Mirazur by Mauro Colagreco

Mirazur

What’s the USP? A premium coffee table book celebrating chef Mauro Colagreco’s three Michelin star Mirazur restaurant in Menton in the Côte d’Azur, currently rated number three on the World’s 50 Best restaurant list.  Colagreco’s unique ingredients-led style is informed by restaurant’s location close to the boarder of France and Italy.

Who’s the author? Mauro Colagreo is an Argentinian-born chef of Italian and Spanish descent and a protégé of legendary French chefs Alain Passard and the late Bernard Loiseau. He opened Mirazur in 2006 and was named ‘revelation of the year’ by the Gault & Millau guide that same year. He won his first star in 2007 with the second star following in 2012.

What does it look like? In a word, incredible. Colagreco’s eye for presentation is unsurpassed and Eduardo Torres’s photographs make each of the 65 dishes included in the book look like Renaissance masterpieces. The Côte d’Azur landscape has never looked more magnificent and the shots of Nice, Menton and Ventimiglia markets that supply many of Colagreco’s ingredients will make you want to move to the south of France, or at least book a trip there.

 Is it good bedtime reading? An overall introduction, introductions to each of the book’s three chapters Méditerranée, Jardins and Montagne, supplier profiles (including an illustrated guide to mushrooms) and a laudatory preface by Massimo Bottura means there’s plenty to pour over to help you wind down after a hectic day.

 Killer recipes? Tortellini, almonds, smoked broth; baby squids, beans, pork consommé; goose barnacles, green beans, sea lettuce; squab, spelt, wild strawberries. 

 How annoyingly vague are the recipes? There are accurate measurements for virtually every ingredient in the book and methods are detailed enough to be followed by chefs familiar with how to use equipment such as a Thermomix and dehydrator.

What will I love?  At 372 pages and standing a foot tall, Mirazur is a big impressive book that does full justice to its subject matter. There are little surprises dotted throughout including Pablo Neruda’s poem Ode to Bread printed on transparent paper that overlays a shot of Colagreco’s signature pleated bread rolls, and a fold out illustrated guide to herbs printed on matt paper that contrasts with the high-quality glossy stock used for the main body of the book. The idea that Colgreco’s cooking is borderless (the book quotes Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl who said, ‘Borders? I’ve never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people) is a particularly attractive one in the current political climate of rampant nationalism.

What won’t I like? Apart from two double page black and white portraits, Colagreco is almost entirely absent from his own book, represented only by his dishes and recipes. The text is written by his wife Laura (who, at times, wanders perilously close to poetic pretention; about the Côte d’Azur, she says ‘Many describe the environment like a body transported by the surprise of two feelings in front of the marvels of nature and their singular disposition’), and the food was prepared by two members of the Mirazur brigade, Antonio Buono and Paulo Corsi. While it’s refreshing to read a cookbook that gives so much credit to a chef’s suppliers and the terroir he works within, it would have been nice to hear Colagreco’s own voice, either in the form of an interview or in recipe introductions which are sadly lacking.  In addition, there are no pictures of the restaurant itself which seems a bizarre omission.

Should I buy it? At £70 (although you can find the book heavily discounted online), Mirazur is quite the investment, but real effort has been made to elevate it above the level of souvenir. Colagreco is one of the most individual chefs working in the modern progressive genre and anyone who aspires to join him in the rarefied heights of gastronomy would be rewarded by reading this book.

Cuisine: French/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Mirazur (English)
Catapulta, £70

The French Revolution by Michel Roux Jr

French Revolution Michel Roux Jr

What’s the USP? Classic French home cooking updated to ‘suit the way we like to eat today’, cutting down on butter and cream, eschewing luxury ingredients like foie gras, lobster and truffle and focusing on simpler recipes that don’t require a full batterie de cuisine and a KP to wash it all up afterwards.

Who’s the author? Michel Roux Jr is restaurant royalty, son of the legendary Albert Roux, father of Emily (who has just opened her first London restaurant Caractère) and is chef/patron of legendary Mayfair joint Le Gavroche and oversees fine dining destinations Roux at Parliament Square and Roux at The Landau, where he also has his own pub The Wigmore. He is a regular on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen and has written seven previous cookbooks.

Killer recipes? Basque-style chicken; shrimp tartlets thermidor; red mullet pastilla; duck confit pie; lamb with haricot beans; roast pears with nougat and dark chocolate sauce; fig tarte Tatin.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Apart from salt and pepper, there are weights and measures for every ingredient. The methods are sometimes usefully vague – for example, for Duck Confit Pie the instructions say to ‘sweat the chopped onion until soft and lightly browned’ rather than claiming that they will be cooked in five minutes; onions never are.

Is it good bedtime reading? There is very little additional text in the book, even the recipe introductions are kept to a bare minimum.

What will I love? Roux Jr has included recipes from all over France, some of which only the most ardent of Francophiles will have encountered before such as Seiche a la Sétoise from the Languedoc-Roussillon (cuttlefish as prepared in the port city of Séte, slow cooked with white wine, saffron, tomatoes and olives) and Tourment D’Amour from the overseas French region of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean (sweet pastry cases filled with coconut jam, crème patissiere and genoise sponge). Roux Jr is a skilled baker and the chapter on boulangerie is a particular joy with recipes for goat’s cheese bread; garlic bread that’s baked with cloves of garlic confit in the dough; and speculoos, spicy biscuits made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

What won’t I like? The lack of explanatory text is disappointing, and these are not Roux Jr’s restaurant dishes; you’ll need to pick up a copy of Le Gavroche Cookbook for that.

Should I buy it? The huge variety of dishes could easily provide inspiration for a dinner party, special occasion celebratory meal for two or something quick and easy for days off or when you arrive home hungry after work.

Cuisine: American/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
The French Revolution: 140 Classic Recipes made Fresh & Simple
£25, Seven Dials

Kricket: An Indian-Inspired Cookbook by Will Bowlby

KRICKET cover (2)

What’s the USP? A collection of over 80 modern and classic Indian recipes from Kricket restaurant in Soho.
Who’s the author? This is the debut book from young British chef and restaurateur Will Bowlby who trained with Rowley Leigh at the much missed Le Cafe Anglais before relocating to Mumbai for two years to work as a head chef. He then travelled the subcontinent, learning about regional Indian cuisine. Kricket originally opened in a shipping container in Brixton in 2015 before relocating to Soho in 2017. Bowlby has been named national chef of the year by the Asian curry awards
What does it look like? Good enough to eat. Photographer Hugh Johnson has brought Bowlby’s simple, colourful and impactful food to life while restaurant interiors and kitchen action shots give an insight into what it’s like to dine at Kricket. Chapter headings are illustrated with line drawings by Myoung Chung and lend the book extra style and elegance.
Is it good bedtime reading? This is first and foremost a recipe book so keep this one in the kitchen.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There are the odd one or two you might have to make an effort to get hold of such as caul fat for lamb galouti kebabs or green papaya paste for lamb chops with burnt onion raita, but most supermarkets now have an extensive array of ingredients for Indian dishes so you should have few problems.
What’s the faff factor? Most of the dishes will require a bit of planning ahead to factor in marinating times or making the spice pastes and mixes, but that goes with the territory. There is nothing too technically challenging and you should derive a lot of pleasure from cooking from the book.
How often will I cook from the book? The book will be most suited to weekend and special occasion cooking, when you’ve got a bit more time to spare.
Killer recipes? Just flip through at random and you’re bound to find something you’ll want to cook, from a classic Old Delhi (butter) chicken to more modish creations like bone marrow and cep kulcha (mini naan bread) or chanterelles in malai (lightly spiced cashew nut and green mango) sauce with fresh peas and pea shoots.
What will I love? The sheer variety and inventiveness of the recipes aside, there’s an informative introduction, suggested seasonal menu plans and a whole chapter of delicious sounding cocktails including smoked tarbooz made with vodka, whisky, watermelon juice and cinnamon syrup
What won’t I like? If you have purist tendencies when it comes to Indian cooking, this is not the book you are looking for.
Should I buy it? Pierre Koffmann, who wrote the book’s foreword, loves Will Bowlby’s food so it’s a no-brainer.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for:Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating:4 stars

Buy this book
Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook
£26, Hardie Grant

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

Buy this book
This Is Mine
£25 A Way with Media

Roasted ratatouille with orzo by Nadine Levy Redzepi

Roasted Ratatouille with Orzo

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had never seen ratatouille cooked and served this way until I saw the animated film of the same name. It inspired me to revisit this dish, and I’m glad I did because when it’s not cooked to a mush and the vegetables still have a bit of bite, it has the comfort and flavour of rustic food – even though it’s dressed up a bit. It takes a bit of time to assemble, but it has real wow factor when you bring it to the table; everyone always remarks how beautiful this is. For the prettiest presentation,pick tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes that all have a similar diameter.

Serves 6 to 8

Aubergines 2 narrow, about 680 g (1½ lb total)
Courgettes 2 large, about 450 g (1 lb total)
Beefsteak tomatoes 6
Salted butter 45 g (1½ oz), at room temperature
Extra-virgin olive oil 60 ml (2 fl oz)
Garlic cloves 4
Fresh thyme sprigs 8
Fresh basil leaves 3 tablespoons
Cherry tomatoes 450 g (1 lb)
Fine sea salt
Orzo 450 g (1 lb)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C Fan).
  1. Trim the aubergines and courgettes and slice off the stem ends of the beefsteak tomatoes. Cut the vegetables into thin slices, about 6 mm (¼ inch) for the aubergines and courgettes, and a bit thicker for the tomatoes. Keep the vegetables separate. If you have a mandolin or V-slicer, use it for the aubergines and courgettes.
  1. Butter a 23 to 25-cm (9 to 10-inch) round shallow casserole dish or a frying pan with a lid with 15 g (½ oz) of the butter. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Crush the garlic with the flat side of your knife, then peel the garlic (discard the papery skins) and add it to the casserole along with the thyme sprigs and basil leaves. Halve the cherry tomatoes and gently squeeze them over the baking dish to release their juices and seeds into the pan. Reserve the cherry tomatoes for another use (see below). Using your fingertip, poke out the seed clusters from the sliced beefsteak tomatoes and add them to the baking dish. (I use an enameled cast-iron casserole for this dish because it is heavy and distributes the heat so well. You can also use a heavy frying pan, as long as the handles are ovenproof).
  1. Alternate the tomato, aubergine and courgette slices in the baking dish in rows, filling the dish all the way to the centre. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt.
  1. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover the casserole and continue baking until the aubergine is a few shades darker, like a strong café latte, and the courgette is an almost translucent, pale and glossy yellowish colour, 20 to 30 minutes more. If your baking dish doesn’t have a lid, place a baking sheet or even a pie tin on top.
  1. While the ratatouille is baking, bring a large pan of water to a boil over high heat for the orzo. When the water boils, add a tablespoon or so of salt. Stir in the pasta and cook, stirring every 2 minutes to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom, according to the packet directions until al dente, about 8 minutes, depending on the brand.
  1. To warm the pasta serving bowl, place it in the sink and set a colander inside. Drain the pasta in the colander and return it to the cooking pan, letting the hot pasta water stand in the serving bowl for about 30 seconds to warm it. Empty and dry the serving bowl and add the pasta. Stir in the remaining 30 g (1 oz) of butter.
  1. To serve, bring the ratatouille to the table in its baking dish. Spoon the orzo into bowls and top each serving with the ratatouille and some of its juices.

R E D U C I N G K I T C H E N W A S T E

I hate to throw anything usable and edible away, and instead think of these odds and ends as a head start on future meals. The squeezed-out cherry tomatoes can be mixed with some diced onion, fresh chilli, coriander, olive oil and lime juice for a quick salsa to put on cooked fish or a cheese omelette, or you can chop and combine them with basil, garlic, salt and chilli flakes for an uncooked sauce to toss with hot pasta and cubes of mozzarella.

Extracted from Downtime by Nadine Levy Redzepi
(Ebury Press, £27)
Photography by Ditte Isager

Cook more from this book
Lasagne with sausage meatballs
Danish apple dessert

Read the review

Buy this book
Downtime: Deliciousness at Home
£26 Ebury

L’Atelier of Alain Ducasse

Ducasse

L’Atelier of Alain Ducasse sets out to provide an insight into the working methods and philosophy of prehaps the most successful chef currently working anywhere in the World today. The book contrasts signature Ducasse recipes with those of his current and former Head Chefs in order to illustrate his influence on the men who work for him.

The book begins with a look behind the scenes of the Ducasse empire and attempts to contextualise it in terms of the last 300 years or so of French gastronomy. This rather dry and pretentious exercise is greatly enlivened by the beautiful black and white portraiture of Herve Amiard. Some amusing non-secquiturs from Ducasse lighten the tone, such as “It is better to have turbot without genius than genius without turbot”. Probably the definitive statement in the fish versus intelligence debate, if not the only one.

Things liven up with profiles of Ducasses favoured suppliers and their produce, and again it’s the full colour photographs that impress. These range from dramatic shots of turbot and bass being landed, to a lemon grower in quite contemplation amongst his trees. They communicate beautifully the powerful connection between man and sea and land.

The book contains recipes for just 8 of Ducasse’s signature dishes. Each is based around a characteristic ingredient of his cuisine, and is followed by further recipes from five of his pupils. Hence, under the heading “Sea Bass” you find Ducasse’s “Sea Bass Steaks with Leeks, Potatoes and Truffles”, along with “Fried Mediterranean Bass” by Le Louis XV head chef Franck Cerutti. Notes on each recipe assist the reader in comparing and contrasting the different approaches taken. Although this is all very enlightening, I personally would have settled for a few more of the great man’s recipes.

Having said that, it is highly unlikely that I would ever attempt to produce a dish such as “Semi Dried Pasta with Cream Sauce, Truffles, and a Ragout of Cockscombs and Chicken Kidney” at home. If invested wisely, the small fortune required to purchase the ingredients (including lobster, sweetbreads, 4 1/2 pounds of veal and chanterelle mushrooms), would see my kids through university.

Although all the main recipes are supported by step by step photographs, preparation is dauntingly complex. You could probably write your first novel in the time that it would take to cook some of the dishes featured. The book is best approached as an inspiration to get into the kitchen, rather than something to be slavishly followed once you are there. Some individual garnishes are achievable however. I particularly liked the thinly sliced potatoes sandwiched together with slivers of olive, which were then baked and served with spider crab.

Illustrations of the food itself are refreshingly clear, and avoid the current and annoying fad of everything being out of focus except for a square centimetre in the centre of the picture. Although the overhead style used for every shot gets a little wearing, it does show the unusually relaxed presentation style Ducasse employs. Elements of each dish seem to be casually strewn across the plate, but still somehow create a pleasing and cohesive whole.

Having read the book, I now have a greater understanding of what M Ducasse food is all about, but didn’t really learn much about the man himself. The book provides a diverting enough read, some stunning photography and a few usable recipes, but can only be recommended to fans M Ducasse who already have his other books.

Cuisine: French
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

Buy this book
Atelier of Alain Ducasse: The Artistry of a Master Chef and His Proteges (Masters of Gastronomy)
Alain Ducasse
£20.05 John Wiley & Sons

The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters by Stéphane Borie

Frenchman

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

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

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

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

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

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

(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)

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

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