Hook Line Sinker by Galton Blackiston

Hook Line Sinker

The silver-edged pages of Hook Line Sinker glint in the light, like the skin of the fresh sea bass featured on the cover of this strikingly designed book – it’s even wrapped in a transparent PVC dust jacket. It looks just as good on the inside too (not surprising; it’s from the company that published Sat Bains’s sumptuous Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian) with bold typography and images of not just the food but also the Norfolk coast that is the book’s inspiration.

Galton Blackiston is ideally qualified to write a seafood cookbook.  A keen fisherman from childhood, he’s been chef patron of Michelin-starred Morston Hall for 25 years where seafood is an important part of the menu, and more recently opened No 1, a modern fish and chip restaurant in Cromer.

Blackiston’s approach to seafood is simple; ‘it has to be fresh, needs to be cooked with precision, and there’s little room for error. You just need to have a good seafood supplier and cook it well’. He’s applied a similar ethos to compiling the recipes, not attempting to write a definitive seafood guide, simply gathering some of his favourite restaurant dishes from over the years that also work for the home cook.

Although there is a chapter dedicated to main courses, Blackiston eschews the traditional starter category (there’s no desserts, no one wants a fishy pudding after all), instead organising the remaining recipes into ‘quick and easy’, ‘small plates’, ‘stress free’ and ‘spicy seafood’ allowing readers to dip in according to mood and time available.

The thorny, complex issue of sustainability isn’t addressed (a bluefin tuna dish is included, a fish that has suffered from plummeting stocks) and the recipes stick to better-known varieties like salmon, prawns, scallops and crab. But the dishes are nevertheless delicious, ranging from a classic fillet of sea trout with samphire and beurre blanc to lager, soy and ginger-fried whitebait with wasabi aioli.

What comes across loud and clear from this collection is that Blackiston has a singular culinary mind; yes, he’s included crowd pleasers like salt and pepper squid, but dishes like crab jelly with pea panna cotta set the inventive tone. Hook Line Sinker has been 25 years in the making. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait a quarter of a century for the follow up.

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine

Cuisine: Modern European
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

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Hook Line Sinker: A Seafood Cookbook
£25 Face Publications

This is Mine by Mark Dodson

This is Mine

You may know that Mark Dodson has held a Michelin star at The Mason’s Arms, his Devon pub, since 2006. You’ll probably also know that he’s a former head chef of The Waterside Inn. But you may not realise that he’s the only Brit ever to hold that position or that he spent a total of 18 years at the restaurant. And you almost certainly won’t have a clue that his favourite film director is Quentin Tarantino and that he has a huge collection of vinyl and gig ticket stubs.

You’ll discover all this and more reading his debut cookbook (the obscure title is explained by the cover strapline ‘I believe that every good chef has a cookery book in them…this is mine) which includes a glowing introduction by Michel Roux Snr (‘I look upon Mark as I look upon my son’) and a brief but illuminating biographical section.

Dodson describes his cooking style as ‘good honest food, featuring local ingredients wherever possible presented with style and taste’, neatly summing up the 70 recipes that are categorised into soups, starters, mains and desserts. In addition, there’s a section dedicated to game, a passion of Dodson’s with preparations ranging from classic roasted grouse with bread sauce and a crouton spread with farce au gratin (a sort of pate made from grouse and chicken livers) to wood pigeon with curried brussels sprouts.

Dodson has been cooking since the 70’s and his classical background is reflected in garnishes like turned and Parisienne-balled vegetables, fanned duck breasts and chicken cooked in a brick. There’s also a fair amount of 90’s-style stacking of food, but there’s a nod to modernism with dragged purees and pickled and smoked elements. Dodson also looks far beyond Britain and France for inspiration; smoked chicken comes with Thai-style salad and salmon is marinated in soy, mirin and yuzu.

The book won’t win any prizes for design with a dated and unimaginative layout and oddly lit photography that makes some dishes look washed out and unappetising. The editing could have been improved too with recipe introductions not delineated from the method and no instructions on how to prepare some ingredients in some recipes, making for a frustrating read at times. However, the book does offer an invaluable opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge accrued by one of the UK’s most respected and experienced chefs. This is Mine should also be yours.

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine.

Cuisine: Modern European/French
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 3 stars

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This Is Mine
£25 A Way with Media

The Sportsman by Stephen Harris

The Sportman

The Sportsman is a remarkable book about a remarkable place run by a remarkable man. Stephen Harris is a former punk rocker, turned history student, turned financial advisor, turned (mostly) self-taught cook, turned publican, turned Michelin starred chef. He runs what he once called ‘a grotty rundown pub by the sea’ in Seasalter on the Kent coast, but which to many is a place of serious culinary pilgrimage.

If you haven’t heard of Harris or The Sportsman, or come to that Seasalter, this is a wonderful introduction to all three. If you’re a fan, you’ll be especially delighted by the effort Harris has put into this, his first book, with a series of insightful and fascinating essays about his own personal history, the story of the pub, his approach to cooking and the heritage and produce of the region, making it so much more than simply a collection of recipes.

Not that you’d be disappointed with a collection of recipes from the Sportsman. There are 55 of them here, arranged under headings reflecting what Harris calls the ‘Kentish terroir’ that drives his menus. The signature slip sole in seaweed butter (‘I liked the idea of serving the fish alone on a plate. It was a statement of intent’ says Harris in the recipe’s introduction) appears in the The Sea: The Kent coast and North Sea and salmagundi – an English mixed salad that’s presented as more of an essay than an actual recipe with specific ingredients and a method – in a chapter titled The Gardens: The Sportsman Allotment and Isle of Thanet.

Harris takes inspiration from chefs around the world including David Kinch from California whose ‘Tidal Pool’ prompted Harris to create Rockpool, a collection of local sea vegetables and seafood served in a fish stock and seaweed broth; and Michel Bras in Laguiole in Southern France whose multi-ingredient gargouillou salad is the inspiration for salmagundi. But dishes such as baked cod with chestnuts, parsley and bacon; pheasant with bread sauce and rose hip juice and greengage soufflé with greengage ripple ice cream are unmistakeably English; the food is so specific to Kent that to call it British would be too much of a generalisation.

But you don’t have to live in the same county as Harris to cook his food. Unless you live by the sea, his recipe for salt is going to be tricky to pull off (transporting buckets of sea water any distance is always going to be a challenge) but the majority of the dishes can be easily adapted to produce more easily available near to where you live. They’re mostly straightforward to prepare, although he’s not adverse to a few long ingredient lists (his roast lamb gravy has 17 of them, including home-made chicken stock) or cheffy flourishes; smoked mackerel with cream cheese, apple jelly and soda bread with mackerel velouté is a properly complex restaurant dish.

There are many pearls of wisdom, from Harris’s treatise on what he calls Total Cooking (‘we are constantly questioning our processes and trying new ideas’) to his analogy of music and cooking (‘When I am finishing a sauce or soup, I can’t help thinking like I would if I had a graphic equaliser and was balancing something in a song. The treble is like acidity’) to detailed descriptions of his preferred ingredients (thornback rays are superior to the blond variety because ‘rather than the texture being open and woolly when cooked, the flesh of the thornback was denser and stickier on the teeth).

Even if you never prepare one dish (trust me, you will), you’ll be a better cook for reading The Sportsman. How many cookbooks can you say that about?

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 stars

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The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29 Phaidon

Cook from this book
Salmagundi
Slip sole in seaweed butter
Warm chocolate mousse

Read the author interview

Veal shin slow cooked with Barolo and sage by Ruth Rogers

veal shin with barolo and sage
Veal shin photographed by Matthew Donaldson

The longer this cooks the better – in the River Cafe we often serve this simply with bruschetta.

Serves 6-8

2 veal shins,  about  1.5kg each,  trimmed of excess fat extra virgin olive oil
a bunch  of fresh  sage leaves
4 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bottle  Barolo
250g peeled plum tomatoes from a jar, drained  of their juices

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Heat an ovenproof pot or flameproof casserole (that has a lid) over a high heat. Meanwhile, season the shins generously with sea salt and black pepper. Carefully add 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the shins to the hot pot and fry until golden brown all over, turning the shins every few minutes.

Add the sage leaves, bay leaves and garlic. Sizzle for a few seconds, then pour
in the wine. Arrange the shins so the exposed bone side is facing down. Add the tomatoes, broken up a little. Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and then the lid. Transfer the pot to the oven.

After 1 hour, turn the shins over and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C. Cover the pot again and cook for a further 2 hours, basting the shins with the roasting liquid a couple of times to keep the meat moist. The veal shins are ready when the meat threatens to fall away from the bone. Serve with the marrow from the bone and some of the roasting liquid.

Extracted from
River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray
£28 Ebury Press

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Warm chocolate mousse by Stephen Harris

161 warm mousse.jpg
Warm chocolate mousse photographed by Toby Glanville

I had always wanted to serve a warm mousse, and I found further inspiration for the idea back in 2005, when I was flicking through the elBulli cookbook one day. In my version, I began by spooning salted caramel into a coupe glass, then topped it, elBulli-style, with foaming warm chocolate from an iSi whipper. Because
I always like to serve contrasting tastes, the dark chocolate demanded a milky flavoured ice cream. I put a scoop on top and it slowly sank into the warm mousse as it arrived at the table. This was perfect: both delicious and theatrical.

Serves 6-8

Caramel
175 ml/ oz (¾ cup) double (heavy) cream
125 g/4 oz (2⁄3 cup) caster (super fine) sugar
sea salt

Milk sorbet
500 ml/17 oz (generous 2 cups) double (heavy) cream
700 ml/24 oz (scant 3 cups) full-fat (whole) milk
400 ml/14 oz (1 2⁄3 cups) Sugar Syrup [pp. 241]
1 teaspoon rosewater

Chocolate mousse 
225 ml/8 oz (1 cup) double (heavy) cream
380 g/13 oz 70% chocolate, roughly chopped
225 g/8 oz (1 cup) egg whites

Start by making the caramel. Heat the cream to just below boiling, then remove from the heat. In another pan, heat the sugar until it melts and turns dark brown. Take off the heat and pour in the hot cream. Be careful as it may spit. Return to the heat and warm gently to ensure the caramel is completely dissolved. Allow to cool then cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

For the milk sorbet, combine all the ingredients in a blender and blitz at high speed. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes. Pour into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

To make the chocolate mousse, heat the cream in a pan until it starts to simmer. Add the chocolate to the hot cream, take off the heat and whisk gently to amalgamate. Add the egg whites to the chocolate cream mixture and whisk by hand again to incorporate.

Pour into an iSi whipper and t with two N20 cream chargers. Sit in a 65oC/150oF water bath for 1 hour before using, shaking every now and then to equalise the temperature.

We serve this dessert in glass ice cream coupes. Start by putting a tablespoon of caramel in the bottom of each coupe and add a pinch of salt. Shake the iSi whipper, lower the nozzle to just above the caramel and squirt in the chocolate mousse, keeping the nozzle beneath the mousse as it emerges. Fill to 2 cm/ inch below the top of the coupe. Leave for 1 minute, then carefully sit a scoop of sorbet on top. It will stay in place for a few minutes before slowly slipping in, so serve it straight away.

Sugar syrup
Makes 350 ml/12 fl oz (1½ cups)

200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) water
200 g/7 oz (1 cup caster (superfine) sugar

Combine the water and sugar in a pan and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Extracted from The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29.95 Phaidon
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Slip sole in seaweed butter by Stephen Harris

105 slip sole.jpg
Slip sole photographed by Toby Glanville

I liked the idea of serving the fish alone on a plate. It was a statement of intent. And it was provocative – I knew I would get people saying it needs some vegetables or potatoes. But I disagreed, people just needed to concentrate on the fish, reunited with seaweed on a plate with the help of a bit of butter.

Serves 4

Oil, for greasing
4 x 250 g/9 oz slip soles, skinned and heads removed
8 x 15 g/ ½ oz discs Seaweed Butter [see below]
sea salt

When ready to cook, preheat an overhead grill (broiler) and arrange the slip soles on an oiled and lightly seasoned griddle pan. Cut thin slices of the seaweed butter and arrange a couple of slices on each fish. Place under the grill for 3–4 minutes. Baste at least once to ensure each fish is completely covered with the butter. You should see some signs of shrinkage at the bones.

Remove the fish from the grill (broiler) and leave to finish cooking on the hot pan for a further 3–4 minutes. Season very lightly and serve straight away.

Seaweed butter
This is the amount of butter we make at the restaurant. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week and freezes very well, but you can also scale down the recipe to your needs.

Makes about 1.5kg/ 3 lb 5 oz

100 g/3½ oz fresh gutweed or sea lettuce (enough for 20 g/ ¾ oz dried seaweed)
2.5 kg/ 5 lb 8 oz (10 cups) crème fraiche, chilled
22.5 g/ ¾ oz (4½ teaspoons) sea salt

After gathering the seaweed, wash it very carefully and then dehydrate for 3 hours at 80oC/175oF. Check carefully for any shells or foreign objects, then put into a food processor and pulse to small, rough flakes. Store in an air-tight container.

Put the bowl of a stand mixer into the refrigerator to chill. Put the cream or crème fraîche into the cold bowl and beat at high speed with the paddle attachment. After about 5 minutes the cream will really stiffen up and you will hear a splashing sound as the buttermilk separates out from the buttermilk.

At this stage I turn down the speed and cover the bowl loosely to prevent liquid spraying everywhere. Continue beating until the buttermilk and butterfat separate completely. Be patient as it may take another 5 minutes or so.

Turn off the machine and strain off the buttermilk. Rinse under cold running water and strain again. With the machine on its lowest setting, mix in the salt and dried seaweed until fully incorporated.

Knead the butter between two pieces of wax (greaseproof) paper to squeeze out the last of the buttermilk. Finally, shape into a cylinder or a round pat, wrap in wax (greaseproof) paper and store in the refrigerator.

Extracted from The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29.95 Phaidon
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Salmagundi by Stephen Harris

191 salmagundi.jpg
Salmagundi photographed by Toby Glanville

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a salmagundi. I love the word itself – it’s the seventeenth century name for an English mixed salad – and of course I’m very keen on dishes that are truly seasonal, as it means I can focus my efforts on selecting produce at its very best, ideally straight from my own garden, instead of having to source ingredients from a supplier, which might not be up to the same standard.

Back in the early days of The Sportsman, while I was still dreaming of the perfect salmagundi, I visited Michel Bras’ restaurant in the Aubrac plateau of France. One of his most famous dishes is the gargouillou – a salad that contains up to twenty different vegetables, all prepared separately. The waiter explained that the name comes from a traditional peasant soup, which can contain many different ingredients, depending on the season. I knew immediately that this would be the blueprint and inspiration for my own Sportsman salmagundi.

Back in the restaurant kitchen I gathered together as many ingredients from the restaurant kitchen garden as I could find, all in their prime. It was early July, which meant I was spoilt for choice: there were baby peas, broad beans, French beans, courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes and many other things, as well. And then it was a question of playing around with bits and bobs from the different sections of the kitchen. I selected some vegetable purées, a handful of fresh herbs and flowers, crunchy soda breadcrumbs, a buttery sauce, and I started to have some fun!

I began by decorating the plate with some artful smears of purée and topped them with a cooked baby carrot and a few cubes of roasted summer squash. Next, I flavoured the buttery liaison with a pinch of curry powder and warmed through my freshly picked vegetables: my aim was to maintain their intrinsic ‘snappiness’ – they didn’t need to be cooked, just barely warmed through – and I wanted their sweetness to be enhanced by the earthy flavour of the curry. I arranged a poached egg on the plate, spooned over the warm vegetables and finished the dish with some leaves and flowers and a scattering of breadcrumbs, to represent soil from the garden. The end result was a visual delight, as well as being utterly delicious.

The joy of a dish such as this is the way it can be adapted to what’s best during each season. Summer’s glut provides a bounty, of course, but in the winter it works just as brilliantly with root vegetables and a smoked egg yolk. I thought about writing a recipe for this, but in the end, realised that it would be impossible. The best version will come from using this as a rough guide to create your own version from what you have available.

Extracted from The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29.95 Phaidon
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