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

Simply Delicious by Darina Allen

Darina Allen

What’s the USP? As the cover boldly states, ‘100 timeless, tried and tested recipes’ from the doyen of Irish cookery, collected from Allen’s now out of print Simply Delicious 1 and 2 and Simply Delicious vegetable books from the late 80’s and 90’s which were some of the most successful cookery books ever published in Ireland.

Who’s the author? You could call Darina Allen the Delia Smith of Ireland.  She is perhaps best known for running the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery School near Cork since 1983 but is also the author of 16 books including Irish Traditional Cooking and has presented nine series of the Simply Delicious TV show. She is a key figure in the Slow Food movement and founded the first farmer’s market in Ireland.  

What does it look like? Like the recipes, the design of Simply delicious is also timeless, tried and tested with simply-styled, full page overhead food shots and unadorned recipes. There are one or two portraits of the great lady herself in the busy in the kitchen and double page spread, photographic chapter headers featuring things like a metal colander of courgettes complete with flowers or a simple bunch of asparagus. Simple but nicely done.

 Is it good bedtime reading? A two-page introduction and that’s your lot sadly.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? How much is a ‘splash’ of sunflower oil? How much oil is enough for deep frying? How many lettuces and salad leaves constitute a ‘selection’ big enough to feed 6 people?  How many are ‘a few small leaves of lettuce’? What does ‘a little local goat’s cheese’ mean; do I need one log, two logs. And what weight? How much is ‘a little’ extra virgin olive oil. For a food writer of such long standing, and especially one who has run a cookery school for 35 years, the recipes are surprisingly littered with this sort of thing.

Killer recipes? This is comforting, home style cooking, dishes that transcend the fashions and fads of the professional kitchen like beef with stout; traditional Irish bacon with cabbage and parsley sauce;  farmhouse chicken and Irish stew. Things get a bit more racy with Lebanese cold cucumber soup and onion bhajis with tomato and chilli relish, but kombucha and dashi are notable by their absence.

What will I love? Simply Delicious is based on fundamental, sound cooking techniques and the food is appealing. The book will help you rediscover the delights of a well-made soup, stew, pie, salad or fruit fool.

What won’t I like? Clocking in at under 200 pages, the book is a little on the skimpy side for price and the lack of additional content like meal suggestions, glossary or more biographical details about Allen is disappointing.

Should I buy it? If your shelves are heaving with Redzepi, Humm and Bottura, then a shot of good old commonsense cooking in the shape of Simply Delicious might be exactly what you need.

Cuisine: Irish
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Simply Delicious the Classic Collection: 100 timeless, tried & tested recipes
£20, Kyle Books

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

Octopus, Mixed Bean and Black Olive Salad by Tom Kitchin

Octopus salad528

Over the past few years octopus is more popular on menus around Britain, but it’s always been a part of Mediterranean cuisine. As with many great products, the octopus is really versatile, whether it’s braised, barbecued, pickled or, as in this recipe, served in a salad. When you come across octopus in the UK it will most likely have been frozen, but that’s actually a good thing as the freezing process helps to tenderise the meat. When you’re cooking octopus, make sure the water is just simmering when you add it, or the beautiful colour will be lost.

Serves 3–4

500g raw octopus, cleaned with head and eyes removed, but the tentacles left attached (ask your fishmonger to do this for you, or if you buy it frozen, allow to thaw in the fridge)
1 lemon, cut in half
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1kg live mussels, cleaned (page 25) and soaked in cold water to cover for 20 minutes
olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
125 ml dry white wine
60g podded broad beans
2 garlic cloves, crushed
800g cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed if tinned
100g cherry tomatoes, quartered
60g stoned black olives, sliced
sherry vinegar
a handful of basil leaves, torn
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

To cook the octopus, first bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil with the lemon and peppercorns. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down so the water is just simmering. Add the octopus to the water and pop a plate on top to keep it submerged, then simmer for 90 minutes, or until it’s tender. It’s really important that the octopus does not boil, as this will ruin the lovely skin. Once cooked, leave the octopus to cool, uncovered, in the stock.

Meanwhile, cook the mussels and blanch the broad beans. Drain the mussels and discard any that do not snap shut when tapped. Heat a large heavy-based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over a medium-high heat, then add a splash of oil. When it is hot, add half the shallots and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the mussels and wine and give them a good stir. Cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open. Drain the mussels, then discard any that are not open. Set the remainder aside.

To blanch the broad beans, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and place a bowl of iced water in the sink. Add the beans to the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well. Immediately tip them into the iced water to stop the cooking and set the colour. When they are cool, drain them again, shake off any excess water and set aside.

When the octopus is cool enough to handle, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a chopping board and dice the body, but leave the tentacles whole. Place it in a bowl, add the garlic cloves, season with salt and pepper and pour over enough olive oil to cover.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining shallots, cannellini beans, tomatoes, olives, and the blanched broad beans. Now add the octopus mixture and a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar, to taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Scatter with the basil leaves. The salad is best eaten fresh, but you can cover and chill for up to 4 hours, just remember to remove it from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.

Cook more from this book
Crispy Fish Goujons and Pickled Red Cabbage Tacos
Salmon Wellington

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish

Salmon Wellington by Tom Kitchin

by www.schnappsphotography.com

People are always looking for dinner party and special-occasion ideas, and this recipe ticks all the boxes. You can get the dish prepared in advance, allowing you to relax and enjoy the evening as much as your guests, as all you have to do is bake and then carve the salmon. Just be careful to really squeeze all the excess water out of the spinach after cooking. Also, when you’re carving use a really sharp knife or serrated knife. I’m sure if you try this it will become a favourite in your family, too.

Serves 4

100g spinach, thick central stalks removed
100g watercress sprigs
1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole
olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
30g cream cheese
2 teaspoons chopped dill
1½ tablespoons creamed horseradish
300g puff pastry, thawed if frozen
plain white flour for dusting
2 salmon fillets, about 250g each, skinned and pin bones removed (page 27)
1 free-range medium egg, beaten
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

First prepare the spinach and watercress for the filling. Rinse the spinach and watercress well and shake dry. Spear the garlic clove with a fork. Heat a well-seasoned sauté or frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add a splash of oil. When it is hot, add the spinach and watercress with just the water clinging to the leaves, season with salt and toss with the garlic fork until the spinach is just wilted. Tip into a sieve and squeeze out the excess water, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the pan and reheat over a medium-high heat, then add another splash of oil. Add the shallot with a pinch of salt and sauté for 1 minute before adding the spinach and watercress and mixing together. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and leave cool completely.

When the spinach is cool, stir in the cream cheese, dill and horseradish, and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and set aside. Make room in your fridge for the baking sheet.

Roll out the puff pastry on a very lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 30cm square, about the thickness of a £1 coin. Pat the salmon fillets dry and season them with salt and pepper, then place one fillet in the centre of the pastry. Spread the salmon and watercress mixture over, then top with the remaining salmon fillet.

You now want to completely enclose the fillets in pastry. Use both hands to carefully lift the pastry and fold inwards to meet at the top, so both ends just overlap. Trim off any excess pastry to avoid a layer of unbaked pastry. Brush the edges and press together firmly to seal. Brush the pastry on both short ends with beaten egg and press together, again cutting off the excess pastry. You want about a 0.5cm gap between the edge of the salmon parcel and the pastry seals.

Carefully transfer the salmon parcel to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg and chill for at least 20 minutes. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200˚C Fan/220˚C /Gas Mark 7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the salmon Wellington for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Cook more from this book
Crispy Fish Goujons and Pickled Red Cabbage Tacos
Octopus, Mixed Bean and Black Olive Salad

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish

Crispy Fish Goujons and Pickled Red Cabbage Tacos by Tom Kitchin

Fish goujons tacos Tom Kitchin Fish & Shellfish-898

Whenever my kids have play dates and their friends come to our home, this dish is always a favourite. I don’t think it’s any secret that most kids (or adults for that matter!) like fish fried in breadcrumbs, but the red cabbage is a good way to bring in vegetables and really cuts well against the richness of the fried fish. Because the red cabbage is pickled it will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, if you store it in a well-sealed container. You’ll find this makes more red cabbage than you need for four tacos, but I don’t think any will go to waste. I also like to drop it through salads or just serve it on its own alongside grilled fish.

Serves 4

50g plain white flour
2 free-range medium eggs
50g dried breadcrumbs or panko
sunflower or other vegetable oil for deep-frying
4 haddock fillets, about 160g each, skinned and each cut into finger-sized strips
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the pickled red cabbage
1 red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 red onion, thinly sliced
50ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
balsamic vinegar

To serve
1 green apple
8 taco shells
100ml soured cream mixed with finely chopped coriander

First make the pickled red cabbage, which can be made in advance, covered and chilled until required. Place the red cabbage and onion in a non-reactive bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and mix together. Set aside until required.

Just before you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180˚C Fan/200˚C/Gas Mark 6. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in another shallow bowl, and place the breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl. Peel, core and cut the green apple into thin matchsticks for serving the tacos with, and set aside.

Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a deep-fat fryer or a heavy-based saucepan to 190˚C. Pat the haddock pieces dry with kitchen paper and lightly season all over with salt. One by one, dip them into the flour to cover completely, shaking off excess, then dip them in the egg mix and finally in the breadcrumbs, patting the crumbs on well.

Carefully add as many goujons as will fit into the fryer without overcrowding and fry for 3–4 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. You’ll have to cook all the fish pieces in several batches, so keep the goujons warm in the oven while you continue frying. Return the oil to the correct temperature between batches, if necessary.

Meanwhile, warm the taco shells in the oven. To serve, divide the pickled cabbage among the taco shells, then add some apple strips and place the goujons on top. Serve the soured cream mix on the side for spooning over.

Cook more from this book
Octopus, Mixed Bean and Black Olive Salad
Salmon Wellington

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish

The Mushroom Cookbook by Michael Hyams and Liz O’Keefe

The Mushroom Cookbook coverWhat is it? A directory of the most widely available mushrooms, both wild and cultivated, plus a collection of 50 mushroom- based recipes. Michael Hyams, based in Covent Garden Market, is apparently known as The Mushroom Man and supplies markets and restaurants with fungi while co-writer Lix O’Keefe is a chef, recipe developer and food stylist.

What’s the USP? From morels to mousseron and portobello to pom pom, Hyams describes in detail 33of the most widely available wild and cultivated mushroom varieties, listing alternative names, their Latin name, where the mushroom can be found and when, along with a detailed description of its appearance, flavour and texture and how it should be prepared and cooked. In the second half of the book, O’Keefe provides 50 ways to cook your fungi.

What does it look like? It’s a game of two halves. The first half that contains the directory is a reference work with the emphasis on providing simple, clear and well organised information. The photos are mainly of unadorned mushrooms against a white or grey background accompanied with step by step illustrations of how to clean and prepare them. By contrast, in the second recipe half, there is a serious amount of food styling going on with all manner of folded napkins, trays, boards, slates and other props to liven up proceedings.

Is it good bedtime reading? Although there is plenty of text, this is more of a reference work than a relaxing read. 

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? That will depend on how keen you are on foraging. You could substitute easier to find mushrooms for some of the more obscure varieties, although that would seem to defeat the whole object of the book.

What’s the faff factor? There’s a fair amount of wrapping and stuffing going on, but for the most part, the recipes are quite straightforward.

How often will I cook from the book? How much do you love mushrooms? For most readers, the book will come in handy for when they want to cook something a little different for a dinner party or find themselves with a sudden fungi fixation.

Killer recipes? Chinese mixed mushroom curry; Asian mushroom and pork ramen; wild mushroom and boar sausages

What will I love? The price. A 250 page, full-colour illustrated hardback cookbook for £15 is excellent value.

What won’t I like? Some of the recipes, like mushroom sushi, are a little gimmicky, there are some odd flavour combinations (Camembert and blackberry fondue on your mushroom burger anyone?) and some of the dishes like whole roast salmon with garlic pesto and truffle look messy and unappetising.

Should I buy it? At the knock-down price, it’s worth picking up for the mushroom directory alone.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 3 stars 

Buy this book
The Mushroom Cookbook: A Guide to Edible Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms – And Delicious Seasonal Recipes to Cook with Them
£15, Lorenz Books