A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

What’s the USP? A celebration of communal eating, offering up advice and recipes that will allow you to host the perfect dinner party!

Wait a moment. Are we supposed to be having dinner parties at the moment? Oh, Christ. It’s complicated, isn’t it? I think so. I think we can host dinner parties as long as only one other household is invited.

What if I make everyone sit in the garden? Well, given we’re in September now, so you’d look like a bit of a tyrant. 

I’m lost. Yes, we’re all a bit lost here. Look, the general vibe is yes, you can host a dinner party, but no, you probably shouldn’t. I doubt Bloomsbury were planning for a global pandemic when they commissioned Skye McAlpine’s latest cookbook though.

Skye McAlpine? The Times columnist and daughter of the late Baron McAlpine of West Green, yes. Real salt-of-the-earth type. This book reads, funnily enough, a little like a modern take on the society handbooks of old. No etiquette guidelines, thankfully – but plenty of ideas on table setting, menu planning and why you should skip on starters (too formal, apparently). 

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s plenty to be getting on with in the opening chapter, where McAlpine runs through all of the above, champions the napkin, and encourages us to place bowls of fruit and veg on our table for decorative purposes (‘gnarly lemons’, red onions and – in a move that was also popular with colonial Britons – pineapples). Beyond here, though, we’re in standard cookbook territory: chapter and recipe introductions, and idyllic claims about the ‘wonderfully renaissant quality’ of a potato dish, or the ‘virtues of a good Tuscan bread salad’.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Nope – McAlpine does do a fantastic job of making sure almost every ingredient you could possibly need will be readily available at your average supermarket. Occasionally you might want to try a butcher instead, but for the most part you’ll get by just fine with off-the-shelf cuts.

What will I love? The way the book is split up is rather brilliant, with sections for mains (rather gratingly referred to as ‘stars’ because they ‘look and taste extravagant and impressive’), sides, sweets and extras. The first three of these chapters are then divided based upon the mode of preparation – ‘throw together’, ‘on the hob’ or ‘in the oven’.

McAlpine also puts a lot of work into helping you to create a cohesive menu for your socially-distanced/morally-inadvisable/maybe-just-happening-in-the-distant-future dinner party. Most recipes finish with suggestions for possible accompanying dishes, and an extensive section at the end of the book suggests set menus based on loose themes, seasons, the number of people attending, or how long you have spare for prep. It makes a book that might otherwise seem a little overwhelming a great deal more accessible.

What won’t I love? McAlpine’s decision to skip out on starters makes sense once you realise that the section would have nabbed many of its dishes from the mains anyway. Several of the salads and soups here feel like they’d have been a better fit as a starter than a ‘star’ course, and the Carpaccio of Figs with Lardo, Honey & Rosemary is clearly better suited to being a side, or perhaps even finger food for when your guests first arrive. Also, and this is a very personal thing, the fennel and parmesan puree is no doubt delicious, but looks like a giant platter of baby food.

Killer recipes: It’s all very Italian here, continuing McAlpine’s love for the food she grew up with in Venice. Highlights include the Tagliatelle Gratin, which looks like a cross of carbonara and macaroni cheese, and the Salted Honey Ice Cream – four words I am very happy to see together.

Should I buy it? This is by no means an essential cookbook – but it will be very welcome for a select demographic. In a lot of ways, A Table For Friends covers the same ground as Diana Henry’s popular How to Eat a Peach from a couple of years back. Whilst Henry’s title arguable offered a more varied and interesting selection of dishes, McAlpine’s is much more practical a tool for the dinner party host, and offers myriad mix-and-match options for dishes (where Henry instead presented a collection of pre-curated set menus).

If you are one to regularly host dinner parties, and are looking to serve light Italian-influenced dishes, you can do no wrong here. If you’re looking to cook for two, frankly, there’s still plenty of adaptable recipes that would more than work for a Tuesday night (and that handy index-by-time at the back will help you find which ones fit the bill). Ultimately, though, I’d have liked a wider catalogue of influences to draw ideas from. There are three recipes for roasted potatoes, two roast chickens (and a roast poussin to boot) and three or four tomato salads, depending on how you’d like to call it. There’s a lot here to like, but this is definitely a cookbook that requires a quick browse in the shop to determine whether it’ll fit your needs, your tastes, and your personality.

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

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

Buy this book 
A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Sicilian Couscous Salad by Skye McAlpine
Spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce by Skye McAlpine
Berry Cloud Cake by Skye McAlpine

Jikoni by Ravinder Bhogal

Jikoni by Ravinder Bhogal

What’s the USP? A ‘proudly inauthentic’ cookbook, that mashes together flavours from across the globe – with particularly heavy influences from South Asian and African cuisines and a whole lot of love for tamarind.

Who wrote it? Jikoni is the passion project of Ravinder Bhogal, the chef and restaurateur behind the Marylebone joint of the same name. Born in Kenya to Indian parents, Bhogal grew up in Britain, and has clearly learnt a joyful irreverence towards the strict cultural boundaries we impose upon food. This, as someone who regularly makes katsu curry schnitzel with spätzle, is an idea worth getting behind. You get the sense that Bhogal would have no qualms adding chorizo to a paella, if she thought the dish called for it.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s plenty to be getting on with here, with short essays to open each chapter, occasional treatises on ingredients or dishes, and vivid descriptions to introduce each recipe. Bhogal’s writing is locked into the language of the contemporary cookbook, which is to say that the heady nostalgia and wide-eyed admiration of the food she grew up with doesn’t necessarily feel new or exciting to read, but will have you salivating over the very concept of a samosa nonetheless.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The short answer is yes, probably. Whilst the majority of ingredients are easy enough to find, many recipes have at least one addition that will stump your local supermarket. Often these are optional, though, allowing you to choose an inauthentic recreation of Bhogal’s inauthentic dishes.

As an added bonus, most elements of the dishes are created from scratch, meaning the number of ingredients frequently tumbles deep into double figures. The Duck and Pistachio Pierogi with Hot Yoghurt Sauce and Pul Biber Butter requires around 30 individual ingredients, including multiple varieties of some: dried and fresh mint, ground allspice, and allspice berries. Stocking up for even two or three of these dishes will be enough to topple most spice racks.

What’s the faff factor? Max faff. All the faff. Here’s the thing: everything in Jikoni looks, and no doubt tastes, absolutely delicious. But my god, is it a lot of effort. Take the Prawn Toast Scotch Eggs with Banana Ketchup. That is, without a doubt, one of the top five most appetising recipe names I’ve ever seen in a cookbook. Prawn toast scotch eggs. Jesus Christ. Even at a conservative estimate, I reckon I could devour six of those right now – and that’s before we even consider that the recipe calls for quail eggs. Did I say six? Let’s double that, easily.

But now take a moment to ruminate on that title. Scotch eggs are a faff at the best of times. But we’re replacing the sausagemeat with raw tiger prawns that need peeling, deveining and processing into a suitable substitute? And then we’re making our banana ketchup from scratch? Don’t get me wrong – it’s all very do-able. But this is not a weeknight dinner cookbook. This isn’t even a weekend treat cookbook, for the most part. This is a dinner party host seeking redemption for all their past sins cookbook.

Killer recipes: Bhogal’s recipes are frequently a little overwhelming at first glance, but when they tempt you, boy do they tempt you. The inspired Duck Rendang looks as tasty as anything I’ve seen this year, and I’m sure I’d have made it multiple times already if I only had an easy source of fresh turmeric and galangal (and dried bird’s eye chillies, and shrimp paste). In fact, the curries are frequently attention grabbing, from Goose Leg Qorma to the Massaman Pork and Peanut Curry with Pineapple Relish. The Oyster Pani Puris, too, look incredible – but also seems like the most complex and stressful dish in the whole book, despite a very reasonable seven ingredients.

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

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Lamb and Aubergine Fatteh
Lemongrass Poussin with Green Mango and Peanut Salad
Banana Cake with Miso Butterscotch and Ovaltine Kulfi

Which Wine When by Bert Blaize and Claire Strickett

Which Wine When by Bert Blaize and Claire Strickett

What’s the USP? An accessible and practical introduction to pairing wine with food from takeaways to Sunday lunches and everything in between.

Who are the authors? Sommelier Bert Blaize has worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and The Clove Club in Shoreditch. He has won the title of the UK’s Top Young Sommelier, and currently takes care of the wine at Serge et le Phoque in London’s Fitzrovia. Claire Strickett’s has worked in kitchens, then restaurant marketing, publicity and recipe writing for leading chefs and restaurateurs, including Skye Gyngell, Rowley Leigh, Russell Norman, Gail’s Bakery and Byron.

Food and wine matching? That’s all a bit elitist, isn’t it? If you’re in a posh restaurant and the sommelier is pressuring you to have the premium wine flight to go with your already ruinously expensive tasting menu, then it certainly can be. But Blaize and Strickett are coming from a very different angle on the subject. As explained in the introduction, the book ‘doesn’t assume you know much about wine, have a big budget or hang out in trendy wine stores. It just assumes you’re a greedy person who wants to know more about which wine to drink when but doesn’t know where to start.’

So should I take the book along with me when I next go to a fine dining place in order to fend off the sommelier’s advances on my wallet? Not really. There’s a couple of pages dedicated to the authors’ top ten tips for drinking wine in restaurants but this is more for when you’re cooking or ordering-in food at home and want to buy a nice bottle or two to go with your meal.

What can I expect to find in the book then? The ‘wine basics’ chapter is designed for genuine wine newbies, the sort of people who have previously only drunk fruit-flavoured cider, alcopops, tequila slammers and one-armed scissors. For those that know their Viognier from their Vermentino, the book becomes more interesting during the central six short chapters (the book is less than 200 pages long) where all the matching actually happens.

What do I get for my tenner? A total of 79 dishes (including snacks and cheeses) each get a one-page (about 200 words) entry with matching wine. Each is broken down into the same question-led format (not a million miles away from the style of the reviews on this site) that asks and answers ‘What’s The Wine?’, ‘Why This Wine’, ‘If you can’t find this, go for…’, and ‘If all else fails, asks for…’.  For example, in the Home Cooked Classics chapter,  sausage mash and gravy is paired with South African Shiraz for its warm smoky flavours and cracked black pepper notes. A Syrah/Shiraz from the Rhone or Australia or any spicy, medium-bodied red are offered as alternatives. In addition, there are ‘at a glance’ charts covering what wines to drink with Chinese, Indian, Mexican and  Japanese food, pizza, roasts, fish and hot puddings that offer dozens of more food and wine pairings.

What if I’m an experienced wine drinker? Will I get anything out of Which Wine When? Depends. When was the last time you considered drinking Asti Spumante with Goan fish curry, Manzanilla sherry with fried chicken or pairing your lamb doner kebab with a cheeky glass of off-dry Mosel Riesling?

Fair enough. So, I should buy it then? If you like your wine books light-bodied with a well balanced, simple structure and just a little bit fruity, this is for you.

Suitable for: Aspirational drunkards
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Which Wine When: What to drink with the food you love
£9.99, Ebury Press

root, stem, leaf, flower by Gill Meller

root stem leaf flower

What’s the USP? Go wild (go wild!) go wild in the country, where nettles in a bush are absolutely free. It’s time to eschew meat and fish for all that lovely fruit and veg that you know will do you good. And here’s Gill Mellor with dirt on his hands and love in his heart to show you ‘how to cook with vegetables and other plants’.

Who is the author? You’ll know Gill Mellor from such books as Outdoor Cooking: River Cottage Handbook No.17 and Time by Gill Meller previously reviewed on this site and awarded a whopping 4 stars (I must have been feeling generous that day. I’m kidding. Or am I?). As I mentioned in that review, Meller is an alumni of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage organization and is a chef, food writer and teacher. His first book Gather won the Fortnum and Mason award for Best Debut Food Book in 2017.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a fairly chunky introduction to the book and the recipe introductions are interesting and informative, but this is a cookbook for the kitchen rather than one for the bedside table. If you actually enjoy what there is to read will depend on your tolerance for Food Writing with a captial F and capital W; the stuff that usually results from an English degree and a lifetime reading Elizabeth David, Richard Olney and Nigel Slater. It’s the sort of adjective-heavy prose where radishes have a ‘tussle of coarse green leaves on top’ and you find ‘lucent green’ gooseberries among a ‘burr and wrangle of thorns’.

It will also depend on your tolerance for being told how to shop and cook. There is nothing particularly radical in Meller’s suggestion to eat organic, local and seasonal, or in his assertion that ‘we need to be eating less meat and fish’ and that what we do eat should come from ‘ethical and sustainable sources’ and from ‘animals that have led natural, happy lives’. But it’s easy for him as a professional food writer to say that and less easy for those working full time with a family to feed and limited time and financial resources to live up to those lofty ideals. Meller places all the onus on the individual to do the right thing and makes no suggestion that changes should be made at the food supply chain level in order to make produce that meets his stringent criteria easily available and affordable to all. Instead, there is the implication that you are falling short as a human being if you don’t buy organic, sustainable, ethically produced goods. And frankly, fuck that.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? If you are going to adhere to the Meller mantra of organic, sustainable, ethically produced stuff, then you will be narrowing the field substantially. However, most of the actual ingredients are not that obscure and you should be able to track them down without too much effort, especially if you are willing to eat ordinary people’s food. You’ll die sooner and be killing the planet with every single bite, but at least you’re not a serial killer with someone chained up in your cellar. Are you? I mean, if you are, I don’t approve obviously, but it’s interesting, isn’t it? I know lots of people are bored with serial killers but I think there’s an enduring fascination. Drop me a line, there’s a contact widget somewhere on this site, tell me about your sickness.

What’s the faff factor? Have we stopped talking about serial killers already? Oh well. WHAT’S THE FAFF FACTOR? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW? IS THAT REALLY WHAT’S BOTHERING YOU RIGHT AT THIS PRESENT MOMENT IN TIME? Sorry, I don’t know why I’m shouting. I haven’t had my meds today and lockdown is really starting to get to me. Faff factor, yes, good point. You should know about that before you buy a book. You work hard for your money, you don’t want to waste it on something you’re never going to use. It’s a reasonable question. I don’t know why I’m making such a big deal about it. I mean, I write the bloody questions myself, it’s not as though someone is dictating to me what I need to tell you. So, faff factor. Faaaaaaaaf faaaaaactor. Try saying that out loud. It’s funny. Like the Shadrack scene in Billy Liar.You know the bit. Actually, you’re probably too young. Or from a country where they never showed the film on the telly. You should stream it. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, faffing about. No, the recipes are fine really, they’re mostly short and straightforward. You can judge for yourself; I’ve posted a couple of recipes for you to try (the publisher only allowed two instead of the usual three for some reason. Gill’s special. So special.) The links are at the bottom of the page because this is such a well-designed site.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? You will find the odd ‘small pinch of sea salt’ which is fine, and a ‘small handful’ of this and that which is OK if you’ve got small hands or know someone who has that could come to your house and grab a handful of herbs for you, although exactly how small their hands need to be isn’t really clear. Just be sensible about it. Perhaps ask a child. No, don’t do that. Unless you’re related to them, then it’s OK.

More annoying is ‘the juice of half a lemon’. Why do recipes rarely give ml measures for lemon juice? I mean, it’s a liquid just like any other isn’t it? And the amount you put in a recipe will affect the final result. I don’t know if you’ve bought a lemon recently, but the amount of juice that you get out of them varies massively from a meager teaspoon to a flood. They are as unpredictable as, erm, something that it’s politically correct to describe as unpredictable. I’m not sure what that might be. Me. I’m unpredictable. The amount of juice you get out of a lemon is as unpredictable as the mood I’ll be in when I wake up on any given day. And that’s pretty unpredictable. Imagine the mood I’m in now, writing this. You don’t want to know.

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you imagine you might fancy ‘tomatoes in the hole’ instead of toad? That’s the question you need to ask yourself. Ultimately, the amount you use this book will depend on precisely how middle class you are. That’s just the truth. Take this stupid quiz and find out. When you discover that the stupid quiz appeared in the Mirror and you decide you don’t want to take it because you don’t want anything to do with that disgusting rag, congratulations, you are middle class and you will cook from this book a lot. If you do decide to take the quiz, it doesn’t matter what your score is, you have read something in the Mirror and are by default not middle class and the book will collect dust languorously on your shelf. Power to the people.

Killer recipes: Do we have to do this? OK (sighs) they include: sweetcorn, rosemary and smoked cheddar soufflé; squash, lentil, tomato and rosemary pie; salted chocolate pumpkin tart; asparagus and quinoa salad with peas and broad beans.

What will I love? The photography by Andrew Montgomery is up to his usual very high standards and there’s a good amount of variety in the recipes, given the relatively narrow subject matter. That was sensible wasn’t it?

What won’t I like so much? Meller’s editors have failed to dissuade him from writing poems. I love poetry. I read lots of it, from Renaissance to 21st Century (give Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough a go) and I even write some myself. I’m just not convinced a cookbook is the right platform for it. Or maybe I just don’t like Meller’s poems. Sorry Gill.

Should I buy it? This book isn’t really for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. There’s nothing really wrong with it, so if you need some inspiration in the fruit and veg department and you feel the stylistic issues I’ve outlined above won’t be problematic for you, then go ahead. Oh, I forgot to mention the recipe titles. Unnecessarily overwritten, arch and twee constructions like ‘A tart for May’ and ‘Aubergines and roast tomatoes for everything’ are like fingernails down a blackboard to me (the same goes for the book’s title and the lack of capitals). But most of them aren’t like that, they’re just normal so it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let it put you off. I know it probably wouldn’t but I’m just saying. It’s honestly more about my odd sensitivities to certain tropes of Food Writing, which I think far too much about, than anything else. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s fine, really.

(Have you had enough of this yet? I could go on all day like this. Once I get on a roll it’s difficult to stop me. What shall we talk about next? No, maybe you’re right, let’s leave it there. Till next time then.)

Cuisine: English
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants

£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Cook from this book
Courgette flatbreads with lots of herbs and goat’s cheese
Raspberry and rhubarb crumble

Courgette flatbreads with lots of herbs and goat’s cheese by Gill Meller

Courgette flatbreads Gill Meller

Cooking courgettes slowly with garlic and olive oil has to be one of my favourite ways to deal with this summer vegetable. Fistfuls of herbs go in at the end, then you could simply pile the courgettes on to warm bruschetta, but these flatbreads are infinitely better.

MAKES 3

FOR THE FLATBREADS
500G (1LB 2OZ) STRONG WHITE BREAD FLOUR,PLUS EXTRA FOR DUSTING
1 TSP FINE SEA SALT
1 TSP FAST-ACTION DRIED YEAST
2 TSP CRUSHED FENNEL SEEDS
FINELY GRATED ZEST OF 1 LEMON
2 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, PLUS EXTRA FOR GREASING
4 TBSP NATURAL YOGHURT

FOR THE TOPPING
4 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 GARLIC CLOVES, THINLY SLICED
1.2KG (2LB 10OZ)COURGETTES, SLICED INTO 5MM (¼IN) ROUNDS
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF DILL, CHOPPED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF MINT,LEAVES PICKED AND THINLY RIBBONED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF BASIL, CHOPPED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF CHIVES, CHOPPED
150G (5½OZ) SOFT GOAT’S CHEESE
PINCH OF CHILLI FLAKES (OPTIONAL)
SEA SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Make the flatbreads. Place the flour, salt, yeast, fennel seeds and lemon est in a large bowl. Add the oil, yoghurt and 275ml (9½fl oz) of water and mix everything thoroughly until it forms a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until soft and smooth. (You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook for this part.) Shape the dough into a rough round and place in a lightly oiled bowl; cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to make the flatbreads, start the topping. Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add half the olive oil and when it’s hot add the garlic and sizzle for a few seconds, then add the courgettes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the courgettes slowly over a gentle heat,stirring regularly, for about 25 minutes or so, until they break down but still retain a little of their shape. They should be soft without colouring too much and almost spoonable in texture.

Take the pan off the heat, stir all but a handful of the herbs into the courgettes, then season again to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Place 3 baking sheets in the oven (alternatively, bake one at a time if you have limited oven space) and heat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/475°F/ gas mark 8.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then cut it into 3 equal pieces. Form each piece into a nice neat round and leave to rest for 20 minutes or so. When you’re ready to bake the flatbreads, roll out the pieces of dough. They want to be quite thin, but don’t worry if they’re not especially round, that doesn’t matter.

Take the hot baking sheets out of the oven and place a rolled-out dough on each. Spread the courgette mixture evenly over the top of each. Dot the goat’s cheese over the top of the courgette mixture and trickle all over with some of the remaining olive oil. Add the chilli flakes, if using, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, too.

Place the trays in the oven for 12–14 minutes, or until the dough is puffed up and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and slide onto a board. Sprinkle with a few reserved herbs and serve.

Cook more from this book
Raspberry and rhubarb crumble by Gill Meller

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants
£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Read the review

Raspberry and rhubarb crumble by Gill Meller

Raspberry and rhubarb crumble Gill Meller

When you sit down to a bowl of warm raspberry and rhubarb crumble, it’s easy to forget that the apple ever existed at all. In fact, you forget anything that begins with A, or anything green. For in that moment, your world literally crumbles away, leaving you with reds and gentle, sugary pinks and the magic that happens when these two ingredients are cooked together. I like to pack my crumble topping full of oats and bake it separately from the fruit, at least for a while. It becomes remarkably crunchy this way.

SERVES 4

FOR THE OAT CRUMBLE
100G (3½OZ) PLAIN FLOUR
PINCH OF FINE SEA SALT
100G (3½OZ) UNSALTED BUTTER, CUBED AND CHILLED
75G (2½OZ) UNREFINED CASTER SUGAR
75G (2½OZ) JUMBO OATS

FOR THE FILLING
ABOUT 400G (14OZ)RHUBARB STALKS, TRIMMED AND CUT INTO 2–3CM (¾–1¼IN) PIECES
ABOUT 200G (7OZ)RASPBERRIES
100G (3½OZ) UNREFINED CASTER SUGAR
1 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

First, make the oat crumble. Heat the oven to 175°C/155°C fan/335°F/gas mark 3–4. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub them thoroughly together until you have formed clumps and lumps. Line a large baking tray with a piece of baking parchment. Tip out the mixture onto the tray and distribute evenly. Set aside.

Make the filling. Place the rhubarb in a 25cm (10in) baking dish. Add the raspberries, sugar and vanilla along with a couple of tablespoons of water and tumble everything together. Place the dish of fruit in the oven as well as the tray of crumble and bake for 20 minutes, turning the crumble mixture over three or four times during baking, until clumped together, biscuity and golden. Spoon the crumble mixture onto the fruit and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb and raspberries are soft, the juices are bubbling away and the crumble is
golden brown.

Cook more from this book

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants
£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Read the review

Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans by Rukmini Iyer

Slow roasted peppers with chilli, lemon & garlic beans

My favourite dish when working in a restaurant kitchen was peperonata – red and yellow peppers softened down slowly in a frying pan along with oil, garlic and onions until they almost melted. It was, as many good things are, time-consuming to make, so I wondered if one might achieve a similar result with oven cooking – and the answer is yes. With garlicky beans, this dish is perfect piled on to rounds of thickly sliced toasted bread.

Serves: 4
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour

5 vine tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

BEANS

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 clove of garlic, finely grated
1⁄2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1⁄2 lemon, zest only

TO SERVE

Rounds of thickly sliced,toasted bread

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas 6.

Tip the tomatoes, peppers, oil, herbs, salt and pepper into a roasting tin large enough to hold everything in one layer, mix well, then transfer to the oven and roast for 50 minutes. If after half an hour it looks as though the peppers are catching a bit too quickly, turn the heat down a fraction. Meanwhile, stir the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, salt, cannellini beans and lemon zest together in a bowl and set aside.

Once the peppers have had 50 minutes, stir through the beans, then turn the oven down to 160°C fan/180°C/gas 4 and cook for a further 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed, adding a little more olive oil if you wish, then remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs and serve piled on to toasted bread. This tastes even better the next day, so it’s well worth making in advance and reheating.

Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) 14th May, £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus. Follow Rukmini on instagram @missminifer

Cook more from this book
Peach and Dulce De Leche Cake With Meringues and Cream
Slow-Cooked Pork Pibil With Pink Pickled Onions

Read the review

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

Slow-cooked pork pibil with pink pickled onions by Rukmini Iyer

Pork Pibil

SLOW-COOKED PORK PIBIL WITH PINK PICKLED ONIONS

You may have had pork pibil at your favourite Mexican restaurant: it’s a classic Yucatán dish of pork, slow-cooked in achiote, a paste made from annatto seeds, from which the dish gets its lovely colour. Achiote paste is easily available online, and once you have it, this dish will be a staple in your repertoire – it’s so easy to put together.

Serves: 4
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours

1 onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano (Mexican if you have it)
8 cloves
250ml orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed)
2 limes, juice only
50g achiote paste
2 teaspoons sea salt
800g free-range pork shoulder, diced

PICKLED ONIONS
1⁄2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 lime, juice only

TO SERVE
Chopped fresh coriander
Tortillas and sour cream

Preheat the oven to 140°C fan/160°C/gas 2.
Tip the onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, cloves, citrus juice, achiote paste and salt into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.
In a small deep roasting tin or lidded casserole dish, mix the pork shoulder with the spice paste. Cover tightly with foil or the lid, then transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours.
Meanwhile, mix the very thinly sliced red onion with the lime juice and set aside for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. (The acid in the lime juice will turn the onions a beautiful bright pink by the time the pork is ready.)
Once cooked, remove the foil or lid and shred the pork while hot. Serve with the pink pickled onions, chopped coriander, warm tortillas and sour cream.
Note: This dish isn’t at all spicy, so it’s a good one for kids, and can be easily made ahead, frozen and defrosted in portions.

Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) 14th May, £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus. Follow Rukmini on instagram @missminifer

Cook more from this book
Peach & Dulce De Leche Cake With Meringues and Cream
Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans

Read the review

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

Peach and Dulce De Leche Cake with Meringues & Cream by Rukmini Iyer

Dulche-de-Leche-Cake

In Uruguay, the original version of this cake is known as chajá – layers of light, fluffy sponge soaked in peach syrup, whipped cream, dulce de leche, peach slices and crumbled meringue. My version incorporates the dulce de leche and fresh peaches into an olive oil cake – serve it warm out of the oven, with crème fraiche or lightly whipped cream alongside.

Serves: 8
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

225g olive oil
225g dulce de leche (you can use tinned Nestlé caramel, sold next to the condensed milk)
50g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 under- to just-ripe peaches, thinly sliced
TO SERVE
175g dulce de leche (this is the remaining caramel in the tin)
A handful of crushed shop-bought meringues
Crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/gas 4.
In a food processor or by hand, mix the olive oil and dulce de leche together with the sugar until well combined, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and baking powder, then pour into a 26cm by 20cm roasting tin or cake dish.
Arrange the sliced peaches over the batter, then transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
Melt the remaining dulce de leche in a pan until smooth and pourable, then drizzle this over the warm cake. Scatter with a handful of crushed meringues, then serve with crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream alongside.
Notes: As this cake contains fresh fruit, if you are not eating it on the day you make it, store it in the fridge. I like to warm it up slice by slice in the microwave – 30 seconds on high.

Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) 14th May, £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus. Follow Rukmini on instagram @missminifer

Cook more from this book
Slow-Cooked Pork Pibil with Pink Pickled Onions
Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans

Read the review

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

The Roasting Tin Around The World by Rukmini Iyer

Roasting Tin

What’s the USP? Globally-inspired dishes that can be put together within the happy confines of a roasting pan – ideal for the sort of person who would rather spend their Sunday afternoon planning their next holiday (whenever that might turn out to be) than up to their elbows in dirty dishes.

There have been a lot of these roasting tin books recently, haven’t there? Absolutely – and most of them have been by Rukmini Iyer. This is the fourth in her Roasting Tin series, which has had annual installments since debuting in 2017, selling over half a million copies in the process.

As well as Iyer’s books, the lure of the one-pan dinner has inspired several other cookbooks over the past few years, from Sue Quinn’s excellent Roasting Tray Magic to a forthcoming National Trust title. Even the Hairy Bikers have been drawn in, with last year’s One Pot Wonders.

So what makes this one stand out from the pack? Roasting Tin Around the World is a decidedly international take on the genre – though it’s fair to say the dishes are generally inspired by specific cuisines, rather than an authentic attempt to recreate the local dishes. Brazil, for instance, is represented by black beans and rice (spot on) with added avocado and radish, neither of which are common plate-fellows in the country. Not to start a riot, but the baked paella recipe absolutely features chorizo.

Iyer is pretty open about the dishes being her take on what is often little more than a loose idea of each nation’s favourite dishes. Like a supermarket ready meal, or Heinz’s frequent attempts to cash in on Britain’s burgeoning taste for international flavours, dishes are listed as ‘Cuban-style’ rather than ‘Cuban’. These dishes have been designed for accessibility, and Iyer seems to have that in mind on every page.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not at all – the major benefit of the book’s loose approach to each cuisine. The international flavours of each dish are generally summoned by the vegetables and protein rather than niche local ingredients. In fact, across the entire book there are, by my count, only half a dozen ingredients that you’d struggle to find in a big Asda. Given the range of nations and flavours on offer here, that’s something of an achievement.

What’s the faff factor? Unsurprisingly, it’s all tremendously easy. Iyer’s writing is unpretentious (ingredients lists might call for ‘pointy peppers’), and the joy of a roasting tin dish is, of course, the sheer ease of chucking everything in one place and watching it come together.

Will it make good bedtime reading? This is the one big failing of the book – besides a relatively unexciting introduction, there’s not much to sit down and read here. Recipe intros are short and practical – though bonus points for the repeated championing of Niki Segnit’s incredible Flavour Thesaurus.

Should I buy it? This all depends on what you’re looking for from your cookbooks. This is a fantastically practical entry point to international cooking – if you’re looking to expand your cooking repertoire on a weekday night, and have potentially fussy family members to worry about, this is the book for you.

If, however, you’ve already got a few international cookbooks on the shelf, some of these recipes might feel like a step backwards. Though the roasting tin angle does afford some functionality to the recipes, the truth is a basic understanding of cooking combined with any of the specialised ingredients you’ve picked up for other cookbooks, and you’ll like be able to knock up something equally delicious and potentially a little more authentic.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginners
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

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

Cook from this book

Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans by Rukmini Iyer
Slow-cooked pork pibil with pink pickled onions by Rukmini Iyer
Peach and Dulce De Leche Cake with Meringues & Cream by Rukmini Iyer