River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray

River Cafe 30

River Cafe 30 commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of one of the most influential restaurants in London. Before Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray opened what was a nine table lunchtime-only canteen for the architects and designers who work in the converted Thames Wharf warehouse in Hammersmith that houses the restaurant, there were only fake trattorias serving generic Italian fare. The River Cafe introduced the notion of regional Italian cooking to the UK; of new season’s olive oil, cavalo nero, Tuscan bread soups, hand made pasta and the infamous flour-less Chocolate Nemesis cake, a recipe that no home cook it seemed could master, me included.

Taken purely as a collection of recipes, there is much to recommend River Cafe 30. This is simple, delicious, ingredient-led food requiring, in most cases, minimal skill from the home cook. If you can’t afford the premier league Italian produce that the restaurant’s reputation stands and falls by, then you’ll still derive a huge amount of pleasure from knocking up dishes like linguine with crab; spinach and ricotta gnocchi and pork cooked in milk. The ‘salsa’ chapter alone could transform your repertoire with killer sauces like bagnet made with capers, anchovies, bread, parsley, garlic, eggs, vinegar and oil.

However, this is not a book for the faint of wallet. The basic pasta recipe requires 13 eggs and that chocolate cake, one of a number of recipes recycled from the restaurant’s famous ‘blue’ cookbook from 1995, calls for well over half a kilo of ‘best quality’ dark chocolate. Follow River Cafe 30 to the letter and you’ll be bankrupt and homeless, although you will have a bit of extra fat to live off before you have to sell your extra virgin olive-oiled body to the night.

River Cafe 30 is a beautiful object with a vivid colour scheme inspired by the restaurant’s bright pink wood-fired oven, yellow pass and blue carpet. There are reproductions of menus drawn or painted on by artist fans that include Cy Twombly, Peter Doig, Damien Hirst and Michael Craig Martin along with evocative black and white photography depicting life in River Cafe’s open kitchen (one of the first in the country) and a moving tribute to the late Rose Gray by Ruth Rogers.

But where is the celebration of the countless chefs that have passed through The River Cafe’s kitchen? Not one word about Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall or Theo Randall, to name but three of the most high profile alumni. Three decades of culinary history are condensed into two brief pages of text plus some architectural drawings, a sample of one of the first menus and an article published in the New Yorker magazine in 1996.

Recipe introductions are sparse with little information about why dishes have been singled out for inclusion, their regional derivation or how they fit into the restaurant’s history. There isn’t even so much as a hint of how to use all those salsas.

Despite high production values, there is more than a whiff of cash-in about River Cafe 30. No doubt it will sell by the bucket load, especially to special occasion diners in search of a memento (River Cafe remains an exceptional place in which to eat your tea), but I can’t help but feel that this is a missed opportunity to properly celebrate one of Britain’s true culinary landmarks.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 3 stars

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River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray
Food Photography by Matthew Donaldson
£28 Ebury Press

Cook from this book
Mezze paccheri, black pepper and langoustine
Risotto al Amarone di Valpolicella
Veal shin slow cooked with Barolo and sage

Veal shin slow cooked with Barolo and sage by Ruth Rogers

veal shin with barolo and sage
Veal shin photographed by Matthew Donaldson

The longer this cooks the better – in the River Cafe we often serve this simply with bruschetta.

Serves 6-8

2 veal shins,  about  1.5kg each,  trimmed of excess fat extra virgin olive oil
a bunch  of fresh  sage leaves
4 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bottle  Barolo
250g peeled plum tomatoes from a jar, drained  of their juices

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Heat an ovenproof pot or flameproof casserole (that has a lid) over a high heat. Meanwhile, season the shins generously with sea salt and black pepper. Carefully add 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the shins to the hot pot and fry until golden brown all over, turning the shins every few minutes.

Add the sage leaves, bay leaves and garlic. Sizzle for a few seconds, then pour
in the wine. Arrange the shins so the exposed bone side is facing down. Add the tomatoes, broken up a little. Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and then the lid. Transfer the pot to the oven.

After 1 hour, turn the shins over and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C. Cover the pot again and cook for a further 2 hours, basting the shins with the roasting liquid a couple of times to keep the meat moist. The veal shins are ready when the meat threatens to fall away from the bone. Serve with the marrow from the bone and some of the roasting liquid.

Extracted from
River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray
£28 Ebury Press

Cook more from this book
Mezze paccheri, black pepper and langoustine
Risotto al Amarone di Valpolicella

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Risotto al Amarone di Valpolicella by Ruth Rogers

risotto amarone di valpolicella
Risotto photographed by Matthew Donaldson

300ml Chicken Stock
150g unsalted butter, softened
1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
1 head celery, washed and finely chopped
300g risotto rice
750ml Amarone di Valpolicella wine
150g Parmesan, freshly grated a little double cream (optional)
sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Heat the Chicken Stock and check for seasoning. Melt two-thirds of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and gently fry the onion and celery for about 20 minutes or until light brown. Add the rice and stir to coat with butter.

Increase the heat and gradually pour in 500ml of the wine, slowly letting the wine be absorbed by the rice. Then add the hot stock, ladle by ladle, stirring all the time and only adding more stock when the rice has absorbed the previous addition.

When all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is almost cooked, gradually add the remaining wine, stirring. The rice will have taken on the colour of the wine.

Add half the Parmesan and the remaining butter or a little cream and season, taking care not to overstir. Serve with the rest of the Parmesan and a drizzle of cream on top, if using.

Extracted from
River Cafe 30 by River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray
£28 Ebury Press

Cook more from this book
Mezze paccheri, black pepper and langoustine
Veal shin slow cooked with Barolo and sage

Read the review

Mezze paccheri, black pepper and langoustine by Ruth Rogers

mezze paccheri langoustine
Mezze paccheri, black pepper and langoustine photographed by Matthew Donaldson

In a world of rules, including the seminal one that you must never  put cheese on a fish pasta,  this eccentric recipe combining Pecorino and langoustines commits the cardinal sin. It is incredibly delicious and proves that rules are made to be broken.

Serves 6

600g mezze paccheri
60g unsalted butter
150g Pecorino, freshly grated, plus extra for grating on top
360g medium langoustines (4–5 langoustines per person), cooked and peeled
about 20g coarsely ground black pepper

Cook the mezze paccheri pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. When draining the pasta, reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce.  Melt the butter with the Pecorino in a separate large pan over a low heat,  using some of the reserved pasta water to create a sauce.

Cut the langoustines into pieces and add to the Pecorino sauce with black pepper to taste. Add the hot cooked pasta and mix until you have a glossy  sauce coating the pasta, adding more  reserved pasta water if needed.

Extracted from
River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray
£28 Ebury Press

Cook more from this book
Risotto al Amarone di Valpolicella
Veal shin slow cooked with Barolo and sage

Read the review

Warm chocolate mousse by Stephen Harris

161 warm mousse.jpg
Warm chocolate mousse photographed by Toby Glanville

I had always wanted to serve a warm mousse, and I found further inspiration for the idea back in 2005, when I was flicking through the elBulli cookbook one day. In my version, I began by spooning salted caramel into a coupe glass, then topped it, elBulli-style, with foaming warm chocolate from an iSi whipper. Because
I always like to serve contrasting tastes, the dark chocolate demanded a milky flavoured ice cream. I put a scoop on top and it slowly sank into the warm mousse as it arrived at the table. This was perfect: both delicious and theatrical.

Serves 6-8

Caramel
175 ml/ oz (¾ cup) double (heavy) cream
125 g/4 oz (2⁄3 cup) caster (super fine) sugar
sea salt

Milk sorbet
500 ml/17 oz (generous 2 cups) double (heavy) cream
700 ml/24 oz (scant 3 cups) full-fat (whole) milk
400 ml/14 oz (1 2⁄3 cups) Sugar Syrup [pp. 241]
1 teaspoon rosewater

Chocolate mousse 
225 ml/8 oz (1 cup) double (heavy) cream
380 g/13 oz 70% chocolate, roughly chopped
225 g/8 oz (1 cup) egg whites

Start by making the caramel. Heat the cream to just below boiling, then remove from the heat. In another pan, heat the sugar until it melts and turns dark brown. Take off the heat and pour in the hot cream. Be careful as it may spit. Return to the heat and warm gently to ensure the caramel is completely dissolved. Allow to cool then cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

For the milk sorbet, combine all the ingredients in a blender and blitz at high speed. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes. Pour into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

To make the chocolate mousse, heat the cream in a pan until it starts to simmer. Add the chocolate to the hot cream, take off the heat and whisk gently to amalgamate. Add the egg whites to the chocolate cream mixture and whisk by hand again to incorporate.

Pour into an iSi whipper and t with two N20 cream chargers. Sit in a 65oC/150oF water bath for 1 hour before using, shaking every now and then to equalise the temperature.

We serve this dessert in glass ice cream coupes. Start by putting a tablespoon of caramel in the bottom of each coupe and add a pinch of salt. Shake the iSi whipper, lower the nozzle to just above the caramel and squirt in the chocolate mousse, keeping the nozzle beneath the mousse as it emerges. Fill to 2 cm/ inch below the top of the coupe. Leave for 1 minute, then carefully sit a scoop of sorbet on top. It will stay in place for a few minutes before slowly slipping in, so serve it straight away.

Sugar syrup
Makes 350 ml/12 fl oz (1½ cups)

200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) water
200 g/7 oz (1 cup caster (superfine) sugar

Combine the water and sugar in a pan and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Extracted from The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29.95 Phaidon
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Salmagundi
Slip sole in seaweed butter

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Read an interview with Stephen Harris

Slip sole in seaweed butter by Stephen Harris

105 slip sole.jpg
Slip sole photographed by Toby Glanville

I liked the idea of serving the fish alone on a plate. It was a statement of intent. And it was provocative – I knew I would get people saying it needs some vegetables or potatoes. But I disagreed, people just needed to concentrate on the fish, reunited with seaweed on a plate with the help of a bit of butter.

Serves 4

Oil, for greasing
4 x 250 g/9 oz slip soles, skinned and heads removed
8 x 15 g/ ½ oz discs Seaweed Butter [see below]
sea salt

When ready to cook, preheat an overhead grill (broiler) and arrange the slip soles on an oiled and lightly seasoned griddle pan. Cut thin slices of the seaweed butter and arrange a couple of slices on each fish. Place under the grill for 3–4 minutes. Baste at least once to ensure each fish is completely covered with the butter. You should see some signs of shrinkage at the bones.

Remove the fish from the grill (broiler) and leave to finish cooking on the hot pan for a further 3–4 minutes. Season very lightly and serve straight away.

Seaweed butter
This is the amount of butter we make at the restaurant. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week and freezes very well, but you can also scale down the recipe to your needs.

Makes about 1.5kg/ 3 lb 5 oz

100 g/3½ oz fresh gutweed or sea lettuce (enough for 20 g/ ¾ oz dried seaweed)
2.5 kg/ 5 lb 8 oz (10 cups) crème fraiche, chilled
22.5 g/ ¾ oz (4½ teaspoons) sea salt

After gathering the seaweed, wash it very carefully and then dehydrate for 3 hours at 80oC/175oF. Check carefully for any shells or foreign objects, then put into a food processor and pulse to small, rough flakes. Store in an air-tight container.

Put the bowl of a stand mixer into the refrigerator to chill. Put the cream or crème fraîche into the cold bowl and beat at high speed with the paddle attachment. After about 5 minutes the cream will really stiffen up and you will hear a splashing sound as the buttermilk separates out from the buttermilk.

At this stage I turn down the speed and cover the bowl loosely to prevent liquid spraying everywhere. Continue beating until the buttermilk and butterfat separate completely. Be patient as it may take another 5 minutes or so.

Turn off the machine and strain off the buttermilk. Rinse under cold running water and strain again. With the machine on its lowest setting, mix in the salt and dried seaweed until fully incorporated.

Knead the butter between two pieces of wax (greaseproof) paper to squeeze out the last of the buttermilk. Finally, shape into a cylinder or a round pat, wrap in wax (greaseproof) paper and store in the refrigerator.

Extracted from The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29.95 Phaidon
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Salmagundi
Warm chocolate mousse

Read the review

Read an interview with Stephen Harris

Salmagundi by Stephen Harris

191 salmagundi.jpg
Salmagundi photographed by Toby Glanville

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a salmagundi. I love the word itself – it’s the seventeenth century name for an English mixed salad – and of course I’m very keen on dishes that are truly seasonal, as it means I can focus my efforts on selecting produce at its very best, ideally straight from my own garden, instead of having to source ingredients from a supplier, which might not be up to the same standard.

Back in the early days of The Sportsman, while I was still dreaming of the perfect salmagundi, I visited Michel Bras’ restaurant in the Aubrac plateau of France. One of his most famous dishes is the gargouillou – a salad that contains up to twenty different vegetables, all prepared separately. The waiter explained that the name comes from a traditional peasant soup, which can contain many different ingredients, depending on the season. I knew immediately that this would be the blueprint and inspiration for my own Sportsman salmagundi.

Back in the restaurant kitchen I gathered together as many ingredients from the restaurant kitchen garden as I could find, all in their prime. It was early July, which meant I was spoilt for choice: there were baby peas, broad beans, French beans, courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes and many other things, as well. And then it was a question of playing around with bits and bobs from the different sections of the kitchen. I selected some vegetable purées, a handful of fresh herbs and flowers, crunchy soda breadcrumbs, a buttery sauce, and I started to have some fun!

I began by decorating the plate with some artful smears of purée and topped them with a cooked baby carrot and a few cubes of roasted summer squash. Next, I flavoured the buttery liaison with a pinch of curry powder and warmed through my freshly picked vegetables: my aim was to maintain their intrinsic ‘snappiness’ – they didn’t need to be cooked, just barely warmed through – and I wanted their sweetness to be enhanced by the earthy flavour of the curry. I arranged a poached egg on the plate, spooned over the warm vegetables and finished the dish with some leaves and flowers and a scattering of breadcrumbs, to represent soil from the garden. The end result was a visual delight, as well as being utterly delicious.

The joy of a dish such as this is the way it can be adapted to what’s best during each season. Summer’s glut provides a bounty, of course, but in the winter it works just as brilliantly with root vegetables and a smoked egg yolk. I thought about writing a recipe for this, but in the end, realised that it would be impossible. The best version will come from using this as a rough guide to create your own version from what you have available.

Extracted from The Sportsman by Stephen Harris
£29.95 Phaidon
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Cook more from this book
Slip sole in seaweed butter
Warm chocolate mousse

Read the review

Read an interview with Stephen Harris