Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino by Jeremy Fox

146 Carta da Musica

When I worked at Mumbo Jumbo in Atlanta, Georgia, we used to purchase ready-made Sardinian flatbread (also called carta da musica). On its own it’s not that tasty, but brushed with olive oil and toasted, it turns into something great. Whenever we had a VIP in the restaurant we would send it out topped with herbs and truffles—and the like—and I always dreamed that one day, if I had a pizza oven, I would start making these myself. When I opened Ubuntu I got to do just that, and as a result, this was probably my favorite dish on the menu. It is basically a vehicle for everything great that we happened to have on hand. Just for fun, and despite Ubuntu being a vegetarian restaurant, we always served it on a pig-shaped wooden board.

NOTE For the “leaves and things,” I like to use pea tendrils, nasturtiums, calendula, young beet (beetroot) greens, fava (broad bean) leaves, parsley, shaved carrots, and shaved radishes. But really whatever is seasonal, fresh, and sounds good to you will work great.

Once the carta da musica is dried out in the oven, it will keep for a very long time—so that step can be done very far in advance.

makes 8
carta da musica
1/2 teaspoon active dry (fast-action) yeast
1 3/4 cups (220 g) durum wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl
all-purpose (plain) flour, for dusting

to serve
assorted leaves, herbs, and shaved vegetables (see Note)
1 pound (455 g) boschetto al tartufo cheese (or aged pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano)
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons chili flakes
kosher salt
lemon wedges
flaky sea salt

Fill a 1-cup (240 ml) measuring cup (measuring jug) with 2⁄3 cup (160 ml) warm (105° to 115°F/40° to 46°C) water, sprinkle in the yeast, and stir it to blend. Let stand for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and kosher salt and mix on low speed to blend.

With the mixer running, pour in the yeast/water mixture, increase the speed to
medium, and beat the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Lightly coat a medium bowl with the olive oil. With your hands lightly oiled as well,
shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Turn the dough ball over so that it is coated all over with the olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and let the dough proof in a warm area for around 2 hours—the dough will rise very slightly, but will not double in volume.

Once the dough is proofed, place a pizza stone on a rack positioned in the center of the oven and begin preheating the oven and stone to 500°F (260°C/Gas 10). Give the stone at least 1 hour to preheat so that the carta will cook evenly and consistently. (Although a pizza stone has much better heat retention and will create a superior product, you can also use an 18 x 13-inch/46 x 33 cm baking sheet. Stick it in the oven upside down; this gives you a flat surface with no lip, making it easier to lay down and remove the dough.)

While the oven and pizza stone are preheating, roll out the dough. Sprinkle some flour over a work surface. Divide the dough into quarters. Working with one piece at a time while keeping the others covered, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an 8-inch (20 cm) round, about 1⁄16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. The round doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be of consistent thickness and of an appropriate size to fit on your stone. But most important, it needs to be totally flat. If the rolled-out dough has any tears or crimps, it will not inflate, and thus won’t cook properly.

Rest the rolled-out dough on a floured baking sheet or work surface for 30 to 45 minutes.

Dust flour over a pizza peel or an upside-down 8-inch (20 cm) tart pan—you’re going to use this to slide your dough rounds onto the stone, so the flour helps keep the dough from sticking to the peel. Transfer the dough round to the pizza peel or tart pan and give the peel a light shake to ensure that the dough can move around.

Open the oven door and bring the peel in flat, over to the far edge of the pizza stone.
Tilt it up slightly—but don’t let it bunch up—and jostle the peel gently until the edge of
the dough round hits the far end of the stone. The dough will immediately catch on the stone, so you should be able to pull the peel back at a flat angle, leaving the dough on the pizza stone with no wrinkles or crimps (that last part is, again, important to it cooking properly). Immediately close the oven door to maintain temperature.

The dough should puff up and fill with air in 2 to 3 minutes. The carta da musica is done when it is puffy, hollow, and dry to the touch. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining dough rounds.

After an initial 5-minute rest, use scissors to cut around the outer seam of the carta (like a pita), carefully peeling back the top layer from the bottom to remove the two layers into separate round sheets. The layers toward the center may want to stick a bit, so use extra care when peeling it apart. You should wind up with two disks of even thickness.

As the breads are baked and separated, stack the sheets cut-side down. Once the last piece of dough is baked, reduce the oven to its lowest setting, ideally below 200°F (95°C). Remove the pizza stone.

Once your oven has cooled down, place the cut rounds, cut-side down, directly on the oven racks in single layers (you can use multiple oven racks) and let the bread dry out until completely crispy, at least 2 hours.

Once dry, the breads can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container. Just continue to store them cut-side down, as the cut-side is not as pretty or even, and will be kept face down when you assemble the finished dish.

to serve
Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C/Gas 10).

Prepare the leaves, herbs, and vegetables. These can be as rustic or precise as you like, but the real goal is to have things that will be delicious to eat raw, on top of crispy bread.

Place the carta da musica cut-side-down on an 18 x 13-inch (46 x 33 cm) rimmed baking sheet (tray)—it is rimmed to keep the olive oil from leaking onto the oven floor and burning.

Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel around the perimeter of the wheel of
Boschetto al Tartufo—the goal is to have as long of a peel as possible. Brush the bread disks evenly and generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with the rosemary, chili flakes, and kosher salt to taste. Bake the carta until they are golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes.

As the disks come out of the oven, pour off any excess oil that has not been absorbed and immediately drape the cheese over the surface so it starts to melt from the residual heat. Place the carta da musica on a plate and dress it with the prepared herbs, greens, flowers, and vegetables. Finish it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and flaky sea salt.

Eat this immediately—and with your hands. Basically, just have fun.

Cook more from this book
Lima bean and sorrel cacio e pepe
Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble

Read the review

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon

Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble by Jeremy Fox

102 Carrot Juice Cavatelli

This dish accomplishes two things: First, it’s the purest example of using every single part of a vegetable in one single dish. And second—and what I was really trying to accomplish—the cavatelli look like that bright orange Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box. If you are making this dish from the ground up, it is pretty exciting, as you can use the tops of your carrots to make the salsa, the juice to make the cavatelli, and the pulp (from juicing) to make the crumble. Note Start cooking the day before you intend to serve this. The carrot pulp and cavatelli dough will need overnight to dehydrate and rest, respectively.

serves 4
carrot juice cavatelli
41/4 cups (530 g) “00” flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water
1 cup (240 ml) fresh carrot juice (from orange carrots), pulp reserved to serve
3/4 cup (180 ml) Carrot Purée (see below)
4 tablespoons Salsa Verde using the leaves of young carrot tops (see below)
4 tablespoons Carrot Crumble (see below)
aged gouda cheese

Make the carrot juice cavatelli:
In a food processor, blend together the flour and salt. With the machine running, slowly add the carrot juice (you may not need all of it), until the dough comes together. Be careful not to overwork the dough in the food processor: The dough may well look crumbly, but if you press it together with your fingers it should very easily combine into dough. You are looking for a texture similar to Play-Doh: elastic, pliable, and not sticking to your fingers when you touch it. If the dough is too dry, add more juice; too wet, add more flour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with the heels of your hands for about 1 minute, until you have a smooth dough.

Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Place the carrot pulp on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 135°F (57°C) overnight.

About 1 hour before you plan to make the cavatelli, let the dough come to room temperature—this will make it much easier to work with. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Lightly flour a work surface. Working with one piece at a time—and keeping the rest of the dough covered—roll the dough into a long, thin rope, about 1/8 inch (3 mm) in diameter. Cut the rope crosswise into 1/4-inch (6 mm) pieces.

Using a cavatelli board, or the tines of a fork, gently but confidently roll the dough pieces against it. The cavatelli may not come out perfect right away, but soon the motion will find its way into your muscle memory.

Once the cavatelli are shaped, lay them in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet lined with a tea towel. Repeat this process until all of the dough has been turned into cavatelli. These are best cooked when fresh, so if you are going to be cooking them the same day, you can just leave them out. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season your water with salt so it tastes like the sea. I think it’s important to taste the pasta water to make sure it is seasoned properly. Once seasoned and boiling, add the cavatelli and cook until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. If you’re not sure whether they are done, the best test is just to eat one.

To serve
While the pasta water heats up, gently warm the carrot purée in a small pan over low heat and keep covered (and warm) until serving.

Using a sieve, scoop the cavatelli out of the pasta water and into a wide bowl. Immediately dress them with the carrot top salsa verde and toss to combine. Ladle in some of the starchy, seasoned pasta water, a little at a time, to open up the flavors and create a very light sauce that will coat the cavatelli. Don’t add too much water or it will make for a thin, diluted sauce.

Place dollops of the carrot purée on 4 warmed plates. Spoon the cavatelli on top and sprinkle the carrot crumble over the pasta and the plate. I like being able to drag the cavatelli through more of the crumble as I’m eating it. Shave ribbons of Gouda over the top and serve immediately.

Carrot Purée
When raw ingredients are salted, it helps extract the water from them. By breaking down the carrots first, it increases the surface area and expedites the process even more. As a result, it’s possible to make a carrot purée with no extra water added, highlighting the pure flavor of carrot and nothing else. Serve as a side dish, or as a component of a larger dish, such as the Carrot Juice Cavatelli, Tops Salsa & Spiced Pulp Crumble.

Peel the carrots (the peels can be reserved for Vegetable Stock, page 312) and then cut the carrots into rough 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. These do not have to be perfect, as they will all eventually be puréed.

In a bowl, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil and the salt and set aside for about 10 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a food processor and blend until broken up.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepot or large sauté pan. Set the pan over medium-low heat, cover, and cook, undisturbed, for 40 to 45 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can smear it with a spoon. (If you take it off the heat too early, you will find the texture of the purée to be somewhat grainy after you purée it.) Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on low speed, then gradually increase to high speed while slowly drizzling in the remaining 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil. Blend the purée to the consistency of mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt; it should have a pure carrot flavor. Store in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Carrot crumble
Another dehydrated pulp (like beet soil), carrot crumble can basically function as a carrot-based breadcrumb. It is especially delicious sprinkled over dishes like the Carrot Juice Cavatelli, Tops Salsa & Spiced Pulp Crumble (page 103), but also works well sprinkled over any carrot preparation.

makes about 3/4 cup (100 g)
2 cups (480 g) carrot pulp (from 3 pounds/1.3 kg orange carrots that have been juiced)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
11/2 teaspoons Fox Spice (page 263)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Spread the pulp evenly on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 125°F to 135°F (52° to 57°C) for at least 8 hours, or until completely dry. You should get about 3/4 cup (53 g) of dehydrated pulp.

Transfer the pulp to a mortar and pestle and grind until you have the rustic texture of a fine breadcrumb. (A food processor will turn your breadcrumbs into more of a uniform powder.) Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar, spice, and salt and stir together.Store in an airtight container indefinitely at room temperature. Stir in the olive oil until combined.

Salsa verde
I like this salsa on everything—be it fish, a grilled piece of meat, or roasted vegetables. Thanks to the brine, this salsa is similar to chimichurri, and like with Pesto (page 270), you can swap the carrot tops for whatever herbaceous greens you have on hand: celery leaves, parsley leaves and stems, and so on. Additionally, this is a great way to use pickle brine, but if you don’t have any, feel free to use the juice of the lemons you’ve zested.

makes 3/4 cup (180 ml)
1/2 cup (25 grams) chopped carrot tops
1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pickled vegetable brine or lemon juice
finely grated zest of 2 lemons

In a bowl, combine the carrot tops, olive oil, garlic, pickle brine (withhold this ingredient if not using the salsa right away), and lemon zest and whisk thoroughly until combined. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If storing to use later, don’t add the brine (or lemon juice) until right before serving. The sauce may separate a bit, so just give it a quick whisk again before using.

Cook more from this book
Lima bean and sorrel cacio e pepe
Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino

Read the review

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon 

 

Lima bean and sorrel cacio e pepe by Jeremy Fox

070 Lima Bean and Sorrel Cacio e PepeLima beans, also known as butter beans, are probably my favorite shell bean. Fun fact: When I put this dish on the menu at Rustic Canyon with the name “lima bean,” nobody buys it, but when I list it as “butter bean,” it sells out and everybody loves it.

To me, one of the best things about eating beans is the broth, and when you can add butter, garlic, and pecorino to it, it becomes something really great. The only acidity in this dish comes from the sorrel, which brings a really nice tang.

serves 4
1 pound (455 g) shelled fresh lima (butter) beans
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) tightly packed torn sorrel leaves, plus 2 tablespoons fine chiffonade of sorrel leaves
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper kosher salt
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons Garlic Confit Purée, at room temperature (see below)
1/2 cup (30 g) finely grated pecorino romano cheese
2 tablespoons oil from Garlic Confit, at room temperature
1 tablespoon grated Cured Egg Yolk (see below)

Place the lima beans in a pot filled with 4 cups (1 liter) cold water. Place the garlic and rosemary in a single-layer square of cheesecloth, tie it into a sachet, and add it to the pot with the beans. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, at just below a simmer, until the beans are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, discard the sachet, and add the torn sorrel, black pepper, and salt to taste. (You will notice that the sorrel turns drab quickly, but that’s okay. It’s about the flavor more than the appearance, with tart sorrel standing in place of lemon to balance out the other ingredients.)

Right before serving, fold the butter into the beans.

To serve, warm the bowls and add 1 teaspoon of the garlic confit pureé to the bottom of each bowl. Spoon the beans and their broth into the bowls (since black pepper tends to settle to the bottom of the pot, make sure to re-stir the soup before each ladle).

Finish with the chiffonade of sorrel, grated pecorino, garlic confit oil, and cured egg yolk.

Garlic confit

Confiting is the process of slowly cooking something while it is submerged in fat. Duck confit is probably the most famous version of this method, and it is cooked in duck fat. Garlic confit is not cooked in garlic fat, because to my knowledge, garlic fat does not exist.

Confited ingredients are incredibly useful to keep in your larder. They add deep, slowly developed flavors to any dish, even if you don’t have the time to slow-cook something.
At Ubuntu, we’d often wind up with too many greens, so we would blanch and purée them with some of the confited garlic and its oil. The purée would look bright, fresh, and green, while also tasting of deep, slow cooking.

makes 2 cups (480 ml)
1 pound (455 g) whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (240 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (240 ml) grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C/Gas 1/2).

Place the garlic cloves in a pot or a baking dish with a lid. Add the thyme and salt and
pour over the olive and grapeseed oils. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until the
cloves are spreadable but not falling apart, 2 to 3 hours.

Let the garlic cool to room temperature. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Garlic confit purée

Here is yet another of the many great things you can do with garlic confit. This pureé has a garlicky, roasted flavor that functions as an excellent condiment for all sorts of things, like tomato salad or roast chicken.

makes 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)
1 cup (240 ml) Garlic Confit
11/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a blender, combine the garlic confit, vinegar, 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, and the salt and purée until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cured egg yolk

This cured egg yolk functions as a great vegetarian replacement for the salty, briny taste of bottarga (cured fish roe). It is excellent grated over things like pasta, Caesar salad, or steak tartare. Try to find the freshest eggs from your local farmers market—with rich, orange yolks—and give the yolks six full days to cure.

makes 12 yolks
1 pound (455 g) kosher salt
1 pound (455 g) granulated sugar
12 large egg yolks

Combine the salt and sugar in a large bowl. Transfer three-fifths of the cure to an 18 x 13-inch (46 x 33 cm) rimmed baking sheet.

Using the pointy end of a whole egg, dig 12 evenly spaced divots in the cure, being careful not to burrow so deeply that you are exposing the bottom of the pan (you are going to be filling the divots with egg yolks and the yolks need to be entirely surrounded by the cure).

Place each yolk in its own divot. Using the remaining cure, cover each yolk so they are completely encased.

Cover the sheet with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and refrigerate for 2 days.

Remove the plastic wrap, flip the egg yolks over, and then cover again with the cure.
By this point, the yolks should be quite sturdy and shouldn’t break easily, making the flipping quite easy. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 more days.

After curing the egg yolks for 4 days (total), remove the yolks from the cure and rinse them under a gentle stream of room-temperature running water. At this point, there is still an outer membrane, which you may not be able to see—but I swear it’s there. While running the yolks under water, carefully remove and discard that membrane, then set the yolks aside on paper towels.

Pat dry the yolks thoroughly (don’t worry about handling them, as they should be sturdy, and even if they become misshapen, you can usually reshape them into their original form).

Lay the egg yolks on a dehydrator tray (not on a pan or dehydrator sheet as you want as much air circulation as possible) and dehydrate at 135°F (57°C) for 2 days until fully dried. Wrap each yolk individually in paper towels and refrigerate for up to 1 month. (They may well last longer than a month, but they’re so damn tasty that I’ve never waited long enough to find out.)

Cook more from this book
Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino
Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble

Read the review

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon

 

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox

What’s the USP? As the title suggests, it’s a book all about how to cook vegetables written by a leading American chef.

Jeremy who?  UK readers may not be familiar with the name, but American chef Jeremy Fox made quite a splash in the States back in 2007 with Ubuntu restaurant in Napa, California.  The San Francisco Chronicle said the restaurant was ‘truly extraordinary.’ and that Fox was ‘taking vegetable-based cuisine to a new level’. Food and Wine magazine named him ‘Best New Chef’, the New York Times called the restaurant the second best in America and Michelin awarded a star.  Fox is currently head chef and part owner of Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica where he continues to champion vegetables, (as well as serving up carnivorous delights like bone-in pork chop, babaganoush, beylik roasted tomato, fennel and olives).

What does it look like? Fox’s food somehow manages to be both elegant and minimal and homely and comforting at the same time. The pared-back food styling features beautiful crockery often shot against plain white backgrounds, letting the dishes speak for themselves, and what they say loud and clear is ‘Eat Me’.

Is it good bedtime reading? Fox tells his personal story – an award-winning chef wracked with anxiety and depression – with unbridled candour. There are engaging profiles of some of his favourite producers and he writes with great wit and insight about some of the key ingredients in his cooking, (no mean feat, believe me). On asparagus, he says, ‘getting it shipped in from the opposite hemisphere means it’s going to taste of jet fumes. You ever notice how funky your clothes smell after you get off a plane? Well imagine what air travel does to a porous plant that’s going to wind up inside your mouth’. The recipe introductions are peppered with little jokes, mostly of the Dad variety, making the book a fun read.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in California, no. Just pop down to your local farmer’s market and pick up some of that abundant, beautiful, fragrant and ripe produce. In the UK, if you pop down to your local farmer’s market you’re more likely to find cling wrapped meat and bad versions of street food. Although there’s nothing particularly obscure in the book, the recipes really are a celebration of the finest, freshest produce, something you simply won’t find at the supermarket. Befriending someone with an allotment would be your best bet.

What’s the faff factor? The food appears simple enough on the plate, the ingredients lists look short enough but start reading the recipes and you realise that often there are a number of other recipes elsewhere in the book that go to make up the completed dish. But this is food from the former head chef of three Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant, so what did you expect?

How often will I cook from the book? If you’re willing to put the time in to build up larder ingredients like homemade ricotta, confit garlic and mushroom conserva and you can get your hands on some decent veg, then the food is so attractive and delicious sounding that you might just fall down a gastronomic rabbit hole with this book.

Killer recipes? There are many, but a random few include country fried morels with green garlic gravy; fennel confit, kumquat, feta, chilli and oregano;  pane frattau with fennel, strawberry sofrito, carta da musica and egg, and carrot juice cavaelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble.

What will I love? The gorgeous images, the no-nonsense writing style, Fox’s original approach to cooking with vegetables and the endless inventiveness of the recipes.

What won’t I like? As Fox says himself, ‘If you’re looking for “10 Easy Weeknight Dinners for Vegetarians”, this book will not be of much use to you’.

Should I buy it? Its funny, moving, original and it will change the way you think about vegetables forever. Of course you should bloody well buy it.

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 Stars

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Lima bean & sorrel cacio e pepe
Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino
Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble

Out of My Tree by Daniel Clifford

Out of my tree cover idea Daniels Head.indd

What’s the USP? Two decades worth of recipes and stories that chart the evolution of the iconic two Michelin-starred Cambridge restaurant Midsummer House and its chef/patron Daniel Clifford.

Who’s the author? Daniel Clifford is one of the most revered, respected and, at times, controversial chefs working in the UK today. In addition to those Michelin gongs, he also holds five AA rosettes, the title of AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year 2015 and 8 out of 10 in the Good Food Guide. In short, he’s premier league.

What does it look like? A million dollars. Clifford’s food is very photogenic and has been allowed to speak for itself. Many of the dishes appear to be ‘plated’ directly onto the white of the page, a la Michel Bras’s 2002 book Essential Cuisine, which gives the intricate presentations room to breathe. The exemplary food photography is supplement by ‘family album’ snapshots in the autobiographical sections, bringing personality to the book and breaking up all the glossy perfection with a dose of behind the scenes realism.

Is it good bedtime reading? Clifford is brutally honest in the fascinating autobiographical passages that begin each chapter, both about the industry and his personal life, making Out of My Tree as much of a page-turning blockbuster as it is a document of modern British haute cuisine. Expect to be up to the early hours finishing it.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There’s a fair few specialist items such as gelepressa (a thickening agent) that you’d need to hunt down online, and if you want to emulate Clifford’s food you’ll need to source the highest quality raw ingredients you can lay your hands on, so forget the supermarket for the most part and think top notch butchers, fishmongers and your best local independent market for fruit and veg.

What’s the faff factor? This is unashamedly Michelin food, so the recipes are often long with numerous elements and many ingredients and replicating them will be demanding, requiring intricate and precise cooking.

How often will I cook from the book? On very special occasions or simply when the urge to spend a whole weekend (and a whole weeks wages on ingredients) hits you. For the home cook, it’s probably best to see this book as a source of inspiration from which you can cherry pick a sauce here and a vegetable preperation there rather than tackling entire dishes.

Killer recipes? We could be here all day. One of the many wonderful things about Out of My Tree is the warts and all approach. Of course there are the many triumphs; the insanely complicated Chicken, Sweetcorn, Truffle and Peas that won Clifford four perfect 10s on the Great British Menu and includes ballotine of chicken lined with spinach, stuffed with steamed truffled egg white and sweetcorn jelly (to resemble an egg), wrapped in potato string and deep fried. But there are also some embarrassing also rans such as parfait of banana, chocolate and a palm tree-shaped coconut tuile from 1998 (all the recipes are dated) that looks like it might have come straight from a TGI Fridays menu. Clifford has also included recipes for his mums egg sandwiches (served for staff lunch every Friday at the restaurant) and his nan’s cheese scones which he put on the menu when she came to eat at Midsummer House. Cute.

What will I love? Clifford and his publisher deserve a standing ovation for the obvious effort put into this book. A reported three years have gone into its production and it shows from the perfect food (as someone who has been involved in the making of a cookbook, trust me that getting 140 dishes of this degree of complexity to look immaculate on the page takes some doing) to the extensive biography and numerous extras like interviews with past employees and the string of forewords by Sat Bains, Tom Kerridge, Claude Bosi and others. Little details like illustrating the stock recipes with photos of how the finished product should look like elevate the book above the norm.

What won’t I like? This is unashamedly Michelin-starred, fine-dining, testosterone fueled stuff which may not appeal to every reader.

Should I buy it? Out of My Tree is the new White Heat, a once in a generation book. Clifford has put his heart and soul onto every page, making it the culinary equivalent of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. Any chef that aspires to Michelin glory and wants to know what that really takes will want it on their shelf and every chef that has achieved that status it will want to share in Clifford’s journey.  Enthusiastic diners will find the book truly eye opening. If you’re a chef, don’t just buy it, send Clifford an email to thank him for writing it; there is much hard-won wisdom generously shared in these 400-odd pages that, read carefully, might just save you years of grief.

Cuisine: Progressive British
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 stars

Buy this book 
Out of my tree (Midsummer House)
£45 Meze

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Japan the cookbook

What’s the USP? This weighty 464-page volume is the latest in Phaidon’s series of ‘international cookbook bibles’ that have previously covered Mexico, Peru and China among other countries.

Who is the author? Californian Nancy Singleton Hachisu, a recognised authority on Japanese cooking both in America and Japan where she has lived for over thirty years

What does it look like? Three years in the making, the book contains over 400 recipes (many illustrated with clear and simple overhead photographs), organised into 15 categories including pickles, stir-fries and one pots, to create what Singleton Hachisu calls ‘a curated experience of Japan’s culinary framework from a specific moment in time’, researched during travels across the country and discussions with ‘chefs, local grandmothers and artisanal makers of traditional food’.

Is it good bedtime reading? As long as you’ve got strong arms, and be careful not to nod off reading about Jomon period of Japanese food history, if the 1.7kg book falls out of your hands it could do some serious damage.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You may struggle to track down some things such as konnyaku but between your local Asian supermarket and online specialists such as Sous Chef you should be able to source the majority of stuff you need.

What’s the faff factor? All the dishes are listed with a preparation time and cooking time so you know what you’re letting yourself in for, but many can be completed in under half an hour.

How often will I cook from the book? There is a huge range of recipes included in this veritable encyclopedia of Japanese food so you could easily find yourself dipping into it on a regular basis.

Killer recipes? The broad selection of dishes from across the country covers everything from walnut dressed chrysanthemum petals to steamed mountain yam with nori and grilled eggplant miso soup to chicken yakitori.

What will I love? A history of Japanese food, a glossary of ingredients, a list of Japanese kitchen equipment and descriptions of Japanese cutting styles (zakugiri are ‘greens cut crosswise into 4cm pieces’). The 11-strong international line-up featured in the ‘shefu’ (chefs) chapter include Shinobu Namae of two Michelin-starred L’Effervescenvce in Tokyo, whose recipes include bonito sashimi with butterbur miso and shiso, and Shuko Oda of Koya Bar in London who contributes three recipes including clams, fava beans and capers steamed in dashi butter.

What won’t I like? If you’re looking for an encyclopedia of sushi, sashimi and ramen, then Japan The cookbook will disappoint, with just seven sushi, three sashimi and one ramen recipe (although there is a whole chapter on noodles).

Should I buy it?  Japanese food has become an everyday part of the British diet. From udon at Wagamama to ramen at Bone Daddies, from robata grilled lamb chops at Roka to the omakase tasting menu at the three Michelin-starred The Araki, Japanese cuisine has become so prevalent that there are now even sushi counters in supermarkets. Japanese ingredients and techniques have also become part of many progressive British kitchens with dashi becoming almost as common as chicken stock.

But even the most ardent Japanophile chef will probably only have scratched the surface of a food culture with a recorded history dating back to the third century. That’s where Japan The Cookbook comes in. This is the perfect primer for anyone wanting to deepen their knowledge of an endlessly fascinating subject.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 stars

Buy this book

Japan: The Cookbook
£29.95 Phaidon

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

Smitten Kitchen Everyday

What is it? Five years on from her debut book, this is the second outing for New York-based dating-turned-food blogger extraordinaire Deb Perelman of New York Times profiled smittenkitchen.com with over 100 recipes for ‘real people with busy lives’.

What does it look like? What is it about American-published cookbooks that makes them just so damn desirable? I’m not an uber font-nerd but the Minion typeface used here (originally developed by Adobe for Macs in 1990 according to a note at the back of the book) is particularly attractive and clean looking. At over 300 pages, the book has a certain authoritative weight and the glossy paper makes the 127 full-colour photographs pop.

Is it good bedtime reading?  Set aside that Grisham, the generous recipe introductions include plenty of culinary-related personal anecdotes and opinion, as well as cookery lore and background to the recipes themselves, making it a nighttime page-turner par excellence.

Killer recipes? Charred corn succotash with lime and crispy shallots; pea tortellini in parmesan broth; Manhattan-style clams with fregola; winter squash flatbread with hummus and za’atat;  ricotta blini with honey, orange and sea salt; raspberry hazelnut brioche bostock; chewy oatmeal raisin chocolate chip mega-cookies.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Despite an almost encyclopedic approach to global cuisine, you should have no trouble finding the vast majority of ingredients in a good supermarket.

What’s the faff factor? Make no mistake, this is ‘proper’ cooking and many of the recipes have several elements that need to be brought together at the point of serving, but with a little planning and organisation, they should be stress-free.

How often will I cook from the book? Every day (duh!).

What will I love? This is an American book, but, God bless them, they’ve included gram or millilitre equivalents for cup measures which rockets the book to the top of the usability charts for UK readers (other US publishers please take note). The guide for special menus at the back of the book that highlights vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and diary-free recipes (of which there are many) is particularly thoughtful.

What won’t I like? Me, if I find out you don’t love this book as much as I do.

Should I buy it? Only if you like cooking delicious food. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Cuisine: American/International
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review rating: 5 Stars

Buy this book
Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites
£25, Square Peg

Cook from this book
Crispy tofu and broccoli with sesame peanut pesto
Smoky sheet pan chicken with cauliflower