Larder by Robin Gill

9781472948540 (4)

What’s the USP? An urban update on traditional larder-driven cooking based around fermentation, curing, pickling, flavoured butters and oils, stocks, sauces and seasonings.

Who’s the author? Irish-born, London-based chef Robin Gill has revitalized the capital’s dining scene with his distinctive take on top drawer cooking set in casual surroundings at The Diary, Counter Culture and Sorella, all in Clapham.

What does it look like? There’s a distinctly rustic feel to the whole thing with matt finish pages, pictures of Gill on the farm, by the shore or posing with a brace of rabbits and food plated on vintage or earthenware crockery. I wouldn’t want to utter that overused and lazy term ‘hipster’, but you get the idea.

Is it good bedtime reading? Although first and foremost a recipe book, there is plenty of food writing to enjoy in the form of substantial recipe introductions, producer profiles and general musings on cooking techniques and ingredients. The autobiographical introduction provides a fascinating, and at times troubling, look behind the scenes of the restaurant industry.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  Cod collars, pig’s head, buffalo milk, Baron Bigod cheese, chardonnay vinegar, espelette pepper and dried wakame mean that you’ll have to look further than your local Tesco for many of the recipes.

What’s the faff factor? Don’t be fooled by the rustic vibe; Gill has worked in some very serious kitchens and although the food is presented in a naturalist way, there’s often lots of work gone into making it all look laid back and simple.

How often will I cook from the book? Because many of the dishes rely on larder recipes (the hint’s in the title) some of which take days, weeks, months or even a year before they are ready, this is more a culinary philosophy that you need to buy into than recipe a book that you can easily dip in and out of.

Killer recipes?  Galician octopus with summer vegetables and nduja brioche; belted Galloway onglet, piatone beans, young garlic and hay; game faggots, celeriac, toasted hazelnuts; white peach with almond skin ice cream, elderflower jelly.

What will I love? The extended larder section provides a real insight into Gill’s style of cooking so you get a real sense of what makes his restaurants so different and special. There is also an excellent selection of inventive cocktails including Panic! At The Pisco made with pisco, white vermouth and rhubarb puree and even a recipe for homemade pumpkin beer.

What won’t I like? The lack of quick and easy dishes. But there’s more than enough of those sort of books knocking about already if that’s more your thing.

Should I buy it? If you want to learn the techniques behind contemporary British restaurant cooking and employ them in your own home (or your own gaff if you’re a chef) this is an essential purchase.

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Professional chefs and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book 
Larder: From pantry to plate – delicious recipes for your table
£26, Absolute Press

Cook from this book
Loch Duart Salmon Oyster Emulsion, Fennel, Fried Wakame by Robin Gill
Smoked beetroot tartare Cacklebean egg yolk, hazelnut by Robin Gill
Salted Caramel Cacao, Malt Ice Cream by Robin Gill

Out of My Tree by Daniel Clifford

Out of my tree cover idea Daniels Head.indd

What’s the USP? Two decades worth of recipes and stories that chart the evolution of the iconic two Michelin-starred Cambridge restaurant Midsummer House and its chef/patron Daniel Clifford.

Who’s the author? Daniel Clifford is one of the most revered, respected and, at times, controversial chefs working in the UK today. In addition to those Michelin gongs, he also holds five AA rosettes, the title of AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year 2015 and 8 out of 10 in the Good Food Guide. In short, he’s premier league.

What does it look like? A million dollars. Clifford’s food is very photogenic and has been allowed to speak for itself. Many of the dishes appear to be ‘plated’ directly onto the white of the page, a la Michel Bras’s 2002 book Essential Cuisine, which gives the intricate presentations room to breathe. The exemplary food photography is supplement by ‘family album’ snapshots in the autobiographical sections, bringing personality to the book and breaking up all the glossy perfection with a dose of behind the scenes realism.

Is it good bedtime reading? Clifford is brutally honest in the fascinating autobiographical passages that begin each chapter, both about the industry and his personal life, making Out of My Tree as much of a page-turning blockbuster as it is a document of modern British haute cuisine. Expect to be up to the early hours finishing it.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There’s a fair few specialist items such as gelepressa (a thickening agent) that you’d need to hunt down online, and if you want to emulate Clifford’s food you’ll need to source the highest quality raw ingredients you can lay your hands on, so forget the supermarket for the most part and think top notch butchers, fishmongers and your best local independent market for fruit and veg.

What’s the faff factor? This is unashamedly Michelin food, so the recipes are often long with numerous elements and many ingredients and replicating them will be demanding, requiring intricate and precise cooking.

How often will I cook from the book? On very special occasions or simply when the urge to spend a whole weekend (and a whole weeks wages on ingredients) hits you. For the home cook, it’s probably best to see this book as a source of inspiration from which you can cherry pick a sauce here and a vegetable preperation there rather than tackling entire dishes.

Killer recipes? We could be here all day. One of the many wonderful things about Out of My Tree is the warts and all approach. Of course there are the many triumphs; the insanely complicated Chicken, Sweetcorn, Truffle and Peas that won Clifford four perfect 10s on the Great British Menu and includes ballotine of chicken lined with spinach, stuffed with steamed truffled egg white and sweetcorn jelly (to resemble an egg), wrapped in potato string and deep fried. But there are also some embarrassing also rans such as parfait of banana, chocolate and a palm tree-shaped coconut tuile from 1998 (all the recipes are dated) that looks like it might have come straight from a TGI Fridays menu. Clifford has also included recipes for his mums egg sandwiches (served for staff lunch every Friday at the restaurant) and his nan’s cheese scones which he put on the menu when she came to eat at Midsummer House. Cute.

What will I love? Clifford and his publisher deserve a standing ovation for the obvious effort put into this book. A reported three years have gone into its production and it shows from the perfect food (as someone who has been involved in the making of a cookbook, trust me that getting 140 dishes of this degree of complexity to look immaculate on the page takes some doing) to the extensive biography and numerous extras like interviews with past employees and the string of forewords by Sat Bains, Tom Kerridge, Claude Bosi and others. Little details like illustrating the stock recipes with photos of how the finished product should look like elevate the book above the norm.

What won’t I like? This is unashamedly Michelin-starred, fine-dining, testosterone fueled stuff which may not appeal to every reader.

Should I buy it? Out of My Tree is the new White Heat, a once in a generation book. Clifford has put his heart and soul onto every page, making it the culinary equivalent of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. Any chef that aspires to Michelin glory and wants to know what that really takes will want it on their shelf and every chef that has achieved that status it will want to share in Clifford’s journey.  Enthusiastic diners will find the book truly eye opening. If you’re a chef, don’t just buy it, send Clifford an email to thank him for writing it; there is much hard-won wisdom generously shared in these 400-odd pages that, read carefully, might just save you years of grief.

Cuisine: Progressive British
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 stars

Buy this book 
Out of my tree (Midsummer House)
£45 Meze

Salted Caramel Cacao, Malt Ice Cream by Robin Gill

Salted Caramel - 0181One of the first dishes to be created at The Dairy, this recipe has been improved and enhanced by the quality of the chocolate we now use and the addition of a special malt we buy from a local brewery. A well-known chef said this about the dessert: ‘I would run completely naked across the Common just to have that again.’ If you are left with any excess truffles, they can be stored in the freezer and served as petits fours.

Serves 6–8

Chocolate Truffles

50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
100ml double cream
250g 72% dark chocolate buttons (or chopped dark chocolate)
40g cacao nibs
a pinch of Maldon sea salt
cocoa powder, for dusting

Put the butter in a pan over a high heat and cook until it starts to foam and brown and has a nutty aroma. Stir in the cream, then bring just to the boil.

Pour this mixture over the chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment. Whisk on a low speed until the chocolate has fully melted. Turn up the mixer speed gradually until the mixture begins to whip. When it is light and aerated, add the cacao nibs and salt, and mix on a high speed briefly to incorporate.

Transfer the mixture to a disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Pipe into lengths (1.5cm in diameter) on greaseproof paper. Freeze before roughly cutting into pieces (about 1.5cm long). Dust with cocoa powder. Keep in the freezer until required.

Chocolate Soil

250g ground almonds
150g demerara sugar
150g buckwheat flour
80g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
140g unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and mix to combine.

Spread the mixture on a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Salted Caramel

300g caster sugar
7.5g trimoline
75g unsalted butter, diced
300ml double cream
100g 66% dark chocolate buttons (or chopped dark chocolate)
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

Place the sugar and trimoline in a pan. Add a little water to make a ‘wet sand’ consistency. Set over a high heat to melt the sugar, then boil until the syrup reaches a dark caramel stage (165–175°C). Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a third at a time. Continue whisking until smooth.

In a separate pan, warm the cream until it just reaches boiling point. Pour over the chocolate in a bowl and whisk until smooth and glossy.

Pour the cream/chocolate mixture into the butter caramel and whisk together until smooth. Add the Maldon salt and mix through.

Chocolate Tuile

50g liquid glucose
50ml double cream
125g unsalted butter
155g caster sugar
¾ teaspoon pectin powder
175g cacao nibs

Put the glucose, cream, butter and 150g of the sugar in a pan and melt together. Mix the pectin with the remaining sugar and add to the pan. Boil the mixture until it reaches 107°C. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool down to at least 45°C before folding through the cacao nibs.

Roll out the mixture between sheets of greaseproof paper as thinly as possible. Freeze and keep in the freezer until ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place the frozen tuile sheet (still with greaseproof paper top and bottom) on a large baking tray and set a large wire rack over the top to hold down the edges of the greaseproof paper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tuile is set and doesn’t appear to be liquid when the tray is gently knocked. Allow to cool before breaking into shards. Store in an airtight container.

Malt Ice Cream

375ml double cream
375ml whole milk
35g milk powder
25g trimoline
1 teaspoon Stab 2000 (ice cream stabiliser)
75g malt extract
90g pasteurised egg yolks
65g caster sugar

Put the cream, milk, milk powder, trimoline, Stab and malt extract in a pan. Whisk together and bring to the boil. In a large bowl, mix together the yolks and sugar. Pour a third of the hot mixture over the yolks and sugar and whisk together. Add this to the rest of the hot mixture in the pan and whisk in. Heat until the temperature of the mixture is 85°C.

Pass through a chinois or very fine sieve into a deep tray set over ice to cool the mixture quickly. Once cool, churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in the freezer.

Assembly

Spoon some of the salted caramel over the bottom of each plate. Sprinkle with a few truffles and scatter over chocolate soil. Add a couple of quenelles of ice cream to each plate and finish with a few tuile shards.

Extract taken from Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Cook more recipes from this book:
Loch Duart Salmon Oyster Emulsion, Fennel, Fried Wakame by Robin Gill
Smoked beetroot tartare Cacklebean egg yolk, hazelnut by Robin Gill

Buy this book
Larder: From pantry to plate – delicious recipes for your table

Loch Duart Salmon Oyster Emulsion, Fennel, Fried Wakame by Robin Gill

Photographer Paul Winch-FurnessThe oyster emulsion here is an absolute winner. It’s also amazing served as a dip with some oysters in tempura or with a beef tartare. The way the salmon is cooked is a trick I picked up from Raymond Blanc. I’ll never forget tasting it for the first time. It simply blew my mind and taught me to understand the nature of cooking fish. You will often hear chefs say that it takes great skill to cook fish. I slightly disagree. I believe it just requires an understanding. Fish is delicate and in most cases should never be cooked at too high a temperature, otherwise the fish tenses up and an unpleasant white protein appears, which for me is an alarm bell screaming that I have overcooked the fish.

Serves 4

Oyster Emulsion

100g banana shallots, sliced
200ml dry white wine
130g freshly shucked rock oysters (juice reserved)
150ml grapeseed oil
5 sorrel leaves
1 tablespoon crème fraîche

Put the shallots into a saucepan and pour over the white wine. Place on a medium to low heat and boil until all the wine has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Tip the shallot mixture and oysters into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. While blending, gradually add the oil to make a mayonnaise consistency. Add the sorrel leaves and blend through, then blend in some of the reserved oyster juice to loosen the mixture. Stir in the crème fraîche. Keep the emulsion in the fridge until ready to serve.

Fried Wakame

200ml vegetable oil, for frying
50g dried wakame

Heat the oil in a deep pan to 160°C. Fry the wakame for 1½ minutes or until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Assembly

250g Cured Salmon (see Larder)
8 slices Fennel Kimchi (see Larder)
dill fronds
fennel fronds

Portion the salmon into four pieces. Place a spoon of oyster emulsion on each plate and add a piece of salmon to the side. Arrange the fennel kimchi and fried wakame around the fish. Garnish with dill and fennel.

Extract taken from Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Cook more recipes from this book:
Smoked beetroot tartare Cacklebean egg yolk, hazelnut by Robin Gill
Salted Caramel Cacao, Malt Ice Cream by Robin Gill

Buy this book
Larder: From pantry to plate – delicious recipes for your table

At My Table by Nigella Lawson

Nigella At My Table

What is it? TV tie-in to Nigella’s latest BBC TV cookery show with about 100 recipes celebrating home cooking.

Nigella who? You’re kidding, right? Nigella is the famously sultry queen of British food writing and broadcasting who could sexualise a sultana at 100 paces. She has ten other books to her name including How To Be a Domestic Goddess, numerous TV shows and appearances and a hugely popular website.

In 2013, she transcended foodie-fame to became tabloid fodder due to a messy divorce from former ad-man and art gallery owner Charles Saatchi. In the same year, revelations were made about her drug use during a court case involving the couple’s personal assistants.

What does it look like? A cook book. There are recipes. There are (mostly) overhead shots of the dishes to illustrate the recipes. The food styling is kept to an absolute minimum and anyone hoping for images of all those gorgeous rose-gold utensils, copper KitchenAid stand mixer, or indeed Nigella in her now-famous map-of-Venice silk dressing gown from the TV series will be sorely disappointed.

Is it good bedtime reading?  Sort of. This is first and foremost a recipe book but Nigella has such a distinctive and well developed writing voice that the extended introductions are just a joy to read at any time.

Killer recipes?  Coconut shrimp with turmeric yoghurt; Turkish eggs; toasted Brie, Parma ham and fig sandwich; sweet potato tacos; white miso hummus; roast loin of salmon with Aleppo pepper and fennel seeds; Chicken barley (the list goes on).

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?  You may need to head online for Nigella’s favourite ingredient du jour, Aleppo pepper, but the book seems to be designed with the supermarket shopper in mind.

What’s the faff factor?  Nigella doesn’t understand the meaning of the word. She is faff antimatter that annihilates the very idea of unnecessary arsing about in the kitchen. If she can make something simple and easy, she will.

How often will I cook from the book?  At My Table is a book you could turn to for mid-week meal inspiration, a weekend baking session, special occasion dining or when entertaining friends. So if you like Nigella’s style, you won’t be leaving her on the shelf.

What will I love?  The sheer range of the recipes, from simple tray bakes with familiar, comforting ingredients and flavours like chicken and peas to more exotic creations such as Moroccan vegetable pot and brussels sprouts with preserved lemon and pomegranate. ‘Subverting the spiralizer’ cocks a well deserved snook at the clean eating brigade by re-purposing the movement’s emblematic gadget to make down and dirty shoestring fries.

Nigella is always reliable when it comes to desserts and baking and At My Table doesn’t disappoint with the likes of sunken chocolate amaretto cake and warm blondie pudding. She knows her booze too and negroni sbagliato made with prosecco, Campari and red vermouth is destined to become the drink of the chattering classes, and just anyone who buys the book.

What won’t I like?  Some may object to Nigella’s shortcut style (‘better behaved cooks would tell you to skim off the frothy bits that rise to the top but, frankly, I’m to lazy to’ she admits in the method for her chicken barley stew) but we know what we think of those people don’t we?

Should I buy it? Despite the almost utilitarian design, you should welcome Nigella to your table. You won’t regret it.

Cuisine: British/Eclectic
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking
£26, Chatto and Windus

Hook Line Sinker by Galton Blackiston

Hook Line Sinker

The silver-edged pages of Hook Line Sinker glint in the light, like the skin of the fresh sea bass featured on the cover of this strikingly designed book – it’s even wrapped in a transparent PVC dust jacket. It looks just as good on the inside too (not surprising; it’s from the company that published Sat Bains’s sumptuous Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian) with bold typography and images of not just the food but also the Norfolk coast that is the book’s inspiration.

Galton Blackiston is ideally qualified to write a seafood cookbook.  A keen fisherman from childhood, he’s been chef patron of Michelin-starred Morston Hall for 25 years where seafood is an important part of the menu, and more recently opened No 1, a modern fish and chip restaurant in Cromer.

Blackiston’s approach to seafood is simple; ‘it has to be fresh, needs to be cooked with precision, and there’s little room for error. You just need to have a good seafood supplier and cook it well’. He’s applied a similar ethos to compiling the recipes, not attempting to write a definitive seafood guide, simply gathering some of his favourite restaurant dishes from over the years that also work for the home cook.

Although there is a chapter dedicated to main courses, Blackiston eschews the traditional starter category (there’s no desserts, no one wants a fishy pudding after all), instead organising the remaining recipes into ‘quick and easy’, ‘small plates’, ‘stress free’ and ‘spicy seafood’ allowing readers to dip in according to mood and time available.

The thorny, complex issue of sustainability isn’t addressed (a bluefin tuna dish is included, a fish that has suffered from plummeting stocks) and the recipes stick to better-known varieties like salmon, prawns, scallops and crab. But the dishes are nevertheless delicious, ranging from a classic fillet of sea trout with samphire and beurre blanc to lager, soy and ginger-fried whitebait with wasabi aioli.

What comes across loud and clear from this collection is that Blackiston has a singular culinary mind; yes, he’s included crowd pleasers like salt and pepper squid, but dishes like crab jelly with pea panna cotta set the inventive tone. Hook Line Sinker has been 25 years in the making. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait a quarter of a century for the follow up.

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine

Cuisine: Modern European
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Hook Line Sinker: A Seafood Cookbook
£25 Face Publications

Mexican rice pudding with honeycomb Rick Stein

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I like the way that in Mexico the rice for rice pudding is first cooked in water. Even though the cooked rice is then mixed with milk and condensed milk, the rice still tastes clean and not claggy. This is common everywhere, but I once had a rice pudding with a sprinkling of honeycomb on the top which I found particularly satisfying. I also like the typically Mexican flavouring of cinnamon and vanilla.

Serves 6-8

225g short-grain
(pudding) rice
5cm cinnamon stick
550ml whole milk
250ml condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the honeycomb
10g butter
75g golden syrup
200g caster sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

To serve
½ tsp ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
2 ripe mangoes, peeled,stoned and cut into slivers

Make the honeycomb first. Grease a baking tray with the butter and set it aside. Put the golden syrup and caster sugar in a large saucepan and let it dissolve over a low heat until you can’t see the sugar crystals. Turn up the heat and cook until the mixture is a deep caramel colour. Turn off the heat and immediately add the bicarbonate of soda. Stir to mix well while it bubbles and foams, then pour the mixture on to the greased baking tray and leave it to cool for 1–1½ hours. Break it into shards and store in an airtight container between sheets of baking parchment for up to a week.

Put the rice in a sieve, wash it well under cold running water, then drain. Tip the rice into a saucepan, add the cinnamon stick and 700ml of water, then bring to the boil. Cover the pan, turn the heat down and cook slowly for 10–15 minutes until the rice is tender. Most of the water should have been absorbed, but if not drain it away and discard. Remove the cinnamon stick. Add the milk and condensed milk to the pan with the rice and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook gently for 5–7 minutes until the rice is fairly
thick and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to stand for 5 minutes.

Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with ground cinnamon, shards of honeycomb and slivers of mango. If you’re serving the pudding hot, the honeycomb will melt into the rice very quickly, so it’s better to offer it separately at the table.