Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel

Chicken and Charcoal

What’s the USP? Everything you every wanted to know about yakitori (Japanese-style skewered and grilled chicken) plus a whole lot more you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

Who’s the author? Matt Abergel is the skateboarding chef and owner of cult Hong Kong restaurant Yardbird that has helped put yakitori on the global culinary map. This is his first cookbook.

What does it look like? A crazy, but beautifully designed, mash-up of an art catalogue, lifestyle magazine and instruction manual. There’s artworks by Yardbird logo designer Evan Hecox; articles on the restaurant’s designer chairs and branded products that include Yardbird Vans skateboarding sneakers and a line of sake and a profile of Yardbird co-owner Lindsay Jang.

But the ‘meat’ (pun intended) of the book is a series of detailed step by step instructions and recipes for butchering a chicken ready for skewering (and that means really butchering the thing down to its last tiny constituent parts including the thyroid and gizzard) and every type of yakitori you can imagine from fillet and thigh to ventricle and soft knee bone.

Is it good bedtime reading? Settle in with a Horlicks and the 40-odd page introductory section with profiles, interviews and articles.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? How good is your butcher? If you want to cook some of the more recherché recipes in the book like Thyroid skewers you’ll need to find one that will supply you whole chickens with head and organs intact. Good luck with that. You will also need to find a very good Asian grocer or specialist Japanese store for items such as Okinawan black sugar and Chinkiang black rice vinegar.

What’s the faff factor? Correctly butchering your whole chicken, should you be able to get hold of one, will take some practice and there’s a lot of fiddly skewering to be done. Some of the ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ dishes require a large number of ingredients and a fair amount of preparation.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Measurements are precise – no pinch of this or glug of that – and the methods are detailed and clear. The recipe for Chicken Katsu that is meant to appear on page 174 is however so vague that it has actually completely disappeared from the book.

How often will I cook from the book? Much of the food will be time-consuming to prepare so this is one for the weekend.

Killer recipes? Aside from the yakitori recipes, the chapter on ‘smaller’ snacking dishes includes mushroom salad with mizuna, watercress and wasabi and the ‘Yardbird Caesar’ that’s made with Chinese cabbage, mizuna and nori and a dressing that includes miso, roasted garlic and rice vinegar, while ‘bigger’ dishes include KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) and scotch egg with cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayo.

What will I love? The sheer attention to detail, the elegant look and all the little extras like the cocktail and highball recipes and a staff Q&A profiling the people behind the restaurant. A lot of love, time and effort has obviously gone into the book making it a rewarding experience both to read and use in the kitchen.

What won’t I like? The full-page, black and white close-up photo of raw chicken skin on page 90 is both gnarly and vaguely obscene.

Should I buy it? If you are interested in Japanese cooking and want the definitive last word on yakitori or are just interested in what’s happening in the modern Hong Kong restaurant scene or just love a well put together cookbook then Chicken and Charcoal is well worth owning.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks9
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

Buy this book
Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong
£24.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower)
Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu

Green pasta bits by Jack Stein

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This is a dish from my girlfriend, Lucy, who is from a Sicilian family. Lucy usually makes this on a Monday, when we have a ton of green vegetables left over from the Sunday roast. You can use virtually any green vegetable. Be sure to leave the Parmesan rind in the pasta to give it a lovely depth of flavour. If I have been busy at work and really want something comforting and healthy to eat, this is it.

Once when I was working at The Seafood Restaurant, an Italian woman was invited into the kitchen. While I was showing her around, she told me that the best way to cook pasta was her way. So here it is. Cook the pasta as usual, then, when it’s ready, drain it through a colander, being careful to collect the water in a pan. Add butter to the hot pasta, stir it through and pour the water back through the pasta again. This is the way I have cooked pasta ever since!

SERVES 4

3 tablespoons olive oil plus more if needed
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g grated Parmesan cheese and Parmesan rind
500g dried rigatoni or penne
400g mixed green vegetables, such as fresh tenderstem broccoli, asparagus and spinach, and frozen peas (used here)
1 tablespoon butter plus an extra knob for the pasta
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper

Fill a pan of water for the pasta. Salt generously and bring to the boil.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and chilli flakes and a pinch of salt, and cook slowly until soft but not coloured (about 5–10 minutes). Add the garlic and the Parmesan rind. Leave on the lowest possible heat while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Meanwhile add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the packet instructions suggest.

Prepare the vegetables. Slice the broccoli stems and asparagus spears into 2cm pieces, keeping the heads intact. Add them to the pan containing the onion mixture, and turn up the heat, stirring so that they are covered with oil. Add 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes until they are softened but still have a bite.

Wash the frozen peas under warm water to defrost them; drain off the water and add the peas to the broccoli and asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Cut the spinach into strips and add to the pan; let it wilt down and add another pinch of salt. There should be enough oil to coat all the vegetables; if necessary, add a little more.

When the pasta is ready, drain it into a colander set over a large pan. Put the pasta back into the pan and stir through a knob of butter. Pour the collected water back into the pan to coat the pasta and drain over the large pan again.

Remove the Parmesan rind. Pour in the vegetable sauce and stir to make sure it is all combined. Add the lemon juice and a handful of Parmesan and stir these through, along with a final tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.

Plate up the pasta and vegetables and top with more Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook more from this book
Cornish chilli crab
Pineapple tart tatin

Read the review

Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Extract taken from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate by Jack Stein (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Cornish chilli crab by Jack Stein

Chili Crab - 0228

Singapore, in many ways, is where it all really began for me. Our family had travelled in Europe and eaten oysters and other fruits de mer in Brittany and beyond but in 1985, on a trip to Australia when I was five, my love of seafood really took off. On a stopover in Singapore we went, as usual, to a night market and that’s where I first saw and tasted chilli crab. Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the unbelievable humidity, but something in the experience opened my senses. I knew crabs, but not like these. Those watching me in the market might have been confused to see a small, pale, ginger-haired kid looking perplexed by his sensory overload, but in fact I was being seduced by the wonderful flavours that the crab dish had to offer. Ever since I have found the combination of eating Asian food at 11pm while jet-lagged to be paradise – and I owe it all to this dish!

My father’s version of chilli crab uses brown crab, which is far fuller-flavoured than the mud crabs used in Singapore. My own recipe is similar to his but with a few tweaks – a classic but with just a little twist.

SERVES 4

2kg boiled brown crab
4 tablespoons groundnut or sunflower oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm fresh root ginger, finely chopped
3 medium-hot, red, Dutch chillies, finely chopped
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon Marmite
2 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces and finely shredded lengthways
a handful of chopped coriander

Put the crab on its back on the chopping board, so that the claws and softer body section face upwards, then simply twist off the main claws, leaving the legs attached to the body. Now put your thumbs against the hard shell, close to the crab’s tail, and push and prise the body section out and away from the shell. The legs should still be attached to the body. Remove the small stomach sac situated just behind the crab’s mouth and pull away the feather-like gills (‘dead man’s fingers’) which are attached along the edges of the centre part; discard these.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out the brown meat from inside the shell; reserve.

Chop the body into quarters and then cut the main claws in half at the joint. Crack the shells of each piece with a hammer or the blunt edge of a large knife.

Heat the oil, garlic, ginger and chilli in a wok for 1 minute to release their aromas.

Next, turn up the heat and fry off the brown crab meat, then add the ketchup, soy sauce, Marmite and 150ml water. These all add savoury and sweet notes to the finished dish. Now add the remaining crab in its shell and stir-fry the crab for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and finish with spring onions and chopped coriander.

Serve immediately – with lots of finger bowls and napkins, as this is a messy dish.

Cook more from this book
Green pasta bits
Pineapple tart tatin

Read the review

Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Extract taken from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate by Jack Stein (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Jack Stein’s World on a Plate

Jack Stein

What’s the USP? A chef’s global travels recorded in recipes.

Who’s the author? If you think you recognize the surname, you’re right. Jack is the son of Rick and since 2017, Chef Director of the Stein restaurant empire, which under his direction has grown from its HQ in Padstow across Cornwall and the south of England. His CV also includes stints at notable restaurants around the globe including La Régalade in Paris and Testsuya in Sydney. World on a Plate is his first cookbook.

What does it look like? The fresh, colourful and appetising dishes (shot by top food photographer Paul Winch-Furness) are interspersed with shots of yer man walking his dog, with his surfboard and chatting to fishermen (any of this sounding familiar, fellow Rick Stein fans?). 

Is it good bedtime reading? The skimpy intro won’t keep you occupied for long but there’s plenty of anecdotes about Stein’s travels and useful cooking tips embedded into the individual recipe introductions.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ll find the vast majority in the supermarket, but you’ll want to do the Stein name justice by visiting your local fishmonger for some decent fish for langoustine with pastis and sea trout with samphire and beurre blanc.

What’s the faff factor? There’s a nice cross-section of dishes to rustle up when time is tight like crab omelette and more complicated, involved recipes such as guinea fowl terrine.

How often will I cook from the book? With everything from a fish finger sandwich to a Sunday lunch (‘My roast topside of beef), Jack Stein’s World on a Plate won’t be collecting dust on your bookshelf.

Killer recipes? Maple roasted pumpkin with rocket, dukkah and feta; Carl Clarke’s chicken clusters in laksa sauce; lamb shoulder with white miso cream and chicory; babi gulang (Balinese spicy pork with green bean and peanut salad); turbot on the bone roasted with bone marrow sauce.

What will I love? This is truly global cooking with recipes inspired by France, America, China, Australia, Thailand and of course Cornwall, which brings huge variety to the book.

What won’t I like? Stein wanton larder raiding of so many cuisines means you might bankrupt yourself buying all the different ingredients required to prepare the recipes. 

Should I buy it? If you’re looking for inspiration for something a bit different for a mid-week meal to cook at home, this hits the spot. Although you might notice some crossover between father and son’s cookbooks (Jack did a lot of his global travels on family research trips for The Seafood restaurant) Stein Jr has an individual enough voice to make the recipes his own.

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

Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Cook from this book
Cornish Chilli Crab
Green pasta bits
Pineapple tart tatin

Roots by Tommy Banks

roots tommy banks

What’s the USP?  Fans of Kunta Kinte will be disappointed to learn that this is not another  update of Alex Haley’s famous slave saga. The title actually refers to the ‘root ingredients’ used fresh or preserved by acclaimed young chef Tommy Banks, who divides the year into three rather four seasons which he calls The Hunger Gap (January to May); Time of Abundance (June to September) and the Preserving Season (October to December) which reflects the way he cooks at his North Yorkshire restaurant The Black Swan at Oldstead.

Who’s the author? Tommy Banks has had something of a meteoric rise since taking over the kitchens of the family restaurant in 2013, aged just 24. He’s one of the youngest ever Michelin starred chefs in the UK and has become something of a TV personality, appearing on the Great British Menu where he cooked turbot with strawberries and cream (recipe included in the book) at the grand banquet at Wimbledon and was a featured chef on Masterchef the Professionals where he demonstrated his signature dishes including crapudine beetroot cooked slowly in beef fat with smoked cod’s roe and linseeds, also included in this, his debut book.

What does it look like? Bucolic. The North Yorkshire landscape looks stunning and there are plenty of shots of Banks posing in fields and on the family farm gathering his beloved ingredients. The food is colourful and attractive without being too tortured on the plate.

Is it good bedtime reading? The short autobiographical introduction is bolstered by chapter introductions and essays on favoured ingredients such as elderflower, summer berries and ‘hedgerow harvests’ making Roots more than simply a collection of recipes.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you’re not a keen gardener then you might find it tricky to lay your hands on things like crapudine beetroot and courgette stalks, and you’ll need to follow Banks’s recipes for fermenting vegetables to make a number of dishes, plus you’ll need a good fishmonger if you’re planning on serving raw red mullet, and a decent butcher who can sell you sweetbreads and mince pork back fat for you, and you’ll need to get out picking elderflowers in June if you want to make elderflower drizzle cake, and…

What’s the faff factor? This is fundamentally a collection of restaurant dishes so expect to put in a fair amount of effort for your dinner.

How often will I cook from the book? This is more weekend project than mid-week supper cooking.

Killer recipes? See above, but also crab, elderflower and potato salad; scallops cured in rhubarb juice with Jerusalem artichoke, and potato skin and brassica broth with cheddar dumplings.

What will I love? All the recipes are rated either 1,2 or 3 for complexity which makes choosing what you want to cook from the book, depending on the time you have to hand easy. But this is more than just a collection of delicious sounding, interesting and characterful recipes, a real effort has been made to give a sense of Banks’s cooking ethos and life at The Black Swan.

What won’t I like? Some readers may feel they’ve been-there-and-done-that with the pickling, fermenting and foraging aspect of the book.

Should I buy it? Roots is a substantial debut effort from one of the UK’s highest profile young chefs with his own take on field to fork cookery which makes it well worth investigating.

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Roots
£25, Orion Books

Peanut Butter Pudding, Peanut Caramel, Dark Chocolate Sorbet by Chantelle Nicholson

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This is one of those desserts that ticks all the boxes for a luscious treat
– peanut butter, caramel and chocolate. You can make the puddings as well as the sorbet in advance and freeze until needed. The sorbet is also delicious on its own – it makes a little more than you need for 4 people.

Serves 4

For the peanut butter pudding
80g aquafaba
80g caster sugar
65g ground almonds
65g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
20g peanut butter
20g olive oil
20g non-dairy butter, melted
20ml non-dairy milk

For the dark chocolate sorbet
125g caster sugar
90g cocoa powder
90g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa
solids, broken into pieces
100g ice

For the peanut butter caramel
60g caster sugar
30g non-dairy butter
60ml non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon peanut butter
¼ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Grease 4 ramekins,approximately 250ml in volume. Start by making the sorbet. Put the sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan with 200ml of water. Whisk well, then place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Continue whisking and cooking the mixture until it thickens,
about 5 minutes. Put the chocolate in a mixing bowl and pour the cocoa mix
through a fine sieve onto the chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then whisk
together. Add the ice and whisk until the ice has melted and the mixture has cooled. Churn in an ice-cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions, or transfer to the freezer and remove and whisk every hour to break up the ice crystals.

For the puddings, whisk the aquafaba in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.
Gradually add the sugar and whisk until glossy and all sugar grains have dissolved.

In a separate bowl, combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt. In a third bowl, mix the peanut butter, olive oil, melted butter and milk together. Stir the peanut butter mix into the dry ingredients, then gently fold in the meringue. Divide between the ramekins and bake for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, make the caramel. Put the sugar into a small, heavybased
saucepan or frying pan. Set over medium heat and leave the sugar to melt, swirling the pan occasionally for even caramelisation. Once the sugar has dissolved and reached a deep golden colour, add the butter and whisk to combine well. Bring the milk to the boil, then add to the caramel and whisk well. Lastly, whisk in the peanut butter and salt.

Drizzle the warm caramel sauce over the peanut puddings and serve with a big scoop of dark chocolate sorbet.

Cook more from this book
Seeded granola with chai spiced poached plums
Whole barbecued spiced cauliflower

Read the review

Buy this book 
Planted: A chef’s show-stopping vegan recipes
£25, Kyle Books

Recipes taken from Planted by Chantelle Nicholson. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Nassima Rothacker

Seeded Granola and Chai-spiced Poached Plums by Chantelle Nicholson

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Homemade granola is super simple and has a good shelf life when kept in an airtight container. Dark red plums are among my favourite fruits to poach, so I suggest doing a four times recipe and keeping a large container in the fridge – perfect for breakfast and pudding.

Serves 4

For the plums:
8 plums
50g caster sugar
2 English Breakfast tea bags
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
2 star anise
4 cloves
1 bay leaf

For the granola:
150g rolled oats
60g coconut oil
40g sesame seeds
40g sunflower seeds
60g pumpkin seeds
60g dates, chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons agave syrup
non-dairy yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas mark 3.

First prepare the plums. Cut each plum in half, remove the stone and set aside. Put the sugar in a large saucepan or deep frying pan with 250ml warm water. Bring to the boil, then add the tea bags, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, star anise, cloves and bay leaf. Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to steep for 6 minutes. Lift out the tea bags and return the pan to the heat. Bring to a simmer, then add the plums, cut-side down. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 5–7 minutes, until just soft. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, then peel off the skins and transfer to a container and refrigerate.

For the granola, put all the ingredients except the agave into a deep roasting tray and cook for 8–12 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until golden. Drizzle over the agave and toast for a further 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Serve the granola with the plums and a spoonful of yogurt.

Cook more from this book 
Whole barbecued spiced cauliflower
Peanut butter pudding

Read the review 

Buy the book 
Planted: A chef’s show-stopping vegan recipes
£25, Kyle Books

Recipes taken from Planted by Chantelle Nicholson. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Nassima Rothacker