Larder by Robin Gill

9781472948540 (4)

What’s the USP? An urban update on traditional larder-driven cooking based around fermentation, curing, pickling, flavoured butters and oils, stocks, sauces and seasonings.

Who’s the author? Irish-born, London-based chef Robin Gill has revitalized the capital’s dining scene with his distinctive take on top drawer cooking set in casual surroundings at The Diary, Counter Culture and Sorella, all in Clapham.

What does it look like? There’s a distinctly rustic feel to the whole thing with matt finish pages, pictures of Gill on the farm, by the shore or posing with a brace of rabbits and food plated on vintage or earthenware crockery. I wouldn’t want to utter that overused and lazy term ‘hipster’, but you get the idea.

Is it good bedtime reading? Although first and foremost a recipe book, there is plenty of food writing to enjoy in the form of substantial recipe introductions, producer profiles and general musings on cooking techniques and ingredients. The autobiographical introduction provides a fascinating, and at times troubling, look behind the scenes of the restaurant industry.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Cod collars, pig’s head, buffalo milk, Baron Bigod cheese, chardonnay vinegar, espelette pepper and dried wakame mean that you’ll have to look further than your local Tesco for many of the recipes.

What’s the faff factor? Don’t be fooled by the rustic vibe; Gill has worked in some very serious kitchens and although the food is presented in a naturalist way, there’s often lots of work gone into making it all look laid back and simple.

How often will I cook from the book? Because many of the dishes rely on larder recipes (the hint’s in the title) some of which take days, weeks, months or even a year before they are ready, this is more a culinary philosophy that you need to buy into than recipe a book that you can easily dip in and out of.

Killer recipes?  Galician octopus with summer vegetables and nduja brioche; belted Galloway onglet, piatone beans, young garlic and hay; game faggots, celeriac, toasted hazelnuts; white peach with almond skin ice cream, elderflower jelly.

What will I love? The extended larder section provides a real insight into Gill’s style of cooking so you get a real sense of what makes his restaurants so different and special. There is also an excellent selection of inventive cocktails including Panic! At The Pisco made with pisco, white vermouth and rhubarb puree and even a recipe for homemade pumpkin beer.

What won’t I like? The lack of quick and easy dishes. But there’s more than enough of those sort of books knocking about already if that’s more your thing.

Should I buy it? If you want to learn the techniques behind contemporary British restaurant cooking and employ them in your own home (or your own gaff if you’re a chef) this is an essential purchase.

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Professional chefs and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book 
Larder: From pantry to plate – delicious recipes for your table
£26, Absolute Press

Cook from this book
Loch Duart Salmon Oyster Emulsion, Fennel, Fried Wakame by Robin Gill
Smoked beetroot tartare Cacklebean egg yolk, hazelnut by Robin Gill
Salted Caramel Cacao, Malt Ice Cream by Robin Gill

Aska by Fredrik Berselius

Aska

What’s the USP? Cutting edge, natural cooking from a leading New York chef.

Who’s the author? Two Michelin-starred, Swedish-born chef Fredrik Berselius of Aska restaurant that’s located in a Brooklyn back street under the shadow of the Willamsburg Bridge.

What does it look like? The book is a very desireable object with its textured black and gold cover, elegant design and stunning landscape,  portrait and food photography.

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the inspirational food, Berselius writes evocatively about his homeland of Sweden, his foraging trips to upstate New York and being a restaurateur and chef in Brooklyn.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Recipes tick all the modish ‘New Nordic’ boxes with ingedients like aged diary cow, birch, buttermilk, lingonberries and white currents, some of which may be tricky to track down for the home cook.

What’s the faff factor? Berselius has his own distinctive style. Some of the the most impactful presentations are the most simple, yet belie the numerous processes that go into their creation. Lamb Heart Burnt in Bedstraw appears to be a black disc on the plate but is in fact brunoise of fermented sunchoke, sunchoke emulsion and rendered lamb heart fat dusted with a powder of lamb heart that’s been cured, dried, grated, dry-fried, burnt with bedstraw, dry-fried and burnt a second time then blended and passed.

How often will I cook from the book? Techniques such as smoking, pickling and fermenting (along with a fair bit of foraging) mean that cooking from the book will require a fair amount of committment in terms of time, energy and organisation. Definately not the book to reach for when you come home late from work and need to rustle something up in 20 minutes.

Killer recipes? Lichen, caramelised cream, pine mushroom, spruce and chanterelle; grilled eel head on a branch; mackerel and black locust; sourdough, smoked hake and toasted milk.

What will I love? Berselius might be a resolutely urban chef saying, ‘I knew I wanted to be in New York. I fell in love with the city as soon as I set foot here’, but his cooking draws on formative experiences and memories from growing up in the suburbs of Stockholm and visiting his grandmother in the north of Sweden with its ‘reindeeer and white and black birch bark’ and summers spent among the ‘wheat, oat, rapeseed, grazing cows, and horses’ of the lowlands. Berselius’s achingly beautiful creations put nature right there on the plate in front of you. The food ranges from delicate (lenghts of pickled and compressed cucmber are artfully decorated pickled linden flowers) to red in tooth and claw (truffles made from pigs blood, butter and rose hip) but always seem to evoke some wild Nordic landscape.

What won’t I like? Some readers may find the book a little po-faced and over serious.

Should I buy it? Aska provides genuine insight into the mind of an exciting chef who is pushing the boundaries of his own creativity. As accomplished as Berselius obviously is, I get the feeling that there is much more to come from him. Roll on Aska book two.

Cuisine: Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

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Aska
£39.95 Phaidon

Goat by James Whetlor

Goat

What’s the USP? Everything you wanted to know about the UK’s most undervalued and underused protein but were afraid to ask, plus 70 odd recipes covering just about anything and everything you could possibly do with a goat, gastronomically speaking of course.

Who’s the author? James Whetlor is a former River Cottage chef (Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall wrote the book’s foreword) the and now founder of Cabrito which supplies goat meat to catering butchers and restaurants around the country.

What does it look like? With its ominous horned goat head cover, you might mistake this for a book of black magic spells (and if you read it backwards, it actually is) but open it up and you find something far more benign with images of Whetlor cuddling a goat, munching on a goat burger and preparing a hay barbecue. The food has been imaginatively and attractively styled and shot and the book has a fresh, bright and elegant look.

Is it good bedtime reading? Of course; goats are the new sheep to count you off to sleep. Also there’s an extended 30-page introduction to get stuck into which goes into depth on the subject of goats, covering their place in history, goats and modern farming, goat as served in restaurants and their use in the leather industry.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Any butcher worth his salt should be able to source you some goat meat, but if not, you can always order some from Whetlor himself .

What’s the faff factor? There’s nothing to scare the horses in the book, although it will make goats very nervous.

How often will I cook from the book? You’re not going to eat goat every day, but this book should certainly inspire you to add it as a regular alternative to other meats on  your weekly or monthly menus.

Killer recipes? Whetlor has gone out of his way to demonstrate the versatility of his beloved animals and the variety of dishes is impressive from kid shank, apricot and pistachio tagine to schnitzel and Greek-style orange and leek sausages. The author has roped in a number of high profile chef friends to contribute their own recipes too, including Neil Rankin from Temper (goat tacos) and Hugh FH himself (kid, lentil and labneh salad).

What will I love? Fifty per cent of the royalties from the book fo to Farm Africa charitable project that has used goats to help rehabilitate local ecosystems in rural eastern Africa and which Cabrito also give part of their profits.

What won’t I like? Yes, its a single ingredient book so theoretically might have limited appeal.

Should I buy it? Currently, the male offspring of dairy goats are simply destroyed but could become a sustainable and ethical source of low fat, high protein meat. Buying this book and putting goat on your menu will help that become a reality. That’s a pretty good reason to pick up a copy.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs 
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

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Goat
£20, Quadrille

Kricket: An Indian-Inspired Cookbook by Will Bowlby

KRICKET cover (2)

What’s the USP? A collection of over 80 modern and classic Indian recipes from Kricket restaurant in Soho.
Who’s the author? This is the debut book from young British chef and restaurateur Will Bowlby who trained with Rowley Leigh at the much missed Le Cafe Anglais before relocating to Mumbai for two years to work as a head chef. He then travelled the subcontinent, learning about regional Indian cuisine. Kricket originally opened in a shipping container in Brixton in 2015 before relocating to Soho in 2017. Bowlby has been named national chef of the year by the Asian curry awards
What does it look like? Good enough to eat. Photographer Hugh Johnson has brought Bowlby’s simple, colourful and impactful food to life while restaurant interiors and kitchen action shots give an insight into what it’s like to dine at Kricket. Chapter headings are illustrated with line drawings by Myoung Chung and lend the book extra style and elegance.
Is it good bedtime reading? This is first and foremost a recipe book so keep this one in the kitchen.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There are the odd one or two you might have to make an effort to get hold of such as caul fat for lamb galouti kebabs or green papaya paste for lamb chops with burnt onion raita, but most supermarkets now have an extensive array of ingredients for Indian dishes so you should have few problems.
What’s the faff factor? Most of the dishes will require a bit of planning ahead to factor in marinating times or making the spice pastes and mixes, but that goes with the territory. There is nothing too technically challenging and you should derive a lot of pleasure from cooking from the book.
How often will I cook from the book? The book will be most suited to weekend and special occasion cooking, when you’ve got a bit more time to spare.
Killer recipes? Just flip through at random and you’re bound to find something you’ll want to cook, from a classic Old Delhi (butter) chicken to more modish creations like bone marrow and cep kulcha (mini naan bread) or chanterelles in malai (lightly spiced cashew nut and green mango) sauce with fresh peas and pea shoots.
What will I love? The sheer variety and inventiveness of the recipes aside, there’s an informative introduction, suggested seasonal menu plans and a whole chapter of delicious sounding cocktails including smoked tarbooz made with vodka, whisky, watermelon juice and cinnamon syrup
What won’t I like? If you have purist tendencies when it comes to Indian cooking, this is not the book you are looking for.
Should I buy it? Pierre Koffmann, who wrote the book’s foreword, loves Will Bowlby’s food so it’s a no-brainer.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for:Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating:4 stars

Buy this book
Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook
£26, Hardie Grant

First, Catch by Thom Eagle

First catch

What’s the USP? When is a cookbook not a cookbook? When its a ‘hymn to an early spring meal’, all 226 pages of it. This is food writing in the purest sense, a series of extended essays ruminating on the process of cooking a single meal; a sort of exercise in culinary mindfulness.

Who’s the author? Thom Eagle is the head chef of Little Duck: The Picklery, a ‘fermenting kitchen and wine bar’ in East London (unsurprisingly, there is a fair amount on fermentation in the book) and writes the food blog ‘In Search of Lost Time’. First, Catch is his debut in print.

What does it look like? A novel. Forget glossy photographs, this is all text interspersed with some black and white line drawings of pots, pans and assorted ingredients by artist Aurelia Lange.

Killer recipes? Here’s the thing, Eagle says ‘recipes are lies’ so there aren’t any. At least not in the list-of-ingredients-followed-by-a-method format that we all know and love. Instead, they are snuck in by stealth, so for example, a recipe for quick-cured lamb loin, complete with measurements for the simple salt and sugar cure appears spread over three pages at the end of chapter one, ‘On Curing With Salt’ and one for salsa verde is nestled quietly in chapter 10 ‘On Wild and Domestic Celeries’.

What will I love? Eagle is a thoughtful sort of bloke with a particular view on all things culinary which gives the book a distinctive tone. When was the last time you heard someone say that they ‘go out of their way’ to visit old salt-pans’? Eagle has travelled from Kent to Sicily to look at the damn things, trips which have helped him, and now, in turn, his readers ‘appreciate the importance of salt throughout our history’.

What won’t I like? Eagle is very self consciously ‘a writer’ (he studied American Literature at uni) and consequently there is a fair bit of ‘food writing’ to get through; raw vegetables aren’t seasoned but ‘subjected to the violence of lemon and salt’ which you’ll either think is incredibly creative writing or just plain irritating, depending on your taste in literature.

Should I buy it? It may be a little pretentious and overwritten, and it’s debatable whether the ‘stealth’ recipes are an improvement on the traditional format, but Eagle has genuine insight into the practical and philosophical sides of cooking, as well as extensive knowledge of international cuisines and culinary history, making First, Catch well worth reading.

Cuisine: Modernist British
Suitable for: Anyone really interested in cooking and food writing
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Read an extract

Buy this book
First, Catch by Thom Eagle
£16.99, Quadrille

Book extract: First, Catch by Thom Eagle

First catch

I seek out and devour food writing in all of its forms – from lengthy and flowery introductions, through drily academic histories to the tersely scribbled instructions you sometimes find tucked into old cookbooks. But when I think of all the recipes I have read, professionally or otherwise, stacked up as it were in one gigantic pile on an overflowing workbench, the main sensation I feel is frustration.

All those neat little lists – take this, take that – as if cooking begins when you pick up an onion, or finishes as the dish goes on to the plate. So much more surrounds a meal and its making than just the bare facts of its enumerated parts. At the top of the page it just says ‘two onions,  chopped’, but someone had to grow them, to pick them, to store and transport and buy them, all before you take them from the vegetable rack or the fridge, halve them from root to tuft, and peel off the outermost layers of brown parchment; before you cut first in a wedging arch and then across, remembering the cook who taught you to let the onion fall into its own layers rather than force it apart into rigid dice, and wondering perhaps in passing why you are doing so, when the other recipe said sliced, when the other recipe contained no onion at all. The Koreans have a description for the specific qualities of a person’s cooking which translates as something like ‘the taste of your hands’; they know, I suppose, that knowledge rests in muscle and bone, which is never written down.

I have nothing against recipes. In fact I use them all the time, and am suspicious of cooks who claim never to do so. Recipes are a record of social and emotional histories as well as a means of travelling to almost any country or place you care to name, including, of course, the past. Anyone who tries to separate food from all of these things cooks for reasons I do not understand; it can only, I think, be vanity, trading the deep satisfaction of time for immediate gratification.

Yet, while useful to cook from, there is so much that recipes miss. The satisfaction of peeling a ripe, thick-skinned tomato, for instance, or unzipping a pod of broad beans; the smell of rosemary hitting gently warming olive oil; the yielding of a wing of skate to a gently pressing finger; the sight of a simply laid table in spring, awaiting the arrival of both people and lunch. None of this can be captured in a written recipe. These are sensations we feel behind the lines of our cookbooks, but the rigid lists that now fill them leave little room in which to do so, let alone to think about what we will do with this dish once we have cooked it. ‘Serve immediately’, these instructions end, but who to? Even a thousand recipes don’t make a meal.

Of all the contexts surrounding the acquisition and transformation of food, I think the meal itself is the most often forgotten. We cook in competition with ourselves now, imagining some bespectacled judge pacing around our chopping board and offering disparaging comments on our knife skills, our plating and our personal hygiene, while we collect and compare recipes of so-called genius and perfection, to be followed to the last detail. Whatever tortured dish emerges from such a process is designed not to be dug into with a questing fork, but to sit as it were under glass, to be admired one-on-one, alone. A plate is one part of a course, which is one part of a meal, so why fuss over the recipe so? I’d rather have, for example, a litre of wine, a pile of fresh pea pods, and many hands to peel and pour – with maybe a piece of cheese for afterwards.

Extracted from First, Catch: Story of a Spring Meal by Thom Eagle (Quadrille, £16.99)

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First, Catch by Thom Eagle

Iced strawberry parfait by Russell Brown

WS Iced strawberry yoghurt parfait June-2

I dug up a wild strawberry plant some years ago from a hedge in my mum’s garden. Remarkably, given the neglect and various house moves, it is still alive and producing fruit. The harvest of a small handful of fragrant berries indicates that the strawberry season has properly started. There aren’t enough for a dish so instead they get muddled in the bottom of a flute and topped up with some sparkling wine. Pure essence of summer!

We need to look for a more abundant supply for this iced parfait, a classic combination of ripe fruit and something creamy. The essential part is a really flavoursome fruit purée, so choose your berries with care for this. The purée wants to be pleasantly sweet and may need a touch of sugar. The fruit sugar – fructose – is really good for enhancing the flavour of fruit compotes and purées and can be bought from most supermarkets or health food shops.

As an alternative, buy a good-quality strawberry purée. These are often intense in flavour and many only have a small added sugar content. The frozen purées available from specialist online shops are a great thing to have in the freezer for an impromptu dessert or cocktail.

Serves 8

NOTE: Start this recipe 24 hours ahead

For the parfait

4 large free-range egg yolks

2 tbsp water

100g caster sugar

85g full-fat natural yoghurt

1 leaf of gelatine, soaked in cold water

200g strawberry purée

100ml double cream mixed with 2 tsp semiskimmedmilk

lemon juice to taste

To serve

300g ripe strawberries

1ó tbsp caster sugar

16 shortbread biscuits

1. Place the egg yolks in a small, heatproof bowl that will fit over a saucepan to make a bainmarie.

2. In a heavy-based pan, mix the water and sugar and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and bring the syrup to 110˚C. Whisk the syrup gradually into the egg yolks and then place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk gently until the egg mix reaches 79˚C. At this stage the mix will be thick, creamy and quite stiff. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Whisk the yoghurt into the egg mix.

3. Next, drain the gelatine and place with a few spoonfuls of the puree in a small pan and heat gently, stirring constantly to dissolve the gelatine. Whisk this back into the remaining puree and then whisk the puree into the yoghurt mix. Whip the cream and milk to very soft peaks and gently fold this through the fruit mix. Add lemon juice to taste. (The gelatine can be omitted, but using it makes the parfait slightly softer and easier to cut, as well as holding its shape better on the plate as it starts to defrost.)

4. Lightly oil a small loaf tin and line with a double thickness of cling film, using a clean tea towel to push the film tightly into the corners of the tin. Pour in the parfait mix and freeze overnight.

5. Remove the parfait from the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Hull the strawberries and cut into pieces if large. Mix with the sugar, which will draw a little moisture from the berries and form a glaze. Slice the parfait as required,

wrapping any leftovers tightly in cling film and returning to the freezer if you don’t use it all at once.

6. Serve the sliced parfait with the berries and biscuits. More cream is, of course, always an option.

Extracted from
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

More recipes from this book
Harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick pickled cucumber
Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb

Read the review