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