Pizza: A book by Pizza Pilgrims by James and Thom Elliot

Pizza by Pizza Pilgrims

What’s the USP? The ultimate book about pizza! As well as recipes, Pizza offers up interviews with figures central to the pizza-eating world, pop cultural insights, and lessons in etymology and maths.

Who wrote it? Brothers James and Thom Elliot, who are best known as the founders of Pizza Pilgrims – a small chain of restaurants that evolved out of a single street food stand in London. Named after a toe-to-top journey through Italy that the brothers undertook in 2011 as an attempt to discover the secrets of great pizza, the brand has since become one of the most celebrated names to hoist a margherita upon the British people.

Is it good bedtime reading? Look, this is nothing if not filled with bedtime reading. In fact, it’s probably better not to think of Pizza as a cookbook, but rather food writing with added recipes. The book comes in just shy of 270 pages, and yet features only 26 pizza recipes, plus some pizza-adjacent ideas that bring the total recipe count to 30.

It’s hard to know exactly how to feel about this number. Pizzas are relatively intuitive things once the dough is made, and the overwhelming majority of the recipes that make the cut are both innovative and enticing. There are only so many pizzas one needs to be told how to make, after all. I’m not convinced there is much need to spell out how to put together a Hawaiian, for example, so it’s hard to fault the brothers for excluding it.

The rest of the content falls broadly into one of three categories. Firstly, there’s the genuinely interesting stuff, like a deep dive on the perfect pizza dough, and the city guides that champion the best pizzerias in Naples, Rome, and a smattering of other cities across the world.

Secondly, there’s the missed opportunities. Chief amongst these is the four-page section that looks at collaborative pizzas the Pilgrims have created with other restaurants over the years. Given the relative lack of actual pizza recipes in the book, it seems a tremendous waste to list twelve delicious sounding hybrids like the Dishoom-inspired Bacon & Egg Naan Pizza and not provide the means to create them at home.

Finally, there’s the filler – and, frustratingly, much of the book falls under this category. In an attempt to create a definitive text on pizza, the Elliots have included some genuinely useless sections. A two-page spread entitled ‘Pizza-Loving Celebrities’ lists thirteen famous people who have publicly professed to liking one of the most popular foods on the planet. There are four pages on the best fictional pizzerias and, later on, a further four pages on pop culture moments for the dish. Both of these amount to little more than a slightly wordy Buzzfeed list. Home Alone gets significant coverage in each.

Occasionally, the book gets really desperate – a gallery of pizza box designs customers have drawn up over the years, an advert for their ‘pizza in the post’ DIY delivery service and, most bafflingly, one-dimensional interviews with corporate figures from Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. There might be some interesting insights to be found in the development kitchens of these brands, but half a page with the UK operations director of Domino’s ultimately amounts to nothing but empty calories.

Oof. So you’re not a fan, then? Well, see this is the problem. Perhaps eighty percent of this book is useless to a serious home chef – but the twenty percent that remains is brilliant. The recipes frequently show the value of the brothers’ initial pilgrimage through Italy, demonstrating a depth of knowledge and understanding that results in genuine learning opportunities.

My favourite choice at my local takeaway is a light ham and sweetcorn affair that is revealed here to be a version of the Mimosa pizza. I had no idea that it was something of a nostalgic favourite in Naples, where children think of it in much the same way that Brits might think of fish fingers and chips.

The Elliots also champion the frying pan as their preferred method for cooking pizzas at home – an idea I might have been unconvinced by before, but will likely be my standard going forward. These sorts of revelations are worth the price of admission by themselves.

I’m not going to deny, either, that there will be audiences who lap this up. The style of the book reminds me of cash-in influencer titles at times, and for better or worse, it will appeal to plenty of people as a result. It might also offer an excellent entry point for pizza lovers who perhaps haven’t previously considered making their own at home. 

What will I love? The recipes are faultless, even if there aren’t all that many of them. Alongside those inexplicable big brand takeaway interviews, there’s also a lovely conversation with Antimo Caputo, who makes flour that enjoys a cult status in pizza circles. It’s worth taking a moment, too, to celebrate the inspired cover design, which mocks up a takeaway pizza box with joyful, tactile precision.

What won’t I love? The recurring feeling that the publishers are trying to make the book thick enough to charge twenty quid for. The frustration that instead of achieving this by including more recipes, they threw in filler pages with titles like ‘Pizza Facts’. The sheer incredulity you feel when the first fact on the ‘Pizza Facts’ page – that the pepperoni pizza emoji is the most used emoji in the US – is so obviously, quantifiably not true that it renders the entire page pointless. It’s the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji, by the way, and you (or the publisher’s fact checkers) can confirm that with one four word Google search.

Killer recipes: There are no duds amongst the recipes, but the Mimosa, Datterini Filetti and Mortadella & Pistachio pizzas are particular highlights.

Should I buy it? This is definitely a browse-in-the-shop-first book. Anyone really passionate about homemade pizzas will benefit from the advice here, and I suspect this would be a great book for a young person who is getting increasingly ambitious in the kitchen. More confident cooks might want to consider if they can really afford to give up valuable space on their cookbook shelf to a title that barely fits the description of ‘cookbook’ in the first place, though.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

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

Buy this book
Pizza: History, recipes, stories, people, places, love (A book by Pizza Pilgrims)
£20, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

The Whole Bird by Thomas Keller

The Whole Bird_Credit Deborah Jones
“The Whole Bird”
Poached Breast with Leg Rillettes, Crispy Skin, and Sauce Suprême

Makes 4 servings

Poularde
1 (3½-­ to 4-­pound/1,500-­ to 1,800-­gram) poularde

Poularde Leg Confit
150 grams kosher salt
45 grams sugar
1.5 grams thyme leaves
1.5 grams lemon zest (grated on a rasp grater)
1 gram freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves
5 grams thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
Duck fat (optional)

Poularde Stock
1,200 grams chicken stock (page 285)
leg Rillettes
100 grams mousse base (recipe follows), made with 200 grams reserved poularde leg meat
5 grams Burgundy mustard
2.5 grams roasted garlic puree (page 133)
1.5 grams kosher salt
1 gram minced shallot
Two grinds black pepper

Sauce Suprême
200 grams heavy cream
100 grams whole butter, cut into cubes and chilled
Lemon juice
Kosher salt
Armagnac

To Complete
Activa GS (transglutaminase), for dusting
Burgundy mustard

Special Equipment
Meat grinder with a medium die, chilled in the refrigerator
Chamber vacuum sealer (optional)
Immersion circulator (optional)

Poularde—a chicken slaughtered before reaching sexual maturity at around three months—from Four Story Hill Farm is exquisite, and Corey has developed an ingenious dish that puts the whole bird to work and a whole bird on the plate. Legs are both confited and used to make a mousse; the confit and mousse are then combined into a kind of rillette. These are spread on top of the breast, which is then poached gently. The skin is ground and rendered into cracklings, then used to coat the layer of rillettes. It’s both an ode to the poularde as well as a show of respect to Sylvia and Stephen Pryzant, who in raising this bird achieved a kind of benchmark for the breed. I couldn’t name a single chef in the country who had poularde on their menu before the Pryzants came along.

Of course, the beauty of this dish is that here two elements, the chicken and the sauce, are in fact extraordinary creations. The piece of chicken comprises every part of the chicken.

And the sauce. A sauce suprême, chicken stock thickened with a roux and finished with cream, is an elegant French sauce. Here Corey combines this classical idea with an Asian technique used for tonkatsu ramen broth. In classic French cuisine, stocks are simmered gently and skimmed continually to remove fat and impurities, while tonkatsu ramen broth is boiled heavily so the fat is emulsified into the broth. Corey takes that idea and applies it here, boiling his stock ramen-­style (see page 285), but then goes further: he blends more chicken fat into the stock with a hand blender as he’s chilling it. To finish the sauce, he combines this rich stock with reduced cream, mounts it with butter, and flavors it with lemon zest and Armagnac, creating this wonderfully rich and delicate version of sauce suprême.

I should note that Corey calls this “sauce suprême” knowing that it’s nothing like the classic—but for good reason. He once served it at a dinner attended by Daniel Boulud and Jean-­Georges Vongerichten, two of New York’s best French-­born chefs, and they kept delighting in the sauce and calling it an incredible sauce suprême. Corey tried to explain that they were mistaken, but they insisted it was the best sauce suprême. He was so honored, he continues to call it by this name.

For the Poularde
Cut the legs from the poularde. Remove and reserve the skin from the legs. One leg will be used for the confit and the other to make the mousse base. Remove and reserve the skin from the rest of the poularde. Cut off each side of the breast, keeping the small tender attached to each breast.

Remove the bones from one leg and weigh the meat. You will need 200 grams to make the mousse base; if you do not have 200 grams, trim off some of the meat that remains on the carcass. Rinse the bones and feet (if they were on your poularde) under cold running water to remove all visible blood. Remove and discard any organs still attached to the bones. Cut the bones into 1-­inch (2.5-­centimeter) pieces and reserve them for the poularde stock.

Keep all parts of the poularde refrigerated in an airtight container until you are ready to use them, up to 2 days.

Grind the skin through the chilled medium die of a meat grinder and place it in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes to render. The fat will separate and the skin will become crisp and golden brown. Strain the fat through a chinois or fine-­mesh strainer into a bowl and let cool to room temperature; reserve the fat for the stock. Drain the fried skin on paper towels and let cool until crisp, then chop it very finely and reserve it for finishing the dish.

For the Poularde Leg Confit
Mix the salt, sugar, thyme, lemon zest, and pepper in a bowl. On a piece of plastic wrap, make a bed of just less than half of this cure. Lay the bone-­in poularde leg on the bed of cure and pat the remaining cure over and around the sides of the leg. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2½ hours.  Rinse and dry the cured poularde leg.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, set an immersion circulator in a water bath and heat the water to 80°C (176°F). Place the cured poularde leg, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves in a sous vide bag. Place the bag in the sealer chamber and vacuum seal. Cook in the water bath for 5 hours.

If you do not have a chamber vacuum sealer, preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Place the cured poularde leg, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves in a small heavy-­bottomed pan and add duck fat to cover. Cover with a cartouche and cook in the oven for about 2 hours, until completely tender.

Remove the bag from the water bath or the pan from the oven and let the leg cool in the fat. Remove the leg from the fat and dry it on a clean kitchen towel. Carefully pick the meat from the bones, removing any veins. Shred the meat as finely as possible and chop. Reserve the meat for the rillettes.

For the Poularde Stock
Combine the reserved poularde bones and feet (if using) and the chicken stock in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Boil for about 30 minutes, until the stock has reduced by half. Do not skim or reduce the heat at any point.

Strain the stock through a chinois or fine-­mesh strainer into a clean pot, bring to a boil, and reduce the stock by about two-­thirds to about 200 grams. Strain the reduced stock into a narrow vessel and nestle the container in an ice-­water bath to cool.

When the stock has cooled, using a hand blender, blend in 55 grams of the reserved rendered poularde fat on high speed.

Refrigerate the stock in an airtight container until ready to use, up to 3 days. Once the emulsion is set, it can be reheated or cooled without any risk of breaking.

For the leg Rillettes
Combine 75 to 100 grams of the chopped poularde leg confit with the mousse base, mustard, roasted garlic puree, salt, shallot, and pepper and mix until completely homogenous. Transfer to a disposable piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 day.

For the Sauce Suprême
Bring the cream to a gentle boil in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot over medium-­high heat, adjusting the heat as necessary, and reduce the cream by a little more than half to about 75 grams. Add 200 grams of the poularde stock to the pan and reduce the sauce by half. Rapidly stir the butter into the sauce (this will improve the richness, body, and shine of the sauce).  Season with lemon juice, salt, and Armagnac to taste. Keep in a warm spot until serving.

To Complete
Lay the two poularde breasts on the work surface with the tenders facing up. Using a paring knife, very carefully remove the white tendon on each tender. Peel the tenders back but leave them attached to the breasts. Lightly spray the exposed side of the breasts with water and sprinkle the surface lightly with Activa (shake it through a small fine-­mesh strainer or from a shaker). Fold the tenders back into place. Turn the breasts over.

Wipe the work surface with a slightly dampened kitchen towel. Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap, each about 9 inches (23 centimeters) long. Smooth the plastic so that there are no creases. Spray the plastic lightly with nonstick spray. Lay a breast on each piece of plastic, about one-­third of the way up from the bottom edge. The length of the breast should run the direction of the length of the plastic. Pipe a line of the rillettes down the center of each breast.

Use a small offset spatula to spread the rillettes evenly into a ¼-­inch (6-­millimeter) layer across each breast, spreading it to the edges of the breasts. Fold the top of the plastic up and over each breast to meet the other side.

Continue to “flip” the breasts in the plastic, keeping the bottom of the breast flat and the rillettes in a natural dome. Keep the plastic wrap tight. Pull the ends of the plastic tightly, then trim them and tuck under the breast to hold its shape.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, set an immersion circulator in a water bath and heat the water to 60°C (140°F). Place the breasts in a sous vide bag. Place the bag in the sealer chamber and vacuum seal. Cook in the water bath for 45 minutes. Remove the bag and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove the breasts from the bag and remove the plastic wrap.

If you do not have a chamber vacuum sealer, preheat the oven to 180°F (80°C). Put the poularde in a wide 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot (just large enough to hold the pieces of poularde without their touching each other) and add enough water to cover by 1 inch (2.5 ­centimeters). Remove the poularde and set aside in a bowl. Bring the stock to 180°F (80°C). Return the poularde to the pot, cover with a lid, and place in the oven. Poach for 30 to 40 minutes, until an instant-­read thermometer inserted into a breast reads 160°F (71°C). Remove the poularde breast from the stock and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove the breasts from the plastic wrap.

Slice each breast in half on a slight bias. Using a small pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the breast with mustard. Carefully cover the top of the breast with the reserved crispy skin. Spoon the sauce suprême on each serving plate and place a piece of the poularde alongside.

Mousse Base
Makes 370 grams

200 grams lean protein
30 grams egg whites
5 grams potato starch
4 grams kosher salt
90 grams heavy cream
40 grams crème fraîche, preferably Kendall Farms

Special Equipment
Meat grinder with a medium die

This recipe works well with all types of lean protein, including chicken, pike, scallops, raw lobster, beef, or veal.

Refrigerate a medium die for a meat grinder, food processor bowl, and food processor blade until cold. Cut the protein into ½-­inch (1.25-­centimeter) dice. Grind the protein twice through the chilled medium die into a bowl.

Transfer the protein to the chilled food processor bowl and process until smooth. Add the egg whites and process briefly to emulsify. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the bowl and the lid of the food processor. Add the potato starch and salt and process briefly to combine. It is important not to overwork the mousse, as the friction of the blade will overheat the mousse and cause it to break.

With the machine running, slowly add the cream to maintain the emulsification. Scrape the sides and the lid of the food processor again. Add the crème fraîche and process until the mousse becomes smooth and develops a nice shine.

Transfer the mousse to a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath to chill. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the mousse, smoothing out any air bubbles, and refrigerate until cold. For longer storage, transfer the mousse to an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Golden Chicken Stock
Makes about 5,500 grams (5½ quarts/5.5 liters)

2,500 grams chicken wings
450 grams chicken feet
3,750 grams (3¾ quarts/3.75 liters) cold water
2,000 grams ice cubes
225 grams carrots, cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) dice
225 grams leeks (white and light green portions only), cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) dice and rinsed to remove any dirt
225 grams onions, cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) dice
20 grams garlic cloves, roots removed, crushed
20 grams fresh thyme
20 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

We call this golden because of the color that the abundant carrots give to the stock (as always, we add the vegetables at the end). It’s also very concentrated (we often water it down if its flavor could become too pronounced if used in, say, making risotto) and, from the additional chicken feet, very gelatinous. For chefs at The French Laundry (per se also has a fortified chicken stock—see Ramen-Style Stock—that is based on the golden chicken stock), it’s an all-purpose tool each night on the line, used for braising and glazing and finishing. Because it’s so rich and flavorful, we can use more stock and less butter to obtain a beautiful glaze, and a very nutritious one that the vegetables can absorb.

Rinse the chicken wings and feet thoroughly under hot running water to remove visible blood and place in a 15-quart (15-liter) stockpot. Cover with the cold water. Set the stockpot slightly off center over the burner. (This will cause any impurities that rise to gather at one side of the pot, making them easier to skim off.) Bring slowly to a simmer, skimming continually. Once the liquid is at a simmer, add the ice; this will cause the fat to congeal. Remove the fat and skim off as much of the impurities from the surface as possible. Bring the stock back to a simmer and cook gently for 90 minutes. Remove any excess fat as necessary.

Add the carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and slowly bring the liquid back to a simmer, skimming frequently. Simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, skimming often. Turn off the heat and let the stock rest for about 20 minutes; this allows any particles left in the stock to settle at the bottom of the pot.

Set a chinois over a large container. Carefully ladle the stock off the top, disturbing the bones as little as possible so that the impurities that have settled to the bottom are not mixed into the stock. Once you reach the bones, tilt the pot to reach the stock; once again, be extremely careful not to move the bones. Do not press on the solids in the strainer or force through any liquid that does not pass through on its own. Discard any stock at the bottom of the pot that is cloudy with impurities. Nestle the container in an ice-water bath to chill.

Cover the container with a lid and store the stock in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.

Roasted Garlic Puree
Makes 250 grams

10 large heads garlic
Kosher salt
15 grams extra-­virgin olive oil

While this may seem like a lot of puree, it has many uses. It can be used to make roasted garlic bread (added to the dough itself), roasted garlic aïoli, garlic hummus, and garlic butter. It imparts a garlic flavor to items such as pasta sauce without adding the strong, pungent flavor of raw garlic.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Place a baking rack over a sheet pan.Slice off just enough from the top of each head of garlic to expose the tops of the cloves. Place the heads of garlic in a medium saucepot and add water to cover. Bring the water to a boil over medium-­high heat. Turn off the heat and remove the garlic. Lightly season the garlic with salt.

Place the heads of garlic in the center of a 12-­inch (30-­centimeter) square of aluminum foil and fold up the sides to form a foil tray. Drizzle the olive oil over the garlic and cover with a second piece of foil, crimping the foil along the edges to seal the two pieces together. The sealed pouch will steam and roast the garlic at the same time.

Place the pouch on the baking rack and bake for 1 to 1½ hours, until the garlic is cooked through and light golden brown in color. Remove the garlic from the foil and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Place a fine-­mesh strainer or tamis over a bowl. While the garlic is still warm, push the whole heads of garlic, cut-­side down, against the strainer, pressing the garlic cloves through; discard the skins. Let the roasted garlic puree cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones

Cook more from this book
Fish and Chips
Peaches ‘N’ Cream

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

Fish and Chips by Thomas Keller

FIsh and Chips_Credit Deborah Jones

“Fish and Chips”
Ale-­Battered Blowfish with Malt Vinegar Jam

Makes 6 servings

Malt Vinegar Jam
7 grams caraway seeds
225 grams malt vinegar, preferably Sarson’s
225 grams water
50 grams light brown sugar
1 gram fleur de sel
7 grams agar-­agar

Split Pea and Ale Batter
30 grams dried split peas
250 grams Cup4Cup gluten-­free flour
8 grams kosher salt
300 grams dark ale, plus more if needed

To Complete
Canola oil, for deep-­frying
6 cleaned blowfish tails, 2 to 3 ounces (55 to 85 grams) each
Kosher salt
All-­purpose flour, for dusting the fish
Freeze-­dried peas, crushed between your fingers
Blanched fresh peas, warmed, for garnish
Mint leaves, preferably nepitella

Special Equipment
Chamber vacuum sealer (optional)
Cast-­iron deep-­fry pan (optional)
Infrared thermometer gun (optional)

We have fun serving common dishes, such as this British middle-­class staple—fish and chips with mushy peas—in unusual ways. This one is very straightforward: ale-­battered fish, deep-­fried, with a sweet-­sour malt vinegar jam and a garnish of peas and fresh herbs. We get blowfish, caught off Georges Bank, from Wulf’s Fish, but you can use any firm white fish—cod, of course, is traditional and excellent. The tempura batter uses freeze-­dried peas and gluten-­free Cup4Cup flour, which creates a very crisp crust and holds that crispness longer. It’s a great flour for all such crispy batters. The vinegar jam is gelled with agar, and we like to finish the dish with nepitella, an Italian mint with a flavor that’s almost a cross between oregano and mint.

For the Malt Vinegar Jam

Lightly toast the caraway seeds in a small sauté pan over medium-­low heat, continuously swirling the pan to ensure that the seeds are toasting evenly without burning, until fragrant. Let cool, then grind the toasted caraway seeds in a spice grinder until they are cracked but not ground to dust.

In a 1-­quart (1-­liter) saucepot, bring the vinegar, water, brown sugar, and fleur de sel to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the agar-­agar and boil gently, whisking continuously, for 1 minute to activate the agar-­agar. Transfer to a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath. Chill, undisturbed, until the jam base is completely firm and set.

Coarsely chop the jam base and transfer it to a blender. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to high, blend the jam until it is completely smooth, using the tamper to keep the jam moving. Pass the jam through a chinois into a container and season with the ground caraway.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, place the container, uncovered, in the sealer chamber. Run a complete cycle on full pressure to remove any air bubbles incorporated during blending. This will give the jam clarity and shine.

The jam can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For the Split Pea and Ale Batter

Grind the split peas to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Transfer the pea powder to a bowl, add the flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. Whisk the ale into the dry mixture. If the batter is too thick, thin it with a bit more ale. The batter can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour before frying the fish.

To Complete

Fill a cast-­iron deep-­fry pot with about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of canola oil. (If you do not have a cast-­iron deep-­fry pot, use another heavy pot with sides at least 8 inches/20 centimeters high.) Heat the oil to 350°F (180°C).

Season the blowfish with salt and lightly coat with the flour. Holding the blowfish by the tail, dip it in the batter to fully coat the flesh, leaving the tail exposed. Carefully lower the blowfish into the hot oil and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, turning the fish once or twice, until the batter is evenly colored and crisp and the fish is just cooked through. Transfer the fish to a paper towel to drain.

Fill a disposable piping bag with the malt vinegar jam and pipe the jam into a small squeeze bottle.

Arrange the fried blowfish on serving plates and sprinkle with the crushed freeze-­dried peas. Garnish the plate with beads of the malt vinegar jam, blanched fresh peas, and mint.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones.

Cook more from this book
The Whole Bird
Peaches ‘N’ Cream  

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan


Peaches ‘N’ Cream by Thomas Keller

p.302 Peaches and Cream_THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, PER SE

Peaches ’n’ Cream
Whipped Ricotta and Pecan Sandies

Makes 10 servings

Canned Peaches
1,000 grams water
200 grams granulated sugar
20 grams ascorbic acid
5 freestone yellow peaches

Pecan Sandies
240 grams whole butter, at room temperature
63 grams confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
5 grams kosher salt
284 grams all-­purpose flour
100 grams raw pecans, chopped

Whipped Ricotta
15 grams granulated sugar
15 grams water
300 grams whole-­milk ricotta
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Zest of 1 lemon
200 grams mascarpone cheese
100 grams crème fraîche

Peach-­Scented Jelly
3 sheets silver leaf gelatin
50 grams lemon juice
To Complete
Fresh basil buds
Maldon salt

Special Equipment
Combi oven (optional)

The Napa Valley has some of the most amazing peaches you will ever taste, and at The French Laundry we are lucky enough to get the best of the bunch, all picked at perfect ripeness. But when they’re in the full flow of the summer season, they drop off the trees in such abundance that we can’t possibly serve them all. So we do what farms and households have been doing for hundreds of years: we put them up—preserve them. The process actually intensifies the flavor of the peaches and gives us the syrup they’re preserved in as a fabulous by-­product to include with their preparation. We usually can about 15 quarts of peaches in the summer; then we serve them around Christmastime, a special summer treat near the winter holidays. (Use perfectly ripe peaches with no bruises for canning. Firmer varieties work best; if they’re too soft, they can lose their shape.)

The syrup is seasoned with lemon and sugar, thickened with gelatin, and brought just to the setting point to create a thick, shiny glaze over the cold peaches. We finish the peach with basil buds from the garden (Genovese basil produces a white flower, Thai basil and lime basil produce a beautiful pink flower, and opal basil has a purple flower). We serve it with something creamy, here our housemade ricotta with mascarpone and crème fraîche, seasoned with vanilla and citrus. And for crunch, pecan sandies seem to be everyone’s favorite.

For the Canned Peaches
Stir together the water and sugar in a 2-­quart (2-­liter) saucepot (this is a 20% sugar solution). Heat just enough to dissolve the sugar without reducing the liquid and keep warm while you blanch the peaches.

Prepare an ice-­water bath and have it close to the cooktop. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Dissolve the ascorbic acid in 4,000 grams (4 quarts/4 liters) water in a 6-­quart (6-­liter) container and set aside.

Score the skin (not the flesh) of the bottom of the peach with a small 1-­inch (2.5-­centimeter) X. Drop 2 of the peaches into the boiling water and blanch for 30 to 40 seconds (see Note). Using a long-­handled slotted spoon, immediately transfer the peaches to the ice-­water bath to prevent further cooking. Using a paring knife, gently peel the peaches and set them on a tray. Repeat to blanch and peel the remaining peaches.

Cut the peaches vertically in half; separate the halves and remove the pits. Check the inside of the peaches to ensure they are good quality, with no mold or bugs. Drop the peaches into the ascorbic acid solution to prevent oxidation while you sterilize the jar.

If you have a combi oven, sterilize a clean 1-­quart (1-­liter) mason jar at 100°C (212°F) for 10 minutes. Otherwise, place a wire rack at the bottom of a large pot, fill the pot with enough water to submerge the jar, and bring the water to a boil. Place the jar on the rack in the pot, making sure it is submerged, and boil for 10 minutes. During the last minute, add a slotted spoon to sterilize it as well.

Meanwhile, bring the sugar solution to a gentle simmer. Remove the peaches from the ascorbic acid solution and place them in the sugar solution. Gently simmer for 3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Using clean tongs, transfer the jar to a clean kitchen towel.

Keeping the jar free from any foreign contamination at this point is crucial; you want to keep a clean, sterile environment within the jar. Tilt the jar and, using the sanitized slotted spoon, gently scoop one peach half at a time from the sugar solution and lower it into the jar, rounded-­side down, until all the peach halves are in the jar. Return the sugar solution to a boil, then pour it into the jar, covering the peaches and leaving 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of headspace at the top of the jar. Gently tap the jar on the counter to remove any air bubbles trapped by the peaches.

Place the lid on the jar and tighten it to fingertip-­tight (just until you feel resistance) to allow air to escape during the canning process. If you have a combi oven, process the jar at 100°C (212°F) for 20 minutes. Otherwise, check the pot you used to sterilize the jar; if there is not enough water to keep the jar submerged, add additional water. Bring the water to a boil. Stand the canning jar on the rack in the pot, making sure it is submerged, and boil for 20 minutes.

Remove the jar, tighten the lid all the way, and stand the jar upside down on the counter. Let cool to room temperature. Turn the jar right-­side up, clean the outside of the jar, check the lid for a proper seal, and label it with the date. Press the center of the lid; if it pops, the jar is not properly sealed. Remove the cap, reseal it, then steam or process in boiling water as before.

Properly sealed, the peaches will keep without refrigeration in an area not exposed to light for up to 6 months. The ideal temperature for long-­term storage is 40° to 70°F (4.5° to 21°C). After the jar has been opened, the peaches will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Always use a clean utensil, never your fingers, to remove peaches from the jar.

For the Pecan Sandies
Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line a sheet pan with a nonstick silicone baking mat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to medium, cream the mixture until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and pecans and mix on low speed until just combined, being careful not to crush the pecans. Transfer the dough to a work surface and press it with the heel of your hand as necessary to bring it together.

Place the pecan dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to ¼ inch (6 millimeters) thick, doing your best to keep a rectangular shape. From time to time, lift the top sheet of parchment and, using a dough cutter, push the edges to straighten them. (Keeping the dough a uniform rectangle will give a higher yield when cutting the cookies.) Slide the parchment onto a sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. (If frozen, defrost before baking.)

Cut the cookie dough into 2 by ½-­inch (5 by 1.25-­centimeter) batons. Using a small offset spatula, transfer them to the lined sheet pan, leaving 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) between them. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until golden.

Meanwhile, put some confectioners’ sugar in a small fine-­mesh sieve. Remove the cookies from the oven and, while they are still hot, immediately dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar. Let cool.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

For the Whipped Ricotta
Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepot just enough to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let the simple syrup cool completely.

In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk, whisk together the ricotta, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth. Add the crème fraîche and whisk until smooth. Finally, whisk in the simple syrup. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

For the Peach-­Scented Jelly
Submerge the gelatin in a bowl of ice water to bloom (soften) for about 5 minutes.

Set a cooling rack over a half sheet pan. Open the jar of peaches and pour 250 grams of the syrup into a small saucepot. Arrange the peach halves cut-­side up on the rack and refrigerate while you make the jelly.

Add the lemon juice to the syrup in the saucepot and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Remove the softened gelatin from the ice water and squeeze out any excess water. Add the gelatin to the hot syrup and whisk to dissolve. Strain the syrup through a chinois or fine-­mesh strainer into a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath to cool, stirring from time to time. Watch closely; as the syrup cools, it will begin to set, and you need to catch it right at the setting point, when it has thickened and begun to gel but still has fluidity. When the syrup reaches this point, remove the peaches from the fridge and spoon the syrup over them in a thick layer. Refrigerate to set the jelly completely, at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

To Complete
Remove the peaches from the refrigerator. Crush the basil buds lightly between your fingers to release their scent and flavor and sprinkle them over the peaches. Finish each peach with a little Maldon salt.

Place a large spoonful of the whipped ricotta in each serving bowl or on serving plates. Gently rest a peach half on top, cut-­side up. Serve with a stack of pecan sandies on a plate alongside.

Note
Blanching peaches loosens their skins, making them easier to peel. The heat helps to separate the skin from the peach so the peels slip off.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones.

Cook more from this book
Fish and Chips
The Whole Bird

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

A Love for Food by Carole Bamford

A Love For Food Carole Bamford

What’s the USP? An updated edition of the 2013 cookbook from the none-more-middle-class Daylesford organic farm in the Cotswolds.

Who wrote it? According to her website  ‘Carole Bamford has been a champion of sustainable, mindful living for over 40 years. As the founder of Daylesford Organic, she is recognised as a visionary in organic farming and food retail.’ She is also the wife of Brexit-backing JCB billionaire Lord Anthony Bamford.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not if you pop along to a Daylesford Organic store. The ‘flagship’ on the farm in Kingham is as jaw-droppingly lovely as it is expensive (there are a number branches in London too). You can also buy Daylesford Organics produce through Ocado.  That said, you will have little trouble tracking down the ingredients for most of the recipes at your local supermarket, (stick to the organic aisle if you want to keep in Lady Carole’s good books).

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? If you read the introduction (and the  acknowledgements page at the back of the book – does anyone do that apart from me?) you’ll discover that long serving Daylesford chef John Hardwick ‘created’ the recipes and a great job he’s done of them too.

Little details like giving not just the diameter of the pastry case for a Bledington Blue Cheese and Broccoli tart, but the depth too make all the difference. In this instance, you now know exactly what cookware to use to ensure you get the correct ratio between tart and filling – too often recipes need trial and error to get just right.

Not every recipe is perfect however; Ginger Biscuits were a cakey disaster for me (according to a chef friend who I consulted after my disappointing effort, the mixture should have been chilled before baking which is not stipulated in the book).

What’s the faff factor? The recipes are very much designed for the home kitchen. Some, like home made corned beef,  will take time and planning ahead but most will be plain sailing for any keen cook.

How often will I cook from the book? A Love for Food is definitely the sort of volume you’ll be glad to have on your shelf when it comes time to plan your weekly menus (which, if you read this blog is almost certainly something you do). It will be well thumbed and food spattered in no time. There are also a decent number of baking, pickling and preserving projects for when you have more time on your hands (for example, during a pandemic).

Killer recipes: Slow cooked lamb shoulder with white beans and salsa verde; curried cauliflower, red pepper and nigella seeds; Rita’s baked eggs and onions; ham hock terrine with piccalilli; seven seed sourdough; vanilla rice pudding with apple and blackberry compote.

What will I love? At nearly 400 pages, there’s room for 150 recipes that cover everything from breakfast, things ‘on toast’, egg dishes, soups, salads and vegetables to savoury tarts and pies, fish, meat, puddings and baked goods, so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

What won’t I like so much? Not applicable.

Is it good bedtime reading? A three page introduction is supplemented by articles on sustainablility and the environment, the market garden, Daylesford’s creamery and cheese room, it’s bakery and the farm’s animals. In addition there are page long introductions to every chapter and each recipe has its own introduction. In short, plently to keep you informed and entertained outside of the kitchen.

Should I buy it? It looks great the recipes are varied and enticing and it’s a good read. What’s not to love?

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

Buy this book
A Love for Food: Recipes from the Fields and Kitchens of Daylesford Farm
£30, Square Peg

Vanilla crème brûlée by Tom Kerridge

creme brulee6363

Vanilla crème brûlée is one of those classic desserts that everyone knows about and loves. And it’s been on the menu at The Hand & Flowers right from the very start. As far as I’m concerned, the key to a properly perfect brûlée is to have three distinct flavours that you taste – vanilla, eggs and caramel – so that it’s not just a sweet, creamy dessert. And I’ve got Alex Bentley to thank for teaching me that. This is 100% the brûlée recipe I was cooking as a young chef at Monsieur Max, where he was head chef. I think Alex was given or inherited the recipe from Max Renzland, the restaurant’s chef-patron. Apparently, it was an old Elizabeth David recipe; she must have learnt it during her travels in France, so goodness knows how old it really is.

Until Alex taught this recipe to me, most crème brûlée recipes I’d come across were sweet and made only with egg yolks. This one uses whole eggs and just a small amount of sugar. It was a game changer for me. I suddenly knew how to make a magical crème brûlée. The technique that really brings the dessert to life is its caramelisation on top. Instead of just melting the sugar, Alex taught me to caramelise it really heavily. At Monsieur Max, customers sometimes complained that the sugar was burnt, but that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to be; the caramelisation makes it taste toasty and nutty. You end up with a smooth, vanilla dessert that’s creamy with a bittersweet crunchy topping.

We match it at The Hand & Flowers with an Innis & Gunn craft beer rather than a dessert wine. The beer’s aged in old whiskey barrels so it has this really rich toffee, creamy flavour, which harmonises beautifully with the
crème brûlée.

serves 6

750ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 medium free-range eggs
30g caster sugar

Put the cream and vanilla pod into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until smoothly blended. Bring the vanilla-infused cream back to the boil, then slowly pour onto the beaten egg mixture, whisking as you do so to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over a medium-low heat until the custard thickens and reaches 88°C (check the temperature with a digital probe). Immediately remove from the heat and pass through a fine chinois into a clean bowl.

Press a layer of cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool for 20 minutes or until the custard is at room temperature. Pour the custard into a high-powered jug blender (Vitamix) and blitz for 30 seconds; this will lighten it slightly.

Now pour the custard into crème brûlée dishes or ramekins, dividing it equally (about 125ml per dish). Cover each dish with cling film, leaving a small gap on one side, to allow any moisture to evaporate. Stand the dishes on a tray and place in the fridge to set; this will take about 3 hours.

Caramel glaze
200g demerara sugar

When ready to serve, sprinkle a generous, even layer of demerara sugar over the surface of each set custard. Wipe the edge of the dish with a clean cloth.
Using a cook’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar, starting from the edges and working towards the centre. Take the caramel to a dark brown – this dish is all about  balancing the rich creamy egg custard with the slightly bitter caramel flavour.
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Slow cooked duck

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Slow cooked duck by Tom Kerridge

duck6033

We already had a great little business, but Great British Menu became one of the most pivotal moments in the pub’s history. The programme is very special: it shines the spotlight on quality British produce and showcases food and restaurants around the UK, which is brilliant because that underlines that our world isn’t just about London and the Southeast.

To get to the final, you compete in ‘heats’, and in 2010, my cook-off location was Waddesdon Manor, which is near Aylesbury. So, to me, the obvious thing to cook was something with Aylesbury duck. These ducks taste amazing and they’re from a small-scale producer – everything Great British Menu is about. Since an important part of our Hand & Flowers menu includes chips on the side (we’re a pub, after all), I decided to make the ultimate chips, cooked in duck fat.

I needed peas, too. So, I went down the route of petits pois à la française, except, instead of using bacon, which you’d normally do, I used crisp-fried duck leg confit. And then I finished the dish with a gravy that uses honey from the Waddesdon estate.

It all added up to a winner. I remember one Saturday night after the banquet was televised, we did 84 covers and served 78 portions of duck in one sitting. The success of this dish has been extraordinary.

serves 4

To prepare the duck
2 large Aylesbury ducks, about 2kg each
3 tsp ground mace

Remove the legs and wings from the ducks and take out the wishbone (reserve for the faggots, gravy etc., see right and overleaf). Remove the excess fat and skin, placing it all in a frying pan. Now carefully cut away the backbone; you should be left with the crown.

Place the pan of fat and skin over a low heat to render the fat out. Set aside for later use. Score the skin on the duck crowns and rub in the mace. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the duck crowns and sear on all sides for 5–10 minutes to render the fat and give the skin a good golden colour. Remove the
duck crowns from the pan and allow to cool.

Put each duck crown into a large vacuum-pack bag and vacuum-seal on full pressure. Immerse in a water-bath at 62°C and cook for 1½ hours. Lift out the vacuum-pack bags and remove the ducks. Carefully cut the breasts from the crowns. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Duck gravy
500g duck bones and wings, chopped
A little vegetable oil for cooking
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3cm pieces
4 celery sticks, cut into 3cm pieces
1 onion, peeled and diced into 3cm pieces
1 garlic bulb, cut across in half, through the equator
150g runny honey
4 cloves
2 litres chicken stock (see page 400)
50ml soy sauce
About 500g unsalted butter
Lemon juice, to taste (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan185°C/Gas 6–7. Put the chopped duck bones and wings into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 25–30 minutes until golden brown and caramelised.

Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrots and colour until darkly caramelised. Add the celery, onion and garlic and similarly colour until well browned.

Remove the duck bones and wings from the roasting tray and add them to the saucepan. Drain off the excess fat from the roasting tray, then add the honey and cloves to the tray. Place over a medium heat and take the honey to a dark golden caramel. Add a splash of the chicken stock and the soy sauce to deglaze the tray, stirring to scrape up the sediment.

Add the liquor to the duck bones and vegetables. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock and reduce down by half, to 1 litre. Pass the liquor through a muslin lined sieve into a clean pan and skim off any excess fat from the surface. Add 250g butter to every 500ml duck liquor and reduce down until it has emulsified into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add a little lemon juice if required. Set aside for serving.

Duck faggots
250g minced duck leg (skin on)
50g minced chicken liver
50g breadcrumbs
1 medium free-range egg
5g salt
2g cracked black pepper
100g caul fat, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

Put all the faggot ingredients into a bowl and mix well until evenly combined. Divide and shape the mixture into 50g balls. Wrap each one in caul fat to enclose. Steam the duck faggots at 100°C for 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool, then chill until needed. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7.  Place the faggots on a baking tray and bake for 8 minutes. Hold the faggots in the duck gravy until ready to plate up.

Duck legs & peas
2 duck legs
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp rock salt
2 bay leaves
About 300ml duck fat
500g freshly podded peas
4 tbsp runny honey
A little vegetable oil for cooking
2 large banana shallots, peeled and finely diced
100ml chicken stock
2 Gem lettuces, finely sliced
20 small mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Fan 130°C/ Gas 2. Put the duck legs into a large ovenproof pan or flameproof casserole. Tie the spices together in a muslin bag and add them to the pan with the rock salt and bay leaves. Pour on enough duck fat to cover and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 3½ hours or until the duck legs are soft. Leave them to cool in the duck fat. Once cooled, remove from the fat and place in the fridge. Meanwhile, add the peas to a pan of boiling salted water, bring back to the boil and blanch for no longer than 1 minute. Immediately drain and refresh in iced water. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7. Place an ovenproof heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck legs, skin side down, and place in the oven for 10–12 minutes to crisp up. Remove the duck legs to a plate and add the honey to the pan. Allow to caramelise, then pour over the duck legs and allow to cool. When ready to serve, heat a little oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and sweat for 10–15 minutes until softened. Add the peas and stock and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, flake the duck leg. Stir the duck meat into the peas with the lettuce and mint. Divide between 4 small serving pots.

Duck fat chips
15 large potatoes for chipping
2.5 litres duck fat for deep-frying

Cut a slice from the top and bottom of each potato, then press an apple corer through from top to bottom to make round cylinder chips. Put the cut chips into a colander under cold running water to wash off some of the starches. Now add the chips to a pan of boiling salted water, bring back to a simmer and poach for about 10 minutes until just soft, but still holding their shape. Drain on a perforated tray and leave
to cool.

Heat the duck fat in a deep-fryer to 140°C. Lower the chips into the hot fat in a wire basket and deep-fry for 8–10 minutes until the oil stops bubbling. Remove the chips from the fryer, drain and leave to cool. Set aside until needed. When ready to serve, heat the duck fat to 180°C and deep-fry the chips for about 6–7 minutes until golden
and crispy. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and season with salt.

To serve
2 tbsp runny honey
50g unsalted butter
Pea shoots, to garnish

Just before serving, preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Heat a little oil in a heavy-based ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down, and fry for 3–4 minutes to crisp up the skin, then place in the oven for 4–5 minutes to heat through. Pour off any excess fat from the pan, then add the honey and butter and turn the duck around in the pan to coat in the honey glaze.
Remove the duck breasts to a warmed plate and rest in a warm place. Increase the heat under the pan to caramelise the honey glaze then pour it over the duck breasts.
Serve the duck breasts with the duck legs and peas, duck faggots, gravy and chips. Finish with a garnish of pea shoots.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Smoked haddock omelette by Tom Kerridge

Smoked-haddock_621

A delicate, beautiful omelette is one of those pure dishes that makes you realise great food does not have to be about hundreds of ingredients on a plate. It’s about allowing a simple product to sing. I learnt that lesson back in the day when I worked for Gary Rhodes and we used to do a lobster omelette which showcased the chef ’s technique rather than putting a load of fancy things on the plate.

This smoked haddock omelette, which has been on The Hand & Flowers menu pretty much since we opened, started off as a lobster one. But I took a sharp, commercial learning curve early on. Starting out, of course, we had no accolades and were relatively unknown, so there was no reason for customers to spend what, at the time, was the equivalent of £30 or £35 on an omelette, even if it had lobster in it!

I still loved the idea of an omelette, so we tried an omelette Arnold Bennett (a fluffy open omelette created at The Savoy in the 1920s for the novelist, playwright and critic). Most people didn’t know who Arnold Bennett was, so we just called it ‘smoked haddock omelette with Parmesan’ and after a first couple of bumpy weeks it became one of our most popular dishes.

There is no reason why this dish should ever change. I can’t improve it. The flavour profile of the humble omelette is heightened with gently poached smoked haddock, a brilliant glaze made from hollandaise sauce and a béchamel sauce flavoured with the fish poaching liquor. So, even the glaze has got that lovely smoked taste, which really drives the flavour.

Actually, this omelette is probably my favourite dish on the menu. I am very pleased to say the lobster version has reappeared at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill in London some 14 or 15 years down the line, and has gone on to become one of our most Instagrammed dishes. Thank you Gary Rhodes…

serves 4

Poached smoked haddock
1 side of smoked haddock, 600g,
skin and pin bones removed
600ml whole milk

Check the smoked haddock for any tiny pin bones. Bring the milk to the boil in a wide-based saucepan. Carefully lay the smoked haddock in the pan, ensuring it is covered by the milk. Place a lid on the pan, turn off the heat and leave the fish to poach in the residual heat for about 10 minutes. Once the haddock is cooked, remove it from the milk and gently flake the fish into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pass the milk through a fine chinois into a clean saucepan and keep to one side.

Smoked fish béchamel
250ml smoked haddock poaching
liquor (see left)
15g unsalted butter
15g plain flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the smoked haddock poaching liquor to a gentle simmer. In a separate pan over a medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually ladle in the warm poaching liquor, stirring as you do so to keep the sauce smooth. Cook gently over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Pass the sauce through a fine chinois and cover the surface with a piece of baking parchment or cling film to prevent a skin forming. Set aside until needed. (You won’t need all of the fish béchamel but you can freeze the rest.)

Omelette glaze
4 tbsp warm smoked haddock
béchamel (see left)
4 tbsp hollandaise sauce
(see page 403)
4 medium free-range egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently warm the béchamel in a saucepan then pour into a bowl and whisk in the hollandaise and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass through a chinois into a warm jug or bowl. Keep warm to stop the glaze from splitting.

To assemble & cook the omelette
12 medium free-range eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
100g aged Parmesan, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Crack the eggs into a jug blender and blend briefly to combine. Pass through a chinois into a measuring jug. Place 4 individual omelette pans (we use Staub) over a low heat. Take the smoked haddock from the fridge, remove the cling film and lay on a grill tray. Warm under the salamander or grill. To each omelette pan, add 1 tbsp butter and heat until melted and foaming. Pour the blended egg into the pans, dividing it equally. Using a spatula, gently move the egg around in the pans until they start to firm up. Remove from the heat; you want the eggs to be slightly loose, as they will continue to cook off the heat.

Season the omelettes with salt and pepper and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over their surfaces. Divide the flaked smoked haddock between the omelettes, then spoon on the glaze to cover the fish and extend to the edge of the pans. If the glaze spills over the side of the pan, wipe it away, as this will burn on the side when  blowtorching. To finish, wave a cook’s blowtorch over the surface of the omelettes to caramelise the glaze. Allow the glaze to become quite dark, as the bitterness will balance out the richness of all the other ingredients.

Cook more from this book
Slow cooked duck
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Pecan pie by Ben Crittenden

B27A8496

SWEET PASTRY
450g plain flour
150g icing sugar
Pinch salt
225g butter
1 egg
50g cream

Add everything except the egg and cream to a food processor and pulse to bring the ingredients together, Then add the egg and cream and pulse to create a stiff paste, being careful not to over work. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour then roll out to about 3mm thick and line 2.5” tart cases. Trim excess and line the inside of the cases with cling film. Fill with rice or baking beans and place in freezer for an hour. Set oven to 190c and bake the cases for 8 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160c and bake until the pastry is cooked through. Remove the baking beans and make sure the bottoms are cooked, which should take about 20 minutes in total.

PECAN PIE
250g golden syrup
50g treacle
85g fresh bread crumbs
80g ground pecans
1 egg
150g cream
1 lemon zest
100g toasted pecans

In a blender, blitz everything except the toasted pecans until smooth. Decant into a container and refrigerate overnight. Crumble the toasted pecans into the base of the cooked tart cases. Set oven to 170c. Give the batter mix a good stir and then spoon into the cases on top of the crumbled pecans. Bake for 10 minutes at 170c then turn the oven down and bake for a further 10 minutes at 150c. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

BANANA SORBET
5 ripe bananas
50g glucose
1/2 lemon juice
Blitz everything together and freeze in Pacojet canisters. You don’t need to heat anything just blitz and freeze.

CHOCOLATE PURÉE
150g 70% Valrhona chocolate
50g cocoa powder
150g sugar
400g water
Ultratex to thicken

Bring the sugar and water to a simmer and pour over the chocolate and cocoa powder. Mix well and chill in the fridge overnight. Beat with a whisk to loosen and then add Ultratex a teaspoon at time. Mix well and leave 10 minutes between adding to allow time to absorb the moisture. When thickened pass through a fine sieve and decant into bottles.

CANDIED PECANS
100g pecans
225g sugar
125g water
Pinch salt
Bring 125g sugar, water, nuts and salt to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 100g of sugar and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Drain off the syrup and bake the nuts on parchment paper for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 150c.

TO SERVE
Lemon balm

Cook more from this book
Duck liver parfait
Poussin, korma, grape

Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

Read the review

Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden

Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
Stark is no ordinary Michelin-starred restaurant. In December 2016, chef proprietor Ben Crittenden, formerly of the West House in Biddenden, converted a sandwich shop in Broadstairs and, working alone in a tiny kitchen, served creative tasting menus to a dozen customers a night. A rave review on the Guardian in 2017 was followed by a Michelin star in 2019. This year, Stark moved to larger premises in the same road and there are plans to turn the original restaurant into a tapas bar.

It’s fitting then that Stark is also no ordinary cookbook. In addition to the recipes, 42 of them such as Hake, mushroom, dashi, and Poussin, korma, grape (there are also a dozen tapas dishes including a wagyu slider), the extraordinary story of the restaurant is told with breath-taking honesty from both sides of the pass, Ben in the kitchen and Sophie, whose contributions appear in bold text in the book, front of house.

In his introduction, Ben Crittenden says ‘there’s no sugar coating or PR spin’ and he is true to his word. At one point in his career, the pressure of work coupled with a draining extended daily commute see Crittenden contemplating steering his car into the central reservation rather than face another day in the kitchen. On a business trip to San Sebastian, he recalls standing on the ledge of a hotel balcony, ready to jump.

But it’s Sophie Crittenden’s voice that really sets this book apart. Being able to understand the devasting impact of a severe lack of work-life balance on the couple’s relationship and family life (the Crittendens have three children) is sobering. Their personal life is laid out so barely that at times it feels like eavesdropping on a private conversation. But that searing honestly is what makes Stark such a compulsive read and so valuable to anyone considering following in the Crittenden’s footsteps and opening their own restaurant.

This review was first published in The Caterer magazine.

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

Buy the book
Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

Cook from this book
Duck liver parfait
Poussin, korma, grape
Pecan pie, banana, chocolate