Pistachio madeleines by Sam and Sam Clark

277_Pistachio_Madeleines
Madeleines are always best served straight out of the oven. Make the batter, then bake the madeleines 10–15 minutes before you want to serve them. They are an excellent accompaniment to the ice creams.

Makes 24

100g butter (room temperature) + extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
2 free-range or organic eggs, lightly beaten
finely grated zest 1 lemon + extra for serving
70g very finely ground pistachios + extra for serving
50g self-raising flour, sieved + extra for dusting

Beat the butter and sugar until very pale and light, approximately 10 minutes. Stir in the eggs one by one, ensuring the first is fully incorporated before adding the second, followed by the lemon zest and pistachios. Once combined, gently fold in the flour. Leave the batter to rest in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

Generously grease two madeleine or cupcake trays with butter and lightly dust with flour, tapping off any excess.

Spoon a dessertspoon of the mixture into each mould, being careful not to overfill them – this quantity should make 24 madeleines. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until golden.

Serve with the extra pistachios and lemon zest sprinkled over.

Cook more from this book
Roast shoulder of pork marinated with orange and cumin by Sam and Sam Clark
Roast squash, sweet vinegar, garlic and rosemary by Sam and Sam Clark

Buy this book: Moro Easy by Sam and Sam Clark

Read the review

Roast squash, sweet vinegar, garlic and rosemary by Sam and Sam Clark

119_Roast_Squash_Sweet_Vinegar

The sweetness of the squash contrasts beautifully with the vinegar. Delicious with labneh, fish, chicken or lamb, like the Maghrebi slow-roast shoulder of lamb or tomato bulgur with lamb and cinnamon yoghurt.

Serves 4
1 large butternut squash or sweet potatoes, approx. 800g, peeled, deseeded and cut into 3cm chunks
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
3 tablespoons aged, good-quality red wine vinegar like cabernet sauvignon, or sherry vinegar (page 303) + pinch sugar if not sweet
1–2 teaspoons finely chopped red chilli (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Lay on a large roasting tray and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until soft and caramelised. Check for seasoning.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil over a low to medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and fry gently for 2–3 minutes until the garlic is golden, then add the vinegar, taking care it doesn’t spit too much, and simmer for 30 seconds. Spoon the vinegar mixture over the squash and serve with the chilli on top.

Cook more from this book
Roast shoulder of pork marinated with orange and cumin by Sam and Sam Clark 
Pistachio madeleines by Sam and Sam Clark

Buy this book: Moro Easy by Sam and Sam Clark

Read the review  

Roast shoulder of pork marinated with orange and cumin by Sam and Sam Clark

239_Roast_Shoulder_Pork

This really is a delicious way to cook pork shoulder. It is slow-roasted until the meat is soft and tender and the marinade has turned into a gravy delicately flavoured with orange and cumin. We recommend spinach, pine nuts and sultanas (page 133) and some fried potatoes to go with it.

Serves 4

1 boneless pork shoulder, 1.2–3kg

Marinade
100ml orange juice
zest 1 orange, finely grated
2 rounded teaspoons roughly ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon hot paprika
pinch saffron
1 small onion or banana shallot

Blitz all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor or with a hand blender and season with salt. Smear the marinade all over the meat and leave for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

When you are ready to roast the meat, wrap it tightly in tin foil and place it on a roasting tray. Slow-roast for 3 hours, then remove from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes.

When you take off the foil, take care to keep all the juices from the marinade. Slice the meat and spoon over the juices.

Cook more from this book
Roast squash, sweet vinegar, garlic and rosemary by Sam and Sam Clark
Pistachio madeleines by Sam and Sam Clark

Buy this book: Moro Easy by Sam and Sam Clark

Read the review

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

Kin Thai by John Chantarasak

Kin Thai by John Chantarasak
Ahead of the opening of his AngloThai restaurant later this year in central London, cult chef John Chantarasak has published his first cookbook. Kin Thai (‘eat Thai’) contains 60 recipes fusing Thai cuisine with British ingredients, reflecting Chantarasak’s heritage as a Liverpudlian born to an English mother and Thai father. In Chantarasak’s hands, the classic salad of som tam becomes ‘som tam farang’ (farang is Thai slang for ‘white foreigner’) with the usual unripe green papaya replaced by thinly shredded carrot, celeriac and parsnip which are pounded in a pestle and mortar with chillies, garlic, palm sugar, tamarind, fish sauce and lime juice to make a dish with the quintessential Thai taste combination of spicy, salty sweet and sour.

Chantarasak has been generous in sharing knowledge acquired from childhood trips to Bangkok where he ate his grandmother’s food, the 18 months he spent in the city working in David Thompson’s kitchen at Nahm, and as sous chef of London’s highly regarded Thai restaurant Som Saa. The expansive introduction covers the regional cuisine of Thailand and the British ingredients Chantarasak favours such as sea arrowgrass that he says has a flavour reminiscent of coriander, as well as Thai staples including yellow soybean sauce, dried shrimp and white cardamom.

He also outlines equipment, such a traditional clay mortar and wooden pestle, heavy cleaver and spice grinder that are ideal for preparing the book’s recipes that are divided into chapters covering salads and laab (Thai steak tartare), grilled dishes, relishes, soups and braises, stir fries, curries, snacks and sweets. Some of the dishes, such as Muslim-spiced curry of beef short rib, require numerous ingredients and are labour intensive, but many, including a classic pad thai or grilled coriander and garlic chicken, are much more straightforward.

The clearly written and easy to follow methods and informative chapter and recipe introductions mean that even chefs new to Thai cuisine will feel like instant experts after a few days spent studying the book, which, with its mouth-watering food photography and design as colourful and vibrant as the recipes it contains, would be no hardship at all.

Cuisine: Thai
Suitable for: Beginner, confident home cooks and professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book:
Kin Thai by John Chantarasak
£22, Hardie Grant

Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi

Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi

What’s the USP? Flavour is the third in the series of Ottolenghi’s veggie focused books following on from Plenty and Plenty More. This edition focuses on maximising the distinct characteristics of different vegetables and exploring cooking techniques to ramp up their flavours to create “flavour bombs”. The book is divided into three categories – Process, Pairing and Produce – with each featuring subcategories discussing further techniques for making the most of vegetables. Process for instance, delves into charring and ageing; Pairing has sections dedicated to acidity and chilli; while Produce is all about the ingredients themselves. 

Who wrote it? Yotam Ottolenghi, who if you’re reading this blog likely needs no introduction. If you do need a reminder, he’s the reason you chargrill your broccoli rather than boil it. And if you need more than that, he’s an internationally renowned writer, chef and restaurateur. He’s joined by frequent collaborators from the Ottolenghi family Ixta Belfrage and Tara Wigley. 

Is it good bedtime reading? Only if you want to get back out of bed to start cooking. There are insightful and in-depth forewords to each of the book’s sections though the main value of this book will be found in the kitchen. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Not at all. Everything is written with the utmost care and attention to weight and size with all opportunities for doubt removed. Instead of fretting about whether your small onion is actually medium-sized or if your handful of herbs depends on how big your mitts are, it’s listed in precise measurements (if you’re interested, one small onion is 60g). 

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? We often have a philosophical Ottolenghi-chicken or egg debate in our household: do the Ottolenghi team make recipes based on what they can find at Waitrose or do Waitrose stock Ottolenghi ingredients knowing their customers are likely to own a copy or two? All of this is to say you can get 99% of what you need in this book from Waitrose, including the more unusual ingredients such as dried black limes or Aleppo chilli flakes. You’ll also find them more affordably at an international supermarket if you should have one near. Failing that, Ottolenghi have their own online pantry for you to order from including the 20 main ingredients you’ll need for this book. 

What’s the faff factor? That definitely depends on what you’re making. Some of these recipes take hours and are all the better for it such as Spicy Mushroom Lasagne and Aubergine Dumplings alla Parmigiana. Many others require little effort and with most recipes, you can take shortcuts to reduce the time. My first try at Swede Gnocchi with Miso Butter took most of the evening making the gnocchi from scratch. The second time took minutes, simply making the sauce and using pre-made gnocchi. 

How often will I cook from the book?  While suffering from a bout of COVID-19 at the beginning of the year, I itemised every recipe I wanted to cook from every cookbook I own to pass the time (don’t judge me, it was a simpler time). Such is the depth of the recipes in this book, I listed almost every recipe from Flavour. There are meals for all occasions in here: quick weeknight dinners such as Spicy Berbere Ratatouille with Coconut Salsa, adventurous weekend cooking projects like Cheese Tamales, or adventurous weekend cooking projects that can be modified to be quick weeknight dinners like the Stuffed Aubergine in Curry and Coconut Dal. I have yet to stop returning to this book for old favourites or to find something new.

Killer recipes: Stuffed Aubergine in Curry and Coconut Dal, Spicy Berbere Ratatouille with Coconut Salsa, Hasselback Beetroot with Lime Leaf Butter, Miso Butter Onions, Oyster Mushroom Tacos, Tofu Meatball Korma, Charred Peppers and Fresh Corn Polenta with Soy-Cured Yolk… I really could list the whole book here.

Should I buy it? If you haven’t already bought it by this point I haven’t done a good enough job in this review. 

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

Buy this book
Ottolenghi, Flavour
£27, Ebury Press

Review written by Nick Dodd a Leeds-based pianist, teacher and writer. Contact him at www.yorkshirepiano.co.uk.

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. 

Winter Fattoush and Tamarind-Glazed Short Rib by Selin Kiazim

Selin_Kiazim-Three-419_Glazed_Short_Rib
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. 

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