchy part of the lasagne

Read the review

Buy the book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne by Massimo Bottura

165 crunchy lasagne

Osteria Francescana Italy 1995

1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 g extra-virgin olive oil
2 dried bay laves
1 sprig rosemary
100g bone marrow
50g pancetta steccata, chopped
100g sausagemeat
200g veal tail
100g veal tongue
100g beef cheek
100g cherry tomato confit
80g white wine
1.5g capon stock
5g sea salt
1g black pepper

Pasta dough

100g spinach
100g Swiss chard
500g ‘00’ flour
8 egg yolks
1 egg
salt

Béchamel foam

30g butter
30g flour
500g milk, at room temperature
120g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated sea salt

Tomato terrine

4 ripe tomatoes
1g sugar
1g sea salt
0.5g freshly ground black pepper
3g extra virgin olive oil
2g agar agar

Parmigiano crackers

15g soft butter
90g 30-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
5g cornflour (cornstarch)

Ragù

Make a classic soffritto by cooking the onion, carrot and celery very gently in
a pan with the olive oil. Transfer to a stainless steel bowl and stir in the bay and rosemary. Blanch the bone marrow in salted boiling water and drain it on paper towels to absorb any excess liquid. Sweat the pancetta in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the sausagemeat and cook until browned. Remove any excess fat, then add the remaining meats, keeping them in large pieces, and cherry tomato confit. Brown them, add the wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the soffritto. Put the mixture in a sous-vide bag along with a little of the stock, and seal. Cook for 24 hours at 63°C (145°F). Open the bag and separate the liquid and solids. Place the liquid in a pan and reduce it by half over low heat. Chop the meat with a sharp knife. Put it in a large saucepan and add the liquid.

Pasta

Cook the spinach and chard in boiling water, then chill it immediately in iced water. Drain it well, dry it and pound it thoroughly.

Sift the flour on to a board and make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolks, egg and the spinach mixture gradually to the well, mixing until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead for 15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover it with a clean dish cloth and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 mm (1⁄16 inch). Cut it into 5-cm (2-inch) triangles. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water (10 g salt per litre), drain it and dry it well. Stack the pasta, cover it carefully and let stand in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Bake for 15 minutes, until the pasta is perfectly gratinated. Let stand in a warm place for 5 minutes before serving.

Béchamel foam

Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour and salt. Cook, stirring, until it forms a smooth paste, then add the milk. Stir very well and when it starts to thicken, add the Parmigiano and keep stirring. Cook for 5 more minutes. While still warm, process it in a thermal mixer at maximum speed, then strain it, put it into a siphon and chill it. Once cold, charge with 2 charges and shake it well.

Tomato terrine

Blend the tomatoes thoroughly and strain them, adding the sugar, salt, pepper and oil. Put the liquid into a small pan with the agar agar and bring to a boil, stirring, until it has melted completely. Pour the mixture into a 10 x 15-cm (4 x 6-inch) rectangular tray and let cool. Once cold, cut it into 1 x 15-cm (1⁄2 x 6-inch) strips.

Parmigiano crackers

Knead the butter, Parmigiano and cornflour (cornstarch) together briefly. Roll it out to a thickness of 2 mm (1⁄8 inch) and cut it into 5-cm (2-inch) triangles, like the pasta. Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 2 minutes, or less if necessary, until lightly browned.

To serve

Place a straight line of tomato terrine along the plate. Place four spoonfuls of the ragù alongside it, topped with spoonfuls of the béchamel foam. Rest 2 Parmigiano crackers and 2 crispy pasta pieces alternately in front of them.

Cook more from this book
Sticky toffee pudding  
Stuffed Pig’s Trotters with Morels

Read the review

Buy the book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Stuffed Pig’s Trotters with Morels by Pierre Koffmann

106 stuffed pigs trotters

La Tante Claire United Kingdom 1977

4 pig’s trotters (feet)
100g carrots, diced
100g onions, diced
150ml dry white wine
1 tablespoon port
150ml veal stock (broth)
225g veal sweetbreads, blanched and chopped
75g butter, plus a knob (pat) for the sauce
20 dried morels, soaked until soft, and drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 chicken breast, skinned and diced
1 egg white
200ml double (heavy) cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
knob (pat) of butter, to serve

Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3. Place the trotters (feet) in a casserole with the diced carrots and onions, the wine, port and veal stock. Cover and braise in the oven for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, fry the sweetbreads in the butter for 5 minutes, add the morels and chopped onion and cook for another 5 minutes. Leave to cool.

Purée the chicken breast with the egg white and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Mix with the sweetbread mixture to make the stuffing.

Take the trotters out of the casserole and strain the cooking stock, keeping the stock but discarding the vegetables. Open the trotters out flat and lay each one on a piece of foil. Leave to cool.

Fill the cooled trotters with the chicken stuffing and roll tightly in foil. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7 or prepare a steamer, and when the water is simmering, steam the foil-wrapped trotters until heated through. Alternatively, put the trotters in a casserole, cover and heat in the oven for 15 minutes. Put the trotters on a serving dish and remove the foil. Pour the reserved stock into the casserole and reduce by half. Whisk in a knob (pat) of butter, pour the sauce over the trotters and serve very hot.

Cook more from this book
Sticky toffee pudding  
The crunchy part of the lasagne

Read the review

Buy the book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Quality Chop House’s famous Confit Potatoes by Shaun Searley

2

Our confit potatoes have become rather legendary. They are the only dish we haven’t once taken off the menu since their happy conception in spring 2013. We’d just opened the restaurant and needed to find something to serve with the chops. Shaun was adamant that QCH didn’t need chips – next thing you know we’d have squeezy ketchup on the tables – but we obviously needed something indulgent, and probably potato-based. We started making layered potatoes and after much trial and error and refrying leftovers, Shaun landed on these crispy golden nuggets. What with the slicing, layering and overnight chilling, these are something of a labour of love – but they’re worth it. Do use Maris Pipers: they have the perfect sugar-starch-water content to prevent collapse while cooking.

SERVES 6

1kg Maris Piper potatoes
125g duck fat
1 tbsp salt
oil, for frying
Maldon salt, to taste
mustard dressing (see below)

Preheat the oven to 120°C and line a standard 1.7l terrine mould with baking parchment. Peel and wash the potatoes, then use a mandoline to slice them as thinly as possible. In a large bowl, toss the slices thoroughly with the duck fat and salt. Layer the potatoes in the mould, one slice at a time, until you’ve built up multiple tiers. Once you’ve used up all the potato, cover the top with baking parchment and cook for about 3 hours until the potatoes are completely tender. Place a small baking tray or plate on top of the baking parchment covering the potatoes, along with a few heavy weights (we find tins work well) and leave to cool, then refrigerate overnight to compress. The next day, remove from the tray and cut the potato into 3x3cm pieces. Heat enough oil for deep-fat frying to 190°C, either in a deep fryer or a heavy-based saucepan. Fry the pieces for about 4 minutes until croissant-gold. Sprinkle over some Maldon salt, drizzle with mustard dressing and eat immediately.

Mustard Dressing

This may look fairly prosaic but it’s completely crucial in our kitchen. No confit potato leaves the pass until it has been dressed in this, so if you want yours to be the real deal you will need this dressing too.

425g Dijon mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp cider vinegar
375ml vegetable oil

Mix the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar in a large bowl, then whisk in the vegetable oil until emulsified. Store in squeezy bottles in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Buy the book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Read the review

Signature Dishes That Matter by Christine Muhlke et al

Sig dishes

Modern gastronomy is often about looking forward; to the next Instagrammable dish, the next fashionable cuisine, the next tasting menu to tempt the jaded palettes of jet setting foodies. It’s timely then, that Bon Appetit magazine editor at large and food writer Christine Muhlke, along with a panel of six other experts (including London-based Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg) have curated a collection of 240 restaurant dishes that span six centuries and illustrate how a good idea can, or have the potential to endure.

From the first ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018, this is an idiosyncratic collection that will raise an eyebrow or two (Big Mac anyone?) and spark debate, rather than stand as ‘the definitive canon of cuisine’ as claimed in the introduction.

But it is a fascinating read, with Muhlke’s concise, well written and researched narratives (all illustrated with hand painted watercolours by artist and trained chef Adriano Rampazzo) providing descriptions and histories of the dishes that are full of fascinating detail. Did you know for example that Baked Alaska was first served at Delmonico’s in New York in 1867 in honour of the treaty with Russia that signed Alaska over to the US?

The book falls down slightly when it comes to recipes, with rather too many listed as unavailable. Josef Kelle’s 1915 recipe for Black Forest Cake may be ‘a closely guarded secret’ but an alternative if less authentic version would have been better than the rough description provided.

Signature Dishes That Matter is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine and is perfect for bedtime reading and could also provide inspiration for a retro-themed dinner party.

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

Buy this book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Cook from this book
The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne
Stuffed Pig’s Trotters with Morels
Sticky Toffee Pudding

This review was originally published by The Caterer 

Black Axe Mangal by Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

It’s tempting to pigeon-hole Lee Tiernan, chef and proprietor of cult north London restaurant Black Axe Mangal as some sort of ‘rock ‘n’ roll chef’. His pizza oven is emblazoned with the faces of the rock group Kiss, he blasts a soundtrack of heavy metal into Black Axe Mangal’s intimate dining room (a converted kebab shop) and the flavours of dishes like the signature squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are turned up to 11.

But behind all the raucousness there is a considered, thoughtful and meticulous cook.  On the subject of bread, which he says is the ‘anchor’ of his cuisine, he quotes food writer Richard Olney and calls it a ‘symbol of sustenance’ and explains that his seven-page recipe for flatbread was perfected with the help of Chad Robertson of Tartine bakery in San Francisco.

Another influence on Tiernan’s cooking is Fergus Henderson for whom Tiernan worked for over a decade, including a stint as head chef of St John Bread and Wine. Dishes such as shrimp-encrusted pig’s tails with pickled chicory; braised hare, chocolate and pig’s blood with mash; and oxtail, bone marrow and anchovy wouldn’t look out of place on a St John menu (Tiernan has also included the famous St John rarebit recipe in the book). But Tiernan unquestionably has his own distinctive style. As Henderson notes in his introduction, ‘Lee has borrowed my bone marrow, my cod’s roe, my pig’s blood, but they are not what shape him’.

The autobiographical introduction is full of stories and anecdotes from Tiernan’s colourful past. As a child, he took fussy eating to such extremes (including hiding unwanted meals under a loose floorboard in the family home) that his mother consulted a doctor about his lack of appetite. Black Axe Mangal’s origins as a pop up in ‘a grimy, graffiti-smeared Copenhagen night club’ where Tiernan cooked thousands of kebabs in a ‘ramshackle shed’ makes for entertaining reading.

The liberal seasoning of salty language and peppering of softcore glamour shots (older readers may be reminded of the Rude Food books from the late 70’) may be off-putting to some, but the step by step instructions on the key skills of grilling, smoking and baking that help define Tiernan’s food, along with the story behind his success, provide an insight into one of the UK’s most exciting and original chefs and make Black Axe Mangal an essential purchase.

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

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Cook from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

This review was originally published by The Caterer 

Casa Cacao by Jordi Roca and Ignacio Medina

Casa Cacoa

Although it seems to have been around forever, ‘bean to bar’ is a relatively new concept with the first single estate chocolate produced by Cluizel in 1996. That’s just one of many fascinating facts in Jordi Roca’s deep dive into the world of chocolate, written with food journalist Ignacio Medina and inspired by the launch of the three Michelin starred pastry chef’s own brand, Casa Cacao that takes the bean to bar ethos one step further.

Roca argues that ‘chocolate has its beginnings in the tree’, placing increased importance on the variety of cacao, the farmer and the environmental conditions. The book tells the story of Roca trips to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, visiting cocoa farmers where he discovered that a bean grown in Piura in the northwest of Peru which has ‘fruity and aromatic notes’ is very different from the ‘restraint, elegance and presence’ of beans from Vinces in Ecuador.

With the help of British chocolatier Damien Allsop (‘head of chocolate and bon bon production’ at Roca’s Girona restaurant El Celler de Can Roca), Roca is pushing the conventions of chocolate manufacturing, creating vegetable-based chocolate made, for example, by combining a paste of peas, sugar, isomalt, puffed rice and ascorbic acid with melted cocoa butter. Allsop has also created ‘chocolate²’ made with just cacao and sugar to intensify the purity of flavour. Recipes for both are included, along with a detailed description of the chocolate making process, but you’d need access to a chocolate factory if you wanted to attempt them.

More achievable are ‘chocolate classics’ such as chocolate brownies or sophisticated desserts including milk chocolate, lemon and hazelnut cake, although only the most ambitious pastry chef would consider trying to replicate Mexican Chocolate Anarkia, the recipe for which takes up eight pages of the book.  Also included are some wildly creative savoury recipes such as cacao pulp and spiced chocolate sauce with langoustines by Roca’s brother Joan.

Casa Cacao is a detailed look at a complex and niche subject area and as such will mainly be of interest to chocolatiers and pastry chefs working in a fine dining environment, but it’s a beautifully produced book that will inform and inspire its intended audience.

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

Buy this book
Casa Cacao
Grub Street, £35

This review was originally published by The Caterer 

The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver

St John

What’s the USP? The long-awaited follow up to 2007’s Beyond Nose to Tail from one of the UK’s most distinguished and influential chefs Fergus Henderson and his business partner Trevor Gulliver. The publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of the opening of St John restaurant near Smithfield market in London, world-famous for dishes such as roast bone marrow with parsley salad that celebrate offal and have influenced several generations of chefs in the UK and around the world, including the late Anthony Bourdain who was Henderson’s biggest fan.

What’s great about it? Although a much admired and imitated style, no one does St John cooking quite like Fergus Henderson; he is after all its progenitor. Adding The Book of St John will bring something distinctive to your cookbook collection and might well expand your culinary horizons. You may even be converted to tripe, although you will probably want to take a deep breath before you try it pickled. You begin the recipe by boiling the tripe in water which Henderson says is ‘reminiscent of the not-so-proverbial dog’s dinner’. Yum.      

What’s different about it? No one writes a recipe quite like Fergus. You will either find his whimsicality completely charming or maddeningly vague. One recipe calls for ‘6 happy tomatoes’. The recipe for ‘An Instant Pickle’ consists of a thinly sliced onion, a pinch of salt and a splash of red wine vinegar which you ‘massage’ together. ‘Grated garlic and a showing of thyme are good additions’. Well, thanks for all the detail Fergus. Elsewhere we are instructed to mix cucumbers and salt ‘thoroughly but tenderly’ and in another recipe, you ‘dress, tumble and serve’ a salad, after which Henderson instructs us to ‘Rejoice in the uncomplicated’. The recipes are however detailed where they need to be and pretty straightforward to follow, so you certainly won’t be wasting your money if you invest in a copy. 

Killer recipes? Crispy lamb’s brains; faggots; beef mince on dripping toast; potted pork; Henderson’s brine recipe; pig’s tongues, butter beans and green sauce; St John chutney; trotter gear (a sort of rich, jellied pig’s trotter stock); chicken bacon and trotter pie; steamed syrup sponge and custard; pear and sherry trifle; salted chocolate and caramel tart; negroni sorbet; Welsh rarebit; Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese; quail stuffed whole roast pig.

Should I buy it? If you own Nose to Nail or Beyond Nose to Tail, Henderson’s two previous books then the answer is probably no unless you are a Henderson fanatic or completist. The St John style hasn’t really wavered much from the word go, which is sort of the whole point, so The Book of St John doesn’t add much to our sum of knowledge about the restaurant and its food.

You will also find some familiar recipes including Eccles cakes, madeleines, the famous doughnuts and seed cake and a glass of Madeira (all of which were credited to Justin Gellatly when they appeared in the omnibus edition The Complete Nose to Tail. Gellatly was Henderson’s head baker until 2013 when he launched his own London bakery Bread Ahead which sells thousands of doughnuts a day. Gellatly is not mentioned anywhere in The Book of St John). Other previously published recipes include anchovy, little gem and tomato salad; ham and parsley sauce and trotter gear and many familiar ingredients including pickled walnuts, ox tongue, brains and snails.

If you don’t own any Henderson, then The Book of St John is as good a place as any to start. It looks sleek, with its gold-lined pages, the photography by legendary food photographer Jason Lowe is as excellent as you’d expect and there are some nice articles and anecdotes from Henderson and Gulliver dotted throughout the book. On the downside, the index is annoyingly incomplete which makes tracking down one or two of the recipes tricky, but it’s a minor complaint about a very good book.

You might not whip up a plate of grilled ox heart, beetroot and pickled walnut everyday of the week, but The Book of St John may prove invaluable when you’re in the mood for something that but different.

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

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

Cook from this book
Welsh Rarebit 
Grilled lamb hearts, peas and mint
Salted caramel and chocolate tart 

 

The Quality Chop House by William Lander, Daniel Morgenthau and Shaun Searley

Quality chop house

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from a landmark London restaurant that’s been trading in one form or other since 1869.

Who are the authors? William Lander (son of wine writer Jancis Robinson and restaurant critic Nick Lander) and Daniel Morgenthau own the London-based Woodhead Restaurant Group that also includes Portland, Clipstone and Emelia. Shaun Searley is the Quality Chop House’s head chef. He was previously head chef of Bistotheque in East London and worked under chef Peter Weeden at the Paternoster Chophouse.

What does it look like? Hurrah! A restaurant cookbook that actually includes shots of the interior and exterior of the actual flipping restaurant (*deep breath* – a personal bugbear of mine, it’s amazing how often this doesn’t happen). In addition to the deeply appetising food photography (shot with the minimum of fuss with dishes plated on the restaurant’s own beautful antique crockery), there’s a selection of moody black and white images and some location photography featuring the restaurant’s suppliers. The use of coloured backgrounds for some of the text and images including cream, grey, brown and black adds variety to the reading experience and looks sleek and smart.

Is it good bedtime reading? The clue is in the subtitle, ‘Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic’. There’s a foreword from super-fan and Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin, who basically says she’d move into the place if she could, and an introduction, history and day in the life of the restaurant before the main meat of the book. Also included are a few supplier profiles and an article on wine by Gus Gluck who runs the wine bar in the Quality Chop House’s shop, next door to the main restaurant.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? This is definitely the sort of book where you will need access to a decent butcher, fishmonger and deli or online equivalents for many of the main ingredients. We’re talking Mangalitza pork, whole turbot. foie gras, game, gizzards, high quality canned fish and artisan cheeses. The list goes on.

What’s the faff factor? If you cook the recipes as stipulated, you are looking at quite a major investment in time. Take something seemingly as simple as mince on dripping toast. Before you make the mince, you will need dark chicken stock and dark beef stock, both of which require about five and half hours to make and combined need four chicken carcasses, two marrow bones, four beef rib bones, two beef knuckles and a pigs trotter. The signature confit potatoes need to be sliced on a mandoline, tossed in duck fat, then layered and cooked for 3 hours, pressed and chilled overnight, cut into pieces, deep-fried and finished with mustard dressing, which gets its own separate recipe.

How often will I cook from the book? For the most part, this is weekend project cooking territory. That said, there are some more straightforward recipes such as whole roasted cauliflower, roast delicia squash, crispy sage, seeds and oats and burnt leeks vinaigrette that you might knock up during the week, as well as recipes for the sandwiches sold in the Chop House’s shop that will be perfect for lunch any day.

Killer recipes? In addition to those mentioned above, the book is packed full of delicious sounding things, including pastrami cured salmon, corn and marmite butter, truffled potato croquettes and beef fat bread rolls. 

What will I love? You get a very real sense of what the Quality Chop House is all about. If you are already a regular, it will make you want to go back immediately and if you’ve never been you’ll be desperate for a table.

What won’t I like? This is quite a meaty book (again, the clue is in the title), so if you’re trying to eat less of the stuff or are vegetarian or vegan, this isn’t the book for you.

Should I buy it? Keen cooks willing to invest time and some money to create restaurant-quality dishes at home will absolutely devour this book.

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

Buy this book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Cook from this book
Confit potatoes 

Good food writing

You and I eat the same

You and I Eat the Same

edited by Chris Ying with a Foreword by Rene Redzepi

What’s the USP? A publication of Rene Redzepi’s MAD nonprofit organisation that’s ‘dedicated to bringing together a global cooking community with an appetite for change’  that collects articles by food writers from around the world exploring the similarities of global cuisines rather than the differences, the more usual subject of food writing.

Who are the authors?  Chris Ying is the former editor of Lucky Peach food magazine (now ceased publication) and now works for David Chang’s Major Domo Media company which produces Ugly Delicious for Netflix and David Chang’s podcast. Rene Redzepi is a very famous Copenhagan-based two Michelin starred chef who literally needs no introduction.

Why is it good read? Nineteen articles of varying length take a global view of subjects such as the thousand year history of the flatbread, table manners, wrapping food in leaves and husks and how coffee can save lives. Contributors include Redzepi himself on his changing attitude to what constitutes a Nordic ingredient in a piece titled ‘If it does well here, it belongs here’ and renowned journalist and author Wendell Steavenson among many others.

Should I buy it? This is a wide ranging exploration of an important theme in a time when we need to be thinking about what unites us rather than divides us.  Thoughtful foodies will want to give it shelf space.

Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
You and I Eat the Same: 1 (Dispatches)

Buttermilk Graffiti

Buttermilk Graffiti

by Edward Lee 

What’s the USP? A chefs tour across America exploring the country’s diverse immigrant food cultures including stories and recipes.

Who are the authors?  Edward Lee is a Kentucky-based chef and restaurateur known for his progressive take on Southern cooking that incorporates elements from his Korean heritage. He is the author of one previous Smoke and Pickles and was featured on series 3 of the Anthony Bourdain exec-produced PBS show Mind of a Chef.

Why is it good read? Lee spent two years travelling across America to write the book, visiting 16 destinations, some off the beaten path such as Clarksdale, Mississippi and Westport, Connecticut as well as more familiar places including New Orleans and Brooklyn. But where ever he goes, he roots out fascinating stories and unusual recipes (40 of them) such as Nigerian-style beef skewers with cashews, curry and black pepper.

Should I buy it? Lee is an excellent writer and a dedicated researcher (the two go hand in hand). Buttermilk Graffiti, winner of the James Beard Award for Best Book of the Year in Writing, is destined to become a classic of American food writing and an important document of food in America in the early 21st century. If that sounds a little heavy, don’t be put off, Lee is a master storyteller and the book is an absolute pleasure to read.

Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Buttermilk Graffiti

Oyster Isles

Oyster Isles

by Bobby Groves

What’s the USP? A tour around Britain and Ireland’s oyster area’s exploring their history, cultural impact and ecological importance and telling the stories of the people who work in them.

Who are the authors?  Bobby Groves is ‘head of oysters’ (great job title) at the glamorous London restaurant Chiltern Firehouse. This is his first book.

Why is it good read? Groves has gone into real depth, travelling the four corners of the country to really crack the shell and get to the meat of his subject.

Should I buy it? The book will be of particular interest to Groves’s fellow professionals in the restaurant industry who buy and serve oysters, but if you are a lover of shellfish and British history then Oyster Isles will be of interest.

Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Oyster Isles: A Journey Through Britain and Ireland’s Oysters

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Food of Sichuan

What’s the USP? The Food of Sichuan is a revised and updated edition of Sichuan Cookery, originally published in 2001. It’s an authoritative and comprehensive investigation of the styles, techniques and ingredients of a lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine with over 100 recipes, 50 of them new to the revised edition.

Who is the author? Fuchsia Dunlop is recognised worldwide as a leading authority on Chinese cuisine and is the first westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu. She is the author of four other books, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China; Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking and Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China. 

What does it look like? In a word, appetising. The food, often simply presented in a bowl, is photographed with the minimum of fuss and styling so that you can easily and clearly see how your fish stew with pickled mustard greens should look. The photographs of rural Sichuan village life are breathtaking.

Is it good bedtime reading? A 50-page introductory section covers the story of Sichuanese cuisine and its kitchen, larder and table, there are lengthy introductions to each of the 14 recipe chapters (which includes everything from cold dishes to hotpot and preserved foods) and each recipe has its own substantial introduction so there is plenty to read and enjoy when you are not tackling the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There is no question that you will need access to a good Asian supermarket or specialist supplier if you want to cook extensively from this book. However, Dunlop reassures her readers that a dozen basics, many available at the supermarket including soy sauce, fermented black beans and Shaoxing wine ‘will set you up for making most dishes’.

What’s the faff factor? Bearing in mind that The Food of Sichuan is nearly 500 pages long and includes a chapter describing ‘The 56 Cooking Methods of Sichuan’, that is not a straightforward question to answer. For example, barring the 30-minute marinating time, spiced cucumber salad from the Cold Dishes chapter will take just moments to prepare whereas duck braised with Konnyaku ‘tofu’ is a more intricate and time-consuming dish.

Although Dunlop describes numbing-and-hot hotpot as ‘a wonderfully easy and delightful way to entertain’ the recipe does cover four pages of text and includes recipes for the stock and soup base that forms the centre of the dish, along with suggestions for ingredients to dip (she suggests at least 8-12 different ones such as thinly sliced chicken, pigs kidneys, lotus root and a variety of mushrooms) as well as seasoning dips.

Broadly speaking though, ingredients lists are usually quite short and methods that include techniques such as stir-frying and deep-frying will be familiar and easily achieved.

How often will I cook from the book? That may partly depend on how much you enjoy the famously numbing sensation of Sichuan pepper, which a good proportion of the recipes include. However, as Dunlop points out, ‘the most salient characteristic of Sichuanese cookery is its audacious combinations of different flavours…such as sweet and sour ‘lychee flavour’, delicate ‘fragrant-boozy flavour’ and fresh, light ‘ginger juice flavour’ which are not hot and spicy and so ‘those who do pa la -‘fear chillies’ – will still find plenty to entice them within the pages of this book’.

Killer recipes? Bowl steamed belly pork with preserved vegetables; fragrant and crispy duck; boiled fish in a seething sea of chillies; pot sticker dumplings with chicken stock; Mr Xie’s dandan noodles; silver ear fungus and rock sugar soup. 

What will I love? The quality of the writing, the depth and breadth of the research and the sheer reassuring heft of the thing that tells you this is the only book on Sichuan cooking you’ll ever need.

What won’t I like? There are some aspects of Sichuan cuisine that western palettes may find challenging, such as ‘liangfen’, jellies made from pea, mungbean, rice and sweet potato starches and served cold, or a spicy stew thickened with jellied pig’s or duck’s blood.

Should I buy it? If you love Chinese food (and spice) and want to learn more about what Dunlop claims is ‘one of the great cuisines of the world’ then you can’t go wrong.

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

Buy this book
The Food of Sichuan
£30, Bloomsbury

Cook from this book

Coming soon

Welsh Rarebit by Fergus Henderson

Welsh Rarebit - photo credit Jason Lowe

To serve at least 4, depending on the dimensions of your toast

Welsh Rarebit is a noble version of cheesy toast. Everyone loves cheesy toast! Our Rarebit is a proud thing and, if we might say so, extremely popular. So it is odd that Fergus gleaned this recipe from a chef who had previously worked at Buck’s Club, which was well known at the time for selling the worst rarebit in London.*

A knob of butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
A very long splash of Worcestershire sauce, and a bottle to serve 

200ml Guinness

450g mature strong Cheddar cheese, grated
4 pieces of toast

Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, and let this cook together until it smells biscuity but is not browning. Add the mustard powder and cayenne pepper, stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the Guinness, then gently melt in the cheese. When it’s all of one consistency, remove from the heat, pour out into a shallow container, and allow to set.

Take a piece of good white bread and toast on both sides. Allow to cool just a little, then cover one side with the rarebit mixture to about 1cm thick – if you find that it doesn’t spread with ease, press it on with your fingers. Put on a baking sheet and place under the grill until golden and bubbling – grilling to just beyond your comfort threshold, to allow the flour to cook out.

When it comes to eating, irrigation channels are essential: make a gentle criss-cross pattern on your hot rarebit with a knife, creating the perfect flood plain for the Worcestershire sauce.

* There is another thing that we might add, if you are amused by a little mathematics. At St. JOHN Smithfield we sell an average of forty-five Welsh Rarebits per day. Taking into account annual closures, in this, our twenty-fifth year, we will have sold somewhere in the region of 405,000 rarebits. By the time we are thirty we will have surpassed the half-million mark. Onward!

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk) Photography by Jason Lowe

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

St John

Cook more from this book
Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint by Fergus Henderson
Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Fergus Henderson

Read the review 

Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint by Fergus Henderson

Grilled Lamb's Hearts, Peas and Mint - photo credit Jason Lowe

To serve 6, or 3 as a main course, 1 good-sized lamb’s heart will suffice as a starter, 2 each as a main course

Choose your peas wisely and avoid oversized starchy bullets; the smaller and sweeter the better. There is a brief overlap between pea season and grelot season; in this glorious time you would be foolish not to use grelots as delicious substitutes for spring onions.

6 lamb’s hearts, butchered and marinated
(see the book for details)
8 spring onions, trimmed and cleaned
3 heads of little gem lettuce, washed and separated
2 large handfuls of freshly podded peas
A handful of pea shoots per person,
snipped at the stem
A large handful of extra fine capers,
thoroughly drained

For the mint dressing
1 large bunch of mint, picked and
stalks retained
80g demerara sugar
200ml malt or red wine vinegar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

First make the mint dressing. Bash the mint stalks with the back of a knife and place in a small pan with the demerara sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer for just long enough to melt the sugar, then set aside to cool thoroughly and infuse. Once ready, finely chop the mint and strain the cold vinegar over the leaves. Whisk in the olive oil, seasoning to taste.

To cook the lamb’s hearts you will need a cast-iron griddle or barbecue. Your hearts should be room temperature, not fridge cold, and the grill should be ferociously hot. Season boldly and place the hearts on the grill, cook for a minute and a half each side, then set aside to rest. A rare heart is a challenge, so aim instead for a blushing medium within. Now season and grill the spring onions in much the same way, charring with intent.

To serve, slice the hearts into slivers about half the width of your little finger, being careful to retain the delicious juices that are exuded in the resting. Place the little gems, peas, pea shoots and capers in a large bowl, then introduce the heart, resting juices, spring onions and mint dressing. Serve with chilled red wine.
Much like the ox heart on page xxx, this salad is also a noble bun filler.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk) Photography by Jason Lowe

Buy this book 
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

St John

Cook more from this book
Welsh Rarebit by Fergus Henderson
Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Fergus Henderson

Read the review 

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Fergus Henderson

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart - photo credit Jason Lowe

To serve at least 16 – this is a very rich tart, you will not need very much

Here is an expression of the gradual erosion of chocolate. Fergus notes that the increasing challenge of finding a chocolate bar that does not contain salt is an example of a good idea going too far. For years his loyalties have lain solidly with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Bar – affectionately called ‘Fnerr’. But of late, he laments, he has begun to recognise its rough edges. Fergus and Fnerr have parted ways. In spite of (or maybe evidenced by) a little recent saturation, the combination of chocolate, caramel and salt
is still a good idea, and so here is our tart. A very rich tart, you will not need very much.

Base
200g plain flour
45g cocoa powder
7g bicarbonate of soda
180g demerara sugar
25g caster sugar
5g Maldon sea salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g dark chocolate, chopped finely –
the pieces should be smaller than
a chocolate chip

Caramel
225g caster sugar
70g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
80ml double cream

Chocolate filling
500g double cream
40g glucose
400g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
40g butter
Sea salt, for sprinkling
First make the tart case. It is easiest by far to use a machine for this. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, both sugars and the salt, place in a food processor with the butter, and whizz until a loose dough forms. At this point add the chocolate and mix again. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest for half an hour or so.

If you are making the pastry any further in advance, take it out of the fridge in good time – you need the softness of room-temperature dough for it to work. When ready, butter and flour a tart case and roll the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment – the shards of chocolate would tear cling film, but the dough is too sticky to be rolled loose. Line the case with the pastry, rolled to around 4mm thick, line the pastry with foil or cling film, fill with baking beans and bake in a medium oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

When you remove the case from the oven, wait 10 minutes before removing the beans, otherwise the hot, soft pastry may tear. Once you have done so, press the base and sides all over with the back of a spoon while it is still warm – the aim here is to smooth the interior ready for the caramel,  pushing down the inside corners which may have risen and rounded a little in the baking.

Once the case is cool, make your caramel. It is essential to move quickly when the caramel is ready, so ensure that all your ducks are in a row before you start. Place the sugar in a scrupulously dry pan and melt over a medium high heat. Do not stir! Stirring will result in a crystallised disaster. Swirling the pan a little is allowed. By the time the sugar has dissolved you should have a good colour, trusting that it can be quite dark and still be comfortable. Throw the butter in first and follow with the cream, whisk them together quickly and, at the very moment that they are smoothly incorporated, pour it into the case immediately. With speed, pick up your tart case and move it around, tilting it to ensure that the caramel covers the entire base. Leave aside to cool.

Finally, heat the cream with the glucose and take it just shy of a simmer. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and pour the hot cream over the chunks in three stages, stirring gently to incorporate – the first will melt the chocolate, the second will loosen the mixture and the third will make the smooth ganache. Then pour the chocolate mixture into the tart and leave to cool and solidify. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve with crème fraîche.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk) Photography by Jason Lowe

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant
St John

Cook more from this book
Welsh Rarebit by Fergus Henderson
Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint by Fergus Henderson

Read the review 

The Shore by Bruce Rennie

The Shore

I was very honoured to be asked to contribute an introduction, alongside Michelin-starred chefs Nathan Outlaw and Martin Wishart, to The Shore, the first cookbook by Bruce Rennie, chef proprietor of The Shore restaurant in Penzance. Although I do not benefit financially from my association with the book, it has proved impossible for me to write an entirely impartial review of The Shore, not least because I am a fan of Bruce and his cooking and have got to know him through visiting the restaurant and interviewing him. So instead of a review, here is my introduction from the book. I hope it will entice you to pick up a copy of the book, or even better, take a trip to Penzance to try Bruce’s food for yourself.

As soon as I heard about The Shore back in 2015, I knew it was going to be worth the 600-mile round trip from my home in Brighton to eat there. It wasn’t just that the restaurant was in Cornwall, a regular holiday destination for my family for over 25 years, or that I love Cornish seafood. It wasn’t even that the chef had worked in some impressive establishments including the Michelin-starred Restaurant Martin Wishart, one of my favourite places in Edinburgh.

The thing that really told me that The Shore was going to be something special was that it was a one-man operation. Because no one in their right mind runs a restaurant kitchen by themselves. At last count there were roughly a million easier ways to make a living, including being employed by someone else to run a restaurant. So, you only do it if you are driven to it; you have a culinary vision and a need to express yourself through food. In my experience, that always adds up to an exceptional experience for the customer. It was true of Shaun Hill at The Merchant House in Ludlow in the 90’s and early noughties, and its true of Bruce Rennie and The Shore.

From a starter of fillets of John Dory, cooked on the plancha with to-the-second precision and so perfectly triangular they looked like they’d been filleted with a scalpel, to a ‘plinth’ of Blackberry semifreddo with pistachio sponge and apple that was almost architectural in its design (Bruce studied architecture before deciding on a career in the professional kitchen), that first meal at The Shore was faultless. To top it all off, Bruce was not only cooking but helping to serve the food as well, moving nimbly between kitchen and dining room, engaging with the customers while ensuring he was never
away from the stove for too long.

I interviewed Bruce the day after that memorable dinner and discovered that not only can he cook, but also has a talent for storytelling and can talk the hind leg off a donkey. It was only when I found out that he is also very handy when it comes to DIY and carried out the refurbishment on the restaurant and kitchen himself that I began to deeply resent the breadth and depth of his Renaissance-man skills. No one is allowed to be that talented.

I was lucky enough to bag a seat at Bruce’s guest dinner at J Sheekey Atlantic Bar in London in 2018 as part of a series of pop ups to celebrate the restaurant’s 10th anniversary which also included Mark Sargeant of Rocksalt in Folkestone and Simon Hulstone of Michelin starred The Elephant in Torquay. Seemingly unconcerned by the unfamiliar surroundings, Bruce delivered food that was every bit as good as it had been in Cornwall; no mean achievement, and something he’d also pulled off at a guest night at The Gallivant in Rye in 2016.

You might expect someone so obviously focused and determined to be a somewhat straight-backed, tightly wound sort of personality, but Bruce is endearingly eccentric. After a long and very good lunch in London, I said goodbye to Bruce outside the Shepherd Market pub where we’d enjoyed one or two for the road and watched him remove his shoes and socks and walk off barefoot through the crowd (which is also his preferred state of dress for cooking in The Shore kitchen).

The publication of Bruce’s first cookbook means that I can at last attempt to recreate a little bit of The Shore’s seafood sorcery in my own kitchen. In reality, I know I’ll still have to make that 600-mile round trip to taste the real thing, but I also know that it will still be worth it.

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Professional chefs

Buy this book
The Shore
£25, A Way with Media

The Garden Chef with an introduction by Jeremy Fox

The Garden Chef

What’s the USP? The Garden Chef explores the growing (pun intended) worldwide phenomenon of top chefs cultivating their own produce for their restaurants in on-site kitchen gardens. The book includes ‘recipes and stories from plant to plate’.

Who is the author? The book has been created from the contributions of chefs from 40 high-end restaurants around the globe which most notably include Simon Rogan from L’enclume in England, Ben Shewry from Attica in Melbourne, Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Michel and Cesar Troisgros from Trisgros in France. The introduction is by Jeremy Fox of Bridie G’s in Santa Monica who is also the author of the brilliant cookbook On Vegetables, also published by Phaidon and which is cookbookreview.blog five star-reviewed.

What does it look like? Expect a riot of raised beds, a plethora of polytunnels and a great deal of gathering in the fields. The accent is as much on ‘garden’ as it is ‘chef’. The majority of the 80 recipes are illustrated and the food does look great, but it’s rather overshadowed by all the greenery.

Is it good bedtime reading? The chef or chefs of each restaurant (some are run by duos including Michael and Iain Pennington at The Ethicurean just outside Bristol and Gaston Acurio and Juan David Ocampo of Astrid Y Gaston in Lima)  are given a full page to espouse their horticultural and culinary philosophies, earning The Garden Chef space on your bedside table.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ve seen the Indiana Jones movies, right? Unless you cultivate your own incredibly vast and comprehensive kitchen garden, be prepared for an amazing adventure where you’ll raid the lost ark, discover the temple of doom and embark on the last crusade to track down sangre de toro potatoes, kalanchoe blossfeldiana and Mexican pepperleaf, among many, many other obscure ingredients that you definitely won’t find at your local Asda.

What’s the faff factor? These are recipes aimed fair and square at the professional chef community. There are dishes achievable for the home cook, but really they are not the main reason you would buy this book; it exists primarily to document and give a window into a particular aspect of the modern restaurant scene.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? If you are up for attempting them, the recipes are detailed enough to follow to successful completion.

How often will I cook from the book? That depends. How often are you in the mood for something like chef Ana Ros’s ‘Rabbit That Wants to be Mexican Chicken’ where you’ll need to wrap rabbit mousse in whole chicken skins and serve with rabbit sauce flavoured with star anise and chilli, roasted carrots, apricot gel, carrot top pesto and hibiscus flowers?

Killer recipes? Don’t get me wrong, the book is full of delicious things you’ll want to eat like The Quay’s Tennouji white turnip, blue swimmer crab and Jersey Wakefield cabbage with fermented cabbage juice and brown butter dressing, but you’ll probably want to go to the restaurant and try them rather than cook them yourself, even if that does mean flying half-way around the world. Doable recipes include white and green pizza from Roberta’s in Brooklyn and cream of vegetable soup from The Sportsman in Seasalter.

What will I love? If you’ve been looking for inspiration to create your own kitchen garden, be it for your restaurant or your home, then you couldn’t ask for a better book. There are even garden tips and the chefs favourite heritage varieties to give you a kick start, although if you want step by step guidance on how to actually get out there and do it you’ll need to look elsewhere.

What won’t I like? The decision has been taken not to include any images of the interior of any of the restaurants, which gives the book a feeling of incompleteness. This is partly understandable, given that the thrust of the book is on the chef’s activities outside their restaurants rather than in them. However, after reading the book, you might well be interested in planning a visit to one or more of the places included and wonder what you are letting yourself in for. Of course, you can google the restaurant’s website and reviews for images, but that’s sort of beside the point; you can google images of many of the restaurant’s gardens and dishes too if you are minded to.

Should I buy it? It’s a great book but may have niche appeal. If you are a keen gardener or aspire to be one, as well as a foodie, you will dig (pun intended) this book. If you want to know more about an influential trend that is helping to define to the current global high-end restaurant scene, this is also a must-read.

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

Buy this book
The Garden Chef: Recipes and Stories from Plant to Plate
£29.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book

Coming soon

Cook House by Anna Hedworth

Cook House Anna Hedworth

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from Cook House restaurant in Newcastle upon Tyne that began as a supper club in a shipping container in 2014 before relocating to a permanent bricks and mortar premises in 2018.

Who is the author? Anna Hedworth is the chef/proprietor of the Cook House. A former architect, she is a self-taught cook. Cook House is her first restaurant and this is her first book.

What does it look like? Hedworth’s food is simple, rustic and extremely appetising; the food photography, which is not overly styled and lets the dishes speak for themselves, will make you very hungry.

Is it good bedtime reading? Cook House is a great read. Hedworth tells the story of her journey from architect to chef and restaurateur in detail and there are a number of ‘How to…’ double page spreads covering subjects such as ‘How to…start a supper club’ and ‘How to…find free food’ which make the book as useful outside the kitchen as in it.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You will have very little problem sourcing what you’ll need for the vast majority of the recipes, but you will need lovage and wild garlic to make soup, nasturtium seed pods to make nasturtium and pumpkin seed pesto, pickled walnuts to add to beer braised oxtail and shin stew, Prague powder #1 to make salt beef, goat mince for meatballs, live seaweed cut from rocks on the beach to smoke BBQ scallops, live langoustines to serve poached with aioli, hawthorn berries to make chutney, kefir grains to make milk and smoothie, pine shoots to make vinegar, rosehips and hawthorn blossoms to make syrups, elderflowers to make gin, and scoby for kombucha. That might seem like a long list, but don’t let it put you off; it’s an indication of the variety and breadth of the recipes in the book, and you can always substitute an ingredient – lamb for goat for example – if you find yourself really stuck.

What’s the faff factor? For the most part, the recipes are straightforward to prepare, but Hedworth does like to get out and about with her cooking, so be prepared to build a fire and erect a tripod over it if you want to recreate her Hanging Leg of Lamb by a Tall Fire or to camp out if you want to cook foil wrapped fish over a beach fire.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Weights, measures and methods are present and correct apart from the expected ‘handfuls’ of herbs here and there. However, no weight is given for venison loin pan fried in butter and thyme, but there is a precise cooking time which one might imagine would vary depending on the size of the loin. Similarly, a poaching time of 45 mins if given for a chicken in several recipes, but no weight or size is indicated.

How often will I cook from the book? There are enough everyday soup, salad and supper recipes to make this a book you’d happily reach for mid-week, plus plenty of tempting baking and preserving projects for the weekend. You could also easily create  menus for entertaining friends and family from the book too.

Killer recipes? Red pepper, paprika and rosemary soup with sourdough croutons; chicken, courgette and pea salad with aioli and sourdough crumb; soft egg and herb tartine; game pistachio and juniper terrine; dark chocolate and almond cake among many others.

What will I love? If you’ve ever dreamed about making a career in food, Cook House will provide you with the information and inspiration to take the leap.

What won’t I like? Matt paper means that the photography doesn’t quite have the pin sharp clarity and intensity of colour of some other cookbooks.

Should I buy it? If you are fascinated by the restaurant industry or want to try out techniques like cooking over open fire and preserving and fermenting for the first time, this book will be of particular interest. But even if you just want to add a few more delicious go-to recipes to your repertoire, Cook House is well worth adding to your collection.

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

Buy this book
Cook House
£25, Head of Zeus

Cook from this book

Coming soon

A Cookbook by Matty Matheson

Matty Matheson

What’s the USP? The first book from Vice TV star and the most famous Canadian chef in the world Matty Matheson. Despite the title, this is a culinary memoir as well as a recipe book.

Who is the author? 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 is the curator of Matty Fest a new food and drink festival launching 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 announced the launch of his self produced web series Just a Dash which is due to air in autumn 2019.

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).

What does it look like? Part recipe book, part family photo album, part Canadian travelogue, the book is beautifully put together. Food photography by Quentin Bacon (excellent name for a food photographer by the way) is simple, unfussy and lets Matheson’s cooking speak for itself. Matheson grew up in the less than picturesque town of Fort Erie, Ontario but Pat O’Rourke’s urban landscapes have a bleak magnificence to them.

Is it good bedtime reading? Divided into two parts, Matheson tells first the story of his family life and the food cooked by his grandparents, parents and in-laws. In the second part, he recounts his career from culinary school through formative experiences at Le Select Bistro,  La Palette and Oddfellows (all in Toronto) to his appointment as head chef of Parts and Labour and his transition into a media figure, all told with unflinching candour and a healthy dose of salty language.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ll need an excellent butcher to track down things like a whole lobe of foie gras to make seared foie gras with rice pudding and warm date marmalade, veal sweetbreads to cook blanquette ris de veau and veal shank and ox tongue to recreate Matheson’s pot-au-feu, but unless you are in Canada, finding elk loin to serve with carrots, celeriac and pickled blueberries may prove very tricky.

What’s the faff factor? That depends largely on which part of the book you’re cooking from. The Family recipes are a little more straightforward than those in the Cooking School and Restaurants chapter, but many are quite time consuming to prepare.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? There are the usual ‘bunches’ of herbs but apart from that there are no real issues and even the American cup measures come with precise ml equivalents.

How often will I cook from the book? Some of the more simple and approachable recipes could well become firm favourites such as baked rigatoni and blackberry coffee cake but you will probably have to plan well ahead to cook many of the dishes.

Killer recipes? In addition to those already mentioned, I would add lobster pie, molasses bread pudding, rabbit stew, pot roast, rappie pie (a crispy, layered grated potato and chicken bake), Italian wedding soup, Nashville hot chicken, pigtail tacos, lamb dan dan noodles and the P&L burger.

What will I love? Matheson is funny, entertaining and self-aware throughout. For example, in his introduction to the recipe for Sausage and Potatoes he says, ‘If you don’t want to make sausage, you don’t have to. Just buy good Italian sausage from a butcher like a normal human being. No one has time to do something like this, or who even has a sausage stuffer or meat grinder. Why is this even in this book? Do people even cook from cookbooks?’

What won’t I like? Some readers may not appreciate the bad language.

Should I buy it? Matty Matheson is the most interesting and exciting American food personality since Anthony Bourdain and his first book is as compelling as his on screen appearances. An absolute must buy.

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

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: A Cookbook
£25, Mitchell Beazley

How To Eat a Peach by Diana Henry

how to eat a peach diana henry

What’s the USP? A collection of seasonal, themed menus designed to evoke memories, moods, time and place. The title comes from the recipe ‘white peaches in chilled moscato’, the idea for which Henry found while dining al fresco one night in Italy. The table next to her were served a bowl of peaches which they halved, pitted, sliced and dropped into glasses of chilled moscato; a dish, and cookbook, was born.

Who is the author? Diana Henry is one the UK’s best loved food writers. She is the author of numerous best selling books including Roast Figs, Sugar Snow and Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons. She has a weekly column in the Telegraph and hosts her own food-themed podcast.

What does it look like? Early evening on a day in late summer in England, with lots dappled sunlight falling on unironed white linen tablecloths. There’s hardly a living soul in any of the photographs (one double page spread features disembodied arms reaching across a table and the tops of a couple of heads, but that’s it; not even an author’s headshot), but the convivial nature of dining and entertaining at home is cleverly conveyed; three glasses of white wine sit on a window sill with a cork laying among them, as though just poured with their owners  who might be busily chatting out of frame.

Is it good bedtime reading? Henry is as much a food writer as a recipe writer and each of the 25 menus (each containing three to five recipes), has its own introduction, some of which run to several pages, so there’s plenty to enjoy even when you’re not actually cooking in the kitchen.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ll need to pick your own elderflower heads if you want to make Henry’s elderflower gin and tonic and you’ll need a specialist supplier for Spanish fideos noodles for the vegetable fideua (a version of paella) but most of the recipes will cause you little or no shopping headaches.

What’s the faff factor? While Henry is definitely not one for fiddly garnishes, complicated sauces or dishes with multiple elements, this is proper cooking. You’ll need to do things like blanch and peel broad beans, make your own mayo and braise ox cheeks for four hours to make these menus.

How often will I cook from the book? If you love entertaining, this book is going to get a lot of use. However, just because the recipes are organised into menus doesn’t mean they don’t stand on their own. There are plenty of dishes (see below) you’ll want to cook for everyday meals.

Killer recipes? Spatchcocked chicken with chilli, garlic, parsley and almond pangrattato; courgette, ricotta and pecorino fritters; roast tomatoes, fennel and chickpeas with preserved lemons and honey; lamb kofta; griddled squid with chilli, dill and tahini dressing; onglet with roast beets and horseradish cream. 

What will I love? How to Eat a Peach basically solves all your dinner party problems at a stroke; you’ll probably never be stuck for an idea again. That each menu comes with a story attached add bags of personality to the book (and might give you something to talk about if conversation around your table flags). Also, the furry peach skin-like cover is AWESOME.

What won’t I like? Most of the recipes serve either 6 or 8 people, so you’ll need to do a bit of maths if you want to adapt them for a small family or couple.

Should I buy it? If you like to cook seasonally for a crowd, snap it up.

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

Buy this book
How to eat a peach: Menus, stories and places
£25, Mitchell Beazley

Shetland by James and Tom Morton

Shetland by James and Tom Morton

What’s the USP? Father and son team explore life on a remote Scottish island ‘with food, drink and community at its heart’ through the medium of recipes, pictures and personal memoir and anecdote.

Who are the authors? You’ll probably know James Morton in his guise as Great British Bake off finalist. He is also the author of an extremely good book about brewing called Brew. He is also a doctor. His father Tom is a writer, journalist and broadcaster.

What does it look like? There are very few landscapes as dramatic as those found on the Scottish islands and Shetland (as Morton points out in his introduction, ‘It’s not, never has been and never is ‘The Shetlands’), the northern most point of the UK, is no exception. Photographer Andy Sewell captures it in all its rugged glory, as well as taking some charming portraits of the locals. The food looks as hearty and elemental as you might expect.

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the dozens of recipes, there are plenty of articles about life on the island, its food and feasts. Recipe introductions are extended and detailed and there is plenty of text given over to techniques such as cold smoking and pickling.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You might need to go online or to a health food shop to track down pinhead oatmeal, a butcher or online retailer for hare, mutton and, erm, piglets’s testicles, and a good fishmonger to get fresh seaweed, whelks, large scallops and live crabs. Additionally, unless you live there, Shetland black tatties  and Shetland trout might be tricky to get hold of (but the recipe suggests fresh farmed salmon as an alternative).

What’s the faff factor? There is a fair amount of what you might call cooking ‘projects’ such as pickling and jam making, and you might consider building your own cold smoking chamber (although all you need is sturdy cardboard box and a few other bits and bobs from the DIY store) and curing and smoking your own Golden Syrup Bacon a faff, but recipes such as poached salmon or a simply roasted hare are quite straightforward.

How often will I cook from the book? This more an occasional book than everyday, for when you want to get stuck into a day’s cooking or want something a bit different and rustic.

Killer recipes? Fresh mackerel pate; oven bannocks; The apple pie, Jaffa cakes. 

What will I love? It’s a great read, both father and son can really write and the whole thing is done with great good humour.

What won’t I like? Some of the recipes may seem recherché and you may not cook as often from this book as others in your collection.

Should I buy it? This is one for the serious foodie or Scottish food fanatic.

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

Buy this book
Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World
£25, Quadrille

Pasta, Pane, Vino by Matt Goulding

pasta-pane-vino-1

What’s the USP? Not a cookbook but rather a culinary travelogue through the regional cuisines of Italy.

Who’s the author? Matt Goulding is co-founder of Roads and Kingdoms a travel, food and politics website. Goulding is also the author of Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture and Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture. Goulding’s correspondence with the late Anthony Bourdain about Italy and Goulding’s plans for the book form the foreword. 

What does it look like? At 16.5cm by 19.8 cm, Pasta, Pane, Vino is a cute, squat volume. Clocking in at 352 pages, it’s also a weighty tome, packed with 200 colour photographs portraying the chefs, farmers, fishermen and other figures behind Italy’s culinary traditions, as well as the food, landscapes and cityscapes of Rome, Puglia, Bologna, Sicily, Naples, Sardinia , Piedmont and Lake Como.

Is it good bedtime reading? This is definitely one to keep on the bedside table, to send you off dreaming of carbonara in Rome, pizza in Naples and spaghetti alla marinara in Sardinia.

Killer quote: ‘In the end, it’s not a book about grandmas and their sacred family recipes (though they have a few delicious cameos); it’s a book about a wave of cooks, farmers, bakers, shepherds, young and old, trying to negotiate the weight of the past with the possibilities of the future’.

What will I love? Goulding is a writer from the top drawer. He not only knows how to construct a sentence and turn a memorable phrase (for example, the opening line of the book – ‘Long after the sun has set behind the Palatine Hill, after the sands of the Colosseum have been swallowed by shadows, after the tint of the Tiber has morphed from acqua minerale to Spritz to dark vermouth, you come upon a quiet piazza on a meandering cobblestone street…’), he’s also really done his research. Unless you know Italy extremely well, you will discover things about the country’s culinary scene you didn’t know before, from a hidden gem of a trattoria in Rome to the best time to visit Ballaro market in Palermo and much, much more.

What won’t I like? It’s difficult to find fault. In addition to the main body text of the chapters, the book is peppered with double page spreads such as ‘Anatomy of a dish’ (explanations of items like bistecca al la Fiorentina and caffe that are particularly significant to regional Italian cuisine), and ‘Postcards’ (an overview of destinations like Matera in southern Italy and Ragusa in Sicily not otherwise covered in the book)  which add variety and value and help break up the main text. You could argue that the only thing missing are some authentic recipes from each of the eight destinations covered, but that’s nitpicking.

Should I buy it? Do you like food? Do you like travel? Do you need everything spelled out to you?

Cuisine: Italian 
Suitable for:
Culinary tourists 
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture (Roads & Kingdoms Presents)

Together: Our Community Cookbook by the Hubb Community Kitchen and HRH The Duchess of Sussex

together our community cookbook

What’s the USP? Recipes written by a group of women who were gathered together in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire to cook for their families and neighbours.

Who’s the author? The authors are all members of the Hubb Community Kitchen based at Al-Manaar, The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, London and include Cherine Mallah, Oxana Sinitsyna, Munira Mahmud, Halima Al-Hudafi, Intlak Alsaiegh, Aysha Bora, Faiza Hayani Bellili, Leila Hedjem, Claren Bilal, Amaal Abid Elrasoul, Sanna Mirza, Ahlam Saeid, Mama Jay, Jay Jay, Gurmit Kaur, Hiwot Dagnachew, Jennifer Fatima Odonkor, Dayo Gilmour, Lillian Olwa and Honey Akhter.

What does it look like? The attractive, vibrant dishes are simply presented, reflecting the rustic nature of the cooking. Portraits of the women cooking at Al Manaar gives a sense of the community they belong to and help nourish.

Is it good bedtime reading? Aside from the foreword by HRH The Duchess of Sussex (AKA Meghan Markle) this is a recipe focused book.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The book reflects a wide range of culinary traditions including Algerian, Lebanese, Moroccan and Ugandan and there is the odd specific ingredient such as Argan oil, Persian dried limes, dried barberries and Egyptian short grain rice that may mean a search on line or considering an alternative, but the vast majority of ingredients will be readily to hand.

What’s the faff factor? There are some recipes with long ingredients lists (often down to the use of numerous spices) or with several elements, but in the main, the dishes are simple and approachable.

How often will I cook from the book? Together is unlikely to gather dust on your shelf and is exactly the sort of book you might reach for when you you’re looking for inspiration for a weekday meal, or a more time consuming weekend cooking project.

Killer recipes? Egyptian lamb fattah; carrot and onion chapatis; Yemini bread; Moroccan chickpea and noodle soup; Russian semolina cake 

What will I love? The sheer variety of dishes, some of which you may not have encountered before such as Mahamri (African beignets – fluffy, doughnut like buns flavoured with cardomom and coconut milk).

What won’t I like? At 128 pages, it ends all too soon.

Should I buy it? All profits from the book The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex for the benefit of the Hubb Community Kitchen. That alone is a good enough reason to get yourself a copy.

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

Buy this book
Together: Our Community Cookbook

Pie and Mash down the Roman Road by Melanie McGrath

pie and mash down the roman road by melanie mcgrath

What’s the USP? The story of an East End pie shop and the family who have owned it for nearly a century.

Who’s the author? Melanie McGrath has several strings to her authorial bow. She not only writes mysteries and thrillers such as Give Me The Child under the nom de plumes of MJ McGrath and Mel McGrath, but also specialises in non-fiction about the East End of London including Silvertown and Hopping which she writes under her own name.

Is it good bedtime reading? This is not a cookbook, there are no recipes, just 244 pages of social history centered around Kelly’s pie and mash shop on the Roman Road in East London. The book does include some culinary history, including of the dish of pie and mash, but the book primarily tells the stories of the people connected with the shop and the area including the customers, suppliers, employees and owners, and the historical conditions they lived in and events they lived through.

Killer quote: ‘To get to the real meat of us as islanders, Britons, and Londoners, why not start there, with something as simple and as iconic as a shop selling the Londoner’s meal of pie, mash and eels? …just as an archaeologist in revealing a scrap of pottery or fragment of mosaic in a rubble of a building site…can cast light on the history of the Roman empire and its citizens, a light shone on a pie and mash and eel shop in what might at first seem to be a unremarkable road in east London can help illuminate more general truths about who we really are.’

Should I buy it? If you don’t mind the use of the historical present (historical events narrated in the present tense), which some readers may find mannered, irksome and distracting, and are as interested in British social history as you are food, then this is the book for you.

Cuisine: British 
Suitable for:
Anyone interested in British culinary and social history
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Pie and Mash down the Roman Road: 100 years of love and life in one East End market
£18.99, Two Roads

Lateral Cooking by Niki Segnit

lateral cooking by niki segnit

What’s the USP? Segnit says that Lateral Cooking is ‘a practical handbook, designed to help creative cooks develop their own recipes’. So, not your everyday cookbook then.

Who’s the author? Niki Segnit is probably best known as the author of The Flavour Thesaurus, the culinary version of Roget’s Thesaurus, which listed 99 ingredients and suggested flavour matches for each of them. Lateral Cooking is designed as a companion volume to The Flavour Thesaurus.

What does it look like? At over 600 pages long, its a brick of a book, with densely packed pages illustrated only by simple red ink line drawings.  Think weighty reference work rather than a glossy cookbook.

Is it good bedtime reading? Oh yes. There are (very) approximately 300,000 words to keep you occupied, or around three airport novels worth.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The short answer is no, but that needs some qualification, so here goes with the long version. This is not a recipe book as such (although it does contain recipes) and is organised in a very particular way. Each of the twelve chapters takes either a type of ingredient such as nuts, chocolate or sugar, or a product (bread) or related group of products (stock, soup and stew) and offers a simple ‘starting point’ recipe which Signet says lies on a ‘continuum’ which links one recipe to the next within the chapter’s subject. As she explains in her introduction, ‘Marzipan can be nothing more than a mixture of equal weights of ground almonds and sugar with just enough egg white to bring them together. Macaroons, the next point on the continuum, simply call for more egg white’.

So will you have trouble finding the ingredient for the starting point Marzipan recipe? Almost certainly not. But before you get to the next point in the continuum, Signet provides ‘a range of flavouring options’ under the heading of ‘Flavours & Variations’ for the starting point recipes. So you might want to try and track down candied melon to make your own Calissons D’aix, a lozenge shaped sweet from Aix-en-Provence made with a marzipan like mix of ground almonds and flavoured with honey, Grand Marnier and orange flower water as well as the aforementioned candied melon. Signet doesn’t always provide recipes for all her flavouring options, so you’ll have to google Calissons D’aix , or just click here. Ultimately, Signet wants her readers to develop their own recipes based on the starting points and flavouring options, so your imagination is your only limit to what you include in a recipe, which means you might have trouble finding ingredients if your ideas are really out there.

What’s the faff factor? Again, not a straightforward question to answer. The starting point recipes are designed to be simple, but the idea of the book is not just to master those simple recipes, but to become an all round instinctive cook who understands ingredients and cooking methods so well that you won’t need recipes or cookery books anymore. So, in addition to the flavouring suggestions, each starting point recipe comes with a list of ‘leeway’ bullet points that illustrate the different ways the basic recipe can be prepared and variations in ingredients (and this is before you get on to the more major variations of the flavouring suggestions). So the faff is not necessarily in the complexity of the recipes, but the amount of reading you will need to do before you get into the kitchen.

How often will I cook from the book? If you treat the book as it’s intended and follow the ‘continuum’ from the starting point recipes and really get inside a particular branch of cookery, you will be making a lot of food and basically taking a self-directed cookery course at home. Otherwise, I’m not sure this book would be the first I’d reach for when planning a weekly household menu for example.

Killer recipes? As a practical handbook, Lateral Cooking isn’t really about killer recipes but culinary fundamentals, so you’ll find full written out recipes for things like Yeast-risen bread, Brown Chicken Stock, Risotto Bianco, Pasta, Tarka Chana Dal, Lamb and Vegetable Stew, Marzipan, Shortbread and Ice Cream. The more unusual dishes are often embedded within the ‘Flavours & Variations’ sections, such as Chanfana, a goat stew from the Beira region of Portugal that’s flavoured with red wine, mint, paprika and piri piri seasoning. 

What will I love? Lateral Cooking is a comprehensive work and notable academic achievement, taking a fresh perspective on a well worn subject that will have you thinking about cooking in a new way.

What won’t I like? Whether or not you like the book will depend on how willing you are to go with Segnit’s basic conceit of the cooking continuum, how important you feel it is to understand cooking from that perspective and if you agree that it will turn you into an instinctive cook (if you are not one already) and if that’s what you want to be.

Should I buy it? If you don’t own a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, Le guide culinaire by Escoffier or La Repertoire de la Cuisine and are a novice cook who wants to take a more serious approach to learning the craft, then Lateral Cooking will fit the bill. If you already have a decent cookbook collection and are an accomplished cook, you may want to carefully consider how likely you are to cook through the book in the manner intended. However, it may fill a gap in your collection as a modern reference work.

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

Buy this book
Lateral Cooking: Foreword by Yotam Ottolenghi

£35, Bloomsbury Publishing

Mob Kitchen by Ben Lebus

mob kitchen by ben lebus

What’s the USP? Quick and easy recipes that will feed four people for less than a tenner, this is the print version of the youtube and social media food channel.

Who’s the author? Ben Lebus previously worked as a waiter in his father’s Oxford restaurant and as a Deliveroo rider before launching Mob Kitchen, an online publishing company that creates short cooking videos.

What does it look like? The vivid, direct, colourful and simple design makes it a pleasure to cook from.

Is it good bedtime reading? In a word, no. But it is good listening, sort of. Every chapter and recipe comes with its own soundtrack. Just scan the Spotify code using the app on your phone and you can hear Bon Temps Rouler by Scoundrels while you knock up some Healthy Chicken Gyrpos.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The book is pretty much aimed at the supermarket shopper so you should have no problems finding anything.

What’s the faff factor? Lebus doesn’t understand the word ‘faff’. As he explains in his introduction, Mob Kitchen is all about weaning uni students and young professionals off their fast food and takeaway habits and showing that ‘cooking healthy, delicious food is easy, fun and affordable’.

How often will I cook from the book? If you are a uni student or young professional and you do want to eat more healthily, cooking from Mob kitchen could become a daily habit. And even if you don’t fall into the above categories, the book has plenty of mid-week meal ideas to appeal to casual cooks and dedicated culinarians alike.

Killer recipes? Chorizo shak attack; the crispiest sweet potato rosti with poached eggs and guac; Asian courgette ribbon and chicken salad; lamb kofta couscous salad with tzatziki; chicken panzanella.

What will I love? The sense of discovery and joy in sharing knowledge and the fact that the dishes really will only cost you ten quid to cook.

What won’t I like? If the book was a person it would live in Shoreditch, call you ‘buddy’ and have a thing for craft beer. There is a certain amount of twenty-something testosterone (and which is also very evident on the videos) which some readers may find hard to swallow.

Should I buy it? As a first cookbook for a younger person, you can’t really go wrong but also well worth investigating if you’re short on time to cook and are bored by your  weekday meal routine.

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

Buy this book
Mob Kitchen: Feed 4 or more for under 10 pounds

Fruit Soup with Verbena by Michel Roux Jr

fruit soup

(SOUPE DE FRUITS ROUGES À LA VERVEINE)

This beautiful, verbena-flavoured dessert is summer in a bowl. And it is even better with a few little madeleines on the side.

Serves 4

75g caster sugar
2 tbsp blossom honey
2 fresh verbena sprigs (or a handful of dried)
500g mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants)
freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Pour 500ml of water into a pan, add the sugar and honey and bring to the boil.  Add the verbena and simmer for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the verbena. Pour the liquid into a bowl, add the fruit, then leave to cool. Chill the soup in the fridge until it is very cold. Just before serving I like to add a little freshly ground black pepper.

Cook more from this book
Monkfish cooked in the style of lamb
Basque-style chicken

Read the review

Buy this book
The French Revolution: 140 Classic Recipes made Fresh & Simple
£25, Seven Dials

Monkfish Cooked in the Style of Lamb by Michel Roux Jr

monkfish

(GIGOT DE LOTTE PIQUÉ À L’AIL ET ROMARIN)

This is an impressive dish but very easy and quick to cook. You do need a nice chunky piece of monkfish, though, for the recipe to work properly, so talk to your fishmonger. The sauce is full of flavour but not rich – I’ve kept the amount of cream down and there’s not a lot of oil. Lovely served with sautéed new potatoes.

Serves 4

4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large monkfish tail (about 1.25kg), bone in, skinned and trimmed
1 rosemary sprig
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
150ml dry white wine
4 tbsp crème fraîche
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut each clove of garlic into 4 slices. Cut little incisions in the fish and push a sliver of garlic and a few rosemary needles into each one. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan200°C/Gas 7.

Rub the fish with olive oil and season it well. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a roasting tin on the hob, add the fish and sear it on all sides. Place the tin in the preheated oven and roast the fish for 15 minutes. Remove and take the fish out of the tin, then set it aside to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. While the fish is resting, make the sauce.

Place the roasting tin over a high heat, add the shallot and cook until it’s just starting to colour. Add the wine and any juices that have run from the resting fish and boil for 2–3 minutes. Add the crème fraîche, then bring the sauce back to the boil and check the seasoning. Take the fish to the table to carve into portions and serve it with the sauce.

Cook more from this book
Basque-style chicken
Fruit soup with verbena

Read the review

Buy this book
The French Revolution: 140 Classic Recipes made Fresh & Simple
£25, Seven Dials

Basque-Style Chicken by Michel Roux Jr

chicken basque style

(POULET BASQUAISE)

This is a really good simple supper – everything you need in one pot. I like to make it with chicken legs, as they are more flavourful than breast and less likely to be dry. Espelette chillies are grown in the Basque region in southwest France and have a beautifully mild, fragrant taste that is perfect for this dish. If you can’t find any, just use other chillies to taste. This is a dish that’s even better when made in advance and then reheated.

Serves 4

12 new potatoes, scrubbed
4 chicken legs
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 tbsp olive oil
2 red, green or yellow peppers, halved and seeded
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
200ml white wine
1 tbsp piment d’espelette (see page 8) or chilli flakes
4 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the potatoes in half, put them in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil. Cook them for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. Joint the chicken legs into thighs and drumsticks – or ask your butcher to do this for you. Season them with salt and smoked paprika. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan or a flameproof casserole dish and fry the chicken pieces until golden brown on both sides. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Slice the peppers into long strips and fry them in the same pan until tender, then add the onions, garlic and par-boiled potatoes. Cook them over a medium heat for 5–6 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/ Gas 6.

Tie the bay leaves and thyme sprigs together and add them to the pan along with the wine and piment d’espelette or chilli flakes. Add extra chilli if you like your food really spicy.

Add the tomatoes, then put the chicken and any juices back into the pan and stir gently. Put a lid on the pan or cover it tightly with foil and place it in the oven for 30 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear. Check the seasoning, then serve or set aside to enjoy later.

Cook more from this book
Monkfish cooked in the style of lamb
Fruit soup with Verbena

Read the review

Buy this book
The French Revolution: 140 Classic Recipes made Fresh & Simple
£25, Seven Dials

Sole, Jerusalem artichoke, black truffle by Mauro Colagreco

Sole Jerusalem artichoke Black truffle - Copyright Eduardo Torres

SERVES 4

FOR THE SOLE
Sole, 2 from 300-400 g
Jerusalem artichokes, 500 g
Sunflower oil, 500 cc
Dairy cream, 100 cc approx.
Shallot, 1
Chive, 10 g
Large mushrooms, 2
Extra virgin olive oil, 20 cc
Beurre noisette, 100 g
Hazelnuts, 50 g
Mushroom powder (dried and ground)
Black truffle (autumnal)
Pimpernel, 12 leaves
Sea salt

FOR THE LIME GEL
Lime juice, 250 cc
Agar-agar 3.5 g

PREPARATION

SOLE
Fillet the soles and set aside. Wrap the Jerusalem artichokes in aluminium foil and oven roast at 180°C for approximately 40 minutes, until done. Remove the foil, make a slit on top and squeeze to extract the pulp. Retain the peel and dry it at 60°C. Set aside. Transfer the pulp to the Thermomix, add 50 cc of cream for every 200 g of pulp, process, then strain. Transfer to a 1-charger siphon and reserve in a 50°C bain-marie.

Brunoise-cut the shallot. Mince the chives. Brunoise-cut the mushroom stems. Add the shallot to a heat hot suaté pan with olive oil, then add and brown the mushrooms. Remove from heat, season with salt and add the chives. Set aside.

Cut two slices of mushroom and dust with the mushroom powder. Dry at room temperature. Cook the sole for 5 minutes in a 70°C combi oven at 30% humidity. Matching up the edges, lay one dorsal fillet atop the lower fillet.
Toast the hazelnut in butter in a saucepan until the butter is browned (noisette).
Fry the Jerusalem artichoke in 180°C sunflower oil.

LIME GEL
Mix the lime juice and agar-agar in a saucepan, bring to a boil and whisk for 2 minutes. Once the mixture has cooled, process in a blender until it has a gel-like consistency. Transfer to a squeeze bottle.

PLATING
Set a base of sautéed mushrooms on a plate and, on top, arrange the sole, two dots of Jerusalem artichoke foam, some of the crisped Jerusalem artichoke, beurre noisette and hazelnuts atop the sole, mushroom slices and black truffle slices. Finish with two dots of lime gel and pimpernel leaves.

Cook more from this book
Turbot Celeriac Sorrel
Grouper rosemary sorrel

Read the review

Buy this book
Mirazur (English)
Catapulta, £70