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

50 g (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to butter the dish
175 g (6 oz) dates, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175 g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs
175 g (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

300 ml (1⁄2 pint) double (heavy) cream
50 g (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 300 ml (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
100 g bone marrow
50 g pancetta steccata, chopped
100 g sausagemeat
200 g veal tail
100 g veal tongue
100 g beef cheek
100 g cherry tomato confit
80 g white wine
1.5 g capon stock
5 g sea salt
1 g black pepper

Pasta dough

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

Béchamel foam

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

Tomato terrine

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

Parmigiano crackers

15 g soft butter
90 g 30-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
5 g 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)
100 g carrots, diced
100 g onions, diced
150 ml dry white wine
1 tablespoon port
150 ml veal stock (broth)
225 g veal sweetbreads, blanched and chopped
75 g 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
200 ml double (heavy) cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
knob (pat) of butter, to serve

Preheat the oven to 160oC/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 220oC/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

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)

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

Grouper Rosemary Salsify by Mauro Colagreco

Grouper  Rosemary  Salsify - Copyright Eduardo Torres.jpg

SERVES 10

FOR THE GROUPER
Grouper (from 2.5 kg), 1
Extra virgin olive oil, 100 cc
Thyme, 1 sprig

FOR THE ROSEMARY SAUCE
Shallot, 20 g
Butter, 20 g
Dairy cream, 500 cc
Rosemary, 4 g
Spinach, 200 g
Leek greens, 25 g

FOR THE GRAPE GEL
White grape juice, 500 cc
Ascorbic acid, 1 g
Agar-agar, 11 g

FOR THE WILD SALSIFY
Wild salsify, 20
Milk, 1 l
Butter, 500 g
Star anise, 1
Cardamom, 2 grains
Black peppercorns, 3

FOR THE SPANISH SALSIFY
Spanish salsify, 1
Ascorbic acid
Shallot, 5 g
Butter, 1 knob

PREPARATION

GROUPER
Fillet the fish, remove the spines and cut into 80 g portions. Transfer to a vacuum bag with the olive oil and thyme, seal and cook in a steam oven at 65°C for for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bag to an ice bath. Place the fish skin-side down into a hot sauté pan and cook until it takes on a good colour. Remove the fish and let it rest skin up for a minute and a half. Place skin down under a salamander to finish cooking.

ROSEMARY SAUCE
Sweat the minced shallot in a pot with a little butter, add the cream and reduce by half. Add the rosemary sprigs and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Taste to check if the cream has the desired flavour, if so, discard the rosemary. Transfer the cream to a food
processor, add the spinach and leek greens and process. Pass through a fine strainer. Chill quickly so the sauce doesn’t oxidise and change colour. Reserve.

GRAPE GEL
Use a juicer to extract 500 cc of juice from white grapes. Heat 300 cc of the juice in a saucepan with ascorbic acid, add the agar-agar and, stirring constantly, boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add the remaining grape juice, and chill.

WILD SALSIFY
Peel each wild salsify and, before peeling the next, place into the milk. Blanch them in boiling milk for 30 seconds, remove and transfer to a tray with the butter, star anise, cardamom and black pepper. Oven roast at 130°C, turning every 10 minutes, until
golden brown. Set aside.

SPANISH SALSIFY
Peel the Spanish salsify, use a Japanese mandoline to slice thinly and soak in the water with ascorbic acid. Glaze with the finely minced shallot and butter until the slices are pliable enough to roll.

PLATING
Arrange two wild salsify on each plate, two grape halves (previously blanched in boiling water for 10 seconds, shocked in ice water, peeled and seeded) and the grape gel. Brush the plate with rosemary sauce, add a salsify roll, rosemary flowers atop the salsify, one white grape per portion and then the grouper.

Cook more from this book
Turbot Celeriac Sorrel
Sole Jerusalem artichoke black truffle

Read the review

Buy this book
Mirazur (English)
Catapulta, £70

Turbot Celeriac Sorrel by Mauro Colagreco

Turbot Celeriac Sorrel - Copyright Eduardo Torres

SERVES 4

FOR THE CELERIAC PURÉE
Celeriac, 300 g
Butter, 100 g
Milk, 50 cc
Salt

FOR THE SMOKED SAUCE
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic, 1 clove
Dog cockles (cleaned and drained), 1 kg
Water, 100 cc
Melted butter, 700 g

FOR THE TURBOT
Turbot fillet with skin (min. 700 g approximately), 1
Clarified butter

PREPARATION

CELERIAC PURÉE
Peel and cube the celeriac. Cook the cubes in butter, without allowing them to colour. Add the milk, then cover the pan with baking parchment. The celeriac must be cooked rapidly and needs to be soft. Process in a blender (such as Vitamix) until smooth. Season
with salt.

SMOKED SAUCE
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the crushed clove of garlic, dog cockles and water, and cook for 15 minutes. Pass the cooking liquid through a fine strainer; the yield is approximately 700 cc. Add the 700 g of melted butter to the cooking liquid and transfer to a baking pan. Place the pan in a smoker using copper beechwood for 20 minutes. Reserve in a deep but not wide saucepan.

TURBOT
Bake the turbot for 8 minutes in a 75°C combi oven set at 10% humidity. When done, remove the skin and cut into approximately 90 g portions. Brush with clarified butter.

PLATING
Rapidly sauté 50 grams of sorrel in olive oil, then arrange it in the centre of the plates. Set a quenelle of the celeriac purée on the side of the sorrel and the fish atop. Use a hand blender (such as Bamix) to emulsify the very hot sauce and distribute it around the fish. Finish the plates with wild sorrel leaves and fleur de sel.

Cook more from this book
Sole, Jerusalem artichoke, black truffle
Grouper rosemary salsify

Read the review

Buy this book
Mirazur (English)
Catapulta, £70

Saffron in the Souks by John Gregory-Smith

saffron in the souks 2

What’s the USP? An accessible introduction to Lebanese cuisine with an element of travelogue thrown in for good measure.

Who is the author? John Gregory-Smith is a chef, presenter and author specialising in Middle Eastern and North African food. He has written four other cookbooks: Orange Blossom and Honey, Turkish Delights, Mighty Spice Express and Mighty Spice Cookbook.
His food and travel journalism has appeared in numerous publications including Condé Nast Traveller and the Evening Standard.

What does it look like? The book is full of vibrant, colourful dishes and peppered with some gorgeous images of the coasts, mountains and valleys that make up the Lebanese landscape.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a four page introduction and well written and interesting recipe introductions, but this is however primarily a recipe book, and none the worse for it.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You may not be able to get the odd thing like Aleppo pepper, Arabic cucumber, brined vine leaves or moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous) from the supermarket, but a swift google will sort you out.

What’s the faff factor? Some of the recipes require forward planning to prepare marinades and there are a few with long ingredients lists, but mostly the dishes are straightforward and relatively simple to cook.

How often will I cook from the book? Once you’re stocked up on baharat, za’atar, sumac and pomegranate molasses, the recipes are straightforward, varied and delicious enough that Saffron in the Souks could easily become a go-to book for when you want a mid-week meal with a bit of zing or when you’ve got a crowd to feed.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? ‘Handfuls’ and ‘bunches’ of herbs abound, but that’s partly down to the style of the cuisine. Aside from that, you should have no worries.

Killer recipes? Garlic chicken wings with coriander and pistachio pesto; sticky pomegranate sujuk; crispy za’atar calamari; roasted carrots with tahini and black sesame seeds; mighty medina falafel sandwich; kebab king chicken shawarma.

What will I love? The recipe introductions are much more than just serving suggestions and offer insights into Lebanese cuisine and anecdotes from Gregory-Smith’s travels.

What won’t I like? The okra recipes. No one likes okra do they? (You’re quite safe, there’s only two of them).

Should I buy it? Gregory-Smith has got some strong competition in the Middle Eastern recipe book market, going head to head with Ottolenghi, but if you are a fan of the cuisine and looking for new ideas or a novice in need of a guiding hand, then this is worth purchasing.

Cuisine: Lebanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant recipes from the heart of Lebanon
£25, Kyle Books

Fare magazine

Fare Glasgow

What’s the USP? They say, ‘Fare is a bi-annual print publication exploring city culture through the intersection of food, history, and community.’ If I wanted to be profoundly annoying, I’d say it was a bookazine, but as I don’t want to be profoundly annoying, let’s just say, it’s its own thing. So, not a cookbook and there’s no recipes, but if you like Cook Book Review you are probably going to be interested in Fare.

Who’s the editor? Ben Mervis is a food writer who has previously worked at Noma restaurant in Copenhagen and has worked as a researcher and industry expert with the excellent Chef’s Table documentary series on Netflix. Contributors include some of the top names in food writing, including in the latest issue, Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin.

Is it great bedtime reading? It’s nothing but great bedtime reading. Each edition of the magazine takes a city as its subject and delves deep into it’s culture through a series of essays, photo-stories and illustrations. Destinations covered so far are Istanbul, Helsinki, Charleston, Seoul and, in the latest edition published July 2019, Glasgow

What will I love? It’s a beautiful object. Printed on a mix of high quality matt and gloss paper and roughly the size of a hardback novel (although the magazine itself is soft cover) it just feels great to hold and read. The art direction by Ric Bell is top class, and with roughly equal space given to word and image, there’s room for both satisfyingly long form writing and aesthetically pleasing visuals.

What won’t I like? You’ve come to Cook Book Review for the food, so in that context it’s worth underlining that Fare is not a food magazine exclusively, but the subject is dealt with comprehensively. In the Seoul issue for example, there are articles about Buddhist nun and chef Jeong Kwan (featured in an episode of Chef’s Table), Mingles restaurant, Fritz Coffee Company, budae jjigae (or army base stew), the Korean dish of ‘cold noodles’ and a photo essay on Noryangjin fish market, among others.

Should I buy it? I don’t know of any publication quite like Fare. It’s fascinating, educational, a pleasure to read and looks cool. Surely worth twelve quid (plus shipping) of anyone’s money.

Buy this magazine: Fare

 

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw by Nathan Outlaw

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

What’s the USP? At last, after a string of books aimed at the home cook, it’s Nathan Outlaw the full-on restaurant coffee table book.

Who’s the author? Cornwall’s ‘King of Fish’, a familiar face on TV, author of a series of fish cook books, serial restaurateur. No, not Rick Stein! It’s Nathan Outlaw, who admittedly trained with Rick Stein, but is easily told apart from the Steinmeister by the three Michelin stars he holds; one at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen and no less than two at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, both in the tiny Cornish village of Port Isaac. You certainly wouldn’t bet against Outlaw picking up a fourth star sometime soon at Siren, his new gaff at The Goring Hotel in London.

Is it great bedtime reading? A skimpy introduction that pays only lip service to Outlaw’s career doesn’t bode well, but the interesting and well written recipe introductions, along with a number of essays dotted throughout (mostly supplier profiles) adds some meat to the (fish) bones of the book. It is however frustrating to read in the ‘About the author’ section at the back of the book that Outlaw has worked for the likes of Peter Kromberg, Gary Rhodes, Eric Chavot and John Campbell and not get to read any anecdotes about those experiences.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Ingredients are assigned specific weights and measures so there’s no handful of this or splash of that and methods are detailed and clearly explained so that home cooks as well as chefs will be able to happily attempt Outlaw’s dishes.

Killer dishes? There are any number of delicious sounding seafood dishes in the book including gurnard with Outlaw’s signature Porthilly sauce made with tomatoes, fish stock, shore crab stock and butter, and bass with leeks and tartare hollandaise (another of the chef’s signature sauces), but Outlaw is also no mean baker and pastry chef and you are bound to be tempted to try his roasted onion and Cheddar straws, shortbread custard creams and apple and cinnamon doughnuts.

What will I love? The variety of seafood that’s imaginatively prepared by a master of the craft; the stunning photography by David Loftus, the eight chapters that break each season into early and late, highlighting the importance of time of year to Outlaw’s cooking style and helping the reader pick the right fish and shellfish for pretty much any week of the year.

What won’t I like? It’s galling, especially in a book that costs £45 (or £250 if you want the deluxe edition that’s ‘bound in fish leather, hand signed and beautifully slip cased’ according to the publisher) to have to wade through platitudinous articles about how wonderful the restaurant’s wine list or staff are, which read like little more than press releases. There is, as a general rule, far too much of this sort of thing in modern restaurant cookbooks and a firmer editorial hand or the involvement of an independent professional writer (think how improved Corbyn and King’s cookbooks such as The Ivy were by AA Gill’s work) would be extremely welcome.

Should I buy it? There are an awful lot of seafood cookbooks already on the market (including Nathan Outlaw’s Fish kitchen, Nathan Outlaw’s Home Kitchen and Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood for a start) but Outlaw does bring his own style and a lot of expertise to the subject making Restaurant Nathan Outlaw a worthwhile purchase.

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book: Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

Cook from this book

The Noma Guide to Fermentation By René Redzepi & David Zilber

Fermentation cover.png

What’s the USP? Everything you ever wanted to know about fermenting food but were afraid to ask. Plus, everything else you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

Who are the authors? René Redzepi is one of a handful of chefs worldwide that literally need no introduction but, just in case he’s not on your radar, Redzepi is the pugnacious co-owner of noma in Copenhagen, four times recognized as the world’s best by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is the poster boy for the hugely influential Nordic food movement/marketing initiative and has twice appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He’s also the author of Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine and A Work in Progress. However, you probably will need an introduction to David Zilber, chef and photographer from Toronto who has cooked across North America, most notably as a sous-chef at Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver. He has worked at noma since 2014 and has served as director of its fermentation lab since 2016.

What does it look like? With more than 750 full-colour photographs, most of them step-by-step how-to guides, The Noma Guide to Fermentation looks very much like the technical manual it actually is, so the hand-drawn illustrations by Paula Troxler add a very welcome extra visual dimension.

Is it good bedtime reading? Well, there’s certainly a lot to read but, given its mainly technical nature (introduction by Redzepi himself aside, which is a fun read), whether its the sort of thing to send you off into the land of nod is debatable.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You may need to head online for things like unpasteurized kombucha and SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) but often the recipes are simply one common ingredient, such as plums, and salt.

What’s the faff factor? There are a lot of things to consider when fermenting anything so although the ingredients might be simple, the processes can be complex and may require the purchase of specialist equipment, all of which is listed in the book. Think of fermentation as your new hobby, like home brewing beer,  rather than cooking.

How often will I cook from the book? This is pretty much an all or nothing deal. If you are interested in serving your family/guests lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables, black fruits and vegetables (e.g. black garlic or any fruit and veg that undergoes a ‘very slow, very dark browning’ over a period of weeks) or want to make your own vinegar, kombucha, miso or garum (a sort of ancient form of Asian fish sauce), then this is the book for you.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? You’ll have no complaints on this score at all. With master recipes for each type of ferment clocking in at about 10 pages each, including those step by step photos, you’ll never be left scratching your head wondering what to do next.

Killer recipes? The book should really be seen as an instruction manual that unlocks the potential of a process rather than a collection of individual recipes that you’d dip in and out of, but that said, you might well find lacto ceps; apple kombucha; perry vinegar; pearly barley koji (grains fermented by inoculation with fungus spores to produce what is essentially a sort of mouldy, umami rich cake that can be used in other fermentation process or added to stews or just fried and eaten) compelling ideas.

What will I love? The book really does do what it says on the tin and guides you through fermentation, taking you far beyond familiar kimchi and sauerkraut. There is a sense of authority throughout, and you get the sense that these people really know what they’re talking about and have depthless practical experience to back it all up.

What won’t I like? Although there are suggested uses for all the ferments (which will be of particular interest to home cooks), there are only one or two examples of how they are used in complete noma restaurant dishes which some readers may find frustrating. That said, the book is well over 400 pages long without sample restaurant recipes so maybe we’ll just have to wait for the next noma cookbook to see how Redzepi uses all this stuff.

 Should I buy it? If you feel the need to ferment and you don’t already own The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, or are a particular fan of noma and René Redzepi, then fill your boots (and fermentation vessels), you won’t be disappointed.

Cuisine: Nordic/International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
The Noma Guide to Fermentation (Foundations of Flavor)
£30, Artisan

Mirazur by Mauro Colagreco

Mirazur

What’s the USP? A premium coffee table book celebrating chef Mauro Colagreco’s three Michelin star Mirazur restaurant in Menton in the Côte d’Azur, currently rated number three on the World’s 50 Best restaurant list.  Colagreco’s unique ingredients-led style is informed by restaurant’s location close to the boarder of France and Italy.

Who’s the author? Mauro Colagreo is an Argentinian-born chef of Italian and Spanish descent and a protégé of legendary French chefs Alain Passard and the late Bernard Loiseau. He opened Mirazur in 2006 and was named ‘revelation of the year’ by the Gault & Millau guide that same year. He won his first star in 2007 with the second star following in 2012.

What does it look like? In a word, incredible. Colagreco’s eye for presentation is unsurpassed and Eduardo Torres’s photographs make each of the 65 dishes included in the book look like Renaissance masterpieces. The Côte d’Azur landscape has never looked more magnificent and the shots of Nice, Menton and Ventimiglia markets that supply many of Colagreco’s ingredients will make you want to move to the south of France, or at least book a trip there.

 Is it good bedtime reading? An overall introduction, introductions to each of the book’s three chapters Méditerranée, Jardins and Montagne, supplier profiles (including an illustrated guide to mushrooms) and a laudatory preface by Massimo Bottura means there’s plenty to pour over to help you wind down after a hectic day.

 Killer recipes? Tortellini, almonds, smoked broth; baby squids, beans, pork consommé; goose barnacles, green beans, sea lettuce; squab, spelt, wild strawberries. 

 How annoyingly vague are the recipes? There are accurate measurements for virtually every ingredient in the book and methods are detailed enough to be followed by chefs familiar with how to use equipment such as a Thermomix and dehydrator.

What will I love?  At 372 pages and standing a foot tall, Mirazur is a big impressive book that does full justice to its subject matter. There are little surprises dotted throughout including Pablo Neruda’s poem Ode to Bread printed on transparent paper that overlays a shot of Colagreco’s signature pleated bread rolls, and a fold out illustrated guide to herbs printed on matt paper that contrasts with the high-quality glossy stock used for the main body of the book. The idea that Colgreco’s cooking is borderless (the book quotes Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl who said, ‘Borders? I’ve never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people) is a particularly attractive one in the current political climate of rampant nationalism.

What won’t I like? Apart from two double page black and white portraits, Colagreco is almost entirely absent from his own book, represented only by his dishes and recipes. The text is written by his wife Laura (who, at times, wanders perilously close to poetic pretention; about the Côte d’Azur, she says ‘Many describe the environment like a body transported by the surprise of two feelings in front of the marvels of nature and their singular disposition’), and the food was prepared by two members of the Mirazur brigade, Antonio Buono and Paulo Corsi. While it’s refreshing to read a cookbook that gives so much credit to a chef’s suppliers and the terroir he works within, it would have been nice to hear Colagreco’s own voice, either in the form of an interview or in recipe introductions which are sadly lacking.  In addition, there are no pictures of the restaurant itself which seems a bizarre omission.

Should I buy it? At £70 (although you can find the book heavily discounted online), Mirazur is quite the investment, but real effort has been made to elevate it above the level of souvenir. Colagreco is one of the most individual chefs working in the modern progressive genre and anyone who aspires to join him in the rarefied heights of gastronomy would be rewarded by reading this book.

Cuisine: French/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Mirazur (English)
Catapulta, £70

Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish

Tom Kitchin

What’s the USP? A celebration of the fruits of the sea by one of Scotland and the UK’s best-known chefs and restaurateurs.

Who’s the author? Tom Kitchin worked for the very best in the business including Alain Ducasse and Pierre Koffman before opening The Kitchin in Leith in 2006 with wife Michaela. He quickly notched up a Michelin star and went on to open the highly rated Castle Terrace and Scran and Scallie gastropub, both in Edinburgh. Later this year he launches the Bonnie Badger pub with room in the village of Gullane on the East Lothian coast as well as Southside Scran gastrpub in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh. Kitchin’s cherubic features and curl mop of hair can regularly be seen on the BBC in shows such as Saturday Kitchen, Masterchef the Professionals and The Chef’s Protege.

What does it look like? This is Tom Kitchin, Michelin-star chef creating recipes for the home cook so expect slightly more relaxed food presentation than you might find at his signature restaurant. Each recipe is headed with a hand drawn illustration of the main seafood element by Nathan Shellard which is a very nice touch and there are a few photographic portraits of Kitchin, en famille doing various seaside related activities.

Is it great bedtime reading? It’s not exactly a gastronomic War and Peace, but the brief introduction is bolstered by a useful chapter on seafood cooking techniques and each of the 100 recipes has a breezy, upbeat introductory paragraph, many of which contain tasty nuggets of culinary wisdom.

Killer recipes?  Octopus, mixed bean and black olive salad; squid and prawn stuffed courgette flowers; monkfish, salmon and scallop kebabs; roasted cod head with citrus dressing; smoked haddock and Mull cheddar souffles; clam and miso broth.

What will I love?  Kitchin covers his subject well with a good range of fish and shellfish with chapters on crustaceans, molluscs, cephalopods, flat fish, white fish, oily fish and mixed seafood dishes. Although this is aimed primarily at the home cook, there are plenty of ‘cheffy’ dishes like scallop and chicory with Spiced Sauternes sauce to interest Kitchin’s fellow professionals.

What won’t I like? There could be more guidance on how to make sure you’re cooking with sustainable seafood and Kitchin tends to stick with the more mainstream varieties and swerves things like black bream, grey mullet and gurnard, all wonderful fish that any decent fishmonger should be able to sell you.

Should I buy it? Kitchin has entered a crowded market and set himself up against some big names, not least of which is Rick Stein who published his own book called Fish and Shellfish in 2014; Tom Aiken’s excellent Fish, and the lesser known but still wonderful Feast of Fish by Ian McAndrew. But as a fresh take on the subject for 2019, Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish is well worth investigating.

Cuisine: Scottish/seafood
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish
£26 , Absolute Press

Estela by Ignacio Mattos

Estela

Ignacio Mattos’s downtown Manhattan restaurant Estela has a cult following among British chefs. James Lowe invited Mattos to cook at his Shoreditch restaurant Lyles in 2017 and Matthew Young, formerly of Elroy and Mayfield’s, is a fan. Before opening Estela in 2013, Uruguay-born Mattos worked for Judy Rodgers at Zuni Café and Alice Water and David Tanis at Chez Panisse in San Francisco. In the book’s introduction, he sites Francis Mallmann, the godfather of elemental open fire cooking, as his ‘main mentor’ and with whom he cooked outdoors in New York during a snowstorm and on top of a mountain in Mendoza.

In the brief introduction, Mattos talks about his culinary travels that have allowed him to explore everything from Italy’s cucina povera to modernist cooking in Spain; from classical French cuisine to the Afro-Brazilian cooking of Bahia, Brazil. That global perspective is reflected in the ‘Estel Essentials’ chapter that lists Italian bottarga, Southeast Asian fish sauce and Japanese furikake seasoning among Mattos’s favoured pantry ingredients.

In less intuitive hands, such broad open-mindedness could result in fusion-confusion. Mattos however has an ace up his sleeve with his underlying ethos of ‘layering, tension and balance’ that brings harmony to disparate elements through the considered and subtle use of vinegars, citric acids, spicy heat and savoury items such as fish sauce or juiced green garlic that bring his dishes to a ‘happy place just at the borderline of too much’.

It’s an approach typified by a signature dish of sushi-grade fluke that’s cured in sugar and salt, diced and mixed with Arbequina olive oil and mandarin olive oil and served with sea urchin roe, yuzu kosho (a paste of chillies fermented with yuzu juice and zest and salt) and white grapefruit zest. Other stand outs from the collection of more than 133 recipes include lamb ribs with chermoula and honey; cured foie gras wrapped in grape leaves, grilled and served with chicken jus seasoned with soy and ponzu, and steak served with black sesame bearnaise and turnips.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a book like Estela to prove you (delightfully) wrong. Mattos has a particular and distinctive take on what can make up the menu of a ‘neighbourhood restaurant’, a viewpoint that will provide a wealth of inspiration to chefs no matter what type of establishment they are cooking in.

Cuisine: American/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Estela
$35, Artisan

The French Revolution by Michel Roux Jr

French Revolution Michel Roux Jr

What’s the USP? Classic French home cooking updated to ‘suit the way we like to eat today’, cutting down on butter and cream, eschewing luxury ingredients like foie gras, lobster and truffle and focusing on simpler recipes that don’t require a full batterie de cuisine and a KP to wash it all up afterwards.

Who’s the author? Michel Roux Jr is restaurant royalty, son of the legendary Albert Roux, father of Emily (who has just opened her first London restaurant Caractère) and is chef/patron of legendary Mayfair joint Le Gavroche and oversees fine dining destinations Roux at Parliament Square and Roux at The Landau, where he also has his own pub The Wigmore. He is a regular on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen and has written seven previous cookbooks.

Killer recipes? Basque-style chicken; shrimp tartlets thermidor; red mullet pastilla; duck confit pie; lamb with haricot beans; roast pears with nougat and dark chocolate sauce; fig tarte Tatin.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Apart from salt and pepper, there are weights and measures for every ingredient. The methods are sometimes usefully vague – for example, for Duck Confit Pie the instructions say to ‘sweat the chopped onion until soft and lightly browned’ rather than claiming that they will be cooked in five minutes; onions never are.

Is it good bedtime reading? There is very little additional text in the book, even the recipe introductions are kept to a bare minimum.

What will I love? Roux Jr has included recipes from all over France, some of which only the most ardent of Francophiles will have encountered before such as Seiche a la Sétoise from the Languedoc-Roussillon (cuttlefish as prepared in the port city of Séte, slow cooked with white wine, saffron, tomatoes and olives) and Tourment D’Amour from the overseas French region of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean (sweet pastry cases filled with coconut jam, crème patissiere and genoise sponge). Roux Jr is a skilled baker and the chapter on boulangerie is a particular joy with recipes for goat’s cheese bread; garlic bread that’s baked with cloves of garlic confit in the dough; and speculoos, spicy biscuits made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

What won’t I like? The lack of explanatory text is disappointing, and these are not Roux Jr’s restaurant dishes; you’ll need to pick up a copy of Le Gavroche Cookbook for that.

Should I buy it? The huge variety of dishes could easily provide inspiration for a dinner party, special occasion celebratory meal for two or something quick and easy for days off or when you arrive home hungry after work.

Cuisine: American/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

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

In My Blood by Bo Bech

BoBech_CoverGeist3D_kvadratisk_180806

What’s the USP? Recipes, essays and musings that tell the story behind the creation and running of the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Geist.

Who are the authors? Danish chef Bo Bech (the surname is pronounced ‘Beck’) made his name with his avant garde cooking at the Michelin-starred Paustian in Copenhagen in the early 2000’s and then opened the more casual Geist in 2011. He has appeared on a number of food TV programmes in Denmark and is also the author of ‘What Does Memory Taste Like’.

Killer recipes?  Pot roasted cauliflower with black truffle; turbot with fennel ravioli on gruyere; white asparagus heads with chocolate and stilton; lamb hearts with smoked red grapes and sorrel; potato mash with brown stone crab and salted butter.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? For the most part, Bech’s dishes are based around just a few ingredients and methods are explained in enough detail to be easily understood, certainly by professional chefs. There are however a number of instances where quantities are either vague or not given. In the recipe for crispy artichokes with suckling pig and black truffle, you are told to ‘heat a pot with grapeseed oil’ but no indication is given of the size of the pot or amount of oil while the gravlax recipe lists fennel pollen in the ingredients but doesn’t mention it in the method.

Is it good after bedtime reading reading? The recipes are punctuated with 15 fascinating ‘Stories’ that include everything from a facsimile of a note from a brainstorming session before the restaurant opened to ‘The Rage’, a short essay where Bech explains how his anger with certain ingredients (such as poor quality salmon) feeds into his creative drive and ultimately results in new dishes (fennel pollen gravlax served with a sauce made from the curing brine mixed with apple juice, mustard and bronze fennel).

 What will I love? In addition to Bech’s own expert food photography, the book is illustrated with beautiful watercolours and pencil drawings and printed on 120-gram paper stock which gives the book a very distinctive and luxurious look and feel.  The ten cocktail recipes, that include kombucha gin, unripe peach; and mezcal sour, gentle smoke of Mexico, are every bit as imaginative as the food.

What won’t I like? Bech has allocated eight of the book’s 344 pages to the reproduction of the full transcript of the commentary of The Rumble in the Jungle, the 1974 Foreman/Ali fight which plays in the restrooms in Geist. You will either find this endearingly eccentric or puzzlingly absurd, depending on how indulgent you feel towards the author.

Should I buy it? Bech is a chef with a truly individual creative voice which comes through loud and clear in both the recipes and the ‘Stories’. His minimalist plating style looks stunning on the page, every dish a work of art, and his writing gives real insight into what it means to be a chef in the 21st century, from both a creative and practical perspective. Well worth buying if you are interested in cutting edge cooking or in the business yourself.

Cuisine: Nordic/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
In My Blood by Bo Bech
DKK300 (about £36, plus shipping)from chefbobech.com/books

Pollen Street: The Cookbook by Jason Atherton

Pollen St_FULL TRADE v1.1

What’s the USP? After a string of books aimed at the home cook including Gourmet Food for a Fiver, Jason Atherton finally delivers the cookbook his peers have been waiting for; a collection of recipes from his flagship Michelin-starred London restaurant Pollen Street Social.

Who’s the author? Jason Atherton needs no introduction, but for readers who have been hiding under a rock for the last decade, Atherton is the chef that created and launched Maze for Gordon Ramsay Holdings Ltd, one of the group’s most successful concepts. In 2011, Atherton launched The Social Company which now boasts 15 restaurants worldwide from Hong Kong to New York and Dubai to Shanghai (with no less than seven of the group in London). He was also the first British chef to work at el Bulli and get paid for it, which is no mean feat.

What does it look like? From the cover reproduction of Ben Ashton’s Taste of Britain: The British Isles in Winter, an original artwork commissioned by Atherton to hang in Pollen Street Social restaurant, to John Carey’s beautiful food photography, Pollen Street is as classy and well stitched together as one of Atherton’s signature Saville Row suits. The pricey special edition is ‘luxuriously boxed and bound’ but is essentially the same book.

Is it good bedtime reading? At 400 odd pages, there is certainly the room for lots of Daniel Clifford-style revelations (which made that chef’s recent book Out of My Tree so exceptional) but Pollen Street is sadly lacking in engaging stories. There is just a single page introduction from Atherton and no introductions to the recipes which gives the book an impersonal feel, further accentuated by a series of short articles on Atherton’s favoured suppliers which are written by the suppliers themselves and which therefore inevitably read like marketing material that could have been cribbed from their websites.

Killer recipes?  There are outstanding dishes in each of the eight chapters (headed canapes, starters, shellfish, fish, meat and game, poultry and game birds, sweets and petit fours) including a ‘fish and chips’ canape of confit potato topped with taramasalata and salt and vinegar powder; a starter of pressed Norfolk quail with taco of the confit leg and truffle; St Austell Bay lobster with yuzu jam and savoury seaweed custard, and a classic game pithier with grouse, pheasant and wild mushrooms. Even the appendix of basics features a cracking recipe for pearl barley risotto that’s finished with mushroom puree and Madeira cream.

What will I love? That depends on your perspective. The recipes are presented in all their complex glory; no shortcuts or simplifications for home cooks here. Atherton recently said in an interview with the iPaper that he didn’t necessarily expect anyone to cook from the book, “I’ve not dumbed it down. Those are the recipes and some of them are damn bloody hard. Do you have three days of your life to waste making my mushroom tea? Probably not.” A recipe might run to six pages (including a double page spread photo) so that you get enough detail to attempt to reproduce Atherton’s tightly controlled, precise modern cooking in your own kitchen, if you’ve got the time, energy and funds (believe me, it ain’t going to be cheap to make these dishes).

What won’t I like? Although Pollen Street delivers Atherton’s high-end food, it delivers very little of the man himself. Who wouldn’t love to hear a blow by blow account of his time with Ramsay and how and why it all ended; about his days with Nico and Marco, Koffmann and Adria (all of whom have written glowing tributes to Atherton for the book) and how he has built an international restaurant empire. Maybe next time.

Should I buy it? Jason Atherton is unquestionably one of the most successful British-born, post-Ramsay chefs currently working today and a book of his flagship restaurant recipes is a must-buy, providing a vital record of mainstream modern British fine dining in the early 21st century and a benchmark for all ambitious chefs to strive towards.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Professional Chefs/ competent home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Pollen Street
£50, Absolute Press (Special boxed edition, £250)

From the Earth by Peter Gilmore

from the earth_final

What’s the USP? One chef’s obsession with heirloom vegetable varieties explored in recipes, detailed ingredient profiles and features on specialist growers.

 Who’s the author? Peter Gilmore is one of Australia’s leading chefs. His restaurant Quay overlooking Sydney Harbour has held Three Chef Hats in the Good Food Guide (the Australian equivalent of three Michelin stars) for 16 consecutive years and was listed for five years on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. He is also executive chef of Bennelong in the Sydney Opera House which holds Two Chef Hats.

What does it look like? Even by the uniformly high standards of modern cookbook production values, From The Earth  is something special. The book’s large format adds extra impact to Brett Stevens’s full page shots of Gilmore’s exquisitely presented dishes and the artfully arranged vegetable portraits that you’ll want to frame and hang on your wall.

 Killer recipes? Tartare of wagyu, fermented chilli, redmeat radishes; salad of violet de Provence artichoke; braise of Gagon cucumber, green-lipped abalone, shimonita onion; salad of raw trentino cabbage turnip with caper vinaigrette.

 What will I love? This is no veggie bandwagon jumping exercise. Gilmore has been a dedicated cultivator of rare heirloom varieties for more than a decade and really knows his stuff. He is passionately pro-biodiversity and anti-genetic modification but restrains himself to a few words on the subject in the introduction saying, ‘this book is not about the politics of food’ and lets his imaginative and creative dishes do the talking.

Ingredient profiles have been expertly put together by Gilmore’s wife Kathryn, who spent ‘countless hours researching each featured vegetable, referencing and cross-referencing information on species, origin and history’. All that work shows in the detailed and fascinating finished product. Want to know about the history of radish cultivation? Look no further (the Egyptians got there first in 2000 BC apparently).

 The four grower profiles that include provide an interesting insight onto Australia’s specialist produce scene and are illustrated with photographs that show the Aussie landscape in all its rugged glory.

What won’t I like? By its very nature, From The Earth presents all but the most dedicatedly green fingered chef with the problem of sourcing the raw ingredients for many of the recipes. You may not be able to easily get your hands on Cherokee White Eagle corn, Gete Okosomin squash or Kyoto red carrots but you will want to cook the delicious sounding dishes so, as Gilmore points out, you can ‘use the recipes as a starting point to experiment with all sorts of varieties’ while you grow your own crops or convince a supplier to do so for you.

Should I buy it? Informative, inspiring and stunning to look at, From The Earth is a fresh take on  vegetable cultivation and cookery that could well have an impact on how you serve vegetables in your restaurant. It’s also a lovely, aesthetically pleasing object that will be catnip to all cookbook enthusiasts. How can you resist?

Cuisine: Australian/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
From the Earth: World’s Great, Rare and Almost Forgotten Vegetables
£ 35, Hardie Grant

Andre Simon awards special feature: An interview with chairman Nick Lander

nick lander at vinoteca kc cropped

Nick Lander is the restaurant correspondent of the Financial Times, author and hospitality expert. His first book, The Art of The Restaurateur became an Economist Book of The Year in 2012. He is the former proprietor of L’Escargot in Soho and has acted as a hospitality consultant to arts organisations across London including The Southbank Centre; the British Museum; and the Royal Albert Hall among many others.  He consulted on the food and beverage offering at the restored St Pancras International station and for the  development of King’s Cross, the 67 acre site that is currently the biggest single urban regeneration project in Europe.

 

When did you first get involved with the Andre Simon Awards?

Twenty years ago. I was a food book assessor then after two years they made me a trustee and when Julian Cotterell, my predecessor passed away I became chairman.

What are your responsibilities as chairman of the awards?

That depends on who you ask! The principle one is to monitor and make sure that the Andre Simon memorial fund doesn’t spend too much of its money on the awards, that’s the slightly dry side. The real job is to navigate the ship and listen to everybody’s opinions. I am involved in producing the short list, but I defer to the assessors. My job is more informal; providing lunch and a wrapping up speech on 5 February at the ceremony and ensuring we stay solvent.

I think the system we have of one food and one drink book assessor is absolutely fantastic because it minimises committees. A lot of these awards they have, they bring in the good and the great and everybody has an opinion and the lowest common denominator tends to dominate rather than the actual winner. The list of nine food books and six drink books we’ve got this year is probably the broadest and eclectic and wide ranging and interesting that we’ve ever had, and that’s nothing to do with me.

How have cookbooks change in the 20 years you’ve been involved in the awards.

I think they’re much more detailed and because the general cookbook has been so well covered in the past, nascent writers have to look for a subject and, like everything today, it’s becoming harder and harder to find an undiscovered topic. The idea that there’s a book on Shetland or the Black Sea is a reflection of that, and the Pie and Mash book too, which I think is a great read. The idea of Jill Norman or anybody else’s cookbook being definitive, those days are finished, and authors are having to search for slightly recherche but actually very interesting topics.

What impact does the awards have on British food and drink writing?

That’s a very difficult question, because the book trade is so odd, speaking as an author myself. We’ve tried all kinds of things to publicise the awards; stickers, moving the dates of the selection before Christmas so that the books could be highlighted in the run up. I’m not sure any of that actually works. I think the prestige comes after the award to the winner; nice cheque and the prestige to the publishers. It must be a huge pat on the back to the production team because production values are really important to Andre Simon.

How is food writing viewed by critics in the UK, do you think it get taken seriously enough?

There are so many books published and literary editors are swamped, so there’s no real room for food and drinks books other than at Christmas, which I think is a bit odd, we don’t eat and drink just at Christmas. I’d like to see more scope given to coverage of food and drink books.

Despite the many cookbooks already on the shelves, is there a cookbook you’d like to see that hasn’t yet been written?

I still hanker after something that brings food and wine together in one cookbook, I think that would be quite interesting; not matching, but just thoughts on cooking and choosing wine, but I don’t know of anybody who could do that.

And finally, do you have an all-time favourite cookbook?

The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews by Edda Servi Machlin, which Elizabeth David introduced me to, is a fantastic cookbook. And any fish cookbook from Rick Stein to whoever, I just marvel at what they can do with fish.

To read more about the Andre Simon Awards click on the logo below

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Andre Simon Awards special feature: an interview with Meera Sodha

meera sodha andre simon food assessor 2018 c. david loftus

Chef, food writer and author Meera Sodha is the independent assessor of the food category for the 2018 Andre Simon Food and Drink book awards.

Born in Lincolnshire to Ugandan Indian parents, her love for her ancestors’ food and a desire to keep their food traditions alive led her to capture her mother’s recipes from her childhood in her first cookbook Made in India, which was published by Figtree, Penguin in July 2014 It became a top 10 best seller and was named a book of the year by The Times and the Financial Times. Her second book, Fresh India, published July 2016 is a celebration of India’s love of vegetables.

She writes a regular column for Associated Press and writes (or have written) occasionally for Food 52, Borough Market, The Pool and The Guardian and you can follow her on instagram and twitter.

How did you get involved with the awards? 

My first two books, Made in India and Fresh India were both shortlisted so I’ve been lucky enough to come to the awards twice, meet the team and enjoy the company of so many interesting and influential voices in the world of food. I’ve have always loved how the awards is for the writers and by the writers and that every year, the shortlist throws up books I have never heard of and immediately want to buy. So when I got asked to be the independent assessor, I jumped at the opportunity.

What are your responsibilities as independent assessor?

I have the job of taking a very long list down to a shortlist and then ultimately to a few winners. Quite a daunting prospect once I realised just how books the postman was going to be delivering to me.

How many books did you have to read in order to come up with the shortlist?

I don’t know exactly but I would guess that I have received around 150 books. It shows just how the how highly publishers and writers view the awards. At times it’s been overwhelming – but through the process I’ve got to do what I love doing most, immersing myself in great writing and great cookbooks.

What does it take for a book to make it onto the shortlist. What are you looking for in a food book to make it a potential winner?

I look for a few things:

Originality – is this a book that takes a refreshing new angle on something or opens up a new world to the reader?

Knowledge – does the writer have a firm grasp and passion for their chosen subject?

Enduring – Is this a book of the moment or a future classic that we will be talking about for years to come?

Coherent – Is there a powerful core theme that runs through the book that I can identify?

Enjoyment – Does it make me feel something and how easy is it to put down?

As an author of food books, how do you feel about judging your peers?

It’s a real honour and very exciting but I also feel a strong sense of responsibility. As a writer, I know how much it takes to write a book and how challenging it can feel to not only get something done but create something that you are genuinely proud of. With every book I have read during the judging, I have tried to put myself in the author’s shoes and understand their journey and motivations for writing the book. Whether they’re a big name or an unknown name, I have tried to treat them all equally and focus on the quality of what they have produced.

What are your top three all-time food books, either Andre Simon awards shortlisted, winners or otherwise?  

I’ve loved the books produced by recent winners Mark Diacono’s Otter Farm, Rachel Roddy’s Five Quarters, Fuscia Dunlop’s Land of Fish and Rice and Stephen Harris’ The Sportsman. Sorry, that’s the previous four.

 What do you think about the current food writing scene in general, do you think we are in a golden age of food writing right now?

 I think of it less as a golden age and more as a scene that has just continually gets better and better over the years. A bit like the broader food world in the UK. There are now such a variety of voices writing brilliantly about such an amazing variety of topics that with each year that passes, the food writing world becomes richer and more interesting.  It’s a fantastic time to be a reader – the only problem is choosing which book to read(!)

Is there a food book that doesn’t exist that you think needs to be written (and who should write it)?

Cooking in out of space. Might be a few years until we see it…

Do you think that food writing should be considered as ‘literature’ – do you think it gets taken seriously enough by critics?

I don’t mind what it is classed as, I’m more interested in how good it is and how much people are reading it. Anecdotally, I do feel as though food writing is something more people are starting to enjoy and understand. Recently, I was buoyed to see in Daunt Books that the main book being promoted throughout the store was MFK Fishers ‘Consider The Oyster’ – perhaps a book that years ago would have been hidden away in a dusty corner.

Black Sea by Caroline Eden

black sea by caroline eden

What’s the USP? According to the book’s back cover blurb, ‘With a nose for a good recipe and an ear for an extraordinary story, Caroline Eden travels from Odessa to Bessarabia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey’s Black Sea region, exploring interconnecting culinary cultures’.

Who’s the author? Caroline Eden is a writer and journalist specialising in the former Soviet Union. Her first book Samarkand – recipes and stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus appeared in 2016 and was named Guardian book of the year and won Guild of Food Writers ‘Food and Travel’ award in 2017.

What does it look like? With a stylish, iridescent cover, evocative location photography and rustic-chic food shots, Black Sea has bags of character a distinctive look and feel worthy of its road-less-travelled subject matter.

Is it good bedtime reading? Black sea is as much a travelogue, a narrative of a journey,  as it is a recipe book, so this is definitely one for the bedside table. Eden deftly mixes history and with her first-hand travel experiences to build up a vivid picture of the region, it’s people and its cuisine.

Killer recipes? Ardie Umpluti (Romanian stuffed yellow peppers); afternoon Zelnick pie (chad, spinach and filo pie from Bulgaria); citrus-cured mackerel with gherkins from Istanbul; black sesame challah; Navy Day Covrigi (apricot stuffed buns from Romania).

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Given that Waitrose stocks the pul biber (Turkish pepper flakes) you’ll need to make Eden’s version of ‘Cornershop pilaf’ from Kastamonu with bulgar wheat, loads of herbs, spinach and cherry tomatoes and that the date syrup required for baked sesame halva can be found on most supermarket shelves, you should have no problems finding the means to make these dishes. Where the authentic ingredient is difficult for those outside of the region to track down, Eden has provided a more convenient alternative such as pecorino for the more obscure Romanian Kashkavel required for Shepherd’s Bulz (Romanian cornmeal and cheese baked dumplings).

What’s the faff factor? Although some of the recipes are inspired by dishes eaten in restaurants, this is homely cooking. Ingredients lists are mostly short and concise and cooking methods simple and straightforward.

How often will I cook from the book? Although the cuisines covered in the book may be unfamiliar to many readers (and is certainly less storied that many other European regions), the spicy, herby flavours – sometimes fresh, sometimes comforting – are very accessible and you might easily find yourself reaching for Black Sea when you fancy something just a little bit different for a mid-week meal or a dinner party.

What will I love? This is a well researched and written book that will have you planning your own trips to the region. If your interest is really peaked, Eden has supplied a comprehensive list of further reading, alongside the books, newspapers, journals, websites and magazines consulted while writing Black Sea that should keep you busy for many months.

What won’t I like? I honestly can’t imagine.

Should I buy it? If you like food, travel, cooking (and if you don’t, why are you reading this blog?) this is the book for you.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginners/competent home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes – Through Darkness and Light

£25, Quadrille

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This book has been shortlisted for the 2018 Andre Simon award. Click the logo to read reviews of all the shortlisted books.

Coming soon: André Simon Awards special feature

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On 5 February 2019, the 40th annual André Simon Food and Drink Book Awards will be presented at a reception in central London. In the run-up to the big night, cookbookreview.blog is delighted to be able to bring you reviews of each to the eight books shortlisted in the food category along with interviews with this year’s independent assessor of the food award, chef, food writer and author, Meera Sodha and André Simon chairman Nick Lander.

Click here to go to the new dedicated André Simon page where you will be able to access all the content as it appears.

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The shortlisted food books for 2018 are:

  • Black Sea
    by Caroline Eden (Quadrille Publishing)
  • First, Catch
    by Thom Eagle (Quadrille Publishing)
  • How to Eat a Peach
    by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)
  • Lateral Cooking
    by Niki Segnit (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • MOB Kitchen
    by Ben Lebus (Pavilion Books)
  • Pasta, Pane, Vino
    by Matt Goulding (Hardie Grant Publishing)
  • Pie and Mash Down the Roman Road
    by Melanie McGrath (Two Roads)
  • Shetland
    by James & Tom Morton (Quadrille Publishing)
  • Together
    by The Hubb Community Kitchen (Ebury Press)

We won’t be reviewing the shortlisted drink books, but we’re sure they will be well worth investigating:

  • Amber Revolution
    by Simon J Woolf (Morning Claret Productions)
  • Flawless
    by Jamie Goode (University of California Press)
  • Red & White
    by Oz Clarke (Little Brown Book Group)
  • The Life of Tea
    by Michael Freeman & Timothy D’Offay (Mitchell Beazley)
  • The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste
    by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay (Ten Speed Press)
  • Vineyards, Rocks and Soils
    by Alex Maltman (Oxford University Press)