Green Shakshuka by Gizzi Erskine

Green Shakshuka c. Issy Croker

I developed this recipe in the early days of Filth, with Rosemary Ferguson. Our mission was to get extra nutrition into everyday dishes. We wanted to make a healthy breakfast, both loved shakshuka and huevos rancheros, and thought we could somehow merge them. That week, I’d made a huge vat of Green Tomato Salsa that ended up being the base of this dish. We fried some cumin seeds in oil then added the salsa, before blending it with fresh spinach to an even more nutritious, virtually Hulk-green sauce, got some roasted green peppers into the dish and baked the eggs in this sauce instead of the usual red one. We finished it with a combo of Middle Eastern and Mexican toppings and served it with flatbreads or grilled Turkish breads with some good extra-virgin olive oil. It’s a superb healthy weekend brunch dish and pretty fancy-pants in the impressiveness stakes, too.

SERVES 2
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
400g Green Tomato Salsa (page book for recipe)
1 tsp ground coriander
85g fresh spinach, washed, wilted in a pan for a minute and drained
80g green peppers, roasted (see book for Gizzie’s method) and sliced
4 free-range eggs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

TO SERVE
good handful of coriander leaves, chopped
a few dill fronds
a few mint leaves, shredded 2 tbsp sour cream
300g Qyeso Fresco (see book for further info) made to a firm and crumbly texture
3 tbsp toasted mixed seeds mixed with ½ tsp za’atar
freshly made Flatbreads (see book for Gizzi’s recipe) or grilled Turkish bread
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

You will need 2 individual 22-25cm baking or gratin dishes.

Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/gas mark 9.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds and fry for a minute or two until toasted. Add the green tomato salsa, coriander and spinach and cook for a minute. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, then remove from the heat and blitz until smooth.

Divide the blitzed sauce between two individual (22-25cm) ovenproof baking or gratin dishes. Split the green peppers between the two dishes, then simply make two little holes in the top of the sauce in each dish and break an egg into each hole. Season each egg with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the egg whites are cooked through, but the eggs still have runny yolks.

Remove from the oven and top the two shakshukas with the chopped coriander, dill, mint, sour cream, queso fresco and seeds, and serve with toasted or warmed bread, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

Recipe taken from Restore by Gizzi Erskine, available now (£25, HQ)’. Photography credit – c. Issy Croker

Restore

Cook more from this book
Bibimbap

Buy this book
Restore by Gizzi Erskine
£26, HQ

Read the review
Coming soon

Bibimbap by Gizzi Erskine

Bibimbap c. Issy Croker

One of my breakthroughs was bringing attention to Korean food in the UK back in about 2007. While working as a chef in NYC, I’d hit Koreatown in my downtime with my mates, drink ice-cold beers and eat Korean fried chicken. Koreatown was open late, and you could go from restaurant to karaoke bar eating and drinking yourself into a stupor. I fell in love with Korean food there, and fell in love with the culture 5 years later when I first visited Korea, later moving there to film my TV show Seoul Food.

I’m certain that the popular ‘buddha bowl’ has Korean culinary heritage, as it’s similar to a dish called ‘bibimbap’. In a bibimbap bowl, rice is topped with vegetables, meat (optional), egg yolk and a spicy sauce. It is quite refined -you can’t say that about a lot of Korean food – and is cooked in a searing hot cast-iron pot which is oiled before adding the rice; the vegetables and egg (and meat, if using) are swiftly put on top. By the time the rice gets to the table it has a fantastic caramelised crust that you peel away from the pot and you stir-fry everything at the table. It’s real theatre. Fear not if you don’t have cast-iron pots -you can eat it like Hawaiian poke, in a bowl with hot rice. Bibimbap is delicious, healthy and a great way to tackle a fridge forage. I’ve used traditional toppings, but do play around with seafood, tofu and different veg: the only mainstays are the rice, egg yolk and sauce.

SERVES 2
Preparation time 45 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes

200g sushi rice
400ml water
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
150g spinach
1 courgette, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, finely julienned
100g beansprouts
6 spring onions, shredded
100g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 corn on the cob
2 free-range egg yolks
300g rump steak, finely chopped sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp black or white toasted sesame seeds, to serve

FOR THE SAUCE
6 tbsp gochujang
2 tbsp Korean or Japanese soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
1½ tbsp caster sugar

Put the rice and water in a large saucepan with a good pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Take off the heat and steam (lid on) for 10 minutes.

Gently heat the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan until emulsified. Set aside.

Mix  together the sesame and sunflower  oils. Heat a large wok or frying pan over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon  of the  oil mix and add  half the spinach with a pinch  of salt. Cook briefly until wilted, then remove and drain on kitchen paper, squeezing out any liquid. Repeat with the  remaining spinach. Add another  splash  of oil and briefly fry the courgette until golden. Remove and set aside. Repeat this process with the carrot, beansprouts, spring onions and shiitake mushrooms. Rub the sweetcorn cob with oil, salt and pepper, then brown in the pan until the kernels start to char.

Heat two stone bibimbap dishes or a wok on the hob until smoking hot. Place the stone dishes on a heatproof surface (if using). Brush the insides of the dishes (or hot wok) with the remaining oil and add the rice. Group vegetables around the edge, put the raw meat in the middle, then the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the sauce for each serving. Top with sesame seeds. Mix the sauce into the rice at the table with a spoon.

Recipe taken from Restore by Gizzi Erskine, available now (£25, HQ)’. Photography credit – c. Issy Croker

Restore

Cook more from this book
Green Shakshuka

Buy this book
Restore by Gizzi Erskine
£26, HQ

Read the review
Coming soon

The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller

The French Laundry Per Se

What’s the USP? Recipes and stories from a pair of three Michelin-starred American restaurants. The book appears 20 years after the publication of the original The French Laundry cookbook and serves as a kind of update and elaboration as it now also covers sister restaurant Per Se.

Who is the author? Thomas Keller is one of America’s best known and most decorated chefs. He holds three Michelin stars at The French Laundry in Napa, California and at Per Se in New York. His other restaurants include Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery in both Yountville California and Las Vegas and The Surf Club in Miami. His glamorous, upscale TAK Room restaurant, opened in the mid-town Manhattan Hudson Yards development and inspired by classic American cuisine from the 40s and 50s, closed in August 2020 after just one year of trading, a victim of the pandemic.  He has also been a consultant to Hollywood, working on the  animated film Ratatouille and the Adam Sandler comedy Spanglish. He is the author of five previous cookbooks, publisher of Finesse magazine and has his own Masterclass. He has recently been the subject of a Trump-related Twitter controversy that has seen the chef delete his account on the social media site. At the time of writing, he remains active on Instagram.

Is it good bedtime reading? Given it’s size and weight – The French Laundry, Per Se is a great big, beautiful book – it won’t make the most relaxing bedtime reading material. Better then to enjoy it sitting in your favourite chair with a nice glass of Californian red (in homage to The French Laundry’s location in the heart of Napa Valley wine country) and appreciate the thousands of words carefully crafted with the help of leading food writers Susie Heller and  Michael Ruhlman.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Let’s have a look at the very first recipe in the book shall we? Smoked Sturgeon Rillettes on an Everything Bagel. No problem, apart from the smoked sturgeon, Reglis Ova caviar (Keller’s own brand, available online for US only delivery), Argumato lemon oil and onion blossoms. Opening the book at random, I land on Hiramasa with Apple Vierge. First, catch your hiramasa (sushi grade Australian Yellowtail Kingfish, available online in the UK from The Fish Society) then track down some Champagne vinegar and Marcona almonds and you’re good to go.  Elsewhere, expect ingredients such as foie gras, spiny lobster, and Alaskan king crab. Things get ludicrously specific with Venison Rack Roasted Over Grapevines that not only call for 1.5kg of ‘dried grapevine knots’ but ‘250g of dark raisins, dried on the vine, preferably from Paradigm Winery’. Thankfully, not all the recipes are this tricky to negotiate and, with some common sense substitutions, you should be able to attempt a number of dishes from the book.

What’s the faff factor? These are recipes from three Michelin-starred restaurants so they were never going to be a walk in the park for the home cook. They will take time, money, effort and concentration, but they are far from unachievable if you have the resources and will to make them.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Six books in and with the help of some of the best food writers in the business, this is not an issue. Keller is a proponent of sous-vide cooking, but has include full alternative ingredient lists and methods when appropriate so if you don’t happen to have a vacuum sealer and immersion circulator in your kitchen, it’s no biggie.

How often will I cook from the book? When you have the time and inclination; for example, during a pandemic. Even a simple sounding – and looking – bowl of Red Pepper Farfalle lists 38 ingredients, not counting those included in the three additional satellite recipes you’ll need to make to complete the dish. A few simple soup recipes aside, this is not a book for weeknight cooking.

Killer recipes: Smoked Montana Rainbow Trout Chaud-Froid; Celery Root Pastrami; Salt-and-Rye-Baked Lamb Neck; Malted Brownies among others.

What will I love? The premium look and feel; the numerous essays that cover everything from a treatise on fine dining to the importance of bread and butter; the gorgeous food photography by Deborah Jones.

What won’t I like so much? Before embarking on the majority of recipes, you will have to take some time to consider if you can source the necessary ingredients, and if not, will the dish still be worth making with replacements. You’ll also want to weigh up if the dish, which may only be a mouthful or two, is worth the cost and effort required. It’s worth bearing in mind that the recipes in the book are the product of a very well staffed and resourced kitchen and that the resulting dishes will be sold at a significant profit on menus that cost upwards of $350 a head, none of which applies to the home cook who will be left with a much depleted bank account and a mountain of washing up.

Should I buy it?  For many professional chefs working in the fine dining arena, The French Laundry, Per Se will be an essential purchase. The same will be true for serious hobbyist cooks and restaurant enthusiasts. For those simply in search of a practical recipe book that will be put to regular use, look elsewhere. 

Cuisine: American/Progressive
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan

Cook from this book
The Whole Bird
Fish and Chips
Peaches ‘N’ Cream

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen by Maura O’Connell Foley

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen by Maura O'Connell Foley

What’s the USP? Recollections from a pioneering Irish chef and restaurateur with 250 recipes that span her 60 year career in hospitality.

Who is the author? Maura O’Connell Foley’s career in Kenmare, County Kerry began in 1961 with Agnes, the first tea shop she ran with her mother, and continued with The Purple Heather Restaurant and Piano Bar, The Lime Tree Restaurant and  Packie’s (named after O’Connell Foley’s uncle). With her husband Tom, she continues to run Shelburne Lodge, a converted mid-18th century Georgian farmhouse which she restored over a five-year period and which she opened as a guesthouse in 1996. 

Is it good bedtime reading? A forward by Irish celebrity chef Derry Clarke of L’Ecrivain restaurant in Dublin and a lengthy introduction and cooking notes by O’Connell Foley are supplemented by introductory essays for each of the eight recipe chapters. They include breakfast, starters, fish (O’Connell Foley’s ‘real love’ which is reflected in her extensive notes on the subject), meat, vegetables, desserts and baking, sauce, stocks and staples and dinner parties. Each recipe has its own introduction that includes useful and interesting background information or cooking tips, so there is plenty to keep you informed and entertained.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? O’Connell Foley says that it’s ‘vital you aim to source the best ingredients, especially if you want the best outcome’.  So that means eschewing the supermarket and heading to your local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer if you are fortunate enough to have such things in the 21st century. Otherwise, the pandemic has opened up access via the internet to highly quality ingredients usually reserved for restaurants, but they come at a price. You’ll probably need to forage for your own elderflower heads to make gooseberry and elderflower compote for breakfast, and unless you live in Ireland you’ll need to find an online supplier for Gubeen Chorizo (or just substitute your favourite brand), but that all said, you should have no problem getting you hands on most of what you need to cook from the book.

What’s the faff factor? The wide variety of recipes means you can go from the plain sailing rocket, pear and blue cheese salad with toasted walnuts and apple and walnut dressing or a classic moules mariniere to the more demanding baked fillet of turbot en papillote with salsify and red wine sauce.  

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Very few complaints here. Weights and measures are supplied for nearly every ingredient including herbs, although ‘a few sprigs of thyme’ does crop up once or twice in the book and of course there’s the old ‘juice of a lemon’ classic (why does no one give ml quantities for lemon juice? I know, I’ve said that before in other reviews). Methods are detailed and well written so you won’t find yourself up a blind alley halfway through cooking a dish.    

How often will I cook from the book? With 250 recipes to choose from, My Wild Atlantic Kitchen offers something for pretty much any occasion. Irish classics including brown soda bread, colcannon, beef and Guinness casserole and traditional Irish stew, cooked in a sealed pot and made with waxy potatoes only to avoid mushiness, (‘Irish stew is a broth with solids, like a bouillabaisse’, states O’Connell Foley) are all present and correct.

But there are plenty of influences from around the globe too, most noticeably France with dishes such as a Normandy-style chicken Valee d’Auge made with apple brandy, cider and apples, and brochettes de fruits de mer with sauce choron. The vegetables chapter with dishes like gratin of leeks or roast fennel will come in handy for when you need inspiration for a mid-week roast or grill, and the baking chapter with sweet treats like Tunisian orange cake will fill up a weekend when you fancy spending a bit of extra time in the kitchen.  

Killer recipes: See above but also Drop Scone Pancakes with Dry Cured Bacon and Apple Syrup, Confit of Duck Leg with Pear and Ginger Salad and Twice Baked Hazelnut Goat’s Cheese Soufflé.

What will I love? Norman McCloskey’s beautiful landscape photography, the book’s timelessly stylish design, the illustrated dinner party menu suggestions and the vintage restaurant menus.   

What won’t I like so much? The indexing could have been a bit more accurate – for example, Irish stew doesn’t appear at all in the index (and yes I checked ‘I’ for Irish, ‘S’ for stew, ‘L’ for lamb and ‘T’ for traditional). 

Should I buy it? The recipes are great, the book looks fantastic and you’ll learn about an important piece of Irish restaurant history too. My Wild Atlantic Kitchen is one of my favourite books of the year and I bet it will yours too.   

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

Buy this book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

The Whole Chicken by Carl Clarke

The Whole Chicken Carl Clarke

What’s the USP? It’s nose-to-tail cooking, but for chickens! So beak-to-tail-feather, then. The Whole Chicken breaks down the bird both literally and metaphorically, with chapters dedicated to all our favourite cuts, as well as mince, offal, bones, skin and, in a move that technically fits the bill but feels a little too eager to get the chicken on the table, eggs.

Who wrote it? Author Carl Clarke has definite chicken-cred. I mean, I imagine his credibility is at rock bottom with actual chickens – he keeps eating them. But through Chick ‘n’ Sours and spin-off Chick’n he has two of the coolest bird-and-apostrophe-centric restaurants in London to his name.

Is it good bedtime reading? Though Clarke skips out on chapter introductions (who needs to be told that thighs are the best bit of the chicken for the umpteenth time?), he quickly makes up for it with passionate and practical introductions to each recipe. Forget about the bedtime reading though, it’s the kitchen dance-offs that you’ll be focused on: the book offers five brilliantly curated playlists to keep you entertained whilst you prepare, cook and eat the whole of your chicken.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Not even a little bit. Clarke goes into a decent amount of detail throughout. There’s a refreshing commitment to clarity, in fact. The book lists both metric and imperial measurements at every opportunity, and even features both British and American terms where necessary (cling film/plastic wrap, etc).

What’s the faff factor? Clearly marked at the side of the page. A small scale next to each recipe ranks the dish as either ‘easy peasy’, ‘almost breezy’, or ‘worth the effort’. That said, quite a lot of the dishes fall into that latter category. The scale isn’t particularly consistent either. The Next Level Breville grilled sandwich is listed as ‘worth the effort’, and whilst it’s certainly a lot more of a commitment than your usual toastie, it pales by comparison to the Chicken Nuggets with Kimchi Bacon Ranch Dip and Spicy Shake.

What will I love? The sheer range of dishes on offer here. Clarke draws on a number of different cuisines, though East Asia and the United States are perhaps the most obvious influences. Everything here looks absolutely delicious, and the design of the book itself only emphasises this. The Whole Chicken is intensely cool, and you’ll be a little surprised to find that it’s willing to hang out with you and your other cookbooks.

What won’t I love? There’s a disappointing amount of recipes representing the less commonly used pieces of the chicken. Given the title of the book is ‘The Whole Chicken’, you’d perhaps expect a little more attention to be paid to these areas. Instead, the overwhelming majority of the book is dedicated to those traditional cuts. The entire offal section comprises of just five recipes, meaning that those looking for inspired uses for chicken heart (a delicacy in several countries) will find just one stand-alone recipe. The same goes, inexplicably, for the liver, gizzards and feet – despite each of these having myriad uses in various global cuisines.

Killer recipes: My Friend Romy’s Butter Chicken Recipe, Doritos-Coated Schnitzel with Fried Eggs and Anchovies, Gunpowder Wings, Xian-Spiced Chicken Scratchings and Cherry Cola Chicken Legs.

Should I buy it? Despite not fully realising the promise of its title, The Whole Chicken does offer up an irresistible wealth of dishes drawn from genuinely global influences. It isn’t the first book to do a deep dive on the chicken, but it feels very much of its own space. I have Diana Henry’s lovely A Bird in the Hand on my shelves too, but comparing the two here feels a little like throwing Delia Smith in the ring with David Chang.

Cuisine: Global
Suitable for: Beginner to confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

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

Buy this book
The Whole Chicken: 100 easy but innovative ways to cook from beak to tail
£22, Hardie Grant

Australian Food by Bill Granger

Australian Food by Bill Granger

Bill Granger could not have picked a better time to publish his first book in six years. With its bright, orange, red and yellow cover and vibrant, globally inspired recipes, Australian Food brings some very welcome sunshine from down under into these gloomy lockdown autumn days. Granger first came to international attention in 2002 when the New York Times dubbed him ‘The Egg Master of Sydney’ and described the scrambled eggs at bills restaurant ‘as light as the breath of an angel’.

The recipe (the secret of which appears to be quite a lot of whipping cream and some careful cooking) is included in a chapter of ‘classics’ that features other signatures such as chocolate banana bread, and ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and banana, a dish much-copied by the likes of Nigella and Ottolenghi. These breakfast specialities might be the foundations of a restaurant empire that now includes London, Honolulu, Seoul and Japan, but Australian Food confirms there’s much to the self-taught chef’s repertoire.

Australian chefs have long been renowned for incorporating Southeast Asian flavours into their food (Neil Perry of Rockpool Dining Group is just one high profile example) and Granger does it better than most. Deftly sidestepping issues of authenticity and appropriation, dishes such as turmeric-spiced chicken in lettuce parcels with green chilli dipping sauce, or grilled pork chops with cashew satay with pineapple and cucumber relish employ ingredients with gleeful abandon to create something delicious and decidedly Australian.

Italy also looms large in Granger’s gastronomic imagination so there’s also recipes for braised lamb ragu with tagliatelle and pecorino and green herb risotto with raw summer salad.  But he doesn’t stop there. With chapters on barbecue, bowl food, small plates and bakery (Granger is an excellent baker as his miso caramel brownies prove), the book leaves no culinary stone unturned.  The sheer variety on offer makes Australian Food a pandemic kitchen panacea but Granger’s skill as a creative chef and recipe writer, honed over more than a quarter of a century, ensures it will have enduring appeal.  

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

Buy this book
Australian Food
£20, Murdoch Books

 

Pizza: A book by Pizza Pilgrims by James and Thom Elliot

Pizza by Pizza Pilgrims

What’s the USP? The ultimate book about pizza! As well as recipes, Pizza offers up interviews with figures central to the pizza-eating world, pop cultural insights, and lessons in etymology and maths.

Who wrote it? Brothers James and Thom Elliot, who are best known as the founders of Pizza Pilgrims – a small chain of restaurants that evolved out of a single street food stand in London. Named after a toe-to-top journey through Italy that the brothers undertook in 2011 as an attempt to discover the secrets of great pizza, the brand has since become one of the most celebrated names to hoist a margherita upon the British people.

Is it good bedtime reading? Look, this is nothing if not filled with bedtime reading. In fact, it’s probably better not to think of Pizza as a cookbook, but rather food writing with added recipes. The book comes in just shy of 270 pages, and yet features only 26 pizza recipes, plus some pizza-adjacent ideas that bring the total recipe count to 30.

It’s hard to know exactly how to feel about this number. Pizzas are relatively intuitive things once the dough is made, and the overwhelming majority of the recipes that make the cut are both innovative and enticing. There are only so many pizzas one needs to be told how to make, after all. I’m not convinced there is much need to spell out how to put together a Hawaiian, for example, so it’s hard to fault the brothers for excluding it.

The rest of the content falls broadly into one of three categories. Firstly, there’s the genuinely interesting stuff, like a deep dive on the perfect pizza dough, and the city guides that champion the best pizzerias in Naples, Rome, and a smattering of other cities across the world.

Secondly, there’s the missed opportunities. Chief amongst these is the four-page section that looks at collaborative pizzas the Pilgrims have created with other restaurants over the years. Given the relative lack of actual pizza recipes in the book, it seems a tremendous waste to list twelve delicious sounding hybrids like the Dishoom-inspired Bacon & Egg Naan Pizza and not provide the means to create them at home.

Finally, there’s the filler – and, frustratingly, much of the book falls under this category. In an attempt to create a definitive text on pizza, the Elliots have included some genuinely useless sections. A two-page spread entitled ‘Pizza-Loving Celebrities’ lists thirteen famous people who have publicly professed to liking one of the most popular foods on the planet. There are four pages on the best fictional pizzerias and, later on, a further four pages on pop culture moments for the dish. Both of these amount to little more than a slightly wordy Buzzfeed list. Home Alone gets significant coverage in each.

Occasionally, the book gets really desperate – a gallery of pizza box designs customers have drawn up over the years, an advert for their ‘pizza in the post’ DIY delivery service and, most bafflingly, one-dimensional interviews with corporate figures from Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. There might be some interesting insights to be found in the development kitchens of these brands, but half a page with the UK operations director of Domino’s ultimately amounts to nothing but empty calories.

Oof. So you’re not a fan, then? Well, see this is the problem. Perhaps eighty percent of this book is useless to a serious home chef – but the twenty percent that remains is brilliant. The recipes frequently show the value of the brothers’ initial pilgrimage through Italy, demonstrating a depth of knowledge and understanding that results in genuine learning opportunities.

My favourite choice at my local takeaway is a light ham and sweetcorn affair that is revealed here to be a version of the Mimosa pizza. I had no idea that it was something of a nostalgic favourite in Naples, where children think of it in much the same way that Brits might think of fish fingers and chips.

The Elliots also champion the frying pan as their preferred method for cooking pizzas at home – an idea I might have been unconvinced by before, but will likely be my standard going forward. These sorts of revelations are worth the price of admission by themselves.

I’m not going to deny, either, that there will be audiences who lap this up. The style of the book reminds me of cash-in influencer titles at times, and for better or worse, it will appeal to plenty of people as a result. It might also offer an excellent entry point for pizza lovers who perhaps haven’t previously considered making their own at home. 

What will I love? The recipes are faultless, even if there aren’t all that many of them. Alongside those inexplicable big brand takeaway interviews, there’s also a lovely conversation with Antimo Caputo, who makes flour that enjoys a cult status in pizza circles. It’s worth taking a moment, too, to celebrate the inspired cover design, which mocks up a takeaway pizza box with joyful, tactile precision.

What won’t I love? The recurring feeling that the publishers are trying to make the book thick enough to charge twenty quid for. The frustration that instead of achieving this by including more recipes, they threw in filler pages with titles like ‘Pizza Facts’. The sheer incredulity you feel when the first fact on the ‘Pizza Facts’ page – that the pepperoni pizza emoji is the most used emoji in the US – is so obviously, quantifiably not true that it renders the entire page pointless. It’s the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji, by the way, and you (or the publisher’s fact checkers) can confirm that with one four word Google search.

Killer recipes: There are no duds amongst the recipes, but the Mimosa, Datterini Filetti and Mortadella & Pistachio pizzas are particular highlights.

Should I buy it? This is definitely a browse-in-the-shop-first book. Anyone really passionate about homemade pizzas will benefit from the advice here, and I suspect this would be a great book for a young person who is getting increasingly ambitious in the kitchen. More confident cooks might want to consider if they can really afford to give up valuable space on their cookbook shelf to a title that barely fits the description of ‘cookbook’ in the first place, though.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

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

Buy this book
Pizza: History, recipes, stories, people, places, love (A book by Pizza Pilgrims)
£20, Quadrille Publishing Ltd

Fish and Chips by Thomas Keller

FIsh and Chips_Credit Deborah Jones

“Fish and Chips”
Ale-­Battered Blowfish with Malt Vinegar Jam

Makes 6 servings

Malt Vinegar Jam
7 grams caraway seeds
225 grams malt vinegar, preferably Sarson’s
225 grams water
50 grams light brown sugar
1 gram fleur de sel
7 grams agar-­agar

Split Pea and Ale Batter
30 grams dried split peas
250 grams Cup4Cup gluten-­free flour
8 grams kosher salt
300 grams dark ale, plus more if needed

To Complete
Canola oil, for deep-­frying
6 cleaned blowfish tails, 2 to 3 ounces (55 to 85 grams) each
Kosher salt
All-­purpose flour, for dusting the fish
Freeze-­dried peas, crushed between your fingers
Blanched fresh peas, warmed, for garnish
Mint leaves, preferably nepitella

Special Equipment
Chamber vacuum sealer (optional)
Cast-­iron deep-­fry pan (optional)
Infrared thermometer gun (optional)

We have fun serving common dishes, such as this British middle-­class staple—fish and chips with mushy peas—in unusual ways. This one is very straightforward: ale-­battered fish, deep-­fried, with a sweet-­sour malt vinegar jam and a garnish of peas and fresh herbs. We get blowfish, caught off Georges Bank, from Wulf’s Fish, but you can use any firm white fish—cod, of course, is traditional and excellent. The tempura batter uses freeze-­dried peas and gluten-­free Cup4Cup flour, which creates a very crisp crust and holds that crispness longer. It’s a great flour for all such crispy batters. The vinegar jam is gelled with agar, and we like to finish the dish with nepitella, an Italian mint with a flavor that’s almost a cross between oregano and mint.

For the Malt Vinegar Jam

Lightly toast the caraway seeds in a small sauté pan over medium-­low heat, continuously swirling the pan to ensure that the seeds are toasting evenly without burning, until fragrant. Let cool, then grind the toasted caraway seeds in a spice grinder until they are cracked but not ground to dust.

In a 1-­quart (1-­liter) saucepot, bring the vinegar, water, brown sugar, and fleur de sel to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the agar-­agar and boil gently, whisking continuously, for 1 minute to activate the agar-­agar. Transfer to a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-­water bath. Chill, undisturbed, until the jam base is completely firm and set.

Coarsely chop the jam base and transfer it to a blender. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to high, blend the jam until it is completely smooth, using the tamper to keep the jam moving. Pass the jam through a chinois into a container and season with the ground caraway.

If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, place the container, uncovered, in the sealer chamber. Run a complete cycle on full pressure to remove any air bubbles incorporated during blending. This will give the jam clarity and shine.

The jam can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For the Split Pea and Ale Batter

Grind the split peas to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Transfer the pea powder to a bowl, add the flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. Whisk the ale into the dry mixture. If the batter is too thick, thin it with a bit more ale. The batter can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour before frying the fish.

To Complete

Fill a cast-­iron deep-­fry pot with about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of canola oil. (If you do not have a cast-­iron deep-­fry pot, use another heavy pot with sides at least 8 inches/20 centimeters high.) Heat the oil to 350°F (180°C).

Season the blowfish with salt and lightly coat with the flour. Holding the blowfish by the tail, dip it in the batter to fully coat the flesh, leaving the tail exposed. Carefully lower the blowfish into the hot oil and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, turning the fish once or twice, until the batter is evenly colored and crisp and the fish is just cooked through. Transfer the fish to a paper towel to drain.

Fill a disposable piping bag with the malt vinegar jam and pipe the jam into a small squeeze bottle.

Arrange the fried blowfish on serving plates and sprinkle with the crushed freeze-­dried peas. Garnish the plate with beads of the malt vinegar jam, blanched fresh peas, and mint.

Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones.

Cook more from this book
The Whole Bird
Peaches ‘N’ Cream  

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)
£60, Artisan


A Love for Food by Carole Bamford

A Love For Food Carole Bamford

What’s the USP? An updated edition of the 2013 cookbook from the none-more-middle-class Daylesford organic farm in the Cotswolds.

Who wrote it? According to her website  ‘Carole Bamford has been a champion of sustainable, mindful living for over 40 years. As the founder of Daylesford Organic, she is recognised as a visionary in organic farming and food retail.’ She is also the wife of Brexit-backing JCB billionaire Lord Anthony Bamford.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not if you pop along to a Daylesford Organic store. The ‘flagship’ on the farm in Kingham is as jaw-droppingly lovely as it is expensive (there are a number branches in London too). You can also buy Daylesford Organics produce through Ocado.  That said, you will have little trouble tracking down the ingredients for most of the recipes at your local supermarket, (stick to the organic aisle if you want to keep in Lady Carole’s good books).

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? If you read the introduction (and the  acknowledgements page at the back of the book – does anyone do that apart from me?) you’ll discover that long serving Daylesford chef John Hardwick ‘created’ the recipes and a great job he’s done of them too.

Little details like giving not just the diameter of the pastry case for a Bledington Blue Cheese and Broccoli tart, but the depth too make all the difference. In this instance, you now know exactly what cookware to use to ensure you get the correct ratio between tart and filling – too often recipes need trial and error to get just right.

Not every recipe is perfect however; Ginger Biscuits were a cakey disaster for me (according to a chef friend who I consulted after my disappointing effort, the mixture should have been chilled before baking which is not stipulated in the book).

What’s the faff factor? The recipes are very much designed for the home kitchen. Some, like home made corned beef,  will take time and planning ahead but most will be plain sailing for any keen cook.

How often will I cook from the book? A Love for Food is definitely the sort of volume you’ll be glad to have on your shelf when it comes time to plan your weekly menus (which, if you read this blog is almost certainly something you do). It will be well thumbed and food spattered in no time. There are also a decent number of baking, pickling and preserving projects for when you have more time on your hands (for example, during a pandemic).

Killer recipes: Slow cooked lamb shoulder with white beans and salsa verde; curried cauliflower, red pepper and nigella seeds; Rita’s baked eggs and onions; ham hock terrine with piccalilli; seven seed sourdough; vanilla rice pudding with apple and blackberry compote.

What will I love? At nearly 400 pages, there’s room for 150 recipes that cover everything from breakfast, things ‘on toast’, egg dishes, soups, salads and vegetables to savoury tarts and pies, fish, meat, puddings and baked goods, so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

What won’t I like so much? Not applicable.

Is it good bedtime reading? A three page introduction is supplemented by articles on sustainablility and the environment, the market garden, Daylesford’s creamery and cheese room, it’s bakery and the farm’s animals. In addition there are page long introductions to every chapter and each recipe has its own introduction. In short, plently to keep you informed and entertained outside of the kitchen.

Should I buy it? It looks great the recipes are varied and enticing and it’s a good read. What’s not to love?

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

Buy this book
A Love for Food: Recipes from the Fields and Kitchens of Daylesford Farm
£30, Square Peg

Smoked haddock omelette by Tom Kerridge

Smoked-haddock_621

A delicate, beautiful omelette is one of those pure dishes that makes you realise great food does not have to be about hundreds of ingredients on a plate. It’s about allowing a simple product to sing. I learnt that lesson back in the day when I worked for Gary Rhodes and we used to do a lobster omelette which showcased the chef ’s technique rather than putting a load of fancy things on the plate.

This smoked haddock omelette, which has been on The Hand & Flowers menu pretty much since we opened, started off as a lobster one. But I took a sharp, commercial learning curve early on. Starting out, of course, we had no accolades and were relatively unknown, so there was no reason for customers to spend what, at the time, was the equivalent of £30 or £35 on an omelette, even if it had lobster in it!

I still loved the idea of an omelette, so we tried an omelette Arnold Bennett (a fluffy open omelette created at The Savoy in the 1920s for the novelist, playwright and critic). Most people didn’t know who Arnold Bennett was, so we just called it ‘smoked haddock omelette with Parmesan’ and after a first couple of bumpy weeks it became one of our most popular dishes.

There is no reason why this dish should ever change. I can’t improve it. The flavour profile of the humble omelette is heightened with gently poached smoked haddock, a brilliant glaze made from hollandaise sauce and a béchamel sauce flavoured with the fish poaching liquor. So, even the glaze has got that lovely smoked taste, which really drives the flavour.

Actually, this omelette is probably my favourite dish on the menu. I am very pleased to say the lobster version has reappeared at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill in London some 14 or 15 years down the line, and has gone on to become one of our most Instagrammed dishes. Thank you Gary Rhodes…

serves 4

Poached smoked haddock
1 side of smoked haddock, 600g,
skin and pin bones removed
600ml whole milk

Check the smoked haddock for any tiny pin bones. Bring the milk to the boil in a wide-based saucepan. Carefully lay the smoked haddock in the pan, ensuring it is covered by the milk. Place a lid on the pan, turn off the heat and leave the fish to poach in the residual heat for about 10 minutes. Once the haddock is cooked, remove it from the milk and gently flake the fish into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pass the milk through a fine chinois into a clean saucepan and keep to one side.

Smoked fish béchamel
250ml smoked haddock poaching
liquor (see left)
15g unsalted butter
15g plain flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the smoked haddock poaching liquor to a gentle simmer. In a separate pan over a medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually ladle in the warm poaching liquor, stirring as you do so to keep the sauce smooth. Cook gently over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Pass the sauce through a fine chinois and cover the surface with a piece of baking parchment or cling film to prevent a skin forming. Set aside until needed. (You won’t need all of the fish béchamel but you can freeze the rest.)

Omelette glaze
4 tbsp warm smoked haddock
béchamel (see left)
4 tbsp hollandaise sauce
(see page 403)
4 medium free-range egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently warm the béchamel in a saucepan then pour into a bowl and whisk in the hollandaise and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass through a chinois into a warm jug or bowl. Keep warm to stop the glaze from splitting.

To assemble & cook the omelette
12 medium free-range eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
100g aged Parmesan, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Crack the eggs into a jug blender and blend briefly to combine. Pass through a chinois into a measuring jug. Place 4 individual omelette pans (we use Staub) over a low heat. Take the smoked haddock from the fridge, remove the cling film and lay on a grill tray. Warm under the salamander or grill. To each omelette pan, add 1 tbsp butter and heat until melted and foaming. Pour the blended egg into the pans, dividing it equally. Using a spatula, gently move the egg around in the pans until they start to firm up. Remove from the heat; you want the eggs to be slightly loose, as they will continue to cook off the heat.

Season the omelettes with salt and pepper and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over their surfaces. Divide the flaked smoked haddock between the omelettes, then spoon on the glaze to cover the fish and extend to the edge of the pans. If the glaze spills over the side of the pan, wipe it away, as this will burn on the side when  blowtorching. To finish, wave a cook’s blowtorch over the surface of the omelettes to caramelise the glaze. Allow the glaze to become quite dark, as the bitterness will balance out the richness of all the other ingredients.

Cook more from this book
Slow cooked duck
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon