What’s the USP? Michelin-starred chef shares recipes inspired by dishes developed for his restaurant’s home meal delivery service that launched during the pandemic so you can create a bit of fine dining glamour in your own home without too much fuss.
Who wrote it? Described by The Times as “the godfather of modern Birmingham food”, Andreas Antona is a legend of the British fine dining scene. His flagship restaurant Simpsons opened back in 1993 and he now also runs The Cross in Kenilworth, also Michelin starred. He has mentored many award winning chefs that will be well known to keen British-based restaurant goers including Glynn Purnell, Adam Bennett, Luke Tipping, Andy Walters, Mark Fry, and Marcus and Jason Eaves. he was named restaurateur of the year in 2022 by industry bible The Caterer magazine.
Is it good bedtime reading? There’s an introduction in the form of an interview with Antona that will probably be of more interest to professional chefs than home cooks and that’s about it. There are no chapter introductions or even introductions to the recipes which seems a missed opportunity, given that Antona is one of the most experienced chefs in the country. A bit of hard-earned kitchen wisdom would have been very welcome.
Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? A good butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer , deli and specialist online suppliers will come in handy for things like guinea fowl, chicken livers, ox cheek, blade of beef, bone marrow, sea bream, turbot, halibut, hand-dived scallops, smoked cod’s roe, monkfish, sea bass, red mullet, Roscoff onions, linseeds, mushrooms including shimeji, girolle and hen of the woods, soya bean lecithin granules and xanthan gum. That may seem like a long list but the vast majority of ingredients will be easily obtainable from your local big supermarket. With a bit of thought, you should be able to make reasonable substitutes for most of the above named items too so there should be little to stand in your way making most if not all the recipes in the book.
How often will I cook from the book? It was about five minutes after the book was delivered that I started to write a shopping list for the first dish I wanted to cook from it. The food just looks so attractive and sounds so appealing that I wanted to give it all a go. Many of the recipes such as prawns with chilli, orzo and pesto or roast rump of Cornish lamb with peas a la Française, asparagus and roast potatoes are pretty straightforward and ideal for a mid-week meal.
That first recipe I tackled however turned out to be a bit more involved, but I couldn’t resist the idea of the sweet and sour tomatoes (marinated in honey, coriander seeds, rosemary, garlic, vanilla and sherry vinegar) that accompanied slow cooked beef cheek (I substituted some very nice braising steak) with courgettes, fried polenta, aubergine caviar and balsamic vinegar sauce made from the braising liquor. It was well worth the effort.
What will I love? The book’s bold and colourful graphic design and the clean and simple food styling and photography that really lets the dishes stand for themselves.
What won’t I love? Let’s get the price out of the way. Eureka costs £38 (plus £10 delivery charge!!) and is only available from the restaurant’s online store (linked below) or for £2 more, from the publishers site. That is a lot of money for a 224 page book with just 80 recipes. For comparison, Jeremy Lee’s recently published Cooking is nearly twice the length and has a cover price of £30, although at the time of writing is available for £15.
That makes some relatively minor shortcomings all the more difficult to stomach. Apart from being grouped into chapters headed starters, fish, meat, vegetables, desserts and staples and basics, recipes appear in almost random order. A starter of gem lettuce appears on page 42 and then another pops up ten pages later. Similarly you’ll find confit duck leg on page 108 and confit leg of duck on 122. The garnishes are different but its exactly the same recipe for the duck leg, so why not group them together? There are quite a few other similar examples. It’s a quibble, but it makes the book appear a little bit thrown together, as does the repetition of text in that otherwise lovely recipe for slow cooked ox cheek. If you follow the instructions as written, you’ll be roasting your aubergine for 30-40 minutes twice.
Another irritation is that the staples and basics recipes at the back of the book are reference in the main body of recipes but never by page number, only by chapter, so you have to search through the 18 page chapter to find them. One more annoyance is that it’s not until half way through the introduction that you learn that the book is named after the cooking school at Simpson’s restaurant which explains the otherwise mysterious title. It’s also not immediately obvious that the introduction is an interview with Antona as his name never appears in it. None of these complaints are significant but just a tiny bit more thought and care would have improved the reading experience greatly.
Killer recipes: Leek and potato soup with potato beignets and chive oil; warm Roscoff onion tartlet with herb salad, olive tapenade, lemon and herb crème fraîche; twice baked cheese souffle; scallops with sweetcorn chorizo and red pepper; slow cooked blade of Irish beef with horseradish cream cabbage, potato terrine and bone marrow sauce; Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger trifle.
Should I buy it? If you are happy to pay nearly £50 for 80 recipes then the answer is a hearty yes. If you are a competent cook and love preparing sophisticated, modern restaurant-style dishes at home then this collection will be right up your street with recipes more achievable than many others written by Michelin-starred chefs (I’m looking at you Rene Redzepi). If cost is consideration then you may want to think twice although you will be missing out on some great recipes.
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book: Eureka by Andreas Antona
£38, Away With Media