Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel

Chicken and Charcoal

What’s the USP? Everything you every wanted to know about yakitori (Japanese-style skewered and grilled chicken) plus a whole lot more you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

Who’s the author? Matt Abergel is the skateboarding chef and owner of cult Hong Kong restaurant Yardbird that has helped put yakitori on the global culinary map. This is his first cookbook.

What does it look like? A crazy, but beautifully designed, mash-up of an art catalogue, lifestyle magazine and instruction manual. There’s artworks by Yardbird logo designer Evan Hecox; articles on the restaurant’s designer chairs and branded products that include Yardbird Vans skateboarding sneakers and a line of sake and a profile of Yardbird co-owner Lindsay Jang.

But the ‘meat’ (pun intended) of the book is a series of detailed step by step instructions and recipes for butchering a chicken ready for skewering (and that means really butchering the thing down to its last tiny constituent parts including the thyroid and gizzard) and every type of yakitori you can imagine from fillet and thigh to ventricle and soft knee bone.

Is it good bedtime reading? Settle in with a Horlicks and the 40-odd page introductory section with profiles, interviews and articles.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? How good is your butcher? If you want to cook some of the more recherché recipes in the book like Thyroid skewers you’ll need to find one that will supply you whole chickens with head and organs intact. Good luck with that. You will also need to find a very good Asian grocer or specialist Japanese store for items such as Okinawan black sugar and Chinkiang black rice vinegar.

What’s the faff factor? Correctly butchering your whole chicken, should you be able to get hold of one, will take some practice and there’s a lot of fiddly skewering to be done. Some of the ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ dishes require a large number of ingredients and a fair amount of preparation.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Measurements are precise – no pinch of this or glug of that – and the methods are detailed and clear. The recipe for Chicken Katsu that is meant to appear on page 174 is however so vague that it has actually completely disappeared from the book.

How often will I cook from the book? Much of the food will be time-consuming to prepare so this is one for the weekend.

Killer recipes? Aside from the yakitori recipes, the chapter on ‘smaller’ snacking dishes includes mushroom salad with mizuna, watercress and wasabi and the ‘Yardbird Caesar’ that’s made with Chinese cabbage, mizuna and nori and a dressing that includes miso, roasted garlic and rice vinegar, while ‘bigger’ dishes include KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) and scotch egg with cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayo.

What will I love? The sheer attention to detail, the elegant look and all the little extras like the cocktail and highball recipes and a staff Q&A profiling the people behind the restaurant. A lot of love, time and effort has obviously gone into the book making it a rewarding experience both to read and use in the kitchen.

What won’t I like? The full-page, black and white close-up photo of raw chicken skin on page 90 is both gnarly and vaguely obscene.

Should I buy it? If you are interested in Japanese cooking and want the definitive last word on yakitori or are just interested in what’s happening in the modern Hong Kong restaurant scene or just love a well put together cookbook then Chicken and Charcoal is well worth owning.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks9
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

Buy this book
Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong
£24.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower)
Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu

Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino by Jeremy Fox

146 Carta da Musica

When I worked at Mumbo Jumbo in Atlanta, Georgia, we used to purchase ready-made Sardinian flatbread (also called carta da musica). On its own it’s not that tasty, but brushed with olive oil and toasted, it turns into something great. Whenever we had a VIP in the restaurant we would send it out topped with herbs and truffles—and the like—and I always dreamed that one day, if I had a pizza oven, I would start making these myself. When I opened Ubuntu I got to do just that, and as a result, this was probably my favorite dish on the menu. It is basically a vehicle for everything great that we happened to have on hand. Just for fun, and despite Ubuntu being a vegetarian restaurant, we always served it on a pig-shaped wooden board.

NOTE For the “leaves and things,” I like to use pea tendrils, nasturtiums, calendula, young beet (beetroot) greens, fava (broad bean) leaves, parsley, shaved carrots, and shaved radishes. But really whatever is seasonal, fresh, and sounds good to you will work great.

Once the carta da musica is dried out in the oven, it will keep for a very long time—so that step can be done very far in advance.

makes 8
carta da musica
1/2 teaspoon active dry (fast-action) yeast
1 3/4 cups (220 g) durum wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl
all-purpose (plain) flour, for dusting

to serve
assorted leaves, herbs, and shaved vegetables (see Note)
1 pound (455 g) boschetto al tartufo cheese (or aged pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano)
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons chili flakes
kosher salt
lemon wedges
flaky sea salt

Fill a 1-cup (240 ml) measuring cup (measuring jug) with 2⁄3 cup (160 ml) warm (105° to 115°F/40° to 46°C) water, sprinkle in the yeast, and stir it to blend. Let stand for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and kosher salt and mix on low speed to blend.

With the mixer running, pour in the yeast/water mixture, increase the speed to
medium, and beat the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Lightly coat a medium bowl with the olive oil. With your hands lightly oiled as well,
shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Turn the dough ball over so that it is coated all over with the olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and let the dough proof in a warm area for around 2 hours—the dough will rise very slightly, but will not double in volume.

Once the dough is proofed, place a pizza stone on a rack positioned in the center of the oven and begin preheating the oven and stone to 500°F (260°C/Gas 10). Give the stone at least 1 hour to preheat so that the carta will cook evenly and consistently. (Although a pizza stone has much better heat retention and will create a superior product, you can also use an 18 x 13-inch/46 x 33 cm baking sheet. Stick it in the oven upside down; this gives you a flat surface with no lip, making it easier to lay down and remove the dough.)

While the oven and pizza stone are preheating, roll out the dough. Sprinkle some flour over a work surface. Divide the dough into quarters. Working with one piece at a time while keeping the others covered, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an 8-inch (20 cm) round, about 1⁄16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. The round doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be of consistent thickness and of an appropriate size to fit on your stone. But most important, it needs to be totally flat. If the rolled-out dough has any tears or crimps, it will not inflate, and thus won’t cook properly.

Rest the rolled-out dough on a floured baking sheet or work surface for 30 to 45 minutes.

Dust flour over a pizza peel or an upside-down 8-inch (20 cm) tart pan—you’re going to use this to slide your dough rounds onto the stone, so the flour helps keep the dough from sticking to the peel. Transfer the dough round to the pizza peel or tart pan and give the peel a light shake to ensure that the dough can move around.

Open the oven door and bring the peel in flat, over to the far edge of the pizza stone.
Tilt it up slightly—but don’t let it bunch up—and jostle the peel gently until the edge of
the dough round hits the far end of the stone. The dough will immediately catch on the stone, so you should be able to pull the peel back at a flat angle, leaving the dough on the pizza stone with no wrinkles or crimps (that last part is, again, important to it cooking properly). Immediately close the oven door to maintain temperature.

The dough should puff up and fill with air in 2 to 3 minutes. The carta da musica is done when it is puffy, hollow, and dry to the touch. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining dough rounds.

After an initial 5-minute rest, use scissors to cut around the outer seam of the carta (like a pita), carefully peeling back the top layer from the bottom to remove the two layers into separate round sheets. The layers toward the center may want to stick a bit, so use extra care when peeling it apart. You should wind up with two disks of even thickness.

As the breads are baked and separated, stack the sheets cut-side down. Once the last piece of dough is baked, reduce the oven to its lowest setting, ideally below 200°F (95°C). Remove the pizza stone.

Once your oven has cooled down, place the cut rounds, cut-side down, directly on the oven racks in single layers (you can use multiple oven racks) and let the bread dry out until completely crispy, at least 2 hours.

Once dry, the breads can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container. Just continue to store them cut-side down, as the cut-side is not as pretty or even, and will be kept face down when you assemble the finished dish.

to serve
Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C/Gas 10).

Prepare the leaves, herbs, and vegetables. These can be as rustic or precise as you like, but the real goal is to have things that will be delicious to eat raw, on top of crispy bread.

Place the carta da musica cut-side-down on an 18 x 13-inch (46 x 33 cm) rimmed baking sheet (tray)—it is rimmed to keep the olive oil from leaking onto the oven floor and burning.

Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel around the perimeter of the wheel of
Boschetto al Tartufo—the goal is to have as long of a peel as possible. Brush the bread disks evenly and generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with the rosemary, chili flakes, and kosher salt to taste. Bake the carta until they are golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes.

As the disks come out of the oven, pour off any excess oil that has not been absorbed and immediately drape the cheese over the surface so it starts to melt from the residual heat. Place the carta da musica on a plate and dress it with the prepared herbs, greens, flowers, and vegetables. Finish it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and flaky sea salt.

Eat this immediately—and with your hands. Basically, just have fun.

Cook more from this book
Lima bean and sorrel cacio e pepe
Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble

Read the review

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon

Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble by Jeremy Fox

102 Carrot Juice Cavatelli

This dish accomplishes two things: First, it’s the purest example of using every single part of a vegetable in one single dish. And second—and what I was really trying to accomplish—the cavatelli look like that bright orange Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box. If you are making this dish from the ground up, it is pretty exciting, as you can use the tops of your carrots to make the salsa, the juice to make the cavatelli, and the pulp (from juicing) to make the crumble. Note Start cooking the day before you intend to serve this. The carrot pulp and cavatelli dough will need overnight to dehydrate and rest, respectively.

serves 4
carrot juice cavatelli
41/4 cups (530 g) “00” flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water
1 cup (240 ml) fresh carrot juice (from orange carrots), pulp reserved to serve
3/4 cup (180 ml) Carrot Purée (see below)
4 tablespoons Salsa Verde using the leaves of young carrot tops (see below)
4 tablespoons Carrot Crumble (see below)
aged gouda cheese

Make the carrot juice cavatelli:
In a food processor, blend together the flour and salt. With the machine running, slowly add the carrot juice (you may not need all of it), until the dough comes together. Be careful not to overwork the dough in the food processor: The dough may well look crumbly, but if you press it together with your fingers it should very easily combine into dough. You are looking for a texture similar to Play-Doh: elastic, pliable, and not sticking to your fingers when you touch it. If the dough is too dry, add more juice; too wet, add more flour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with the heels of your hands for about 1 minute, until you have a smooth dough.

Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Place the carrot pulp on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 135°F (57°C) overnight.

About 1 hour before you plan to make the cavatelli, let the dough come to room temperature—this will make it much easier to work with. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Lightly flour a work surface. Working with one piece at a time—and keeping the rest of the dough covered—roll the dough into a long, thin rope, about 1/8 inch (3 mm) in diameter. Cut the rope crosswise into 1/4-inch (6 mm) pieces.

Using a cavatelli board, or the tines of a fork, gently but confidently roll the dough pieces against it. The cavatelli may not come out perfect right away, but soon the motion will find its way into your muscle memory.

Once the cavatelli are shaped, lay them in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet lined with a tea towel. Repeat this process until all of the dough has been turned into cavatelli. These are best cooked when fresh, so if you are going to be cooking them the same day, you can just leave them out. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season your water with salt so it tastes like the sea. I think it’s important to taste the pasta water to make sure it is seasoned properly. Once seasoned and boiling, add the cavatelli and cook until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. If you’re not sure whether they are done, the best test is just to eat one.

To serve
While the pasta water heats up, gently warm the carrot purée in a small pan over low heat and keep covered (and warm) until serving.

Using a sieve, scoop the cavatelli out of the pasta water and into a wide bowl. Immediately dress them with the carrot top salsa verde and toss to combine. Ladle in some of the starchy, seasoned pasta water, a little at a time, to open up the flavors and create a very light sauce that will coat the cavatelli. Don’t add too much water or it will make for a thin, diluted sauce.

Place dollops of the carrot purée on 4 warmed plates. Spoon the cavatelli on top and sprinkle the carrot crumble over the pasta and the plate. I like being able to drag the cavatelli through more of the crumble as I’m eating it. Shave ribbons of Gouda over the top and serve immediately.

Carrot Purée
When raw ingredients are salted, it helps extract the water from them. By breaking down the carrots first, it increases the surface area and expedites the process even more. As a result, it’s possible to make a carrot purée with no extra water added, highlighting the pure flavor of carrot and nothing else. Serve as a side dish, or as a component of a larger dish, such as the Carrot Juice Cavatelli, Tops Salsa & Spiced Pulp Crumble.

Peel the carrots (the peels can be reserved for Vegetable Stock, page 312) and then cut the carrots into rough 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. These do not have to be perfect, as they will all eventually be puréed.

In a bowl, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil and the salt and set aside for about 10 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a food processor and blend until broken up.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepot or large sauté pan. Set the pan over medium-low heat, cover, and cook, undisturbed, for 40 to 45 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can smear it with a spoon. (If you take it off the heat too early, you will find the texture of the purée to be somewhat grainy after you purée it.) Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on low speed, then gradually increase to high speed while slowly drizzling in the remaining 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil. Blend the purée to the consistency of mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt; it should have a pure carrot flavor. Store in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Carrot crumble
Another dehydrated pulp (like beet soil), carrot crumble can basically function as a carrot-based breadcrumb. It is especially delicious sprinkled over dishes like the Carrot Juice Cavatelli, Tops Salsa & Spiced Pulp Crumble (page 103), but also works well sprinkled over any carrot preparation.

makes about 3/4 cup (100 g)
2 cups (480 g) carrot pulp (from 3 pounds/1.3 kg orange carrots that have been juiced)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
11/2 teaspoons Fox Spice (page 263)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Spread the pulp evenly on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 125°F to 135°F (52° to 57°C) for at least 8 hours, or until completely dry. You should get about 3/4 cup (53 g) of dehydrated pulp.

Transfer the pulp to a mortar and pestle and grind until you have the rustic texture of a fine breadcrumb. (A food processor will turn your breadcrumbs into more of a uniform powder.) Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar, spice, and salt and stir together.Store in an airtight container indefinitely at room temperature. Stir in the olive oil until combined.

Salsa verde
I like this salsa on everything—be it fish, a grilled piece of meat, or roasted vegetables. Thanks to the brine, this salsa is similar to chimichurri, and like with Pesto (page 270), you can swap the carrot tops for whatever herbaceous greens you have on hand: celery leaves, parsley leaves and stems, and so on. Additionally, this is a great way to use pickle brine, but if you don’t have any, feel free to use the juice of the lemons you’ve zested.

makes 3/4 cup (180 ml)
1/2 cup (25 grams) chopped carrot tops
1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pickled vegetable brine or lemon juice
finely grated zest of 2 lemons

In a bowl, combine the carrot tops, olive oil, garlic, pickle brine (withhold this ingredient if not using the salsa right away), and lemon zest and whisk thoroughly until combined. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If storing to use later, don’t add the brine (or lemon juice) until right before serving. The sauce may separate a bit, so just give it a quick whisk again before using.

Cook more from this book
Lima bean and sorrel cacio e pepe
Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino

Read the review

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon 

 

Lima bean and sorrel cacio e pepe by Jeremy Fox

070 Lima Bean and Sorrel Cacio e PepeLima beans, also known as butter beans, are probably my favorite shell bean. Fun fact: When I put this dish on the menu at Rustic Canyon with the name “lima bean,” nobody buys it, but when I list it as “butter bean,” it sells out and everybody loves it.

To me, one of the best things about eating beans is the broth, and when you can add butter, garlic, and pecorino to it, it becomes something really great. The only acidity in this dish comes from the sorrel, which brings a really nice tang.

serves 4
1 pound (455 g) shelled fresh lima (butter) beans
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) tightly packed torn sorrel leaves, plus 2 tablespoons fine chiffonade of sorrel leaves
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper kosher salt
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons Garlic Confit Purée, at room temperature (see below)
1/2 cup (30 g) finely grated pecorino romano cheese
2 tablespoons oil from Garlic Confit, at room temperature
1 tablespoon grated Cured Egg Yolk (see below)

Place the lima beans in a pot filled with 4 cups (1 liter) cold water. Place the garlic and rosemary in a single-layer square of cheesecloth, tie it into a sachet, and add it to the pot with the beans. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, at just below a simmer, until the beans are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, discard the sachet, and add the torn sorrel, black pepper, and salt to taste. (You will notice that the sorrel turns drab quickly, but that’s okay. It’s about the flavor more than the appearance, with tart sorrel standing in place of lemon to balance out the other ingredients.)

Right before serving, fold the butter into the beans.

To serve, warm the bowls and add 1 teaspoon of the garlic confit pureé to the bottom of each bowl. Spoon the beans and their broth into the bowls (since black pepper tends to settle to the bottom of the pot, make sure to re-stir the soup before each ladle).

Finish with the chiffonade of sorrel, grated pecorino, garlic confit oil, and cured egg yolk.

Garlic confit

Confiting is the process of slowly cooking something while it is submerged in fat. Duck confit is probably the most famous version of this method, and it is cooked in duck fat. Garlic confit is not cooked in garlic fat, because to my knowledge, garlic fat does not exist.

Confited ingredients are incredibly useful to keep in your larder. They add deep, slowly developed flavors to any dish, even if you don’t have the time to slow-cook something.
At Ubuntu, we’d often wind up with too many greens, so we would blanch and purée them with some of the confited garlic and its oil. The purée would look bright, fresh, and green, while also tasting of deep, slow cooking.

makes 2 cups (480 ml)
1 pound (455 g) whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (240 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (240 ml) grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C/Gas 1/2).

Place the garlic cloves in a pot or a baking dish with a lid. Add the thyme and salt and
pour over the olive and grapeseed oils. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until the
cloves are spreadable but not falling apart, 2 to 3 hours.

Let the garlic cool to room temperature. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Garlic confit purée

Here is yet another of the many great things you can do with garlic confit. This pureé has a garlicky, roasted flavor that functions as an excellent condiment for all sorts of things, like tomato salad or roast chicken.

makes 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)
1 cup (240 ml) Garlic Confit
11/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a blender, combine the garlic confit, vinegar, 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, and the salt and purée until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cured egg yolk

This cured egg yolk functions as a great vegetarian replacement for the salty, briny taste of bottarga (cured fish roe). It is excellent grated over things like pasta, Caesar salad, or steak tartare. Try to find the freshest eggs from your local farmers market—with rich, orange yolks—and give the yolks six full days to cure.

makes 12 yolks
1 pound (455 g) kosher salt
1 pound (455 g) granulated sugar
12 large egg yolks

Combine the salt and sugar in a large bowl. Transfer three-fifths of the cure to an 18 x 13-inch (46 x 33 cm) rimmed baking sheet.

Using the pointy end of a whole egg, dig 12 evenly spaced divots in the cure, being careful not to burrow so deeply that you are exposing the bottom of the pan (you are going to be filling the divots with egg yolks and the yolks need to be entirely surrounded by the cure).

Place each yolk in its own divot. Using the remaining cure, cover each yolk so they are completely encased.

Cover the sheet with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and refrigerate for 2 days.

Remove the plastic wrap, flip the egg yolks over, and then cover again with the cure.
By this point, the yolks should be quite sturdy and shouldn’t break easily, making the flipping quite easy. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 more days.

After curing the egg yolks for 4 days (total), remove the yolks from the cure and rinse them under a gentle stream of room-temperature running water. At this point, there is still an outer membrane, which you may not be able to see—but I swear it’s there. While running the yolks under water, carefully remove and discard that membrane, then set the yolks aside on paper towels.

Pat dry the yolks thoroughly (don’t worry about handling them, as they should be sturdy, and even if they become misshapen, you can usually reshape them into their original form).

Lay the egg yolks on a dehydrator tray (not on a pan or dehydrator sheet as you want as much air circulation as possible) and dehydrate at 135°F (57°C) for 2 days until fully dried. Wrap each yolk individually in paper towels and refrigerate for up to 1 month. (They may well last longer than a month, but they’re so damn tasty that I’ve never waited long enough to find out.)

Cook more from this book
Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino
Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble

Read the review

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon

 

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox

What’s the USP? As the title suggests, it’s a book all about how to cook vegetables written by a leading American chef.

Jeremy who?  UK readers may not be familiar with the name, but American chef Jeremy Fox made quite a splash in the States back in 2007 with Ubuntu restaurant in Napa, California.  The San Francisco Chronicle said the restaurant was ‘truly extraordinary.’ and that Fox was ‘taking vegetable-based cuisine to a new level’. Food and Wine magazine named him ‘Best New Chef’, the New York Times called the restaurant the second best in America and Michelin awarded a star.  Fox is currently head chef and part owner of Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica where he continues to champion vegetables, (as well as serving up carnivorous delights like bone-in pork chop, babaganoush, beylik roasted tomato, fennel and olives).

What does it look like? Fox’s food somehow manages to be both elegant and minimal and homely and comforting at the same time. The pared-back food styling features beautiful crockery often shot against plain white backgrounds, letting the dishes speak for themselves, and what they say loud and clear is ‘Eat Me’.

Is it good bedtime reading? Fox tells his personal story – an award-winning chef wracked with anxiety and depression – with unbridled candour. There are engaging profiles of some of his favourite producers and he writes with great wit and insight about some of the key ingredients in his cooking, (no mean feat, believe me). On asparagus, he says, ‘getting it shipped in from the opposite hemisphere means it’s going to taste of jet fumes. You ever notice how funky your clothes smell after you get off a plane? Well imagine what air travel does to a porous plant that’s going to wind up inside your mouth’. The recipe introductions are peppered with little jokes, mostly of the Dad variety, making the book a fun read.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in California, no. Just pop down to your local farmer’s market and pick up some of that abundant, beautiful, fragrant and ripe produce. In the UK, if you pop down to your local farmer’s market you’re more likely to find cling wrapped meat and bad versions of street food. Although there’s nothing particularly obscure in the book, the recipes really are a celebration of the finest, freshest produce, something you simply won’t find at the supermarket. Befriending someone with an allotment would be your best bet.

What’s the faff factor? The food appears simple enough on the plate, the ingredients lists look short enough but start reading the recipes and you realise that often there are a number of other recipes elsewhere in the book that go to make up the completed dish. But this is food from the former head chef of three Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant, so what did you expect?

How often will I cook from the book? If you’re willing to put the time in to build up larder ingredients like homemade ricotta, confit garlic and mushroom conserva and you can get your hands on some decent veg, then the food is so attractive and delicious sounding that you might just fall down a gastronomic rabbit hole with this book.

Killer recipes? There are many, but a random few include country fried morels with green garlic gravy; fennel confit, kumquat, feta, chilli and oregano;  pane frattau with fennel, strawberry sofrito, carta da musica and egg, and carrot juice cavaelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble.

What will I love? The gorgeous images, the no-nonsense writing style, Fox’s original approach to cooking with vegetables and the endless inventiveness of the recipes.

What won’t I like? As Fox says himself, ‘If you’re looking for “10 Easy Weeknight Dinners for Vegetarians”, this book will not be of much use to you’.

Should I buy it? Its funny, moving, original and it will change the way you think about vegetables forever. Of course you should bloody well buy it.

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 Stars

Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen

£29.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Lima bean & sorrel cacio e pepe
Carta da musica, leaves, things and truffled pecorino
Carrot juice cavatelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble

Green pasta bits by Jack Stein

Green Bits Pasta - 0781

This is a dish from my girlfriend, Lucy, who is from a Sicilian family. Lucy usually makes this on a Monday, when we have a ton of green vegetables left over from the Sunday roast. You can use virtually any green vegetable. Be sure to leave the Parmesan rind in the pasta to give it a lovely depth of flavour. If I have been busy at work and really want something comforting and healthy to eat, this is it.

Once when I was working at The Seafood Restaurant, an Italian woman was invited into the kitchen. While I was showing her around, she told me that the best way to cook pasta was her way. So here it is. Cook the pasta as usual, then, when it’s ready, drain it through a colander, being careful to collect the water in a pan. Add butter to the hot pasta, stir it through and pour the water back through the pasta again. This is the way I have cooked pasta ever since!

SERVES 4

3 tablespoons olive oil plus more if needed
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g grated Parmesan cheese and Parmesan rind
500g dried rigatoni or penne
400g mixed green vegetables, such as fresh tenderstem broccoli, asparagus and spinach, and frozen peas (used here)
1 tablespoon butter plus an extra knob for the pasta
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper

Fill a pan of water for the pasta. Salt generously and bring to the boil.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and chilli flakes and a pinch of salt, and cook slowly until soft but not coloured (about 5–10 minutes). Add the garlic and the Parmesan rind. Leave on the lowest possible heat while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Meanwhile add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the packet instructions suggest.

Prepare the vegetables. Slice the broccoli stems and asparagus spears into 2cm pieces, keeping the heads intact. Add them to the pan containing the onion mixture, and turn up the heat, stirring so that they are covered with oil. Add 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes until they are softened but still have a bite.

Wash the frozen peas under warm water to defrost them; drain off the water and add the peas to the broccoli and asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Cut the spinach into strips and add to the pan; let it wilt down and add another pinch of salt. There should be enough oil to coat all the vegetables; if necessary, add a little more.

When the pasta is ready, drain it into a colander set over a large pan. Put the pasta back into the pan and stir through a knob of butter. Pour the collected water back into the pan to coat the pasta and drain over the large pan again.

Remove the Parmesan rind. Pour in the vegetable sauce and stir to make sure it is all combined. Add the lemon juice and a handful of Parmesan and stir these through, along with a final tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.

Plate up the pasta and vegetables and top with more Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Extract taken from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate by Jack Stein (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Cornish chilli crab by Jack Stein

Chili Crab - 0228

Singapore, in many ways, is where it all really began for me. Our family had travelled in Europe and eaten oysters and other fruits de mer in Brittany and beyond but in 1985, on a trip to Australia when I was five, my love of seafood really took off. On a stopover in Singapore we went, as usual, to a night market and that’s where I first saw and tasted chilli crab. Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the unbelievable humidity, but something in the experience opened my senses. I knew crabs, but not like these. Those watching me in the market might have been confused to see a small, pale, ginger-haired kid looking perplexed by his sensory overload, but in fact I was being seduced by the wonderful flavours that the crab dish had to offer. Ever since I have found the combination of eating Asian food at 11pm while jet-lagged to be paradise – and I owe it all to this dish!

My father’s version of chilli crab uses brown crab, which is far fuller-flavoured than the mud crabs used in Singapore. My own recipe is similar to his but with a few tweaks – a classic but with just a little twist.

SERVES 4

2kg boiled brown crab
4 tablespoons groundnut or sunflower oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm fresh root ginger, finely chopped
3 medium-hot, red, Dutch chillies, finely chopped
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon Marmite
2 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces and finely shredded lengthways
a handful of chopped coriander

Put the crab on its back on the chopping board, so that the claws and softer body section face upwards, then simply twist off the main claws, leaving the legs attached to the body. Now put your thumbs against the hard shell, close to the crab’s tail, and push and prise the body section out and away from the shell. The legs should still be attached to the body. Remove the small stomach sac situated just behind the crab’s mouth and pull away the feather-like gills (‘dead man’s fingers’) which are attached along the edges of the centre part; discard these.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out the brown meat from inside the shell; reserve.

Chop the body into quarters and then cut the main claws in half at the joint. Crack the shells of each piece with a hammer or the blunt edge of a large knife.

Heat the oil, garlic, ginger and chilli in a wok for 1 minute to release their aromas.

Next, turn up the heat and fry off the brown crab meat, then add the ketchup, soy sauce, Marmite and 150ml water. These all add savoury and sweet notes to the finished dish. Now add the remaining crab in its shell and stir-fry the crab for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and finish with spring onions and chopped coriander.

Serve immediately – with lots of finger bowls and napkins, as this is a messy dish.

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Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Extract taken from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate by Jack Stein (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness