KARAAGE 6.0 by Tim Anderson

Izakaya_Day2_13855
第6版の唐揚げ DAI ROKU-BAN NO KARAAGE

I‘m calling this Karaage 6.0 because it is, if memory serves, the sixth karaage recipe I’ve written. And it’s the best one … so far. There are so many variations of making karaage it’s hard to settle on a ‘perfect’ version. For this one, I’ve stripped it back to basics, with a really simple, classic marinade. The only thing unusual about it is that it uses a seasoned flour and white wine rather than sake, which gives a lovely fruity acidity that works perfectly with the chicken – a brilliant idea I heard about from chef Jon Sho of the excellent Knightsbridge sushi bar Kaké, as well as the food
writer and karaage pop-up chef Melissa Thompson.

SERVES 2_4
FOR THE MARINADE
10 garlic cloves
20 g (¾ oz) ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
100 ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup)
white wine
3 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

FOR THE SEASONED FLOUR
150 g (5 oz/1¼ cups) cornflour (cornstarch)
100 g (3½ oz/scant 1 cup) potato starch
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
400 g (14 oz) (about 4–6) chicken thighs, boneless and skin on
about 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) oil, for deep-frying
lemon or ponzu, store-bought or homemade, to serve (optional)

METHOD
For the marinade, blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor until no big chunks remain; alternatively, you can finely grate the garlic and ginger and just stir everything together. For the seasoned flour, simply stir all ingredients together until well mixed. Cut the chicken thighs into quarters (or thirds, if they’re quite small) and toss through the marinade, then leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

To cook, heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 180ºC (350°F). Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off, then dredge in the seasoned flour, ensuring that all the nooks and crannies are well coated.

Carefully lower the chicken into the oil in small batches, checking the temperature periodically to ensure it is between 170–180ºC (340–350°F) and fry for about 8 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, use it: the chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of at least 65ºC (150°F). If you don’t have a thermometer, use a knife to cut into the biggest piece of chicken at its thickest point. If it’s still raw, keep cooking for another few minutes until it is cooked through.

Remove the cooked chicken from the oil and drain on paper towels. Karaage is juicy and flavourful enough to be enjoyed without a dip, but it’s also great with ponzu, or just a wedge of lemon.

Cook more from this book
Fish Finger Hand Rolls by Tim Anderson
Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter by Tim Anderson

Read the review

Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

Fish Finger Hand Rolls by Tim Anderson

Izakaya_Day2_13878

FISH FINGER HAND ROLLS
フィッシュフィンガー手巻き FISSHU FING  TEMAKI

This dish was inspired by recipes by two cooks that I, and many others, idolise: Ivan Orkin and Nigella Lawson. In Orkin’s excellent The Gaijin Cookbook, he provides a guide for hosting a temaki party, a great way to enjoy sushi at home that requires
no particular skill or technique. You simply bring cooked and seasoned sushi rice, some choice fillings, nori and condiments to the table, and let everybody assemble their own little temaki, or hand rolls. It’s brilliant – we did this a few days after Christmas when I was craving Japanese food but had no fresh fish in the house.

Enter Nigella. Lately, everybody has been talking about her fish finger bhorta, a recipe she borrowed (with permission) from the journalist and activist Ash Sarkar. Basically, it’s a sort of dry curry made with smashed-up fish fingers; the kind of thing that’s so ingenious yet so simple that it has made us all wonder why we haven’t been making it our whole lives. Indeed, it’s certainly got me thinking why I’ve never utilised fish fingers in anything more interesting than a sandwich before.

This must have been in the back of my mind when I reached for them to use in our temaki party. If you think about it, it makes sense; fried seafood is no stranger to sushi, after all. I texted my friend Yuki (of Bar Yuki fame) a photo of my invention, expecting her to laugh at me. Instead, she simply replied, ‘Yummy, it’s like ebi-fry temaki!’ – referring to the perennial favourite, panko-crusted fried prawns (shrimp). So there you have it: fish fingers are just the poor man’s ebi-fry, and they make a killer temaki.

MAKES 8 LITTLE HAND ROLLS; SERVES 2-4
200 g (7 oz/1 cup) rice
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
40–50 g (2 oz) daikon, peeled, or radishes
iced water
8 fish fingers
Japanese Mayo (see below) or Tartare Sauce (see below)
1 handful of pea shoots
2 sheets nori
soy sauce, as needed
wasabi, as needed

METHOD
Cook the rice according to the instructions on page 219. While the rice is cooking, stir together the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Once the rice is cooked, spread it out in a large bowl or tray and sprinkle over the seasoned vinegar. Mix the vinegar through the rice using a rice paddle or spatula with slicing and turning motions. Let the rice cool to room temperature before making the rolls.

Slice the daikon or radishes very thinly – use a mandoline if you have one, and if you don’t, use a very sharp knife and take your time. Cut down the length of the daikon,
rather than across, so you have rectangles rather than circles. Stack the slices of daikon up and cut them again into very thin shreds.  Transfer this to a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes and leave to soak for about 20 minutes (if you don’t have ice, just put the bowl in the fridge).

Cook the fish fingers according to the manufacturers’ instructions, but I would recommend giving them a few minutes extra to get really crisp. Drain the daikon and dry it well with paper towels. Toast the nori by waving each sheet back and forth 15–20 cm (6–8 in) over an open flame on the hob, for about 30 seconds each. Cut each sheet into four squares.

Bring everything to the table along with chopsticks, side plates and little dip pots. To assemble, hold a piece of nori in your hand, then use the chopsticks to pile in a little mound of rice, then top with the mayo or tartare sauce, then some daikon and pea shoots, then the fish fingers. Wrap it up like something halfway between a taco and a burrito, and eat with your hands. Dip it in the soy sauce and a little wasabi with each bite.

NOTES:
JAPANESE BROWN SAUCE AND JAPANESE MAYO
Japanese brown sauce has many variants, such as tonkatsu sauce, yakisoba sauce, okonomiyaki sauce and takoyaki sauce. They all fall under the category of what’s simply called ‘sauce’ in Japan, as they have similar flavours, with slight variations in terms of consistency and balance. Tonkatsu sauce is a good choice if you need something that will work well in a variety of recipes. You can make it at home but I would strongly recommend buying it. The same goes for Japanese mayo, known for its creamier, eggier, deliciously MSG-enhanced flavour. The brand Kewpie seems to be everywhere these days, and while it is expensive, it’s worth it. Normal mayo just doesn’t cut it.

FOR THE TARTARE SAUCE
20 g (¾ oz) pickled ginger (any kind), very finely chopped
4 tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp English mustard
½ tsp dried dill
1 handful of chives, finely sliced

Stir together all the ingredients until well mixed.

Photography: Laura Edwards

Cook more from this book
KARAAGE 6.0 by Tim Anderson
Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter by Tim Anderson

Read the review


Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter by Tim Anderson

Izakaya_Day1_13551
ペッパーステーキの醤油ガーリックバター焼き PEPP  SUTĒKI NO SHŌYU G RIKKU BAT  YAKI

One of my very favourite lunch spots in Japan was a little fast food shop called Pepper Lunch. Pepper Lunch is a chain, with over 200 branches in Japan and even more outside Japan. It’s not exactly the pinnacle of Japanese gastronomy, and my Japanese colleagues teased me for liking it so much, but damn, did they do some good pepper steak. It was cheap – suspiciously so – but it was always cooked perfectly and it was also really good beef, highly marbled and incredibly tender. Of course, the seasonings were so tasty (lots of pepper, lots of garlic, lots of soy sauce) that you probably could have cooked an old shoe in them and it would have tasted reasonably good. So this is my loving homage to Pepper Lunch.

SERVES 2
1 tbsp oil
1 ribeye steak, 300–400 g (10½–14 oz) and ideally at least 2.5 cm (1 in) thick, patted dry with paper towels
a very generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp honey
20 g (¾ oz) butter
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

METHOD
Set a frying pan (skillet) over high heat and add the oil. Season the steak all over with the pepper. When the oil is smoking hot, lay the steak in the pan and cook it on one side until nicely browned, about 2–3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, again for about 2 minutes. By this point the steak should be rare; keep cooking for a further 2 minutes for medium-rare and another 2 minutes after that for medium, flipping the steak every 20 seconds to form an even crust and cuisson. When the steak is cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan and leave to rest on a chopping board.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the water, then set the pan back over the heat and add the soy sauce, sake, honey, butter and garlic. Simmer for 4–5 minutes until the liquid reduces slightly and the garlic infuses into the gravy, then remove from the heat. Slice the steak into bite-size cubes, about 2 cm (¾ in) wide, and toss through the pan sauce.

TIP
Use your senses and intuition cooking steak or, better yet, a probe thermometer, to gauge the steak’s doneness. And remember: if you’re not sure how cooked it is, err on the side of rare. You can always cook it more. If you’re using a cut other than ribeye, slice the steak across the grain as you usually would; otherwise, the meat will be too
tough and chewy.

Cook more from this book
Fish Finger Hand Rolls by Tim Anderson
KARAAGE 6.0 by Tim Anderson

Read the review


Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

Med by Claudia Roden

Med by Claudia Roden
What’s the USP? An exploration of dishes from across the length of the Mediterranean by one of the most iconic names in food writing today, Claudia Roden. As well as being an instantly recognised figurehead of Middle Eastern cooking, Roden has previously written no less than four books on the wider Mediterranean cuisine (and another two focussing more closely on the food of Italy and Spain). So, not exactly a USP – but given that this is the octogenarian’s first book in a decade, perhaps the words ‘a cookbook from Claudia Roden’ are enough in themselves.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s lots to enjoy here, even if Roden’s written segments won’t occupy more than an evening of light reading. Opening with a section that explores both the theme of the book and the influence Roden’s own life journey has had on her food, Med sets itself up to be both a welcome addition to the shelves of existing fans and a suitable introduction to new fans.

Deeper into the book, both chapter and recipe introductions alike offer a good balance of the practical and the personal: glimpses into Roden’s experiences shimmer alongside useful tips and ideas for ingredients that can be substituted. There has always been a very passionate cultural anthropologist Claudia Roden that looks over the shoulder of the Claudia Roden that cooks the dishes and passes them out to her family for testing, and it’s a pleasure as ever to hear the snippets of history and humanity that are commonplace throughout Med.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Would the grand dame of Mediterranean cooking do that to you? Roden’s recipes are clear, concise and to the point, with coherent instructions and – thanks to the popular awareness the author herself played a significant role in developing across the UK – ingredients that are widely available in supermarkets. Even ingredients like harissa and pomegranate molasses that might not have been so readily available at the time of release for her last Mediterranean cookbook in 2007 have since become staples of Tesco’s aisles.

What’s the faff factor? For the most part, Med offers up relatively simple dishes that are full of flavour. One of the elements that unites the cuisines of the broad range of nations that have the sea in common is the quality of ingredients used. Very often this means that dishes allow those ingredients to speak for themselves, and require very little alchemy from the home cook. The fifteen or so salads in the book are a perfect example of this. Roden’s instructions for the vibrant Citrus Salad with Green Leaves read closer to flower arranging than cooking, and result in an intensely tangy, fresh dish. Even the Store-Cupboard Mediterranean Salad, which calls for piquillo peppers, tinned tuna, black olives and plum tomatoes has only two sentences of actual recipe.

Elsewhere in the book, Roden is a keen champion of ready-made pastry, making even the most complex dishes a good deal more achievable. Nowhere is this more apparent than her Chicken and Onion ‘Pies’ with Moroccan Flavours, which look incredibly elaborate, but should come together with relative ease in forty-five minutes or so.

How often will I cook from the book? There are plenty of options to keep the home cook occupied here, which is bound to happen when a title can draw from the cuisines of around twenty different countries. Roden the cultural anthropologist is excellent at sharing the origins of dishes – or owning up to those few recipes that are more a collection of fine ideas than a replica of anything already in the world.

Killer recipes: Spaghetti with Prawns Provençal, Bullinada, Chicken in a Spicy Honey Sauce Buried in Vermicelli, Yoghurt Cake, Parfait Mocha Praliné

Should I buy it? The only real qualm anyone might be able to muster with Med is that there isn’t much in the book that you couldn’t already find fine versions of elsewhere – either in Roden’s own illustrious back catalogue, or amongst the pages of very many fine Mediterranean cookbooks already in print. But the recipes are consistently very tempting and offer a thorough insight into both the dishes of the sea and the way the different nations have interacted with one another over the centuries. Med will be a welcome addition to the shelves of Roden’s long-term fans, and a useful all-rounder for those who have yet to explore the wealth of flavours on offer across the Mediterranean countries.

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

Buy this book 
Med: A Cookbook
£28, Ebury Press

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

Your Home Izakaya by Tim Anderson

Your Home Izakaya by Tim Anderson

What’s the USP? A Japanese cookbook inspired specifically by the cosy izakaya bars of Japan. More casual than restaurants, izakayas are often compared to Spain’s tapas bars and, occasionally, to English pubs. The latter feels a little like a stretch, though – the delicious snacks izakayas offer are a big part of their appeal, and whilst I’m a big fan of Smith’s Scampi Fries, it’s pretty hard to romanticise their role in pub culture.

Who wrote it? Tim Anderson, the former Masterchef winner who went on to found Nanban. He left the restaurant last year to focus on, amongst other things, his cookbooks. Nanban’s loss is our gain. Your Home Izakaya is Anderson’s fifth book, and an interesting take on the increasingly crowded Japanese cookbook market. Focusing on the casual dishes most likely to be found in izakayas, Anderson’s book continues his refreshingly unprecious look at the cuisine. Fusion dishes abound here, the result being an engaging and very approachable collection.

Is it good bedtime reading? Whilst not exactly a lot of reading, there’s more than you’ll find in a lot of cookbooks – and those few lengthier chunks of prose are very enjoyable. Opening and closing with the pandemic reflections that you suspect will be commonplace on our shelves for the next year or two, and supplemented with the standard explanations of cuisine-specific ingredients, Anderson also finds room for touching tributes to individuals and practical explanations of technique. Occasionally a recipe will start a page later than you’d expect thanks to a particularly effusive introduction.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Ingredients are listed with clear and precise measurements for Brits and Americans alike, but it’s fair to say that Anderson’s prose-heavy instructions can be a little hard to follow – at least in a literal sense. Recipes are written in chunky paragraphs that often contain a dozen or so steps. It looks nice, but makes it easy to lose your place as you switch between stove top and cookbook.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson lives and works out of London, and with one or two optional exceptions the city should be able to offer everything you need. That said, those shopping in small cities and towns will want to find out where their nearest Asian supermarket is and stock up – from dashi powder to daikon radishes, there are plenty of ingredients here that won’t be popping up in your local Asda.

What’s the faff factor? Two of Anderson’s biggest books to date have been his Japaneasy titles, which specialised in simple dishes. If you’re looking for really quick and easy recipes then these will remain your best bet – but much of the ethos present in those books has been carried over to Your Home Izakaya too. Yes, dishes like Braised Pig’s Trotter with a Crispy Crust require a bit of waiting, but anyone willing to eat pig’s trotter is usually willing to wait for it too.

How often will I cook from the book? Eager home cooks may find themselves pulling this from their shelf on a very regular basis – there’s plenty to love here, and dishes like Cheese Dakgalbi, Chicken Katsu Curry Spaghetti and Fluffy-Creamy Omurice lend themselves to a rich and filling weeknight dinner.

What will I love? Another hangover from his last book, Vegan Japaneasy, is the wealth of vegan and vegetarian friendly recipes here. Whilst the tail end of the book tends to weigh a little heavier with meaty recipes, the opening chapters are overwhelmingly veggie, and readers will find it easy to put together tasty menus that suit their own needs.

What won’t I love? It’s actually pretty hard to find a flaw in Your Home Izakaya – the photos are vivid and tempting, each recipe comes complete with suggestions both for other dishes that might share a table and the best drink to serve alongside your meal. The biggest issue is those hefty paragraphs in the recipes, but it feels like a petty sticking point.

Killer recipes: The Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter was a brilliant success when cooked on a quiet weekday evening, and served (as per the book’s suggestion) over rice with an egg yolk on top. Elsewhere, there’s Furikake Potatoes, Japanese Fish and Chips, a fantastic section on yakitori including some delicious Chicken Thighs with Yuzu-Kosho. Tucked away between the desserts (Sake Glass Jelly with Seasonal Fruit!) and some useful essentials like Dashi are a smattering of cocktails – a Salted Grapefruit Shochu Highball being a particular highlight.

Should I buy it? Fans of informal Japanese cooking will be well served by this thoughtful (and fun!) new cookbook by Tim Anderson. Those looking to replicate high-end dishes or create perfectly formed sushi will be better off looking elsewhere. But if you want to explore the cuisine whilst having a little fun, I’d suggest turning directly to page 161 – Prosciutto-wrapped Crab and Avocado Sushi Rolls.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books

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

Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier
What’s the USP? Everything you need to know in order to do Christmas the River Cottage way, which roughly translates as sustainable, organic and do-it-yourself. After reading this book you’ll be ready to start knocking up your own homemade mince pies, gifts and decs while necking copious amounts of rumtopf. That sounds like a Merry Christmas to me.

Who wrote it? Lucy Brazier is a writer and course tutor at River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s HQ in Axminster that offers courses in cooking, gardening and artisan skills.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a multi-award-winning writer and broadcaster and environmentalist committed to seasonal, ethically produced food. He is the author of numerous cookbooks and has fronted many TV series including River Cottage for Channel 4, the series that first brought him to the nation’s attention. His campaigning TV programmes have included Hugh’s Fish FightHugh’s War on Waste and Britain’s Fat Fight.

Is it good bedtime reading? You’ll want to get comfortably tucked up in bed with Christmas at River Cottage ideally a year ahead so you can put in to action all the advice in the ‘Planning Ahead’ chapter and begin growing your own produce and buying all the preserving kit you’ll need to make your own jams, pickles, booze, non-alcoholic drinks, syrups and cordials and fermented drinks. You’ll be in the perfect place as you’ll be exhausted just reading about all the work in store for you, never mind actually doing it. And that’s before you get to ‘Decking the Halls’ where you’ll learn how to craft your own willow Christmas wreath,  make tree decorations from dried orange and apple slices and how to make your own calendar in the ‘Advent’ chapter.

What’s the faff factor? It depends if you view the planning-ahead required to make things like red cabbage and beetroot pickle which needs to be prepared several weeks in advance, or marrow and chilli relish that needs six months to mature. But there are plenty of do-on-the-day recipes such as quick kedgeree and kale with anchovy cream that are straightforward enough.

How often will I cook from the book? If you take the homemade ethos to heart, then you may be cooking regularly from the book throughout the year making the jams, preserves and pickles in time for the big day, otherwise, it’s going to be mostly useful to you once a year.

What will I love? The book covers everything you need for a homespun festive break, from table decorations and drinks to the Christmas roast with all the trimmings and your own homemade Christmas pudding.

Killer recipes: Lentil salad with herby dressing; midwinter vegan tart; curried potato tart; beef and stout stew; mulled wine; prune and apricot stollen; Yule ham; Christmas Eve pizzas; turkey au vin.

Should I buy it? If you’re no longer satisfied with store-bought decorations and a turkey breast joint from Iceland and you want to get seriously hands-on with Christmas preparations all year round, then this is an essential purchase. Even for the less dedicated, there’s plenty of inspiration to make your Christmas a bit more special and personalised than it might usually be.

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

Buy this book
Christmas at River Cottage
£22, Bloomsbury Publishing

Grains for Every Season by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg

Grains for every season by Joshua McFadden
What’s the USP? Intensely nutritious but often overlooked by home cooks who are uncertain how best to cook with them, whole grains have a lot to offer. Grains for Every Season looks to open their world up to the reader, offering a wealth of different dishes that span familiar grains like barley and quinoa, as well as less common offerings such as millet and buckwheat.

Who wrote it? The James Beard Award-winning pair Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. Their last book (McFadden’s first) was the critically-acclaimed Six Seasons, which offered ‘a new way with vegetables’ – here the pair are determined to give whole grains their due instead, highlighting their desire to put flavour first at every point. The rich nutritional value of their ingredients are highlighted, but frequently seem to be considered no more than a convenient bonus, which is frankly rather nice. Earlier this year Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s solid Eat Better Forever spent entire chapters unpacking the health benefits for using whole grains, but the recipes themselves were less than inspired. McFadden’s book is packed with variety and flavour, whilst also teaching the reader enough about each grain to help them incorporate the food better into their own dishes.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not particularly – the introduction aside, Grains for Every Season isn’t packed with prose. Each grain has a very useful but relatively brief introductory page that covers how it tastes, how it should be prepared, how it is good for you, and why McFadden is such a fan. The recipes themselves are given a brief explanation, but insomniacs aren’t going to find much to occupy them here.

But then, that’s not why we’re here – Grains for Every Season isn’t intended as a grand tome laying out food philosophies. Instead, McFadden and Holmberg are simply keen to make cooking with grains a good deal less intimidating for the average person. And they excel at doing this.

The recipes manage to hit all the homely, comforting notes you’d expect. A Lightly Curried Lamb, Cabbage, and Barley Soup offers exactly the warmth a reader might anticipate, but includes an inspired extra little punch of flavour. This is McFadden’s flavour-first approach peeking through, and over the course of the book these little touches appear time and again, lifting the grains and presenting them anew.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Clarity is always welcome in a cookbook, and the recipes here are thorough and specific – though this can occasionally result in a rather wordy page within which your place can easily be lost as you step away from the book to your prep and back again. Ingredients are listed with both US and metric measurements, and rarely ask for anything too difficult to source. Your biggest sourcing issue if based outside of the US will be kosher salt, though I’ve been buying it in bulk from online retailers ever since Samin Nosrat more or less insisted upon me doing so in Salt Fat Acid Heat.

What’s the faff factor? Try as they might, the authors cannot wholly expel the effort necessary to fully enjoy many of these grains. McFadden champions toasting his grains regularly throughout the book, though he does make an effort to save the reader some time by revealing that he doesn’t tend to soak grains before cooking, finding that the time saved in cooking doesn’t warrant the forward planning. Nevertheless, dishes call for all sorts of different preparatory methods, and some of these can be quite time consuming. Salads are usually a relatively quick dish to knock together, but the Rye Berry and Roasted Cauliflower Salad will take almost two hours to prepare if you haven’t already got some cooked rye berries sitting somewhere in the house.

How often will I cook from the book? There’s plenty of argument for this being a book that finds its way down from your shelf at least once a week. Knowing the many health benefits from eating more whole foods, it’s hard to ignore the value of a cookbook that presents so many varied, flavoursome approaches to cooking grains. There are simple, easy-to-cook ideas that will suit weeknights (Whole Wheat Pasta with Crab, Cream, Olives and Habanero could be readily pulled together in the time it takes to cook the pasta, and is a perfect example of the unexpected-yet-inspired flavour combinations that run throughout the book), and more elaborate dishes that will better suit a leisurely Sunday afternoon, in which you can spare three or so hours in which to simmer the beef for your Beef and Swiss Chard Soup with Spelt.

What will I love? The four seasonal spreads tucked throughout the book are a particular treat. Each one introduces a different dish: pilaf, grain bowls, stir fries and pizza. Presenting a simple method and offering up seasonal adaptations, these spreads are bright moments in an already excellent book.

Killer recipes: Seafood Stew with Hominy and Warm Spices, Super Fudgy Chocolate Oat Layer Cake with Chocolate Oat Milk Frosting, Farotto (a risotto-esque dish that uses farro in place of the rice and comes with several variations), Toasted Rye Cabbage Rolls

Should I buy it? Grains for Every Season is a beautifully written, carefully considered cookbook that is filled with originality and, importantly, flavour. But it is also something far more useful: an accessible and above all else tempting introduction to cooking with one of our most underused sources of nutrition. Anybody keen to explore whole grains in earnest should consider Grains for Every Season their first port of call.

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

Buy this book
Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way with Grains
£32, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

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

Marcus’ Kitchen by Marcus Wareing

Marcus's Kitchen

What’s the USP? Approachable home-cooked recipes cooked up during lockdown by a Michelin-starred TV chef at his country home.

Who are the authors? Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs with the Michelin-starred Marcus restaurant at the swish Berkeley Hotel. he is also well known as the stern taskmaster on the BBC TV series Masterchef: The Professionals. He rose to fame in the 90’s as Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man, heading up a number of restaurants including the original Petrus in St James’s Street. His falling out with Ramsay is well documented.

Wareing’s co-author for the first time (replacing Wareing’s former business partner Chantelle Nicholson) is chef Craig Johnston, a Masterchef: The Professionals winner and now Wareing’s head chef.

Is it good bedtime reading? As with Wareing’s last book, not really. A short introduction plus recipe introductions and that’s your lot.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? As usual you’ll need a reliable fishmonger for large scallops to pan fry and serve with celeriac and chimichurri slaw or halibut to bake with lovage and serve with white asparagus (another two ingredients you will probably need to hunt down) but you should have no problem tracking down most of the ingredients in this book.

What’s the faff factor? That will depend greatly on what chapter of the book you’re cooking from. Quinoa salad with cottage cheese and roasted onions from ‘Tight for Time’ should take 20 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook if the timings given in the book are correct. On the other hand, prawns with a bisque and tomato fregola from ‘Something Special’ requires 2 to 2.5 hours of prep time and 1.5 hours to cook the dish.

How often will I cook from the book? A lot. Over the course of eight chapters (in addition to the two named above, there’s Market Garden, Simply Essential, Weekend Wonders, Baking, Worth the Wait and Kitchen Foundations) Wareing has compiled more than 100 recipes for pretty much any occasion, mood, inclination, ability, budget and appetite. It’s versatile is what I’m trying to say.

Killer recipes? Marcus’ Kitchen is all killer and no filler, but to give you some examples:  barbecue pork burgers (these are great, although I dialled down a bit on the quantity of Marmite when I made the recipe); rosemary and malt glazed lamb belly with salsa verde; roasted onion tarte tatin with cheddar mascarpone; Korean-style fried monkfish with sesame pickles; baked chilli beef with sweetcorn cobbler; pork loin in black bean sauce (an excellent, easy mid-week family dinner); sautéed potato gnocchi with broccoli, rocket and parmesan. Basically, you can let the book fall open anywhere and you’ll find something you want to cook.

What will I love? We are in similar territory as Waring’s previous book Marcus Everyday, at home in his stunning East Sussex hideaway Melfort House (beware: the photos of Wareing’s amazing kitchen garden may make you very jealous indeed) where he’s created dishes aimed at home cooks rather than his fellow professional chefs (although I’m sure they’d appreciate them too). There’s a huge variety of global influences here, from Indonesian to Italian and Peruvian to Middle Eastern, reflecting the way many British home cooks love to compose a weekly menu, hopping around the globe to avoid culinary boredom (there are plenty of British dishes too, albeit with a twist such as English muffins with brown crab and miso or brown sauce-glazed ham with onion gravy).

Should I buy it? It seems as though lockdown provided Wareing with the chance to really concentrate his efforts on the book which I think may well be his best yet. It’s a book I’ve already enjoyed cooking a lot from and it’s one I can see myself returning to again and again in years to come.  It’s true that there may be more authentic sources for a banh mi recipe than a white bloke from Southport, but that doesn’t stop Marcus’ Kitchen from being a joy to cook from and an essential purchase for every keen home cook.

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

Buy this book: Marcus’ Kitchen: My favourite recipes to inspire your home-cooking 
£22, HarperCollins

Let’s Eat Italy by François-Régis Gaudry and Friends

Lets Eat Italy
What’s the USP? A deep dive on Italian food culture in an ‘oversized, obsessively complete, visual feast of a book’. And the marketing folk at publisher Artisan really do mean over-sized. This is the sort of coffee table book that might be better suited to artful placement on a picnic bench. Never mind doorstop tomes, this book is the size of an actual door. You get the idea: woe betide anyone looking to fit this onto an Ikea bookshelf.

Who wrote it? Credited to ‘François-Régis Gaudry and friends’, this is a collaborative effort from the team behind 2018’s similarly massive Let’s Eat France. A popular restaurant critic across the Channel, Gaudry has compiled a team that includes well over seventy contributors, including pieces by regulars from his radio show On va deguster.

Is it good bedtime reading? In so many ways, Let’s Eat Italy is perfect bedtime reading – each section offers a stand-alone deep dive into a single facet of Italian cooking. They are beautifully designed, as indebted to a Wes Andersonian sense of style as they are Italy’s own innate relationship with design. It makes for a book that one can pore over, page by page, or simply dip into as they like.

There are in-depth looks at different ingredients, from a ‘Spotlight on Capers’ to sumptuous photographic spreads on artichokes, Italian citrus fruits, tomatoes and more. Perhaps you are more interested in exploring the terroir of the nation’s cuisine, exploring the impact Venice’s lagoon has on its food. There are, of course, plenty of recipes too – regional specialties uncovered and offered up for home cooks to discover on their own turf.

All told, it’s rare to open Let’s Eat Italy and not find yourself at least briefly enamoured by its contents. Amongst the three hundred or so topics there are remarkably few duds – an occasional look at Italian food in American pop culture sheds no new light, but elsewhere even those sections without any immediate obvious use (charts of native cattle breeds) or beautiful enough to distract the reader for a moment.

The only real problem, then, is the sheer size of it, which simultaneously renders it readable only on a large table, or propped up on one’s knees whilst sitting on the sofa. But equally with the design so lovingly attended to, it’d be a crime to print it any smaller than it already is.

How good is it as a cookbook? Oh, absolutely useless. The recipes are tempting, sure – but who has room on their counter for a cookbook the size of a tabloid newspaper? I have enough difficulty sourcing real estate for the toaster. Recipes also tend to form only a small percentage of the page they are on, with the vibrant photography and elaborate histories of each dish taking priority to Gaudry and his pals. Better, then, to explore the dishes that tempt you most and then seek them out elsewhere – a decent Italian cookbook like Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy or, more recently, Rachel Roddy’s A to Z of Pasta will cover most of the bases here.

Should I buy it? Let’s Eat Italy is surplus to almost any cook’s actual needs – but then, that’s also true of all the best cookbooks. This is a luxury, to be treasured and perhaps even revered a little. The sort of book that sits in a home like an alternative religious text – an illustrated Bible of Italian food culture that will have as many devotees as it does naysayers. But here’s the kicker: the real Bible doesn’t have a three page illustrated spread dedicated to salumi.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks, and hungry folk who have no intention of cooking but do fancy lusting over authentic local specialties.
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Let’s Eat Italy!: Everything You Want to Know About Your Favorite Cuisine
£45, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

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

A Festive Fumble by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

L1450308

6 servings

For the ‘independent’ crumble:
50g butter, diced (or use 50ml vegetable oil, for a vegan crumble)
75g light wholemeal cake flour or wholegrain spelt flour
50g porridge oats or fine oatmeal 50g ground almonds or hazelnuts 100g almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, roughly bashed or chopped, or 100g cooked chestnuts, crumbled
30g sugar (soft brown, golden granulated or demerara)
A pinch of salt

For the Bramley and verbena compote:
Juice of 1 lemon
1kg Bramley or other cooking apples
12 dried lemon verbena leaves (see book)
50–100g caster sugar

To serve:
Plain yoghurt, lightly whipped cream (or a mixture of both)

For the crumble, preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5 and have ready a large baking tray. Either rub the butter into the flour in a large bowl to get a coarse breadcrumb texture then stir in the other ingredients, or soften the butter first and mix everything together in one go with your hands (which is the best approach if you’ve used oil).

Either way, break the mix into chunky clumps and spread out in the baking tray. Bake for 15–20 minutes, stirring the mix at least once, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely. If you are not using it straight away, store the crumble in a jar, or sealed tin or plastic container for up to a week.

To make the compote, put the lemon juice into a large pan. Peel, core and slice the apples into the pan, tossing them with the juice as you go so they don’t brown. Add the dried lemon verbena leaves, sugar and 2 tbsp water.

Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and cook gently, stirring occasionally to help the apples break down, for about 20 minutes until you have a slightly chunky purée. Taste and add more sugar if you like – but keep the compote nicely tart because it will be paired with the sweet crumble. You can either serve your compote straight away or let it cool then chill it.

To assemble your festive fumble, divide the apple compote between serving glasses or bowls. Add a generous dollop of yoghurt, whipped cream or a combination of the two. Top with a layer of crumble mix, and tuck in – swirling your fumble as you eat.

Variation
Citrusy Bramley compote
Instead of lemon verbena, use the finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange; also include the grated zest of the lemon used in the recipe. Add to the lemon juice in the pan as you start the apple compote and proceed as above, but don’t add the 2 tbsp water.

Cook more from this book
Chestnut and Chocolate Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
My Favourite Stuffing by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Christmas at River Cottage
£22, Bloomsbury Publishing

Extract taken from Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier, with seasonal notes and recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £22)
Photography © Charlotte Bland