Seared by Genevieve Taylor

Seared by Genevieve Taylor
There are few better qualified people to write a guide to barbecuing meat than Genevieve Taylor. As well as authoring ten previous cookbooks, including Charred: The Complete Guide to Vegetarian Grilling and Barbecue, Taylor runs the Bristol Fire School where she teaches cooking over fire. She shares her knowledge and expertise in the practical side of barbecuing in an extended introduction that’s the next best thing to attending one of her classes. Taylor covers all the key areas of cooking over fire including all the equipment you’ll probably ever need as well as what sort of fuel you should consider buying and how to create various fuel set ups for cooking different cuts of meat.

Divided into two main chapters of ‘Beast’ (covering beef, pork, lamb, veal, venison and goat) and ‘Bird’ (chicken, turkey and duck), the collection of globally inspired recipes covers both fast and slow cooking methods and will help barbecue newbies and more experienced practitioners alike expand their repertoire. The creative dishes include pork tenderloin with pistachio crust and grilled spring veg; tandoori venison kebabs, and even a Thai red curry with meatballs and green beans.

The ubiquitous and often mundane barbecue double act of sausages and burgers are given a makeover with homemade pork butt and beef chuck Texas hot link sausages spiced with smoked paprika and cayenne, and minty lamb smash burgers served with feta and beetroot. Ribs get an entire chapter to themselves and have never sounded more tempting than in the guise of Sri Lankan black pork spare-ribs with curry BBQ sauce or cola and gochugaru flanken-cut (across the bones) beef ribs.

With guides on brines, marinades and rubs, how to cook the perfect steak (with or without bone), techniques for smoking and braising on the barbecue and a quick reference infographic guide to the internal temperatures for all the included varieties of meat, Taylor covers all the barbecue bases and lives up to the claim in the book’s subtitle that this is ‘The Ultimate Guide to Barbecuing Meat’.

Cuisine: Barbecue
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Seared by Genevieve Taylor
£20, Hardie Grant

This review was first published in The Caterer magazine. 

Salmon Ochazuke by Brendan Liew

TUL_Back Home_Ochazuke
This is the most common ochazuke type in Japan and abroad, and for good reason. The flaky, salty, slightly rich salmon pairs well with the clean, pure flavour of the rice and green tea. Feel free to change the toppings and the soup to suit your tastes.

2 x 100 g (31/2 oz) salmon fillet pieces, skin on
300–400 g (101/2–14 oz) hot cooked rice
2 spring onions (scallions), white part only, finely sliced
2 tablespoons takana (pickled mustard greens)
2 tablespoons tororo kombu (finely shredded kombu)
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
2 tablespoons shredded nori (kizami nori)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, ground

SOUP
500 ml (2 cups) green tea (or tea of your choice)
1 handful of katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
2 teaspoons usukuchi soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon salt

SERVES 2

Preheat the oven grill (broiler) to high. Season the salmon fillets on both sides with salt, then place on a greased tray lined with foil, skin side up. Grill for 8–10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet and how you like your salmon cooked; it should be flaky.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the green tea to a simmer, then add the katsuobushi and turn the heat off. Leave for 5 minutes, then strain into a clean saucepan. Save the katsuobushi for another use (see note on page 216 of the book).

Bring the soup back to a simmer and season with the soy sauce, mirin and salt. Taste and adjust if necessary. Scoop the rice into serving bowls. Top with the cooked salmon, followed by the remaining ingredients, finishing with the soup.

Cook more from this book
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Kamo Negi – Duck With Grilled Leeks by Brendan Liew

Buy this book
Tokyo Up Late by Brendan Liew
£26,  Smith Street Books

Read the review
Coming soon

Mizu Shingen Mochi – Raindrop Cakes by Brendan Liew

TUL_Izakaya_Mizu Shingenmochi
This may be called a ‘cake’ in English, but it is really a jelly. A jelly that is very lightly set using agar, and resembles a crystal-clear raindrop, accompanied by a flavoured syrup. I’ve gone with a matcha syrup for this recipe, but traditionally it is served with the black sugar syrup (see page 188 of the book) and sprinkled with kinako (roasted soy bean flour). A raindrop cake looks spectacular, and with the right moulds (spherical ice moulds or semicircular moulds) is very easy to prepare. This makes it a great, easy dessert for busy izakayas, and a refreshing end to a meal.

1 g (1/28 oz) kanten agar
400 ml (14 fl oz) water
80 g (23/4 oz) sugar
2 teaspoons matcha powder, plus extra for sprinkling

SERVES 4
Set out four small bowls or circular moulds, about 6 cm (21/4 inches) in diameter. In a small saucepan, combine the agar, water and 20 g (3/4 oz) of the sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar and agar. Working quickly, so the liquid doesn’t start solidifying in the pan, pour the mixture into the bowls, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set.

Make a matcha syrup by whisking together the matcha powder and remaining (60 g) sugar in a small bowl. Heat 30 ml (1 fl oz) water in a small saucepan until simmering, then slowly stream it into the matcha powder and sugar, whisking well.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, just until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into a container and refrigerate.

When the cakes have set, unmould each one onto a serving plate. Spoon the matcha syrup around them, sprinkle a little matcha powder over and serve.

Cook more from this book
Salmon Ochazuke by Brendan Liew
Kamo Negi – Duck With Grilled Leeks by Brendan Liew

Buy this book
Tokyo Up Late by Brendan Liew
£26,  Smith Street Books

Read the review
Coming soon

Kamo Negi – Duck With Grilled Leeks by Brendan Liew

TUL_Izakaya_Kamonegi

Like bacon and eggs, kamo (duck) and negi (leek) can be listed as just two ingredients on a menu, but the combination is so well known in Japan that people can envisage the dish based only on those two words alone. Kamo negi is usually seared, thinly sliced duck breast accompanied by the whites of leeks that have been slowly pan-fried or roasted to have nicely brown grill marks. It could be served plated
as an okazu (side dish) as part of a larger feast, or made into a delightful noodle soup. I’ve included both versions of the dish here, as you can double the amount of duck breast and turn it into two completely different meals. It is best to start this recipe the day before, to allow the duck breast to cure with the salt and sansho overnight. This draws out water from the meat while seasoning the duck at the same time, resulting in crispier duck skin and more flavoursome meat.

2 duck breasts
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground sansho pepper
1 thin leek, cleaned, whites cut into 4 pieces, greens discarded or used for stock
30 ml (1 fl oz) soy sauce
30 ml (1 fl oz) sake
15 g (1/2 oz) zarame or sugar

PLATED VERSION
1 bunch of spring onions
(scallions)

SOUP VERSION
500 ml (2 cups) dashi (see page 32 of book for recipe)
250 g (9 oz) ramen noodles, home-made (see page 130 of book for recipe) or store bought
1 bunch of green vegetables, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
shichimi togarashi, to serve

SERVES 2
Using a sharp knife, remove any silver skin from the underside of the duck breasts. Rub 1 teaspoon salt over the skin and meat of each breast, then rub the sansho pepper over only the flesh. (We season only the meat side with the sansho, because the sansho will burn on the skin side, which is pan-fried for a longer time than the meat side.) Place the duck breasts, skin side up, on a rack with a tray underneath. Leave uncovered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, but at least 2 hours.

When ready to cook, use a sharp knife to cut lines down the duck skin, along the length of the breast, about 2 mm (1/8 inch) deep and 1 cm (1/2 inch) apart. This creates channels for the duck fat to render out, resulting in a crispier skin.

Place the duck, skin side down, in a cold frying pan and turn the heat to medium–low. When the duck starts sizzling and a thin layer of rendered duck fat coats the bottom of the pan, add the leek to the pan.

Cook for 15 minutes over medium–low heat, skin side down the whole time; there should be a light frying noise. Every 5 minutes, drain the fat from the pan, reserving it for roasted potatoes or stir-fries. Turn the leek over after 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the soy sauce, sake and zarame just enough to dissolve the zarame.  At this point, you can take the recipe in two different directions.

FOR THE PLATED VERSION:
Wash the spring onions, then divide into the green and white parts. Shred the green bits and very thinly julienne the whites, keeping them separate.

After the duck has finished cooking on the skin side for 15 minutes, turn it over onto the flesh side and sear all the parts that appear uncooked. After you’ve seared each side, leave the duck on the meat side for a further minute (it should be 2 minutes in total), then transfer the duck and leek from the pan to a plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, but do not wash.

After 5 minutes, place the pan back on the heat and turn the heat up to high. Add the spring onion greens and stir-fry until wilted. Add the soy sauce mixture and any accumulated juices under the duck. Allow to bubble until slightly thickened, then remove from the heat. Slice the duck, then place on your serving dish with the leek. Pour the sauce over, garnish with the spring onion whites and serve.

FOR THE SOUP VERSION:
While the duck is cooking, bring the dashi to a simmer and prepare a pot of boiling water for cooking the noodles.

After the duck has finished cooking on the skin side for 15 minutes, very quickly sear the flesh side of the duck just to colour it, then remove from the pan with the leek. Don’t worry if you think it’s still raw; it will cook further in the soup.

Quickly blanch your vegetables in the boiling water; remove with tongs and place in a colander to drain. Boil the noodles in the same water, then pour into the colander to drain, shaking the colander to remove as much excess water as possible.

Divide the noodles and vegetables among bowls. Add 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture to the simmering dashi. Taste and add more of the dashi mixture, or salt, until you are happy with the flavour. Pour it over the noodles and top with the greens. Slice the duck breast and fan it out over the noodles with the leek. Serve with shichimi togarashi for sprinkling over.

Cook more from this book
Salmon Ochazuke by Brendan Liew
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Buy this book
Tokyo Up Late by Brendan Liew
£26,  Smith Street Books

Read the review
Coming soon

Swordfish with Burst Tomatoes, Peppers, and Za’atar and Preserved Lemon by Colu Henry

SwordfishWithBurstTomatoes_p104a_ColuCooks
My dad ordered swordfish a lot when we vacationed on the Cape in the eighties. He also spent a lot of time unsuccessfully surf casting on Nauset Beach, but that’s another story. In the years following, swordfish became so overfished that for many years it was taken off menus. Since then, a lot of work has been done to rebuild the population and I’m so pleased we’re able to eat them responsibly again. They are meaty, flavorful, wonderful fish that hold their own with punchy flavors, which you’ll see here. If you can find the Italian Jimmy Nardello varietal of peppers for this recipe, please do. They are up there as one of my favorite peppers, and when cooked, their sweetness intensifies and almost becomes a bit smoky. I first had them in Napa and was thrilled when the farmers at Sparrowbush started growing them here in Hudson. Clearly a bell pepper will also work, but I think the Nardello’s are worth tracking down.

Serves 4
Time: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS
4 tablespoons (60 ml) olive oil
3 Jimmy Nardello peppers or 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into long thin strips
2 pints (290 g) mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved if large
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 chile pepper, such as cayenne, serrano, or jalapeño, thinly sliced
2½ teaspoons za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend consisting of dried herbs and sesame seeds)
¼ cup (112 g) seeded and roughly chopped preserved lemon (both peel and flesh)
½ cup (120 ml) dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce/170 g) swordfish steaks, about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
Flaky salt, for finishing (optional)

METHOD
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep-sided 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and beginning to turn golden in spots, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to burst, 5 to 7 minutes, pressing the tomatoes gently with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon to get them nice and jammy. (I like to keep some with more structure than the others for texture’s sake.) There should be a fair amount of liquid released in the pan. If not, add a few tablespoons of water. Stir in the garlic, chile pepper, za’atar, and preserved lemon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the garlic is fragrant and the spice mix is lightly toasted.

Pour in the white wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan, and cook for 10 minutes or so, allowing the flavors to get to know each other and the sauce to slightly thicken. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the swordfish steaks. Season the fish well with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, and then gently flip to finish cooking, 2 to 3 minutes more, or until the flesh is opaque all the way through. Arrange the swordfish in the pan with the tomatoes and peppers and scatter the top with the oregano leaves. Season with flaky salt if you like. Spoon more of the sauce over the top and serve from the pan.

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Spring lamb ragu with anchovies and pea shoots by Colu Henry
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Buy this book
Colu Cooks by Colu Henry
£25, Abrams Books

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Coming soon

Spring lamb ragu with anchovies and pea shoots by Colu Henry

SpringLambRagu_p143a_ColuCooks
I originally made this dish for an intimate Buona Pasqua dinner. Intimate meaning for myself and Chad. Usually for Easter, we get together with Jenn, Steve, and their daughter Brynn and grill some cut of lamb over open fire, but that particular year was very different due to sheltering in place. Determined not to let it dampen my spirits, I made Chad drive all over town in hunt of forsythia to cut down, to bring some spring into the house and make our dinner feel celebratory—crankily (him) and sadly (me), we came home empty handed. Moments later and completely unprompted, Jenn texted to ask if we’d like some forsythia from her yard and I couldn’t believe my luck. Her husband Steve arrived on our porch an hour later, arms full of branches. I quickly put them in water in a big vase on the dining room table and Chad and I sat down to a late-afternoon spring supper of thick egg noodles tossed with lamb, the season’s first pea shoots, and lots of butter and herbs. Celebrate we did.

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, trimmed, rinsed of grit, then thinly sliced (about 1½ cups/125 g) or 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 oil-packed anchovies
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound (455 g) ground lamb
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (120 ml) white wine
1½ to 2 cups (360 to 480 ml) chicken stock
12 ounces (340 g) pappardelle or tagliatelle
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces (85 g) pea shoots, arugula, or other baby greens
2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon), plus lemon juice for finishing
½ cup (25 g) loosely packed fresh herbs, such as flatleaf parsley leaves, mint leaves, and snipped chives
Freshly grated pecorino, for serving

SERVES 4
TIME 35 minutes

METHOD
Heat the olive oil in a deep-sided 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leek and cook until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt. Stir in the garlic, anchovies, rosemary, and tomato paste and cook until the anchovies have melted and the tomato paste has toasted slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, pressing the meat firmly into the bottom of the pan until it begins to crisp up and stirring until it is browned through, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the white wine and cook until it is reduced by half, 3 minutes or so. Pour in 1½ cups (360 ml) of the chicken stock and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the pasta. If it looks like it’s drying out, stir in the remaining ½ cup (60 ml) stock.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, just shy of al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet with the lamb along with the butter and pea shoots. Toss together, adding in a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water if needed, until the pasta is glossy with sauce, the pea shoots have wilted, and the butter has melted. Add half the herbs, the lemon zest, and a good squeeze of lemon juice and toss again. Plate in bowls and top with the remaining herbs.

Serve with some grated cheese.

Cook more from this book
Swordfish with Burst Tomatoes, Peppers, and Za’atar and Preserved Lemon by Colu Henry
Smoky and Spicy Shrimp with Anchovy Butter and Fregola by Colu Henry

Buy this book
Colu Cooks by Colu Henry
£25, Abrams Books

Read the review
Coming soon

The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford

The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor FordWhat’s the USP? ‘A culinary journey along the ancient spice routes’, The Nutmeg Trail explores the way spices have travelled around the globe throughout history. Paying particularly close attention to the Asian origins of many of these spices, the book is a colourful and varied collection of recipes that are full of flavour.

Who wrote it? Eleanor Ford, who has made something of a name for herself in the cookbook world over the past six years or so. Her debut volume, Samarkand, took in the food of central Asia and won both Ford and co-writer Caroline Eden a clutch of awards. Her follow-up, the fantastic Fire Islands, offered up an in-depth look at Indonesian cuisine and further extended the need for a hefty trophy cabinet. Now Ford is back with her third title and – spoiler alert – may want to start thinking about where she’s going to tuck the next inevitable accolades coming her way.

Is it good bedtime reading? Books that explore the world of spices are not lacking in the cookbook world, and with so much nuanced history and flavour to cover, are usually excellent for readers looking for lengthy essays on, say, the migration of flavours across the middle east, or the impact that chillies have had on each new cuisine they’ve touched. Ford’s book is no outlier here, with extensive opening chapters sitting ahead of recipes that are themselves punctuated with further insight into specific spices and flavours.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Concisely written and refreshingly clear, the recipes in The Nutmeg Trail are a joy to follow. A welcome additional touch comes by way of Ford’s occasional ‘eat with’ notes, that might make vague-but-useful suggestions, or may include an entire second recipe for good measure.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The recipes here couldn’t be more global if they tried – from page to page you may flick from Mauritius to China to the Emirates. Occasionally this means you’ll come across slightly more niche ingredients like coconut vinegar or kewra water. On these occasions, though, Ford is careful to include alternatives, or ensure that the difficult ingredient is an optional extra. On the occasions that call for a specific and unusual spice mix, she provides instructions on how to make it yourself rather than rely on your ability to source a pre-packaged Uyghur seven spice.

What’s the faff factor? It very much depends on the dish at hand. I tried two myself, on back to back nights because I simply had no interest in waiting any longer to try them. The first, Red-Cooked Duck Breasts was both quick and relatively simple, taking roughly the same amount of time it normally would to pan fry and then roast duck breast fillets, but yielding a much richer and more interesting final plate.

My Jasmine Tea-Smoked Chicken was significantly more of a bother, though. It’s no mean feat, for a start, to source three tablespoons of loose-leaf jasmine tea without shelling out for significantly more than you need in the process. Once you’ve compiled the necessary ingredients, you’ll then need to toast and grind your own spice mix, set aside a day to season your chicken, and eventually create a DIY smoker using a trivet and a pan. I ended up building an elaborate tin foil structure to allow me to make the most of my saute pan and a bamboo steamer and, you know what? Absolutely bloody worth it. The chicken was gorgeously flavoured, and I had the thrill of smoking meat in my own kitchen, using little more than a hob and some loosely Macgyvered kitchenware. Most recipes don’t ask for this level of commitment, but at least the ones that do more than compensate you for the time and thought you put into the dish.

How often will I cook from the book? I’ll be honest: 2022 has not been a big year for repeat visits to cookbooks in our household. One of my two new year’s resolutions (alongside listening to every Willie Nelson album) was to cook at least one meal from every single cookbook on my shelves. It’s been an immensely rewarding exercise so far, but it doesn’t leave much room for cooking from the same book with great frequency. In fact, that The Nutmeg Trail managed to pull me back to its pages over two consecutive nights is telling enough. The recipes here are built to tempt – all flavour, no filler – and the variety on offer means home cooks may well be making weekly visits to its pages.

Killer recipes: Garlic Clove Curry, Royal Saffron Paneer, Typhoon Shelter Corn, Hot-&-Sour Tomato Rasam, Venetian Chicken with Almond Milk & Dates, Mushroom Rendang… the list goes on and on.

Should I buy it? Probably! It depends. Are you my mother? This is, after all, a book about spice. If, like her, you are so incapable of approaching the very concept of spice that you can’t even eat KFC without flapping about your mouth like Yosemite Sam after he’s accidentally swallowed a stick of dynamite, this probably isn’t the book for you.

If, however, you fall anywhere else on the spectrum of spice-eaters, there will be something for you here. Whilst The Nutmeg Trail shares a passion for history and exposition with the spice-centric books that have come before it, Ford manages to offer up the one thing these titles have so often forgotten: truly outstanding recipes, and plenty of them.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford
£26,  Murdoch Books

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

Smoky and Spicy Shrimp with Anchovy Butter and Fregola by Colu Henry

SmokyAndSpicyShrimp_p111a_ColuCooks_p111a

It’s all right there for you in the title. Sweet shrimp is sautéed until just cooked through, and fregola (a tiny toasted pasta from Sardinia) is added to the pot to toast in the melted anchovy butter and spices with some cherry tomatoes. I love Calabrian chiles packed in oil and use them here for some punchy heat, but if red pepper flakes are within closer reach feel free to use them instead. Once the fregola finishes cooking, return the shrimp to the pot to warm them through and serve straight from the pan. Serve with many bottles of chilled red wine.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS
1 pound (455 g) extra-large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (½ stick/55 g) unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 oil-packed anchovies
3 Calabrian chiles, roughly chopped, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pint (290 g) cherry or Sungold tomatoes
1½ cups (270 g) fregola
3 cups (700 ml) chicken stock
½ cup (20 g) loosely packed basil leaves, torn if large, or roughly chopped parsley or mint, or a combination of all three

METHOD
Season the shrimp well with salt and black pepper. In a 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside on a plate.

Add the garlic, anchovies, Calabrian chiles, and smoked paprika to the skillet and stir until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and toast for a minute or so. Add the cherry tomatoes and stir to coat. Cook until the tomatoes begin to burst, pressing down on them gently to help release their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the fregola to the pan and stir until the pasta is well coated in the spiced butter. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the fregola is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the shrimp back to the pan with any juices that have accumulated on the plate and stir until they are just warmed through. Scatter with herbs and serve.

Cook more from this book
Swordfish with Burst Tomatoes, Peppers, and Za’atar and Preserved Lemon by Colu Henry
Spring lamb ragu with anchovies and pea shoots by Colu Henry


Buy this book
Colu Cooks by Colu Henry
£25, Abrams Books

Read the review
Coming soon

Baking with Fortitude by Dee Rettali

Baking with fortitude
What’s the USP? Just because we’re not in lockdown any more doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned our national sourdough habit, does it? Either way, here’s a collection of sourdough cakes and bakes (and non-fermented recipes too) from cult London bakery Fortitude to keep your (sourdough) mother happy.  The book is the winner of  the Andre Simon Food Book Award 2021.

Who wrote it? Irish-born baker Dee Rettali was something of an organic food pioneer, opening Patisserie Organic in London in 1988. She is the former head chef of the London-based cafe chain Fernandez and Wells and opened Fortitude bakery in Bloomsbury in 2018.  This is her first book.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a six page introduction plus one or two page introductions to each of the seven chapters but that’s your lot.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You’ll need an online specialist supplier for dried meadowsweet to make the first recipe in the book, a butter loaf cake flavoured with honey and meadowsweet (one of eight butter loaf cakes recipes – the book is organised around base recipes and their variations).

Go anywhere but your local supermarket for the ‘fresh ripe’ fruit Rettali specifies for things like Lavender and Pear Butter Loaf Cake because, well,  when was the last time you bought fruit from Asda et al that was fresh and ripe? If you need overpriced stuff that is rock hard, tasteless and goes bad before it approaches ripeness then you’d be laughing.

You’ll need to buy organic flour of course, including buckwheat flour to make orange, yoghurt and polenta cake, but you should have few issues obtaining the vast majority of ingredients specified in the book.

What’s the faff factor? Although the book is billed as a collection of sourdough bakes which might sound complicated, in fact most of the recipes don’t use a starter but can be fermented if you wish to deepen the resultant flavour which Rettali claims is an innovation in cake baking.  This process takes no additional effort, you just need to plan ahead.  The base recipes, that include the aforementioned butter loaf cake as well as olive oil cake, yoghurt cake and sour milk soda bread are often just a matter of combining the ingredients in a bowl although the brioche and sourdough butter cake mixes are a little more complex.

The complete recipes range from the simple and straightforward Blueberry and Lime Little Buns to the slightly more involved Sticky Cinnamon Buns with Molasses Sugar, but there is nothing off-puttingly complex or too fiddly here. This is good old fashioned baking rather than fancy detailed patisserie work.

What will I love? Rettali has a very clear culinary vision and distinct style so that the recipes never feel over-familiar. There are some classics like Eccles cakes and  hot cross buns (albeit a sourdough-based version mad with candied orange) but also creations you may not have come across before like  turmeric custard and roast pear brioche buns or chocolate and chilli sugar olive oil loaf cake.

What won’t I like so much? Using the base-recipe-and-variations format means there is cross over and similarity among the groups of recipes (there are an awful lot of loaf cakes for example) in what, at 192 pages, is a relatively short book. You will need a food mixer for some of the recipes as alternative methods are not provided. 

How often will I cook from the book? If you are a keen baker, there is enough variety, from tahini, za’tar and sesame seed biscuits to tomato, garlic and oregano soda bread to keep you busy for many weeks.

Should I buy it? If you are an experienced baker looking to create something that little but different, this is definitely the book for you. Newbies will also appreciate Rettali’s encouraging attitude, ‘By sharing my recipes and approach to baking, I want to take away the fear. Use your hands, get your fingers right into the bottom of the bowl and feel the dough.’ 

Cuisine: British baking
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/beginners/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Baking with Fortitude by Dee Rettali
£22, Bloomsbury

Cook from this book
Rose and Pistachio Little Buns by Dee Rettali

Winner of the Andre Simon Food Book Award 2021. Click the image below to find out more.

Food Longlist (3)

Rose and Pistachio Little Buns by Dee Rettali

Rose and Pistachio (1)

At Fortitude, I top these rosewater-flavoured buns with organic dried rose buds from the Merzouga valley in Morocco. I have visited this region on many occasions, where you are always greeted by the heady floral smell of organic roses.

Makes 12 little buns

12-hole muffin tin or easy-release silicone mould, greased well with oil
170ml pomace oil (or light virgin olive oil)
200g unrefined golden caster sugar
4 eggs
125g fine semolina
50g pistachios, finely ground into a flour
200g ground almonds
1. teaspoons baking powder
25ml rosewater

To decorate
250g icing sugar
25g finely chopped pistachios
12 dried rose buds (optional)

In a large bowl, beat together the pomace oil and caster sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and continue to mix until combined, but do not overmix.

In a separate bowl, combine the semolina, ground pistachios, ground almonds and baking powder.

Fold the semolina mixture into the whipped olive oil mix using a metal spoon. When it is almost combined, add the rosewater and gently fold through. Leave overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6.

Fold any oil that is sitting on the surface back into the mixture to combine again. Making sure that the muffin tin or mould is greased well with oil, divide the mixture equally between the holes of the tin or mould, then place it on a baking tray. Bake in the centre of the hot oven for 22 minutes or until the buns feel set to the touch.

Transfer the buns from the tin or mould to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with just enough warm water to make a thick paste. Spread the top of each bun with the icing using the back of a spoon and sprinkle over the pistachios. If preferred, place a dried rose bud in the middle of each bun.

When stored in an airtight container in the fridge,
these little buns will keep for 7 days.

To ferment

Once mixed, store the cake batter in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days to allow it to ferment. Fold any oil sitting on the surface back into the mixture before baking.

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