48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth

48 Hour Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs are such a great application for sous vide cooking. You get very little moisture loss so the meat turns out incredibly juicy. It gets soft, then you chill it to set it up, and grill it or roast it to finish. It’s a rich, fatty cut, so instead of saucing it with a reduction we glaze them and serve them with black pepper jam with loads of shallots, and a bright, refreshing green papaya salad. When we put this on the menu at West as a starter, we couldn’t keep up. We had to bring it back on the opening menu at Hawksworth.

Serves 6   

Beef Short Ribs
1.3kg (3 lb) bone-in beef short ribs
2 sprigs thyme, stems removed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt
Pepper

Compressed Melon
100mL (7 Tbsp) water
100g (½ cup) sugar
½ honeydew melon, in 18 cubes 2cm (¾ in) each
3 juniper berries

Black Pepper Jam
30mL (2 Tbsp) grapeseed or canola oil
½ onion, chopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 knobs ginger, peeled and chopped
15 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ bunches scallions, sliced
15g (1 Tbsp) dried fermented black beans
½ Thai chili, seeded and coarsely chopped
10g (1½ Tbsp) pepper
125mL (½ cup) soy sauce
125mL (½ cup) water
100mL (7 Tbsp) hoisin sauce
Sugar

Green Papaya Salad
65mL (¼ cup) water
50g (¼ cup) palm sugar
2 lime leaves
½ fresh jalapeno or red Thai chili, seeds removed
15mL (1 Tbsp) fish sauce
250mL (1 cup) fresh lime juice
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt
⅓ green papaya, peeled and sliced into very fine julienne

Beef Short Ribs Glaze
100mL (7 Tbsp) hoisin sauce
50mL (3 Tbsp) yuzu juice
30mL (2 Tbsp) light soy sauce
¼ orange, juice

Garnish
Sea salt
12 leaves Thai basil

BEEF SHORT RIBS
Rub the beef short ribs with the thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, then cover and refrigerate for 5 hours. Transfer to 1 or more vacuum-seal pouches. Seal with a vacuum sealer and cook in a water bath at 63ºC (145ºF) with a sous vide immersion circulator for 48 hours. Remove from the water bath, cool the ribs, and remove from the bags. Trim the excess fat and bones and portion in 170g (6 oz) rectangles.

COMPRESSED MELON
Bring the water to a boil in a small pot over high heat. Whisk in the sugar until it dis- solves, to create a syrup. Cool rapidly over an ice bath. Place the cubed honeydew melon in a vacuum-seal pouch with the syrup and juniper berries. (You can also use a regular ziplock bag but the flavour will be less intense.) Seal with a vacuum sealer and refrigerate for 2 hours.

BLACK PEPPER JAM
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium to high heat. Add the onion, shallots, ginger, and garlic and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the scallions, black beans, chili, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes longer. Add the soy sauce, water, and hoisin sauce and reduce by ⅓. Cook until the mixture is thick and jammy and coats the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning and balance with sugar as required. While the mixture is still hot, blend it in a food processor until smooth but not puréed.

GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
Combine the water with the palm sugar, lime leaves, and chili in a small pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Blend for 1 minute with an immersion blender until combined. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and shallot and stir to combine. Season with salt. Refrigerate until cool. When ready to serve, mix the papaya with the dressing.

BEEF SHORT RIBS GLAZE
Whisk all the ingredients together until combined.

SERVE  
Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Cover or brush the short rib pieces with half of the glaze and heat in the oven until hot through, about 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking, brush with the remaining glaze. Cut each rib rectangle in half. Smear some of the black pepper jam on each of 6 serving plates and place the short ribs on top. Season with sea salt. Add the melon and papaya salad, and garnish with the basil leaves.

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook more from this book
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Read the review

Hawksworth: The Cookbook by David Hawksworth

Hawsworth The Cookbook

What’s the USP? Dishes drawn from the 30-year career of one of Canada’s most high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, with stories and anecdotes of kitchen and restaurant life. 

Who’s the author? David Hawksworth is chef propriator of the eponymous Hawksworth restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and the more casual Nightingale restaurant and Bel Cafés, all in Vancouver. He is the winner of 2012 and 2013 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year and for four consecutive years, Best Upscale Dining, as well as enRoute magazine’s top three Best New Restaurants, and Maclean’s magazine Restaurant of the Year. In 2008, he became the youngest chef inductee in to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.  In 2013 he launched the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation and has had a culinary partnership with Air Canada since 2015. 

Is it good bedtime reading? The story of Hawksworth’s career is told through a series of memoirs dotted throughout the book. His time in the UK make for particularly entertaining and enlightening reading. When staging at Marco Pierre White’s The Restaurant, Hawksworth was warned never to look at the great chef during service, ‘Look him in the eye, then you’re a target – you’re finished’. As opening chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Petit Blanc in Oxford, Hawksworth recalls having to cut the door to the meat locker in half and crawl in and out on his hands and knees because it was blocked by a staircase.   

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Hawksworth’s contemporary Canadian food might exalt west coast produce like spot prawns, sablefish and sockeye salmon, but they can be easily substituted for more readily available alternatives if you’re based outside of Canada. 

The book includes not only fine dining dishes with ingredients that might be harder to source such as squab for pot-au-feu with parsley dumplings but also recipes from his more casual Nightingale restaurant and Bel Cafés, such as crispy buttermilk fried chicken and clam spaghetti, the ingredients for which are more straightforward to track down. 

What’s the faff factor? It varies hugely from recipe to recipe.  The average home cook is not going to tackle a sophisticated creation like foie gras, artichoke, truffle and madeira jus on a Wednesday night after getting home late from the office. On the other hand, you could knock up a bowl of Blue Hubbard Squash soup in about 45 minutes. Even easier, once you’ve marinated chicken overnight, spicy chicken and green papaya salad would take less than 30 minutes to complete. 

How often will I cook from the book? For the most part, you will need to set aside a decent amount of time to cook many of the recipes in the book. However aside from a few showpiece dishes like mosaic of venison, duck and quail and ‘Symphony of the Sea’ that’s made with prawns, oysters, scallops, halibut and salmon which will probably remain restaurant-only creations, recipes like 48-hour beef short ribs with black pepper jam; salumi pizza; roasted cauliflower with green harissa and sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate chunk cookies will mean the book’s glossy and beautifully designed pages will soon gather the stains of regular kitchen use.   

Killer recipes? In addition to distinctively west coast dishes such as  there is an unmistakably European accent to the recipes in his first cookbook. That’s no surprise, as Hawksworth spent the 1990s working in some of the best UK kitchens of the time including The Square and Marco-era L’Escargot. Dishes include a mosaic of venison, duck and quail taught to Hawksworth by Gary Jones at Le Manoir, and a yellowfin tuna-wrapped crab salad inspired by Bruno Loubet’s whole seabass stuffed with panzanella that was on the menu at Isola when Hawksworth worked there.  Vancouver is a famously cosmopolitan city and Hawksworth reflects that in dishes like spicy chicken and green papaya salad and jungle pork curry.

What will I love? Although aimed at a North American audience, ingredients  are listed with grams and ml measurements as well as cups, making the book perfectly usable for UK readers. 

Should I buy it? In his foreword, Phil Howard says, ‘I know for certain that you will not regret investing in this book – and the knowledge of this chef’. I can only concur.  

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

A version of this review first appeared in The Caterer magazine. 

Buy this book
Hawksworth: The Cookbook
£33.99, Appetite By Random House

Cook from this book
48- hour beef short ribs, compressed melon, black pepper jam, green papaya salad by David Hawksworth
Roasted Duck Breast, Xo Sauce, Carolina Gold Rice, Macadamia Purée by David Hawksworth
Caramel Pots De Crème With Whipped Crème Fraîche by David Hawksworth

Parwana by Durkhanai Ayubi

parwana

What’s the USP? The story of the Ayubi family’s flight from war-torn Afghanistan and the opening of their Adelaide restaurant Parwana (Farsi for ‘butterfly’), interwoven with traditional Afghan recipes.

Who’s the author? Durkhanai Ayubi helps to run her family’s restaurants Parwana and Kutchi Deli Parwana, both in Adelaide. She is also a freelance writer and is an Atlantic Fellow of the Atlantic Institute. Parwana is her first cookbook.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? As Ayubi points out in the book’s ‘prelude’, ‘those who dine on Afghan food for the first time find themselves surprised by the familiarity of the dishes, hinting at a rich and interconnected history untold’. I have to admit that, before reading this book, I had never eaten or cooked Afghan food and I was surprised at how accessible the food and recipes were and how familiar nearly all the ingredients turned out to be.

While you will find the vast majority of them at your local supermarket, there are one or two exceptions. You will need an Afghan or Persian grocer for the dried sour apricots (which Ayubi says is a ‘specific type of Afghan fried apricot) and sinjid (Russian dried olives) required to make Haft Mewa, a compote of dried fruits and nuts steeped in water and eaten at Nowroz, a New Year celebration. The same applies to the dried basil seeds for rose sharbat (syrup).

But you can substitute the gandana (a traditional Afghan leek) that’s used to stuff Ashak dumplings for garlic chives or just plain old leeks. Qaymaq cream for chai can be made at home (but requires simmering milk for hours and skimming off the cream layer by layer) or may be found in Persian or Middle Eastern grocers. Equally, you could simply substitute clotted cream.

What’s the faff factor? In a word, low. Recipes often feature a short ingredients list and simple one-pot cooking methods. The recipes for the very tempting baked goods are probably the most complex but even they pretty straightforward.

How often will I cook from the book? With delicious braises, grills, curries, noodle dishes, soups, salads, vegetable dishes, pickles, breads, desserts, sweets and biscuits it might be more a matter of when you’re not cooking from the book.

Killer recipes? There are loads, but a representative sample might include salaateh Afghani, a simple, fresh and bright salad made with red onion, cos lettuce, tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers and radishes, flavoured with chilli, coriander, mint and lime;  comforting and gently spicy yoghurt-braised lamb with yellow split peas, and rhot sweet bread topped with white and black poppy seeds. If I got into all the lovely kebabs, curries and dumplings we’d be here all day.

What will I love? The book’s design and photography is full of warm colour, reflecting the turquoise and terracotta interior design of Parwana restaurant. Stylist Deborah Kaloper has done a great job with the food, with every one of photographer Alicia Taylor‘s shots looking incredibly inviting.

Is it good bedtime reading? Ayubi’s text doesn’t limit itself to the story of her family, their restaurants and their food, but is a serious and very well written political, social and culinary history of Afghanistan.

Should I buy it? Unequivocally, yes. Fantastic food, looks amazing and you will almost certainly learn a lot. You will not regret buying this book.

Cuisine: Afghan
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Cheesecake and wood roasted peaches by Tomos Parry of Brat, London

275 Parry

Serves 6

360 g cream cheese
160 g superfine (caster) sugar
Grated zest of 1⁄4 orange
4 organic eggs
225 ml double cream
20 g all-purpose (plain) flour
Grilled fruit (such as rhubarb or peaches), for serving
Crème fraîche, for serving

Preheat the convection oven to 350°F (180°C) or a regular oven to 390°F (200°C). In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest until light and glossy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Gently whisk in the cream, then slowly sift in the flour and mix thoroughly.

Line a 10-inch (25 cm) cast-iron skillet with parchment paper. Pour in the mixture and bake for 30 minutes, then rotate front to back and cook for 15 minutes longer. The aim is for the cheesecake to rise like a soufflé and caramelize, almost burning on the top.

Once the cheesecake is out of the oven, leave it to cool for 1 hour (it will sink a bit). Slice and serve it with grilled fruit and a dollop of crème fraîche on the side.

Photograph by Benjamin McMahon

Extracted from Today’s Special, 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs, published by Phaidon

9781838661359-3d-1500

Cook more from this book
Lamb navarin
Concha

Buy this book
Today’s Special: 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs
£39.95, Phaidon

Read the review Today’s Special edited by Emily Takoudes

Concha by Elena Reygadas of Rosetta, Mexico City

307 Reygadas

Makes 4 conchas
For the vanilla crust:
10 g all-purpose (plain) flour
10 g vegetable shortening
5 g sugar glass
5 g sugar
0.5 g baking powder
Pinch of salt
Seeds from 1⁄2 vanilla bean

For the conchas:
4 g fresh yeast
15 g whole milk
180 g wheat flour
25 g sugar
1 g fine sea salt
45 g eggs
40 g butter
Egg wash

Make the vanilla crust:

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and beat with an electric mixer at a low speed until well blended. Don’t overmix. Once the mixture is uniform, let stand at room temperature while you make the conchas.

Make the conchas:

Dissolve the yeast in the milk. In a large bowl, combine the flour, dissolved yeast, sugar, salt, eggs, and butter and mix with your hands, making small circles. Once everything has blended together, knead the dough, lightly striking it against the surface until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a covered container and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each into a ball.

Divide the vanilla crust into 4 portions; they should be about 20 g. Form each portion into a ball and then use your palm to flatten it into a disk large enough to cover one of the dough balls.

Glaze each ball of dough with egg and cover with a disk of vanilla crust. Press a shell-pattern mold into the crust or make the traditional pattern with a knife. Dip each concha in sugar and place on a baking sheet. Cover the conchas with a lightly floured cloth and let sit at room temperature for 11⁄2–2 hours, preferably in a humid environment between 70–75°F (20–25°C). Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Bake the conchas for 18 minutes.

Photograph courtesy Ana Lorenzana

Extracted from Today’s Special, 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs, published by Phaidon

9781838661359-3d-1500

Cook more from this book
Lamb navarin
Cheesecake and wood roasted peaches 

Buy this book
Today’s Special: 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs
£39.95, Phaidon

Read the review
Today’s Special edited by Emily Takoudes

 

Lamb navarin by Neil Borthwick, The French House, London

027 Borthwick

Serves 4

4 lamb neck fillets, cut into 4 pieces
Salt
Mirepoix: 1 onion, 2 carrots • 1 garlic bulb, halved
3 tablespoons tomato paste (puree)
1 bouquet garni: thyme, bay leaf, rosemary
1 liter chicken stock
500 ml veal stock
6 organic carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into lozenges
Olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley
Fresh mint

Season the lamb well. In a sauté pan, sear the lamb until golden brown all over and set aside.  Add the mirepoix to the pan along with the garlic and cook until caramelized. Add the tomato paste (puree) and cook for 4–5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the bouquet garni and both the stocks. Bring to a gentle simmer, skim well, reduce the heat, and cook until the lamb is tender when pressed with a finger, 1–11⁄2 hours. Set aside and allow to cool for 1 hour. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the carrots, turnips, and celery until just tender. Shock in an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

Remove the lamb from the braise and pass the sauce through a sieve, pressing as much of the vegetables through as well, which will help to thicken the sauce and give you lots of flavour. 

Return the lamb, along with the cooked vegetables, to the sauce and finish with chopped parsley and a touch of mint. Serve with buttery mashed potato.

Dish photographed by Peter Clarke

Extracted from Today’s Special, 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs, published by Phaidon

9781838661359-3d-1500

Cook more from this book
Concha by Elena Reygadas of Rosetta, Mexico City
Cheesecake and wood roasted peaches by Tomos Parry of Brat, London

Buy this book
Today’s Special: 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs
£39.95, Phaidon

Read the review
Today’s Special edited by Emily Takoudes

Today’s Special edited by Emily Takoudes

 

Todays Special

What’s the USP? Twenty of the world’s leading chefs choose 100 emerging chefs to create a survey of ‘the most exciting rising stars paving the future of the (restaurant) industry’. Each chef gets a short profile and has contributed several recipes.

Who’s the author? The book has no attributed author but it has been edited by Emily Takoudes, Executive Commissioning Editor of Food & Drink at Phaidon Press.

Is it good bedtime reading? The 100 short chef profiles that accompany the emerging chef’s recipes make the book ideal for browsing through. In addition, there are brief biographies for the ‘leading chefs’ and each of the emerging chefs also get a biog in addition to their profile. There is also a one page introduction from Takoudes.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Quite possibly, unless you know a good place to to get blackthroat seaperch (skewered and grilled by chef Izumi Kimura of Sushijin in Japan); Australian pepperberries (served with roasted oysters and sake butter by Mat Lindsay of Ester and Poly restaurants in Sydney), or deer heart (served with trout roe mayo, smoked oyster mushrooms and pine vinegar by Jakob Pintar of Tabar in Ljubljana, Slovenia).

What’s the faff factor? There is no doubt whatsoever that these are restaurant recipes and as such you just have to accept the faff. There are some simpler recipes, for example Yuval Leshem of Hasalon in New York’s Maitake Entrecote Steak is made with just a maitake mushroom, olive oil and seasoning and is served with a sauce made with chicken stock, garlic and butter, and Danielle Alvarez of Fred’s in Sydney’s chilled beet and tomato soup with wild fennel and crème fraîche is pretty straightforward, but otherwise mainly expect multi-element dishes that often require lots of ingredients and time.

How often will I cook from the book? Depends how often you fancy ‘Coffee, Caviar, Lapsang’ for pudding I suppose. I’m being sarcastic. Not every dish is as  recherché as that and you may well cook Neil Borthwick of The French House in London’s lamb navarin or pumpkin, beet, bitter leaf and pickled walnut salad quite regularly. But unless you are a professional chef, it’s probably best to treat the book as an interesting read that will introduce you to chefs and restaurants you may never have heard about before rather than an everyday cookbook.

Killer recipes? Broccolini and passionfruit bearnaise; celeriac pasta; chicken liver terrine; pizza bianca al formaggi; potato croissant; octopus, salt-baked avocado, black garlic; hazelnut praline eclair; chocolate mousse.

What will I love? This is a truly global and diverse selection that includes chefs working in Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Thailand, Nigeria, Slovenia, Peru, China, Rwanda, Venezuela and Israel as well as North America, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK and mainland Europe. At over 400 pages, there are more than 300 recipes to provide professional chefs and keen amateurs with plenty of  inspiration.

What won’t I like? Apart from their biographies and a one line quote for each of their chosen chefs, the leading chefs are oddly absent from the book. Each of the chef profiles has not been written by the leading chefs who chose them but by a team of writers. Although expertly done, the profiles of the emerging chefs are rather anonymous and include no comments or direct quotes from either the chef in question or from the leading chef that chose them. If the profiles have been pieced together from anything other than CVs, information from the restaurant’s website and trawling the internet for reviews and interviews, then it is not clear from reading them. They are informative and you will learn a lot, but they lack the personal touch.

Unless you are a hospitality professional or a very serious restaurant nerd, many of the leading chef’s names may be unfamiliar to you. Ottolenghi is probably the most famous name involved, followed by New York based Michelin star chef Daniel Boulud. If you are a fan of the TV series Top Chef, you will recognise Hugh Acheson and Washington-based José Andrés’ tireless work with his World Central Kitchen non-profit organisation that’s devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters has raised his profile above his standing as an innovative Michelin starred chef. But there’s no Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, or even Thomas Keller, which may limit the book’s appeal.

However, it is perhaps irrelevant who the leading chefs actually are as, between them, they have picked a very interesting group of ’emerging’ chefs, some of which have been mentioned above. Exactly how ’emerging’ those chefs actually are is somewhat up for debate as many are very well established including Neil Borthwick in London, Michelin star holder Tomos Parry (also in London), Evan Funke in California (who has had a very good feature-length documentary made about him), Josh Niland in Australia who has published his own acclaimed and influential cookbook and Jeremiah Stone and Fabian Von Hauseke Valtierra of New York who also already have their own cookbook.

Should I buy it? If you plan your travels around dining out, the book will provide hours of fun daydreaming about the destination for your first post-lockdown trip. In the meantime, you can discover some novel and innovative dishes to try out in your own kitchen while you wait for some sort of normality to be restored.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional Chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Today’s Special: 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs
£39.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Concha by Elena Reygadas of Rosetta, Mexico City
Cheesecake and wood roasted peaches by Tomos Parry of Brat, London
Lamb navarin by Neil Borthwick, The French House, London

The Bull and Last by Ollie Pudney, Joe Swiers and Giles Coren

Bull and Last

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from a landmark North London gastropub, famously a favourite of The Times restaurant critic Giles Coren who contributes a forward to the book.

Who are the authors? The pub’s chef Ollie Pudsey (formerly of Richard Corrigan’s late lamented Lindsay House in Soho, London) and front of house manager Joe Swiers.

Is it good bedtime reading? The first 80-odd pages tell the story of the pub and there are a further eight essays dotted throughout the rest of the book.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The Bull and Last take a delightfully broad view of what gastropub food can encompass, so expect to be shopping for everything from mirin to squid ink; moscatel white wine vinegar to speck ham and artichoke hearts to amaretti biscuits. The good news is that there are few if any ingredients that you won’t be able to pick up at a supermarket or deli. You will however want to hit up your friendly local butcher for things like hare, rabbit and  smoked ham hock and a good fishmonger for crab, hake and whole brown shrimp, among other seafood items.

What’s the faff factor? Faff is the wrong word to use here, as it implies undue effort that fails to pay off in the finished dish. You don’t get to be one of highest rated pubs in the country by cutting corners, so you should expect to invest a bit time to produce some of the dishes in the book. For example, if you want to make The Bull and Last’s version of roast chicken you’ll first need to follow the recipes for brown chicken stock and red onion chutney, but you will end up with a stonking red wine gravy to go with your fragrant, delicious butter roasted bird that’s infused with lemon, garlic and thyme. There are plenty of more straightforward dishes in the book too, such as sea trout with samphire, peas and Jersey Royals or roasted romano peppers with white soy and sesame (to accompany grilled or roasted meat or fish).

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Handfuls, pinches, drizzles and splashes of herbs, seasonings and oils abound. However, as long as you are a reasonably experienced cook, that shouldn’t prevent you from making any of the recipes as ingredients lists and methods are otherwise sound.

How often will I cook from the book? With a good range of seasonal dishes that would suit everything from a quick weeknight meal to a long indulgent Sunday lunch or special occasion, it’s likely The Bull and Last will come in useful many times throughout the year.

Killer recipes: Killer scotch egg; smoked haddock, giant macaroni with leek velouté, egg yolk and Berkswell cheese; buttermilk fried chicken; vodka-cured salmon with lemon and dill; chicken liver with ceps, Madeira, sage and Parmesan on toast; pheasant schnitnel club sandwich; oxtail croque monsieur; sticky lamb ribs with pistachio and herb sauce; Bramley apple and nut crumble.

What will I love? It’s obvious that a lot of love has gone into the production of the book and get a real sense of the what the pub is all about. There is a luxe feel to the whole thing, from the paper stock to the elegant design.

What won’t I like so much? Giles Coren’s introduction stands out as by far the best writing in the book. It’s a shame they didn’t ask him to help out with the narrative text too which can be a little confusing to follow at times and really needed a firmer editing hand.

Should I buy it?  If you are a fan of British gastropub food, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better example of the genre and you’ll be gagging to cook from the book. The same applies if you just love tasty grub. 

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

Buy this book
The Bull & Last: Over 70 Recipes from North London’s Iconic Pub and Coaching Inn
£30, Etive Pubs Ltd

The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller

The French Laundry Per Se

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from a pair of three Michelin-starred American restaurants. The book appears 20 years after the publication of the original The French Laundry cookbook and serves as a kind of update and elaboration as it now also covers sister restaurant Per Se.

Who is the author? Thomas Keller is one of America’s best known and most decorated chefs. He holds three Michelin stars at The French Laundry in Napa, California and at Per Se in New York. His other restaurants include Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery in both Yountville California and Las Vegas and The Surf Club in Miami. His glamorous, upscale TAK Room restaurant, opened in the mid-town Manhattan Hudson Yards development and inspired by classic American cuisine from the 40s and 50s, closed in August 2020 after just one year of trading, a victim of the pandemic.  He has also been a consultant to Hollywood, working on the  animated film Ratatouille and the Adam Sandler comedy Spanglish. He is the author of five previous cookbooks, publisher of Finesse magazine and has his own Masterclass. He has recently been the subject of a Trump-related Twitter controversy that has seen the chef delete his account on the social media site. At the time of writing, he remains active on Instagram.

Is it good bedtime reading? Given it’s size and weight – The French Laundry, Per Se is a great big, beautiful book – it won’t make the most relaxing bedtime reading material. Better then to enjoy it sitting in your favourite chair with a nice glass of Californian red (in homage to The French Laundry’s location in the heart of Napa Valley wine country) and appreciate the thousands of words carefully crafted with the help of leading food writers Susie Heller and  Michael Ruhlman.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Let’s have a look at the very first recipe in the book shall we? Smoked Sturgeon Rillettes on an Everything Bagel. No problem, apart from the smoked sturgeon, Reglis Ova caviar (Keller’s own brand, available online for US only delivery), Argumato lemon oil and onion blossoms. Opening the book at random, I land on Hiramasa with Apple Vierge. First, catch your hiramasa (sushi grade Australian Yellowtail Kingfish, available online in the UK from The Fish Society) then track down some Champagne vinegar and Marcona almonds and you’re good to go.  Elsewhere, expect ingredients such as foie gras, spiny lobster, and Alaskan king crab. Things get ludicrously specific with Venison Rack Roasted Over Grapevines that not only call for 1.5kg of ‘dried grapevine knots’ but ‘250g of dark raisins, dried on the vine, preferably from Paradigm Winery’. Thankfully, not all the recipes are this tricky to negotiate and, with some common sense substitutions, you should be able to attempt a number of dishes from the book.

What’s the faff factor? These are recipes from three Michelin-starred restaurants so they were never going to be a walk in the park for the home cook. They will take time, money, effort and concentration, but they are far from unachievable if you have the resources and will to make them.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Six books in and with the help of some of the best food writers in the business, this is not an issue. Keller is a proponent of sous-vide cooking, but has include full alternative ingredient lists and methods when appropriate so if you don’t happen to have a vacuum sealer and immersion circulator in your kitchen, it’s no biggie.

How often will I cook from the book? When you have the time and inclination; for example, during a pandemic. Even a simple sounding – and looking – bowl of Red Pepper Farfalle lists 38 ingredients, not counting those included in the three additional satellite recipes you’ll need to make to complete the dish. A few simple soup recipes aside, this is not a book for weeknight cooking.

Killer recipes: Smoked Montana Rainbow Trout Chaud-Froid; Celery Root Pastrami; Salt-and-Rye-Baked Lamb Neck; Malted Brownies among others.

What will I love? The premium look and feel; the numerous essays that cover everything from a treatise on fine dining to the importance of bread and butter; the gorgeous food photography by Deborah Jones.

What won’t I like so much? Before embarking on the majority of recipes, you will have to take some time to consider if you can source the necessary ingredients, and if not, will the dish still be worth making with replacements. You’ll also want to weigh up if the dish, which may only be a mouthful or two, is worth the cost and effort required. It’s worth bearing in mind that the recipes in the book are the product of a very well staffed and resourced kitchen and that the resulting dishes will be sold at a significant profit on menus that cost upwards of $350 a head, none of which applies to the home cook who will be left with a much depleted bank account and a mountain of washing up.

Should I buy it?  For many professional chefs working in the fine dining arena, The French Laundry, Per Se will be an essential purchase. The same will be true for serious hobbyist cooks and restaurant enthusiasts. For those simply in search of a practical recipe book that will be put to regular use, look elsewhere. 

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

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

Cook from this book
The Whole Bird
Fish and Chips
Peaches ‘N’ Cream

The Hand and Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge

Hand and Flowers Cookbook by Tom Kerridge

What’s the USP? A brief history of and recipes from the world’s only two Michelin starred pub.

Who is the author? Chef Tom Kerridge has recently 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 Coach, The 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? There’s a chunky introductory section telling the story of the pub, chapter introductions and full page introductions to all of the recipes, making the book a very enjoyable read. As a restaurant nerd, I would have loved to have read about Kerridge’s career before opening the Hand in 2005. As a good proportion of the book’s audience is bound to be professional chefs who would be equally interested to read about Kerridge’s rise through the ranks to stardom, it seems something of a missed opportunity. We can only hope there’s an autobiography in the works.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Specialist ingredients in the book include Alba white truffle oil, agar agar, foie gras, squab pigeon, caul fat, veal tendons, Sosa Airbag Pork Granet, Sosa Antioxidant gel powder, meat glue, lamb sweetbreads, pig’s head and trotter and meadowsweet among others. There are plenty of far more mainstream ingredients too, although if you are going to go to the trouble of attempting these recipes you’ll want to head to your butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer rather than rely on standard supermarket gear.

What’s the faff factor? If you want to prepare a complete dish with all it’s  various elements – for example lemon sole grenobloise made up of stuffed lemon sole, brown butter hollandiase, brown bread croutons, confit lemon zest, crisp deep fried capers and anchovy fritters – then you need to be prepared to put in some serious kitchen time. For many home cooks, probably the best way to approach the book is to pick and choose between the constituent parts and either make a simplified version of the dish with just the key elements or take the recipe for a garnish, such as the famous Hand and Flowers carrot that’s braised in water, sugar, butter and star anise, and use it to accompany something simple like a roast, grill or stew. The good news is that many of the recipes for the individual parts are relatively straightforward and it’s the quantity of constituent elements that make cooking a complete Hand and Flowers dish daunting for non-professionals.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes?   There are the usual suspects such as a  squeeze of lemon, sprig of thyme or half an onion (how big is an onion? How long is a piece of string?) and one dish calls for meat glue but gives no quantity. However, you should have no problems with the vast majority of the recipes.

How often will I cook from the book? Will you be knocking up a torchon of quail with crispy quail leg and verjus everyday? Probably not. But you might well find yourself making the ‘Matson’s sauce’ (a ‘super-posh’ chip shop curry sauce named after Kerridge’s favourite fish and chips shop) that goes with it pretty regularly. Ambitious home cooks will find much to inspire them, and may well turn to the book  when planning a celebratory meal, a dinner party or just to indulge in a weekend of hobby cooking. But as previously noted, a close reading will reveal a treasure trove of sides and sauces, as well as some achievable main elements that will ensure the book won’t permanently reside on your coffee table and will get regular use in your kitchen.

Killer recipes: Smoked haddock omelette; crispy pigs head with black pussing, rhubarb and pork crackling; fish and chips with pea puree and tartare sauce; halbut poached in red wine with bourguignon garnish; slow cooked duck with duck fat chips and gravy; braised shin of beef with roasted bone marrow, parsnip puree and carrot; sweet malt gateau with malted milk ice cream and butterscotch sauce.

What will I love? If you know the pub, you’ll be glad to see all the classic dishes have been included and that the book’s claim to be a definitive collection of the pub’s recipe is an accurate one. At over 400 pages, the book has a pleasing heft, the design is colourful yet classic and elegant, and the food photography by Cristian Barnett is simply stunning.

What won’t I like so much?  If you’re after more of Kerridge’s diet friendly fare, you are definitely barking up the wrong butter, cream and foie gras-laden tree.

Should I buy it? If you are a fan of Tom Kerridge’s restaurants and want to challenge yourself in the kitchen, this is the book for you. It will also be of particular interest to professional chefs.  

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

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Cook from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Slow cooked duck
Vanilla crème brûlée by Tom Kerridge