Banana, chocolate and hazelnut muffins by Jane Dunn

085_JP_BananaChocHazelMuffins

Makes: 12
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Lasts: 2–3 days, at room temperature

3 overripe medium bananas, mashed
200g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
50ml sunflower or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
275g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
200g chocolate hazelnut spread

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan and get your muffin cases ready – I like to use tulip-style muffin cases. Put the mashed bananas, soft light brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla extract into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the self-raising flour and salt and mix again until just combined – make sure you don’t overmix. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin cases; they should be about three-quarters full. Melt the chocolate hazelnut spread slightly in the microwave until smooth and add a teaspoonful to each muffin. Use a skewer to swirl this in slightly. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they are baked through and springy to touch.

CUSTOMISE:
If you want these muffins to be extra chocolatey, you can add up to 175g chocolate chips into the mix, after you add the self-raising flour and salt. The chocolate hazelnut spread can be left out if you just want banana muffins – or you can spread some more on top after baking if you want an extra chocolate hazelnut boost! Use caster sugar instead of the soft light brown sugar if you want a lighter flavour. Baking with overripe bananas is the best – it means they don’t go to waste, and you get something delicious out of it. The bananas create a yummy flavour, as well as making part of the best muffin batter – so when you mix this with a bit of chocolate hazelnut spread, you have a winner. These muffins are always a hit, whether it’s for breakfast, a dessert or just because you fancy something sweet!

Cook more from this book
Salted caramel-stuffed NYC cookies by Jane Dunn
Chocolate Cherry Babka by Jane Dunn

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press

Chocolate Cherry Babka by Jane Dunn

113_JP_ChocCherryBabka

Babka has always fascinated me as it’s just so beautiful to look at – just look at the swirls and patterns in the bake! It’s deceptively easy to make, and always has absolutely winning results. This one is Black Forestinspired with the chocolate filling and cherries, but you can easily chop and change it. It’s 100 per cent worth the proving time – so much so that you’ll want to experiment and make it over and over again!

Makes: 8
Prep: 3–4 hours
Prove: 1½ hours
Bake: 50–60 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Lasts: 2–3 days, at room temperature
150g strong white bread flour,
plus extra for dusting
150g plain flour
25g caster sugar
7g dried yeast
75g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
125ml full-fat milk
1 egg

FILLING:
40g unsalted butter, plus extra
for greasing
40g soft light brown sugar
75g dark chocolate, chopped
25g cocoa powder
200g pitted cherries, halved

GLAZE:
50g caster sugar
50ml water

Sift both flours into a large bowl, add the caster sugar and dried yeast and mix together. Rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gently heat the milk in a small pan until warm but not piping hot – it should just be starting to steam. Mix the warm milk and egg into the dry ingredients. Knead the dough together for 7 minutes; it will be sticky at first, but it will soon come together. Once kneaded, it should be springy to touch, and not sticky. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the top of the bowl with clingfilm and let the dough rise
for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the butter and soft light brown sugar in a pan and stir until melted. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Stir until the chocolate has melted and mixture is combined – it might look grainy, but that is fine.

Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and roll out to a rectangle about 40 x 30cm. Gently brush the surface with the chocolate filling, then sprinkle over the cherries.

Roll the dough up quite tightly from long side to long side until it is a long sausage shape. Carefully cut the dough lengthways down the middle. Twist the two halves around each other until fully twisted into a sort of two-strand plait. Place the twisted dough into a lightly buttered 900g loaf tin, making sure the dough is level and not sticking up at the sides. Cover the tin loosely with clingfilm and leave the babka to rise for another 30 minutes or so. Towards the end of this second prove, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.

Bake for 50–60 minutes until golden brown. Cool the babka
in the tin for at least 10 minutes, and then carefully remove and cool fully on a wire rack while you make the glaze. Heat the caster sugar and water in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave the mixture to cool slightly and brush over the babka.

CUSTOMISE:
The cherries can be left out for a chocolate babka – or you can flavour the filling with the zest of 1 large orange, 1 tsp peppermint extract or 1 tsp coffee extract. You can also flavour the dough with the flavourings above. If you want an extra kick, you can
swap the fresh cherries for cherries soaked in kirsch out of a jar!

Cook more from this book
Salted caramel-stuffed NYC cookies by Jane Dunn
Banana, chocolate and hazelnut muffins by Jane Dunn

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press


Jane’s Patisserie by Jane Dunn

Janes Patisserie

What’s the USP? It’s a baking cookbook from an influencer. Does that count as a USP? It doesn’t feel like it should count as a USP. The cookbook world seems to have almost as many influencers as it does TV chefs these days, and it’s easy to be cynical the moment you see Zoë Sugg’s name on the cover of something. But in a world of rushed out books cashing in on popular Insta accounts and fair-to-decent runs on Great British Bake Off, perhaps we can identify the real unexpected USP of Jane’s Patisserie: it’s actually really quite good.

Who wrote it? Jane, of course. More specifically, Jane Dunn, who launched her blog in 2014 while she was training at cookery school. She’s since grown a formidable following – Ebury’s press release is filled with large follower counts for the blog, her Instagram and her Facebook. The visual vibes the book gives off fit this audience neatly – bright and perfectly composed pictures of elaborate cakes that seem custom made to attract a quick double tap in-app.

Is it good bedtime reading? The big cliché about recipe blogs is well known: each recipe is preceded by acres of SEO-friendly storytelling about how much the author loves autumn, or the wonderful time they had at the local farmer’s market. Jane can be a little guilty of this on her blog, where you’ll have to scroll through an obscene amount of near identical photos of her Peanut Butter NYC Cookies before you can actually discover how to make them – but not so here. A short paragraph precedes each recipe, and then it’s all business.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Not even remotely. In fact, this is where Jane’s Patisserie really shines. Recipes and ingredient lists alike are separated into different sections for each element of the bake, and there are frequently bonus sections featuring technical tips or ideas for customisation.

What’s the faff factor? Baking always has at least a medium faff level, doesn’t it? But Jane’s clear instructions, and the useful guide to how long each recipe will take means that home cooks can dive into any bake in the book with confidence that there’ll be no little surprises along the way.

How often will I cook from the book? More than you really should, most likely. Baking books are the most dangerous breed of cookbooks, because if you really connect with the full range of recipes within, you’re essentially just committing yourself to consuming several dozen kilograms of sugar. And Jane’s Patisserie is overloaded with tempting, simple treats that would send a dietician into a shame spiral just by looking at them. There’s a whole section dedicated to cheesecakes, for a start – and themes often reappear elsewhere in the book. Chocolate Cheesecake Doughnuts, for example, or Cheesecake Truffles, or Chocolate Cheesecake Crêpes. You will cook from this book regularly, right up until the moment you keel over.

What will I love? The little touches throughout – the fact that each recipe comes with every bit of information you might need, right down to how long the dish will last once you’ve made it, and how it should be stored.

What won’t I love? It’s a small qualm, but if you’re feeling cynical you may tire of the relentless cheeriness of the book’s tone. The only acid in this book comes from the fruit in your tarts and babkas.

Killer recipes: Red Velvet Cheesecake, Cookies & Cream Drip Cake, Banoffee Cupcakes, Chocolate Raspberry Rolls, Sticky Toffee Brownies, Key Lime Pie, Malt Chocolate Fudge

Should I buy it? Jane’s Patisserie is an instantly accessible and incredibly practical book – an ideal starting place for young chefs or those who are new to baking. The treats aren’t exactly subtle – Jane’s is a high-street patisserie serving bold flavours, rather than a subtle Parisian shop selling delicate bites and viennoiseries. But there’s scarcely a recipe in the book that you couldn’t guiltily consume single-handedly if left alone with it. It leaves the reader wishing that more cookbooks were put together with this much care and attention to detail.

Cuisine: British/American
Suitable for: Beginner cooks and beyond
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Buy this book
Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats
£20, Ebury Press

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

Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

1419_AbsolutePress_Ben_Tish_Sicilia_2020-09-14_Peter_Moffat
Unlike similar puddings that use flours for thickening, this very simple posset-style pudding really showcases the zingy, fragrant flavour of the lemons. The mix of cream and mascarpone is not only rich and indulgent, but fresh too. Unwaxed lemons will give the best flavour. I like to make this in the early winter months when Sicilian and Amalfi lemons are bursting into season.

Mulberries aren’t as common in the UK as they are in Europe but if you can find them, perhaps in a Middle Eastern supermarket or a specialist fruiterer, they are utterly delicious. They resemble an elongated blackberry with denser flesh and a singular sweet-sour aromatic flavour. Blackberries will make a very good alternative.

Serves 4

For the lemon cream
2 large unwaxed lemons with unsprayed leaves
150g caster sugar
150ml double cream
300g mascarpone

For the berries
250g mulberries or blackberries
150ml good red wine
60g golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon honey

Zest the lemons and squeeze the juice; you need 80ml juice. Put the lemon zest and 80ml juice in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

In a separate pan, heat the cream and mascarpone over a medium-low heat, bringing just to a simmer – do not let it boil (otherwise it may separate). Remove from the heat, add the lemon mixture and whisk. Cool slightly, then strain through a fine sieve into bowls. Cool completely, then leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours or until firm and chilled.

While the lemon cream is chilling, prepare the stewed berries. Place the fruit in a saucepan, just cover with water and add the wine, sugar and honey. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruits are very tender but still holding their shape. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruits from the liquid to cool. Boil the remaining liquid until syrupy. Let this cool, then pour over the berries. Chill.

To serve, spoon some of the berries on to each cream. Delicious with biscotti.

Cook more from this book
Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish
Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish

4_Aeolianstyle_Summer_Salad
This dish is all about the tomatoes. It’s hard to perfectly replicate a delicious, fresh salad from Sicily’s Aeolian islands when in the UK, yet we produce many delicious varieties of tomatoes that will stand up well in comparison. I’d use a plum vine or a Bull’s Heart tomato – ensure they are ripe, but not over ripe.  I like to use a sweet-sour grape must (saba) for the dressing, which is smoother and fruitier than a vinegar, but an aged balsamic will also do nicely.

Serves 4

10 medium-sized, medium-ripe, sweet red tomatoes (vine-ripened are best), sliced into rounds
2 tablespoons plump capers
2 handfuls of pitted green olives
2 tropea onions or small red onions, finely sliced
6 anchovies in oil, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
10 basil leaves, torn

For the vinaigrette
2 tablespoons saba (grape must) or balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the grape must and extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.

To assemble the salad, carefully arrange the tomato slices on a serving plate and sprinkle over the capers, olives, onions, anchovies and herbs. Season well, then drizzle over the vinaigrette.

Leave the salad for 5 minutes, so all the flavours come together, before serving.

Cook more from this book
Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish
Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish

1419_AbsolutePress_Ben_Tish_Sicilia_2020-09-14_Peter_Moffat
Pasta alla Norma has become the unofficial signature dish of Sicily. Originally created in the city of Catania around the same time as Vincenzo Bellini’s romantic opera ‘Norma’, it is said that the pasta was created as a homage to the composer and to the opera. Another story tells of a talented home cook who served her creation to a group of gourmands and was duly christened at the table via the classic Sicilian compliment of Chista e na vera Norma (‘this is a real Norma’). Whatever the truth, the dish became an instant classic and its fame spread around the world.

Serves 4

2 firm aubergines, trimmed and cut into 2cm dice
150ml extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
a good handful of basil leaves
800g quality canned chopped tomatoes or passata
400g dried rigatoni
200g ricotta salata cheese, grated
sea salt

Put the diced aubergines in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Leave to drain for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature, around 250°C/230°C fan/Gas Mark 10.

Rinse the aubergine in cold water and pat dry with a kitchen towel, then toss in a bowl with half the oil. Spread out on a baking tray, place in the oven and cook for 15–20 minutes or until caramelised, turning occasionally to make sure the pieces don’t dry out.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add half the basil and the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat and cook gently for 23–30 minutes or until thickened (the exact time will depend on your canned tomato brand).

When the sauce is almost ready, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions to al dente. Add the aubergine to the sauce. Drain the pasta (reserving a little of the cooking water) and toss in the sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add some cooking water to loosen.

Divide among the plates and sprinkle with the ricotta and remaining basil leaves, roughly torn over the top. It’s best to allow this to cool slightly before eating.

Cook more from this book
Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish
Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Herb by Mark Diacono

Herb Mark Diacono

What’s the USP? Your first port of call for anything and everything to do with herbs – from the garden to the kitchen, Herb takes you through every practical question you might have. It also offers a wealth of herb-led recipes to try for yourself.

Who wrote it? Mark Diacono, who has form in exploding a single concept into a deeply useful and entertaining cookbook. His previous title, Sour, won plenty of awards for its exploration of fermentation, flavour and, presumably, Haribo Tangfastics. Herb follows much the same idea, and offers not only straightforward recipes but also an education that will allow the home cook to better utilise our leafy green friends in all their forms.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s absolutely loads to dive into here – the first ninety pages or so are filled with Diacono’s readable prose, which combines practical ideas with personal experience. A sprawling section details a good number of the big hitters on the herb scene, as well as several more niche options that are close to Diacono’s heart (sweet cicely, scented geraniums). This chapter is worth the price of entry in itself, offering growing and harvesting advice, and a wealth of suggestions for flavour pairings.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The majority of the book is given over to recipes, each built around the herb – though thankfully using them not as a focal point, but for their collaborative flavour boosting properties. Though Diacono writes with a loose and informal manner to his recipes, they are simple and clear, and a delight to follow.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? This will depend very much on where you are sourcing your herbs from. The idea, of course, is to grow a good deal of them yourself, and to cook seasonally in order to make the most of what’s available. If you rely on supermarkets and other food retailers, you may struggle to dig up the more obscure or seasonal herbs here. I’ve not been able to find fresh curry leaves for months now, so as delicious as the Curry Leaf Kedgeree looks, I’ll have to wait a little longer to try it for myself.

How often will I cook from the book? In theory, there’s nothing to stop Herb from being a book pulled out regularly for a weeknight dinner. Dishes like Mackerel with Raisins, Orange and Picada might look restaurant-ready, but could be pulled together over a rather leisurely half hour. Every dish here looks like it would comfortably hold its own on a dinner party table, too.

What will I love? The range of dishes is excellent – there’s a wide spectrum of national cuisines represented, tasty offerings for meat-eaters and vegans alike, and a heftier dessert section than one might expect for a book dedicated to leafy herbs.

What won’t I love? The bouncer at the door, as Diacono refers to himself on a page dedicated to explaining his decisions regarding the inclusion of certain herbs and the exclusion of others. This means that there’s no room for specialised details on the likes of herby seeds, garlic, or other herb-adjacent properties. It also means readers looking for the author’s least favourite herbs will be out of luck. There’s nothing here for fans of lemon balm (“for people who dislike themselves enough not to grow lemon verbena”). But this is a small complaint – the main bases are very much covered, and by sticking to personal preferences Diacono is able to focus on what he knows and loves best.

Killer recipes: Crab and Chervil Linguine, Lamb Dhansak, Green Seasoning Lamb Rundown, Mole Verde, Tarragon and Olive Oil Ice Cream, Thyme and Parsley Honey Bread and Butter Pudding

Should I buy it? An excellent point of reference for anyone seeking to better exploit the rich and flavourful world of herbs, Mark Diacono’s book will prove an indispensable and oft-visited entry on your cookbook shelves.

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

Buy the book
Herb: A Cook’s Companion
£26, Quadrille Publishing

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

Outdoor Cooking by Tom Kerridge

Tom Kerrige Outdoor Cooking

What’s the USP? They say it’s the ‘ultimate modern barbecue bible’. We say, steady on there old chap, it’s a nice book of barbecue recipes including marinades, sauces, ribs, steaks, joints, fish, skewers, wraps, burgers, subs and salads from a well known chef. That’s enough isn’t it?

Who wrote it? Chef Tom Kerridge has become known for his dramatic weight loss and series of diet-friendly TV shows and books including Dopamine Diet, Lose Weight and Get Fit, and Lose Weight For Good. His real claim to fame however is as proprietor of The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the only two Michelin starred restaurant in the world. He also runs The CoachThe Shed and The Butcher’s Tap in Marlow, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London and The Bull and Bear in Manchester. He is also the founder of the Pub in the Park, a touring food and music festival. Earlier in his career, he worked for such British restaurant luminaries as Gary Rhodes and Stephen Bull in London and David Adlard in Norwich.

Is it good bedtime reading? Well, sort of. There’s a breezy 10 page introduction where Kerridge reminisces about a aubergine he once ate at 3am in Singapore and talks about how we all used to drag woolly mammoths back to our camps back in the day, which is, uh, well it’s certainly something. He also urges his readers to ‘enjoy the process’ of barbecuing which is difficult to argue with, and shares his barbecue tips which include ‘anything goes’, ‘just go for it’ and ‘relax’. Thanks for that Tom.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You might need to go to a fishmonger for prawns, squid and scallops that are worth your time barbecuing and a butcher for pheasant, but let’s be honest, you are never going to drag the barbecue out in game season are you? Other than that, there is very little that you won’t be able to find in Asda. They’ve even got gochujang paste for the butter that accompanies Kerridge’s beer can chicken (there is some controversy over this method of cooking, just give it a Google. Kerridge does not address this in the book.)

What’s the faff factor? Let’s set aside the hassle of setting up the barbecue in the first place; if you’ve bought a barbecue book, you must have factored that in already.  There are a few recipes like a seafood platter that’s served with three different flavoured butters that are a bit of work, or a Fennel and ‘Nduja Spiced Porchetta that requires some advanced planning and a bit of skill to execute, but one thing’s for sure, this is Kerridge in approachable mainstream media chef mode rather than a delve into his two Michelin-starred repertoire, you’ll need The Hand and Flowers cookbook for that. For the most part, you’ll find thankfully short ingredient lists and encouragingly straightforward methods.

What will I love? I’m not sure that Outdoor Cooking is the sort of book you fall in love with, but it’s colourful, easy to read and to use. With a little bit of thought and adaptation of the cooking methods (you can figure out how to cook a meatball without resorting to a Kamado Joe can’t you?) you could prepare many of the recipes without going within 10 foot of a barbecue, which may appeal to BBQ-refusing readers (like me.)

What won’t I love?
In no sense whatsoever is this anything like approaching an ‘ultimate bible’. What even is an ‘ultimate bible’ other than the worst sort of marketing BS? It’s a cookbook with some recipes.  It’s a good cookbook with some very nice recipes (see below) but it’s not biblical in either proportion, at just 240 pages, or in scope or in ambition. There are just three pages in total on equipment and barbecue cooking technique for example. In a page of thanks at the back of the book, Kerridge marvels that, ‘What we have managed to create in such a short space of time is heroic’ and that he is ‘a fan of not overthinking books’. To be honest, we can tell. There is a feeling of Outdoor Cooking having been put together in fairly short order, but because Kerridge and Absolute are ‘ultimate’ professions, they can get away with it, just about.

Killer recipes: Squid and chorizo skewers; glazed pork skewers with pickle mooli; barbecued chicken BLT; smoky pastrami burgers; pork ribs with yellow barbecue sauce; spicy pork burgers with romanesco salsa.

Should I buy it? If you are a casual barbecue cook who is looking to go beyond their usual repertoire of bangers and burgers, this book will provide plenty of globetrotting inspiration.

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

Buy this book
Tom Kerridge’s Outdoor Cooking: The ultimate modern barbecue bible
£22, Bloomsbury Absolute

monk by Yoshihiro Imai

monk Light and Shadow on the Philosopher's Path by Yoshihiro Imai

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from monk in Kyoto, a 14 seat restaurant located on the philosophers path on the outskirts of the city where locally sourced ingredients are cooked with fire and the signature dish is, surprisingly, pizza.

Who wrote it? Yoshihiro Imai is the chef and owner of monk. Born in the small village of Mito-city, 60 miles northeast of Tokyo, Imai studied sociology at university, but an interest in baking bread and a stint working in a mountain resort hotel in Karuizawa lead Imai to take a job as a chef at enboca, a nearby pizza restaurant. Imai opened a sister restaurant to enboca in Kyoto in 2010. Inspired by a short internship at Noma, Imai opened monk in 2015.

Is it good bedtime reading? Food writing often falls flat when it aspires to any sort of  literary merit, lapsing into adjective-heavy, pseudo-poetic cliché that manages to express little more than the author’s desire to be taken seriously at all costs, including the text’s clarity and use to the reader. But, in a series of beautifully written essays about his life, career and culinary philosophy that includes subjects such as Oharah village market; Yoshida Farm cheese from the mountains of Okayama, and Yu Sasaki, ‘the mushroom whisperer’ of Iwate prefecture in Honshu, Imai communicates what is obviously a very deeply felt and considered passion for ingredients, the process of cooking and the nature and art of hospitality with a welcome directness and simplicity. For example (just one of many):

‘For us at monk, lighting the oven each day has become part of our daily lives, and we spend the entire day living with fire. The guests who join us at the counter end up gazing at the flames in silence during gaps in their conversation. Fire must have some kind of power to bring us back to our roots, to something ancient within us, and inspire philosophical thoughts. By cooking almost everything entirely by the heat of the fire at monk, I hope our guests can connect with this part of them through the food we share with them.’

What does it look like? There is an elemental simplicity and beauty to Imai’s food. Even a bowl of turnip soup looks like a work of art – swirled with purees of turnip greens and carrots and served in an elegant grey and blue-flecked artisan ceramic ‘vessel’ (of a large dark blue dish made by Taniai-based ceramicist Teppei Ono, Imai says, ‘Looking at it, I get the sensation that this is not a plate, but a hole in space through which one can peer into a deep ocean.’) The signature pizzas – made perhaps with fresh nori or fiddlehead ferns and koshiabura (the sprouts of a wild tree) – are extraordinary. Kyoto itself, depicted through the seasons (the book is divided into spring, summer, autumn and winter) looks like heaven on earth, with lush greenery, vibrant blossoms, crystal waters and open blue skies in the spring and summer; rich red and orange foliage in the autumn and a land of moss and frosts in the winter. At the risk of repeating myself on this blog, the publisher Phaidon are past masters at creating visually pleasing cookbooks, but monk is simply ravishing.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you want to follow the recipes to the letter and you don’t live in Japan, you are going to run into problems. Try tracking down Shogoin turnip, shirako bamboo shoots (‘the fresh heads of the shoots before they appear above ground’, explains Imai), seri (Japanese parsley), yomogi (Japanese mugwort), or nanohana blossoms in Middlesbrough(or London, probably).

What’s the faff factor? If you have a wood fired oven and you can navigate your way through the ingredients lists, finding reasonable substitutes for items that Imai sources locally in Kyoto, then often the recipes are fairly straightforward to execute. Some dishes, including slow-roasted napa cabbage; tomato soup, and the pizza dough recipe could even be adapted for a domestic oven, with a bit of tweaking. The reality for many home cooks however will be that this is a book to read, enjoy, marvel at and dream of visiting monk one day to experience it all for yourself, rather than try and replicate at home. Professional chefs are more likely to have the skills resources and suppliers to make more practical use of the book, especially those based in Japan.

What will I love? monk captures Imai’s distinctive, individual and inspiringly soulful culinary expression.  It’s a complete pleasure to read and to gaze at Yuka Yanazume’s gorgeous images.

What won’t I love? This is probably not a book that you will be cooking from on a regular basis.

Killer recipes: pea soup; suyaki pizza crust; romaine lettuce, egg and yomogi; cherry leaf roast beef; octopus, red shisho and red onion; assorted roasted vegetables, summer; plum lemon verbena and green tea oil.

Should I buy it? If you are passionate about modern gastronomy and love to travel to eat, this book is for you.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy the book 
monk: Light and Shadow on the Philosopher’s Path
£29.95, Phaidon

Mina’s Chicken Paprikash by Ella Buchan and Alessandra Pino

Chicken Paprikash

Unlike Dracula’s cold cuts, this traditional Hungarian dish – also known as Paprika Hendl – is a warm welcome in a bowl, thick, rich and shot through with the subtle smokiness of paprika. Serve the pink-sauced stew spooned over ribbons of black tagliatelle – usually coloured by squid ink or activated charcoal – for full Gothic effect. It’ll taste just as lovely accompanied by noodles, potatoes or rice, though. Or simply eat it with a spoon, perhaps with some chunky bread to mop up the sauce.
For a vegetarian version, try chickpeas in place of chicken, or simply roast extra veg like mushrooms, courgettes and leeks and add after step two.

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 tbsp olive oil
1kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 tbsp butter
2 onions, sliced into fine strips
2 cloves garlic
2 red peppers, sliced into fine strips
6 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp hot paprika
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
300ml sour cream
350g black tagliatelle, to serve (optional)

Method
1. Gently heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or stewpot and add the chicken, cooking for around 4-5 minutes on each side to brown. Remove and set aside.
2. Using the same pan, reduce heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and pepper, cooking for a minute before adding the paprika.
3. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on a low-medium heat for around half an hour, until chicken is tender. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to packet instructions.
4. Combine a few ladlefuls of the sauce with the sour cream, then add back to the pan, stirring gently. Continue cooking until heated through, and serve over the pasta – or your chosen accompaniment.

This recipe is extracted from A Gothic Cookbook which is crowdfunding with Unbound Publishing. Readers can get 10% off pledges up to £100 by using the code PAPRIKA10 between Tuesday 13 July and Thursday, July 15. Click here to take advantage of this limited time offer. 

Cook more from this book and read an extract