Sun and Rain by Ana Roš

9780714879307

Self-taught Slovenian chef Ana Roš highly unusual path to the professional kitchen is set out in the biographical section of this fascinating and visually stunning book. She trained as a professional dancer and was a member of the Yugoslav national ski team before going on to study international science and diplomacy. Her plans for a career in international diplomacy changed when she met her future husband and natural wine expert Valter Kramar. The couple decided to work in Kramar’s family countryside restaurant Hiša Franko in the remote Soča Valley where Roš eventually took over the running of the kitchen. International acclaim followed with Roš taking part in culinary events like Cook IT Raw and being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table documentary series.

Roš‘s lack of any formal culinary training has led to a highly individual style based on the abundant natural larder of the extreme north-west of Slovenia. A community of local foragers, shepherds, cheese makers, hunters and fishermen (some of which are profiled in the book) supply Roš with trout, deer, goats, dairy produce and fruits which she transforms into eye-catchingly plated dishes such as marble trout roe with rosa di Gorizia chicory and yeast; veal consommé, celeriac and young linden leaves, and beeswax peaches and elderflower.

The majestic natural glory of the Soča Valley is well represented in the photography of Suzan Gabrijan who has also captured the rugged elegance of Roš’s food. Even by publisher Phaidon’s consistently high standards, this is an exceptionally beautiful book. Disappointingly, however, apart from two photographs taken in the kitchen, there are no shots of the restaurant interior or exterior which is a puzzling and frustrating omission.  The recipes are hived off into a separate chapter at the end of the book so that it’s necessary to flick back and forth to the images of the finished dishes if you want to understand exactly what you are looking at.  These minor niggles criticisms aside, Sun and Rain is a comprehensive look at the life, culinary philosophy, and cooking of a remarkable figure in the modern culinary scene that will inspire any progressive thinking chef or very keen home cook.

Cuisine: Slovenian/Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

This review was first published in The Caterer

Buy the book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Summer Pear by Ana Roš
Bread by Ana Roš
Goat cottage cheese ravioli by Ana Roš

What is Cooking by Ferran Adrià and elBullifoundation

What is Cooking Ferran Adria

What’s the USP? This is not a cookbook and there are no recipes. According to the authors, it’s ‘a compilation of the connected knowledge needed in order to answer the question: ‘What is cooking?’. According to me, it’s nothing less than an intellectual land grab by one of the world’s most famous chefs in an attempt to place himself at the forefront of the study of cuisine and gastronomy as a formal academic subject.

Who is the author? Ferran Adrià is one of the world’s most famous chefs. Along with his brother Albert, he is the architect of what is commonly known as ‘molecular gastronomy’ but which Adrià refers to as ‘techno-emotional’ cuisine.

He closed the doors of his restaurant el Bulli back in 2011 and has since dedicated his time to the elBullifoundation, which, the website says is ‘a private, family-run foundation, promoted by Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler. Established on 7 February 2013, it came out of the need to transform elBullirestaurant, with a vision based on the desire to continue promoting innovation and creativity through the language of cooking and to preserve the legacy and spirit of elBulli for society’.

In practice that means publishing books, mounting exhibitions, the production of a documentary series about el Bulli restaurant, consulting services and whole raft of other projects including the development of educational courses. The one project that Adrià has been talking about almost since the day elBulli closed is the launch of elBulli1846, the re-purposing of el Bulli restaurant as ‘an exhibition lab’ for ‘studies, investigation and experimentation to generate knowledge around the theme of efficiency in innovation’. Although the website explicitly says that elBulli1846 is not a restaurant, that has been talk in the past of some food being prepared and served there, but no one seems to know if and when that will actually happen and if it does, who gets to eat it.

Is it good bedtime reading? Put it this way, there is a lot to read but it might keep you awake all night puzzling out just what it’s all meant to be for. To take an example, in the 48 page introductory section (broken down into a pre-foreword statement, a foreword by Adrià himself, a one page summary, a ten-page descriptive index and a 25 page introduction) you will find a flow chart that explains that, if you want to run a business that generates a gastronomic offering you will need a team of professionals from the sector that have a business culture and that they will need resources for different systems including storage tools and plating tools. In other words, if you want to run a restaurant, you need trained chefs who want to earn money and they will need things like fridges, tongs and spoons. The book continues in this vain, finding complex, opaque ways of expressing very simple and common ideas, for much of its 400-odd pages.

For example, in Chapter One: Let’s Start by Understanding Lexical-Symantic Aspects, you’ll ‘discover’ that ‘not all liquid is a beverage’ and that sometimes it’s food in a liquid state. Congratulations, you now know what soup is. You’ll also find out that 19th century food writer Brillat-Savarin ‘devoted his life to the tasting and enjoyment of food in different settings, which suggests a concept of alimentation that was not limited to survival, but that encompassed hedonism and recognized quality’. I hope you were sitting down for the earth-shattering revelation that people sometimes eat for pleasure.

In the same chapter, you’ll also find the definition of a word used no less than 913 times in the book- ‘elaboration’. Adrià would like you to use the word in place of cooking because ‘helps to give a more specific understanding of a stage within the culinary process’, which is a bit like trying to force your friends to call you by a nickname you’ve coined for yourself. However, Adrià is such a respected figure in modern gastronomic circles that he might just pull it off. Start practicing now if you want to be in with the cool kids, ‘I’m just going to elaborate this Aldi frozen minced beef pie in the heat supplying apparatus that is located within the area dedicated to the preparation of elaborations’. See, it’s fun!

Let’s for a moment imagine that it’s acceptable to take up 85 pages of a 464-page book introducing your subject and defining your terms. It might be then not unreasonable to expect that by chapter three you would be getting to the meat of the subject, that the author would be communicating some information, some facts from their research or at least some opinions or philosophy. And yet on page 97 we are confronted with this piece of spectacularly circular nonsense, ‘We can speak of interpretative creativity when the creation corresponds to the skilful interpretation of other, already existing creations. Whether or not this can be regarded as a level of creative outcome is a matter for debate, as it is a very subjective question.’

But there must be some concrete answers somewhere in the book, surely? How about in the section titled ‘We suggest several main criteria to discover the types of cooking a cook or a restaurant does’. Let’s take Adrià’s own dish, Pea Spheres. Here’s some of the things I ‘learned’ from reading about how it’s classified under 17 different criteria: it’s hedonistic food designed to produce pleasure; it’s an elaboration with food use; it’s an elaboration for the savoury world; it’s served in a fine dining restaurant and designed for customers of middle to high class social profiles, the working classes need not apply; it is an elaboration from a professional kitchen but amateurs with a spherification kit could reproduce it; it’s of the highest level of quality, sophistication and refinement, it is no less than creative culinary art. So, what do I do with that information? How do I apply that to the real world? If I use those same 17 criteria to analyse and categorise the fish and chips I’m having for my tea tonight, how will that change anything. I already know its savoury, it’s working class, it’s not particularly sophisticated and I could make it at home, but I can’t really be arsed. The process seems to be pointless.

But surely, Ferran Adrià and his multi-disciplinary team haven’t spent the last decade producing something of absolutely no value, have they? One last chance. Let’s read ‘As an action that is repeated over time, cooking generates consequences’, a chapter that views cooking from an historical perspective. The first line is ‘History is the time frame in which ‘everything’ happens.’ It’s not looking good is it? Anyway, let’s persevere. What does the book have to say about the Neolithic period? ‘With the Neolithic period came permanent settlements, and this sedentariness brought about sedentary cooking. Gradually, as a result, specialization emerged, with different elaborations giving rise to specialized cooking.’ That’s pretty much it. No specific examples of what the different elaborations or specialized cooking might actually be. It’s time for me to stop this. I’ve gazed long enough into the Adrià abyss. I can feel the Adrià abyss gazing back into me.

What will I love? I particularly enjoyed the infographic titled ‘The chef model: cooks, periods, styles and movements in contemporary fine-dining cuisine in western society’ which lists some of the biggest names in western gastronomy since the turn of the 20th century including Escoffier, Fernand Point and Alain Ducasse but reserves the largest font size on the page for the names Ferran and Albert Adria. History is always written by the victors.

That aside, the book looks great, and, er, that’s about it.

What won’t I like so much? In the introduction, the claim is made that ‘In spite of the large number of publications dealing with cooking or cuisine, we were unable to find any that offered a direct response to our seemingly simple question.’ One has to assume that eBullifoundation is including in that rather sweeping statement authoritative works such as the 1350 page Larousse Gastronomique (which in fact does have a page-long entry on the term ‘cooking’), the 900 page The Oxford Companion to Food (it too has entries on the terms ‘cook’ and ‘cooking), Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse and Le Repertoire to mention just a few. Set alongside those august tomes, the book singularly fails to justify its own existence.

I admit I may have missed the point, that I may not be sufficiently intelligent to understand how the Sapiens methodology works. Other readers, who may well be more sophisticated and erudite may possibly get a great deal from it. At the time of writing, there has been no other meaningful published review of What is Cooking (i.e. where the reviewer has actually read some or all of the book) and I don’t know anyone who has bought a copy and publicly expressed their views. I can’t imagine anything but praise from Adrià’s peers so the critical jury is currently out. You’ll just have to take my word for it at the moment.

Should I buy it? It’s £100. If you’ve got that to spare, if you wouldn’t miss it at all and if you are the world’s biggest Ferran Adria fan, then go ahead. Otherwise think very carefully before you are parted from your money. If you work in the fine dining sector, it’s worth considering whether you will actually learn anything of value by wading through 464 pages of powder dry theory. Will it help you do your job better? Will your understanding of the craft of cooking and cuisine have increased in a way that you can apply in a practical way to your business? Because there is very little pleasure to be derived from What is Cooking. In truth, this review has been an unpleasant ordeal, a tiresome bore and I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy, of which there are many and to which I’ve probably just added one more.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review rating: 1 star (for the design)

Buy this book
What is Cooking: The Action: Cooking, The Result: Cuisine (FOOD COOK)
£100, Phaidon

Summer Pear by Ana Roš

Ana Ros cookbook summer pear

When I was a kid I was addicted to the summer pears in my grandmother’s garden overlooking the seaside. These are green, sweet and delicate.

Serves 4

For the nasturtium granita

80g sugar
15g glucose
2 soaked gelatine leaves
100 g nasturtium leaves
10g oxalis

For the poached pears

200 g summer pears
100 g butter
35g honey
10g salt

For the blackcurrant coulis

700 ml blackcurrant juice
70g sugar
8 g agar agar

For the whey coulis

100 ml whey
20g honey
5g gelespessa

For the whey ice cream

875 ml whey
25g glucose
375 ml cream
200 g sugar
5g super neutrose
420 g egg yolks

For the caramelized white chocolate

100 g white chocolate

Boil 450 g water, the sugar and glucose. Add the gelatine and cool it down.

Blend the nasturtium, oxalis and cold base. Freeze it and stir every 5–10 minutes.

Clean and halve the pears. Melt the butter and add the honey. Vacuum bag the pear with butter. Cook at 62o C (144oF) for 15–20 minutes.

To make the blackcurrant coulis, com- bine all the ingredients and boil. Cool it down, then blend.

To make the whey coulis, blend all the ingredients together.

Boil the whey, glucose and cream. Mix the sugar and super neutrose. Add the sugar to the cream and whey. Pour everything over the yolks and cook all together to 82oC (180oF). Strain.

Bake the chocolate in an oven at 160oC (320oF) for 6–8 minutes.

To serve, cool the plates to -5oC (23oF). Pacojet the ice cream. Take a frozen plate and plate the 2 coulis and the caramelized white chocolate. Centralize the ice cream, cover with granita, compose the pears and finish with 2 spoons of granita.

Cook more from this book
Bread
Goat Cottage Cheese Ravioli

Read the review

Buy this book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Bread by Ana Roš

041 bread

My sourdough was born four years ago.

I fermented apple peels with some flour and spring water. The first bubbles hap-pened pretty late because it was January, and our apartment is never really warm. The first bread was miserable and even today, the bread sometimes gives us unpleasant surprises. It is a living thing –it suffers from rain and sun – and even flowers around Hiša Franko and pollen in the air may change it completely. Breadmaking for me is one of the most fascinating and challenging moments of the kitchen. And it is also very rewarding.

Makes 8 loaves

1.8 l water
480 g sourdough starter
120 g honey
720 g roasted khorasan flour
1680 g strong (bread) flour
120 ml water
48g salt
oil, for spraying

Eight to 12 hours before making the dough prepare the starter. Mix 240 g of strong bread flour, 240 ml of lukewarm water and 100 g of active sourdough starter. Leave to double in volume and become bubbly, then use to mix the dough. Warm the water to 28oC (82oF). Pour into a mixing bowl, add the starter and mix by hand. Add the honey and whisk again. Weigh the flours and mix. Transfer to a stand mixer with a dough hook and mix for 5 minutes. Add the second amount of water and the salt. Mix for 5 minutes. Take out of the bowl and put in a plastic container sprayed with oil. The dough should be 24–26oC (70–75oF). Next leave the dough for the bulk fermentation.

In this period the dough should get stronger, puffed and airy and should also increase in the volume. In the first 2 hours of the bulk fermentation perform a series of stretch and fold (4 times in 30-45 minute intervals). This will help the dough gain strength.

To perform stretch and fold, grab the dough at 1 side, then pull it up and fold over itself. Repeat on 4 sides of the dough. Leave the dough to rise until it increases approximately 80 percent of the initial volume. Divide the loaves into 620 g each for 8 loaves. Pre- shape, then let rest for 20 minutes. Give them a final shape and place in floured rising baskets. Proof the loaves at the room temperature until the bread approximately doubles in volume and passes the poking test. Make an indent into the dough and observe the reaction –

the dough is done proofing when the indent comes to the initial position slowly. If it returns fast, leave the dough to rise longer. Bake for 20 minutes at 230oC (445oF), full steam and fan, and then for 30 minutes at 160oC (320oF) no steam or fan.

Cook more from this book
Summer Pear
Goat Cottage Cheese Ravioli

Read the review

Buy this book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Goat cottage cheese ravioli by Ana Roš

053 ravioli

Ah, ravioli. Every time I want to get rid of them, people get upset. Diners seem to be addicted to my pasta. So, who cares about the trends!

Serves 6

For the dough

500 g semola rimacinata di grano duro
360 g egg yolks
1 egg
30 ml olive oil

For the filling

500 g goat cottage cheese
500 ml cream

For the garnish

nasturtium flowers nasturtium leaves

For the hazelnut and prosciutto broth

1 carrot
1 roasted onion
1 stick celery
350 g prosciutto
500 ml hazelnut oil
100 g brown butter

For the corn

300 g corn

For the fried polenta

100 g polenta

For the praline

200 g 50 ml 15g peeled hazelnuts
hazelnut oil
salt

Work the dough ingredients together with your hands until the dough is slightly hot. Cover it with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and let it sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Place the filling ingredients in a Thermomix and blend into an emulsion, heating up to 70oC (160oF). Cool it down and let it sit in the refrigerator before making the ravioli.

For the broth, cook the vegetables, prosciutto and 2.5 l water in a pressure cooker for 2 hours. Strain. Emulsify with hazelnut oil and brown butter.

Boil the corn for 30 minutes. Drain and roast it in a cast iron pan until golden and smoky. Allow to cool.

Roast the polenta flour in a dry iron pan until brown. Let cool on baking paper.

Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 175oC (345oF) for 10 minutes without adding any fat, just shaking the tray from time to time. Blend with hazelnut oil and salt until smooth.

When you are ready to serve, first cook the ravioli. Pan fry them with hazelnut praline, some cooking water and prosciutto broth. Add the corn. Top with roasted polenta flour. Serve over the prosciutto hazelnut broth.

Cook more from this book
Summer Pear
Bread

Read the review

Buy this book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

No Sushi by Andrew Kojima

No Sushi

What’s the USP? Japanese food that goes beyond raw fish and rice, inspired by authentic recipes and experiences in Japan as interpreted by a UK chef and restaurateur. There are recipes for bao buns, udon noodles and karaage, but none of course for sushi.

Who is the author? Andrew Kojima is the chef and owner of Koj restaurant in Cheltenham. He was a finalist in the 2012 series of Masterchef and runs cookery classes. No Sushi is his first outing in print.

Is it good bedtime reading? It’s a genuinely entertaining and informative read. The first half of the book is dedicated to Kojima’s own story, from childhood to opening the restaurant, as well as some general background on Japanese cuisine and the chef’s own cooking style and culinary philosophy.  Recipe introductions are substantial and contain a lot of additional information and personal anecdotes. 

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? You might need to go online or a specialist shop for a few things such as karashi (Japanese mustard), yuzu juice and bonito flakes but many supermarkets stock a decent range of the Japanese ingredients used in the book such as miso, mirin, bao buns and panko breadcrumbs.

What’s the faff factor? There is some fine slicing and shredding required but for the most part the recipes are short and enticingly simple.

How often will I cook from the book? Although this is a restaurant cookbook, the recipes are very achieveable and many of the recipe would be ideal for a mid-week meal or weekend snacks and treats.

Killer recipes:  Tamari almonds; panko cauliflower, yuzu pickled red onion, curry mayo; Koj Fried Chicken; miso marinated cod, bok choi, radish; chicken curry udon; ox heart meat balls, crispy leeks.

What will I love? Let’s face it, there are more than enough cookbooks on the planet already so if you’re going to write one, the only way to make it stand out from the crowd is to inject your personality into it. No Sushi has that in spades. From the utterly charming picture of the author as a baby with his late father to the anecdote about the day he proposed to his wife, Kojima lets the reader into his world. Once you learn that his mission to dispel the myth that there’s nothing more to Japanese food than sushi was inspired by his final conversation with his father, you are with him all the way, eager to try out the recipes and spread the word. The book looks great with plenty of images of the restaurant as well as some snapshots from Kojima’s family album. Very simply shot, the food is allowed to speak for itself, and it says, ‘I am delicious, eat me.’

What won’t I like so much? The book contains just 34 recipes (including 5 variations on bao buns although no full recipe for the actual bun is included) plus 9 cocktail recipes which is a fair few short of enough, especially for the £30 price tag. It’s frustrating, as the recipes that are included are terrific and another 50 or 60 of them would have been very welcome indeed. As a former Masterchef semi-finalist myself, I would have loved to have learned more about Kojima’s experiences on the show which is dealt with in a couple of paragraphs. 

Should I buy it? If you’re a regular at the restaurant, you’ll want to own a copy. If you’ve ever dreamed of opening your own restaurant, Kojima’s story will be inspiring. If you’re new to Japanese food, this is a great introduction. It’s just a shame there’s not more of it. 

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four Stars

Buy the book
No Sushi by Andrew Kojima
awaywithmedia, £30

South by Sean Brock

South Sean Brock

What’s the USP? A collection of Southern American recipes from one of the foremost modern exponents of the cuisine.

Who is the author? Chef Sean Brock is the founder of the awarding winning Husk restaurant group with branches in Charleston, Nashville, Greenville and Savannah. Since stepping down from his role as culinary advisor to The Neighborhood Dining Group’ that included Husk as well as McCrady’s, Tavern, and Minero, Brock has announced four new projects in Nashville: Joyland Audrey Red Bird and an unnamed project at the Grand Hyatt. Profiled in an episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table and featured in a season of the PBS series Mind of a Chef, Brock has established himself as the leading proponent of the culture, traditions and heritage ingredients of Southern cuisine.

Is it good bedtime reading? A 12 page introduction provides some background to Brock’s career and why he is so passionate about Southern cuisine; the ‘microregions’ of the American South (which, Brock says ‘has as many cuisines and comprises a region nearly the same size as Continental Europe’) and how key dishes such as shrimp and grits and cornbread vary from microregion to microregion. Additionally, there are articles on fireplace cookery; smoking; grilling; how to take care of cast iron pans; how to cook a pot of greens and fresh field peas or butter beans; an introduction to cornbread; how to make butter; preserving and canning, and how to make vinegar. So go ahead, take Brock to bed.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in America, you’ll be able to take advantage of the two page list of resources at the back of the book to track down the likes of Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice, Rosebank Gold Grits and Hominy Corn; Kenny’s Farmhouse Dry Fork Reserve Asiago cheese; sorghum syrup, seed and flour; Lindera Farms honey vinegar and Bob Wood’s country ham. If you’re outside of America, then you’ll need to do a little research to identify the best substitutions, but on the whole you should be able to cook the majority of the recipes in the book albeit not to Brock’s high level of authenticity.

What’s the faff factor? Recipes vary from a relatively straightforward chicken breast with black pepper and peanut butter gravy, or pork shoulder steak with grilled mushrooms, to shrimp and grits that requires the preparation of four other linked recipes: oven roasted tomatoes; braised fennel; pressure cooker grits and crispy pigs ears. You’ll also need to make your own crab roe bottarga if you want to make Brock’s recipe for grilled oysters with green garlic butter (although he does say you can substitute a good ready made mullet bottarga).

How often will I cook from the book? Once you’ve sorted out what ingredients you might need to either omit or find alternatives for, you’re sure to find yourself returning to the book often. There’s a fantastic recipe for fried chicken, a great cheeseburger, some amazing looking biscuits (the savory scones, not the one’s you’d dunk in your PG Tips) and lots of delicious salads like grilled asparagus and cracklin’ salad and sides such as charred corn or grilled carrots that will brighten up any meal. There’s also enough weekend projects including condiments, pickles and preserves to keep you going for months.

Killer recipes? See above, but also pork prime rib with mustard onions; pit cooked chicken sandwiches; bacon jam; pea and hominy succotash; blackberry cobbler, and buttermilk pie.

What will I love? The food, as photographed by Peter Frank Edwards, looks fantastic. At 376 pages, the book covers a lot of ground and is a great introduction to South American cuisine.

Should I buy it? Unless you already own Heritage, Brock’s first book, you probably won’t have a book quite like South in your collection. Although some of the recipes might seem to be covering familar ground, you’ll want to have Brock’s version of grilled chicken wings with a West African style BBQ sauce as well as to experiment with some of the more recherché dishes such as Lowcountry fish-head stew.

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

Buy this book
South
Artisan, £30

The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland

The Whole Fish Josh Niland

What’s the USP?  How to utilise every inch of a fish from top lip to anal fin, with recipes.

Josh who? Only one of the most talked-about, influential chefs on the planet. OK, unless you live in Sydney, you may not have heard of his restaurant Saint Peter, but his revolutionary, sustainable, zero-waste approach to fish cookery has caught the eye of everyone from Nigella Lawson to Rick Stein.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a lot of text in the book besides the recipes including a foreword from Australian food writer Pat Nourse, Niland’s own introduction, and articles covering topics such as the reasons why we don’t currently cook more fish at home, sourcing fish, storing and dry-ageing fish, fish butchery and treating fish in the same way as meat (the heart of Niland’s fish philosophy), curing fish, using fish offal and ‘fishues’ i.e. issues with fish.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The short answer is yes. Unless you live in Australia or elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, getting hold of the varieties of fish specified in some of the recipe titles such as blue mackerel and wild kingfish will be impossible. Niland does, however, provide plenty of alternatives (john dory in the case of the kingfish) but you will definitely need an excellent fishmonger if you are going to cook from the book, supermarket quality fish just isn’t going to cut it.

What’s the faff factor?  This is restaurant-style cooking with few concessions made for the home cook. There are 20 ingredients in the base of the bouillabaisse-style Saint Peter’s Fish Soup recipe including 15kg of various seafood, plus about another 2kg of seafood for the ‘finishing garnishes’ (it feeds just six people). There are some more simple dishes such as fried whitebait, crumbled sardine sandwich and fish and chips (although you’ll need to start making the recipe 4 days ahead of when you want to serve it because of the processes required for the triple cooked chips).

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you fancy a fish fat chocolate caramel slice? For many home cooks, much of the book will be of curiosity value only and time, effort and energy will be required to tackle things like fish black pudding or milt mortadella. Professional chefs will doubtlessly find this book invaluable. Niland’s approach dramatically increases the potential yield per fish from 45 per cent (the fillets) to potentially over 90 per cent which can be converted into revenue, making the extra effort worth their while.

Killer recipes? Swordfish bacon and egg English muffin; smoked eel and beetroot jam doughnut; BBQ red mullet, corn and kelp butter; BBQ glazed cod ribs; Yellowfin tuna cheeseburger with salt and vinegar onion rings; grilled (fish) sausage, celeriac, peas and onion sauce; fish sausage roll; fish wellington. 

What will I love? This is an original and unusual approach to a well-worn subject. You won’t have a book on your shelf quite like it. It’s a reflection of a well-thought-through and fully rounded culinary philosophy that gives a new perspective on preparing and cooking seafood.

Should I buy it? If you’re a professional chef, then you really need to add this book to your collection. Even if you don’t plan to dry-age your own fish or start serving fish eye chips (no, really; you blend the eyes, mix them with tapioca flour to make a batter which is then steamed, dried and finally deep-fried), you will gain new knowledge that could help your business. For passionate home cooks that love seafood, this will be at the very least a real eye-opener and will provide some absorbing and challenging weekend culinary projects.

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

Buy this book
The Whole Fish Cookbook: New ways to cook, eat and think

Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs with Sesame Bread by Lee Tiernan

069 Vietnamese eggs

This is a dish we used to serve as staff meal at St. JOHN Bread and Wine from time to time. I’m not sure why we called it Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs, but it’s basically scrambled eggs with Asian flavours, and it’s fucking tasty. If you can’t be bothered to make the Sesame Bread by all means use whatever bread you have at home, but preferably something with a bit of texture, like sourdough. Sweet coffee goes well with this. Or even a White Russian.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT non-stick frying pan (skillet) rubber spatula

SERVES 4

3–4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
2 red chillies, finely chopped
3 spring onions (scallions), whites thinly sliced, greens reserved
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), stems sliced, leaves left whole and reserved
25 g (1 oz/2 tablespoons) butter
8 eggs, beaten
fish sauce, to taste
salt

FOR THE SALAD
400 g/14 oz bean sprouts
reserved greens of the spring onions (see above), finely sliced
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Chillies (page 201)
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Onions (page 200)
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1⁄2-1 lime
reserved coriander leaves (see above)

TO SERVE
4 BAM Flatbreads (pages 56–63), topped with sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil after cooking
8 rashers BAM Bacon, or shop bought, grilled (page 50; optional)
dried baby shrimp (optional)
2 tablespoons shop-bought crispy fried onions

In a non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a low heat, soften the garlic and ginger in a little oil for 2 minutes. Add the chillies with a pinch of salt and cook for a further minute. Add the whites of the spring onions (scallions) and the coriander (cilantro) stalks and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Don’t cook the latter for too long as they will lose their vibrant green colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next, toss all the salad ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined, and set aside.

Wipe the non-stick frying pan clean, and then get the pan hot over a high heat. Melt the butter in the pan and add the garlic, ginger and chilli mix. When it starts to sizzle, add the eggs and stir with a rubber spatula. Turn the heat down to low. Keep stirring and turning the eggs, then add a good splash of fish sauce, bearing in mind that this is all the seasoning the eggs are going to get. I like to go pretty heavy with it – at least 1⁄2 tablespoon – but really it depends how salty and funky you want it. I’d recommend tasting a little of the egg once it’s mixed in to check. Continue to cook the eggs for around 2 minutes – you want them just cooked and super silky, as opposed to dried out and rubbery.

Place the breads on plates. Distribute the scrambled eggs onto each bread and top with the salad. Add the bacon and dried baby shrimp (if using) and the crispy fried onions. Serve with steak knives for ease of eating

PICKLED RED CHILLIES

These pickled chillies cut through fatty meat and add the welcome hit of spice I’m always craving. We use them a lot at BAM. Reserve the vinegar to use in a salad dressing after you’ve used all the actual chilli.

MAKES ABOUT 800 G/13⁄4 LB

250 g/9 oz red chillies
350 ml (12 fl oz/11⁄2 cups) red wine vinegar 175 g (6 oz/3⁄4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar

In a small bowl, whisk the sugar into the vinegar until it has dissolved.

Blister the chillies under a hot grill, over the coals of a barbecue or with a blow torch, then cut into 5 mm (1⁄4 inch) chunks. Combine the chillies and vinegar in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

PICKLED RED ONIONS

MAKES 800 G (13⁄4 LB/3 CUPS)

1 tablespoon salt
4–6 red onions, thinly sliced
125 g (41⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) red wine vinegar

In a colander or sieve set over a sink, dis- tribute the salt over the sliced onions and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the onions are salting, dissolve the sugar into the vinegar in a saucepan over a low heat. When the liquid has cooled, add the onions. Tip into an air- tight container.

These can be used after a few hours, but will be better after a few days in the refrigerator.

Cook more from this book
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
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Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review

Pressed Octopus and Szechuan Vinaigrette by Lee Tiernan

095 pressed octopus

This dish is one of the more aesthetically pleasing items on the menu at BAM. We set the octopus once poached so that when we cut a slice, the octopus resembles marble or terrazzo. Pressing isn’t essential so don’t stress out if you don’t have time or can’t be bothered. If you can be bothered, however, you will need two interlocking 450 g (1 lb) loaf pans. Octopus isn’t that cheap, so take care when cooking.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT
2 x 450 g (1 lb) interlocking loaf pans weights, such as tin cans

SERVES 4

FOR THE OCTOPUS
1 large Galician double-sucker octopus, washed and cleaned
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 lemon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon light olive oil

TO SERVE
150 g (5 oz/1 cup) freshly podded peas
dash of Lemon Oil (page 198)
1 teaspoon black chilli flakes
1 large handful pea shoots, trimmed at the last possible moment
50 ml (1 3⁄4 fl oz/1⁄4 cup) Szechuan Vinaigrette (page 199)
sea salt flakes, to taste
75 g (23⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) Turmeric Pickled Onions (page 200)
4 tablespoons deep-fried baby anchovies (see method on page 115)

Place the octopus in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Add the rest of the octopus ingredients, apart from the oil, then bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and, using a cartouche
(a circle of baking/parchment paper that fits snugly on top of the saucepan) weighed down with a plate, keep the octopus submerged. Cook for roughly 1 hour, depending on size, until poking the octopus with a skewer meets minimal resistance. Allow to cool in the cooking liquid until you can comfortably handle the octopus.

Place the octopus on a large chopping (cutting) board and have a quick scout for any fennel seeds or peppercorns and discard them. Cut the tentacles away from the body then slice off a piece to taste for seasoning, adding a touch of salt if required. We discard the head as the texture is pappy – it’s small and tends to overcook. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl and toss the tentacles in the light olive oil.

Line one loaf pan with a double layer of cling film (plastic wrap). Lay the tentacles lengthways and fold over the cling film, placing the second pan (bottom-side down) on top. Press with a heavy weight, such as a tin can, and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight. This will last for 3–4 days.

Cut the pressed octopus into slices and arrange on a platter. Dress the peas with the dash of Lemon Oil and the chilli flakes, and lastly mix in the the pea shoots.

Shake the Szechuan Vinaigrette vigorously then apply generously over the octopus. Sprinkle over a pinch or two
of sea salt flakes on top and heap the pea salad on top. Spike the salad with slithers of vivid-yellow Turmeric Pickled Onions, and finally scatter over my favourites, the crispy deep- fried baby anchovies.

SWEET SZECHUAN VINAIGRETTE

I will go into work after being off for a couple of days, and Trick will have developed a better method to cook some- thing, refined a sauce, or experimented with something new. It’s the most fulfilling facet of the cooking process for me – experimenting. I came in one day to find something labelled ‘Sweet Szechuan Vinaigrette’. I squirted some on the back of my hand, tasted it and was immediately hooked. I eat this on its own over plain rice, it’s that good – particularly good on the leftover rice that’s caught slightly at the end of service, when you realize you haven’t eaten all day and you’re absolutely famished. I love the way this works with octopus (page 94), but it is extremely versatile. Think cold roast chicken, pork terrines, duck, ham – anything that benefits from a little zip.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

old frying pan (skillet) fine sieve

MAKES 300 ML (10 FL OZ/11⁄4 CUPS)

50 g (2 oz) green Szechuan peppercorns
250 ml (8 fl oz/generous 1 cup) rapeseed or sunflower oil
100 g (3 1⁄2 oz/1⁄2 cup) palm sugar
1 tablespoon spicy Chinese hot chilli bean paste (also known as spicy broad bean paste)
100 ml (31⁄2 fl oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorn oil (prickly oil)

In a heavy-based pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, toast the peppercorns over a medium heat. I like to take a slower approach when toasting Szechuan peppercorns, as the oil they release can burn and end up tasting bitter. Look for a touch of colour. You will be able to smell when the peppercorns are ready by the intoxicating aroma. If I could bottle that smell, I would smother myself in it like a teenage boy applies Lynx deodorant. Turn the heat down and add the oil to the peppercorns. This might bubble up and spit, so stand back, then turn off the heat.

In a separate pan (one you care a little less about) start a dry caramel with the palm sugar over a medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble, after about 2 minutes, reduce the heat and cook for 1–2 minutes until caramelized – slightly too much colour and the vinaigrette will taste burnt. Remove from the heat and whisk in the bean paste and vinegar, dis- solving all the sugar. Add this mix to the infused oil and allow to cool completely.

TURMERIC PICKLED ONIONS

MAKES ABOUT 400 G (14 OZ/11⁄2 cups)

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) white wine vinegar
125 g (41⁄2 oz/1 g cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

Set a small sieve or colander over the sink, add the onions and toss with the salt.

While the onions are salting, bring the vinegar, sugar, turmeric and mustard seeds to the boil in a saucepan, stirring the liquid at first to dissolve the sugar. Once boiled, take off the heat and allow to cool.

When the liquid is cool, add the onions and tip into an airtight container. They will turn a vivid yellow colour after a day or two in the refrigerator, but can be used a couple of hours after making. They will keep for 1 week, chilled.

Cook more from this book
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Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review