Core by Clare Smyth

Core by Clare Smyth
As the first and currently only British female chef to hold three Michelin stars, Clare Smyth needs no introduction. But in case you didn’t know, before opening Core restaurant in Notting Hill in 2017, Smyth was chef-patron of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, worked for Alain Ducasse in Monaco and staged at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and Per Se, all of them three Michelin starred establishments. So it’s no surprise to flick through the gold lined pages of this sumptuously produced book to find immaculately presented, highly detailed and technically brilliant dishes.

From a ‘Caviar Sandwich’ – a perfect, tiny wedge of buckwheat pancake layered with sieved egg white and yolk bound in mayonnaise, creme fraiche, puffed buckwheat and caviar served on a beautiful bespoke wooden sphere – to a pear and verbena Eton mess that belies its name with a Faberge-like construction of upturned meringue dome filled with lemon verbena cream, pear puree, verbena jelly,
compressed pear pearls and pear sorbet, topped with miniature discs of pear and meringue, each of the 60 recipes (there are also a further 70 recipes for stocks, sauces and breads) is an elegant work of culinary art.

Smyth calls her style ‘British fine dining’, eschewing and ‘excessive reliance on imported luxury ingredients’ and instead celebrating world class produce from the British Isles such as Scottish langoustines and Lake District hogget. In Smyth’s hands, even the humble potato (from a secret supplier she won’t reveal the name of) is transformed into a signature dish of astonishingly intense flavours. Cooked sous vide with kombu and dulse, topped with trout and herring roe and homemade salt and vinegar crisps and served with a dulse beurre blanc ‘Potato and Roe’ is an homage to the food of Smyth’s Northern Ireland coastal upbringing.

With a forward by Ramsay, introduction by journalist Kieran Morris, essays on subjects such as Smyth’s suppliers and informative recipe introductions, there’s plenty to read, while the colour food and landscape photography – and black and white shots of the restaurant in action –are stunning. It all adds up to an unmissable package that any ambitious cook will find inspiring.

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

Buy this book: Core by Clare Smyth 
£45, Phaidon

The Latin American Cookbook by Virgilio Martinez

The Latin American Cookbook

What’s the USP? The latest entry in Phaidon’s ongoing quest to publish the definitive cookbook for every cuisine in the world, The Latin American Cookbook joins an increasingly heavy shelf that includes The Silver Spoon (and a few of its spin-offs) as well as titles dedicated to Japanese, American and Jewish foods.

The range was already fairly curious, with most titles priced at £35 despite the fact that some measure roughly twice the size of others. Each book follows roughly the same format – hundreds upon hundreds of authentic recipes, a smattering of pictures, and the occasional joy of having a dish require you to do something obscene to an animal you’ve previously only seen in a wildlife reserve.

Who wrote it? Virgilio Martínez is our guide to the biggest region to draw Phaidon’s attention so far. The Peruvian chef might also be the series’ most interesting author to date; he’s certainly the only one whose Wikipedia page has a section titled ‘Piranha smuggling incident’.

Martínez has previously broken onto our cookbook shelves with an exploration of his native Peruvian cuisine in LIMA, and a classic fancy-chef-does-good coffee table volume named after his restaurant Central. Here, though, he expands his vision to offer us over 600 recipes from over 20 different Latin American countries. No wonder the title also credits travel writer Nicholas Gill and Martínez’s own Mater Initiative as co-authors – this is a big undertaking by any measure.

Is it good bedtime reading? It would be unfair to say that I am not entirely a fan of Phaidon’s international cookbooks – I’ve just checked, and currently have six on my shelves, including currently out of print titles for France and Spain. But in their relative uniformity they are consistently flawed in a number of key places. Most significant among these: they are absolutely terrible reads.

Phaidon’s books are recipe collections, and little else. Though there are occasional exceptions, the series almost always features very minimal prose besides the recipes themselves. No change here, then: the introduction, given twelve pages in the contents, is actually one and a half pages and several very beautiful pictures presented without context (bar a single sentence for each tucked on the very final page of the book). Chapters, too, are limited to a couple of hundred words for an introduction.

The individual recipes offer a slight surprise given Phaidon’s form, generally offering at least a small paragraph that explains the dish, and how it might feature in a traditional meal. This doesn’t sound like much and, indeed, it isn’t – but this bare minimum is more than several of the publisher’s titles have mustered. It makes all the difference in a book where the overwhelming majority of the dishes are both unfamiliar to readers outside of each given nation, and also lack an accompanying photograph to give the home cook a little extra context.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Oh, very. Perhaps this is the result of the ‘cookbook by committee’ that Martínez has created via the involvement of his Mater Institute, but the recipes here are incredibly inconsistent. Though it’s admirable to attempt to deliver coherent instructions for British English and American English audiences alike, there is confusion to be had when spring onions are sometimes listed as ‘spring onions (scallions)’, other times as ‘spring onions (salad onions)’, and other times still as ‘salad onions (scallions)’. This sort of mess is only compounded further when the reader is introduced to a wealth of specialist ingredients that they won’t be familiar with, and certainly haven’t been introduced to in the non-existent chapter introductions. Achiote paste, for example, is generally listed as being the same as annatto paste – but on at least one occasion both are listed separately for the same recipe. This should be an easy fix – readers should be confused whether or not ‘loroco’ is a type of edible flower or a type of edible vine. There’s a decent sized glossary at the back, but it’s ineffective – both of the above ingredients are listed but I’m still no clearer.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Another mainstay of Phaidon’s international range. The short answer is: absolutely you will. In fact, there will be long sections of The Latin American Cookbook in which readers will struggle to find a single recipe that can be completed according to instructions using all the ingredients listed. Of the Fruit chapter’s twenty-five recipes, I can only reliably source the ingredients for seven dishes. For all but those of us in the biggest of cities, with the most intimate knowledge of local world supermarkets, the likes of yam beans, chira (banana flowers) and chicasquil (tree spinach) remain an exotic fantasy.

Many of these ingredients are presented without substitution suggestions, which essentially wipes out the practical use of at least a third of the recipes. Others require one of no less than fifteen different peppers that will be totally new to most readers (and equally inaccessible). It’s possible in most cases to guess a sensible substitute for these – but as a general rule, Martínez will have no interest in helping you make your choice.

How often will I cook from the book? Whilst there’s technically enough recipes here to keep you fed for the best part of two years, you’re not going to manage that. For a start, you’ll spend most of that time on the road trying to find a reliable source of queso Oaxaca. But for elaborate and authentic weekend meals, there’s still plenty to love here. I spent a couple of hours putting together a Mexican mole known as ‘tablecloth stainer’ and, though during the initial process the dish looked my likely to find its way to the bin than my stomach, there was a moment of alchemy at which point everything coalesced into a rich and delicious meal I would never have thought myself capable of. This is all you can ask for from a cookbook, really – the chance to create something entirely beyond you and to feel, if only for a minute, like a wizard, or a Michelin-starred chef, or somewhere inbetween.

What will I love? There’s no way to deny The Latin American Cookbook’s commitment to authenticity. This is what fans of the series seek, and it’s delivered here in spades. Yes, it means that many of the dishes are damned near impossible to accurately create in your home kitchen – but that’s not really the point, is it? We can’t seek to understand another nation’s cuisine only through those dishes that can be made using exclusively the ingredients available in your local Morrisons. And who amongst us doesn’t get a small thrill from seeing a recipe that calls for large-bottomed ants? How many cookbooks can you name that have a generally fairly unpleasant picture of fried guinea pig?

What won’t I love? Maybe the picture of the fried guinea pig, if you’re vegetarian.

For all of the authenticity and wonder present in The Latin American Cookbook, there’s still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Could the publisher have sprung for an editor who’d introduce a little more consistency to the recipes? Why didn’t Martínez and his team put a little more effort into providing the reader with clarity on substitutes where possible?

Perhaps the most interesting question, though, is why had Phaidon made Latin America share a cookbook when there is such a wealth of flavours across that sprawling continent and a half? Mexico, which features prominently in this book, already has an entire title of it’s own, which is almost double the length of this. Cuba, a nation with a population of 11 million or so, was given a volume specific to its cuisine, but the enormous nation of Brazil, with an additional 200 million inhabitants and all the diversity of culture and cuisine that entails, finds itself tucked between the dishes of nineteen other nations.

Killer recipes: Brazilian Black Bean and Pork Stew, Chilean Corn Pie, Colombian Braised Beef, Creole Stew, Ecuadorian Easter Soup, Guyanese Pepperpot, Reddish Mole, Yucatán-Style Barbecued Pork

Should I buy it? Fans of Phaidon’s existing range will know what to expect here, but for all its authenticity, The Latin American Cookbook comes up short for accessibility. Though there are plenty of delicious dishes to discover, home cooks looking for an easy weeknight route into Latin American food would perhaps be better served seeking out one of the more focused books on the market.

Ultimately, The Latin American Cookbook’s ambition is never fully realised. Too authentic to be a practical collection of recipes, and yet too messy to serve as a definitive reference book – its audience is out there, but there’ll be plenty more who will be disappointed by the missed opportunity.

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

Buy this book
The Latin American Cookbook by Virgilio Martinez
£35, Phaidon

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.
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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

The Female Chef by Clare Finney and Liz Seabrook

The Female Chef

What’s the USP? Interviews with and recipes from 31 leading British chefs/cooks (despite the book’s title, there is much debate in the introduction and the interviews about which is the correct/preferred title) including Angela Hartnett, Thomasina Miers, Andi Oliver, Gizzi Erskine, Ravinder Bhogal, Olia Hercules and er, Elizabeth Haig (click here to catch up on the controversy that has recently sprung up around Haig).

Who wrote it? Food writer Clare Finney won Food Writer of the Year in Fortnum and Mason’s Food and Drink Awards in 2019. She contributes to a wide variety of national publications. This is her first book. Liz Seabrook is a portrait and lifestyle photographer.

Is it good bedtime reading? Finney ponders the question Cooks or Chefs? in her  introductory essay, a question more fraught than you might imagine. Finney says that the words ‘cook’ and ‘chef’ are ‘inherently gendered’ and that ‘several women in this book have chosen to reject the label ‘chef”. However, she also explains that ‘the question ‘Do you consider yourself a chef or a cook?’ continued to prompt an extraordinary array of discussions’. I don’t have room to detail the various viewpoints here but the 30 short interviews (Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn of the now closed Hang Fire Southern Kitchen in Barry are interviewed together) are well worth reading to discover them for yourself.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The first recipe in the book is Anna Jones’ Dhal with Crispy Sweet Potato and Quick Coconut Chutney.  Ingredients include ‘2 sweet potatoes’ no size or weight indicated, ‘olive oil for drizzling’,  ‘vegetable or coconut oil for frying’ a ‘thumb-sized piece of ginger’ (my wife’s thumb is roughly half the size of mine) ‘bunch of fresh coriander’ (according to my local Asda, a bunch is either a 30g bag or a ‘growers selection’ which is about three times the size and would be enough coriander for a week’s worth of recipes). There are plenty of other recipes in the book with similarly vague ingredients lists, although with 30 different contributors (Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni restaurant in London has failed to cough up a recipe for some reason) the accuracy waxes and wanes as you might expect as the recipe writing style varies.

You may say at this point, well, can’t you just use your common sense you annoying (male) pedant. To which I would respond, have a look at these recipes for Pasta Salad by professional chef, baker and YouTuber Brian Lagerstorm which include gram weights for every ingredient including the water and salt to boil the pasta in and all the vegetables (he does specify ‘a splash of olive oil’ to dress the cooked pasta with directly after cooking but I’m going to let him off that one minor detail as it is an instinctive part of the process).  They are just very well developed and written recipes that anyone could follow. Cookery books are manuals and should have the appropriate level of detail. If you bought a woodwork book and it said ‘drill a hole in some bits of wood and screw them together’ you’d quite rightly be pissed off that it didn’t specify the type of wood, size of the hole and the type of screw (that’s a very male example isn’t it. Or is it?).  Recipes are really not that different. Although if you’re cooking up screws and bits of wood I  don’t want to eat at your house.

Will I have difficulty finding the ingredients? With dozens of contributors, all with their own unique styles, the book covers a lot of culinary ground, so it’s not surprising that one or two more difficult to track down ingredients appear in the recipes. Erchen Chang of BAO restaurant in London uses doubangjiang (fermented broad bean paste) for her Braised Pork Gua Bao that’s available in Chinese supermarkets or online at Sous Chef, and Pamela Brunton of Inver in West Scotland pairs Gigha Halibut (which, unless you have a top class fishmonger nearby, you can order from the Fish Society) with coastal greens such as sea blite and sand wort (again, the Fish Society has something similar). Good luck finding tasso ham for Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn’s Shrimp and Tasso File Gumbo though, you might have to make your own.

How often will I cook from the book? There are some recipes, like Angela Hartnett’s Anolini that requires chuck beef, veal rump, Italian sausage, beef brisket, smoked bacon, Toulouse sausage, a free range chicken and much else besides that might be once a year or even once in a lifetime cooks. However, there are plenty of everyday dishes like Skye Gyngell’s Leek, Potato and Parsley Soup and Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s Sundried Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Quiche that make this a genuinely useful book to have on your shelf.

Killer recipes: Wadadli spiced roast chicken and coconut gravy; beef kofta; apricot tarte tatin; braised squid, parsley and potatoes; Thai noodle soup; Tahini and preserved lemon cookies; fish curry and pumpkin maize meal.

Should I buy it? Eight of the 29 recipes (as mentioned above, Ravinder Bhogal hasn’t contributed a recipe and Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn contribute one between them) have already been published elsewhere so if you already have a large cookbook collection it might be worth checking how many of the recipes you already own if that is your main reason for buying the book.

Finney’s prose can at times tend towards the overheated (for example, of Thomasina Meirs’ Wahaca Mexican restaurant group, she claims that ‘it’s impossible to overstate the impact the chain has had on our culinary landscape’. Um, OK) but she has succeeded in identifying a group of genuinely interesting talents, some of which may be new names to readers or at least under-reported, which makes this a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in the modern British restaurant scene.

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

Buy this book
The Female Chef: 30 women redefining the British food scene
£28, Hoxton Mini Press

Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous


This recipe is a meal in itself, but can obviously be served alongside some mashed potato and gravy, if you like. The decoration on top is optional, but it is far easier than you think. Just scatter it on and you can’t go wrong.

Serves 5-6

Bechamel
500g whole milk
½ white onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves
¼ teaspoon ground mace
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
50g unsalted butter
25g plain flour

Pie filling
8 corn-fed chicken thighs
4 tablespoons garlic oil
2 carrots, peeled and quartered, then sliced across into 1cm pieces
25g salted butter
1 leek, quartered, then sliced across into 1cm pieces
1 celery stick, peeled, halved, then sliced across into 1cm pieces
100g shiitake mushrooms, halved
3 garlic cloves, crushed
200g canned sweetcorn, drained
100g frozen peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves
finely grated zest of ½ lemon

Assemble
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk or cream
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, defrosted

To decorate (optional)
spring onions, shredded
red onions, cut into slim petals
fennel fronds
tarragon sprigs
pansies
——-
Bechamel
~ Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan then add the onion, spices, mustard and salt, cover and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Pass through a sieve.
~ Heat the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the flour and mix until smooth.
~ Add the hot infused milk a bit at a time and whisk to combine until smooth. Once all the milk has been added, bring to the boil, whisking continuously, then remove from the heat.

Pie filling
~ Preheat the oven to 180oC.
~ Season the chicken with salt and roll it in the garlic oil, then place on a roasting tray and cook for 40 minutes, skin side up, until the skin is crispy and the meat is tender.
~ Leave to rest for 20 minutes. Discard the bone and sinew and flake the meat, reserving any juices. You don’t need the skin here, but you can use it for an extra decoration of chicken crackling, if you like. (Or just eat it.)
~ Sweat the carrots in the butter in a saute pan for 5 minutes, lid on, then add the leek and celery, season lightly with salt, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cover and cook for a final 5 minutes.
~ Add the sweetcorn, peas, thyme and tarragon, then remove from the heat and mix in the chicken and bechamel with the lemon zest. Check the seasoning and leave to cool.

Assemble

~ Preheat the oven to 190 oC.
~ Mix the egg yolk and milk or cream in a small bowl to make an egg wash.
~ From the first sheet of pastry, cut out a circle using the top of an ovenproof frying  pan as a guide. This is the lid.
~ Cut a circle of greaseproof paper large enough to cover the base of the same ovenproof frying pan and come all the way up the sides. Use this as a guide to cut out a circle of pastry of the same size. This is the base. Place the circle of pastry in the pan, pushing it flat against the sides.
~ Fill with the cooled chicken pie mix, making sure it doesn’t cover the top of the pastry rim.
~ Top with the pastry lid, pinching the edges of both pastry circles together to crimp and join.
~ With some of the pastry trim, you may cut out some leaf shapes or make a simple lattice to garnish the pie.
~ Brush with egg wash and leave for 10 minutes, then brush again with egg wash and place in the oven.
~ Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170 oC and cook for another 20 minutes.

To decorate
~ Scatter over the vegetables, herbs and flowers, if using, and return the pie to the oven for a final 5 minutes for the decorations to crisp up, then serve.

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

Read the review

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Grilled bream with pink grapefruit by Ollie Dabbous

ESSENTIAL_050820_BREAM_7543_AW

Gilthead bream is one of the best-quality farmed fish you can buy. It is always consistent in quality and very good value; not as meaty as sea bass, but with lovely oily flesh and crisp skin. It is great cooked over the barbecue or under a hot grill. This dressing is as delicious as it is simple. Feel free to chop and change as you wish: lemon and mint would work brilliantly, as would blood orange and sage.

Dressing
2 pink grapefruits, segmented with 6 tablespoons of their juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Chardonnay vinegar
1 tablespoon clear honey
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and crushed

Bream & fennel
2 fennel bulbs
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
100ml white vermouth
2 gilthead bream, scaled, filleted and pin-boned by your fishmonger
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt

DRESSING
– Mix everything together and warm through in a pan. Do not heat it too much, or the grapefruit segments will cook and collapse.

BREAM & FENNEL
~ Preheat the grill to its highest setting.
~ Slice the fennel lengthways as finely as possible on a mandolin or with a sharp knife, then mix in a roasting tray with the fennel seeds and vermouth. Season lightly with salt.
~ Lightly season the fish on both sides with fine salt, spoon 1 tablespoon of the oil over each fish fillet, then place skin-side up on top of the fennel, to cover the bulk of it.
~ Grill under the preheated grill for about 8 minutes, until the fennel has wilted but the fish is cooked through and has a crispy skin.

To serve
~ Divide the fennel and fish between 4 warmed bowls and spoon over the warm grapefruit dressing.

Cook more from this book
Chicken pie by Ollie Dabbous
Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous

Read the review

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

Tartiflette by Ollie Dabbous

ESSENTIAL_260820_TARTIFLETTE_0076_AW
A French mountain dish of potatoes with bacon, onions, cream and a whole Reblochon cheese. This is probably your recommended weekly calorific intake in a single bowl, but it is the sort of dish you eat just once a year. And well worth it. Maybe plan a long walk for afterwards, or beforehand, to build up an appetite. Actually, definitely have the walk first as, realistically, you’ll be asleep within
minutes of your last mouthful. Reblochon is a washed rind cheese, and you need that
pungency to cut through the bacon and the cream. No need to peel the potatoes, as the skins add taste and texture here. This is most definitely a meal in itself; serve with a crisp green salad in a sharp mustardy dressing.

1kg Charlotte potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled, sliced 1cm thick
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
200g Alsace bacon, or pancetta, or smoked streaky bacon, chopped into
1cm lardons
30g salted butter
2 white onions, sliced
250g white wine
300g double cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed, plus 1 garlic clove, halved
1 Reblochon cheese

~ Season the potatoes evenly with the salt, then place in a single layer in a steamer basket.
~ Steam over a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes until just cooked through.
~ In this time, colour the lardons in the butter until golden and the bacon fat has rendered. Strain through a sieve, reserving the fat.
~ Return the fat to the pan and add the onions, season lightly with salt and fry until light golden: about 5 minutes.
~ Return the bacon to the pan, then pour in the wine.
~ Bring to the boil, then add the cream and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the crushed garlic, followed by the steamed potatoes. Leave to cool to room temperature.
~ Preheat the oven to 180 oC.
~ Meanwhile, cut the cheese. First, cut a thin round from the top of the whole cheese, about one-third of its total depth. Slice the rest into 1cm slices.
~ Rub a round ovenproof dish with the halved garlic clove, then spoon in a layer of potatoes, followed by a layer of cheese. Repeat twice more, finishing with the cheese disc on top.
~ Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then glaze under a preheated grill until golden and bubbling. Serve.

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

Read the review

Buy this book
Essential
£30, Bloomsbury Publishing

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

Outdoor Cooking by Tom Kerridge

Tom Kerrige Outdoor Cooking

What’s the USP? They say it’s the ‘ultimate modern barbecue bible’. We say, steady on there old chap, it’s a nice book of barbecue recipes including marinades, sauces, ribs, steaks, joints, fish, skewers, wraps, burgers, subs and salads from a well known chef. That’s enough isn’t it?

Who wrote it? Chef Tom Kerridge has become known for his dramatic weight loss and series of diet-friendly TV shows and books including Dopamine Diet, Lose Weight and Get Fit, and Lose Weight For Good. His real claim to fame however is as proprietor of The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the only two Michelin starred restaurant in the world. He also runs The CoachThe Shed and The Butcher’s Tap in Marlow, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London and The Bull and Bear in Manchester. He is also the founder of the Pub in the Park, a touring food and music festival. Earlier in his career, he worked for such British restaurant luminaries as Gary Rhodes and Stephen Bull in London and David Adlard in Norwich.

Is it good bedtime reading? Well, sort of. There’s a breezy 10 page introduction where Kerridge reminisces about a aubergine he once ate at 3am in Singapore and talks about how we all used to drag woolly mammoths back to our camps back in the day, which is, uh, well it’s certainly something. He also urges his readers to ‘enjoy the process’ of barbecuing which is difficult to argue with, and shares his barbecue tips which include ‘anything goes’, ‘just go for it’ and ‘relax’. Thanks for that Tom.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You might need to go to a fishmonger for prawns, squid and scallops that are worth your time barbecuing and a butcher for pheasant, but let’s be honest, you are never going to drag the barbecue out in game season are you? Other than that, there is very little that you won’t be able to find in Asda. They’ve even got gochujang paste for the butter that accompanies Kerridge’s beer can chicken (there is some controversy over this method of cooking, just give it a Google. Kerridge does not address this in the book.)

What’s the faff factor? Let’s set aside the hassle of setting up the barbecue in the first place; if you’ve bought a barbecue book, you must have factored that in already.  There are a few recipes like a seafood platter that’s served with three different flavoured butters that are a bit of work, or a Fennel and ‘Nduja Spiced Porchetta that requires some advanced planning and a bit of skill to execute, but one thing’s for sure, this is Kerridge in approachable mainstream media chef mode rather than a delve into his two Michelin-starred repertoire, you’ll need The Hand and Flowers cookbook for that. For the most part, you’ll find thankfully short ingredient lists and encouragingly straightforward methods.

What will I love? I’m not sure that Outdoor Cooking is the sort of book you fall in love with, but it’s colourful, easy to read and to use. With a little bit of thought and adaptation of the cooking methods (you can figure out how to cook a meatball without resorting to a Kamado Joe can’t you?) you could prepare many of the recipes without going within 10 foot of a barbecue, which may appeal to BBQ-refusing readers (like me.)

What won’t I love?
In no sense whatsoever is this anything like approaching an ‘ultimate bible’. What even is an ‘ultimate bible’ other than the worst sort of marketing BS? It’s a cookbook with some recipes.  It’s a good cookbook with some very nice recipes (see below) but it’s not biblical in either proportion, at just 240 pages, or in scope or in ambition. There are just three pages in total on equipment and barbecue cooking technique for example. In a page of thanks at the back of the book, Kerridge marvels that, ‘What we have managed to create in such a short space of time is heroic’ and that he is ‘a fan of not overthinking books’. To be honest, we can tell. There is a feeling of Outdoor Cooking having been put together in fairly short order, but because Kerridge and Absolute are ‘ultimate’ professions, they can get away with it, just about.

Killer recipes: Squid and chorizo skewers; glazed pork skewers with pickle mooli; barbecued chicken BLT; smoky pastrami burgers; pork ribs with yellow barbecue sauce; spicy pork burgers with romanesco salsa.

Should I buy it? If you are a casual barbecue cook who is looking to go beyond their usual repertoire of bangers and burgers, this book will provide plenty of globetrotting inspiration.

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

Buy this book
Tom Kerridge’s Outdoor Cooking: The ultimate modern barbecue bible
£22, Bloomsbury Absolute

Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, harissa by Raymond Blanc

SIMPLY RAYMOND by Raymond Blanc. Headline Home 2021
PREP 10 MINS / COOK ABOUT 4½ HOURS / MARINATE 1 HOUR (BUT NOT ESSENTIAL)

When I was about 12 years old, I was introduced to the food of Algeria, and by strange means. This was during the Algerian War, and in France there were camps for Algerian refugees. One such camp was close to my village and, with my friend René, I would go and visit these intriguing, kind and friendly people. They fed us well. I remember seeing whole lambs roasted on the spit and, as the meat was turned, it was also painted with the spicy juices. For my young palate, it was perhaps a bit too spicy. I was the stranger who was drawn in, and have never forgotten their kindness. This dish does not require a whole lamb. When it comes to slow cooking lamb, the shoulder is the best cut, meltingly tender and incredibly tasty. When harissa is added, this is a wonderful dish, and the chickpeas will only complement it. A shoulder of lamb varies in weight, becoming heavier as the year progresses. A 2.5kg shoulder, like the one in this recipe, will take about 4½ hours; one weighing 3kg will need 5½ hours. Aim to remove it from the fridge 4–5 hours before cooking to come to room temperature.

1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
100g rose harissa
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2.5kg new season’s
shoulder of lamb
300ml water

For the chickpea salad
1 jar (230g) piquillo peppers
2 preserved beldi lemons
a large handful of curly or flat-leaf parsley
2 tins (400g) chickpeas
sea salt and black pepper

TO PREPARE Mix together the salt, cumin and harissa, and then add the extra-virgin olive oil. Place the lamb in a roasting tin. Lightly score the skin of the lamb and rub it all over with the salty harissa mixture. At this point, you can leave the lamb for an hour, allowing the harissa flavours to infuse, but this is not essential.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. Cover the lamb shoulder loosely with foil, and return it to the oven to roast for a further 2 hours. Now baste the lamb, add the water and return it to the oven for 2 hours, again loosely covered with foil.
While the lamb is roasting, chop the piquillo peppers, finely chop the preserved lemons (skin and pulp) and coarsely chop the parsley. Put them to one side; you will need them to finish the dish.

Remove the lamb from the oven. Spoon out most of the fat from the tin, leaving the roasting juices. To the warm roasting juices, add the chickpeas, peppers and lemon. Add the parsley too and season with the salt and pepper. Toss together and bring to the boil on the hob. Place the lamb shoulder on a platter with the chickpea salad. Bring the lamb to the table and invite your guests to help themselves. The lamb will be tender enough to fall from the bone with a spoon, though it can be carved if you prefer.

Cook from this book 
Mussel and saffron risotto by Raymond Blanc
Pear almondine by Raymond Blanc

Read the review

Buy this book
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home – The Sunday Times Bestseller, includes recipes from the ITV series
£25 Headline Home