Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley

Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley

What’s the USP? Environmentally responsible cooking is ostensibly at the centre of Eat Green – a cookbook that looks to create dishes from sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients. The author, Melissa Hemsley, offers up plenty of recipes, all of which will look loosely familiar to fans of her previous cookbooks as one half of Hemsley + Hemsley.

Hemsley + Hemsley? Weren’t they involved in the whole ‘clean eating’ controversy a few years back? Oh no, the Hemsley sisters were very much not involved in the ‘clean eating’ fad. At least, not if you ask them. Back in 2017 the sisters distanced themselves from the movement, just days before being featured in a BBC Horizon documentary on its dangers. At the time, they argued that the term was poorly defined, and they’d never advocated it directly.

“We’re not interested in making anyone feel fearful of food, scared of food, confused about food. We’re the opposite. We never talk about weight, diets, calorie-counting,” Melissa told the press.

So they weren’t part of the fad? Well, not according to them – but the problem with ill-defined movements is that people don’t always agree on where the border falls. Certainly the Hemsley sisters’ books bore many similarities to other titles circling the movement. Their dishes eschewed gluten, grains and refined sugars. Whether mentioned weight and diets or not, there was always a very distinct sense of virtue to the lifestyle their books represented.

Eat Green doesn’t exactly seem free of preachy virtuosity, as titles go. No, and Melissa Hemsley definitely talks up the importance of sustainable eating. She doesn’t spend much time examining why it’s important – but then, that in itself is refreshing. We know the environment is spiralling out control, and Hemsley’s introduction treats our understanding as a given – as it should be.

The recipes themselves do their best to live up to the challenge the title sets. A chart at the beginning provides a helpful map of seasonal fruit and veg, and there are tips scattered throughout for avoiding waste – a really lovely idea that’s executed nicely. Hemsley also offers up suggestions for locally-sourced alternatives where possible. She ignores miso in favour of British-grown fava bean umami paste – which is a bit more of a mouthful than miso on a couple of fronts. 

So Melissa has moved on from clean eating in favour of something that’s more objectively a good idea? Well, yes and no. The central focus of the book is definitely sustainable, ‘green’ eating. But as far as the recipes go, nothing much has changed at all. Nothing here would have looked particularly out of place in either of the Hemsley + Hemsley books.  The whole collection clings closely to what you’d expect from ‘clean eating’ at every possible opportunity.

How do you mean? The ‘Celebrations’ section of the book features such extravagant dishes as chickpea caprese salad and ‘mushroom mince’ lettuce cups.

Ah, gotcha. In fact, there’s a remarkable lack of excitement and variety to the recipes on display. There are multiple pancake and galette recipes, and at least a dozen salads that look more or less the same in their photos – piles of loose leaves and chickpeas, etc, that you can tell will be fighting to roll off your cutlery every bit as hard as you are fighting to get them in your mouth.

It feels as if Hemsley was so eager to present green eating that she neglected to include any imagination. The goal, though worthy, should allow much more varied and interesting dishes than are on show here. As a guide, Tim Anderson’s Vegan JapanEasy, reviewed earlier this year, was overflowing with hugely exciting and endlessly appetising ideas – even though its remit was much tighter.

Alright, alright. Calm down, you’ll have a seizure. After this and that Gill Meller review last week, I’m getting the idea you might not have much room in your heart for the sustainable cooking movement. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s incredibly obvious that we all need to spend a lot more time thinking about our food habits and doing our best to limit their impact on the world we live in. It’s just…

Yes? Well, why is nobody fun writing a cookbook on sustainable cooking? Why is it always left to people who think a chai parsnip and carrot cake is the best dessert we can manage in our new, environmentally-conscious world?

Killer recipes? The Bubble and Squeak with a Japanese-Inspired Dipping Sauce is a stand-out anomaly, as is the Braised Chicken with Lettuce, Peas and Radish Greens and Mash in a Flash. The one bit of the book that is genuinely brilliant, though, isn’t even a recipe: just before the index Hemsley includes an ‘A-Z of Odds, Ends and Leftovers’ that offers plenty of excellent ideas on how to use those annoying bits and bobs that sit about in the fridge unloved – the tired old fennel, the spare carrot, and so on.

Should I buy it? Look, if you have the Hemsley + Hemsley books, or enjoy any of their contemporaries, you’ll likely get some use out of this too. But this isn’t anywhere close to what I’d call an insightful or particularly useful guide for the average home cook.

Cuisine: English
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: One star

Buy this book
Eat Green: Delicious flexitarian recipes for planet-friendly eating
£22, Ebury Press

Sun and Rain by Ana Roš

9780714879307

Self-taught Slovenian chef Ana Roš highly unusual path to the professional kitchen is set out in the biographical section of this fascinating and visually stunning book. She trained as a professional dancer and was a member of the Yugoslav national ski team before going on to study international science and diplomacy. Her plans for a career in international diplomacy changed when she met her future husband and natural wine expert Valter Kramar. The couple decided to work in Kramar’s family countryside restaurant Hiša Franko in the remote Soča Valley where Roš eventually took over the running of the kitchen. International acclaim followed with Roš taking part in culinary events like Cook IT Raw and being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table documentary series.

Roš‘s lack of any formal culinary training has led to a highly individual style based on the abundant natural larder of the extreme north-west of Slovenia. A community of local foragers, shepherds, cheese makers, hunters and fishermen (some of which are profiled in the book) supply Roš with trout, deer, goats, dairy produce and fruits which she transforms into eye-catchingly plated dishes such as marble trout roe with rosa di Gorizia chicory and yeast; veal consommé, celeriac and young linden leaves, and beeswax peaches and elderflower.

The majestic natural glory of the Soča Valley is well represented in the photography of Suzan Gabrijan who has also captured the rugged elegance of Roš’s food. Even by publisher Phaidon’s consistently high standards, this is an exceptionally beautiful book. Disappointingly, however, apart from two photographs taken in the kitchen, there are no shots of the restaurant interior or exterior which is a puzzling and frustrating omission.  The recipes are hived off into a separate chapter at the end of the book so that it’s necessary to flick back and forth to the images of the finished dishes if you want to understand exactly what you are looking at.  These minor niggles criticisms aside, Sun and Rain is a comprehensive look at the life, culinary philosophy, and cooking of a remarkable figure in the modern culinary scene that will inspire any progressive thinking chef or very keen home cook.

Cuisine: Slovenian/Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

This review was first published in The Caterer

Buy the book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Summer Pear by Ana Roš
Bread by Ana Roš
Goat cottage cheese ravioli by Ana Roš

Penne with artichokes, peppers, spinach and almonds by Ainsley Harriot

088_ainsley_Artichoke_pasta

This pasta dish has a Spanish twist with chargrilled artichokes and roasted red peppers combined with toasted almonds. It’s a delightfully simple and tasty recipe using storecupboard ingredients and great for a mid-week supper. Use the best quality jarred artichokes you can find – the chargrilled ones in oil really do add extra flavour to the dish. If you aren’t following a vegan diet, top with some grated vegetarian hard cheese.

SERVES 4
400g dried penne pasta or other short pasta of choice
1 x 175g jar chargrilled artichoke hearts in olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium–hot red chilli, finely chopped
3 roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced
50g Spanish or Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
35g chopped almonds, lightly toasted
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
100g baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
zest from 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a handful of flaked almonds, lightly toasted, to garnish (optional)

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil, add the penne, stir once, then cook until al dente, according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, strain the olive oil from the jar of artichokes into a large frying pan, then cut the artichoke hearts into quarters and set aside. Set the frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and chilli and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the artichoke hearts to the pan along with the red pepper strips and olives, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook for 2–3 minutes to warm through, then stir through the almonds and a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Cook for 1 minute, then add the spinach to the pan, a handful at a time, and allow to just wilt down.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the vegetables along with 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water, stirring to combine. Add the parsley and lemon zest and check for seasoning.

To serve, share the pasta among warmed pasta bowls, drizzle with a little extra olive oil, if needed, and scatter with the parsley and toasted flaked almonds, if using.

Cook more from this book
Lentil and haloumi bake
Mediterranean sea bass with potato bake

Buy the book
Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook
£20, Ebury Press

Read the review

Lentil and haloumi bake by Ainsely Harriot

067_ainsley_Lentil_Halloumi_Bake

While I was in Corsica, I tried many delicious vegetarian dishes that were simply prepared yet full of flavour from fresh herbs and garlic. Marjoram is a versatile and aromatic herb that works beautifully with vegetables; it’s similar in taste to oregano but with a milder sweeter flavour. This dish is easy to prepare for a mid-week dinner – just toss it all together in the one dish! For a creamy topping, serve with a little Greek yoghurt or hummus. This is great on its own or with my Quick Flatbreads.

SERVES 4

2 courgettes, cut into 2-cm slices
1 red onion, cut into 8 thin wedges
1 medium aubergine, cut into small cubes
2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into chunks
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 tsp fresh marjoram leaves (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
1 x 400g tin lentils, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
250g cherry tomatoes
1 x 250g block halloumi, thickly sliced
zest and juice of ½ lemon
8–10 basil leaves, shredded with a few reserved whole for garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

Put the courgettes, onion, aubergine, red pepper, chilli and garlic into a large, shallow baking dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, season well, then scatter over half of the marjoram and toss together. Roast for 16–18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and toss through the lentils and balsamic vinegar, then stir in the cherry tomatoes and sit the halloumi slices on top. Drizzle with another 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle over the lemon zest and remaining marjoram.

Roast for a further 16–18 minutes until the tomatoes start to blister and release their juices and the halloumi is golden around the edges. If you like, you can brown the halloumi a little more under a hot grill for 1–2 minutes after baking.

To serve, drizzle with a little oil, squeeze over the lemon juice and scatter with the fresh basil.

Cook more from this book
Mediterranean sea bass with potato bake
Penne with artichokes, peppers, spinach and almonds

Buy the book
Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook
£20, Ebury Press

Read the review

Mediterranean sea bass with potato bake by Ainsley Harriot

105_ainsley_Mediterranean_Seabass_Potato_Bake

We ate some beautiful baked fish on our journey around the Mediterranean. One of the most memorable was in Corsica – a whole baked fish served simply on a bed of potatoes and onions. Sometimes, it’s the simplicity of dishes that make them taste so delicious; pared-back cooking really allows the ingredients to shine. This is also great with bream or snapper, or you can bake a whole fish on top of the potatoes for 18–20 minutes instead of using fillets. Try throwing
in some capers, if you fancy.

SERVES 4

4 sea bass fillets, skin on
2 lemons: 1 thinly sliced; 1 for squeezing
4 large waxy potatoes (Désirée work well), peeled and thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
120ml white wine
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Line an ovenproof dish with baking parchment. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and squeeze over a little lemon juice. Set aside.

Layer the potatoes and onions in the bottom of the lined ovenproof dish, season well with salt and black pepper, then add a layer of tomatoes. Sprinkle over the garlic, then place a few lemon slices on top. Drizzle over the oil, squeeze over some more lemon juice and pour in the wine. Add the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and sprinkle over half of the marjoram leaves. Season well with salt and pepper, cover with foil and bake for 25–30 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and lay the fish fillets in the dish skin-side up. Sprinkle with the remaining marjoram and bake uncovered for a further 12–14 minutes or until the fish is cooked through (it should flake easily when cooked).

Use a spatula or fish slice to carefully remove the fish from the dish, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm. Return the vegetables to the oven to bake for a further 4–5 minutes (if needed) until the potatoes turn golden brown in places.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately, scattered with the remaining fresh parsley, with some fresh bread on the side.

Cook more from this book
Lentil and haloumi bake
Penne with artichokes, peppers, spinach and almonds

Buy the book
Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook
£20, Ebury Press

Read the review

Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook

9781529104677

What’s the USP? A diverse collection of recipes from the Mediterranean region, including dishes from Corsica, Sardinia, Morocco and Andalucia. The book also investigates the influence of Jordanian cooking on the food of the Med.  

Who is the author? For British readers of a certain age, Ainsley needs no introduction. He is a beloved broadcaster who has achieved national treasure status. If Ainsley Harriot is an unfamiliar name to you, he is probably best known as the presenter of the hugely popular 90s tea-time cooking challenge show Ready Steady Cook. He is a trained chef (he once headed up the kitchen at the  Long Room of Lord’s Cricket Ground) but also found success in the ’80s and ’90s as a comedy performer in the duo The Calypso Twins. He has presented numerous food-themed  TV series including Ainsley’s Big Cook Out, Gourmet Express and Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook and is the author of 17 cookbooks.

Is it good bedtime reading? With a three page introduction and two pages covering storecupboard essentials, this is not a book that will live much outside of your kitchen. That said, many of the recipe introductions go beyond just offering serving suggestions and substitute ingredients and contain lots of interesting nuggets of information Harriot picked up on his travels. But they add to the enjoyment of cooking from the book rather than making it a book you’d want to sit down and read, other than for the purposes of choosing a dish or writing a shopping list.  

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The book covers an awful lot of culinary ground but this is Ainsley ‘Mr Mainstream’ Harriot we’re talking about so, as you might expect, you’ll encounter very little difficulty getting hold of everything you need from your favourite supermarket including baharat spice blend and pul biber. Most keen cooks will find they already have many of the storecupboard ingredients to hand.

What’s the faff factor? It’s tempting to say the book is faff-free but some of the recipes do require a bit of work. For example, if you want to make cheese and walnut-stuffed aubergines, you’ll need to simmer the aubergines, cool, cut in half, scoop out the flesh, chop it up and mix with bread soaked in milk, grated cheese, chopped garlic, beaten egg, finely chopped walnuts, lemon zest, chilli flakes and herb de Provence, put the mixture in the dried and oiled aubergine skins then fry or bake and finally serve with basil, walnuts and cheese.  But it’s all very far from Michelin starred madness and nothing a keen cook would baulk at. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? There is the odd ‘drizzle’ of oil and ‘handful’ of coriander or spinach leaves (I’d imagine Ainsley’s hands are about twice the size of mine)  but in the main, the recipes are detailed enough for a competent cook to follow.

How often will I cook from the book? You might well find yourself referring to Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook on a weekly basis. As well as the broad geographical scope which keeps things interesting, the book has recipes for everything from delicious lunchtime dishes like herby sesame falafels with hummus to the vegan-friendly Mediterranean stuffed peppers and beef tomatoes.

Killer recipes:  Rachida’s spiced roast cauliflower and chickpea curry; Mediterranean sea bass and potato bake; dukkah crumble fish pie; best-ever beef and red wine stew with olive and thyme dumplings; beef kofta rolls; harissa lemon chicken skewers with glazed aubergines and garlic-mint sauce; orange cardamom panna cotta with spiced mandarins and pistachio crumb.

What will I love? The sunny Mediterranean feel of the dishes and the location photography will lift your spirits and inspired you to cook on even the most miserable of rainy, grey-skyed British summer days.

What won’t I like so much? If you are like me and super sensitive to Jamie Oliver-style recipe titles that give the reader the hard sell, you might bristle at the likes of ‘best-ever beef and red wine stew with olive and thyme dumplings’ or ‘mighty pork and chargrilled pepper sandwich’. Thankfully they are few and far between and don’t spoil what is otherwise a very enjoyable book.

Should I buy it? If you’re looking for an undemanding introduction to the flavours of the Mediterranean that covers what may be some unfamiliar ground in a very accessible way you can’t go far wrong.

Cuisine: Mediterranean
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy the book
Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook
£20, Ebury Press

Cook from this book
Penne with artichokes, peppers, spinach and almonds by Ainsley Harriot
Lentil and haloumi bake by Ainsely Harriot
Mediterranean sea bass with potato bake by Ainsley Harriot

John Burton-Race: The Authorised Biography with Michael Cowton

John Burton Race

Where to start with this odd and badly written biography of the former Michelin-starred chef, minor TV personality and tabloid headline-hogger? Well, how about the time Burton-Race returned drunk from a night out with his then wife Kim to find his stepdaughters Olivia and Eve and Eve’s boyfriend with what Burton-Race thought was drugs on the kitchen table. His response? To go to the utility room and unlock the gun cabinet where he kept ‘a Beretta and a special edition Browning worth £7,500’ and return to the kitchen wielding a shotgun. During a struggle, he knocked Olivia to the floor and hit both her and his wife in the face with the butt of the gun.

That may well be all you need to know about Burton-Race, who you may remember from his 2007 appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, but if for some reason you are still considering parting with £20 for this shoddy, thrown-together book then read on. Cowton has based the above anecdote on an interview given by Kim Burton-Race to the Evening Standard in 2007. Cowton writes that Burton-Race himself, ‘was reluctant to talk about it in any great detail’ and that Cowton feels that ‘the incident does not sit well with John. It is something he would sooner forget.’ That Cowton has allowed him to do so gets to the heart of the book’s problem. You will learn as much, if not more about Burton-Race from Googling a few interviews and articles (this one by Jay Rayner from 2008 is particularly good) as you will from reading this biography.

In the second chapter, Cowton describes his first meeting with the chef which partly helps explain why the book is such a mess. ‘Without any prompting, he launches into a stream of anecdotes with no prior considered response to my first question…I suggest it might be appropriate to begin noting our conversation and he agrees. However, trying to get John Burton-Race to rewind when he is in fast forward is an entirely different matter.’ Cowton goes on to claim that ‘As I grow to know John Burton-Race better, and on a more personal level, I begin to slowly unravel the complexities of the man’. If that’s true, he has failed to document his findings. Instead, the impression Cowton gives is that he has been bamboozled by the mercurial chef and has struggled to make anything substantial from that ‘stream of anecdotes’ which are often banal and lacking in any real detail.

At 264 pages, it’s a relatively short book yet Cowton has still found it necessary to bulk it out by taking some utterly bat-shit tangents including a page on the sexism of 1960s-80s era Savoy hotel head chef Silvetto Trompetto and the subsequent achievements of women in the hospitality industry. It should be noted that Bruton-Race never worked for Trompetto or with any of the women listed by Cowton which include Prue Leith and Eugénie Brazier. And then there are the disproportionately lengthy biographies of chefs Burton-Race has actually either worked for or with including Raymond Blanc, Gary Jones (executive chef of Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons), Martin Blunos and Nigel Marriage which all include details that have no bearing on Burton-Race’s story whatsoever.

However, important incidents go unexplored. Marriage had an unwanted 15 minutes of fame in the mid-90s when he was secretly filmed physically and verbally bullying a junior chef in the kitchens of Burton-Race’s two Michelin starred restaurant L’Ortolan in Berkshire (now under different ownership). The footage featured in an episode of ITVs The Big Story documentary series exposing abuse within the restaurant industry. It was a major scandal at the time which ruined Marriage’s reputation and did no favours at all for Burton-Race who was also filmed verbally abusing the young chef. Cowton offers no new insight from Burton-Race into the incident, quoting only from reports from the time, again failing to add to the sum of biographical knowledge about the chef.

Cowton’s own deathless comment is that, ‘The situation was not helped when the film crew shot John as this opulent bloke driving in his Porsche, so everybody who didn’t have the money for a bicycle suddenly hated him. All the upper-crusties who thought John Burton-Race was politically correct, brilliantly talented and fun to be with suddenly didn’t like him anymore because they felt he had let them down.’ One suspects that those words were actually spoken by Burton-Race himself, as much of the text which is not in quotation marks reads like transcribed interview re-written in the third person. That maybe a valid approach for a biography, but only when properly considered and edited and with sufficient mediated storytelling from the biographer. Unfortunately, time and again, John Burton-Race: The Authorised Biography reads as if it has been banged out in a hurry with the minimum of care and attention.

Given the number of factual errors and spelling mistakes, it’s surprising to discover via Cowton’s acknowledgements that the book actually had an editor. It’s worth noting at this point that Cowton’s other works include books about Level 42, The Pet Shop Boys and a trilogy on Murders That Shocked the World and that, despite claiming to have a ‘passion for gastronomy’ in his Twitter handle, his unfamiliarity with his subject matter is painfully obvious. Chef Gary Hollihead is referred to as Paul Hollihead on two separate occasions, chef Aldo Zilli is called Aldo Zilley and Gidleigh Park hotel becomes Gidley Park.

Every restaurant in New York visited by Burton Race on a trip in 1994 is misnamed. Daniel is Daniels, Le Cirque is La Cirque and, for some reason, Cowton hasn’t even bothered to Google the name of ‘Robert De Niro’s place in the docks’ (it’s Tribeca Bar and Grill, and it’s not in the docks). In one of the worst sentences ever written in the English language, Peter Luger Steakhouse gets rechristened: ‘Mesmerised by the host of influential quarters, he found himself at the hub of a cosmopolitan gem and visited a steakhouse in Brooklyn called Lugeros.’ I’m sorry, he was mesmerised by what, where?

The book is full of puzzling moments. In a bizarre and difficult to follow anecdote that goes precisely nowhere, Cowton confuses rillette (potted pork), with andouillette, a famously pungent sausage made with chitterlings. On page 143 we learn that ‘John met his second wife Kim in 1996 on a Caribbean island’. On page 144, THE VERY NEXT PAGE, Cowton writes, ‘As John was collecting his Catey Award in 1995, the year also saw him betrothed to Kim’. That’s one year before they met in case you’re having trouble keeping up. More troubling is the head scratching revelation that Burton-Race’s mother and father-in-law abandoned him and his younger sister at some point in his childhood (there is no strict chronology in the early part of the book), leaving them alone in a house in Sarisbury Green in Hampshire and moved to Indonesia with ‘no explanation to the children, no heartfelt goodbyes, nothing – just gone, the taxi’s rear lights flickering and gradually fading into the distance’.

According to Cowton, the children were discovered by chance by ‘an uncle’ and then ‘placed with neighbours’. But then, sometime later (weeks, months, years – it’s impossible to tell), Burton-Race’s mother and father-in-law returned to the UK, took up residence for a brief spell and then returned to Indonesia, this time taking Burton-Race and his sister with them. Given that Cowton says that Burton-Race’s ‘earliest childhood memories are a pile of mismatched fragments’, it’s surprising that Cowton appears not to have tried to verify the exact circumstances surrounding what is obviously an important incident in his subject’s life and which he says ‘had devastating results’ and ‘left both children mentally scarred’. Why would the parents not have been arrested for child abandonment on their return to the UK? Why would they have been allowed to take them out of the country after behaving in such an astonishingly irresponsible manner. Why were the children not taken in by relatives and who were those amazingly generous-hearted neighbours?

A little bit of legwork with public records and the local paper’s archive might have provided some answers, but Cowton seems satisfied to leave his readers with more questions about his subject’s life than when they started reading the book. Much easier to devote pages documenting forgettable TV appearances on programmes like Kitchen Criminals and Great British Menu, which can be called up on YouTube, or interviewing easily accessible chefs such as Michel Roux Junior who has never even worked with Burton-Race but has ‘bumped into him several times at events’ and was willing to contribute a quote or two to fill up a bit of space.

It’s also easier to cram the book full of clichés: at various points in the book Burton Race is ‘never lots for words’, has had a ‘long and distinguished career’ is on ‘a single minded mission’ and ‘a relentless search for perfection’ or has ‘ had to manage the cards he’s been dealt’. There’s plenty of meaningless hyperbole too, culminating with the laughably unsupportable assertion that ‘without question [Burton-Race] has worked monumentally hard to achieve and maintain a level of creative genius unparalleled in his time’ (no one mention Ferran Adria or Rene Redzepi or Daniel Humm or…well, you get the picture).

There’s no question that Burton-Race is a complex figure who has led an interesting life and achieved notable success in his chosen field. In more skilled hands, his story could have made for a rattling yarn (albeit with some unsavoury aspects), instead John Burton-Race: The Authorised Biography makes for a deeply unsatisfactory read. If you want to find out about the life of a flawed British Michelin-starred chef then you’d be much better off with Marco Pierre White’s oddly titled but very readable autobiography White Slave.

Due to a litany of bad business moves and ill health (all documented in the book), Burton-Race’s career is currently at something of a low-ebb with his most recent venture in Torquay, that included John Burton Race hotel and Restaurant, folding within less than two years. From his website it appears that he is currently concentrating on consultancy. If this book is an attempt to get him back into the limelight, he may be in for a disappointment as big as anyone foolish enough to buy a copy.

Cookbook Review Rating: One star

Buy the book
John Burton-Race 2020: The Man, The Magic & The Mayhem
£20, Banovallum Books

Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes by Tim Anderson

09.30.19TimVegan_CroquettesPrep_007(Kare¯ Korokke)

Makes 16 croquettes, which is a lot
(enough for 4 servings as a main, 8 as a side), but they freeze well

In Japan, they have something called curry pan, or curry bread, which is essentially an oblong doughnut filled with Japanese curry, so you can have curry in a convenient hand-held format. That recipe is nice, but it’s a bit tricky for a book calledVegan JapanEasy (maybe my next book will be called Vegan Japanslightlymoredifficult), so here’s an alternative: curry croquettes, which are perhaps even better because they’re more crunchy on the outside. Win-win!

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 hot red chilli, finely diced
150 g (5 oz) sweetcorn (from a tin is fine)
2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
salt, to taste
vegan egg replacer, equivalent to 8 eggs, prepared according to the manufacturers’ instructions, or 2 x recipe quantity of Batter for Breadcrumbing (page 46)
about 80 g (3 oz/scant ⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging
about 150 g (5 oz/3½ cups) panko breadcrumbs
about 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) oil, for deep-frying (or less for shallow-frying)

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender, 10–15 minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, saute the onions and chilli in the oil over a medium-high heat until they soften, then add the corn and continue to cook for several minutes until everything starts to brown a bit. Add the spices and cook for another few minutes to make a thick paste, then remove from the heat. Mash the potatoes and stir in the onion-cornspice mixture, and add a generous amount of salt.

When the mash is cool enough to handle, divide itinto 16 equal balls and then squash each ball into a kind of oblong patty shape. Lay the potato patties out on baking sheets lined with foil and transfer to the freezer to firm up for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the egg replacer or batter. Dredge the patties in the flour, then dip in the eggreplacer or batter, and then the panko, ensuring they are all well-coated. At this point the croquettes can be frozen on the baking sheets, or cooked straight away. (The cooking process is the same from frozen or chilled.)

Preheat your oven to 100C (210F/Gas .). Heat the oil in a wide, deep saucepan to 180C (350F). Carefully lower the croquettes into the hot oil, in batches of 4–6, and fry until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a wire rack and keep hot in the oven with the oven door slightly open, until ready to serve.

ALTERNATIVE METHOD
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F/Gas 7). Pour enough oil into a non-stick, flat-bottomed frying pan (skillet) to come up to a depth of 5 mm (. in) and place over a medium-high heat. Carefully lower in the croquettes and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the par-fried croquettes to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the middle of a croquette comes out feeling hot to the touch.

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Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

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Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
French Onion Ramen

Japanese mushroom parcels with garlic and soy sauce by Tim Anderson

05.13.19_VeganJapaneasy_D4_MushParcels_024

SERVES 2 AS A SIDE OR 1 AS A MAIN

I always associate this preparation, or simple variations thereof, with izakaya – the wonderful Japanese drinkeries-cum-eateries where the food is highly varied but always conducive to drinking loads of good sake or beer – typically salty, snacky, shareable, crowd-pleasing dishes with bold but not over-the-top flavours. This is exactly that kind of dish, mushrooms simply steamed in a foil parcel with plenty of garlic and soy sauce – tearing open the foil is like opening a present on a particularly garlicky Christmas morning. It’s lovely on its own but I would strongly recommend enjoying this with sake – nothing too fancy, as the earthier flavours of cheaper sake are perfect for this mushroomy garlic umami funkbomb.

200 g (7 oz) Japanese mushrooms (such as enoki, shimeji (beech), shiitake and eringi (king oyster)– often supermarkets sell an ‘exotic’ mushroom pack containing a few of each of these, which are perfect)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons sake
1½ teaspoons olive oil
3–4 garlic cloves, crushed and thinly sliced
a few grinds of black pepper
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
You will also need some sturdy kitchen foil

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (430°F/Gas 9). Prepare the mushrooms: for enoki or shimeji, cut off their bottoms and break up any large clusters; for shiitake, simply remove the stems; for eringi, cut them into roughly bite-size pieces.

Stir together the soy sauce, sake, olive oil, sliced garlic, black pepper and parsley. Toss the prepared mushrooms with the soy sauce mixture.

Set a wide piece of kitchen foil (about 40 cm/ 16 in long) into a shallow bowl or dish, and place the mushrooms and the sauce into the middle of the foil. Gather up the sides of the foil to cover the mushrooms, crimping them together to form a tight seal. Place the parcel on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Transfer the parcel to a plate, taking care not to tear the foil. Serve with the parcel closed and open it at the table.

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Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

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French Onion Ramen
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson


Vegan Japaneasy

What’s the USP? Full Ronseal vibes here – Vegan JapanEasy is a cookbook filled with easy vegan Japanese recipes. I’m really not sure you need me to tell you that, actually.

Eesh. Sorry I asked. Alright then, who’s the author? Tim Anderson was the youngest winner of Masterchef when he and his Japanese-influenced dishes came out top back in 2011. Since then he’s opened his own restaurant – Nanban – and three vibrant Japanese cookbooks, including 2017’s JapanEasy. This, its vegan spinoff, is his fourth.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s definitely plenty to read in here. Of note are the usual pages detailing Japanese ingredients you’ll want to familiarise yourself with, punched up with useful ideas on each ingredient’s uses outside of Japanese cuisine.

Anderson writes lovingly and respectfully about Japanese culture and cuisine, and his occasional treatises on dashi or Japanese curry roux are always entertaining – as are his recipe introductions, which are occasionally longer than the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson’s whole thing is ease, and sourcing the ingredients is no different. Most ingredients are widely available but at worst will warrant a trip to an Asian supermarket. The recipes generally avoid any mock-meat and non-dairy cheeses as well, opting instead for light, delicious looking vegetable numbers.

What’s the faff factor? Do you really need to ask? Nothing in Vegan JapanEasy should throw the average home cook. That said, some dishes do require a little time or, in the case of the ramen recipes, a glut of ingredients – so not every dish is going to cut it for a weeknight dinner.

Killer recipes Teriyaki-roasted carrots; jackfruit karaage; kimchi miso hotpot; cauliflower katsu curry;  Japanese style celeriac steak; fridge drawer fried rice.

What will I love? Anderson’s non-pretentious approach to cooking means that not only does everything look delicious, it’s also tantalisingly do-able. Dishes like Pesto Udon are so simple, and yet so tempting, that there’s a good chance you won’t eat anything else ever again.

What won’t I love? The only slightly grating factor is Anderson’s fondness for ranking the ease of each dish at the bottom of the recipe. Given that ease is the premise of the entire book, it’s entirely unnecessary and instead ends up as a destination for some fairly poor dad jokes that wear thin pretty quickly: “the only cult I’d join is the Not Diffi Cult, and this recipe would be our Kool-Aid”

Should I buy it? In short, yes. Anderson’s book is as practical and imaginative as any other Japanese cookbook on the market. In fact, even as a meat-eater, Vegan JapanEasy has a more appealing range of recipes than the original carnivore-friendly JapanEasy title.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Brighton-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes
French Onion Ramen