Eat Better Forever by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

9781526602800

What’s the USP? Diet culture has taken hit after hit over the past few years, with increasingly popular movements highlighting the many problems that come from committing yourself to short-term bursts of meat-only consumption or eating like somebody who hasn’t yet invented indoor plumbing.

Better, then, is to simply commit oneself to eat better forever. Which in this case of this book means sticking by seven fairly simple rules:

Eat plenty of whole foods
Eat a varied diet
Eat some gut-friendly stuff now and then
Don’t eat a lot of refined carbs
Eat fats, but only the good kinds
Think about the nutritional content of your drinks
Be mindful about your eating

It’s all fairly sensible stuff, to be honest. But that’s all part of the appeal. Eat Better Forever isn’t about throwing confusing new ideas about food in your face – it’s about helping you to better understand what you already know, and give you some ideas about how to use that knowledge to change the way you eat for good.

Who wrote it? Mr. River Cottage himself – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall/Huge Furry Toadstall/Hugh Fearlessly Eatsitall (delete as appropriate). Hugh’s been going hard on the veg content for a few years now, but here he sets out a healthy plan for living that extends beyond his numerous ideas of what to get up to with a courgette.

Is it good bedtime reading? For the most part, yes! The book is split almost directly in half, with the first two hundred pages dedicated almost entirely to each of his seven rules. These chapters are easy and enjoyable to read. They don’t necessarily reveal anything too surprising, but the opportunity to better understand the science between the ideas we generally are only exposed to in passing is very welcome.

It helps, too, that Hugh never comes across as preachy. He simply explains why something is good (or bad) for you, and presents ideas on how to change your eating habits to accommodate those facts. Nothing he suggests feels too overwhelming, and the opportunity to change the way you eat for the better often feels not just attainable, but exciting. Sometimes it all feels a little too easy. When we’re told that Hugh’s plan for cutting back on alcohol entailed the introduction of ‘alcohol-free days’, it sounds like a sensible (if not particularly fun) way to go about things. Hugh, we’re told, aims for ‘two a week, minimum’, which even in the midst of a pandemic seems like a relatively low bar to aim for.

How often will I cook from the book? That depends on how you feel about Hugh’s practical suggestions for living with his seven rules. The 50/50 split between manifesto and recipes gives you plenty of opportunity to think on the guidelines presented and the small adjustments you might make to your current diet as a result of them. I found the first half of the book to be an invigorating and at times inspiring read, which made it all the more disappointing when I reached the recipe section and found, well, page after page of recipes that would not have looked out of place in a diet book.

Everything looks clean, fresh and, well, a bit dull. The whole foods chapter suggests incorporating more seeds into your diet, which sounds lovely until you see Hugh’s suggesting for a slice of toast scattered with loose seeds and a few raspberries, or a plate comprising of nothing but slices of oranges and apple and just enough pumpkin seeds to guarantee no single bite isn’t ruined by a misplaced texture.

There are plenty of recipes to tempt you here – a ‘curried beanie cullen skink’, or an Asian Hot Pot that looks to be drowning in umami. But for the most part, the refreshing ideas presented in the book’s opening chapters are revisited under much harsher light and by the uninspiring dishes that follow.

What will I love? Hugh’s seven rules are well thought out and easy to apply to your existing cooking habits. Though I found myself completely turned off by a hefty chunk of his recipes, not a day has passed since reading Eat Better Forever where it hasn’t impacted my decisions in the kitchen. That’s a fantastic thing, and if this book serves only to build the foundations upon which your own take on healthy eating can be built, that’ll be worth more than the cover price.

What won’t I love? Whilst the initial ideas feel applicable to every household, it’s hard to imagine fussy children (or adults) adapting to the one-note recipes offered up here.

Killer recipes: Curried Beany Cullen Skink, Mussel Soup with Leek & Potato, Spicy Fish Fingers with Tomato and Bean Salad, Curried Carrot Blitz

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

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

Buy the book
Eat Better Forever: 7 Ways to Transform Your Diet
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Seedy Almond Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Overnight Oats by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
Spicy roast parsnips with barley, raisins & walnuts by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

The Italian Deli Cookbook by Theo Randall

Italian Deli Cookbook

Theo Randall’s third cookbook is a pean to instinctive cooking inspired by store cupboard ingredients.  Divided into 17 ingredient-themed chapters, the book covers much of what you’d expect to find on an Italian deli’s shelves, from tinned and smoked fish to olives and cheese, and salumi and Italian sausages to olive oil and vinegars, and much else besides.

Dishes such as wild rocket and cannelini bean soup with pesto; roasted lamb rump with polenta and creamy olive and anchovy sauce, and vegan dark chocolate and coffee tart with coconut ice cream and croccante demonstrate Randall’s knack for writing attention-grabbing and delicious sounding recipes.

You’ll have to buy Randall’s first book Pasta if you want his excellent pasta dough recipe but, in keeping with the book’s theme, he has included seven dishes made with dried pasta including orecchiette with anchovies and cima di rappa (bitter greens with a ‘turnip-like flavour’ and a signature Randall ingredient)  and spaghettini with garlic, chilli and parsley, a staff-food favourite from his time as head chef of The River Café.

For Randall, the devil is in the detail. He recommends tracking down dried borlotti beans from the protected area of Lamon in Veneto which, he says, combined with roasted Italian sausages and ‘nduja sauce, are ‘heavenly’; specifies pagnotta, a Puglian semolina bread for a bruschetta of courgette, olive and ricotta salata, and suggests spaghetti from Gragnano in Southern Italy (recognised as the home of dried pasta) for his take on spaghetti alle vongole.

There are other instantly recognisable classic Italian dishes in the book, but each has Randall’s imprimatur. So fritto misto is finished with mint and chilli, potatoes are roasted with balsamic, pancetta and red onion, and tuna carpaccio is accompanied by fennel and lemon. Even Randall’s version of tiramisu has an unusual genesis and is inspired by the recipe of a pizzeria in Antigua.

But fundamentally, Randall is not aiming for novelty or difference for difference sake, but rather to make ‘simple food with exceptional ingredients’. The Italian Deli Cookbook is further evidence that he is the master of that particular craft.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

A version of this review first appeared in The Caterer magazine. 

Buy this book
The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Caramel Pots De Creme

This was one of the original desserts on the Nightingale menu and it’s still going strong. So simple, but so good.

NOTE  If vanilla bean is unavailable, use good-quality paste or essence.

Serves 6

Crème Fraîche
300mL (1¼ cups) heavy cream
100mL (7 Tbsp) buttermilk

Pots de Crème
415mL (1⅔ cups) cream
160mL (⅔ cup) milk
5g (1½ tsp) salt
¼ vanilla bean, split and scraped
100g (½ cup) sugar
6 egg yolks

Vanilla Breton
60g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) pecans
200g (1½ cups) pastry flour
12g (scant Tbsp) baking powder
3g (1 tsp) salt
¼ vanilla bean, split and scraped
130g (⅔ cup) sugar
130g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) butter
3 egg yolks

Butterscotch Sauce
45g (3 Tbsp) butter
145g (¾ cup) brown sugar
120mL (½ cup) cream

Whipped Crème Fraîche
200mL (¾ cup) cream
15g (2 Tbsp) icing sugar

CRÈME FRAÎCHE
Combine the cream and buttermilk in a stainless-steel bowl. Cover with cheesecloth and leave to culture and thicken in a warm spot in your kitchen for 24 hours, then refriger- ate overnight.

POTS DE CRÈME
Bring the cream, milk, salt, and vanilla to a simmer in a pot over low heat. Place a thick-bottomed pan with tall sides over medium heat. Add the sugar in 3 additions, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, allowing it to melt between addi- tions. Cook until dark amber in colour, then add the cream. Be careful as the mixture will bubble violently. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 40ºC (105ºF). Place the egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot caramel and cream into the egg yolks while constantly whisking to create a custard. Refrigerate overnight.

VANILLA BRETON
Grind the pecans to a fine powder in a food processor. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the pecan powder. Rub the vanilla into the sugar to free the seeds, then sift together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar with the butter on medium speed, then add the egg yolks in 3 additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients and blend to form a soft dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

BAKING  
Preheat the oven to 135ºC (275ºF).  Strain the refrigerated custard through a fine-mesh sieve. Fill six 240mL (8 oz) jars with the custard to the halfway point. Place the jars in a shallow baking dish and fill the dish ⅓ full with simmering water. Transfer to the oven and cook until the custards are just set and jiggle when gently shaken, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven, then the jars from the dish, and allow to cool.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Increase the heat of the oven to 175ºC (350ºF). On a lightly floured work surface, roll the chilled pastry into a rectangle that is 0.5cm (¼ in) thick. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the sugar and about 50mL (3 Tbsp) of the cream. Stir to dissolve, then bring to a simmer and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the remaining cream. Chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.

WHIPPED CRÈME FRAÎCHE
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream, 90mL (about ⅓ cup) of the crème fraîche, and the icing sugar. Whip until the cream holds medium peaks. Refrigerate the remaining crème fraîche for up to 1 week.

SERVE 
Spoon the whipped crème fraîche into the custard pots. Top with shards of Breton pastry. Drizzle with butterscotch sauce.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth

Read the review

 

Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth

Roasted Duck Breast

Duck is rich, and I wanted to make this dish as light as possible. Instead of a traditional sauce—like a reduction finished with butter—being in Vancouver, where our population is now almost a third Chinese, I thought of XO sauce. It’s very tasty and has good texture, a little heat, and some acidity too. It really works.

NO TE  In the restaurant we allow the duck to air dry for a few days, uncovered in the fridge; this helps the bird to retain more moisture when it cooks. You can prepare the XO sauce up to several days before serving; it helps the flavour to develop.

Serves 6

Macadamia Nut Purée
125g (1 cup) macadamia nuts, skin off
Salt
Splash Banyuls or champagne vinegar

XO Sauce
85g (5 Tbsp) brunoised bacon
150mL (⅔ cup) canola oil
30g (⅓ cup) dried shrimp, soaked and drained
30g (⅓ cup) dried scallops, soaked and drained
80g (½ cup) minced garlic
80g (½ cup) minced ginger
20g (1 Tbsp) tomato paste
15mL (1 Tbsp) Sriracha-style chili sauce
Fish sauce
Salt

Rice
1.5L (6 cups) water
3g (1 tsp) salt, plus more for seasoning
240g (1¼ cups) Carolina gold rice
30–45g (2–3 Tbsp) butter, cut in small cubes
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 sprig cilantro, finely sliced

Duck
large duck magrets (400–450g/ 14–16 oz each)
Sea salt

Garnish
6–12 pieces gai choy, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in half
15g (1 Tbsp) butter Sea salt

MACADAMIA NUT PURÉE
Preheat the oven to 160ºC (315ºF).  Place the nuts on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and toast until fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl. Cover with water (at least 10cm/4 in above the nuts; you should have double the volume of water as nuts) and soak in the fridge overnight.

The next day, drain the nuts and reserve the water. Blend the nuts on high speed for at least 5 minutes and up to 10 minutes, using as much water as required to form a smooth purée. Season with salt and a splash of vinegar. Set aside at room temperature.

XO SAUCE
Render the bacon until crispy in a medium pan over low heat, using a small amount of oil. Remove the bacon, but keep the fat in the pan. Add a bit more oil to the pan and fry the dried shrimp and scallops until slightly crispy. Remove the shrimp and scallops and return the pan to heat.

Once the pan starts smoking, add the remaining canola oil and caramelize the garlic and ginger. Add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Return the shrimp, scallops, and bacon to the pan and add the chili sauce and any remaining oil. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes on very low heat, stirring often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Adjust the seasoning with fish sauce, salt, and more chili sauce as needed.

RICE 
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).  Bring the water and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over high heat. Add the rice, stir once, and as soon as the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender with no hard starch at its centre, about 15 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Shake the colander to drain excess water.

Distribute the rice evenly on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and allow the rice to dry for about 5 minutes, gently turning from time to time with a spatula. Dot the rice with the butter and sprinkle with salt. Return the baking sheet to the oven and allow the rice to warm through, occasionally turning, until the butter has melted and the rice is hot, about 5 minutes. Mix in the onions and cilantro and keep the rice warm.

DUCK
Trim the excess fat around the duck magrets. With a sharp knife, score the skin of the magrets in a crosshatch pattern, making the squares as close together as possible without cutting into the meat. Set aside on paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Season the duck magrets with salt on both sides. Place the duck breasts in a hot non- stick cast-iron pan (skin side down without any oil) over medium-low heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, moving from time to time (but not flipping) to ensure an even colouring and crisping of the skin, while continuously draining out the rendered fat.

Flip the magrets and cook for 3 minutes on the meat side. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, loosely covered with a piece of foil. When ready to serve, slice the magrets in 6mm (¼ in) slices. Season with sea salt.

GARNISH
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the gai choy for 1 minute, then quickly sauté in a hot frying pan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Transfer to paper towel to absorb excess fat.

Gently heat the XO sauce. Divide it between 6 serving plates. Smear the macadamia nut purée on the side. Place a portion of gai choy and rice on each plate. Add the duck slices.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Read the review

48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth

48 Hour Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs are such a great application for sous vide cooking. You get very little moisture loss so the meat turns out incredibly juicy. It gets soft, then you chill it to set it up, and grill it or roast it to finish. It’s a rich, fatty cut, so instead of saucing it with a reduction we glaze them and serve them with black pepper jam with loads of shallots, and a bright, refreshing green papaya salad. When we put this on the menu at West as a starter, we couldn’t keep up. We had to bring it back on the opening menu at Hawksworth.

Serves 6   

Beef Short Ribs
1.3kg (3 lb) bone-in beef short ribs
2 sprigs thyme, stems removed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt
Pepper

Compressed Melon
100mL (7 Tbsp) water
100g (½ cup) sugar
½ honeydew melon, in 18 cubes 2cm (¾ in) each
3 juniper berries

Black Pepper Jam
30mL (2 Tbsp) grapeseed or canola oil
½ onion, chopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 knobs ginger, peeled and chopped
15 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ bunches scallions, sliced
15g (1 Tbsp) dried fermented black beans
½ Thai chili, seeded and coarsely chopped
10g (1½ Tbsp) pepper
125mL (½ cup) soy sauce
125mL (½ cup) water
100mL (7 Tbsp) hoisin sauce
Sugar

Green Papaya Salad
65mL (¼ cup) water
50g (¼ cup) palm sugar
2 lime leaves
½ fresh jalapeno or red Thai chili, seeds removed
15mL (1 Tbsp) fish sauce
250mL (1 cup) fresh lime juice
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt
⅓ green papaya, peeled and sliced into very fine julienne

Beef Short Ribs Glaze
100mL (7 Tbsp) hoisin sauce
50mL (3 Tbsp) yuzu juice
30mL (2 Tbsp) light soy sauce
¼ orange, juice

Garnish
Sea salt
12 leaves Thai basil

BEEF SHORT RIBS
Rub the beef short ribs with the thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, then cover and refrigerate for 5 hours. Transfer to 1 or more vacuum-seal pouches. Seal with a vacuum sealer and cook in a water bath at 63ºC (145ºF) with a sous vide immersion circulator for 48 hours. Remove from the water bath, cool the ribs, and remove from the bags. Trim the excess fat and bones and portion in 170g (6 oz) rectangles.

COMPRESSED MELON
Bring the water to a boil in a small pot over high heat. Whisk in the sugar until it dis- solves, to create a syrup. Cool rapidly over an ice bath. Place the cubed honeydew melon in a vacuum-seal pouch with the syrup and juniper berries. (You can also use a regular ziplock bag but the flavour will be less intense.) Seal with a vacuum sealer and refrigerate for 2 hours.

BLACK PEPPER JAM
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium to high heat. Add the onion, shallots, ginger, and garlic and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the scallions, black beans, chili, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes longer. Add the soy sauce, water, and hoisin sauce and reduce by ⅓. Cook until the mixture is thick and jammy and coats the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning and balance with sugar as required. While the mixture is still hot, blend it in a food processor until smooth but not puréed.

GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
Combine the water with the palm sugar, lime leaves, and chili in a small pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Blend for 1 minute with an immersion blender until combined. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and shallot and stir to combine. Season with salt. Refrigerate until cool. When ready to serve, mix the papaya with the dressing.

BEEF SHORT RIBS GLAZE
Whisk all the ingredients together until combined.

SERVE  
Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Cover or brush the short rib pieces with half of the glaze and heat in the oven until hot through, about 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking, brush with the remaining glaze. Cut each rib rectangle in half. Smear some of the black pepper jam on each of 6 serving plates and place the short ribs on top. Season with sea salt. Add the melon and papaya salad, and garnish with the basil leaves.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Read the review

Hawksworth: The Cookbook by David Hawksworth

Hawsworth The Cookbook

What’s the USP? Dishes drawn from the 30-year career of one of Canada’s most high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, with stories and anecdotes of kitchen and restaurant life. 

Who’s the author? David Hawksworth is chef propriator of the eponymous Hawksworth restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and the more casual Nightingale restaurant and Bel Cafés, all in Vancouver. He is the winner of 2012 and 2013 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year and for four consecutive years, Best Upscale Dining, as well as enRoute magazine’s top three Best New Restaurants, and Maclean’s magazine Restaurant of the Year. In 2008, he became the youngest chef inductee in to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.  In 2013 he launched the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation and has had a culinary partnership with Air Canada since 2015. 

Is it good bedtime reading? The story of Hawksworth’s career is told through a series of memoirs dotted throughout the book. His time in the UK make for particularly entertaining and enlightening reading. When staging at Marco Pierre White’s The Restaurant, Hawksworth was warned never to look at the great chef during service, ‘Look him in the eye, then you’re a target – you’re finished’. As opening chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Petit Blanc in Oxford, Hawksworth recalls having to cut the door to the meat locker in half and crawl in and out on his hands and knees because it was blocked by a staircase.   

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Hawksworth’s contemporary Canadian food might exalt west coast produce like spot prawns, sablefish and sockeye salmon, but they can be easily substituted for more readily available alternatives if you’re based outside of Canada. 

The book includes not only fine dining dishes with ingredients that might be harder to source such as squab for pot-au-feu with parsley dumplings but also recipes from his more casual Nightingale restaurant and Bel Cafés, such as crispy buttermilk fried chicken and clam spaghetti, the ingredients for which are more straightforward to track down. 

What’s the faff factor? It varies hugely from recipe to recipe.  The average home cook is not going to tackle a sophisticated creation like foie gras, artichoke, truffle and madeira jus on a Wednesday night after getting home late from the office. On the other hand, you could knock up a bowl of Blue Hubbard Squash soup in about 45 minutes. Even easier, once you’ve marinated chicken overnight, spicy chicken and green papaya salad would take less than 30 minutes to complete. 

How often will I cook from the book? For the most part, you will need to set aside a decent amount of time to cook many of the recipes in the book. However aside from a few showpiece dishes like mosaic of venison, duck and quail and ‘Symphony of the Sea’ that’s made with prawns, oysters, scallops, halibut and salmon which will probably remain restaurant-only creations, recipes like 48-hour beef short ribs with black pepper jam; salumi pizza; roasted cauliflower with green harissa and sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate chunk cookies will mean the book’s glossy and beautifully designed pages will soon gather the stains of regular kitchen use.   

Killer recipes? In addition to distinctively west coast dishes such as  there is an unmistakably European accent to the recipes in his first cookbook. That’s no surprise, as Hawksworth spent the 1990s working in some of the best UK kitchens of the time including The Square and Marco-era L’Escargot. Dishes include a mosaic of venison, duck and quail taught to Hawksworth by Gary Jones at Le Manoir, and a yellowfin tuna-wrapped crab salad inspired by Bruno Loubet’s whole seabass stuffed with panzanella that was on the menu at Isola when Hawksworth worked there.  Vancouver is a famously cosmopolitan city and Hawksworth reflects that in dishes like spicy chicken and green papaya salad and jungle pork curry.

What will I love? Although aimed at a North American audience, ingredients  are listed with grams and ml measurements as well as cups, making the book perfectly usable for UK readers. 

Should I buy it? In his foreword, Phil Howard says, ‘I know for certain that you will not regret investing in this book – and the knowledge of this chef’. I can only concur.  

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

A version of this review first appeared in The Caterer magazine. 

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Restore by Gizzi Erskine

Restore Gizzi Erskine

What’s the USP? ‘A modern guide to sustainable eating’. Restore seeks to debunk myths around ‘good’ food, and take an in-depth look at restorative farming – that is, bringing back greater biodiversity and reinvigorating the planet through mindful food production.

Who wrote it? Gizzi Erskine, who has had a pretty diverse career thus far. Having trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine, and worked in such prestigious kitchens as St. Johns, Erskine made her way into TV via the now-problematic Cook Yourself Thin. From there: cookbooks, more TV work, modelling and more.

Over the past year alone Erskine has appeared to juggle four fairly distinct roles: frank sex podcaster for Spotify’s ‘Sex, Lies and DM Slides’, lockdown fakeaway creator with friend Professor Green, Instagram influencer and lux cookbook writer.

I say ‘lux cookbook writer’ because, as with Erskine’s last book, Slow, her new title presents a distinct take on home cooking. They ask for readers to take on a particularly mindful approach to their food – considering how it is sourced, what it means for the planet around us. They also present certain challenges – dishes frequently require a significant amount of time to prepare, or the sourcing of relatively hard to come by ingredients. We’ll get to that.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not particularly. Erskine’s ambition in ‘Restore’ is the championing of a sort of home cooking that seeks to better the planet through the more responsible sourcing of ingredients. In terms of reading, though, this amounts to one distinct theme: a lot of very worthy preaching about the various ways our food habits are damaging our world.

Erskine’s concerns are fair, though hardly new in the cookbook world – and herein lies the issue. Restore is a very drab read. Everything Erskine discusses has been shared with us before, and in a more enjoyable, more readable way. It’s a lot to pile the gloom of contemporary farming issues on cookbook readers, and the best cookbooks balance this out with engaging writing that highlights positives, and offers practical solutions. Restore manages neither. Many of the recipes fail to tempt the reader, and there are issues with those that do.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The problem with writing a sustainable cookbook has always been one of accessibility. There’s a reason that our society has failed to adapt to more planet-friendly approaches to our cooking, and overwhelming it’s a matter of cost.

Introducing her vegetable section, Erskine makes a passing mention to the development of her understanding of ‘social economic’ factors since the release of Slow. She talks about wincing at conversations she’s had in the past and… that’s about it. Onwards to the vegetable chapter that asks for dried Mexican chillies, Lebanese cucumbers, purple potatoes and dehydrated tamarind blocks. Restore remains resolutely middle class, as so many ‘sustainable cookery’ books have been before.

One of the most popular traits amongst these books has long been a call to cut down on meats. Erskine makes this incredibly easy for readers, by including two short chapters on the subject that include almost exclusively meats that the average reader will struggle to get their hands on. It’s just a shame that many of the most interesting recipes on offer here require the tracking down of game birds and meats that I’ve only previously seen on sale in rural butchers, or that one really fancy Budgens in Crouch End.

When Erskine opts for the more readily accessible animals, she seems to go out of her way to choose cuts that are unavailable in the supermarkets that the majority of the British public shop in. Bone-in beef shin, whole lamb neck, rolled pork belly, pig trotters and sheep lungs are all on the shopping list. Is this aversion to the mass meat production of supermarkets very much the point of Restore? Yes, but what is presented here as sustainable for the planet will not be sustainable for the majority of families in Britain today.

Killer recipes: Greenhouse Romesco Sauce with Chargrilled Spring Onions, Guinea Fowl alla ‘Diavolo’, Rabbit à la Moutarde, Wild Garlic Stuffed Mutton, Jamaican Goat Curry Patties, Tepache

Should I buy it? If you’ve an excellent local butcher, and the disposable income that such a thing warrants, there’s plenty to dig into here. Erskine also provides plenty of vegetable options, though these are generously less tempting (and frequently implies the reader has an allotment or greenhouse from which they can sustainably source their food). There are, however, plenty of other titles available that offer the same message as this book in a more accessible and enjoyable way.

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

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

Buy this book
Restore by Gizzi Erskine
£26, HQ

Cook from this book
Bibimbap
Green shakshuka

The Noodle Cookbook by Damien King Lee

What’s the USP? 101 easy, accessible and ‘healthy’ noodle recipes from the makers of Mr Lee’s instant noodle range.

Who’s the author? The late entrepreneur Damien King Lee, founder and CEO of Mr Lee’s Pure Foods which markets a range of ‘healthy and sustainable’ instant noodles available in supermarkets.

What does it look like? Simple, colourful, modern and really rather stylish.

Is it good bedtime reading? The non-recipe text is mostly of the bright and breezy variety and shouldn’t unduly detain you.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The recipes are mostly aimed at the supermarket shopper but you will find the likes of wagyu, crayfish tails, fresh crabmeat and togarashi alongside turkey mince and Monterey Jack cheese.

What’s the faff factor? They say the recipes take 30 minutes or less, although anyone that believes those sort of claims after Jamie’s 30-Minute Meal debacle needs to give their head a wobble. That said, the dishes are mostly very achievable (you are, after all, heating up noodles with bits and bobs) and each one is labeled to indicate the degree of difficulty from ‘doddle’ to ‘showing off’. Generally speaking, the recipes are ideal for mid-week after-work meals when kitchen time may be at a premium.

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you want to eat noodles? Once a week? Once a month? There a good amount of variety in the book with Chinese, Japanese, Thai , Korean and Vietnamese dishes. But they’ve (nearly) all got noodles in them.

Killer recipes? Curry chicken stir fry ramen; lobster laksa curry, Hong Kong Street beef; Korean ‘fried’ sticky chicken’; dan dan noodle soup with lamb.

What will I love? The useful directory of types of noodle and their uses, the handy ‘shopping staples’ section that will help you stock your cupboards for when you really fancy a quick bowl of noodles. The store cupboard recipes will appeal to keen cooks who want to make their own sauces such as hoisin, teriyaki and satay. There’s even a vegan ‘fish’ sauce made with agave, pineapple juice and soy.

What won’t I like? If you’re a miserable old git like me, the overly-matey and ‘humorous’ recipe introductions with exhortations to ‘get your crisp on’ and descriptions of black vinegar as ‘rice vinegar’s chilled out mellow cousin’ may remind you of when corporations try to be your friend.

Should I buy it? If you really, really like noodles and you think you need 101 recipes for them, then, go ahead, get your noodle on!

Cuisine: Pan-Asian
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
The Noodle Cookbook: 101 healthy and delicious noodle recipes for happy eating
£15.99, Ebury Press

Cook from this book
Dan dan noodle soup with lamb
Hong Kong Street Beef
Seafood Ramyeon with Korean Red Pepper

Curd Cake with Caramelised Apples by Olia Hercules

Curd Cake

Curd cake with caramelised apples

SERVES 8–10

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g apples, cored and sliced 1 tbsp brown sugar
200g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, separated 1 tsp vanilla extract
500g ricotta or good-quality cottage cheese
120g fine semolina or polenta Pinch of salt

My friend Jan once drunkenly asked me to cook for his dad Anton’s seventieth birthday, which I enthusiastically agreed to (also tipsy). Anton, aka Papa Florek or P Flo, grew up in Derby – his Polish father, Alfredo, had settled there after the war, when he was demobbed from the Carpathian Lancers.

Sernyk, a traditional cheesecake eaten across Poland and Ukraine, was one of Anton’s childhood favourites, something that connected him to his Polish heritage, so I decided that’s what I would make. Struggling to find good-quality cottage cheese the day before, I panicked and bought ricotta, adapting my mum’s original recipe to suit the moister texture of ricotta. Happily, it was a huge success, and this cake is now also one of my son’s favourites. I hope someone will make it for him when he is seventy.

Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the apples and cook for 2–3 minutes on each side until they start to turn golden. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and cook the apples for another minute on each side, then transfer the caramelised apples to a bowl and let them cool slightly.

Preheat your oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a 20cm square or round cake tin with butter. Lay the apples in the base of the cake tin.

If, like me, you left your butter out in the kitchen overnight, but
it was so blooming cold it didn’t soften properly, cut the rest of it into small pieces. Whatever state the butter is in, put it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, along with 150g of the caster sugar, and whisk until it’s looking fairly fluffy. Break the egg yolks with a fork and gradually add them, whisking well, then whisk in the vanilla extract and cheese. Transfer the mixture to another bowl, then fold in the semolina or polenta (the latter will result in a cake with more texture).

Wash and dry your mixer bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly, then put in the egg whites and whisk until they start frothing up. Add the remaining 50g of caster sugar and the salt and keep whisking until you have soft peaks. Now take a large spoonful of the egg white mixture and fold it quite vigorously into the butter and cheese mixture to loosen it up. Add the rest of the egg white mixture and fold in gently. Pour the mixture over the apples in the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is a little wobbly, but not liquid. Remember it will set more firmly as it cools.

Leave the cake in its tin to rest and cool down, then slice and serve. Some unsweetened tea with lemon goes perfectly with this.

Buy this book
Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Read the review

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Tokhme Banjanromi by by Durkhanai Ayubi

tokhme banjanromi

This recipe is for traditional Afghan-style breakfast eggs, which are cooked in a sauce of onion, tomatoes, and chili, absorbing the complementary flavors. As with most Afghan meals, particularly breakfast, fresh naan breads served on the side are essential. Afghan breakfast spreads also typically include shir chai, a traditional milk tea that, with its dairy base, provides a calorie- and protein-rich start to the day.

My mother recalls having this dish for breakfast during family day trips, such as to Mazar-i-Sharif for the red tulip festival during the spring equinox. It would be made in a beautiful copper karayee, a shallow, heavy-based pan used in Afghan cooking. The karayee would be placed directly over a portable kerosene burner, where the eggs, vegetables, and spices would bubble away. The large karayee was then placed in the middle of the breakfast spread, surrounded by naans and various chais, for everyone to help themselves.

This is an easy dish to scale up, to feed as many guests as you need.

1 cup (250 ml) sunflower oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
1 moderately hot fresh red chili, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro Leaves, to serve
Salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until softened and browned. Add the tomatoes and fresh chili, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened, but are still intact, then mix in 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste.

Break the eggs into a bowl then pour evenly over the tomato and onion mixture in the saucepan. Break up the yolks gently, if that’s how you prefer them, then cover the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook the eggs slowly, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid sticking, for 5-10 minutes for soft, 10-15 minutes for medium-soft, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, the ground red pepper, and cilantro, and serve hot-straight from the pan.

Cook more from this book
Narenj Palaw by Durkhanai Ayubi

Buy this book
Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen
£20, Murdoch Books

Read the review

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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