Doughnuts and hot chocolate sauce by Nieves Barragán Mohacho

Doughnuts and hot chocolate sauce from Sabor

This is like an easier version of churros with chocolate sauce. If you don’t have a mixer to make the dough, you can knead it by hand.

Ingredients

rapeseed or sunflower oil, enough to fill your pan to about 3cm

For the doughnuts
60g cold but malleable butter
450g plain flour
60g caster sugar
4 eggs
12g fresh yeast or 4g quick yeast
60ml whole milk

For the hot chocolate sauce
300ml water
150g caster sugar
160ml single cream
50g cocoa powder
300g dark chocolate (70%)

For the cinnamon sugar
150g caster sugar
50–60g ground cinnamon

Take the butter out of the fridge 15 minutes before starting and chop into small cubes. Put the flour and sugar into a large bowl and mix together with your hands. Heat the milk until almost steaming, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Mix into the yeast, stirring with a whisk to dissolve.

Put the flour and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and slowly add the butter – it will look like crumble. Add the eggs one by one, then dribble in the milk/yeast mixture until everything comes together into a sticky dough.

Slightly flour a large container or bowl, turn the dough out into it, and lightly flour the top. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning, turn out the dough on to a floured surface – it will have almost doubled. Take a piece (approx. 30g) and roll it in your hands, then squeeze down until it’s about 2½cm thick. Use the top of a miniature bottle to press out the dough in the middle, leaving a hole. The doughnuts should be around 25g each. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough.

Stick two fingers through the middle of each doughnut and roll them round to push out the dough a bit more and double the size of the hole – otherwise it will close up when the doughnut is fried and expands.

To make the hot chocolate sauce, put the water, sugar and cream into a pan on a low heat and dissolve the sugar. Put the cocoa powder and chocolate into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water to melt the chocolate (this keeps it smooth). When the chocolate has all melted, add it to the cream with a spatula. Continue mixing until it becomes dense and thick and perfect for dipping. Keep warm.

Mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the oil into a shallow pan on a medium heat. When it’s hot, fry the doughnuts until golden brown, then remove and drain on kitchen paper. Dust with the cinnamon sugar while still warm and serve with the warm chocolate sauce for dipping.

This recipe appears in
Sabor: Flavours from a Spanish Kitchen
Nieves Barragan Mohacho
£25 Penguin Fig Tree

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Gary Rhodes at the Table

Rhodes at the table

At the Table was the spiky-haired one’s seventh major cook book in about as many years and followed hot on the heels of the mammoth New British Classics. How on earth did he do it?

No doubt that sustaining a career like Rhodes’s is a team effort, and the many acknowledgements in the front of the book support that theory. However, all the food for the book was prepared by the chef himself, and his style is firmly imprinted in both the prose and recipes.

As always with Rhodes’s dishes, quotation marks abound in titles to indicate not all is as it seems, eg Pigeon and Red Onion “Pasty” turns out to be a pithivier. There are many more examples. It’s an annoying affectation and is indicative of Rhodes slightly overwrought approach.

However, the book design is excellent, with good use of colour. The photography is superb, and there are some real gems amongst the recipes, including a terrific crab salad, duck with spicy plums and a fantastic pear parfait.

Rhodes is a highly skilled and talented chef, and his food can be demanding of the home cook. Using this book may require a little more forethought and preparation, and you may need to adapt the recipes to your own abilities, but the results will be worth it.

Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

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Gary Rhodes at the Table
Gary Rhodes
£0.01 BBC Books

Cooking At The Merchant House by Shaun Hill

Merchant House

There had been a ten year gap between The Shaun Hill Cookery Book (also known as The Gidliegh Park Cookbook) and Cooking At The Merchant House when it finally arrived in 2000. In between, Hill had knocked out a vegetable cook booklet for the BBC, contributed recipes to “A Spoon At Every Course by Mirabel Osler, and apparently spent the advance for a book called Masterclass which eventually surfaced as How to Cook Better.

Of course, he was also busy doing other things, such as running a restaurant, consulting for BA and Tescos and the odd bit of broadcasting on Radio 4. But I’m extremely glad he took the time to record the recipes that formed the menus at his wonderful and late lamented Ludlow restaurant.

Dishes such as Warm Artichoke Heart with Peas and Mint Hollandaise; Fresh Goats Cheese Gnocchi and Lobster with Chickpea, Corinander and Olive Oil Sauce bring back fond memories of numerous meals eaten at The Merchant House.

In addition to the excellent recipes, Cooking At The Merchant House goes some way to telling the story of the life of the restaurant.  Hill is a gifted writer of prose and it’s a great shame that there is not more of it. I am told by ‘sources close to the author’ that a great deal more was written and submitted, but was sacrificed to photos and general design considerations. Nevertheless Cooking From the Merchant House remains an essential purchase for any serious cook, professional or amateur.

Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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Cooking at the Merchant House
Shaun Hill
£0.01 Conran Octopus

No Place Like Home by Rowley Leigh

No place like home

Rowley Leigh is the grand old man of the new wave of British cooking that sprang up in London in the late 80’s. Along with Alastair Little and Simon Hopkinson, Leigh dragged the capital’s restaurant world kicking and screaming into the modern age.

Although some very familiar recipes feature, such as Piedmontese Peppers or Nicoise Salad, Leigh brings a great deal of originality and excitement to the table in this, his first book and, as you might guess from the title, focuses on what works best at home, rather than fancy restaurant food. Roasts pepped up with some interesting side dishes, barbecues or a satisfying tart are the mainstay of the recipes you will find here.

If all that sounds a little dull, fear not. How about a Red Mullet, Aubergine and Potato Sandwich, Breast Of Veal with Pork, Spinach and Garlic Stuffing, or a sigature dish of Scallops with Minted Pea Puree?

The book is organised around seasonal, themed meals such as an autumnal “club dinner for the rich uncle” which includes oysters and grouse. The lovely line drawings of Lucinda Rogers make this a beautiful and original book but on that you will certainly want to cook from as well as look at.

Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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No Place Like Home: Seasonal English Cooking (The Food Lovers’ Library)
Rowley Leigh
£9.99 Clearview

Think Like A Chef by Tom Colicchio

think like a chef

“God, my feet are killing me”, “If that commis messes up again he’s out the door”, “Wow, who’s the new waitress”. Just some of the thoughts that probably pass through the mind of your average chef on any given day. Happily, Think Like A Chef, the first cook book published by Top Chef judge and former head honcho at New York’s Gramercy Tavern, has it’s mind on slightly higher things.

First comes some basic techniques like roasting, and in particular, braising. Then Colicchio focuses in on three of his favourite ingredients: tomatoes, mushrooms and artichokes, demonstrating how they can be used as building blocks to simple or complex dishes.Chef Tom would like to “help you trust your instincts” and “free you from the feeling that you must follow a recipe”. The book is based on Colicchio’s cooking classes and as a result has a slightly unusual format.

Next, a chapter is devoted to a number of recipes based around a trilogy of ingredients, and illustrates how the application of various methods and techniques can produce a variety of results. Further chapters on components and favourites round out the “course”.

Colicchio is, suprise suprise, of Italian extraction. His food is influenced by his early home life, so pasta features heavily. However, his professional career has seen him working alongside such diverse talents as Alfred Portale of the Gotham Bar and Grill, Thomas Keller and Michel Bras. Colicchio has taken a little from each to create his own style.

Photography is as stunning as you would expect, and looks particularly attractive on the high grade glossy paper used for the book. The design is clear and uncluttered, with an understated use of colour which gives the whole thing a very classy feel. The book is very well written, with easily followed instructions and recipes. Key recipes from the book include Braised Fresh Pork Belly, Seared Tuna with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette and Fennel Salad and Artichoke Ravioli with Artichokes, Peas and Asparagus. The book also contains some wonderful condiments like corn relish and balsamic onion marmalade.

The unusual approach makes a welcome change from the bog standard recipe a page formula but most importantly, Colicchios passion for food and his desire to educate come through loud and clear, which makes for a highly entertaining read.

Think Like A Chef is useful not only for it’s excellent recipes, but also as a reference work for fundamental cooking techniques like stock and sauce making as well as the definitive method for braising meat fish and vegetables. Essential for all dedicated cooks.

Cuisine: American
Suitable for: Beginners, confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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Think Like a Chef
Tom Colicchio 
£16.99 Crown Publications 

The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters by Stéphane Borie

Frenchman

The title might sound like a bawdy joke, but this is a serious cookbook from Michelin-starred The Checkers at Montgomery. The Frenchman is Waterside Inn-trained chef Stéphane Borie and the farmer’s daughters are his wife Sarah (also a former Waterside Inn chef) and her sister Kathryn who together run the acclaimed restaurant with rooms in mid-Wales.

In the forward, Michel Roux says Borie is ‘among the top ten’ of all the chefs that have worked at the Waterside Inn during its 45 year history; praise indeed given that list includes the likes of Pierre Koffmann and Mark Dodson (now of the Michelin-starred Mason’s Arms in Devon) who Borie worked under for three years.

Borie’s recipes reflect his long and varied career and includes dishes he created at the Waterside Inn such as Dover Sole printaniére (the fish stuffed with broad bean mousse and served with spring vegetables and a luxurious lobster, Champagne and sorrel cream sauce) as well as a recipe for figs marinated in honey, cardamom, mustard and ginger he picked up while working as a private chef for the Bamford family and serves at breakfast at The Checkers.

Borie is at his most distinctive when he is marrying his French heritage (he was born and raised in Agen in south west France) with that of his adopted home. Sewin – Welsh sea trout – is served as a canape in a Feuille de Brick ‘cornetto’ with lemon cream and caviar, and France and Wales sit side by side in a checkboard-style terrine of foie gras and leek.

While Borie isn’t averse to a few modern flourishes – date bubbles made in an alginate bath accompany a roasted crown of pigeon de Bresse and sous vide and dehydration techniques are employed regularly throughout the book – his style is grounded firmly in the French classics. Methods are often complex and require a decent level of knowledge, skill and precision to pull off successfully, but the results are impressive. You’ll probably need to bone up on your butchery before attempting the saddle of farmed rabbit stuffed with its confit shoulder and served with the best end but it will look stunning on the plate.

By using a small independent publishing company, Borie will probably make more money from the enterprise than if he had approached a major publisher, but the end-product suffers from a clunky and sometimes confusing layout and repetitious use of images (the same shot of a smoked tomato soup appears on three successive pages). Nevertheless, Borie’s individual talent shines through making The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters a worthy addition to any cookbook collection.

(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)

Cuisine: French
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

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The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters
Stéphane Borie
£25 A Way With Media

The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire

Five Seaons

Pierre Gagnaire is the French godfather of modernist avant garde cuisine, winning Michelin stars for his adventurous food in the early 80’s when Ferran Adria was still washing dishes for a living. Now, he presides over a world-wide empire that includes restaurants in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, and Dubai as well as his native France. But if you’re hoping for a definitive tome of the chef’s culinary oeuvre in the style of the Noma or el Bulli books, then you’re in for a disappointment.

Instead, to mark his 50th year in cooking, Gagnaire has produced his first family cookbook. The book’s 90 recipes are organised into 30, three course menus which are divided between not four, but five seasons. Gagnaire claims the fifth season is ‘that moment after winter has ended but before  spring has truly begun’. Recipes in the ‘Almost Spring’ chapter designed to be cooked in March and April include a stunning sole terrine with leek (although perhaps more of a dish for the restaurant than the family table) and a more homely and traditional blanquette de veau.

As you might expect from the man who serves conger eel with green mango and grapefruit granita in his eponymous three star restaurant in Paris, dinner chez Gagnaire is no ordinary affair. Fresh oysters are garnished with sardine, ginger and slices of frozen banana. Yes, banana. Floating islands is re-imagined as starter of egg white quenelles in a coffee scented chestnut veloute, topped with mortadella; and financiers are flavoured with rocket chlorophyll and served as a dessert with mint syrup and vanilla ice cream.

Frustratingly, there are no introductions to the recipes so the reader is left none the wiser to where the inspiration for all this creativity comes from, or the derivation of the name of the spicy ‘6 rue de la Pepiniere sauce’ that’s served with roast beef and made from red and green peppers, strawberries, raspberries and beetroot among other things (Google the address and you’ll discover it’s a branch of M&S Food in Paris, but how the two are connected remains a mystery).

The lack of a ‘basics’ section means there are no recipes given for the stocks, jus, brioche and ice creams required to make some of the dishes, inferring that home cooks are expected to use ready made alternatives. But despite it’s shortcomings, cooks of all levels may well find inspiration lurking in the pages of this highly individual collection.

(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)

Cuisine: French
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

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The Five Seasons Kitchen
Pierre Gagnaire
£25 Grub Street

Chiltern Firehouse: The Cookbook by Andre Balazs and Nuno Mendes

Chiltern Firehouse

Chiltern Firehouse opened in Marylebone in early 2014 in a blaze of publicity and quickly became the hottest restaurant in the city (that’s enough bad puns for one review). Despite rave reviews (the Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin said ‘the menu is touched with genius’) there was more media interest in which famous names owner and hotelier Andre Balazs (of Chateau Marmont, Hollywood fame) could attract than the dishes coming out of the open kitchen headed up by cult chef Nuno Mendes. This beautifully produced book, filled with thrilling recipes will help redress the balance.

If you’ve followed Lisbon-born Mendes’s career in the UK over the last decade from the molecular gastronomy-era Bacchus in Hoxton, through the influential Loft Project pop up to the critically acclaimed Viajante in Bethnal green, his appointment as head chef of an upscale American-style brasserie might have seemed leftfield. But reading the book’s frustratingly short autobiographical section (it comes to a sudden halt when Mendes arrives in London in 2004), you learn that the chef has worked not just for Ferran Adria and Jean George Vongerichten but at Wolfgang Puck’s big, busy Postrio in San Francisco and Mark Miller’s groundbreaking Southwestern cuisine restaurant Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, making him almost uniquely suited to the job.

He pays tribute to his mentors with dishes such as ‘Firehouse Caesar’, based on Miller’s recipe but with added crispy chicken skin, and a take on Puck’s herb gnocchi served with morels, peas, Parmesan cream and edible flowers. But mostly this is undiluted Mendes, filtering his Portuguese  heritage and travels to Spain, North and South America and Asia through his own very distinctive gastronomic lens in signature dishes such as the infamous crab doughnuts and visually arresting barley and oat risotto with courgettes, artichokes, spinach and herbs.

Recipes ricochet around the globe, from a Louisiana inspired Cajun Quail to Chinese-style lobster XO noodles and a Portuguese-Japanese fusion of grilled octopus with aubergine, daikon and mushrooms; a disparate-sounding collection but one unified by balanced and considered flavours, casual yet elegant presentation and simple good taste.

No attempt is made to hide the fact that Chiltern Firehouse is a glamorous destination; there’s an excellent chapter on the cocktails served in the fashionable bar and the many full page shots of the chic front of house team could have been ripped from the pages of Vogue. Yet there is true substance beyond all that style, enough to inspire and excite any experienced chef looking to expand their culinary horizons.

Cuisine: American/Portuguese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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Chiltern Firehouse
Andre Balazs and Nuno Mendes
£30, Preface

Junk Food Japan: Addictive Food from Kurobuta by Scott Hallsworth

Junk food japan

Former Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth drops more f-bombs than a Martin Scorsese movie character.  The four-page biographical introduction piles on the profanity with more than two dozen swear words; there’s a chapter entitled ‘Sushi’s F**ked-Up Friends’ and recipe introductions are littered with bad language.

Hallworth’s two Kurobuta restaurants in London are billed on their website as ‘Rock’n’Roll Izakaya’ (the Japanese version of a gastropub) and the Western Australia-born chef makes no secret of his unfulfilled musical ambitions. But his indie-rock swagger comes across on the page as more Kevin the Teenager than Nick Cave and falls short of the effortless cool of The Meatliquor Chronicles by Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins, a book (and restaurant) that Junk Food Japan owes a spiritual debt to.

But tune out the four-letter white noise and plenty of exciting, modern and iconoclastic east-meets-west ideas emerge. Hallsworth explains that the term Junk Food Japan began as a menu category that included tuna sashimi pizza (the recipe is included in the book) and then developed into the ‘no-nonsense, almost playful way of creating dishes’.

Although the book contains dishes that resemble fast food including fried chicken and hot wings, they’re refined versions that belie the ‘junk food’ tag, so the chicken is poached in master stock before being fried in a shichimi (Japanese seven spice power) coating and the hot wings are barbecued in a spicy  sauce made with gochujang, sake and white (the list of specialist suppliers at the back of the book is useful for tracking down the more obscure Japanese ingredients Hallsworth uses).

The traditions of Japanese cuisine that can appear daunting and limiting to neophytes are for the most part swept aside making Junk Food Japan an approachable introduction to a complex subject. Nigiri, the oval sushi rice pillows that are usually topped with raw fish are here finished with thin slices of dashi-poached veal and anchovy mayonnaise and pickled cucumber sushi rolls are topped with a Wagyu slider, chicken liver parfait and yuzu marmalade sauce to create a sort of Japanese version of Tournedos Rossini.

Dishes range from straightforward one pot wonders like marbou dofu (spicy minced pork and tofu) to the more technically challenging sushi creations, offering chefs of all levels something to get their teeth into. While I could have done without the potty mouthed posturing, Junk Food Japan is lively, informative and full of enticing recipes. It’s a great book, I swear.

(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

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Junk Food Japan: Addictive Food from Kurobuta
Scott Hallsworth
£26 Absolute Press

Alfred Portale’s Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook

Gotham

You may be forgiven for thinking that the Gotham Bar and Grill was Bruce Wayne’s favourite place for steak. In fact, it’s a very successful restaurant in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Alfred Portale has been it’s chef for well over three decades, during which time he has won the coveted New York Times award of 3 stars. Every successful restaurant must have at least one cookery book to display in it’s lobby and sell to wide eyed tourists, and the Gotham is no exception .

The Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook is more than a souvenir for the travelling gastronome however. The book, with it’s 200 recipes and numerous sidebars containing information on techniques and ingredients provides a complete introduction to modern restaurant food.

The book is beautifully presented on high quality paper, with colour photographs throughout. All the food for the illustrations was prepared by Portale himself . Colour is also put to good use within the text, giving the book a distinctive and lively look.

Portale has an impeccable C V, with time spent working for Troisgros and Guerard. Unusually, he also studied flower arranging which has obviously had an influence on his style of presentation. His signature “Seafood Salad” would not look out of place on your mantelpiece.

Step by step photographic guides are included to demonstrate how these more complex presentations can be achieved. Alternative family style options are also included for those not disposed to attempt elaborate arrangements of food on plates.

Portales obvious passion for food and meticulous attention to detail is communicated throughout the book, despite being ghost written by Andrew Freidman. The extent of this passion is revealed when the reader is informed that about twenty different recipes for curry were tested before settling on the one finally included in the book.

Being an American publication, recipes refer to measurements in terms of cup”, and ingredients such as cilantro and fingerling potatoes. However, this does not prevent the book being highly desirable and very usable for Europeans, albeit with a little patience and care.

As well as the special occasion recipes, the book includes some excellent everyday dishes with a whole section dedicated to soups, snacks and sandwiches. The dessert section is comprehensive with “Warm Chocolate Cake with Toasted Almond Ice Cream” being particularly appealing.

The Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook will be of interested to those of us who enjoy reading collections of recipes as much as the latest Harry Potter. It constitutes a very good introduction to readers beginning to explore and develop their culinary skills, as well as providing lots to excite accomplished cooks wanting to serve something a little bit different at their next dinner party. A recommended purchase.

Cuisine: American
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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Alfred Portale’s Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook
Alfred Portale
$45 Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group