Persian Lamb Neck Soup by Matty Matheson

Persian Lamb Neck SoupServes 6
PREP TIME: 4 HOURS, PLUS 2 HOURS INACTIVE TIME

I have only had this soup at a restaurant once in my life, and I loved it so much but have not gone back to where I had it because we had to sit on the floor pretty much, and if you know me, the big dog eating some interactive soup on the floor isn’t the greatest. So, make this in your home, and yes, it’s a lot of work, and some recipes are easy and some are hard, and now let’s get to work and build out a beautiful soup that’s gonna make your tongue explode in joy!

3 pounds (1.3 kg) lamb necks
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
300 g diced white onions
60 ml tomato paste
2 quarts (2 L) lamb stock, or water
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
150 g canned chickpeas, drained
150 g canned white beans, drained
60 ml lemon juice, plus more as needed
50 g garlic, thinly sliced
60 ml white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
6 flatbreads
180 ml plain Greek yogurt
40 g mint leaves
60 g tarragon leaves

Place the lamb necks in a shallow container and season with the turmeric, salt, and pepper. Keep in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the lamb necks on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Brown them in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer them to large Dutch oven, reserving the rendered lamb fat from the bottom of the baking sheet. Add the onions, tomato paste, and lamb stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes, chickpeas, white beans, and lemon juice; simmer until the meat and potatoes are fork-tender, about 1 hour. Taste for seasoning; the broth should be tangy and bright. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

Put the garlic in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, 60 ml water, and sugar and bring to a boil; pour over the garlic. Cool and reserve for the soup.

Use a slotted spoon to remove meat, beans, and potatoes from the broth and transfer them to a large bowl. Use a fork to pull the meat off the bones; discard the bones. With a potato masher, mash the meat, beans, and potatoes into a soft uniform paste. If it’s a little dry, add broth and continue mashing until fully broken down and emulsified.

Strain the stock through a fine chinois or strainer and heat it back up in the pan. Season with salt and lemon juice. This is a two-part meal: the broth and the meat paste. Serve the broth in soup bowls drizzled with rendered lamb fat and sprinkled with the pickled garlic. Put the meat paste in a serving bowl, spread it on the roti, dollop yogurt over it, and top with the herbs. Eat the little meat breads with your hands.

Cook more from this book
Green Curry Beef Ribs
Molasses Bread in an Apple Juice Can 

Read the review 

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

Classic puff pastry by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

Classic Puff Pastry

I always assumed puff pastry was invented in France. It is so dominant throughout French food culture, evident in the windows of every pâtisserie, that this is an easy assumption to make. However, Spanish recipes for puff pastry precede the French with the first documented appearance right at the beginning of the seventeenth century, while the first French recipe appears mid-century.

A classic butter puff pastry is a laminated dough that rises due to the power of steam. When making the dough, many thin, alternating layers of fat and dough are created so that, when cooked at a high enough heat, the fat melts to leave a pocket of air in the dough. The moisture in the dough and fat then boils to create steam, which causes these pockets to expand. Before you cook puff pastry, it is important to make sure the oven is at the correct temperature so that this transformative process occurs quickly, allowing the structure to form and be locked in.

This recipe creates a puff pastry that rises evenly and is neater than rough puff, so it is better suited to dishes like vol au vents where a little refinement is needed. Honestly, it is a myth that puff pastry is difficult to make. All that is required for success is planning, patience, and following the instructions closely. This recipe creates a large batch of dough – if you’re going to spend an afternoon making puff pastry, you may as well make plenty – so divide it into smaller amounts based on the recipes you plan to make before wrapping and freezing for later use.

MAKES 1.5KG

For the dough
350g strong flour
200g plain flour
15g table salt
115g butter, softened and diced
250ml ice-cold water

For the lock-in butter
500g chilled butter, diced
50g strong flour

First prepare the dough. If making the pastry by hand, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, butter and water. Using your fingers, gently mix to an even dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it for 5 minutes or until smooth.

If making the pastry using a mixer, sift the flour into the mixer bowl and add the salt, butter and water. Using a dough hook, work at a medium speed for a few minutes to incorporate the butter into the flour until it forms a smooth dough.

Flatten the dough into a neat rectangle, wrap it tightly in clingfilm and rest in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the lock-in butter. Thoroughly clean and dry the bowl and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the butter and flour in the bowl and either work the flour into the butter using a wooden spoon for 5–10 minutes, or use the mixer working at a low speed for 2 minutes or until everything is well incorporated. Scrape the butter mixture onto the lined tray and, using floured hands, shape it into a square about 1cm thick. Place the butter mixture in the refrigerator until just chilled but not completely hard. (It is important that the chilled dough and lock-in butter are similarly firm, otherwise they will not roll together evenly and this may cause rips and holes in the dough.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large square that is twice the size of the lock-in butter. Place the butter in the centre of the dough but at an angle so that the corners point towards the edges of the dough. Making sure you do not trap any air, fold the corners of the dough over the butter, bringing them into the middle like an envelope. Lightly pinch together all the joins to seal and completely encase the butter.

Roll out the dough and butter into a rectangle roughly three times as long as it is wide, using the sides of your hands to make sure the edges are neat and square. Dust any excess flour from the surface of the dough. With the shortest side closest to you, visually divide the dough horizontally into thirds and very lightly dampen the centre third with a little water, then fold the bottom one third of the dough over the centre third. Repeat by folding the remaining top third over the double layer of dough, then tightly wrap the dough in clingfilm. Lightly press your finger into the bottom right-hand corner of the dough to make an indentation which signifies the first turn and how the dough was positioned on the board before you put it into the refrigerator.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Chilling the pastry between each roll out and fold allow the butter to harden so that clean, even layers of dough and butter are built up.)

Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface with the indent in the same position as before at the bottom right-hand corner. Next, turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise. Roll out the dough into an 18cm by 25cm rectangle and repeat the folding process. Make sure all corners and sides are straight. Wrap the dough in clingfilm again and this time make two indents on the dough in the bottom right corner. Chill in the refrigerator for a further 30 minutes.

Repeat the turning and folding processes two more times, each time chilling the dough for 30 minutes and marking with indents in the bottom right-hand corner to make sure the dough is turned in the correct direction. After the final turn, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes and then it is ready to use.

This classic puff pastry dough can be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer. If freezing, weigh out the dough into the quantities needed for individual recipes – it will take less time to thaw and you won’t be potentially wasting any dough. To use the dough from the freezer, allow it to come back to refrigerator temperature overnight.

Cook more from this book
The ultimate sausage roll
Hot pork pie 
Glazed apple tart  

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

The ultimate sausage roll by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes
In an attempt to find the perfect example, we have tested different flavours and textures for the filling of our sausage rolls at The Pie Room. It always comes back to one thing: simplicity. The filling should be tasty but not overcrowded with too many flavours and textures. The addition of a little chopped bacon and a few thyme leaves
to Cumberland sausagemeat are the only changes we make, but the devil is in the detail. For me, the key to the Ultimate Sausage Roll actually lies in the ratio of meat to pastry. When the meat takes longer to cook, the crisper the pastry will be.

Serves 4

400g rough puff pastry (see book for recipe or use classic puff pastry or shop-bought puff pastry)
2 egg yolks beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for brushing
pinch of black sesame seeds
pinch of white sesame seeds
Plum and Star Anise Chutney, to serve (see page 248)

For the filling
700g Cumberland sausages, skins removed
150g streaky bacon, finely chopped
25g thyme, leaves picked
⅓ teaspoon table salt
large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Equipment
large plastic piping bag
(optional)

Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to 5mm thick in a 40cm x 25cm rectangle. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined tray and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the sausagemeat, bacon, thyme, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well with your hands. Fill a large plastic piping bag with the sausagemeat filling. If you don’t have a piping bag, shape the filling into a 6cm wide sausage and wrap tightly in clingfilm, firmly twisting the ends. Chill the filling in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Remove the rolled-out pastry from the refrigerator and dust off any excess flour from the surface. Leave the pastry on the parchment paper.  Using kitchen scissors, snip the tip of the piping bag to make a 5cm wide opening. Working from one end of the pastry rectangle, slowly pipe the sausagemeat filling down the length of the pastry 6cm inside one edge.

Alternatively, remove the clingfilm from the sausagemeat, unwrapping it over
the pastry rectangle, and place the filling 6cm inside one edge of the pastry. Lightly brush the larger exposed area of pastry all over with egg wash, leaving the narrow 6cm border clear. Fold the egg-washed pastry over the filling to meet the narrow border, align the pastry edges and press firmly together. Lightly dust the tines of a fork with flour and tap off any excess. Working down the length of the seam, firmly press the ends of the fork into the pastry to leave an impression of the tines. Whenever necessary, dust the fork with more flour to stop it sticking to the pastry.

Lightly brush the sausage roll all over with egg wash and return to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the egg wash to dry. Brush a second layer of egg wash over the sausage roll and then, using a sharp knife, lightly score the top of the pastry with diagonal lines all the way down its length. (This gives the pastry a little stretching room and stops it from tearing open at the seam.) Return the sausage roll to the refrigerator to chill for a further 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C/gas mark 6½.

Trim a little off the fluted seam of the pastry to neaten it into a straight edge, then brush a final layer of egg wash all over the sausage roll. Sprinkle the black and white sesame seeds along the top of the roll. Pop the tray into the preheated oven and bake the sausage roll for 25 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the filling with a digital probe thermometer – you are looking for 75°C or above. If necessary, return the sausage roll to the oven and check the temperature again every 5 minutes until it reaches 75°C. Alternatively, insert a metal skewer into the centre of the sausage roll and then press it against your hand – it should be very hot to the touch.

Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the sausage roll to a wire cooling
rack. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before cutting the sausage roll with a serrated
knife into eight equal slices. Serve warm with spoonfuls of chutney

Cook more from this book
Hot pork pie 
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic puff pastry

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Hot pork pie by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

Hot Pork Pie

 For centuries, pork pies have firmly held a place in British food culture as a way to use up cuts of pork less desirable than, say, fillet or loin, but truly delicious when handled with care. The most common style of pork pie found in the UK is the cold, jellied picnic pie, however my preferred way to serve a pork pie is piping hot, just out of the oven. The pastry is crispier, the fats are still unctuous, juicy and melting, and the herbs are fragrant.

The first time I ate a hot pork pie was at a pub in the West Country: I remember so clearly wondering why we had never served a hot version in the Holborn Dining Room. As soon as I went back to work, I immediately set about rectifying that. In this recipe, a traditional pork pie dolly (a smooth wooden tool) is used to shape the dough. You can find a dolly easily online, but you could also use a jam jar or a well-buttered metal ring of the same diameter. Roll the pastry into a circle, use it to line the ring, fill and press on a lid, then carefully remove the pie from the ring. Try using a dolly though – you will feel like a character from a Dickens novel (dressing up as one is not necessary, though fully applauded).

SERVES 4

800g hot water crust pastry
plain flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for brushing

For the filling

500g pork shoulder, half minced and half roughly chopped
120g smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
100g lardo, cut into 1cm dice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1½ teaspoons fine table salt
30g sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
a few good twists of freshly ground black pepper

To serve

mashed potato
Onion, Stout and Thyme Gravy (see below)

Equipment

7.5cm diameter pie dolly and digital probe thermometer
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Weigh out the pastry dough into four balls weighing 150g and four smaller balls weighing 40g. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the 40g dough balls and roll out to 5mm thick circles. Lay the pastry circles on the lined baking tray and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, work everything well for a few minutes until the mixture holds together. Split the mixture evenly into four balls and set aside.

Take one of the 150g dough balls and gently flatten it out into a circle until it is slightly wider than the pie dolly. Dust the pie dolly well with flour, centre it on top of the dough circle and then firmly press it down into the dough. The dough will rise up the sides of the dolly and puff out like an inflatable swimming ring. Lift the dolly out of the dough and dust it with more flour. Return the dolly to the centre of the dough and, cupping the edges of the dough in your hands, squeeze it up the dolly while at the same time turning and also pushing down on the dolly. Imagine a pottery wheel as you turn and squeeze, keeping the pastry as tight to the dolly as possible.

Periodically, pause to lift out the dolly and dust with more flour to prevent the pastry from sticking to it. Keep working the pastry dough in this way until the wall of the pastry case is about 7–8cm in height and the base is 5mm thick. Carefully remove the dolly from the pastry case and pack it with one of the balls of pork meat filling.

Repeat with the remaining 150g balls of dough until you have four pie cases filled with the pork meat filling. There should be a slight excess of pastry at the top of each case, so gently curl that outwards to form a collar.

Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C/gas mark 6½.

Take the pastry lids out of the refrigerator. Wet the pie collars with a little water and lay the lids on top. To join, firmly press the collars and lids together. Crimp the edges into the middle and then transfer the pies back onto the lined baking tray.

Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, make a small hole in the top of each pie to allow the steam to escape. Avoiding the base, brush the wall and lid of each pie with the egg wash and return the pies to the lined baking tray.

Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake the pies for 35 minutes or until the core temperature reads 70°C on a digital probe thermometer. If you don’t have a probe thermometer, insert a metal skewer into the centre of a pie and leave it there for 10 seconds – when it comes out, the skewer should be piping hot. Remove the pies from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving with mash and gravy.

Onion, Thyme & Stout Gravy

Serves 8

1 litre beef stock
440ml stout
40g butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 Spanish onions, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon table salt
15g plain flour
4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked

Place a pan over a high heat, pour in the beef stock and stout and leave to reduce by two-thirds. Meanwhile, melt the butter and oil in another pan and add the onions and salt. Gently cook the onions for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until they start to brown. Do not rush cooking the onions; any water in the onions needs to evaporate fully in order for the natural sugars to caramelise. Add the flour and thyme to the pan with the onions and, stirring continuously, cook for a further 2 minutes.

Once reduced, gradually add half the stock to the pan with the onions. Stirring continuously, bring the stock with the onions back up to heat and allow it to thicken. Add the remaining stock to the pan and cook further until the gravy is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the gravy is too thick, add a splash of water. If the gravy is too thin, continue to reduce it for a little longer.

Hot Water Crust Pastry

Traditionally used to encase cold pork pies, hot water crust pastry is one of the oldest British pie dough recipes. With early origins showing ingredients as just flour and hot water, it was likely in the Medieval times that it developed into what we now more closely know: flour, hot water and lard. It would have been used to make huge pies for banquets, encasing goose, venison and whole swans. Over time this pastry technique has changed little; it is still worked with while hot as it firms up as it cools. In The Pie Room, however, we have worked hard at adapting the traditional recipe to form a slightly lighter, crispier crust, that is fresh with the flavour of herbs and that can be worked with at a cooler room temperature and even used again after refrigeration.

Makes 1kg

200ml water
160g lard
2 rosemary sprigs
10g salt
500g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten

Combine the water, lard, rosemary and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and wait for the lard to melt fully, then turn off the heat and allow to infuse.

Sift the flour into a bowl. Using either a round-bladed knife or the paddle attachment of a mixer, start to work on a medium speed. Add the egg and mix until thoroughly dispersed through the flour – this will take 2–3 minutes.

Remove the rosemary from the pan with a fork and then bring the water and fat mix to a boil. Slowly pour onto the flour and egg mix, scraping the bowl and paddle halfway through to prevent any lumps from forming. Mix for 2–3 minutes until well combined.

Allow the dough to cool on a tray between parchment paper until the heat has dissipated and then chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator before using.
This hot water crust pastry dough can be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer. If freezing, weigh out the dough into the quantities needed for individual recipes – it will take less time to thaw and you won’t be potentially wasting any dough. To use the dough from the freezer, allow it to come back to refrigerator temperature overnight.

Cook more from this book
The ultimate sausage roll
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic puff pastry 

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Glazed apple tart by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

The slightly more elegant sibling of the classic apple pie, this tart is a stunning dessert. It has similar flavours to a tarte tatin as the sugar caramelises as it cooks. You could serve this tart with clotted cream to balance the sweetness of the apples.

Serves 6

300g classic puff pastry (or shop-bought)
200g frangipane (see below)
80g caster sugar
80g unsalted butter, softened
6–8 Pink Lady or Granny Smith apples
20g icing sugar
clotted cream, to serve

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a large circle about 5mm thick. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined baking tray and rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the refrigerator or freezer. Trim the edges of the pastry into a neat circle that measures 24cm in diameter and return to the refrigerator or freezer.

Once chilled, remove the pastry from the refrigerator or freezer, and preheat the oven to 185°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6. With the pastry still on the lined baking tray, and leaving a border of 2cm around the edge, spread around 200g of the frangipane evenly across the pastry.

Using a pastry brush, mix the caster sugar and softened butter together to make a paste.

Peel and core the apples. Using a mandoline, slice the apples to 2mm thick. Take just over one-quarter of the slices and fan them out in a circle around the outer edge, keeping in line with the edge of the frangipane. Roughly brush the apples with some of the butter mixture.

Repeat with the remaining apple slices and butter mixture to create concentric circles until the pastry is covered. Make sure the top layer of apple slices is evenly coated with the butter mixture.

Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake the tart for 30 minutes or until the apples are starting to caramelise and the pastry is beginning to crisp up.

Remove the tray from the oven. Using a sieve, dust the tart with the icing sugar and then lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top of the apples. Take a second baking tray and lay it on top of that parchment paper. Using a dish towel or oven gloves to protect your hands, quickly flip the tart over so the apples are now facing downwards on the new tray. Lightly press down the top tray and then remove it and the original parchment paper. Return the tart to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven. This time place a serving plate or platter on top of the pastry, and then flip the tart again. Check the apples are evenly glazed and caramelised. If it needs a little longer, flip the tart back again and return it to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Serve warm with spoonfuls of clotted cream.

Frangipane

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, deseeded, seeds retained
5 medium-sized eggs
225g ground almonds

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds together until the butter has turned pale and creamy. Add one egg at a time, whisking until each is fully incorporated before adding another.  Once all the eggs are incorporated, use a large metal spoon to fold in the almonds until well mixed.

Cook more from this book
The ultimate sausage roll
Hot pork pie
Classic puff pastry

Read the review

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

What’s the USP? ‘The book for pie lovers the world over’, The Pie Room is intended to be your first port of call for pie (and pie-adjacent) recipes.

Who wrote it? Calum Franklin, the executive head chef of Holborn Dining Room – a sort of eat-in altar to pies tucked in the Rosewood London Hotel. Since opening in 2014, Franklin’s pies have been winning plaudits from all corners, from food critics to Instagram, where over 100,000 users watch in awe as he shares his intricate, luxurious creations.

It’s through Instagram, in fact, that I first became aware of Franklin’s cooking. Though I am not a particularly big fan of the pie myself, there’s something irresistible about his posts. These are pies as sustenance, as delicacy, and as art – all at once.

Sorry. We skipped over something important there. Sorry?

You don’t like pies? Ah.

What’s wrong with you? Look, look, I get it. Pies are one of the few quintessentially British food traditions that remain a part of our day to day lives, sold over the deli counter at Morrisons, or awash with gravy at the football. They’re also, frequently, not particularly interesting. We rest on our pie laurels, as a nation. Where elsewhere we innovate and reinvent our food to move with the times, pies often remain more or less the same as they always have – heavy on the stodge, uninventive in their flavours and…

They called you ‘Pie Muncher’ at school, didn’t they? Well, yes, that might come into it a little too. But here’s the thing – who better, then, to take this book on and see how functional it is as a manual to all things pie? After all, Franklin’s book takes in all sorts of pie forms, includes extensive information on pastry-making, and aims to show off the dish at its very best.

So how does the book fare when preaching to the unconverted? Pretty damn well. Franklin knows his audience, so has plenty of time to spare for all the big names in pastry. If you’re looking for a recipe for a massive bloody sausage roll, a suet pudding, or a classic gala pie, you won’t be disappointed. But Franklin also makes room for more unusual ideas – a Keema-Spice Cottage Pie with a cumulonimbus potato topping, or a Moroccan Chickpea & Feta Pie, hidden beneath filo pastry that has been scrunched up like torn wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

What’s the faff factor? Not nearly as bad as it could be. Franklin acknowledges the effort involved in making your own pastry from scratch, and is happy to accept that his dishes will work just as well with a shop-bought pastry. In fact, he doesn’t even give a recipe for filo pastry, claiming that ‘I don’t see a big enough difference in handmade and shop-bought filo that justifies the time needed to make it’.

I’ve taken on a couple of the recipes from the book so far – ‘Nduja Stuffed Brioche, and the Hot and Sour Curried Cod Pie. The former definitely took some time – I was making a brioche dough from scratch, and leaving it overnight to prove. The process itself was simple enough, though, and yielded beautiful results (as well as enough leftover dough for a brioche loaf the following morning).

The Hot & Sour Curried Cod Pie was a much quicker process. If, like me, you opt to use ready made puff pastry, it could just about work as a midweek dinner. Again, the end result was a delight – the tamarind, tomatoes and chillies all playing off one another perfectly. It’s likely to find its way back into my kitchen a few times this winter.

How often will I cook from the book? The nature of pie-making (and the potential mess you’ll need to clear up) might be enough to keep this book on the shelf much of the time. But for weekend treats and impressive dinner party dishes, this will be worth at least a few visits a year.

Killer recipes: Both the dishes I tried out proved to be worth more than the price of admission, to be honest – but there’s also the Red Onion, Carrot & Hazelnut Tatin, a ridiculously over-indulgent Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pie, a Honey & Five-Spiced Glazed Ham that looks set to liven up any Christmas lunch, and a Panettone & Gianduja Pudding that I suppose I could leave a little room for after, too. And, of course, the Beef Wellington recipe you’d expect.

Should I buy it? This isn’t going to be a cookbook everyone is going to find useful – but it’s a lot more accessible than I expected it to be, and has definitely converted this pie-skeptic. For those among us who really do aspire to eat all the pies, this is essential. For everyone else, it’s still a pretty excellent book.

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

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Cook from this book
Hot Pork Pie
The Ultimate Sausage Roll
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic Puff Pastry

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

Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson

Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson

What’s the USP? A comprehensive guide to cooking at home with ideas and techniques from a top restaurant chef, covering everything from bread to cake with dips, dumplings, curries, pies and much else in between.   

Who wrote it? Matty Matheson is a Toronto-based chef and restaurateur and former roadie for heavy metal band At the Mercy of Inspiration. Until  2017, he was executive chef of Parts and Labour and sister restaurant P&L Burger. He has his own food and drink festival Matty Fest that launched in September 2019.

Matheson’s career took off in 2013 when he recorded the Hangover Cures and Keep It Canada series of videos for the Munchies YouTube channel which led to the Vice TV channel series It’s Suppertime and Dead Set on Life (both of which are available to view for free in the UK on the ALL 4 website here and here). In early 2019, he launched of his self produced web series Just a Dash on his YouTube channel which now also features a Home Style Cookery that includes recipes from the book such as The Inedible Seven-Layer Dip (and no, that’s not a typo, just typical Matheson humour). 

At the age of 29, Matheson suffered a heart attack after a sustained period of alcohol and drug abuse but eventually became sober. His larger than life personality and post-modern approach to food television that simultaneously celebrates and undercuts the form can be seen in this video, recorded for Gozney ovens website where he demonstrates his mother’s broccoli-chicken cheddar curry casserole, the original recipe for which, he says in the book ‘was probably on the side of a can or a box’ (it’s also a glorious dish). This is the follow up to his debut ‘A Cookbook’. You can read our five star review here

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? If you’re in the UK, you may want to substitute cheddar for the American cheese in the pickled hot pepper queso and braised beef ribs recipe. It won’t taste the same, but otherwise you’ll need to stump up around £25 to buy a pound of the stuff from Amazon. You may also need to find an online retailer for the Oaxaca cheese in the same recipe.

Matheson uses Kosher salt throughout the book. Although common in the US, it is less easy to get hold of in the UK, although it is stocked by specialist online suppliers (this article on souschef.co.uk explains exactly what it is and why chefs love it). If you can’t find it, then you may have to adjust the amounts specified in the recipe as kosher salt crystals are larger than table salt so you may not need as much.

Otherwise, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all tracking down what you need; these days, you can even buy Indonesian chilli and dried shrimp sambal oelek (used in a recipe for yuzu cucumbers, among others) from Waitrose. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Despite being aimed primarily at the North American market, gram and ml equivalents are given for the many cup measurements  which makes this book eminently usable in the UK. You will need to be aware of not getting lost in translation with some of the terms used however; American granulated sugar is the equivalent of UK caster sugar, rutabaga is swede etc. 

What’s the faff factor? Matheson says that ‘I’ll admit that maybe my first book was selfish because I didn’t worry about people cooking from it’ and it’s certainly true that some of the recipes were unashamedly restaurant territoy. For this follow up, it’s obvious that he’s taken more care to ensure the dishes are more achievable for a home book. You’ll still encounter some things like leek and mackerel terrine that wouldn’t look out of place on a posh restaurant menu and with multiple elements that need bringing together and require some skill to do so. That said, there is also a recipe for macaroni and tinned tuna casserole, so there’s something for everyone.  

How often will I cook from the book? Matheson is all about big bold flavours, comforting carbs, cheese and all the ‘bad’ things. He’s the Anti-Deliciously Ella and thank fuck for that. There are many, many tempting recipes (see below) and Home Style Cookery will definitely get plenty of use if you like Matheson’s style (and I really do), but maybe just not everyday.   

Killer recipes: I could just list every dish in the book, but stand-outs include molasses bread in an apple juice can; roti; burn your tongue Caesar salad; fingerling potato supreme; oxtail and mirepoix pierogis; green curry beef ribs; Nashville hot halibut sandwich and molasses cookies stuffed with dulce de leche. 

What will I love? Although it would be wrong to say this is the only cookbook you’ll ever need – it doesn’t quite have the same scope as Home Cookery Year for example – at 368 pages, Matheson has packed a lot in and pretty much delivers a dish for every occasion, drawing on a wide range of global culinary influences in the process.     

What won’t I like so much? If you’re on a diet, this book is not for you. 

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the two-page introduction, there’s a one page intro to each of the 12 chapters (bread; stocks; vegetables; dips, purees and spreads; dumplings and pasta; curries, soups and a stew; sandwiches; fried foods and cast-iron cookery; roasts, bakes and a pie; smoked; grilled and desserts). Don’t skip the recipe introductions; they are full of nuggets of food lore, tips, mini-memoirs and Matheson’s trademark humour.    

Should I buy it? Matty Matheson is one of the most exciting and original voices to have emerged on the cookery scene in the last five years or so. His first book was a must buy. This one is even better. That makes it a must-must buy. Probably. 

Cuisine: Canadian/International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson

Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson

What’s the USP? Less of a unique selling point, and more of an all-encompassing approach to the cookbook, Home Cookery Year is a 400 page, 200+ recipe doorstop tat seeks to offer seasonal ideas for every possible situation, from midweek dinners to elaborate dinner party feasts.

Who wrote it? Claire Thomson, who has made something of a habit of releasing practical, down-to-earth cookbooks over the past five years. Her first title focused on cooking for families, and last year saw her release New Kitchen Basics, which offered a wide range of recipes based around ten classic ingredients.

If you’ve come across her this year, though, chances are it will have been during lockdown. Her 2017 title The Art of the Larder is one of the most informative titles on store-cupboard cooking available, and likely saw a healthy boost to sales around the tail end of March. It’s also the book that first introduced me to Thomson – albeit one that I didn’t enjoy as much as I’d expected to. Rather than re-invigorate the store-cupboard, it frequently reminded me of how drab tins and dried pulses can be. With that in mind, I find myself approaching this new book rather tentatively. Thomson has been inspired, she says, by the ‘evergreen’ cookbooks her mother had (‘and still has’) on her shelves. Paired with a title that Thomson herself admits is more honest than fashionable, I’m ready for a collection of practical, if dull, recipes.

This is heading for a delightful twist, isn’t it? Oh, you know me so well. The book’s an absolute bloody delight. Thomson’s straight-forward approach and practical application of her expertise means that from the outset, tHome Cookery Year is a joy to navigate. Though she has aspirations towards the simple, accessible and everyday cooking of all your mum’s favourite TV chefs of the 70s, her taste buds are firmly of the moment. This is an old-fashioned cookbook in spirit only.

Home Cookery Year is set out seasonally, with a chonker of a chapter for each season. These are split further, to allow the reader to find recipes that fit the bill whether they’re looking for a quick midweek supper, a budget meal from the larder, something a little more luxurious, and so on.

What’s the faff factor? Everything in the book is built towards accessibility. With a few (very rare) exceptions, you’ll be able to get all the ingredients from your local supermarket. Thomson’s recipes are straight-forward, even when they yield beautifully complex dishes and flavours. Even the recipes under the ‘leisurely weekend cooking’ headings are only listed as such because of the time they take, or the mess they’ll make.

How often will I cook from the book? Look, this is not something I get to say very often, but here goes: you could cook from this book every single day for a year and not get bored. The depth and variety within these pages is astonishing. Take Autumn, for example: the midweek offerings alone include comfort foods with a twist (Smoked Haddock with Curry Butter & Poached Egg), international staples (Goan Green Chicken, Nasi Goreng) and quick, simple recipes that are bound to impress anyone (Fig Leaf Pilaf with Aromatic Tomato Sauce & Toasted Almonds). The store cupboard dishes roam from an unctuous Cavolo Nero Polenta Soup to Sichuan classic Dan Dan Noodles.There are inspired takes on classic game recipes, simple yet irresistible desserts by the dozen and, most outrageously of all, a recipe for Duck and Damson Bao that is as good as anything I have in my healthy collection of far more specialised Chinese cookbooks. And that’s just Autumn.

Killer recipes: That Duck & Damson Bao, obviously. But also the Fried Potato Masala Toastie, or the Pasteis de Nata, which I am thrilled to finally have a decent recipe for. Or hey, how about the Crab Gnudi with Butter Baked Cherry Tomatoes & Tarragon. I put down the book and went to the other room to tell my wife about the Beer-brined BBQ Chicken with Mustard & Miso Mayonnaise Sauce. She was very understanding.

The desserts alone deserve a separate paragraph – the Cherry, Marshmallow & Dark Chocolate Chip Cobbler, the Peach & Dulce de Leche Cake, the Blackberry & Bay Brownies made with Rye. Look, there’s over 200 of these bad boys in here, and I honest-to-god reckon I’d eat every damn one of them.

Should I buy it? Oh god, like, twice over, at least. One for you, and one for anybody in your family who loves to cook. Because here’s the thing: with Christmas coming up faster than any of us are truly comfortable with, the bookshops are filled with brand new cookbooks vying for your attention. And this year, like every other, the big names like Nigella and Jamie are going to get the lion’s share of the sales.

Fun fact: I’ve worked in a bookshop at Christmas, and I’ve seen the absolute demolition of cookbook stock that happens on Christmas Eve. But the problem with gifting cookbooks is that you either have to go broad, which means celeb chefs, and the risk of giving your mum her third copy of the new Ottolenghi, or you need a deep insight into their personal tastes and their specific desire for a particular cuisine. This book lets you opt firmly for column A, whilst avoiding the obvious titles and throwing in some unexpected regional dishes to boot.

With Home Cookery Year, Claire Thomson has created exactly what she intended to: a five-star all-rounder that you will be using on a weekly basis for years to come. This is accessible, exciting cooking at its very finest, and though it’s up against bigger titles and starrier names, it might just be the best cookbook to give without discretion this Christmas.

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

Buy this book
Home Cookery Year: Four Seasons, Over 200 Recipes for All Possible Occasions
£30, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

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

Japanese Cooking for the Soul

japanese cooking for the soul_fc_100%

What’s the USP? A collection of 70 Japanese dishes ‘inspired by’ chefs from the Hana Group (the name behind 14 Asian food concepts that’ll you’ll find in supermarkets and other retailers around the globe including Sushi Gourmet, Wok St and Poke-Lele) that celebrate the Itadakimasu ritual of gratitude and reflection.

So, spirituality meets global commerce? Sounds grim. Yeah, probably best to ignore the veneer of mindfulness that’s been applied to the faceless, corporate behemoth that’s behind Japanese Cooking for the Soul to try and make it look more human (spoiler altert: they failed) and stick to the meat of the book which is the rather good recipes.

They’re authentic then? I think we’ve all agreed authenticity is a problematic and nebulous concept when applied to food in the modern global age haven’t we? Or maybe we’re about to roll all of that back and enter a new age of puritanism. In any event, some may raise an eyebrow when they discover that the recipes have been written by former Good Housekeeping Cookery Editor Emma Marsden. If you insist on your Japanese recipes being written by a chef or food writer from Japan or of Japanese heritage, then this book is not for you. If however you’re in the market for an approachable selection of dishes that include sushi and maki; teppanyaki and noodles; poke and Japanese salads; gyoza and dim sum; robata, ramen and tempura, as well as some desserts, then you can’t go far wrong.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? You will need to find a fishmonger who deals in sushi-grade fish if you want to tackle salmon and tuna sushi or cristal salmon rolls, but you’ll find most, if not all of what you need at the supermarket. Online stores like Sous Chef will be able to fill in any gaps.

What’s the faff factor? By their very nature, things like sushi or shumai dumplings will take a bit of care and attention and the assembly of various elements, but there are plenty of straightforward dishes like grilled salmon in balsamic onion glaze and stir fried rice with chicken that you can knock up on a work night without too much sweat.

How often will I cook from the book? It’s easy to imagine the book becoming well thumbed and food splattered in no time at all. It’s full of delicious and achievable dishes suitable for quick mid-week diners, and for when you want to spend a bit of hobby-time (is that a thing? Lets assume it is) in the kitchen and prepare a feast.

Killer dishes: Pork and cabbage gyoza; yakitori chicken skewers; beef ramen; prawn tempura with spring onions; teppanyaki duck and many more.

Should I buy the book? If you don’t have any other Japanese cookbooks in your collection, this will serve as a fine introduction to the subject. If you want to delve much further into the cuisine, try Japan:The Cookbook. But at fifteen quid, or less if you click on the link below, this is something of a bargain and a purchase you won’t regret.

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

Buy this book
Japanese Cooking for the Soul: Healthy. Mindful. Delicious.
£14.99, Ebury Press

A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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