On The Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill

On The Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill

What’s the USP? An exploration of the food from northernmost India – specifically Kashmir and Ladakh, which sit amongst the Himalayan mountain range and are home to a cuisine notably different from more southerly regions.

Who wrote it? Romy Gill, who has become such a familiar name in British food writing that it’s something of a surprise to see this is only her second cookbook. Gill has been a regular across a number of publications for some time now, and has previously run two acclaimed restaurants as well. 

The writing of On The Himalayan Trail was fuelled by a trip to the region in April 2021, deep into the pandemic, ‘when [India’s] ever-increasing case rates and deaths were making global headlines’. Gill justifies this decision in her introduction with a quote from Anthony Bourdain, and by claiming that ‘great things never come from staying in your comfort zone’ – a rock and roll attitude that feels a little at odds with the end goal: writing a cookbook.

Is it good bedtime reading? Besides the usual opening section, there are plenty of short essays scattered throughout the book, exploring the ingredients and geography of Kashmir in particular. It’s enough to raise the book above your average regional cookbook, at least in terms of reading.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Vague enough that my first attempt to cook one of its recipes was an unmitigated disaster, that’s for sure. I was keen to try the Kaleji Tchokh Charvan – a ‘spicy liver’ dish that subjects the liver to around 45 minutes of cooking, which seemed a little much. A final fifteen minutes simmering in what felt instinctively to be too little water finished it off – I looked away for three minutes and returned to a dried out pan full of burned food. Now, I don’t doubt that this mess was in no small part my fault – but I can’t remember the last time I’ve ruined a cookbook recipe to quite this extent, so Gill isn’t getting off entirely scot-free here.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Attempting to authentically recreate the dishes of one of the more remote regions of a country on the other side of the planet will always involve some shopping for some new ingredients, but for the most part Gill’s asks aren’t out of reach to British shoppers. On those occasions that you are asked to source something relatively obscure, like ‘turtle bean flour’, a more accessible alternative is given (in that case, buckwheat flour).

How often will I cook from the book? This one feels likely to be drawn from your shelf only occasionally. There are a fair few dishes here that would suit a weeknight cook, but On The Himalayan Trail is unlikely to be your first port of call.

What will I love? The book itself is gorgeous – Poras Chaudhary and Matt Russell’s photos are evocative and have a quiet reverence about them. The design, too, is clean and modern, and a step up from the year’s other big Himalayan title – Taste Tibet, which suffered from a dated and frequently overcrowded design.

What won’t I love? That spicy liver dish has left me feeling burned (though not as much as my dinner), and though my second foray into the book’s recipes turned out as expected, I wasn’t won over by the Gaad Te Tamatar: fish in a tomato gravy. 

Killer recipes: Kong Kokur (a saffron roast chicken dish), Muslim Rogan Josh, and Gogji (a turnip curry). 

Should I buy it? This is strictly one for people with a keen interest in Kashmir and Ladakh, I think – but those looking for exactly that are unlikely to be disappointed by a well-designed and well-researched book. Was it the greatness that Gill sought as she travelled amidst a global health crisis? Probably not.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
On The Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill
£27, Hardie Grant Books

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

Aloo ko tarkari – Potato curry by Santosh Shah

Aloo ko tarkari Potato curry

SERVES 4

Aloo Ko Tarkari (potato curry) is so often eaten with puri, that I have combined the two recipes for you here. Puri are also served alongside other dishes, such as Chana Ko Dal (Spicy Chickpeas, see page 93 of the book). The puri here are vegan, but see page 177 of the book for an alternative recipe, with the option of ghee (clarified butter), and if you want to make them without the potato curry.

For the puri (makes 20)
500g (3¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour or roti (chapati) flour, or an equal mixture of both
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for working into the dough
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for rolling

For the potato curry
2½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon nigella seeds
½ teaspoon garlic paste
½ teaspoon ginger paste
500g (18oz) red-skinned waxy potatoes, unpeeled and diced
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 dried hot red chillies, crushed
¼ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder, or medium hot chilli powder
½ teaspoon Sakahar Barha Masala (Vegetable Garam Masala, see page 194 of the book)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock, or water

A kitchen thermometer

Method

First, make the puri dough. Combine the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the 1 tablespoon of oil and, using your fingers, work the oil into the flour until well incorporated. Make a well in the flour and measure out 250ml (1 cup) of water. Add some of the water into the well and start mixing the dough, gradually adding the remaining water, a little at a time, until a firm dough forms. Knead the dough well with your hands for about 10 minutes until soft and elastic. Cover with a clean damp cloth and set aside for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 20 pieces and keep them covered.

Make the potato curry. Heat the oil in a medium non-stick frying pan. Add the fenugreek seeds and let them crackle until they turn dark brown.  Add the cumin and nigella seeds. Cook them for a few seconds just until they crackle. Add the garlic and ginger pastes, potato cubes, salt, crushed red chillies and all the ground spices. Sauté for a couple of minutes, until the potatoes are well coated with oil and spices. Add the vegetable stock or water, bring the mixture to the boil, and then turn down the heat to low.

Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the potatoes are soft. When the potatoes are soft enough, start stirring them while lightly crushing them with a spatula. You want the potatoes to absorb all the liquid and to have some chunkiness and texture. When they are thick and glossy from the juices, they are ready.

While the potatoes are cooking, fry the puri. Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan until it reaches 190°C (375°F). Roll one of the dough pieces in your hand to make a smooth ball. Apply a little oil on the dough ball and roll it out on an oiled surface with a rolling pin to obtain a 10-cm (4-in) disc. Repeat with the other dough balls. Keep the discs covered with a wet cloth. Place a puri in the hot oil. When it rises to the surface, press it down very gently into the oil with a skimmer. The puri will start puffing up. Flip it over and cook for a few seconds. When the puri are crisp and golden brown – this should take a couple of minutes on each side – remove from the oil and place on kitchen paper (paper towels) to drain.

Serve the potato curry hot with the crisp puri on the side.

Cook more from this book
Steamed chicken momos with ginger and chilli with a tomato sesame chutney (Kukhura ko momo) by Santosh Shah
Crispy chilli chicken (Swadilo piro tareko valeko masu) by Santosh Shah
Coriander and peanut chutney (Badam ko chutney) by Santosh Shah

Read the Review
Coming soon

Buy this book
Ayla: A Feast of Nepali Dishes from Terai, Hills and the Himalayas by Santosh Shah.
£20, DK

Photographer: Matt Russell

 

Tarkari by Rohit Ghai

Tarkari by Rohit Ghai

What’s the USP? Tarkari is Bengali word that refers to any vegetable dish and  therefore a fitting title for this collection of vegetarian and vegan Indian dishes from one of the UK’s most exciting Indian chefs. 

Who is the author? Rohit Ghai is the Michelin-star winning chef of Kutir restaurant in Chelsea and Manthan in Mayfair. He was previously chef at various other highly acclaimed London destinations including Gymkhana, Jamavar, Trishna and Hoppers. Tarkari is his first book

Is it good bedtime reading? `Takari is first and foremost a recipe book, the only extras are a short introduction from Ghai and a brief chapter on ‘The Magic of Spices’ with a description of Ghai’s favoured spices and recipes for masalas, spice mixes and pastes.  

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The recipe for aloo gobi requires ‘2 potatoes, diced’, size, weight or variety is not specified. Similarly, the other ingredients include ‘1 cauliflower’ and ‘2 tomatoes’, both of which can vary in size quite dramticaly . No doubt you can get away with your own judgement here, but the quantities of spices are quite small, two and half teaspoons in total, so you may end up with an underpowered dish if your veggies are on the large side.  This is frustrating as there are more specific recipes elsewhere in the book. For example, Courgette Mussalam requires 250g of boiled and mashed potatoes. You see, it’s not that difficult is it? And yet Tawa Salad calls for ‘100g of beetroots’ (hurrah) and ‘2 carrots’ (boo). So, yeah, a bit annoyingly vague. 

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Starting with Ghai’s spice rack, you will probably have to resort to an online source for black moon flower (a key ingredient in his signature garam masala blend) and also amchur (dried mango powder), pomegranate powder, sambhar powder, fenugreek seeds and black cumin seeds if you don’t have a good Asian grocer near to you. I also had to order black lentils online for the rich and delicious dal makhani Kasundhi mustard may need hunting down, but pretty much everything else spice-wise should be easily obtainable. 

What’s the faff factor? To get the most out of the book, you’ll want to spend some time making Ghai’s spice blends for which you’ll need a spice blender (a very affordable addition to your kitchen batterie if you don’t already own one) or a decent sized pestle and mortar. Once you have your spice pantry sorted, the complexity of the recipes vary from a simple Chickpea and Samphire Salad or Bhuteko Bhat (Nepalese Fried Rice) to the more demanding (but still very achievable) Punjabi Samosa or Chandni Chowk Ki Aloo Tikki with its multiple elements and sub-recipes. In the main however, these are dishes that any enthusiastic home cook will be happy to tackle and feel it was worth the effort. 

How often will I cook from the book? If you love Indian food and observe a vegetarian or vegan diet then you could easily be cooking from Tarkari on a weekly basis, or even more often. If you are looking to cut down on meat, this book is full of dishes that would make excellent and delicious mid-week meals without too much effort required. 

Killer recipes: Malabar cauliflower (spicy battered and deep-fried florets); mushroom and truffle khichadi (a dish of spiced rice and lentils) ; dum aloo (potato curry); jackfruit masala; chickpea and mushroom biryani. 

Should I buy it? Covering everything from breakfasts to desserts with snacks, pickles and dips, curries, sharing plates, sides, and rice and breads in between, Tarkari is a one stop shop for vegetarian and vegan cooking. Ghai brings real flair and inspiration to the dishes making the book an essential purchase for anyone who loves Indian food or is looking for a comprehensive introduction to the vegetarian and vegan side of the cuisine.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to dine at one of Ghai’s restaurants may be disappointed that the book doesn’t include recipes for some of his sublime meat and fish dishes, but I imagine and certainly hope there will be a second volume on the horizon to cover those soon.  

Cuisine: Indian 
Suitable for: confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Tarkari: Vegetarian and Vegan Indian Dishes with Heart and Soul
£25, Kyle Books

Indian Vegan and Vegetarian by Mridula Baljekar

Indian Vegan and Vegetarian
What’s the USP? Why, it’s a big old book of vegan and vegetarian dishes drawn from the eternally diverse world of Indian food. Two hundred of them, in fact, organised by region.

I think you’ve misunderstood the concept of ‘USP’. It is true that this is far from the first Indian cookbook to hone in on the plant-based cookbook trend. There are already much-loved offerings from the likes of Madhur Jaffrey, Meera Sodha and Romy Gill.

This new title comes from Mridula Baljekar, an award-winning cookbook writer who has sold over a million copies of her titles, which frequently focus on the regional cuisines of India. This latest volume has a pretty flashy look by her usual standards – the vibrant cover art echoing the style of Gill’s recent Zaika, as well as Yasmin Khan’s Palestinian doppelgänger Zaitoun.

So a contemporary new look for Baljekar’s books? Well, not quite. The insides of the cookbook feel curiously dated. From the writing to the design, and even the glossy paper of the pages, Indian Vegan & Vegetarian has a distinctly textbook-esque vibe. The lengthy introductory section is filled with sub-headings and stock photos. Regional maps could be drawn straight from a Year 8 Geography lesson.

Textbooks do tend to be rather useful though, don’t they? They do! And Baljekar’s book is no different. Though it lacks stylistic pizazz, it is packed tightly with excellent recipes, pairing suggestions, practical advice and cultural insights. There are tips for variations and techniques that will aid the home cook, and the tremendous range of delicious and varied dishes manage to almost exclusively use readily accessible ingredients.

How often will I cook from the book? For those living their lives out of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, this could prove a definitive volume on their shelves. The sheer breadth of ideas on offer here mean that you could easily draw from this a couple of times a week without getting bored. The regional chapters allow readers to build up culturally-connected menus with ease too – Baljekar’s recipe introductions frequently include directions to appropriate accompaniments.

Very few of the dishes leap out as being genuinely innovative or even particularly exciting, though. Baljekar offers up plenty of authentic dishes, but those looking for dinner party show-stoppers or even something to brighten up a weekend dinner would be better served exploring other recent releases. Though the design of this book might allude to an era where bold ideas for vegan meals were a rarity, these days few major cookbooks are released where there are not at least a few delicious options.

Killer recipes: Baljekar’s Crushed Parsnips in Mustard Oil represent one of the few occasions where the book rears away from traditional Indian ingredients, and as such comes across not only as one of the most tempting recipes present, but also a potential way to inject some imagination into the sides at Christmas dinner.

Elsewhere the Batter-fried Spinach Leaves bring an echo of tempura to proceedings, and the Cinnamon and Clove Cheese Curry is a stand-out that combines some unexpected flavours in a very satisfying way.

Should I buy it? Baljekar is not offering anything new in Vegan & Vegetarian Indian. In fact, she’s continuing her long-standing tendency towards producing modest but thorough Indian cookbooks that forgo showmanship in favour of authentic regional expertise. This isn’t a must-buy volume, but it’ll be a rare home cook who can’t draw regular inspiration from it nonetheless.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: Beginner / confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Indian Vegan & Vegetarian: 200 traditional plant-based recipes
£20, Lorenz Books

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

Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan

Chetnas 30 Minute Indian

What’s the USP? ‘Quick and easy everyday meals’ boasts the front cover – something you might not expect from Indian cuisine. As much as Britain loves Indian food, it’s clear that for those of us without an Indian background to influence our home cooking, there are two distinct camps. You have what we’ll call the ‘Dishoom Cookbook Show-offs’, who see authentic Indian flavours as something one can only achieve by committing the better part of the weekend to toasting dry spices, creating luscious sauces and slowly stewing a difficult-to-come-by cut of meat that they had to bribe the butcher to source for them. And you have the ones who fry up some chicken breast chunks and dump a jar of Patak’s Tikka Masala on top before serving alongside a sachet of microwaved rice.

I have, it should be made clear, repeatedly found myself in each of these camps. A mercenary in the ongoing war: flavour vs. convenience. Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian, then, should be a dream addition to my shelf – rich and delicious Indian food that can be pulled together in around half an hour.

Who wrote it?  The ‘Chetna’ in question is Chetna Makan, who placed 4th in The Great British Bake Off in 2014. Though her initial foray into cookbooks, The Cardamom Trail, focused on bakes with a distinctly Indian flavour profile, her four titles since have steadily tipped the balance away from baking and into Indian cooking. This title, her fifth, does feature a chapter on ‘Bread, Rice & Noodles’, but even here the breads are fried or grilled. Hardcore GBBO fans will have to make do with the Butter Almond Biscuits, the Rose & Pistachio Cake with Cardamom Toffee Sauce or the Glacé Cherry & Orange Cookies – all tucked away at the tail end of the book.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not really – there’s a three page introduction to the book, which is mostly tips to help you make the most of your time. After that, it’s straight into the action – no chapter intros, and only a short paragraph to lead into each recipe.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? For the most part, no – Chetna’s approach to home cooking is built around doing so in the UK. As such, spices tend to be fairly commonplace. Occasionally you might need to visit a specialist to find dried fenugreek leaves or amchur – but you’ll usually be able to Google an easy substitute in a pinch.

What’s the faff factor? Decidedly non-faffy. The whole point, after all, is to create a meal in half an hour. And unlike some chefs on a time limit (I’m looking at you, Jamie), Chetna’s recipes won’t have you charging around the kitchen juggling awkward tasks, or expect your ingredients to have magically chopped themselves beforehand. Everything I tried was done in 30-40 minutes, even working at my decidedly leisurely pace.

Part of this comes down to shortcuts – Chetna makes no secret, and has no shame, about her use of tinned tomatoes or pulses. She encourages the reader not to be shy of pre-prepared ginger and garlic options – an opinion I’ll happily go ahead with. If you need me to finely slice or chop these, I’m all for it, but you’ll never see me mince garlic again as long as I live.

How often will I cook from the book? If you’re looking for a way to liven up your weekday dinners, you’ll get a lot of use out of Chetna’s book, which has enough variety to offer at least a couple of meals a week.

What will I love? The simplicity is one thing, but more than anything else, it’s the sheer range of ideas on offer. Chetna hasn’t allowed the thirty minute dinners brief to diminish any of her ambition, and tucked away among the more familiar faces of butter chicken are a vibrant green Yoghurt Lentil Curry, ambitious but delicious Peas-stuffed Fried Flatbread and an entirely unexpected breakfast noodle dish, Upma Vermicelli.

What won’t I love? Not everything I tried was a hit. My Black-eyed Bean & Mushroom Curry looked delicious in the book, but came across decidedly flat. A recommendation for a longer, gentler cooking option might have turned out better, but in the half an hour I was working to, the result was disappointing. Other dishes, though, come out gorgeously. The Masala Chicken looked ugly and unconvincing, until the moment it hit the pan, and suddenly came together into a warming delight.

Killer recipes: Coconut Curry Leaf Prawns, Peanut Haddock Curry, Malvani-style Chicken Sabji, Tamarind Aubergine Curry, Paneer Pav Bhaji, Ginger & Chilli Chutney

Should I buy it? I’m not sure there’s a greater challenge in Britain’s kitchens right now than how to keep cooking interesting. The pandemic, working from home and the constant effort of, you know… existence. Oof. It’s no wonder so many of us are feeling fatigued and uninspired in the kitchen at the moment.

Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian is a wonderful balm to that – a chance to inject authentic flavours and a little variety into your dinnertime, and all for a small commitment of time that will leave you the rest of the evening to dedicate to something you love: Love Island, perhaps. Scrolling through TikTok until 3am. Or my personal favourite: ever-spiralling climate anxiety. Either way, it’ll be nice to do it on a full stomach.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Chetna’s 30-minute Indian: Quick and easy everyday meals
£20, Mitchell Beazley

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

The Twelve Cookbooks of Christmas

There’s no better Christmas present to give a true foodie than a new cookbook. Here’s my selection of a dozen of the best new releases from the last few months that will please the gourmet in your life, whether they are serious hobbyist cooks, professional chefs or just in need of some fresh inspiration for midweek meals.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

What the publishers say:  The hotly anticipated cookbook from the group behind London’s Gloria and Circolo Popolare restaurants.  Italian restaurant group Big Mamma burst onto the London food scene earlier this year with the opening of Gloria, the 70’s Capri-style trattoria in the heart of Shoreditch. This little corner of Italy hosted an explosive menu, mixing old Italian classics with ingredients sourced direct from small producers in Italy, plus a few fun twists from Head Chef Filippo La Gattuta. In June, in the wake of the success of their first opening in London, French owners Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux opened Circolo Popolare – a sunny Sicily style trattoria in Fitzrovia, with immediate show-stopping dishes, from giant Pizzas al metro to XXL desserts.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes features 130 best recipes from the Big Mamma team. Some delicious, easy-to-prepare, imaginative twists from true classics such as La Gran Carbonara and Tiramisu, to some of the most creative Italian recipes today, including Pizza Nera Con Cozze and Sfoglia Lasagna. The book includes much-loved dishes from Gloria and Circolo Popolare, and some amazing Pizza Yolo, Lob’star Pasta, Ravioli Di Ricotta, Daft Punch and Eat Me Baba One More Time.

Full review coming soon

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95 (phaidon.com)

Cook from this book: coming soon

Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing

Marcus Everyday

Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs and as a stern taskmaster on Masterchef: The Professionals. But in his new book (the sixth he has co-authored with Chantelle Nicholson, Group Operations Director for Marcus Wareing Restaurants), he presents a kinder, gentler Marcus; the family man at home in his East Sussex hideaway Melfort House, gardening and cooking with his kids and grinning for the camera in his casual blue denim shirt. It’s the sort of aspiration lifestyle stuff you’d associate with the likes of Bill Granger or Donna Hay, but Wareing pulls it off. The recipes are very much ‘home cookery’ as Wareing likes to call it; approachable, achievable and not a hint of Michelin-starred hubris. Recipes that may well become regular standbys include hassleback potatoes with red wine and pork ragu; haddock with lentils, basil and mascarpone and beef and garden herb meatballs with roasted tomato sauce.

Read the full review 

Cuisine: International  
Suitable for:
For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Four stars

Buy this book
Marcus Everyday: Easy Family Food for Every Kind of Day
Harper Collins Publishers, £20

Rick Steins Secret France

Secret France Rick Stein

Restaurateur and seafood expert Rick Stein takes a meandering journey through rural France from Normandy in the north to Provence in the south. In addition to the usual suspects like snails in garlic butter,  omelette aux fines herbes, croque monsieur and steak frites, Stein has gone off the beaten track and unearthed pounti, a ham and chard terrine from the Auvergne; wild boar stew with pinot noir from Alsace, and boles de picolat, meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette from Prades in the Pyrenees. Fans of Rick Stein will not be disappointed. If you are new to the food of France this is a great introduction, and if you are a Francophile, you will enjoy revisiting old favourites and discovering new dishes to add to your repertoire.

Read the full review

Cuisine: French  
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books, £26

Black Axe Mangal by Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

Lee Tiernan runs the cult north London restaurant Black Axe Mangal and this is his first book. His pizza oven is emblazoned with the faces of the rock group Kiss and the flavours of dishes like pig’s tails with pickled chicory; braised hare, chocolate and pig’s blood with mash; oxtail, bone marrow and anchovy and the signature squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are turned up to 11.

The liberal seasoning of salty language and peppering of softcore glamour shots may be off-putting to some, but the step by step instructions on the key skills of grilling, smoking and baking that help define Tiernan’s food, along with the story behind his success, provide an insight into one of the UK’s most exciting and original chefs and make Black Axe Mangal an essential purchase.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Cook from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

The Quality Chop House

Quality chop house

Recipes and stories from a landmark London restaurant that’s been trading in one form or other since 1869. You get a very real sense of what the Quality Chop House is all about. If you are already a regular, it will make you want to go back immediately and if you’ve never been you’ll be desperate for a table. Keen cooks willing to invest time and some money to create restaurant-quality dishes like mince on dripping toast; pastrami cured salmon; corn and marmite butter; truffled potato croquettes, and the signature confit potatoes at home will absolutely devour this book.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Cook from this book
Confit potatoes 

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray

Downton Cookbook

The acclaimed historian, cook and broadcaster Annie Gray takes the fictional Downtown Abbey as a jumping-off point to chart the history of British country house cooking in a series of short articles and recipes including Palestine soup; cabbage as they served it in Budapest; mutton with caper sauce; the queen of trifles; beef stew with dumplings; treacle tart; rice pudding. Downtown fans will love it, but it’s such a sumptuously produced book with lovely food photography by John Kernick that it will appeal to anyone with an interest in British food and its history.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook
White Lion Publishing, £25

Signature Dishes That Matter by Christine Muhlke et al

Sig dishes

A collection of 240 restaurant dishes that spans six centuries from the first-ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first-served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018. It is a fascinating read and an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine. It’s perfect for bedtime reading and could provide inspiration for a spectacular retro-themed dinner party.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir 

Dishoom

The cookbook of the eight-strong Dishoom all-day dining Indian restaurant group inspired by the Persian-style Irani cafes of Mumbai.  There’s recipes for mid-morning snacks like keema puffs, lunch dishes including aloo sabzi (vegetable curry served with bedmi puri bread), afternoon refreshments such as salted laksi, ‘sunset snacks’  pau bhaji, a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted Bombay bread buns and dinner dishes such as soft shell crab masala, lamb biryani and spicy lamb chops. Besides the delicious recipes, the book looks beautiful, is a great read and gives you more than enough detail about Mumbai to plan a truly sybaritic holiday there.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant: From Bombay with Love
Bloomsbury Publishing, £26.

The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver

St John

The long-awaited follow up to 2007’s Beyond Nose to Tail from one of the UK’s most distinguished and influential chefs Fergus Henderson and his business partner Trevor Gulliver. The publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of the opening of St John restaurant near Smithfield market in London, world-famous for dishes such as roast bone marrow with parsley salad that celebrate offal. Adding The Book of St John will bring something distinctive to your cookbook collection and might well expand your culinary horizons with dishes such as crispy lamb’s brains; pig’s tongues, butter beans and green sauce; chicken, bacon and trotter pie and Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese.

Read the full review

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

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

Cook from this book
Welsh Rarebit 
Grilled lamb hearts, peas and mint
Salted caramel and chocolate tart 

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Food of Sichuan

The Food of Sichuan is a revised and updated edition of Sichuan Cookery, originally published in 2001. It’s an authoritative and comprehensive investigation of the styles, techniques and ingredients of a lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine with over 100 recipes, 50 of them new to the revised edition including bowl steamed belly pork with preserved vegetables; fragrant and crispy duck, and pot-sticker dumplings with chicken stock. The quality of the writing, the depth and breadth of the research and the sheer reassuring heft of the thing tell you this is the only book on Sichuan cooking you’ll ever need.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Chinese
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
The Food of Sichuan
£30, Bloomsbury

Cook House by Anna Hedworth

Cook House Anna Hedworth

If you’ve ever dreamed about making a career in food, self-taught chef and restaurateur Anna Hedworth’s story of how she opened a restaurant in a shopping container in Newcastle upon Tyne will provide you with the information and inspiration to take the leap. If you want to try out techniques like cooking over open-fire and preserving and fermenting for the first time, this book will be of particular interest. But even if you just want to add a few more delicious go-to recipes to your repertoire such as red pepper, paprika and rosemary soup with sourdough croutons; chicken, courgette and pea salad with aioli and sourdough crumb or dark chocolate and almond cake, Cook House is well worth adding to your collection.

Read the full review 

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

Buy this book
Cook House
£25, Head of Zeus

The Shore by Bruce Rennie

The Shore

A collection of highly inventive and original seafood dishes from one of the best seafood restaurants in the country, The Shore in Penzance. Chef Bruce Rennie worked with Michelin starred Edinburgh-based chef Martin Wishart as well as Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein before opening The Shore in 2015. An extended introductory chapter covers Rennie’s own story, his relationship with the land and Cornwall and running the restaurant. Recipes are arranged into six, eight-course tasting menus which reflect Rennie’s love of Japanese and Indian flavours in dishes such as mackerel, sashimi style, sesame, beetroot and wasabi sorbet and cod with dal, cauliflower, lime pickle, onion bhaji and coriander.

Read my foreword to the book

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Dedicated home cooks/professional chefs

Buy this book
The Shore
£25, A Way with Media

New releases round-up December 2019

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray

Downton Cookbook

So, this is a quick and nasty cash in on a world-famous TV franchise, right?Well, it will undoubtedly make a few quid off the Downtown name, but there is nothing quick and nasty about it.  Written by the acclaimed historian, cook and broadcaster Annie Gray this a pukka piece of work that takes the fictional Downtown Abbey as a jumping off point to chart the history of British country house cooking in recipes and a series of short articles

Killer recipes:  Palestine soup; Cabbage as they served it in Budapest; mutton with caper sauce; the queen of trifles; beef stew with dumplings; treacle tart; rice pudding.

Should I buy it?: You don’t have to be a Downtown fan to buy this book but it will help if you are one. There are quite a lot of photos from the set of the TV series which won’t mean much to those who don’t follow the show. That said, it’s a sumptuously produced book with some lovely food photography by John Kernick and the quality of the writing and recipes means it will appeal to anyone with an interest in British food and its history.

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

Buy this book
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook
White Lion Publishing, £25

Super Sourdough by James Morton

Super Sourdough James Morton

Another book about sourdough, really? Yes, really. Like the shelves aren’t already heaving with them. If you don’t own the ten year old Tartine Bread: (Artisan Bread Cookbook, Best Bread Recipes, Sourdough Book) by legendary San Francisco baker Chad Robertson then you really need to rectify that massive mistake immediately, and then you can still buy Super Sourdough. Although Morton’s 20 page recipe for Pain au Levan shares many striking similarities with Robertson’s 40 page Basic Country Bread recipe, what Morton is particularly good at is helping novice bakers through the process every step of the way. The troubleshooting guides on sourdough starters and bread making are particularly useful and reassuring.  

Should I buy it? If you’ve never made sourdough before and are looking for a new hobby, this is a great place to start. It’s not just an instruction manual; once you have mastered the basics of sourdough there’s plenty of fun to be had knocking up Chelsea buns, pizza, crumpets and even cornbread. 

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

Buy this book
Super Sourdough: The foolproof guide to making world-class bread at home
Quadrille Publishing Ltd, £20

Week Light by Donna Hay

Week Light Donna Hay

So what is this, the 900th Donna Hay cookbook? Calm down mate. She might be the self -styled ‘Australia’s leading food editor and best-selling cookbook author’ and have sold ‘over seven million copies worldwide, with the books translated into 10 languages’ but in fact this is ‘only’ her 29th book.

That’s still about half a dozen more books than Charles Dickens ever wrote. What has she got left to say about food that anyone wants to hear? Well, how about, ‘No longer the side dishes, the back up dancers, the understudies, vegetables have EARNED THEIR PLACE to be front and centre on your plate’ (capitals, Donna Hay’s own).

Radical. Except didn’t Bruno Loubet say something very similar about 5 years ago with his brilliant book Mange ToutIts unlikely that there’s much overlap between Hay and Loubet’s audience. And there’s nothing truly new in cooking anyway is there, so stop quibbling.

Sorry, but before we go any further, WTAF is that title all about? That has got to be the weakest pun in the history of publishing.  It’s never explained or referred to at all in the book, it’s almost as if it was an after thought. Weeknight/Weeklight? Who knows?

So what’s the USP then? Healthy food that’s easy to prepare and which ticks all the modish boxes of the last few years including ‘bowl food’ like cheat’s chilli cashew tofu larb; a version of banh mi made with marinated tofu; chipotle chicken and cauliflower tacos, and ‘pizza’ made with a base of mashed sweet potato, almond meal, flour and eggs.

Christ on a bike. She knows how to suck the fun out of food doesn’t she? Actually, a lot of the dishes look extremely appealing in a fresh, green sort of way. Perfect for when you want your weeknight to be weeklight!

Just drop it, it doesn’t work does it? Don’t let the stupid title put you off. If you can stomach the endless shots of Hay being the perfect Aussie mum to her perfect Aussie kids in perfect Aussie settings and the relentlessly upbeat tone of the whole thing, then you might actually get a lot use out of the book.

Are you actually suggesting I buy Weakpun? There are worse things you could spend £20 on. And you don’t want your veggies to be understudies and back up dancers for the rest of their lives do you?  After all, they’ve EARNED THEIR PLACE front and centre.

They earn it every weeklight baby, every weeklight.  

Cuisine: International  
Suitable for:
Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Three stars

Buy this book
Week Light: Super-Fast Meals to Make You Feel Good
Harper Collins, £20

Dishoom

by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir 

Dishoom

Dishoom, oh I love that place. The breakfast bacon naan rolls are to die for.  Get you, Mr London hipster. Some of us have to settle for a greasy caff.

Actually, there’s now eight Dishooms, inspired by the Persian-style Irani cafes of Mumbai, including branches in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh so its long past being a hipster hangout, if it ever was you suburban ninny.  OK, I know, I’ve read the book’s introduction thank you very much. Dishoom is an all day dining destination,  so there’s recipes for mid-morning snacks like keema puffs, lunch dishes including aloo sabzi (vegetable curry served with bedmi puri bread), afternoon refreshments such as salted laksi, ‘sunset snacks’ like…

Sunset snacks? They’ve made that up! Its a thing apparently; street food from vendors on Girgaum Chowpatty beach including pau bhaji, a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted Bombay bread buns. Of course there’s also recipes for dinner dishes such as soft shell crab masala, lamb biryani and spicy lamb chops.

I’m still hungry, what’s for pudding? No one gets to pudding in an Indian restaurant. But if you do have room then there’s the likes of basmati kheer (rice pudding with cardamom and a brulee topping) or berry Shrikhand (a type of thick, sweetened yoghurt popular amongst Gujarati families).

I’ve got loads of recipe books from modern Indian restaurants already, why do I want another?  Besides the delicious recipes, the book looks beautiful, is a great read and gives you more than enough detail about Mumbai to plan a truly sybaritic holiday there.

So I should buy it then? Does a naan roll have bacon in it? Get clicking the link below.

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for:
Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Four stars

Buy this book
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant: From Bombay with Love
Bloomsbury Publishing, £26.

Gunpowder by Harneet Baweja, Devina Seth and Nirmal Save

Gunpowder

What’s the USP? ‘Explosive flavours from modern India’ runs the subtitle. In reality, this is a collection of recipes from Gunpowder, a ‘home-style Indian kitchen restaurant’ in Spitalfields London.

Who’s the author? Husband and wife team Harneet Baweja and Devina Seth opened the 20-cover Gunpowder restaurant close to Brick Lane in 2015 with head chef Nirmal Save. This is their debut cookbook.

What does it look like? Mouthwateringly good. Recipes collected from family in Kolkata and Mumbai and inspired by Indian street food have been given a makeover with attractive modern plating. There’s some moody black and white scene-setting shots of the restaurant and its kitchen and some boldly colourful shots of the subcontinent.

Is it good bedtime reading? There is very little additional text aside from a two page introduction and a spice glossary. Chapter and recipe introductions are concise and to the point.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Unless you can shoot it yourself, you’ll need a good butcher to find you some wild rabbit to make the pulao recipe and you may have trouble finding pomfret (but you can just substitute John Dory the recipe says) but otherwise it’s pretty mainstream stuff.

What’s the faff factor? There are the long ingredient lists of numerous spices that you’d normally associate with Indian cooking which make the recipes look more complicated than they actually are. In reality, most of the dishes are striaghtforward and well within the capability of any confident home cook.

How often will I cook from the book? If you love Indian food, you might well find yourself taking the book from your shelf on a regular basis.

Killer recipes? Chutney cheese sandwich; mustard broccoli with makhana sauce; Maa’s Kashmiri lamb chops; wild rabbit pulao; blue crab Malabar curry.

What will I love? The small plates chapter is full of inspiration for something a little bit different for breakfast (chickpea pancakes with fried eggs and tomato and coriander chutney) lunch (kale and corn cakes) or beer snacks (kadai paneer parcel; a spicy cheese and puff pastry roll) while the list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks will put a spicy spring in your step.

What won’t I like? At under 200 pages, this is not the most comprehensive cookbook in the world.

Should I buy it? A diverse collection of delicious sounding, attractive looking dishes that are not too demanding to cook and suitable for any number of occasions and times of the day. If you like Indian food, you are going to love this book.

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

Buy this book
Gunpowder: Explosive flavours from modern India
£25, Kyle Books

Cook from this book
Mustard Broccoli

Mustard Broccoli by Herneet Baweja, Devina Seth and Nirmal Save

MUSTARD GRILL BROCCOLI

SERVES 2 AS A MAIN, 4 AS A STARTER OR SIDE

We use mustard a lot in the east of India and here we pair it with broccoli, which is in the same family. In India, you often see this dish made with cauliflower, so you could easily interchange them. We prefer broccoli for the restaurant, as it really soaks in all the flavours and gets even crisper when flashed under the grill. It’s one of the most popular vegetarian dishes at Gunpowder. We think it’ll become a favourite in your home, too.

1 head of broccoli, halved
100g Greek yogurt
50g full-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon chaat masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons mustard or rapeseed oil, plus 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon chickpea flour
2–3 tablespoons ghee, melted
sea salt
Makhani Sauce (see below) and pickled beetroot, to serve

1 Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the broccoli for 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under ice-cold water to prevent it from cooking further. Shake off any excess water and set aside.

2 In a large dish, mix together the yogurt, cream cheese, mustard, chilli powder, chaat masala, turmeric, coriander, cumin and the 2 tablespoons of mustard or rapeseed oil.

3 Set a frying pan over a medium heat and toast the chickpea flour for 30 seconds. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil, mix, and toast for a further 30 seconds, making a fragrant paste. Whisk this into the yogurt mix, then thoroughly coat the broccoli in the creamy spice paste and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

4 Set your oven grill to high and grill the broccoli, cut-side down, for 10–15 minutes, basting it with the melted ghee. When golden on top, turn over and grill 5 minutes on the other side, or until nicely coloured.

5 Serve on a base of Makhani Sauce with pickled beetroot sprinkled on top.

MAKHANI SAUCE

MAKES 250ML

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
500g tomatoes, diced
½ teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 cloves
3 green cardamom pods
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of chilli powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2–3 tablespoons double cream
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste (optional)
sea salt

1 Set a frying pan over a high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Once melted, add the garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt and cook for a minute.

2 Fold the tomatoes and all the spices through. Cook over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and darkened in a colour a little.

3 Spoon the mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until fairly smooth. Press through a sieve, giving you a smooth sauce. Warm the sauce gently in a saucepan with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Once the butter is melted, swirl in the cream.

4 Let the sauce gently bubble away over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until it has thickened and darkened further. Season with salt and the honey, if needed, to taste. Serve warm.

Recipes taken from Gunpowder: Explosive Flavours from Modern India by Herneet Baweja, Devina Seth and Nirmal Save. Kyle Books. Photography: Pete Cassidy

Read the review 

Buy this book
Gunpowder: Explosive flavours from modern India
£25, Kyle Books

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