60 Second Review: Weekend by Matt Tebbutt

Weekend by Matt Tebbutt

Weekend is an old fashioned famous white bloke’s cookbook. The 100 motley recipes that brazenly raid global cooking traditions – like famous white bloke’s cookbooks  tend to do – are hung around the thin premise of ‘weekend’ cooking when notionally you have more time to spend in the kitchen.  In reality, you could knock many of the recipes up at any time of the week. But no matter, the concept doesn’t seem to detain Tebbutt too much, who expounds on it briefly in some fleeting introductory passages, so let’s not let it spoil our fun. There’s some nice things to cook here.

The author is Saturday morning BBC TV’s Mr Wobbly Head Matt Tebbutt, presenter of Saturday Kitchen. He formerly ran The Foxhunter pub in Wales and has worked in the kitchens of top chefs Marco Pierre White and Alistair Little, among others.  That dates him.

You should buy Weekend if you want to cook some nice things to eat. It’s really no more complicated, or interesting than that. Recipes are divided into six chapters: Friday Night (I’m not even going to try explain what that’s meant to mean as I’ll have to use the phrase ‘ fuss-free fodder’ and then I’d have to kill myself); breakfast and brunch; lunch and BBQ; Saturday night (when you’re not watching Britain’s Got Talent in your PJs with a Domino’s, apparently); Sunday lunch and Desserts.

The head-spinningly varied collection careens from Portuguese chicken, coriander and garlic soup to Malaysian nasi lemak, and from a Reuben sandwich to biltong. There’s Mexican-style grilled corn, Italian malfatti dumplings with tuna, American cobb salad and Cape Malay lamb curry.  It’s not what you’d call cohesive, or true to any particular culinary heritage, style or tradition. It’s all over the bloody place, but then, isn’t that how many of us cook at home?

You’re not going to learn anything profound from the book, it’s not going to change your life, but you will almost certainly enjoy cooking from it. It’s something for the weekend.

Buy this book
Weekend by Matt Tebbutt
£22, Quadrille 

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

The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford

The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor FordWhat’s the USP? ‘A culinary journey along the ancient spice routes’, The Nutmeg Trail explores the way spices have travelled around the globe throughout history. Paying particularly close attention to the Asian origins of many of these spices, the book is a colourful and varied collection of recipes that are full of flavour.

Who wrote it? Eleanor Ford, who has made something of a name for herself in the cookbook world over the past six years or so. Her debut volume, Samarkand, took in the food of central Asia and won both Ford and co-writer Caroline Eden a clutch of awards. Her follow-up, the fantastic Fire Islands, offered up an in-depth look at Indonesian cuisine and further extended the need for a hefty trophy cabinet. Now Ford is back with her third title and – spoiler alert – may want to start thinking about where she’s going to tuck the next inevitable accolades coming her way.

Is it good bedtime reading? Books that explore the world of spices are not lacking in the cookbook world, and with so much nuanced history and flavour to cover, are usually excellent for readers looking for lengthy essays on, say, the migration of flavours across the middle east, or the impact that chillies have had on each new cuisine they’ve touched. Ford’s book is no outlier here, with extensive opening chapters sitting ahead of recipes that are themselves punctuated with further insight into specific spices and flavours.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Concisely written and refreshingly clear, the recipes in The Nutmeg Trail are a joy to follow. A welcome additional touch comes by way of Ford’s occasional ‘eat with’ notes, that might make vague-but-useful suggestions, or may include an entire second recipe for good measure.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The recipes here couldn’t be more global if they tried – from page to page you may flick from Mauritius to China to the Emirates. Occasionally this means you’ll come across slightly more niche ingredients like coconut vinegar or kewra water. On these occasions, though, Ford is careful to include alternatives, or ensure that the difficult ingredient is an optional extra. On the occasions that call for a specific and unusual spice mix, she provides instructions on how to make it yourself rather than rely on your ability to source a pre-packaged Uyghur seven spice.

What’s the faff factor? It very much depends on the dish at hand. I tried two myself, on back to back nights because I simply had no interest in waiting any longer to try them. The first, Red-Cooked Duck Breasts was both quick and relatively simple, taking roughly the same amount of time it normally would to pan fry and then roast duck breast fillets, but yielding a much richer and more interesting final plate.

My Jasmine Tea-Smoked Chicken was significantly more of a bother, though. It’s no mean feat, for a start, to source three tablespoons of loose-leaf jasmine tea without shelling out for significantly more than you need in the process. Once you’ve compiled the necessary ingredients, you’ll then need to toast and grind your own spice mix, set aside a day to season your chicken, and eventually create a DIY smoker using a trivet and a pan. I ended up building an elaborate tin foil structure to allow me to make the most of my saute pan and a bamboo steamer and, you know what? Absolutely bloody worth it. The chicken was gorgeously flavoured, and I had the thrill of smoking meat in my own kitchen, using little more than a hob and some loosely Macgyvered kitchenware. Most recipes don’t ask for this level of commitment, but at least the ones that do more than compensate you for the time and thought you put into the dish.

How often will I cook from the book? I’ll be honest: 2022 has not been a big year for repeat visits to cookbooks in our household. One of my two new year’s resolutions (alongside listening to every Willie Nelson album) was to cook at least one meal from every single cookbook on my shelves. It’s been an immensely rewarding exercise so far, but it doesn’t leave much room for cooking from the same book with great frequency. In fact, that The Nutmeg Trail managed to pull me back to its pages over two consecutive nights is telling enough. The recipes here are built to tempt – all flavour, no filler – and the variety on offer means home cooks may well be making weekly visits to its pages.

Killer recipes: Garlic Clove Curry, Royal Saffron Paneer, Typhoon Shelter Corn, Hot-&-Sour Tomato Rasam, Venetian Chicken with Almond Milk & Dates, Mushroom Rendang… the list goes on and on.

Should I buy it? Probably! It depends. Are you my mother? This is, after all, a book about spice. If, like her, you are so incapable of approaching the very concept of spice that you can’t even eat KFC without flapping about your mouth like Yosemite Sam after he’s accidentally swallowed a stick of dynamite, this probably isn’t the book for you.

If, however, you fall anywhere else on the spectrum of spice-eaters, there will be something for you here. Whilst The Nutmeg Trail shares a passion for history and exposition with the spice-centric books that have come before it, Ford manages to offer up the one thing these titles have so often forgotten: truly outstanding recipes, and plenty of them.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford
£26,  Murdoch Books

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

Grand Dishes by Anastasia Miari and Iska Lupton

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What’s the USP? A global tour of grannies, learning about their lives and their cooking. Other grandmothers, it turns out, really did make exceptionally good food that tied together family relationships and defined the tastes of the generations that followed them.

Mine, on the other hand, didn’t really do any cooking but did have a habit of keeping the lunch meats from half-eaten café sandwiches in her pocket to feed to the dog later. She didn’t own a dog, but just hoped to see one at some point. The food ideas of the late, great Chris ‘Nanny’ Thomas have not made it into Grand Dishes.

Who wrote it? Iska Lupton and Anastasia Miari, two friends who were inspired by their own grandmothers to travel the world interviewing other grans about their lives and their food. ‘This book is not about what it’s like to be old,’ the book tells us on a number of occasions. ‘It’s about what it’s like to have lived’.

This is the first food book for either of the authors, though in a sense that doesn’t matter – we’re here for the Abuelas and the Nonnas, the Nannys and the Grandmas.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a very balanced prose-to-recipe ratio here, with the majority of the book split first into chapters (Soups & Sides, Vegetables, Fish, Meat, Something Sweet) and then divided by grandmother. The obvious flaw here is that grannies aren’t easily able to share both a recipe for trout and another for jelly – though I can think of a few I’ve met in my time who would be tempted to pair those two.

Each granny is given plenty of room to breathe (no factory farmed Bubbies here). As well as an introduction from Lupton and Miari that tends to mythologise their experience in meeting and eating with their subject, there’s a story from the grandmother that might cover where they’ve come from, or how food has impacted their lives. Finally, there’s a recipe or two, drawn from the grandmother’s kitchen but kindly edited by the authors for both consistency and – importantly – the inclusion of measurements that were often eschewed by instinctive grans.

Perhaps best of all, each woman has a little fact sheet that tells us where and when they were born, what their mother tongue is, the name of their grandchildren, and what those grandchildren call them. No getting in this book unless you’re a full-fledged gran! We’re not letting just any old lady in this book. You’ve gotta have the gran-specific nickname to prove your status!

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Generally speaking, you should be fine. Lupton and Miari really have drawn in grannies from all over the place here, with Grandma Anne in New Orleans, Abuela Juana Maria in Cuba, and a wealth of ex-pat grannies who have relocated from the likes of Thailand and South Africa. Despite this, most ingredients are easy to pick up in even the biggest supermarkets. Occasionally a guest recipe from a professional chef will throw you into disarray though. Why is it everybody else’s gran shops at Tesco, but AngloThai chef John Chantarasak’s just happens to use salted duck egg? Typical.

What will I love? The book has been put together with immense love for all of the women involved, and it shows. The range of recipes on offer is immensely varied, too, and features meals that feel genuinely unique even amongst my fairly large cookbook collection. Grandmother Sharon’s Outer Banks Shrimp Stew with ‘Pie Bread’, for example. Or perhaps Miss D’s Pastry Pig Ears.

What won’t I love? The other side of the same coin is that there’s very little coherency between the recipes offered by the 60-plus grandmothers in here (that’s both a fair representation of quantity and age). As a result, this is less a book for casual cooking and one for browsing and inspiration. People often reach for Jamie Oliver’s books thinking ‘I want something quick and nutritious), or Claudia Roden’s thinking ‘I feel like something with a Mediterranean feel tonight’. What are you reaching for here? ‘I’m really craving food that’s been approved by a septuagenarian I’ve never met’?

Killer recipes: Bobee Harriet’s Corn and Crab Bisque, Grandmother Dona Margarita’s Mexican Rice with Chicken Offal, Abayeye Shewa’s Kale and Mustard Leaves Cooked With Garlic, Abuela Juana Maria’s Cuban Plantain Soup

Should I buy it? Grand Dishes often feels a little more like a coffee table title than a traditional cookbook. Though there are plenty of delicious recipes here, the real focus of the book is always on the stories of the women that sit at its heart. This weighting means that the title might be a little limited for those who have limited space in their lives and their kitchens for cookbooks – but those who want something warm and cosy to read that might also offer them an idea or two for dinner will be well served here.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book

Grand Dishes 
£25, Unbound

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

This book was longlisted for the Andre Simon Award 2021. Read more here.

andre simon logo

Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry

Neil Perry Everything I Love to Cook

Neil Perry defined 90s fusion cooking at his Sydney restaurant Rockpool. In 2020, he announced his retirement, selling Rockpool Restaurant Group for A$60million. He wasn’t gone for long; earlier this year he opened what he claims will be his last restaurant, Margaret, a glamorous neighbourhood brasserie, named after his late mother.

Everything I love to cook is not the cookbook of the restaurant, but it does share the same sustainable approach to food. Perry says in his introduction that ‘there’s no Planet B, so we have to do the right thing. Eat more plant-based meals’. So, there’s a chapter on vegetable main courses that, true to Perry’s eclectic, globe-trotting style, includes everything from Italian-style spinach torte to steamed silken tofu with black vinegar and chilli oil.

At over 450 pages long, there is plenty of room for a selection of favourite recipes culled from across Perry’s restaurant empire (he’s still a shareholder and consultant) including Rockpool salad with palm sugar vinaigrette; crudo of tuna with horseradish, coriander and lemon oil (from Rockpool Bar and Grill) and ramen noodle salad with chicken, ginger and spring onion (from Spice Temple Noodle Bar).

In addition to the comprehensive collection of 230 recipes, there’s articles covering kitchen basics like seasoning (‘the difference between a home cook and a professional chef is the amount of salt they use’) pasta (‘best hand made-I find pasta made in a food processor to be of inferior quality’) and desserts, which Perry says ‘can be as simple as a perfectly ripe piece of fruit…there is something sophisticated about being able recognise perfection and then standing behind it’.

With its near-encyclopaedic length and career-spanning content, the book would make a fitting finale to Perry’s 40 years in the professional kitchen. But with so many vibrant, inventive and delicious recipes, it seems that Perry has a lot more yet to share. Let’s hope that, unlike Margaret restaurant, Everything I love to cook is not a full stop but merely a comma in the chef’s influential and inspiring story.

Cuisine: International/Australian
Suitable for: confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Everything I Love to Cook: 150 home classics to return to
£30, Murdoch Books

Cook from this book
Barbecued lamb cutlets with lemongrass and ginger by Neil Perry
Crispy pork belly with red onion, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds by Neil Perry
Flourless chocolate cake by Neil Perry

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine. 

Grains for Every Season by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg

Grains for every season by Joshua McFadden
What’s the USP? Intensely nutritious but often overlooked by home cooks who are uncertain how best to cook with them, whole grains have a lot to offer. Grains for Every Season looks to open their world up to the reader, offering a wealth of different dishes that span familiar grains like barley and quinoa, as well as less common offerings such as millet and buckwheat.

Who wrote it? The James Beard Award-winning pair Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. Their last book (McFadden’s first) was the critically-acclaimed Six Seasons, which offered ‘a new way with vegetables’ – here the pair are determined to give whole grains their due instead, highlighting their desire to put flavour first at every point. The rich nutritional value of their ingredients are highlighted, but frequently seem to be considered no more than a convenient bonus, which is frankly rather nice. Earlier this year Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s solid Eat Better Forever spent entire chapters unpacking the health benefits for using whole grains, but the recipes themselves were less than inspired. McFadden’s book is packed with variety and flavour, whilst also teaching the reader enough about each grain to help them incorporate the food better into their own dishes.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not particularly – the introduction aside, Grains for Every Season isn’t packed with prose. Each grain has a very useful but relatively brief introductory page that covers how it tastes, how it should be prepared, how it is good for you, and why McFadden is such a fan. The recipes themselves are given a brief explanation, but insomniacs aren’t going to find much to occupy them here.

But then, that’s not why we’re here – Grains for Every Season isn’t intended as a grand tome laying out food philosophies. Instead, McFadden and Holmberg are simply keen to make cooking with grains a good deal less intimidating for the average person. And they excel at doing this.

The recipes manage to hit all the homely, comforting notes you’d expect. A Lightly Curried Lamb, Cabbage, and Barley Soup offers exactly the warmth a reader might anticipate, but includes an inspired extra little punch of flavour. This is McFadden’s flavour-first approach peeking through, and over the course of the book these little touches appear time and again, lifting the grains and presenting them anew.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Clarity is always welcome in a cookbook, and the recipes here are thorough and specific – though this can occasionally result in a rather wordy page within which your place can easily be lost as you step away from the book to your prep and back again. Ingredients are listed with both US and metric measurements, and rarely ask for anything too difficult to source. Your biggest sourcing issue if based outside of the US will be kosher salt, though I’ve been buying it in bulk from online retailers ever since Samin Nosrat more or less insisted upon me doing so in Salt Fat Acid Heat.

What’s the faff factor? Try as they might, the authors cannot wholly expel the effort necessary to fully enjoy many of these grains. McFadden champions toasting his grains regularly throughout the book, though he does make an effort to save the reader some time by revealing that he doesn’t tend to soak grains before cooking, finding that the time saved in cooking doesn’t warrant the forward planning. Nevertheless, dishes call for all sorts of different preparatory methods, and some of these can be quite time consuming. Salads are usually a relatively quick dish to knock together, but the Rye Berry and Roasted Cauliflower Salad will take almost two hours to prepare if you haven’t already got some cooked rye berries sitting somewhere in the house.

How often will I cook from the book? There’s plenty of argument for this being a book that finds its way down from your shelf at least once a week. Knowing the many health benefits from eating more whole foods, it’s hard to ignore the value of a cookbook that presents so many varied, flavoursome approaches to cooking grains. There are simple, easy-to-cook ideas that will suit weeknights (Whole Wheat Pasta with Crab, Cream, Olives and Habanero could be readily pulled together in the time it takes to cook the pasta, and is a perfect example of the unexpected-yet-inspired flavour combinations that run throughout the book), and more elaborate dishes that will better suit a leisurely Sunday afternoon, in which you can spare three or so hours in which to simmer the beef for your Beef and Swiss Chard Soup with Spelt.

What will I love? The four seasonal spreads tucked throughout the book are a particular treat. Each one introduces a different dish: pilaf, grain bowls, stir fries and pizza. Presenting a simple method and offering up seasonal adaptations, these spreads are bright moments in an already excellent book.

Killer recipes: Seafood Stew with Hominy and Warm Spices, Super Fudgy Chocolate Oat Layer Cake with Chocolate Oat Milk Frosting, Farotto (a risotto-esque dish that uses farro in place of the rice and comes with several variations), Toasted Rye Cabbage Rolls

Should I buy it? Grains for Every Season is a beautifully written, carefully considered cookbook that is filled with originality and, importantly, flavour. But it is also something far more useful: an accessible and above all else tempting introduction to cooking with one of our most underused sources of nutrition. Anybody keen to explore whole grains in earnest should consider Grains for Every Season their first port of call.

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

Buy this book
Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way with Grains
£32, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

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

Marcus’ Kitchen by Marcus Wareing

Marcus's Kitchen

What’s the USP? Approachable home-cooked recipes cooked up during lockdown by a Michelin-starred TV chef at his country home.

Who are the authors? Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs with the Michelin-starred Marcus restaurant at the swish Berkeley Hotel. he is also well known as the stern taskmaster on the BBC TV series Masterchef: The Professionals. He rose to fame in the 90’s as Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man, heading up a number of restaurants including the original Petrus in St James’s Street. His falling out with Ramsay is well documented.

Wareing’s co-author for the first time (replacing Wareing’s former business partner Chantelle Nicholson) is chef Craig Johnston, a Masterchef: The Professionals winner and now Wareing’s head chef.

Is it good bedtime reading? As with Wareing’s last book, not really. A short introduction plus recipe introductions and that’s your lot.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? As usual you’ll need a reliable fishmonger for large scallops to pan fry and serve with celeriac and chimichurri slaw or halibut to bake with lovage and serve with white asparagus (another two ingredients you will probably need to hunt down) but you should have no problem tracking down most of the ingredients in this book.

What’s the faff factor? That will depend greatly on what chapter of the book you’re cooking from. Quinoa salad with cottage cheese and roasted onions from ‘Tight for Time’ should take 20 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook if the timings given in the book are correct. On the other hand, prawns with a bisque and tomato fregola from ‘Something Special’ requires 2 to 2.5 hours of prep time and 1.5 hours to cook the dish.

How often will I cook from the book? A lot. Over the course of eight chapters (in addition to the two named above, there’s Market Garden, Simply Essential, Weekend Wonders, Baking, Worth the Wait and Kitchen Foundations) Wareing has compiled more than 100 recipes for pretty much any occasion, mood, inclination, ability, budget and appetite. It’s versatile is what I’m trying to say.

Killer recipes? Marcus’ Kitchen is all killer and no filler, but to give you some examples:  barbecue pork burgers (these are great, although I dialled down a bit on the quantity of Marmite when I made the recipe); rosemary and malt glazed lamb belly with salsa verde; roasted onion tarte tatin with cheddar mascarpone; Korean-style fried monkfish with sesame pickles; baked chilli beef with sweetcorn cobbler; pork loin in black bean sauce (an excellent, easy mid-week family dinner); sautéed potato gnocchi with broccoli, rocket and parmesan. Basically, you can let the book fall open anywhere and you’ll find something you want to cook.

What will I love? We are in similar territory as Waring’s previous book Marcus Everyday, at home in his stunning East Sussex hideaway Melfort House (beware: the photos of Wareing’s amazing kitchen garden may make you very jealous indeed) where he’s created dishes aimed at home cooks rather than his fellow professional chefs (although I’m sure they’d appreciate them too). There’s a huge variety of global influences here, from Indonesian to Italian and Peruvian to Middle Eastern, reflecting the way many British home cooks love to compose a weekly menu, hopping around the globe to avoid culinary boredom (there are plenty of British dishes too, albeit with a twist such as English muffins with brown crab and miso or brown sauce-glazed ham with onion gravy).

Should I buy it? It seems as though lockdown provided Wareing with the chance to really concentrate his efforts on the book which I think may well be his best yet. It’s a book I’ve already enjoyed cooking a lot from and it’s one I can see myself returning to again and again in years to come.  It’s true that there may be more authentic sources for a banh mi recipe than a white bloke from Southport, but that doesn’t stop Marcus’ Kitchen from being a joy to cook from and an essential purchase for every keen home cook.

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

Buy this book: Marcus’ Kitchen: My favourite recipes to inspire your home-cooking 
£22, HarperCollins

Winter Fattoush and Tamarind-Glazed Short Rib by Selin Kiazim

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This dish is a real feast of contrast. If you have time, cook the ribs low and slow on a barbecue for an extra level of smoky flavour. I first made this dish for Cook for Syria, to raise funds for Unicef, back in 2016. It is by no means a traditional fattoush, and I encourage you to go out and try the real thing if you get the chance (or prepare the original at home).

Serves 4

4–5 Tbsp sumac dressing (see below)
3–4 Tbsp parsley oil (see below)
4–5 Tbsp tamarind glaze (see below)
100g (3½oz) croutons (see below)
4 beef short ribs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 pears, cut in half, core removed
80g (2¾oz) cavolo nero, stalks removed and the leaves torn into pieces
extra-virgin olive oil
½ cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed, thinly sliced
8 breakfast radishes, finely sliced and placed into iced water
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
¼ head radicchio, roughly chopped
8 leaves yellow chicory (endive), roughly chopped
1 small handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
4 Tbsp mint, leaves picked
sea salt flakes (kosher salt)
4 Tbsp thick yoghurt
4 Tbsp pistachios, toasted and chopped

Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5. Prepare the sumac dressing (page 81), parsley oil (page 55), tamarind glaze (page 40) and croutons (page 46). Season the short ribs with fine salt, place into a roasting tin and into the oven for 3–4 hours or until the meat is falling away from the bone. Pick the meat off the bone into large chunks, once cool enough to handle.

Heat a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, add the tamarind glaze and short rib pieces along with 2 Tbsp of the butter. Cook until all of the meat is coated in the glossy glaze. Keep warm. Put the remaining 2 Tbsp of the butter into a large, ovenproof frying pan, gently melt and add in the pears, cut-side down, and brown for 1 minute. Place into the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool. Cut into large chunks.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil with a little fine salt. Add in the cavolo nero and boil for 3–4 minutes or until tender. Drain, and allow to cool slightly before dressing with a little salt and olive oil while still warm.

To assemble the salad, in a large bowl, mix together the cucumber, cavolo nero, radishes, spring onions (scallions), radicchio, chicory (endive), herbs, croutons and pears. Season with sea salt flakes (kosher salt) and sumac dressing, to your liking.

To serve, spoon a dollop of yoghurt on the plate and place a pile of salad to one side. Scatter over some pieces of short rib, drizzle around the parsley oil and sprinkle the pistachios over the top.

Sumac Dressing
Zingy and light, this dressing is perfect tossed through salad leaves but also works well with chilli-spiked dishes thanks to its almost cooling effect.

Makes 150ml (5fl oz) VG

125ml (4fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic, finely grated
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp sumac

Whisk, blend or shake the whole lot in a jar. Season to taste. It will store well in the fridge for 2–3 weeks.

Parsley Oil
Basil and parsley, thanks to their full-on flavour, make my favourite herb oil. They also provide a sexy finish to a plate. If you want to make a straight parsley oil, then just use one big bunch of parsley and omit the basil. If you would prefer chive oil, then replace the basil with one big bunch of chives.

Makes 85ml (2¾fl oz) VG

25g (1oz) parsley, big stalks
removed, roughly chopped
200ml (7fl oz) grapeseed oil

Prepare a bowl of iced water. Bring a pan of water up to a rapid boil, add the herbs and cook for 15 seconds. Take the herbs out and immediately dunk them in the iced water. Squeeze all the excess water from the herbs and roughly chop (reserve the
iced water). Make sure you have really squeezed them and they are as dry as they can be.

Place the herbs into a high-speed blender with the oil and blitz, starting on the lowest setting for 30 seconds and then on to the fastest setting for 2–3 minutes, or until the herbs are as fine as they will go. Don’t worry if the oil heats up through blending – this is a normal part of the process and helps the colour of the herbs release into the oil.

At this point you need to decide on whether to leave herby bits in the oil or strain them off. If straining, line a fine sieve (strainer) with muslin (cheesecloth) and place over a bowl that fits within the iced water bowl. Pour the oil mix into the lined sieve and leave to drip for 1–2 hours. If you are leaving the bits in, then simply place the oil into a bowl over the iced water to cool. Store in a squeezy bottle or container in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Tamarind Glaze
Tamarind is one of my favourite ways to bring acidity to a dish. In fact, it is probably
more sour than acidic but acts in that same lip-puckering way a good acid does. Making your own tamarind pulp is very easy. Simply take 2 blocks (400g/14oz) of tamarind, break them up into a pan and cover with water. Place over a low–medium heat and cook for 30 minutes or until you see the seeds have all separated and the pulp is a purée consistency.

Makes 200g (7oz) VG

150g (5½oz) tamarind pulp
50g (1¾oz) dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Place the ingredients in a pan over a medium–high heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While still hot, push the mix through a fine sieve (strainer) – this will take a bit of effort. Discard the seeds and scrape every last bit of the remaining pulp into a container. Store in the fridge (for up to six weeks), or pour into
ice-cube trays and freeze.

Croutons
The idea behind a crouton is to preserve stale bread – any bread for that matter, from sourdough, pitta and ciabatta, right through to focaccia and rye. Croutons that soak up the juices from a plate of food are the dream. There are two methods I like to use to make croutons:

1
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4. Take your stale bread and cut or tear into 2–3cm (1in) pieces, drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt flakes (kosher salt) and scatter in one even layer over a baking sheet. Place into the oven for 15–20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Check the progress of the croutons every 5 minutes – the ones on the outside might be ready sooner than those in the centre.

2
Fill a large frying pan (skillet) around a quarter of the way up with fat (clarified butter, ghee, duck, beef or whatever you’d prefer) and place over a medium-low heat. Cut or tear the stale bread into 1–2cm (½–¾in) pieces and place into the hot fat, ensuring the bread is all in one layer. If you like, at this point you could add in a crushed clove of garlic and a sprig of rosemary or thyme. Cook the croutons for 10–15 minutes, stirring every so often, until they are golden and crisp. Drain through a sieve (strainer) and then onto paper towels to absorb excess fat. Season with sea salt flakes (kosher salt).

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

Buy this book
Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Three by Selin Kiazim

Selin Kiazim

For her second book, Selin Kiazim of modern Turkish-Cypriot restaurant Oklava in London offers her readers no less than ‘the essential foundations to redefine everyday cooking’; the three building blocks of acid, texture and contrast that ‘turn good dishes into knockout dishes’. Mimicking its title, the book is divided into three sections. Part one covers ‘know how’ including sourcing ingredients, the importance of tasting and basics such as herbs, oils, and vinegars. It also discusses those essential foundations of acid (to brighten and balance flavours); texture (adding mouthfeel and interest, provided for example by croutons, dried fruit or cured meat), and contrast, personified for Kiazim by the cool crunch of a winter fattoush salad against the sweet and sour warmth of a tamarind glazed short ribs.

In the second part, Kiazim offers ideas and inspirations; short recipes for glazes, toppings, spice mixes, marinades, condiments, dressings and pickles that can add acid, texture and contrast to any number of preparations. They are also referred back to in the full recipes that form part three, so that a dish of smoked haddock and leeks is served with citrus dressing and sherry caramel, the recipes for which appear in part two, as does the alternative serving suggestion of spiced mayonnaise.

The structure of the book encourages the reader to think about how dishes are built and how easily, with a little consideration, elements can be swapped in and out while maintaining those essentials of acid, texture and contrast. That said, you will almost certainly want to cook Kiazim’s original versions. Who could resist steamed aubergines with beef scratchings and chilli dressing; verjus cabbage with kapuska (a fragrant Turkish beef and cabbage stew) and sea vegetables, or seared bavette with smoked anchovy and gem lettuce with miso and crispy shallots?

Kiazim has a distinctive culinary voice all her own which would be enough to make Three an enticing prospect. The fact that she is generous enough to want to help her readers develop their own style makes it a must by for both young novice cooks and those who are more experienced but in search of some new inspiration.

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

Buy this book
Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking
£25, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Cook from this book
Winter Fattoush and Tamarind-Glazed Short Rib by Selin Kiazim

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine. 

Happy Cooking by Candice Brown

Candice Brown Happy Cooking

What’s the USP? The blurb describes Happy Cooking as a cookbook filled with recipes to make you smile! Which sounds incredibly twee, and a little bit exhausting – which is a huge shame, because if you venture even so far as the introduction you’ll quickly discover that Happy Cooking is a little more than that. From comforting treats to dishes that will keep an anxious mind occupied, the book is actually a much more mindful approach to mental health and cooking.

Who wrote it? Candice Brown, who some might recognise as the winner of series seven of The Great British Bake Off. Brown has been busy since her win, opening up a pub in Bedfordshire and, like so many of us, living with a number of mental health problems. In a candid opening, Brown talks about her depression, PTSD, chronic phobia and recently diagnosed ADHD.

Happy Cooking, then, is her attempt to broach these subjects whilst acknowledging the role food has in helping us face up to, or simply cope with, our own mental health. No ‘guilty food chats, no rules and no judgement’.

Is it good bedtime reading? Perhaps not as much as you’d expect. Brown doesn’t lean in particularly hard to the theme, beyond short introductions to each chapter. Often the intros to the recipes themselves don’t refer to mental health at all, and would sit just as happily in any other cookbook. This could have been an annoyance but, in all honesty, is actually quite welcome. Mental health – and depression in particular – is such an amorphous and individualistic beast that any attempt to provide confident and universal answers will always come across as misjudged and ill-informed. Better, then, to keep it to personal experiences, and broad ideas that are easy to identify with.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not at all – this is straight-forward cooking with very few of the dishes coming from any further afield than western Europe. Sriracha is about as exotic as this book gets, and supermarkets don’t even bother sitting that in their international food sections anymore. You’ll find sriracha with the other condiments now. Heinz does a version. Heinz!

What’s the faff factor? How much faff do you want? Brown has smartly recognised the different ways we approach cooking when struggling with our mental health. There are times when you need rich and comforting food quickly, but simply do not have the energy for anything complex – the Fancy Eggs that open Brown’s initial ‘Quick Pick-Me-Ups’ chapter look delicious, and will readily sate this desire.

At other times, the troubled mind relishes the escapism of cooking, and getting lost in more hands-on and prescriptive tasks like an elaborate recipe can help to fill that space. The ‘Keep-Your-Hands-Busy Cooking’ chapter, as well as confirming Brown’s fondness for the hyphen, is filled with these, from Bacon, Cheese and Chive Croquettes to Apricot and Amaretto Pastel de Nata.

How often will I cook from the book? There are lots of recipes here, though the nature of the chapter on nostalgic foods means that many dishes are very familiar. Brown offers nothing new in her recipes for various roast meats or ‘proper’ fish and chips. But those looking for recognisable flavours and simple, cosy meals will no doubt be able to dig something up regularly.

Killer recipes: Pork Meatballs with Creamy Mustard Broccoli and Orzo, Kedgeree Hash Browns, Apple and Pear Sweet ‘Dauphinoise’

Should I buy it? A lovely premise for a cookbook is let down a little by the underwhelming range of dishes on offer – though a few gems do shine through. The question is, who will enjoy this best? Fans of the Great British Bake Off will certainly discover a few recipes to quench their thirst, and those trying to understand how best to cook around their own mental health needs may draw a few scant ideas. Ultimately, this feels a little like a missed opportunity.

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Happy Cooking: Easy uplifting meals and comforting treats
£22, Ebury Press

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

Essential by Ollie Dabbous

Essential Ollie Dabbous

Ollie Dabbous of Michelin-starred Hide in Mayfair has finally followed up Dabbous: The Cookbook, published back in 2014. Whereas that debut book featured dishes from his now closed eponymous London restaurant, Essential is a collection of recipes for what Dabbous calls ‘boldly refined home cooking’ where ‘simple techniques, good taste and concise ingredients underpin every dish.’

That refinement might be something as simple as using milk and yeast to lighten dumplings served with a luxurious version of mince made with red and white wine, beef stock, mustard, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, or spreading a croque monsieur with garlic truffled butter. That sort of attention to small details that make a big difference crops up time and again over the book’s more than 300 pages that include recipes for grains, dairy and eggs, vegetables, leaves, shellfish and fish, meat, fruit and berries and sugar and honey.

While the book ably does its intended job of invigorating a home cook’s repertoire, providing exciting and interesting ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, you can expect more unusual and restaurant-friendly dishes (Dabbous is, after all, one of the most inventive and distinctive chefs of his generation) such as carrot tartare with sunflower seeds, mustard and tarragon; grilled quail with pistachio, mint and orange blossom, or roast venison with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and rye.

The short Larder chapter contains ideas for flavourings, marinades and pickles that cooks will want to return to again and again to brighten up any number of dishes. Dabbous says the store cupboard miso, soy, rice wine vinegar, mustard, honey and vinegar marinade he spreads on aubergines before frying works just as well on salmon or chicken, and says Amlou, a Moroccan concoction of toasted almond, honey and argan oil is an alternative to peanut butter than can be served on toast or with cheese or baked fruit.

With everything from a comforting venison toad in the hole and onion gravy to a light and sophisticated grilled bream with pink grapefruit, as well as baking projects that include an exotic fig leaf cake, Dabbous has covered all the bases and created a cookbook that’s as essential as its title suggests.

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous
Grilled bream with pink grapefruit by Ollie Dabbous
Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous