The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver

St John

What’s the USP? The long-awaited follow up to 2007’s Beyond Nose to Tail from one of the UK’s most distinguished and influential chefs Fergus Henderson and his business partner Trevor Gulliver. The publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of the opening of St John restaurant near Smithfield market in London, world-famous for dishes such as roast bone marrow with parsley salad that celebrate offal and have influenced several generations of chefs in the UK and around the world, including the late Anthony Bourdain who was Henderson’s biggest fan.

What’s great about it? Although a much admired and imitated style, no one does St John cooking quite like Fergus Henderson; he is after all its progenitor. Adding The Book of St John will bring something distinctive to your cookbook collection and might well expand your culinary horizons. You may even be converted to tripe, although you will probably want to take a deep breath before you try it pickled. You begin the recipe by boiling the tripe in water which Henderson says is ‘reminiscent of the not-so-proverbial dog’s dinner’. Yum.      

What’s different about it? No one writes a recipe quite like Fergus. You will either find his whimsicality completely charming or maddeningly vague. One recipe calls for ‘6 happy tomatoes’. The recipe for ‘An Instant Pickle’ consists of a thinly sliced onion, a pinch of salt and a splash of red wine vinegar which you ‘massage’ together. ‘Grated garlic and a showing of thyme are good additions’. Well, thanks for all the detail Fergus. Elsewhere we are instructed to mix cucumbers and salt ‘thoroughly but tenderly’ and in another recipe, you ‘dress, tumble and serve’ a salad, after which Henderson instructs us to ‘Rejoice in the uncomplicated’. The recipes are however detailed where they need to be and pretty straightforward to follow, so you certainly won’t be wasting your money if you invest in a copy. 

Killer recipes? Crispy lamb’s brains; faggots; beef mince on dripping toast; potted pork; Henderson’s brine recipe; pig’s tongues, butter beans and green sauce; St John chutney; trotter gear (a sort of rich, jellied pig’s trotter stock); chicken bacon and trotter pie; steamed syrup sponge and custard; pear and sherry trifle; salted chocolate and caramel tart; negroni sorbet; Welsh rarebit; Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese; quail stuffed whole roast pig.

Should I buy it? If you own Nose to Nail or Beyond Nose to Tail, Henderson’s two previous books then the answer is probably no unless you are a Henderson fanatic or completist. The St John style hasn’t really wavered much from the word go, which is sort of the whole point, so The Book of St John doesn’t add much to our sum of knowledge about the restaurant and its food.

You will also find some familiar recipes including Eccles cakes, madeleines, the famous doughnuts and seed cake and a glass of Madeira (all of which were credited to Justin Gellatly when they appeared in the omnibus edition The Complete Nose to Tail. Gellatly was Henderson’s head baker until 2013 when he launched his own London bakery Bread Ahead which sells thousands of doughnuts a day. Gellatly is not mentioned anywhere in The Book of St John). Other previously published recipes include anchovy, little gem and tomato salad; ham and parsley sauce and trotter gear and many familiar ingredients including pickled walnuts, ox tongue, brains and snails.

If you don’t own any Henderson, then The Book of St John is as good a place as any to start. It looks sleek, with its gold-lined pages, the photography by legendary food photographer Jason Lowe is as excellent as you’d expect and there are some nice articles and anecdotes from Henderson and Gulliver dotted throughout the book. On the downside, the index is annoyingly incomplete which makes tracking down one or two of the recipes tricky, but it’s a minor complaint about a very good book.

You might not whip up a plate of grilled ox heart, beetroot and pickled walnut everyday of the week, but The Book of St John may prove invaluable when you’re in the mood for something that but different.

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

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

Cook from this book
Welsh Rarebit 
Grilled lamb hearts, peas and mint
Salted caramel and chocolate tart 

 

The Quality Chop House by William Lander, Daniel Morgenthau and Shaun Searley

Quality chop house

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from a landmark London restaurant that’s been trading in one form or other since 1869.

Who are the authors? William Lander (son of wine writer Jancis Robinson and restaurant critic Nick Lander) and Daniel Morgenthau own the London-based Woodhead Restaurant Group that also includes Portland, Clipstone and Emelia. Shaun Searley is the Quality Chop House’s head chef. He was previously head chef of Bistotheque in East London and worked under chef Peter Weeden at the Paternoster Chophouse.

What does it look like? Hurrah! A restaurant cookbook that actually includes shots of the interior and exterior of the actual flipping restaurant (*deep breath* – a personal bugbear of mine, it’s amazing how often this doesn’t happen). In addition to the deeply appetising food photography (shot with the minimum of fuss with dishes plated on the restaurant’s own beautful antique crockery), there’s a selection of moody black and white images and some location photography featuring the restaurant’s suppliers. The use of coloured backgrounds for some of the text and images including cream, grey, brown and black adds variety to the reading experience and looks sleek and smart.

Is it good bedtime reading? The clue is in the subtitle, ‘Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic’. There’s a foreword from super-fan and Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin, who basically says she’d move into the place if she could, and an introduction, history and day in the life of the restaurant before the main meat of the book. Also included are a few supplier profiles and an article on wine by Gus Gluck who runs the wine bar in the Quality Chop House’s shop, next door to the main restaurant.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? This is definitely the sort of book where you will need access to a decent butcher, fishmonger and deli or online equivalents for many of the main ingredients. We’re talking Mangalitza pork, whole turbot. foie gras, game, gizzards, high quality canned fish and artisan cheeses. The list goes on.

What’s the faff factor? If you cook the recipes as stipulated, you are looking at quite a major investment in time. Take something seemingly as simple as mince on dripping toast. Before you make the mince, you will need dark chicken stock and dark beef stock, both of which require about five and half hours to make and combined need four chicken carcasses, two marrow bones, four beef rib bones, two beef knuckles and a pigs trotter. The signature confit potatoes need to be sliced on a mandoline, tossed in duck fat, then layered and cooked for 3 hours, pressed and chilled overnight, cut into pieces, deep-fried and finished with mustard dressing, which gets its own separate recipe.

How often will I cook from the book? For the most part, this is weekend project cooking territory. That said, there are some more straightforward recipes such as whole roasted cauliflower, roast delicia squash, crispy sage, seeds and oats and burnt leeks vinaigrette that you might knock up during the week, as well as recipes for the sandwiches sold in the Chop House’s shop that will be perfect for lunch any day.

Killer recipes? In addition to those mentioned above, the book is packed full of delicious sounding things, including pastrami cured salmon, corn and marmite butter, truffled potato croquettes and beef fat bread rolls. 

What will I love? You get a very real sense of what the Quality Chop House is all about. If you are already a regular, it will make you want to go back immediately and if you’ve never been you’ll be desperate for a table.

What won’t I like? This is quite a meaty book (again, the clue is in the title), so if you’re trying to eat less of the stuff or are vegetarian or vegan, this isn’t the book for you.

Should I buy it? Keen cooks willing to invest time and some money to create restaurant-quality dishes at home will absolutely devour this book.

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

Buy this book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Welsh Rarebit by Fergus Henderson

Welsh Rarebit - photo credit Jason Lowe

To serve at least 4, depending on the dimensions of your toast

Welsh Rarebit is a noble version of cheesy toast. Everyone loves cheesy toast! Our Rarebit is a proud thing and, if we might say so, extremely popular. So it is odd that Fergus gleaned this recipe from a chef who had previously worked at Buck’s Club, which was well known at the time for selling the worst rarebit in London.*

A knob of butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
A very long splash of Worcestershire sauce, and a bottle to serve 

200ml Guinness

450g mature strong Cheddar cheese, grated
4 pieces of toast

Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, and let this cook together until it smells biscuity but is not browning. Add the mustard powder and cayenne pepper, stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the Guinness, then gently melt in the cheese. When it’s all of one consistency, remove from the heat, pour out into a shallow container, and allow to set.

Take a piece of good white bread and toast on both sides. Allow to cool just a little, then cover one side with the rarebit mixture to about 1cm thick – if you find that it doesn’t spread with ease, press it on with your fingers. Put on a baking sheet and place under the grill until golden and bubbling – grilling to just beyond your comfort threshold, to allow the flour to cook out.

When it comes to eating, irrigation channels are essential: make a gentle criss-cross pattern on your hot rarebit with a knife, creating the perfect flood plain for the Worcestershire sauce.

* There is another thing that we might add, if you are amused by a little mathematics. At St. JOHN Smithfield we sell an average of forty-five Welsh Rarebits per day. Taking into account annual closures, in this, our twenty-fifth year, we will have sold somewhere in the region of 405,000 rarebits. By the time we are thirty we will have surpassed the half-million mark. Onward!

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk) Photography by Jason Lowe

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

St John

Cook more from this book
Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint by Fergus Henderson
Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Fergus Henderson

Read the review 

Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint by Fergus Henderson

Grilled Lamb's Hearts, Peas and Mint - photo credit Jason Lowe

To serve 6, or 3 as a main course, 1 good-sized lamb’s heart will suffice as a starter, 2 each as a main course

Choose your peas wisely and avoid oversized starchy bullets; the smaller and sweeter the better. There is a brief overlap between pea season and grelot season; in this glorious time you would be foolish not to use grelots as delicious substitutes for spring onions.

6 lamb’s hearts, butchered and marinated
(see the book for details)
8 spring onions, trimmed and cleaned
3 heads of little gem lettuce, washed and separated
2 large handfuls of freshly podded peas
A handful of pea shoots per person,
snipped at the stem
A large handful of extra fine capers,
thoroughly drained

For the mint dressing
1 large bunch of mint, picked and
stalks retained
80g demerara sugar
200ml malt or red wine vinegar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

First make the mint dressing. Bash the mint stalks with the back of a knife and place in a small pan with the demerara sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer for just long enough to melt the sugar, then set aside to cool thoroughly and infuse. Once ready, finely chop the mint and strain the cold vinegar over the leaves. Whisk in the olive oil, seasoning to taste.

To cook the lamb’s hearts you will need a cast-iron griddle or barbecue. Your hearts should be room temperature, not fridge cold, and the grill should be ferociously hot. Season boldly and place the hearts on the grill, cook for a minute and a half each side, then set aside to rest. A rare heart is a challenge, so aim instead for a blushing medium within. Now season and grill the spring onions in much the same way, charring with intent.

To serve, slice the hearts into slivers about half the width of your little finger, being careful to retain the delicious juices that are exuded in the resting. Place the little gems, peas, pea shoots and capers in a large bowl, then introduce the heart, resting juices, spring onions and mint dressing. Serve with chilled red wine.
Much like the ox heart on page xxx, this salad is also a noble bun filler.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk) Photography by Jason Lowe

Buy this book 
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

St John

Cook more from this book
Welsh Rarebit by Fergus Henderson
Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Fergus Henderson

Read the review 

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Fergus Henderson

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart - photo credit Jason Lowe

To serve at least 16 – this is a very rich tart, you will not need very much

Here is an expression of the gradual erosion of chocolate. Fergus notes that the increasing challenge of finding a chocolate bar that does not contain salt is an example of a good idea going too far. For years his loyalties have lain solidly with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Bar – affectionately called ‘Fnerr’. But of late, he laments, he has begun to recognise its rough edges. Fergus and Fnerr have parted ways. In spite of (or maybe evidenced by) a little recent saturation, the combination of chocolate, caramel and salt
is still a good idea, and so here is our tart. A very rich tart, you will not need very much.

Base
200g plain flour
45g cocoa powder
7g bicarbonate of soda
180g demerara sugar
25g caster sugar
5g Maldon sea salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g dark chocolate, chopped finely –
the pieces should be smaller than
a chocolate chip

Caramel
225g caster sugar
70g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
80ml double cream

Chocolate filling
500g double cream
40g glucose
400g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
40g butter
Sea salt, for sprinkling
First make the tart case. It is easiest by far to use a machine for this. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, both sugars and the salt, place in a food processor with the butter, and whizz until a loose dough forms. At this point add the chocolate and mix again. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest for half an hour or so.

If you are making the pastry any further in advance, take it out of the fridge in good time – you need the softness of room-temperature dough for it to work. When ready, butter and flour a tart case and roll the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment – the shards of chocolate would tear cling film, but the dough is too sticky to be rolled loose. Line the case with the pastry, rolled to around 4mm thick, line the pastry with foil or cling film, fill with baking beans and bake in a medium oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

When you remove the case from the oven, wait 10 minutes before removing the beans, otherwise the hot, soft pastry may tear. Once you have done so, press the base and sides all over with the back of a spoon while it is still warm – the aim here is to smooth the interior ready for the caramel,  pushing down the inside corners which may have risen and rounded a little in the baking.

Once the case is cool, make your caramel. It is essential to move quickly when the caramel is ready, so ensure that all your ducks are in a row before you start. Place the sugar in a scrupulously dry pan and melt over a medium high heat. Do not stir! Stirring will result in a crystallised disaster. Swirling the pan a little is allowed. By the time the sugar has dissolved you should have a good colour, trusting that it can be quite dark and still be comfortable. Throw the butter in first and follow with the cream, whisk them together quickly and, at the very moment that they are smoothly incorporated, pour it into the case immediately. With speed, pick up your tart case and move it around, tilting it to ensure that the caramel covers the entire base. Leave aside to cool.

Finally, heat the cream with the glucose and take it just shy of a simmer. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and pour the hot cream over the chunks in three stages, stirring gently to incorporate – the first will melt the chocolate, the second will loosen the mixture and the third will make the smooth ganache. Then pour the chocolate mixture into the tart and leave to cool and solidify. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve with crème fraîche.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk) Photography by Jason Lowe

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant
St John

Cook more from this book
Welsh Rarebit by Fergus Henderson
Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint by Fergus Henderson

Read the review 

The Shore by Bruce Rennie

The Shore

I was very honoured to be asked to contribute an introduction, alongside Michelin-starred chefs Nathan Outlaw and Martin Wishart, to The Shore, the first cookbook by Bruce Rennie, chef proprietor of The Shore restaurant in Penzance. Although I do not benefit financially from my association with the book, it has proved impossible for me to write an entirely impartial review of The Shore, not least because I am a fan of Bruce and his cooking and have got to know him through visiting the restaurant and interviewing him. So instead of a review, here is my introduction from the book. I hope it will entice you to pick up a copy of the book, or even better, take a trip to Penzance to try Bruce’s food for yourself.

As soon as I heard about The Shore back in 2015, I knew it was going to be worth the 600-mile round trip from my home in Brighton to eat there. It wasn’t just that the restaurant was in Cornwall, a regular holiday destination for my family for over 25 years, or that I love Cornish seafood. It wasn’t even that the chef had worked in some impressive establishments including the Michelin-starred Restaurant Martin Wishart, one of my favourite places in Edinburgh.

The thing that really told me that The Shore was going to be something special was that it was a one-man operation. Because no one in their right mind runs a restaurant kitchen by themselves. At last count there were roughly a million easier ways to make a living, including being employed by someone else to run a restaurant. So, you only do it if you are driven to it; you have a culinary vision and a need to express yourself through food. In my experience, that always adds up to an exceptional experience for the customer. It was true of Shaun Hill at The Merchant House in Ludlow in the 90’s and early noughties, and its true of Bruce Rennie and The Shore.

From a starter of fillets of John Dory, cooked on the plancha with to-the-second precision and so perfectly triangular they looked like they’d been filleted with a scalpel, to a ‘plinth’ of Blackberry semifreddo with pistachio sponge and apple that was almost architectural in its design (Bruce studied architecture before deciding on a career in the professional kitchen), that first meal at The Shore was faultless. To top it all off, Bruce was not only cooking but helping to serve the food as well, moving nimbly between kitchen and dining room, engaging with the customers while ensuring he was never
away from the stove for too long.

I interviewed Bruce the day after that memorable dinner and discovered that not only can he cook, but also has a talent for storytelling and can talk the hind leg off a donkey. It was only when I found out that he is also very handy when it comes to DIY and carried out the refurbishment on the restaurant and kitchen himself that I began to deeply resent the breadth and depth of his Renaissance-man skills. No one is allowed to be that talented.

I was lucky enough to bag a seat at Bruce’s guest dinner at J Sheekey Atlantic Bar in London in 2018 as part of a series of pop ups to celebrate the restaurant’s 10th anniversary which also included Mark Sargeant of Rocksalt in Folkestone and Simon Hulstone of Michelin starred The Elephant in Torquay. Seemingly unconcerned by the unfamiliar surroundings, Bruce delivered food that was every bit as good as it had been in Cornwall; no mean achievement, and something he’d also pulled off at a guest night at The Gallivant in Rye in 2016.

You might expect someone so obviously focused and determined to be a somewhat straight-backed, tightly wound sort of personality, but Bruce is endearingly eccentric. After a long and very good lunch in London, I said goodbye to Bruce outside the Shepherd Market pub where we’d enjoyed one or two for the road and watched him remove his shoes and socks and walk off barefoot through the crowd (which is also his preferred state of dress for cooking in The Shore kitchen).

The publication of Bruce’s first cookbook means that I can at last attempt to recreate a little bit of The Shore’s seafood sorcery in my own kitchen. In reality, I know I’ll still have to make that 600-mile round trip to taste the real thing, but I also know that it will still be worth it.

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Professional chefs

Buy this book
The Shore
£25, A Way with Media

The Garden Chef with an introduction by Jeremy Fox

The Garden Chef

What’s the USP? The Garden Chef explores the growing (pun intended) worldwide phenomenon of top chefs cultivating their own produce for their restaurants in on-site kitchen gardens. The book includes ‘recipes and stories from plant to plate’.

Who is the author? The book has been created from the contributions of chefs from 40 high-end restaurants around the globe which most notably include Simon Rogan from L’enclume in England, Ben Shewry from Attica in Melbourne, Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Michel and Cesar Troisgros from Trisgros in France. The introduction is by Jeremy Fox of Bridie G’s in Santa Monica who is also the author of the brilliant cookbook On Vegetables, also published by Phaidon and which is cookbookreview.blog five star-reviewed.

What does it look like? Expect a riot of raised beds, a plethora of polytunnels and a great deal of gathering in the fields. The accent is as much on ‘garden’ as it is ‘chef’. The majority of the 80 recipes are illustrated and the food does look great, but it’s rather overshadowed by all the greenery.

Is it good bedtime reading? The chef or chefs of each restaurant (some are run by duos including Michael and Iain Pennington at The Ethicurean just outside Bristol and Gaston Acurio and Juan David Ocampo of Astrid Y Gaston in Lima)  are given a full page to espouse their horticultural and culinary philosophies, earning The Garden Chef space on your bedside table.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ve seen the Indiana Jones movies, right? Unless you cultivate your own incredibly vast and comprehensive kitchen garden, be prepared for an amazing adventure where you’ll raid the lost ark, discover the temple of doom and embark on the last crusade to track down sangre de toro potatoes, kalanchoe blossfeldiana and Mexican pepperleaf, among many, many other obscure ingredients that you definitely won’t find at your local Asda.

What’s the faff factor? These are recipes aimed fair and square at the professional chef community. There are dishes achievable for the home cook, but really they are not the main reason you would buy this book; it exists primarily to document and give a window into a particular aspect of the modern restaurant scene.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? If you are up for attempting them, the recipes are detailed enough to follow to successful completion.

How often will I cook from the book? That depends. How often are you in the mood for something like chef Ana Ros’s ‘Rabbit That Wants to be Mexican Chicken’ where you’ll need to wrap rabbit mousse in whole chicken skins and serve with rabbit sauce flavoured with star anise and chilli, roasted carrots, apricot gel, carrot top pesto and hibiscus flowers?

Killer recipes? Don’t get me wrong, the book is full of delicious things you’ll want to eat like The Quay’s Tennouji white turnip, blue swimmer crab and Jersey Wakefield cabbage with fermented cabbage juice and brown butter dressing, but you’ll probably want to go to the restaurant and try them rather than cook them yourself, even if that does mean flying half-way around the world. Doable recipes include white and green pizza from Roberta’s in Brooklyn and cream of vegetable soup from The Sportsman in Seasalter.

What will I love? If you’ve been looking for inspiration to create your own kitchen garden, be it for your restaurant or your home, then you couldn’t ask for a better book. There are even garden tips and the chefs favourite heritage varieties to give you a kick start, although if you want step by step guidance on how to actually get out there and do it you’ll need to look elsewhere.

What won’t I like? The decision has been taken not to include any images of the interior of any of the restaurants, which gives the book a feeling of incompleteness. This is partly understandable, given that the thrust of the book is on the chef’s activities outside their restaurants rather than in them. However, after reading the book, you might well be interested in planning a visit to one or more of the places included and wonder what you are letting yourself in for. Of course, you can google the restaurant’s website and reviews for images, but that’s sort of beside the point; you can google images of many of the restaurant’s gardens and dishes too if you are minded to.

Should I buy it? It’s a great book but may have niche appeal. If you are a keen gardener or aspire to be one, as well as a foodie, you will dig (pun intended) this book. If you want to know more about an influential trend that is helping to define to the current global high-end restaurant scene, this is also a must-read.

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

Buy this book
The Garden Chef: Recipes and Stories from Plant to Plate
£29.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book

Coming soon