Cookbook review round up Summer 2021

East London Food by Rosie Birkett and Helen Cathcart

East London Food

What’s the USP? A second edition of the best selling guide to the restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries and food shops of East London written by an expert resident.

Who is the author? Rosie Birkett is a food writer with columns in the Sunday Times and Good Food Magazine and the author of A Lot on Her Plate and The Joyful Home Cook. Special mention must go to photographer Helen Cathcart, whose portraits, food and location shots really bring the East London Food world to life.

Why do I need a guide to East London Food? Over the last decade, East London has emerged as the culinary powerhouse of the capital with Michelin-starred restaurants, artisan bakeries and breweries and everything in between.  If you want to expereince some of the best food in the UK, you have to visit East London, and this book is your essential guide.

Can I cook from it though? There’s just a baker’s dozen recipes, the one disappointment of the book. I would have swapped some of the perfunctory one paragraph write ups of some of the included places (most get several well researched and written pages) for more recipes. But you do get things like butternut squash, whipped yoghurt, harissa and crispy sage from Morito in Hackney and Chicken and Girolles Pie from the Marksman pub in Haggerston.

Should I buy it? If you are a restaurant nerd, someone who travels to eat or a Londoner that wants to know more about their cities culinary DNA, it’s a must.

Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
East London Food (Second Edition): The people, the places, the recipes
£30, Hoxton Mini Press

Foolproof BBQ by Genevieve Taylor

Foolproof BBQ Genevieve Taylor

Whats the USP? Barbecue recipes, it’s no more complicated than that.

Who is the author? According to her website, ‘Live fire and BBQ expert, Genevieve Taylor is the author of eleven cookery books including the bestseller, Charred, a complete guide to vegetarian barbecue, The Ultimate Wood-fired Oven Cook book and How to Eat Outside.’ She’s also something of an all-rounder having written books on soup, stew, pie and er, marshmallow (it’s not easy being a food writer, I can tell you. You’ve got to take the gigs when you can get them).

Killer recipes:  Devilled chicken wings with spicy tomato relish; lemon and oregano souvlaki with tzatziki; spicy coconut lamb chops; cajun fish tacos with slaw and line cream.

Should I buy it? If you’re partial to a bit of barbecue and fancy a lively collection of globally inspired skewers, burgers, sandwiches, grilled meats, seafood, vegetables and even desserts, with some delicous sounding sauces, slaws and relishes thrown in for good measure then you won’t go far wrong. Not life changing, but a reliable little volume that will no doubt become a summer regular.

Cuisine: Barbecue
Suitable for:
Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Three stars

Buy this book
Foolproof BBQ: 60 Simple Recipes to Make the Most of Your Barbecue
£12.99, Hardie Grant Quadrille

Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson

Super natural simple

What’s the USP? Its, uh, a vegetarian cookbook. In 2021, that rates of course as one of the rarest of all the USPs. Hardly ever see a vegetarian cookbook. Or a vegan one come to think of it. They should publish more of them. Help save the planet wouldn’t it? This one is for when your pushed for time and need simple recipes with only a few ingredients and you’ve misplaced your phone and can’t get a Deliveroo. You know, those times. Again, not many books with simple recipes for when your hectic life doesn’t allow you to spend too much time in the kitchen. I think the idea could catch on.

Who is the author? I have to admit to being ignorant of Heidi Swanson until this book arrived on my doormat, but she is a big noise in America. Voted one of the 100 greatest home cooks of all time by Epicurious.com (I’m not on that list for some reason and I’m seriously good, so that gives you some indication of the quality of that particualr line up), she’s the author of several other New York Times bestsellers with the words Super Natural in the title. She definately isn’t Alison Roman. Or Deb Perelman.

Killer recipes: Ten ingredient masala chilli;  grilled corn salad with salty-sweet lime dressing; grilled rice triangles; spicy chickpeas with kale and coconut; feisty tofu with broccoli, chilli and nuts.

Should I buy it? Look, there really isn’t such a thing these days as a really bad cookbook; the industry has becme so adept at churning them out that you will get something out of this. It looks pretty good in a bright, modish retro sort of way and there’s enough content to warrant the price (you’ll get it cheap on Amazon anyway). I get the feeling that Swanson’s earlier books might have more about them, but I’ve never read them so I can’t be sure. Fans will be delighted by the book no doubt and probably furious at this review, but, that’s life isn’t it? One thing that might influence your decision is that fact that Swansons website has over 700 recipes for free on it. Something to think about.

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Suitable for:
Beginners/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Three stars

Buy this book
Super Natural Simple: Whole-Food, Vegetarian Recipes for Real Life
£22, Hardie Grant Books

Rice pudding with apple compote and milk jam by Rob Howell

Rice pudding - 227

Muller Rice was a regular treat growing up and I love them to this day – ‘madeleine’ memory flavours are always the best. This is Root’s take on Muller Rice which we serve cold on top of an apple compote. The puddings can be made in advance and will keep very well in the fridge for a good few days along with the milk jam.

SERVES 4

FOR THE APPLE COMPOTE
20g caster sugar
3 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3mm dice

FOR THE MILK JAM
65g caster sugar
280ml whole milk
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

FOR THE RICE PUDDING
100g pudding rice
650ml whole milk
50ml double cream
65g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla seeds (scraped from ½ vanilla pod)
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

First, make the apple compote. Tip the sugar into a medium saucepan and add the sliced cooking apples. Place the pan over a medium heat and allow the apples to break down for about 5 minutes, until soft. Transfer the apple mixture to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Return the purée to the pan and add the diced Granny Smiths. Place the pan over a low heat and cook the sauce for about 2–3 minutes, until the apples have softened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Make the milk jam. Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, for approximately 15–20 minutes until you have a dark brown caramel. Leave to cool. (Any leftovers will store in the fridge for up to 5 days.)

Rinse the pudding rice in a bowl and repeat until the water runs clear. Tip the rice into a large saucepan and add the remaining pudding ingredients. Place over a low heat and cook, stirring well, for 15 minutes, or until the rice is softened but still has a little bite.

Spoon the apple compote equally into the bottom of each bowl. Top with equal amounts of the rice pudding and spoonfuls of milk jam, adding as much as you wish. Serve warm or cold.

Cook more from this book
Buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce by Rob Howell
Roasted carrots with spiced pumpkin seeds, peaches and crème fraîche by Rob Howell

Read the review

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Roasted carrots with spiced pumpkin seeds, peaches and crème fraîche by Rob Howell

Roasted carrots - 133
Carrots simply roasted with honey or agave syrup and some herbs is pretty much carrot heaven. The peaches are a lovely addition, but you could also use apricots, pears or, if you wanted something a little more exotic, kimchi.

SERVES 4

FOR THE SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS
100g pumpkin seeds
1 pinch of paprika
1 pinch of allspice
1 pinch of ground coriander

FOR THE PICKLED CARROT
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly with a mandolin
pickle liquid (see below)

FOR THE ROASTED CARROTS
2 bunches of carrots (about 16 carrots), green tops discarded
6 thyme sprigs
6 rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons runny honey or agave syrup
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
juice of 1 orange
2 peaches, destoned and sliced, to serve
100g crème fraîche, to serve
fennel fronds, torn, to garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the pumpkin seeds. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas Mark 4. Scatter the pumpkin seeds over a baking tray and scatter over the spices. Give it all a shake to combine. Place the tray in the oven and roast the seeds for 10–15 minutes, until they are lightly coloured and nicely toasted. Leave to cool, then transfer to a food processor and blitz to a crumb. Set aside.

Make the pickled carrot. Place the thinly sliced carrot in a bowl and pour over pickle liquid to cover. Set aside.

Increase the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Make the roasted carrots. We don’t peel our carrots, as we feel the softer skin of the variety we use adds to the texture of the dish, but you can peel yours if you prefer. Place the carrots in a baking tray and scatter over the herbs and garlic, and drizzle over the honey or agave and the rapeseed oil. Season well and toss everything together in the tray. Place the tray in the oven and roast the carrots for 15–20 minutes, then add the orange juice to the tray and roast for a further 2 minutes, or until the carrots are tender but retain a good bite (the exact cooking time will depend on the size of your carrots).

Chop the roasted carrots into random sizes and divide them equally among 4 plates. Scatter over the pumpkin-seed crumb, then drizzle over any roasting juices. Add the peach slices and the pickled carrot. Finish with a nice spoonful of crème fraîche and garnish with the fennel fronds.

PICKLE LIQUID
Just like vegetable stock, we keep pickle liquid in the restaurant kitchen at all times ready to go. This is our base pickle recipe. You can tailor the pickle as you wish, adding extra flavourings such as citrus peels, spices or aromatics. Make a large amount to keep in the fridge for use as the occasion demands.

MAKES ABOUT 1 LITRE
600ml white wine vinegar
400ml caster sugar
300ml white wine

Place the ingredients in a saucepan with 300ml of water. Whisk them together and place them over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Leave the liquid to cool, transfer it to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to use.

Cook more from this book
Buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce by Rob Howell
Rice pudding with apple compote and milk jam by Rob Howell

Read the review

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce by Rob Howell

Buttermilk fried celeraic - 27

SERVES 5

Forget fried chicken, this celeriac is all you will need to satisfy your KFC cravings. The sauce is easy to make and demands just a few specialist ingredients, though nothing you can’t find in a large supermarket, and will help transform all sorts of dishes. It also keeps very well.

FOR THE SAUCE
150g gochujang paste
100ml dark soy sauce
50g light brown soft sugar
25ml mirin
75ml rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
50ml sesame oil
50g stem ginger and
1 tablespoon syrup

FOR THE FRIED CELERIAC
1 celeriac
1 litre cooking oil, for frying, plus 1 teaspoon for rubbing the celeriac
200g buttermilk (or oat milk for a vegan version)
dredge (see below)
2 teaspoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
sea salt

For the sauce simply place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little water if needed to reach a nice, saucy consistency. Keep in the fridge in a sealed container until needed.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Rub the celeriac with the teaspoon of oil and then rub over a good amount of sea salt and wrap the celeriac tightly in foil. Cover with a further 4 layers of foil – this helps the celeriac almost steam itself and leaves it with an amazing texture. Bake for about 1½ hours (the exact time will depend on the size of your celeriac), until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Then, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool in the foil for 2 hours or so.

Remove the foil and then, using a knife, remove the celeriac skin, taking as little flesh away as possible. Using your hands, tear the celeriac flesh into small chunks – different sizes is best, so you end up with some nice, small crispy bits alongside some lovely large pieces.

Pour the cooking oil into a deep pan until two-thirds full and heat the oil to 180°C on a cooking thermometer or until a cube of day-old bread turns golden in 60 seconds (or preheat a deep-fat fryer to 180°C).

Get 2 mixing bowls: put the buttermilk (or oat milk) in one of them and the dredge in the other. Using your hands, place the celeriac pieces into the buttermilk or oat milk first, then into the dredge. Make sure the celeriac pieces have a good coating on them. Fry the pieces in batches, for about 3 minutes per batch, until golden and crisp. Set aside each batch to drain on kitchen paper, while you fry the next. Once all the pieces are fried and drained, place them in a clean mixing bowl, season them slightly with salt and coat them in the sauce. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped coriander and toasted sesame seeds.

DREDGE

Our chef Josh Gibbons brought this fantastic recipe with him when he joined us and it’s been used with most things imaginable ever since. In the book I’ve used it with the celeriac dish on page 26 and the chicken recipe on page 210, but don’t stop there and be free to use it as you wish.

400g strong white bread flour or gluten-free flour
40g corn flour
2g baking powder
6g garlic powder
8g onion powder
10g white pepper
6g smoked paprika
5g cayenne pepper
3g ground turmeric

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl, then transfer to an airtight container and store in a dry place. The dredge will keep for 6 months or more.

Cook more from this book
Roasted carrots with spiced pumpkin seeds, peaches and crème fraîche by Rob Howell
Rice pudding with apple compote and milk jam by Rob Howell

Read the review

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Root by Rob Howell

Roots by Rob Howell

What’s the USP? A collection of modern, inventive vegetable-forward, often vegan recipes that also includes seafood and meat dishes. 

Who’s the author? Rob Howell is the head chef of Root, the Bristol restaurant that’s set in a converted shipping container on the city’s Wapping Wharf.  

Is it good bedtime reading? Aside from a brief introductory section that includes a forward from Root’s co-founder Josh Eggleton, an introducton from Howell himself and notes on  seasonality, produce and seasoning, the bulk of the reading material lies in the short but informative recipe introductions. So one more for the kitchen than the nightstand.  

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Salsify is still one vegetable that’s still a little tricky to get hold of, at least in the UK, so crispy frying it and serving it with roasted garlic mayo might take a little bit of effort, similarly kolrhabi for a slaw to accompany grilled flatbreads with babganoush. You’ll need a good cheesemonger for ewe’s curd to add to turnip and apple-filled chicory leaves and a decent deli for smoked rapeseed oil to add to yoghurt to serve with salt-baked beetroot.  You’ll hopefully have a good butcher who will get you ox heart to grill and serve with pickled red cabbage and sweetbreads to glaze with Marmite and maple syrup (God, that sounds good), plus a reliable fishmonger for pretty much everything in the fish chapter. That aside, the recipes include many accessible ingredients.  

What’s the faff factor? This is a book by a chef based on recipes from a small plates restaurant so you won’t be surprised that many dishes require several elements to be prepared and then brought together; easier to do in a professional kitchen compared to a domestic one. Often, you’ll need to put quite a bit of effort into something that will only be big enough to form one course of a meal. Therefore recipes such as oysters two ways (fresh with chilli ginger and gherkin and crispy with tartare sauce) or grilled red mullet with a sauce made from the bones will remain dinner party fodder. However, there are plenty of dishes like chilli and ginger Sharpham Park spelt with chestnut mushrooms or courgette ragu baked in a marrow that are  straightforward and satisfying enough to make a delicious mid-week meal.  

How often will I cook from the book? Although the book probably sits in the hobby/weekend-cooking category, there are dozens of delicious sauces, dressings, dips, relishes, pickles and savoury jams that you’ll want to add to your regular repertoire, as well as simple salads and vegetable courses that could be adapted as side dishes, making it a book that you’ll want to refer to often.    

Killer recipes? Roasted squash with kale pesto, squash barigoule prune puree and Old Winchester;  buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce; crispy potato and cheese terrine; hassleback parsnips with honey-mustard mayonnaise; heritage tomatoes with grilled focaccia, aubergine puree and tomato jam; baked seaweed hake with tikka masala-style sauce and bok choi; chicken schnitzel with garlic, parmesan and fresh anchovies; carrot jam-filled doughnuts with mascarpone vanilla cream. 

What will I love? The ‘larder’ chapter will help modernise your cooking with recipes for trendy items like seaweed vinegar, burnt onion puree, kale pesto and pickled wild garlic capers.  

Should I buy it? Root is bursting with exciting and inspirational ideas that any keen cook will delight in. The accent on vegetables is bang on trend and will help those of us in search of help in cutting down our meat intake.  One of 2021’s essential purchases. 

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars 

Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang

20-02-17 - Crispy King Trumpet Mushrooms - 006
Serves 2

This is my vegan version of a famous Sichuan pork dish, Hui guo rou, where the meat is boiled in an aromatic stock, then sliced and fried until crisp, and finally stir-fried with chilli, fermented salted black beans and a host of Chinese seasonings. Instead of pork, I am using meaty king trumpet mushrooms. This dish is perfect served with jasmine rice.

kcal — 410
carbs — 80.3g
protein — 10.0g
fat — 7.6g

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
300g (10½oz) king trumpet mushrooms, sliced into 1cm (½in) rounds
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 tbsp yellow bean paste
1 tbsp fermented salted black beans, rinsed and crushed
1 spring onion, trimmed and sliced on the angle into julienne strips (optional)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
pinch of golden granulated or caster sugar
pinch of ground white pepper
cooked jasmine rice, to serve (see page 194)

Place a wok over a high heat until smoking, then add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the ginger and cook, tossing, for few seconds, then add the mushrooms. As they start to brown, add the rice wine or sherry, then stir in the chilli bean paste and the yellow bean paste, followed by the fermented salted black beans. Add the spring onions, if using, and stir-fry for less than a minute. Season with the dark soy sauce, tamari or light soy sauce, sugar and ground white pepper and give it all one final toss. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

Cook more from this book
Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang
Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang

Read the review  

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang

Smoked Tofu & Broccoli Korean Ram-don - 029
Serves 4

kcal — 552
carbs — 57.9g
protein — 30.2g
fat — 21.9g

This is inspired by the beef ram-don in the Korean movie Parasite. I wanted to make a vegan version using chunky smoked tofu, mushrooms and long-stem broccoli. The result is a more-ish, umami-rich, addictively spicy noodle dish. To make the dish speedier, I place the aromatics (garlic, ginger, shallots and chilli) in a food processor and then just add them to the wok.

200g (7oz) dried ramen or udon noodles
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
2.5cm (1in) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled
3 shallots
2 red chillies, deseeded
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
200g (7oz) smoked tofu, drained, rinsed in cold water and sliced into 2cm (¾in) cubes
400g (14oz) firm tofu, drained and sliced into 2cm (¾in) cubes
200g (7oz) fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
150g (5½oz) long-stem broccoli, florets sliced lengthwise and stalks sliced into 0.5cm (¼in) rounds
2 tbsp vegetarian mushroom sauce
1 tbsp clear rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced on the angle into 1cm (½in) slices

Noodle seasoning (per bowl)
1 tsp dark soy sauce and Chiu Chow chilli oil
1 tbsp each tahini and sweet chilli sauce
sprinkle of shichimi togarashi pepper flakes

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Rinse under cold water and drain well, then drizzle over the toasted sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside in the colander until needed.

Place the garlic, ginger, shallots and red chillies in a small food processor and blitz to form a paste. Mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp water in a small bowl or cup to make a slurry. Set aside until needed. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the aromatic paste and cook, stirring, for a few seconds until fragrant. Add both kinds of tofu and the mushrooms. Season with the rice wine and dark soy sauce and toss together well for 1–2 minutes until all the ingredients are coated.

Add the broccoli and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Stir in the mushroom sauce, rice vinegar and tamari or light soy sauce. Pour in the cornflour slurry to thicken the cooking juices in the wok, and toss to mix well.

Pour some boiling water over the noodles in the colander to reheat them, then divide them between four bowls.

Place a ladleful of the tofu, mushroom and broccoli mixture on one side of the noodles in each bowl, and top with the sliced spring onion. Dress the noodles by drizzling over the dark soy sauce, Chiu Chow chilli oil, tahini and sweet chilli sauce, followed by a generous sprinkle of shichimi togarashi pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

Cook more from this book
Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang
Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang

Read the review 

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang

Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle - 014

Serves 2

Who doesn’t love sweetcorn soup? This soup brings out my inner child. The chunky sweetcorn kernels are so satisfying, but I like to add shavings of black truffle for a nutty, rich and decadent treat. If you are a die-hard vegan, then omit the truffle. Truffles are a fungus, but sometimes pigs are used to sniff for them. Whether or not you agree with this depends on your own personal stance. Truffle or no truffle, this Chinese-style sweetcorn soup never fails to hit the spot.

kcal — 247
carbs — 32.9g
protein — 6.8g
fat — 10.5g

1 large tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2.5cm (1in) piece of fresh root ginger, grated
340g (12oz) can sweetcorn, drained
100g (3½oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground white pepper
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced into rounds
shavings of black truffle (optional), to garnish

In a small bowl, mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp cold water to form a slurry. Set aside until needed. Heat a wok over a high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, bouillon powder and rice wine or sherry, along with 600ml (20fl oz) water. Bring to the boil, then add the fresh shiitake mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Season with the tamari or light soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, salt and ground white pepper. Pour in the cornflour slurry and stir gently to thicken. Add the spring onions and give the soup one final stir. Divide between two bowls. If using truffles, grate generously over each bowl, then serve immediately.

Cook more from this book
Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang
Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang

Read the review

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Asian Green by Ching-He Huang

Asian Green Ching He Huang

What’s the USP? Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East, or so says the cover. So, quick and simple vegan meals that are drawn from a number of Asian cuisines. 

Who wrote it? Ching-He Huang, who has been pumping out Asian-influenced takes on the cookbook zeitgeist for the last fifteen years or so. In the past this might have meant lining up with the problematic ‘clean eating’ scene, but right now it’s equals a timely and very welcome collection of vegan recipes. 

Is it good bedtime reading? Not really – there are a couple of glances at the impact of Covid-19 and the importance of eating sustainably, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a cookbook without these. Huang’s recipe introductions are short, too, so there isn’t much here that lends itself to a leisurely read. But then, that’s not why this book exists. With each recipe garlanded with nutritional information and a neat infographic demonstrating preparation and cooking times, it’s clear that Huang wanted to create something that will help you make decisions (and meals) quickly and without too much labour. 

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? In keeping with the clean design and nutritional breakdowns, Huang’s recipes are precise without over explaining. She also makes sure to include imperial measurements alongside the metric ones, so your mum can cook along as you knock up some Teriyaki Tempeh with Long-Stem Broccoli. There’s an extensive glossary at the back and also (albeit inexplicably separated from the former) a brief but fantastic UK-to-US glossary that introduced me to the fact that Americans don’t have golden syrup. A stunning revelation. 

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? This is always a risk with Asian cooking. As nice as it is to see fish sauce as standard on the shelf of your local Tesco, it’s fair to say that a lot of the continent’s tastiest condiments are yet to make it there, and are often recreated rather unconvincingly as an own-brand offering when they are – here’s looking at you supermarket gochujang. 

Similarly, vegan options in supermarkets have been enjoying a steady increase over the last few years. If you’d wanted to source yourself some tempeh in 2015 you’d have had to wrestle with some soybeans yourself, but head to a bigger branch nowadays and you might have some luck. 

And so, yes, there are ingredients here that could cause problems to those who aren’t able to access superstores or specialist markets – Chinkiang black vinegar or seitan, for example – but most recipes are wholly accessible, and will only become more so as we seek more sustainable and (perhaps counter-intuitively) more global ways of eating. 

What will I love? There’s absolutely loads of variety here. Huang’s recipes are light and full of colour. There are bold re-imaginings of iconic meat dishes in her Veggie Ants Climbing Trees or the fantastic take on the infamous Ram-don from Parasite, found here having traded in the beef for chunky tofu and mushrooms. Sweetcorn fans, in particular, will have plenty to occupy themselves with; Huang seems to have a thing for it, and I’m in no mood to complain. 

There’s something for everyone, with enough fresh ideas to inject new life into a vegan diet, and plenty of dishes that will tempt those of us looking to cut back on our meat consumption. Dishes are quick to make, and the nutritional information will be incredibly welcome to carb and calorie counters alike. Oh, and there’s a plump little dessert section too, something that is all too often skipped entirely in Asian cookbooks. 

What won’t I love? There’s not much to pick apart here, though it’d have been nice to get more pictures. The photography and food styling is brilliant here but too often dishes are skipped when a visual guide would have been useful. I’m curious about the Five Spice Seitan and Sweetheart Cabbage with Sweetcorn and Chilli, but having read through the recipe a few times I’m still unsure what I’m aiming for, and if it will be a big enough portion, or something better served with a portion of rice. These are small worries though. Small worries for greedy boys like me. 

Killer recipes: Mama Huang’s Onion, Tomato and Enoki Soup; Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle; Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms; Sweetcorn Dad Dan Noodles, Spicy Chilli French Bean Mapo Tofu; Hawaiian Sticky Mushroom and Pineapple Fried Rice. 

Should I buy it? Ching-He Huang has added a genuinely valuable title to the vegan cookbook shelf with Asian Green. It is accessible, simple and offers more variety for home cooks looking to skip the meat. Most importantly, though, it’s absolutely loaded with delicious food. 

Cuisine: Asian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East
£20, Kyle Books

Cook from this book 
Chinese Sweetcorn Soup with Black Truffle by Ching-He Huang
Smoked Tofu and Broccoli Korean- style Ram-don by Ching-He Huang
Spicy Sichuan King Trumpet Mushrooms by Ching-He Huang

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

Spicy roast parsnips with barley, raisins & walnuts by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Spicy roast parsnips

Parsnips are delicious with curry spices, particularly when roasted so that their thin, tapering ends turn delectably sweet and caramelised. Here, spicy roasted parsnips are tumbled with nutty whole grains, raisins and a scattering of walnuts to create a dish with lots of satisfying textures. I like to add some crisp leaves for contrast, too.

Serves 4
150g pearl barley, pearled spelt or whole spelt grain
500g parsnips
2 tbsp curry paste
3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
75g raisins
A bunch of leaves, such as watercress, rocket or flat-leaf parsley
Juice of ½ orange or lemon Sea salt and black pepper

Soak the pearl barley or spelt in cold water for anything from 20 minutes to a couple of hours then drain and rinse well. Put the grain into a saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender. This will take about 20–25 minutes for spelt, more like 35–40 minutes for barley. Drain.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Peel the parsnips and trim the base and tip from each. Cut each parsnip in half lengthways then cut each half from top to bottom into long batons, no more than 2cm at the thick end. Don’t worry if they are  a bit wobbly and uneven – this all adds to their charm!

Put the curry paste and 2 tbsp of the oil into a large bowl and mix together. Add the parsnips with a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper and toss the parsnips in the curry spice so they are all coated – you may find a pastry brush helpful for this.

Scatter the parsnips in a large, shallow roasting tray. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once, until starting to caramelise. Add the chopped walnuts, raisins and cooked spelt or barley to the roasting tray, stir everything together and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly for 5 minutes then toss with the leaves and transfer to a platter or individual plates. Squeeze over a little citrus juice and trickle over a touch more olive oil before serving.

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