The Rangoon Sisters Cookbook by Amy Chung and Emily Chung

Rangoon Sisters

What’s the USP? An introduction to the flavours and dishes that are central to Burmese cooking. Bright, tempting recipes for salads, stews and assorted Burmese treats are balanced with an overview of the nation’s love for food.

Who wrote it? As the title suggests, the book was written by the Rangoon sisters. The siblings made their name running incredibly popular supper clubs for the past seven years (and raising over £10,000 for charity in the process). The book draws on the food they’ve created for these supper clubs over the years, as well as traditional Burmese dishes and the flavours they were raised with in their Anglo-Burmese childhood home in South London.

Is it good bedtime reading? The Rangoons fill their book with engaging and entertaining prose. Alongside personal and family histories, there’s plenty to read on Burmese cooking, the individual flavours and the history and influences behind individual dishes.

Given the in-depth approach that the book has to all the above, it is perhaps a little surprising that the book doesn’t touch upon any of the recent political issues that Myanmar has had. Many UK readers will only really be familiar with the nation through these ongoing events, and though it is wonderful to see and celebrate another side of the region, it is perhaps something of a missed opportunity for the Rangoon sisters not to address this at all.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? There are a few ingredients scattered across the recipes that will require access to an Asian supermarket, but for the most part the sisters do a fantastic job of recreating Burmese dishes with relatively easy to find ingredients. For those flavours that aren’t necessarily so familiar, there’s a brilliant (and extensive) rundown at the beginning of the book, with nearly ten pages of detail on different ingredients.

What’s the faff factor? Pretty low, all things considered. It’s easy to see why their supper clubs have gone so well – the recipes are all straight-forward and require no exceptional technical skills – but the results are never anything less than tantalising.

How often will I cook from the book? Though the recipes are all simple enough, most are fairly hands-on, and so this isn’t necessarily a school-night cookbook. Still, there’s plenty of variety in here, with more than enough to tempt you back on a regular basis.

Killer recipes: I’m a sucker for an interesting egg dish, and the kyet u hin curry is damn near irresistible. The sisters’ butter bean stew is guaranteed to make it onto the table as an easy-but-impressive side next time you have guests over, too. But the headliner of the Rangoon Sisters cookbook must be their famous mango and lime cheesecake – made with a ginger nut base, and kindly presented here with storage advice (a generous gesture given the likelihood of anything surviving the first call for ‘seconds, anyone?’).

Should I buy it? Absolutely. One of the better trends in cookbooks over the last few years has been the proliferation of titles focusing on cuisines hitherto ignored by the average British palate. When done well, these can be both a brilliant insight into eating habits around the world, and a much-needed injection of new flavours into our own diets.

The Rangoon Sisters is filled with lovingly crafted and surprisingly accessible recipes, and makes for pretty decent bedtime reading to boot. Credit is due also to food stylist Aya Nishimura, who has put together some of the most appetising looking dishes I’ve seen in print. If you’re looking to expand your taste horizons a little, this is an excellent place to start.

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

Cuisine: Burmese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
The Rangoon Sisters: Recipes from our Burmese family kitchen
£20, Ebury Press

Sun and Rain by Ana Roš

9780714879307

Self-taught Slovenian chef Ana Roš highly unusual path to the professional kitchen is set out in the biographical section of this fascinating and visually stunning book. She trained as a professional dancer and was a member of the Yugoslav national ski team before going on to study international science and diplomacy. Her plans for a career in international diplomacy changed when she met her future husband and natural wine expert Valter Kramar. The couple decided to work in Kramar’s family countryside restaurant Hiša Franko in the remote Soča Valley where Roš eventually took over the running of the kitchen. International acclaim followed with Roš taking part in culinary events like Cook IT Raw and being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table documentary series.

Roš‘s lack of any formal culinary training has led to a highly individual style based on the abundant natural larder of the extreme north-west of Slovenia. A community of local foragers, shepherds, cheese makers, hunters and fishermen (some of which are profiled in the book) supply Roš with trout, deer, goats, dairy produce and fruits which she transforms into eye-catchingly plated dishes such as marble trout roe with rosa di Gorizia chicory and yeast; veal consommé, celeriac and young linden leaves, and beeswax peaches and elderflower.

The majestic natural glory of the Soča Valley is well represented in the photography of Suzan Gabrijan who has also captured the rugged elegance of Roš’s food. Even by publisher Phaidon’s consistently high standards, this is an exceptionally beautiful book. Disappointingly, however, apart from two photographs taken in the kitchen, there are no shots of the restaurant interior or exterior which is a puzzling and frustrating omission.  The recipes are hived off into a separate chapter at the end of the book so that it’s necessary to flick back and forth to the images of the finished dishes if you want to understand exactly what you are looking at.  These minor niggles criticisms aside, Sun and Rain is a comprehensive look at the life, culinary philosophy, and cooking of a remarkable figure in the modern culinary scene that will inspire any progressive thinking chef or very keen home cook.

Cuisine: Slovenian/Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

This review was first published in The Caterer

Buy the book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Summer Pear by Ana Roš
Bread by Ana Roš
Goat cottage cheese ravioli by Ana Roš

Summer Pear by Ana Roš

Ana Ros cookbook summer pear

When I was a kid I was addicted to the summer pears in my grandmother’s garden overlooking the seaside. These are green, sweet and delicate.

Serves 4

For the nasturtium granita

80g sugar
15g glucose
2 soaked gelatine leaves
100 g nasturtium leaves
10g oxalis

For the poached pears

200 g summer pears
100 g butter
35g honey
10g salt

For the blackcurrant coulis

700 ml blackcurrant juice
70g sugar
8 g agar agar

For the whey coulis

100 ml whey
20g honey
5g gelespessa

For the whey ice cream

875 ml whey
25g glucose
375 ml cream
200 g sugar
5g super neutrose
420 g egg yolks

For the caramelized white chocolate

100 g white chocolate

Boil 450 g water, the sugar and glucose. Add the gelatine and cool it down.

Blend the nasturtium, oxalis and cold base. Freeze it and stir every 5–10 minutes.

Clean and halve the pears. Melt the butter and add the honey. Vacuum bag the pear with butter. Cook at 62o C (144oF) for 15–20 minutes.

To make the blackcurrant coulis, com- bine all the ingredients and boil. Cool it down, then blend.

To make the whey coulis, blend all the ingredients together.

Boil the whey, glucose and cream. Mix the sugar and super neutrose. Add the sugar to the cream and whey. Pour everything over the yolks and cook all together to 82oC (180oF). Strain.

Bake the chocolate in an oven at 160oC (320oF) for 6–8 minutes.

To serve, cool the plates to -5oC (23oF). Pacojet the ice cream. Take a frozen plate and plate the 2 coulis and the caramelized white chocolate. Centralize the ice cream, cover with granita, compose the pears and finish with 2 spoons of granita.

Cook more from this book
Bread
Goat Cottage Cheese Ravioli

Read the review

Buy this book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Bread by Ana Roš

041 bread

My sourdough was born four years ago.

I fermented apple peels with some flour and spring water. The first bubbles hap-pened pretty late because it was January, and our apartment is never really warm. The first bread was miserable and even today, the bread sometimes gives us unpleasant surprises. It is a living thing –it suffers from rain and sun – and even flowers around Hiša Franko and pollen in the air may change it completely. Breadmaking for me is one of the most fascinating and challenging moments of the kitchen. And it is also very rewarding.

Makes 8 loaves

1.8 l water
480 g sourdough starter
120 g honey
720 g roasted khorasan flour
1680 g strong (bread) flour
120 ml water
48g salt
oil, for spraying

Eight to 12 hours before making the dough prepare the starter. Mix 240 g of strong bread flour, 240 ml of lukewarm water and 100 g of active sourdough starter. Leave to double in volume and become bubbly, then use to mix the dough. Warm the water to 28oC (82oF). Pour into a mixing bowl, add the starter and mix by hand. Add the honey and whisk again. Weigh the flours and mix. Transfer to a stand mixer with a dough hook and mix for 5 minutes. Add the second amount of water and the salt. Mix for 5 minutes. Take out of the bowl and put in a plastic container sprayed with oil. The dough should be 24–26oC (70–75oF). Next leave the dough for the bulk fermentation.

In this period the dough should get stronger, puffed and airy and should also increase in the volume. In the first 2 hours of the bulk fermentation perform a series of stretch and fold (4 times in 30-45 minute intervals). This will help the dough gain strength.

To perform stretch and fold, grab the dough at 1 side, then pull it up and fold over itself. Repeat on 4 sides of the dough. Leave the dough to rise until it increases approximately 80 percent of the initial volume. Divide the loaves into 620 g each for 8 loaves. Pre- shape, then let rest for 20 minutes. Give them a final shape and place in floured rising baskets. Proof the loaves at the room temperature until the bread approximately doubles in volume and passes the poking test. Make an indent into the dough and observe the reaction –

the dough is done proofing when the indent comes to the initial position slowly. If it returns fast, leave the dough to rise longer. Bake for 20 minutes at 230oC (445oF), full steam and fan, and then for 30 minutes at 160oC (320oF) no steam or fan.

Cook more from this book
Summer Pear
Goat Cottage Cheese Ravioli

Read the review

Buy this book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Goat cottage cheese ravioli by Ana Roš

053 ravioli

Ah, ravioli. Every time I want to get rid of them, people get upset. Diners seem to be addicted to my pasta. So, who cares about the trends!

Serves 6

For the dough

500 g semola rimacinata di grano duro
360 g egg yolks
1 egg
30 ml olive oil

For the filling

500 g goat cottage cheese
500 ml cream

For the garnish

nasturtium flowers nasturtium leaves

For the hazelnut and prosciutto broth

1 carrot
1 roasted onion
1 stick celery
350 g prosciutto
500 ml hazelnut oil
100 g brown butter

For the corn

300 g corn

For the fried polenta

100 g polenta

For the praline

200 g 50 ml 15g peeled hazelnuts
hazelnut oil
salt

Work the dough ingredients together with your hands until the dough is slightly hot. Cover it with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and let it sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Place the filling ingredients in a Thermomix and blend into an emulsion, heating up to 70oC (160oF). Cool it down and let it sit in the refrigerator before making the ravioli.

For the broth, cook the vegetables, prosciutto and 2.5 l water in a pressure cooker for 2 hours. Strain. Emulsify with hazelnut oil and brown butter.

Boil the corn for 30 minutes. Drain and roast it in a cast iron pan until golden and smoky. Allow to cool.

Roast the polenta flour in a dry iron pan until brown. Let cool on baking paper.

Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 175oC (345oF) for 10 minutes without adding any fat, just shaking the tray from time to time. Blend with hazelnut oil and salt until smooth.

When you are ready to serve, first cook the ravioli. Pan fry them with hazelnut praline, some cooking water and prosciutto broth. Add the corn. Top with roasted polenta flour. Serve over the prosciutto hazelnut broth.

Cook more from this book
Summer Pear
Bread

Read the review

Buy this book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

Falastin

What’s the USP? I can’t do better than quote the introduction: ‘This is a book about Palestine – its food, its produce, its history, its future, its people and their voices’. There are also recipes, more than 100 of them.

Who are the authors? You’ll know Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley from such books as Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. Tamimi co-founded the Ottolenghi restaurant empire. Wigely worked in publishing before joining the Ottenleghi test kitchen a decade ago.

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the short foreword by Ottolenghi and seven-page introduction, there are page-long introductions to each of the nine chapters that cover everything from breakfast to sweets as well as articles covering subjects including ‘The yoghurt making ladies of Bethlehem’, ‘Vivien Sansour and the Palestinian Seed Library’ and ‘The Walled Off Hotel, the seperation wall, and the Balfour balls up’.   

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? As has been noted before on this site, thanks in part to Ottolenghi, ingredients such as za’atar, Aleppo pepper, date syrup, rose harissa, sumac and labneh now seem quite commonplace, at least to the enthusiastic home cook. If you do have trouble tracking them down in your local shop, you can source them online from ottolenghi.co.uk.

What’s the faff factor? This is not restaurant cooking but on the other hand, these are not quick’n’easy one pot wonders either. You’ll be chopping, finely slicing, picking leaves, chargrilling, roasting, whipping, braising, frying, baking, blitzing, caramelising and making dumplings, dressings, and dips; soups, salsas, and sauces. Nothing however is excessively complex or beyond the abilities of your average keen cook.

Must cook recipes: spiced chicken arayes (pan fried pitta bread sandwiches); chilled cucumber and tahini soup with spicy pumpkin seeds; spiced salmon skewers with parsley oil; upside-down spiced rice with lamb and broad beans; sumac onion and herb oil buns; knafeh nabulseyeh (a sweet mozzarella, ricotta and feta kataifi pastry dessert drenched in orange blossom water syrup.

What will I love? Tamimi and Wigley have already proved beyond doubt that they are a class act and Falastin does nothing to alter that. The recipes are uniformly enticing and well written, the articles are informative and fascinating, the book is beautifully designed and the location and food photography by Jenny Zarins is gorgeous. As is usual with the Ottolenghi family of books, there’s a code to access a fully illustrated and searchable database of all the recipes online (you can even print off a shopping list for each recipe) which is a very useful and fun bonus.

What won’t I love? I can’t believe you’re even asking this question, go to the back of the class.

Should I buy it? If you’re already a fan of Tamimi and Wigley (and Ottolenghi of course) there is just no way you won’t want to add this terrific book to your collection. If you are just getting into Middle Eastern cooking then is a great place to start.

Cuisine: Palestinian/Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

Cook from this book
Sweet tahini rolls (Kubez el tahineh)
Chicken musakhan
Labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey and cardamom

The Twelve Cookbooks of Christmas

There’s no better Christmas present to give a true foodie than a new cookbook. Here’s my selection of a dozen of the best new releases from the last few months that will please the gourmet in your life, whether they are serious hobbyist cooks, professional chefs or just in need of some fresh inspiration for midweek meals.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

What the publishers say:  The hotly anticipated cookbook from the group behind London’s Gloria and Circolo Popolare restaurants.  Italian restaurant group Big Mamma burst onto the London food scene earlier this year with the opening of Gloria, the 70’s Capri-style trattoria in the heart of Shoreditch. This little corner of Italy hosted an explosive menu, mixing old Italian classics with ingredients sourced direct from small producers in Italy, plus a few fun twists from Head Chef Filippo La Gattuta. In June, in the wake of the success of their first opening in London, French owners Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux opened Circolo Popolare – a sunny Sicily style trattoria in Fitzrovia, with immediate show-stopping dishes, from giant Pizzas al metro to XXL desserts.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes features 130 best recipes from the Big Mamma team. Some delicious, easy-to-prepare, imaginative twists from true classics such as La Gran Carbonara and Tiramisu, to some of the most creative Italian recipes today, including Pizza Nera Con Cozze and Sfoglia Lasagna. The book includes much-loved dishes from Gloria and Circolo Popolare, and some amazing Pizza Yolo, Lob’star Pasta, Ravioli Di Ricotta, Daft Punch and Eat Me Baba One More Time.

Full review coming soon

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95 (phaidon.com)

Cook from this book: coming soon

Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing

Marcus Everyday

Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs and as a stern taskmaster on Masterchef: The Professionals. But in his new book (the sixth he has co-authored with Chantelle Nicholson, Group Operations Director for Marcus Wareing Restaurants), he presents a kinder, gentler Marcus; the family man at home in his East Sussex hideaway Melfort House, gardening and cooking with his kids and grinning for the camera in his casual blue denim shirt. It’s the sort of aspiration lifestyle stuff you’d associate with the likes of Bill Granger or Donna Hay, but Wareing pulls it off. The recipes are very much ‘home cookery’ as Wareing likes to call it; approachable, achievable and not a hint of Michelin-starred hubris. Recipes that may well become regular standbys include hassleback potatoes with red wine and pork ragu; haddock with lentils, basil and mascarpone and beef and garden herb meatballs with roasted tomato sauce.

Read the full review 

Cuisine: International  
Suitable for:
For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Four stars

Buy this book
Marcus Everyday: Easy Family Food for Every Kind of Day
Harper Collins Publishers, £20

Rick Steins Secret France

Secret France Rick Stein

Restaurateur and seafood expert Rick Stein takes a meandering journey through rural France from Normandy in the north to Provence in the south. In addition to the usual suspects like snails in garlic butter,  omelette aux fines herbes, croque monsieur and steak frites, Stein has gone off the beaten track and unearthed pounti, a ham and chard terrine from the Auvergne; wild boar stew with pinot noir from Alsace, and boles de picolat, meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette from Prades in the Pyrenees. Fans of Rick Stein will not be disappointed. If you are new to the food of France this is a great introduction, and if you are a Francophile, you will enjoy revisiting old favourites and discovering new dishes to add to your repertoire.

Read the full review

Cuisine: French  
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books, £26

Black Axe Mangal by Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

Lee Tiernan runs the cult north London restaurant Black Axe Mangal and this is his first book. His pizza oven is emblazoned with the faces of the rock group Kiss and the flavours of dishes like pig’s tails with pickled chicory; braised hare, chocolate and pig’s blood with mash; oxtail, bone marrow and anchovy and the signature squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are turned up to 11.

The liberal seasoning of salty language and peppering of softcore glamour shots may be off-putting to some, but the step by step instructions on the key skills of grilling, smoking and baking that help define Tiernan’s food, along with the story behind his success, provide an insight into one of the UK’s most exciting and original chefs and make Black Axe Mangal an essential purchase.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Cook from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

The Quality Chop House

Quality chop house

Recipes and stories from a landmark London restaurant that’s been trading in one form or other since 1869. You get a very real sense of what the Quality Chop House is all about. If you are already a regular, it will make you want to go back immediately and if you’ve never been you’ll be desperate for a table. Keen cooks willing to invest time and some money to create restaurant-quality dishes like mince on dripping toast; pastrami cured salmon; corn and marmite butter; truffled potato croquettes, and the signature confit potatoes at home will absolutely devour this book.

Read the full review

Cuisine: British 
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Cook from this book
Confit potatoes 

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray

Downton Cookbook

The acclaimed historian, cook and broadcaster Annie Gray takes the fictional Downtown Abbey as a jumping-off point to chart the history of British country house cooking in a series of short articles and recipes including Palestine soup; cabbage as they served it in Budapest; mutton with caper sauce; the queen of trifles; beef stew with dumplings; treacle tart; rice pudding. Downtown fans will love it, but it’s such a sumptuously produced book with lovely food photography by John Kernick that it will appeal to anyone with an interest in British food and its history.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook
White Lion Publishing, £25

Signature Dishes That Matter by Christine Muhlke et al

Sig dishes

A collection of 240 restaurant dishes that spans six centuries from the first-ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first-served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018. It is a fascinating read and an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine. It’s perfect for bedtime reading and could provide inspiration for a spectacular retro-themed dinner party.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir 

Dishoom

The cookbook of the eight-strong Dishoom all-day dining Indian restaurant group inspired by the Persian-style Irani cafes of Mumbai.  There’s recipes for mid-morning snacks like keema puffs, lunch dishes including aloo sabzi (vegetable curry served with bedmi puri bread), afternoon refreshments such as salted laksi, ‘sunset snacks’  pau bhaji, a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted Bombay bread buns and dinner dishes such as soft shell crab masala, lamb biryani and spicy lamb chops. Besides the delicious recipes, the book looks beautiful, is a great read and gives you more than enough detail about Mumbai to plan a truly sybaritic holiday there.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant: From Bombay with Love
Bloomsbury Publishing, £26.

The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver

St John

The long-awaited follow up to 2007’s Beyond Nose to Tail from one of the UK’s most distinguished and influential chefs Fergus Henderson and his business partner Trevor Gulliver. The publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of the opening of St John restaurant near Smithfield market in London, world-famous for dishes such as roast bone marrow with parsley salad that celebrate offal. Adding The Book of St John will bring something distinctive to your cookbook collection and might well expand your culinary horizons with dishes such as crispy lamb’s brains; pig’s tongues, butter beans and green sauce; chicken, bacon and trotter pie and Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese.

Read the full review

Cuisine: British 
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

Cook from this book
Welsh Rarebit 
Grilled lamb hearts, peas and mint
Salted caramel and chocolate tart 

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Food of Sichuan

The Food of Sichuan is a revised and updated edition of Sichuan Cookery, originally published in 2001. It’s an authoritative and comprehensive investigation of the styles, techniques and ingredients of a lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine with over 100 recipes, 50 of them new to the revised edition including bowl steamed belly pork with preserved vegetables; fragrant and crispy duck, and pot-sticker dumplings with chicken stock. The quality of the writing, the depth and breadth of the research and the sheer reassuring heft of the thing tell you this is the only book on Sichuan cooking you’ll ever need.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Chinese
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
The Food of Sichuan
£30, Bloomsbury

Cook House by Anna Hedworth

Cook House Anna Hedworth

If you’ve ever dreamed about making a career in food, self-taught chef and restaurateur Anna Hedworth’s story of how she opened a restaurant in a shopping container in Newcastle upon Tyne will provide you with the information and inspiration to take the leap. If you want to try out techniques like cooking over open-fire and preserving and fermenting for the first time, this book will be of particular interest. But even if you just want to add a few more delicious go-to recipes to your repertoire such as red pepper, paprika and rosemary soup with sourdough croutons; chicken, courgette and pea salad with aioli and sourdough crumb or dark chocolate and almond cake, Cook House is well worth adding to your collection.

Read the full review 

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

Buy this book
Cook House
£25, Head of Zeus

The Shore by Bruce Rennie

The Shore

A collection of highly inventive and original seafood dishes from one of the best seafood restaurants in the country, The Shore in Penzance. Chef Bruce Rennie worked with Michelin starred Edinburgh-based chef Martin Wishart as well as Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein before opening The Shore in 2015. An extended introductory chapter covers Rennie’s own story, his relationship with the land and Cornwall and running the restaurant. Recipes are arranged into six, eight-course tasting menus which reflect Rennie’s love of Japanese and Indian flavours in dishes such as mackerel, sashimi style, sesame, beetroot and wasabi sorbet and cod with dal, cauliflower, lime pickle, onion bhaji and coriander.

Read my foreword to the book

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Dedicated home cooks/professional chefs

Buy this book
The Shore
£25, A Way with Media

Rick Stein’s Secret France by Rick Stein

Secret France Rick Stein

What’s the USP? Restaurateur and seafood expert Rick Stein really needs no introduction. After 25 years on British TV screens and 45 years of running his world famous The Seafood restaurant in Padstow Cornwall, Stein is something of a national treasure. He’s written numerous cookbooks (many of them with an accompanying TV series) about his world travels that include Spain, India, the Med, the Far East, and Mexico. Now he’s returned to France, a country he first wrote and broadcast about 15 years ago with his cookbook and TV series French Odessey. He takes a meandering journey through rural France from Normandy in the north to Provence in the south, making 10 stops along the way including Alsace, Champagne, the Haute Jura and Burgundy

What’s great about it? In addition to the usual suspects like snails in garlic butter,  omelette aux fines herbes, croque monsieur and steak frites, Stein has gone off the beaten track and unearthed pounti, a ham and chard terrine from the Auvergne; wild boar stew with pinot noir from Alsace, and boles de picolat, meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette from Prades in the Pyrenees. Food and travel photography by James Murphy is glorious, bringing France to vivid life and making the food look extremely appetising. Introductions to the book, chapters and recipes are informative and Stein’s distinctive voice comes across loud and clear.     

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? There are a few things that you will need to seek out, but there is a very handy suppliers list that will sort you out for most things including Kampot pepper, snails, brik pastry, Banyuls vinegar, and Bockwurst sausage (the latter coming from that obscure vendor Lidl). As you’d expect from Rick Stein, there is a chapter devoted to seafood and you will certainly want to visit a fishmonger for bream, palourde clams, lobster, octopus, brill and scallops (the list goes on). 

How often will I cook from the book? Although a few of the recipes will take some planning ahead, there are many that will suit a midweek supermarket-shopped meal such as deep-fried pork chops with parsley; lamb chorba (a very delicious North African stew with chickpeas and orzo pasta that’s flavoured with harissa and ras-el-hanout,  cooked for Stein by an Algerian fisherman in Cassis) and spelt risotto with spring vegetables.

What’s the faff factor? Stein may be a chef, but he’s a self-taught one and generally eschews too much complexity. There are more involved recipes such as The Flavours of Bouillabaisse with Gurnard and Fennel which has a long ingredients list, requires the making of a shellfish stock and the preparation of both confit tomatoes and green pistou sauce, but mostly, the dishes are approachable and very achievable.

Should I buy it? Fans of Rick Stein will not be disappointed with his latest effort. If you are new to the food of France this is a great introduction, and if you are a Francophile, you will enjoy revisiting old favourites and discovering new dishes to add to your repertoire.

Cuisine: French  
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books, £26

Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs with Sesame Bread by Lee Tiernan

069 Vietnamese eggs

This is a dish we used to serve as staff meal at St. JOHN Bread and Wine from time to time. I’m not sure why we called it Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs, but it’s basically scrambled eggs with Asian flavours, and it’s fucking tasty. If you can’t be bothered to make the Sesame Bread by all means use whatever bread you have at home, but preferably something with a bit of texture, like sourdough. Sweet coffee goes well with this. Or even a White Russian.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT non-stick frying pan (skillet) rubber spatula

SERVES 4

3–4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
2 red chillies, finely chopped
3 spring onions (scallions), whites thinly sliced, greens reserved
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), stems sliced, leaves left whole and reserved
25 g (1 oz/2 tablespoons) butter
8 eggs, beaten
fish sauce, to taste
salt

FOR THE SALAD
400 g/14 oz bean sprouts
reserved greens of the spring onions (see above), finely sliced
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Chillies (page 201)
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Onions (page 200)
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1⁄2-1 lime
reserved coriander leaves (see above)

TO SERVE
4 BAM Flatbreads (pages 56–63), topped with sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil after cooking
8 rashers BAM Bacon, or shop bought, grilled (page 50; optional)
dried baby shrimp (optional)
2 tablespoons shop-bought crispy fried onions

In a non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a low heat, soften the garlic and ginger in a little oil for 2 minutes. Add the chillies with a pinch of salt and cook for a further minute. Add the whites of the spring onions (scallions) and the coriander (cilantro) stalks and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Don’t cook the latter for too long as they will lose their vibrant green colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next, toss all the salad ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined, and set aside.

Wipe the non-stick frying pan clean, and then get the pan hot over a high heat. Melt the butter in the pan and add the garlic, ginger and chilli mix. When it starts to sizzle, add the eggs and stir with a rubber spatula. Turn the heat down to low. Keep stirring and turning the eggs, then add a good splash of fish sauce, bearing in mind that this is all the seasoning the eggs are going to get. I like to go pretty heavy with it – at least 1⁄2 tablespoon – but really it depends how salty and funky you want it. I’d recommend tasting a little of the egg once it’s mixed in to check. Continue to cook the eggs for around 2 minutes – you want them just cooked and super silky, as opposed to dried out and rubbery.

Place the breads on plates. Distribute the scrambled eggs onto each bread and top with the salad. Add the bacon and dried baby shrimp (if using) and the crispy fried onions. Serve with steak knives for ease of eating

PICKLED RED CHILLIES

These pickled chillies cut through fatty meat and add the welcome hit of spice I’m always craving. We use them a lot at BAM. Reserve the vinegar to use in a salad dressing after you’ve used all the actual chilli.

MAKES ABOUT 800 G/13⁄4 LB

250 g/9 oz red chillies
350 ml (12 fl oz/11⁄2 cups) red wine vinegar 175 g (6 oz/3⁄4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar

In a small bowl, whisk the sugar into the vinegar until it has dissolved.

Blister the chillies under a hot grill, over the coals of a barbecue or with a blow torch, then cut into 5 mm (1⁄4 inch) chunks. Combine the chillies and vinegar in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

PICKLED RED ONIONS

MAKES 800 G (13⁄4 LB/3 CUPS)

1 tablespoon salt
4–6 red onions, thinly sliced
125 g (41⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) red wine vinegar

In a colander or sieve set over a sink, dis- tribute the salt over the sliced onions and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the onions are salting, dissolve the sugar into the vinegar in a saucepan over a low heat. When the liquid has cooled, add the onions. Tip into an air- tight container.

These can be used after a few hours, but will be better after a few days in the refrigerator.

Cook more from this book
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

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Pressed Octopus and Szechuan Vinaigrette by Lee Tiernan

095 pressed octopus

This dish is one of the more aesthetically pleasing items on the menu at BAM. We set the octopus once poached so that when we cut a slice, the octopus resembles marble or terrazzo. Pressing isn’t essential so don’t stress out if you don’t have time or can’t be bothered. If you can be bothered, however, you will need two interlocking 450 g (1 lb) loaf pans. Octopus isn’t that cheap, so take care when cooking.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT
2 x 450 g (1 lb) interlocking loaf pans weights, such as tin cans

SERVES 4

FOR THE OCTOPUS
1 large Galician double-sucker octopus, washed and cleaned
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 lemon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon light olive oil

TO SERVE
150 g (5 oz/1 cup) freshly podded peas
dash of Lemon Oil (page 198)
1 teaspoon black chilli flakes
1 large handful pea shoots, trimmed at the last possible moment
50 ml (1 3⁄4 fl oz/1⁄4 cup) Szechuan Vinaigrette (page 199)
sea salt flakes, to taste
75 g (23⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) Turmeric Pickled Onions (page 200)
4 tablespoons deep-fried baby anchovies (see method on page 115)

Place the octopus in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Add the rest of the octopus ingredients, apart from the oil, then bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and, using a cartouche
(a circle of baking/parchment paper that fits snugly on top of the saucepan) weighed down with a plate, keep the octopus submerged. Cook for roughly 1 hour, depending on size, until poking the octopus with a skewer meets minimal resistance. Allow to cool in the cooking liquid until you can comfortably handle the octopus.

Place the octopus on a large chopping (cutting) board and have a quick scout for any fennel seeds or peppercorns and discard them. Cut the tentacles away from the body then slice off a piece to taste for seasoning, adding a touch of salt if required. We discard the head as the texture is pappy – it’s small and tends to overcook. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl and toss the tentacles in the light olive oil.

Line one loaf pan with a double layer of cling film (plastic wrap). Lay the tentacles lengthways and fold over the cling film, placing the second pan (bottom-side down) on top. Press with a heavy weight, such as a tin can, and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight. This will last for 3–4 days.

Cut the pressed octopus into slices and arrange on a platter. Dress the peas with the dash of Lemon Oil and the chilli flakes, and lastly mix in the the pea shoots.

Shake the Szechuan Vinaigrette vigorously then apply generously over the octopus. Sprinkle over a pinch or two
of sea salt flakes on top and heap the pea salad on top. Spike the salad with slithers of vivid-yellow Turmeric Pickled Onions, and finally scatter over my favourites, the crispy deep- fried baby anchovies.

SWEET SZECHUAN VINAIGRETTE

I will go into work after being off for a couple of days, and Trick will have developed a better method to cook some- thing, refined a sauce, or experimented with something new. It’s the most fulfilling facet of the cooking process for me – experimenting. I came in one day to find something labelled ‘Sweet Szechuan Vinaigrette’. I squirted some on the back of my hand, tasted it and was immediately hooked. I eat this on its own over plain rice, it’s that good – particularly good on the leftover rice that’s caught slightly at the end of service, when you realize you haven’t eaten all day and you’re absolutely famished. I love the way this works with octopus (page 94), but it is extremely versatile. Think cold roast chicken, pork terrines, duck, ham – anything that benefits from a little zip.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

old frying pan (skillet) fine sieve

MAKES 300 ML (10 FL OZ/11⁄4 CUPS)

50 g (2 oz) green Szechuan peppercorns
250 ml (8 fl oz/generous 1 cup) rapeseed or sunflower oil
100 g (3 1⁄2 oz/1⁄2 cup) palm sugar
1 tablespoon spicy Chinese hot chilli bean paste (also known as spicy broad bean paste)
100 ml (31⁄2 fl oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorn oil (prickly oil)

In a heavy-based pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, toast the peppercorns over a medium heat. I like to take a slower approach when toasting Szechuan peppercorns, as the oil they release can burn and end up tasting bitter. Look for a touch of colour. You will be able to smell when the peppercorns are ready by the intoxicating aroma. If I could bottle that smell, I would smother myself in it like a teenage boy applies Lynx deodorant. Turn the heat down and add the oil to the peppercorns. This might bubble up and spit, so stand back, then turn off the heat.

In a separate pan (one you care a little less about) start a dry caramel with the palm sugar over a medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble, after about 2 minutes, reduce the heat and cook for 1–2 minutes until caramelized – slightly too much colour and the vinaigrette will taste burnt. Remove from the heat and whisk in the bean paste and vinegar, dis- solving all the sugar. Add this mix to the infused oil and allow to cool completely.

TURMERIC PICKLED ONIONS

MAKES ABOUT 400 G (14 OZ/11⁄2 cups)

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) white wine vinegar
125 g (41⁄2 oz/1 g cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

Set a small sieve or colander over the sink, add the onions and toss with the salt.

While the onions are salting, bring the vinegar, sugar, turmeric and mustard seeds to the boil in a saucepan, stirring the liquid at first to dissolve the sugar. Once boiled, take off the heat and allow to cool.

When the liquid is cool, add the onions and tip into an airtight container. They will turn a vivid yellow colour after a day or two in the refrigerator, but can be used a couple of hours after making. They will keep for 1 week, chilled.

Cook more from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review