Smoked beetroot tartare Cacklebean egg yolk, hazelnut by Robin Gill

Photographer Paul Winch-FurnessI’ve become slightly obsessed with smoking things. I started with the obvious, salmon, and moved on to meat like game, pigeon and venison, then to bone marrow (our smoked bone marrow butter became kind of legendary). We even started smoking ice creams. Playing around with smoking fruit and vegetables was exciting and opened up so many possibilities. Beetroot worked immediately. It’s one of my favourite vegetables because of its versatility. I find the large ruby beetroot to be quite meaty so we thought up a play on a beef tartare. But not in the way of veggie burgers and vegan sausages. I hate that stuff! It is kind of fun to dress this tartare as you would imagine it being served in a Parisian brasserie.

Serves 6

Hung Yoghurt

200g plain yoghurt

Line a large sieve with muslin and set it over a deep bowl. Put the yoghurt into the sieve, then gather up the edges of the cloth and secure them together. Leave in the fridge overnight to allow the liquid to drain out of the yoghurt (this liquid or whey can be reserved and used in ferments).

Smoked Beetroot

500g raw beetroots
a drizzle of vegetable oil
rock salt
applewood chips for smoking

Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C/Gas Mark 6–7. Drizzle each beetroot with oil, sprinkle with salt and wrap individually in foil. Bake for 1–1½ hours or until the core temperature reaches 90°C. Remove from the oven and allow to cool and steam in the foil for 15 minutes. Remove from the foil and rub off the skins.

Take a flat tray with a steam insert (such as a deep roasting tray that will hold a flat steaming rack) and spread the applewood chips over the bottom of the tray. Warm the tray over a medium heat until the chips start to smoke, then turn the heat down to low. Place the beetroot on the steam insert/steaming rack and set this over the smoking chips. Completely cover the top and sides tightly with oven-safe clingfilm so the smoke is sealed inside with the beetroot. Leave to lightly smoke for 7 minutes. Remove the beetroot from the tray and leave to cool.

Brined Egg Yolks

500ml 7% brine (see note below)
10 egg yolks (we use CackleBean) – this allows for a few breakages
a drizzle of vegetable oil

Pour the brine into a deep bowl. Gentle add the yolks using your hands or a slotted spoon. Cover the surface of the brine with the vegetable oil so that the yolks are held down in the brine. Allow the yolks to brine for 1 hour at room temperature. To serve, gently remove the yolks with your hands or a slotted spoon.

Assembly

240g Fermented Beetroot (see Larder)
1 tablespoon Shallot Vinegar (see Larder)
2 tablespoons capers
a drizzle of Ember Oil (see Larder)
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper
handful fresh hazelnuts, finely sliced
bittercress or watercress to garnish

Mince the fermented and smoked beetroot through a mincer or chop finely with a knife. Season with the shallot vinegar, capers, ember oil and some salt and pepper. Using a small ring mould, make a disc of the beetroot mixture in the centre of each plate. Top with a layer of the hazelnut slices. Gently place a brined egg yolk to the side of each disc. Garnish with cracked black pepper and bittercress or watercress. Place a spoonful of the hung yoghurt to the side of each disc.

NOTE:
Salt and brines: A brine is a mixture of salt and water. The salt is added to the water and brought just to the boil to dissolve the salt, then allowed to cool before use. We make brines of different strengths based on the amount of salt that is added. This is expressed as a percentage in relation to the amount of water. So, for example, a 2% brine means that the weight of salt added is 2% of the weight of the water. In other words, for a litre of water (which weighs 1kg) you would need to add 20g of salt.

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

Cook more recipes from this book:
Salted Caramel Cacao, Malt Ice Cream by Robin Gill
Loch Duart Salmon Oyster Emulsion, Fennel, Fried Wakame by Robin Gill

Read the review

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

First, Catch by Thom Eagle

First catch

 

What’s the USP? When is a cookbook not a cookbook? When its a ‘hymn to an early spring meal’, all 226 pages of it. This is food writing in the purest sense, a series of extended essays ruminating on the process of cooking a single meal; a sort of exercise in culinary mindfulness.

Who’s the author? Thom Eagle is the head chef of Little Duck: The Picklery, a ‘fermenting kitchen and wine bar’ in East London (unsurprisingly, there is a fair amount on fermentation in the book) and writes the food blog ‘In Search of Lost Thyme’. First, Catch is his debut in print.

What does it look like? A novel. Forget glossy photographs, this is all text interspersed with some black and white line drawings of pots, pans and assorted ingredients by artist Aurelia Lange.

Killer recipes? Here’s the thing, Eagle says ‘recipes are lies’ so there aren’t any. At least not in the list-of-ingredients-followed-by-a-method format that we all know and love. Instead, they are snuck in by stealth, so for example, a recipe for quick-cured lamb loin, complete with measurements for the simple salt and sugar cure appears spread over three pages at the end of chapter one, ‘On Curing With Salt’ and one for salsa verde is nestled quietly in chapter 10 ‘On Wild and Domestic Celeries’.

What will I love? Eagle is a thoughtful sort of bloke with a particular view on all things culinary which gives the book a distinctive tone. When was the last time you heard someone say that they ‘go out of their way’ to visit old salt-pans’? Eagle has travelled from Kent to Sicily to look at the damn things, trips which have helped him, and now, in turn, his readers ‘appreciate the importance of salt throughout our history’.

What won’t I like? Eagle is very self consciously ‘a writer’ (he studied American Literature at uni) and consequently there is a fair bit of ‘food writing’ to get through; raw vegetables aren’t seasoned but ‘subjected to the violence of lemon and salt’ which you’ll either think is incredibly creative writing or just plain irritating, depending on your taste in literature.

Should I buy it? It may be a little pretentious and overwritten, and it’s debatable whether the ‘stealth’ recipes are an improvement on the traditional format, but Eagle has genuine insight into the practical and philosophical sides of cooking, as well as extensive knowledge of international cuisines and culinary history, making First, Catch well worth reading.

Cuisine: Modernist British
Suitable for: Anyone really interested in cooking and food writing
Cookbook Review Rating: 3 stars

Read an extract

Buy this book
First, Catch by Thom Eagle
£16.99, Quadrille

 

 

 

Book extract: First, Catch by Thom Eagle

First catch

I seek out and devour food writing in all of its forms – from lengthy and flowery introductions, through drily academic histories to the tersely scribbled instructions you sometimes find tucked into old cookbooks. But when I think of all the recipes I have read, professionally or otherwise, stacked up as it were in one gigantic pile on an overflowing workbench, the main sensation I feel is frustration.

All those neat little lists – take this, take that – as if cooking begins when you pick up an onion, or finishes as the dish goes on to the plate. So much more surrounds a meal and its making than just the bare facts of its enumerated parts. At the top of the page it just says ‘two onions,  chopped’, but someone had to grow them, to pick them, to store and transport and buy them, all before you take them from the vegetable rack or the fridge, halve them from root to tuft, and peel off the outermost layers of brown parchment; before you cut first in a wedging arch and then across, remembering the cook who taught you to let the onion fall into its own layers rather than force it apart into rigid dice, and wondering perhaps in passing why you are doing so, when the other recipe said sliced, when the other recipe contained no onion at all. The Koreans have a description for the specific qualities of a person’s cooking which translates as something like ‘the taste of your hands’; they know, I suppose, that knowledge rests in muscle and bone, which is never written down.

I have nothing against recipes. In fact I use them all the time, and am suspicious of cooks who claim never to do so. Recipes are a record of social and emotional histories as well as a means of travelling to almost any country or place you care to name, including, of course, the past. Anyone who tries to separate food from all of these things cooks for reasons I do not understand; it can only, I think, be vanity, trading the deep satisfaction of time for immediate gratification.

Yet, while useful to cook from, there is so much that recipes miss. The satisfaction of peeling a ripe, thick-skinned tomato, for instance, or unzipping a pod of broad beans; the smell of rosemary hitting gently warming olive oil; the yielding of a wing of skate to a gently pressing finger; the sight of a simply laid table in spring, awaiting the arrival of both people and lunch. None of this can be captured in a written recipe. These are sensations we feel behind the lines of our cookbooks, but the rigid lists that now fill them leave little room in which to do so, let alone to think about what we will do with this dish once we have cooked it. ‘Serve immediately’, these instructions end, but who to? Even a thousand recipes don’t make a meal.

Of all the contexts surrounding the acquisition and transformation of food, I think the meal itself is the most often forgotten. We cook in competition with ourselves now, imagining some bespectacled judge pacing around our chopping board and offering disparaging comments on our knife skills, our plating and our personal hygiene, while we collect and compare recipes of so-called genius and perfection, to be followed to the last detail. Whatever tortured dish emerges from such a process is designed not to be dug into with a questing fork, but to sit as it were under glass, to be admired one-on-one, alone. A plate is one part of a course, which is one part of a meal, so why fuss over the recipe so? I’d rather have, for example, a litre of wine, a pile of fresh pea pods, and many hands to peel and pour – with maybe a piece of cheese for afterwards.

Extracted from First, Catch: Story of a Spring Meal by Thom Eagle (Quadrille, £16.99)

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First, Catch by Thom Eagle

The Mushroom Cookbook by Michael Hyams & Liz O’Keefe

The Mushroom Cookbook cover

What is it? A directory of the most widely available mushrooms, both wild and cultivated, plus a collection of 50 mushroom-based recipes. Michael Hyams, based in Covent Garden Market, is apparently known as The Mushroom Man and supplies markets and restaurants with fungi while co-writer Lix O’Keefe is a chef, recipe developer and food stylist.

What’s the USP? From morels to mousseron and portobello to pom pom, Hyams describes in detail 33 of the most widely available wild and cultivated mushroom varieties, listing alternative names, their Latin name, where the mushroom can be found and when, along with a detailed description of its appearance, flavour and texture and how it should be prepared and cooked. In the second half of the book, O’Keefe provides 50 ways to cook your fungi.

What does it look like? It’s a game of two halves. The first half that contains the directory is a reference work with the emphasis on providing simple, clear and well organised information. The photos are mainly of unadorned mushrooms against a white or grey background accompanied with step by step illustrations of how to clean and prepare them. By contrast, in the second recipe half, there is a serious amount of food styling going on with all manner of folded napkins, trays, boards, slates and other props to liven up proceedings.

Is it good bedtime reading? Although there is a lot to read in the book, it’s more of a reference work than something you’d want to cuddle up to last thing at night.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There are a decent selection of fresh and dried mushrooms available in supermarkets these days and doubtless, you will find suppliers online (none are given in the book however) but for the more obscure varieties like lobster and saffron milkcap you might have to head out on an expert-led foraging trip (don’t try it by yourself – as the introduction points out, the book is not designed to be an identification guide for foraging and there are lots of poisonous varieties out there).

What’s the faff factor? A mix. There’s simple like creamy mixed mushroom and tarragon soup and there’s I’m-simply-never-going-to-make-that (mushroom sushi).

How often will I cook from the book? It really depends how much you like mushrooms; for most people, once in a while.

Killer recipes? Chinese mixed mushroom curry; Asian mushroom and pork ramen; wild mushroom and boar sausages

What will I love? The price. A 250 page, full-colour illustrated hardback cookbook for £15 is excellent value.

What won’t I like? Some of the recipes, like mushroom sushi, are a little gimmicky, there are some odd flavour combinations (Camembert and blackberry fondue on your mushroom burger anyone?) and some of the dishes like whole roast salmon with garlic pesto and truffle look messy and unappetising.

Should I buy it? At the knock-down price, it’s worth picking up for the mushroom directory alone.

Cuisine: Modern eclectic
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 3 stars

Buy this book
The Mushroom Cookbook: A Guide to Edible Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms – And Delicious Seasonal Recipes to Cook with Them
£15, Lorenz Books

Room for Dessert by Will Goldfarb

room-for-dessert-2d.jpg

What is it? Will Goldfarb has worked in the kitchens of Ferran Adria, Tetsuya Wakuda, Paul Liebrandt, and Morimoto. He is one of the top pastry chefs working today and is featured in the fourth series of acclaimed Netflix series Chef’s Table. In his first book, he shares 40 recipes, plus additional basics like sorbets, gelatos and mousses, from his acclaimed Room4Dessert restaurant in Bali.

What’s the USP? Along with the highly complex and bizarrely-named recipes called things like ‘Footsteps, or Burbur Injin’ (black rice pudding), each with their own obscure and sometimes almost unintelligible introduction, the book contains an extended biographical section and ‘The Lab of Ideas’ that provides an insight into Goldfarb’s unique creative process.

What does it look like? The modern, often minimalist desserts are all illustrated with overhead photographs which do some of the less visually impactful creations like Pom Pom Yeah: The Horse Thief (a take on Mont Blanc) no favours at all and makes you wonder what Violet de Meuron (frozen horchata with a dramatic purple hibiscus and onion skin ‘veil’) would look like from another angle.

Is it good bedtime reading? Let’s put it this way, there’s plenty to read, but whether or not you should be looking at it before trying to go to sleep is another matter. Goldfarb has a fascinating life story to tell but does so in such an oblique manner that he sacrifices clear narrative substance for a ‘clever’ turn of phrase and an odd pseudo-poetic style (not dissimilar to that employed by Sean Penn in his much-derided recent novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff),  that your frustration with the many gaps in the story might well keep you up at night. Best stick with the latest Laura Lippman.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Not at all, as long as you’re in Bali. Otherwise, see how you go asking for lontar nectar, fresh moringa leaves or snake fruit at your local Nisa (this is unfair, many of the recipes don’t include exotic ingredients and you should be able to source most of what you need with some diligent online shopping).

What’s the faff factor? This is a book by a progressive, experimental professional pastry chef written for his peers. What do you reckon it’s likely to be?

How often will I cook from the book? Determined hobbyist cooks who want to one-up their nerdy friends or intimidate their dinner party guests with their dazzling pastry skills will be all over this like a rash. Mere mortals will simply admire from the safety of their sofas.

Killer recipes? It’s difficult to say. Is Plat du Jour’s combination of yoghurt sorbet, coffee anglaise, grilled aubergine puree, vermouth gel, white chocolate and ginger ‘Toblerone’ and brioche, soaked in milk and blonde coconut nectar and cooked French toast-style, a winner? Who knows until you’ve made it and eaten it.

What will I love? You will have never read a cookbook quite like it.

What won’t I like? You will have never read a cookbook quite like it.

Should I buy it? If you are a professional pastry chef working at the cutting edge of cuisine, fill your boots. Others should approach with caution unless strongly attracted to whimsy and folderol.

Cuisine: Modernist desserts
Suitable for: Modernist pastry chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 3 (or 5 if you’re a modernist pastry chef)

Buy this book
Room for Dessert
£39.95, Phaidon

Iced strawberry parfait by Russell Brown

WS Iced strawberry yoghurt parfait June-2

I dug up a wild strawberry plant some years ago from a hedge in my mum’s garden. Remarkably, given the neglect and various house moves, it is still alive and producing fruit. The harvest of a small handful of fragrant berries indicates that the strawberry season has properly started. There aren’t enough for a dish so instead they get muddled in the bottom of a flute and topped up with some sparkling wine. Pure essence of summer!

We need to look for a more abundant supply for this iced parfait, a classic combination of ripe fruit and something creamy. The essential part is a really flavoursome fruit purée, so choose your berries with care for this. The purée wants to be pleasantly sweet and may need a touch of sugar. The fruit sugar – fructose – is really good for enhancing the flavour of fruit compotes and purées and can be bought from most supermarkets or health food shops.

As an alternative, buy a good-quality strawberry purée. These are often intense in flavour and many only have a small added sugar content. The frozen purées available from specialist online shops are a great thing to have in the freezer for an impromptu dessert or cocktail.

Serves 8

NOTE: Start this recipe 24 hours ahead

For the parfait

4 large free-range egg yolks

2 tbsp water

100g caster sugar

85g full-fat natural yoghurt

1 leaf of gelatine, soaked in cold water

200g strawberry purée

100ml double cream mixed with 2 tsp semiskimmedmilk

lemon juice to taste

To serve

300g ripe strawberries

1ó tbsp caster sugar

16 shortbread biscuits

1. Place the egg yolks in a small, heatproof bowl that will fit over a saucepan to make a bainmarie.

2. In a heavy-based pan, mix the water and sugar and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and bring the syrup to 110˚C. Whisk the syrup gradually into the egg yolks and then place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk gently until the egg mix reaches 79˚C. At this stage the mix will be thick, creamy and quite stiff. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Whisk the yoghurt into the egg mix.

3. Next, drain the gelatine and place with a few spoonfuls of the puree in a small pan and heat gently, stirring constantly to dissolve the gelatine. Whisk this back into the remaining puree and then whisk the puree into the yoghurt mix. Whip the cream and milk to very soft peaks and gently fold this through the fruit mix. Add lemon juice to taste. (The gelatine can be omitted, but using it makes the parfait slightly softer and easier to cut, as well as holding its shape better on the plate as it starts to defrost.)

4. Lightly oil a small loaf tin and line with a double thickness of cling film, using a clean tea towel to push the film tightly into the corners of the tin. Pour in the parfait mix and freeze overnight.

5. Remove the parfait from the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Hull the strawberries and cut into pieces if large. Mix with the sugar, which will draw a little moisture from the berries and form a glaze. Slice the parfait as required,

wrapping any leftovers tightly in cling film and returning to the freezer if you don’t use it all at once.

6. Serve the sliced parfait with the berries and biscuits. More cream is, of course, always an option.

Extracted from
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

More recipes from this book
Harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick pickled cucumber
Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb

Read the review

Harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick pickled cucumber by Jonathan Haley

WS Harissa mackerel June-1

These spicy flatbreads are perfect for an informal summer lunch. The cooling cucumber and light yoghurt dressing are a great match for punchy North African spices and rich fish.

To remove the pin bones (the line of small bones that runs down the centre of each fillet), use a small, very sharp knife and cut at an angle either side of the line, creating a V-shaped channel. Lift one end of the strip with the tip of the knife and pull away gently in one piece. As an alternative, the bones can be pulled out with a pair of needle-nosed pliers or tweezers while pressing down gently on the fillet behind the bone. It’s not difficult but your fishmonger will also happily do it for you.

Serves 4 as a generous starter or light lunch

For the dressing
150g natural yoghurt
40g harissa paste
1 lemon, juice only

For the pickled cucumber
1 large cucumber
Maldon sea salt
50ml cider (or white wine) vinegar
50g caster sugar
For the fish
4 large, fresh mackerel, filleted and pin bones removed
4 tsp harissa paste
1 tbsp oil for frying
8 large, soft flatbreads

1. Preheat the oven to 150˚C.

2. Make the dressing by spooning the yoghurt into a small bowl. Stir in the harissa, add the lemon juice and stir well.

3. Peel the cucumber and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds using a teaspoon and slice into ócm crescents. Season the cucumber with a generous pinch of salt.

4. Prepare the pickling liquid by stirring the sugar and vinegar together until dissolved. Pour the liquid over the cucumber pieces and put to one side, turning occasionally while you prepare the fish.

5. Spread 1/2 tsp of harissa paste onto the flesh side of each mackerel fillet. Add the oil to a large, non-stick frying pan on a high heat and fry the fish, skin side down, for about 3 minutes. The fillets will curl up as they hit the heat but gentle, firm pressure from a palette knife will flatten them out again. Don’t be tempted to move them around the pan. When the skin is browned and crispy, turn and fry for 30 seconds more, flesh side down.

Extracted from
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

More recipes from this book
Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb
Iced strawberry parfait

Read the review

Buy the book
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb by Russell Brown

WS Salad of new seasons spring lamb April-1

It is only later in April that spring lamb becomes more widely available. There may have been some for Easter but, as Jon has mentioned, leaving it until a bit later in the season is a sensible option. From the cook’s point of view, it is the delicacy of spring lamb that we want to enjoy; the meat is paler and has a sweeter flavour than when it is more mature, and this really shines through in this light warm salad.

The prime cuts of lamb – the loin, fillet, rack and rump – all work well cooked to medium rare or medium, while the harder-working muscles, such as the legs or shoulders, benefit from slower roasting or braising. The one problem with small portions of lamb is that the membrane between the fat and the meat very rarely breaks down before the meat is cooked. A rump will usually work, given its larger size, but a piece of loin is often better cooked as a lean eye of meat.

Serves 4 as a light main course

1 x 300g piece lamb loin, trimmed of all fat and sinew. (Reserve the fat.)
oil for frying the lamb
25g unsalted butter
100g rustic bread, cut into croutons
1 head of chicory
100g ricotta
2 tbsp light olive oil
15g Parmesan, finely grated
1 lemon
100g watercress, large stalks removed
2 tsp capers
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Start by rendering the lamb fat for frying the croutons. Cut the fat into small pieces and colour in a heavy pan. Add enough water to cover by 1cm and then simmer gently until all the water has evaporated. You should be left with liquid fat and the solids. Strain and reserve the rendered fat.

2. Season the lamb loin well with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy nonstick pan. Seal the lamb all over to create a rich, dark colour. Add a second tablespoon of oil to cool the pan slightly and then add the butter, turning the lamb in the foaming butter over a low to medium heat for 3–4 minutes – aim for medium rare. Remove the lamb to rest on a plate in a warm place, retaining a dessertspoonful of the fat from the pan.

3. Fry the croutons in the rendered lamb fat until crisp and golden.

4. Break the chicory into individual leaves and cut any really large leaves in half at an angle.Wash and dry.

5. In a small food processor, blend the ricotta with the olive oil, Parmesan, a good grating of lemon zest and 2 tsp of lemon juice. Season to taste.

6. Toss the leaves together and scatter the croutons on top. Slice the lamb thinly and arrange on the leaves. Mix any lamb juices with a little of the fat from the frying pan and drizzle over the meat. Spoon the dressing and scatter the capers over the top. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and a little more grated lemon zest.

Extracted from
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

More recipes from this book
Harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick pickled cucumber
Iced strawberry parfait

Read the review

Well Seasoned by Russell Brown and Jonathan Haley

Well Seasoned

What is it? Former Michelin starred chef/patron of the much missed Sienna restaurant in Dorchester and now head honcho of the Creative about Cuisine food writing, photography and consultancy business has teamed up with leading food blogger Jonathan Haley for his first book that’s all about ‘exploring, cooking and eating with the seasons’; a guide to ‘seasonal living’ that doesn’t just tell you that crayfish are in season in May, but where and how to catch them.

What’s the USP? In addition to Brown’s seasonal recipes and accompanying photographs, the book contains a month by month guide to the year that encompasses seasonal ingredients, what you can expect to find growing wild in the fields and meadows, what you can forage for on land and at sea and what feasts and festivals to celebrate.

What does it look like? Beautifully designed by Matt Inwood (who has also worked on books by Tom Kerridge and Jason Atherton among many others), the introductory pages of each monthly-themed chapter have their own colour – an icy blue for January, a warm sage green for July – giving the book a lively feel and providing a suitably hued contrasting frame for Brown’s seasonal landscape and nature photography which is every bit as impressive as his food photography.

Is it good bedtime reading? You’ve got to love a book that goes that extra mile with some well-written prose to enjoy away from the stove and blogger Jonathan Haley has provided that in spades with chapter introductions and a series of ‘Out and About’ ‘Food and Foraging’ and ‘Feast and Festival’ articles that appear in each chapter.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Although the book encourages the reader to get out there and forage for their own food, the recipes are kind to the more indoorsy cooks amongst us and you should have little trouble finding all the specified ingredients or suitable alternatives. A list of recommended suppliers at the back of the book should help fill in any gaps.

What’s the faff factor? As this is written by a former Michelin starred chef, you won’t be surprised to encounter some degree of complexity in some of the recipes, but that is more than balanced by plenty of very approachable, straightforward dishes.

How often will I cook from the book? The seasonal theme and mix of everyday and special occasion dishes ensure Well Seasoned will be a well-thumbed tome.

Killer recipes? Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb; harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick-pickled cucumber; hay-baked leg of kid goat; sauteed squid with chorizo and piquillo pepper dressing; white chocolate mousse with cherry compote.

What will I love? Brown and Haley have really taken their seasonal premise seriously and have unearthed all manner of useful and sometimes arcane information (who knew that the Celts called the first of May Beltane Day and that there is a cake named in its honour? The recipe is included in the book).

What won’t I like? If you were hoping for a collection of recipes from Sienna restaurant, this is not it.

Should I buy it?  Seasonality should always be a top priority for any serious home cook or chef and Brown and Haley have created a year-round reference work that should find a place on the shelves of amateur and professional kitchens alike up and down the land.

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Home cooks and professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking and Eating with the Seasons
£25, Head of Zeus

Cook from this book
Harissa mackerel flatbreads with quick pickled cucumber
Warm salad of new season’s spring lamb
Iced strawberry parfait

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

Smitten Kitchen Everyday

What is it? Five years on from her debut book, this is the second outing for New York-based dating-turned-food blogger extraordinaire Deb Perelman of New York Times profiled smittenkitchen.com with over 100 recipes for ‘real people with busy lives’.

What does it look like? What is it about American-published cookbooks that makes them just so damn desirable? I’m not an uber font-nerd but the Minion typeface used here (originally developed by Adobe for Macs in 1990 according to a note at the back of the book) is particularly attractive and clean looking. At over 300 pages, the book has a certain authoritative weight and the glossy paper makes the 127 full-colour photographs pop.

Is it good bedtime reading?  Set aside that Grisham, the generous recipe introductions include plenty of culinary-related personal anecdotes and opinion, as well as cookery lore and background to the recipes themselves, making it a nighttime page-turner par excellence.

Killer recipes? Charred corn succotash with lime and crispy shallots; pea tortellini in parmesan broth; Manhattan-style clams with fregola; winter squash flatbread with hummus and za’atat;  ricotta blini with honey, orange and sea salt; raspberry hazelnut brioche bostock; chewy oatmeal raisin chocolate chip mega-cookies.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Despite an almost encyclopedic approach to global cuisine, you should have no trouble finding the vast majority of ingredients in a good supermarket.

What’s the faff factor? Make no mistake, this is ‘proper’ cooking and many of the recipes have several elements that need to be brought together at the point of serving, but with a little planning and organisation, they should be stress-free.

How often will I cook from the book? Every day (duh!).

What will I love? This is an American book, but, God bless them, they’ve included gram or millilitre equivalents for cup measures which rockets the book to the top of the usability charts for UK readers (other US publishers please take note). The guide for special menus at the back of the book that highlights vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and diary-free recipes (of which there are many) is particularly thoughtful.

What won’t I like? Me, if I find out you don’t love this book as much as I do.

Should I buy it? Only if you like cooking delicious food. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Cuisine: American/International
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review rating: 5 Stars

Buy this book
Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites
£25, Square Peg

Cook from this book
Crispy tofu and broccoli with sesame peanut pesto
Smoky sheet pan chicken with cauliflower