Eat Better Forever by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

9781526602800

What’s the USP? Diet culture has taken hit after hit over the past few years, with increasingly popular movements highlighting the many problems that come from committing yourself to short-term bursts of meat-only consumption or eating like somebody who hasn’t yet invented indoor plumbing.

Better, then, is to simply commit oneself to eat better forever. Which in this case of this book means sticking by seven fairly simple rules:

Eat plenty of whole foods
Eat a varied diet
Eat some gut-friendly stuff now and then
Don’t eat a lot of refined carbs
Eat fats, but only the good kinds
Think about the nutritional content of your drinks
Be mindful about your eating

It’s all fairly sensible stuff, to be honest. But that’s all part of the appeal. Eat Better Forever isn’t about throwing confusing new ideas about food in your face – it’s about helping you to better understand what you already know, and give you some ideas about how to use that knowledge to change the way you eat for good.

Who wrote it? Mr. River Cottage himself – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall/Huge Furry Toadstall/Hugh Fearlessly Eatsitall (delete as appropriate). Hugh’s been going hard on the veg content for a few years now, but here he sets out a healthy plan for living that extends beyond his numerous ideas of what to get up to with a courgette.

Is it good bedtime reading? For the most part, yes! The book is split almost directly in half, with the first two hundred pages dedicated almost entirely to each of his seven rules. These chapters are easy and enjoyable to read. They don’t necessarily reveal anything too surprising, but the opportunity to better understand the science between the ideas we generally are only exposed to in passing is very welcome.

It helps, too, that Hugh never comes across as preachy. He simply explains why something is good (or bad) for you, and presents ideas on how to change your eating habits to accommodate those facts. Nothing he suggests feels too overwhelming, and the opportunity to change the way you eat for the better often feels not just attainable, but exciting. Sometimes it all feels a little too easy. When we’re told that Hugh’s plan for cutting back on alcohol entailed the introduction of ‘alcohol-free days’, it sounds like a sensible (if not particularly fun) way to go about things. Hugh, we’re told, aims for ‘two a week, minimum’, which even in the midst of a pandemic seems like a relatively low bar to aim for.

How often will I cook from the book? That depends on how you feel about Hugh’s practical suggestions for living with his seven rules. The 50/50 split between manifesto and recipes gives you plenty of opportunity to think on the guidelines presented and the small adjustments you might make to your current diet as a result of them. I found the first half of the book to be an invigorating and at times inspiring read, which made it all the more disappointing when I reached the recipe section and found, well, page after page of recipes that would not have looked out of place in a diet book.

Everything looks clean, fresh and, well, a bit dull. The whole foods chapter suggests incorporating more seeds into your diet, which sounds lovely until you see Hugh’s suggesting for a slice of toast scattered with loose seeds and a few raspberries, or a plate comprising of nothing but slices of oranges and apple and just enough pumpkin seeds to guarantee no single bite isn’t ruined by a misplaced texture.

There are plenty of recipes to tempt you here – a ‘curried beanie cullen skink’, or an Asian Hot Pot that looks to be drowning in umami. But for the most part, the refreshing ideas presented in the book’s opening chapters are revisited under much harsher light and by the uninspiring dishes that follow.

What will I love? Hugh’s seven rules are well thought out and easy to apply to your existing cooking habits. Though I found myself completely turned off by a hefty chunk of his recipes, not a day has passed since reading Eat Better Forever where it hasn’t impacted my decisions in the kitchen. That’s a fantastic thing, and if this book serves only to build the foundations upon which your own take on healthy eating can be built, that’ll be worth more than the cover price.

What won’t I love? Whilst the initial ideas feel applicable to every household, it’s hard to imagine fussy children (or adults) adapting to the one-note recipes offered up here.

Killer recipes: Curried Beany Cullen Skink, Mussel Soup with Leek & Potato, Spicy Fish Fingers with Tomato and Bean Salad, Curried Carrot Blitz

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

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

Buy the book
Eat Better Forever: 7 Ways to Transform Your Diet
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Cook from this book
Seedy Almond Cake by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Overnight Oats by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
Spicy roast parsnips with barley, raisins & walnuts by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Parwana by Durkhanai Ayubi

parwana

What’s the USP? The story of the Ayubi family’s flight from war-torn Afghanistan and the opening of their Adelaide restaurant Parwana (Farsi for ‘butterfly’), interwoven with traditional Afghan recipes.

Who’s the author? Durkhanai Ayubi helps to run her family’s restaurants Parwana and Kutchi Deli Parwana, both in Adelaide. She is also a freelance writer and is an Atlantic Fellow of the Atlantic Institute. Parwana is her first cookbook.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? As Ayubi points out in the book’s ‘prelude’, ‘those who dine on Afghan food for the first time find themselves surprised by the familiarity of the dishes, hinting at a rich and interconnected history untold’. I have to admit that, before reading this book, I had never eaten or cooked Afghan food and I was surprised at how accessible the food and recipes were and how familiar nearly all the ingredients turned out to be.

While you will find the vast majority of them at your local supermarket, there are one or two exceptions. You will need an Afghan or Persian grocer for the dried sour apricots (which Ayubi says is a ‘specific type of Afghan fried apricot) and sinjid (Russian dried olives) required to make Haft Mewa, a compote of dried fruits and nuts steeped in water and eaten at Nowroz, a New Year celebration. The same applies to the dried basil seeds for rose sharbat (syrup).

But you can substitute the gandana (a traditional Afghan leek) that’s used to stuff Ashak dumplings for garlic chives or just plain old leeks. Qaymaq cream for chai can be made at home (but requires simmering milk for hours and skimming off the cream layer by layer) or may be found in Persian or Middle Eastern grocers. Equally, you could simply substitute clotted cream.

What’s the faff factor? In a word, low. Recipes often feature a short ingredients list and simple one-pot cooking methods. The recipes for the very tempting baked goods are probably the most complex but even they pretty straightforward.

How often will I cook from the book? With delicious braises, grills, curries, noodle dishes, soups, salads, vegetable dishes, pickles, breads, desserts, sweets and biscuits it might be more a matter of when you’re not cooking from the book.

Killer recipes? There are loads, but a representative sample might include salaateh Afghani, a simple, fresh and bright salad made with red onion, cos lettuce, tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers and radishes, flavoured with chilli, coriander, mint and lime;  comforting and gently spicy yoghurt-braised lamb with yellow split peas, and rhot sweet bread topped with white and black poppy seeds. If I got into all the lovely kebabs, curries and dumplings we’d be here all day.

What will I love? The book’s design and photography is full of warm colour, reflecting the turquoise and terracotta interior design of Parwana restaurant. Stylist Deborah Kaloper has done a great job with the food, with every one of photographer Alicia Taylor‘s shots looking incredibly inviting.

Is it good bedtime reading? Ayubi’s text doesn’t limit itself to the story of her family, their restaurants and their food, but is a serious and very well written political, social and culinary history of Afghanistan.

Should I buy it? Unequivocally, yes. Fantastic food, looks amazing and you will almost certainly learn a lot. You will not regret buying this book.

Cuisine: Afghan
Suitable for: Beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan kitchen

Cook from this book
Coming soon

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules

What’s the USP? A passionate love letter to Ukraine, written in everybody’s favourite love language: good food.

Who wrote it? Olia Hercules, who grew up in Ukraine before moving to Cyprus and eventually settling in the UK, has some chops in this field. Giving up her career in film business reporting after the 2008 financial crisis, she retrained at Leith’s and has worked as chef de partie at Ottolenghi. This is her third book – Mamushka and Kaukasis, her well-loved previous efforts, both drew on the traditions of a number of eastern European countries. Hercules tightens her vision to her homeland here, acknowledging throughout that the ever-shifting borders and populations of the region mean influences seep in from across the continent.

Is it good bedtime reading? The book is filled with evocative and fascinating prose, and is a little reminiscent of James Rebanks’ writing on shepherding – writing in such a way that even hardship is given a silver lining through the emergence of community spirit and creative solutions. The summer kitchens of the title are traditional outbuildings in Ukraine. When a young couple gets married, they share this single room kitchen/bedroom hybrid – often raising their families whilst they save to build a house. That home itself is built through a great community effort – Hercules’ descriptions reminded me of the barn building scene in Witness. Once the end result is completed, often many months later, the old structure becomes a ‘summer kitchen’ – a workshop-esque space for cooking and making the most of the produce grown in the garden. Stories like these permeate the book, making it as much a champion of Ukrainian culture as it is the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? None at all – these are simple, homely recipes that create filling dinners from a range of ingredients you wouldn’t struggle to pick up from your local Aldi or Lidl. Classic staples make up the overwhelming majority of ingredients required here – vegetables, grains and plenty of eggs.  Occasionally you might need to visit a butcher for some goat, but most calls for meat are catered perfectly to what’s readily available in a supermarket – something that even our biggest celebrity chefs often fail to manage.

What’s the faff factor? Hercules is happy to devote a little time to her dishes, and you’ll need to do so as well. Noodles are made from scratch, and there are plenty of recipes that will require a leisurely afternoon in the kitchen. But nothing will test your skill as a chef – another benefit of the simple home cooking approach.

How often will I cook from the book? The time required for many of the dishes will relegate this to a weekend-only book for many, but there’s variety enough for at least a fortnightly visit.

Killer recipes: The chicken broth with bran kvas, noodles, mushrooms and lovage – a comforting Ukrainian take on the chicken noodle soup – looks set to cure any ailment you might present it with. The yeasted buns with slow-roast pork are irresistible too; crisp and soft rolls stuffed with unctuous belly, prunes and sauerkraut. Hercules also offers up some tempting fish ideas – be they deep-fried Odesan sprats or simple but delicious fishballs in tomato sauce.

Should I buy it? There’s a lot to love here, from the passionate celebration of Ukraine’s melting-pot culture to the extended section dedicated to pickling and fermenting. Olia Hercules has form, clearly, in the bottling of magic – and whether that’s in the form of fatty pork shoulder preserved for the winter months, or a love of her homeland, preserved for all to enjoy, it’s worth taking a bite of whatever she’s offering.

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

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

Buy this book
Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2020. See all the shortlisted books here.
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Dan Dan Noodle Soup with Lamb

071_Mr Lee's Dan Dan Noddle Soup with Lamb_Chinese

Serves 2
Wok to wonderful in 20 minutes
Showing Off /Vegan Option
Hero ingredients: garlic and ginger

A ‘dan dan’ is the pole that noodle sellers use to carry the baskets of fresh noodles and sauce, with one at either end. The star is Sichuan chilli bean paste, or toban djan (see page 17) but you can use other chilli pastes if you can’t get your hands on it. Combined with the Sichuan peppercorns, you get a lip-tingling intensity. You can also try it as a stir-fry dish by omitting the stock water, and using fresh noodles.

½ tablespoon vegetable oil
230g (8¼oz) minced (ground) lamb (or frozen vegan mince and 1/4 tsp yeast extract for a vegan alternative)
2 teaspoons garlic paste, or 3–4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon ginger paste or 5cm (2in) piece of fresh root ginger, chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
120g (4¼oz) dried wheat noodles
1 spring onion (scallion), finely sliced, to garnish

 FOR THE SOUP:
600ml (20fl oz) boiling water, or ready-made fresh vegetable stock
1 tablespoon crushed yellow bean sauce, or brown or red miso paste
1 tablespoon chilli bean paste, or 1 teaspoon any hot chilli paste
2 teaspoons crunchy peanut butter
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Prepare the soup mixture by mixing all the ingredients together in a large bowl or jug, then set aside until needed. Heat the oil in a large wok over a high heat. Throw in the minced lamb (or vegan mince) and brown for a few seconds. Then add the garlic, ginger, carrot and onion and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Your kitchen should smell amazing at this stage, so take a second, stop and breathe it in. But don’t take all day, we’re on a schedule!

Next pour the soup mixture into the pan and mix well, simmering for another 3 minutes. Now it’s noodle time. Put the noodles in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes, then drain. Divide your hot noodles between 2 serving bowls and pour over the soupy mixture. Sprinkle over the chopped spring onion (scallion). Strap in your taste buds: you’ll never forget your first Dan Dan Noodle Soup.

Cook more from this book
Hong Kong Street Beef
Seafood Ramyeon with Korean Red Pepper

Buy this book
The Noodle Cookbook: 101 healthy and delicious noodle recipes for happy eating
£15.99, Ebury Press

Read the review

Hong Kong Street Beef

075_Mr Lee's Hongkong Street Beef_Chinese

Serves 2 Wok to wonderful in
30 minutes
Showing Off
Hero ingredients: ginger and broccoli

Mr Lee’s Hong Kong Street Beef noodle pot is a customer favourite, so we just had to adapt it for our very first cookbook. The richly flavoured and aromatic soup base, combined with the savoury hit of the steak, wraps you in a warm, beefy blanket of contentment. It’s the best kind of comfort food: Tastes like it took hours, but ready in minutes. Winner!

1 tablespoon crushed yellow bean sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
250g (9oz) rib-eye steak, or use sirloin/
porterhouse if you prefer
85g (3oz) sprouting broccoli, or use regular
broccoli cut into bite-sized pieces
120g (4¼oz) dried thin wheat noodles (or use
thin rice noodles for a gluten-free alternative)

FOR THE SOUP:
230g (8¼oz) lean minced (ground) beef, or substitute
900ml (1½ pints) of ready-made fresh beef stock
2 small onions, finely diced
2 whole star anise
1 large black cardamom pod
½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon ginger paste, or 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic paste, or 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon crushed yellow bean sauce
900ml (1½ pints) boiling water (if not using stock)

FOR THE GARNISH:
1 spring onion (scallion), finely sliced
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly torn (optional)
2 tablespoons chilli oil (optional)

Heat a medium saucepan over a medium–high heat and brown the minced beef (if using). Then add all the other soup ingredients except the water or stock.  Keep stirring for 2–3 minutes, then add the water (or stock, if using). Cover the pan with a lid and leave all those lovely flavours to simmer and intensify over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the yellow bean sauce and toasted sesame oil on a plate. Now it’s steak time! Put the steak on the plate and really rub the marinade all over, then set it aside for a few minutes. Heat a wok over a high heat and add the vegetable oil. Pan-fry the steak for about 3 minutes on each side. This will cook it medium – but it’s your steak, so cook it how you like. If you want it a bit pinker, then cook it for up to 2 minutes each side.

The super-high heat will seal the meat and keep it nice and succulent. As soon as the steak is cooked to your liking, put it on a chopping board, cover it with foil and let it rest for a bit. Place another medium saucepan on the hob and half-fill with boiling water. Add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes, then add the dried noodles and simmer for another minute. Drain and divide the broccoli and noodles between two large, deep soup bowls.

Using a fine sieve, strain the soup broth as you pour it over the noodles in each bowl, discarding the aromatics. Slice the steak into strips, then layer on top of the noodle soup. Garnish with spring onion (scallion) and fresh coriander (cilantro). Serve with
a small pot of red chilli oil on the side for drizzling, and you’re good to go.

Cook more from this book
Dan Dan Noodle Soup with Lamb
Seafood Ramyeon with Korean Red Pepper

Buy this book
The Noodle Cookbook: 101 healthy and delicious noodle recipes for happy eating
£15.99, Ebury Press

Read the review

Lamb navarin by Neil Borthwick, The French House, London

027 Borthwick

Serves 4

4 lamb neck fillets, cut into 4 pieces
Salt
Mirepoix: 1 onion, 2 carrots • 1 garlic bulb, halved
3 tablespoons tomato paste (puree)
1 bouquet garni: thyme, bay leaf, rosemary
1 liter chicken stock
500 ml veal stock
6 organic carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into lozenges
Olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley
Fresh mint

Season the lamb well. In a sauté pan, sear the lamb until golden brown all over and set aside.  Add the mirepoix to the pan along with the garlic and cook until caramelized. Add the tomato paste (puree) and cook for 4–5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the bouquet garni and both the stocks. Bring to a gentle simmer, skim well, reduce the heat, and cook until the lamb is tender when pressed with a finger, 1–11⁄2 hours. Set aside and allow to cool for 1 hour. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the carrots, turnips, and celery until just tender. Shock in an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

Remove the lamb from the braise and pass the sauce through a sieve, pressing as much of the vegetables through as well, which will help to thicken the sauce and give you lots of flavour. 

Return the lamb, along with the cooked vegetables, to the sauce and finish with chopped parsley and a touch of mint. Serve with buttery mashed potato.

Dish photographed by Peter Clarke

Extracted from Today’s Special, 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs, published by Phaidon

9781838661359-3d-1500

Cook more from this book
Concha by Elena Reygadas of Rosetta, Mexico City
Cheesecake and wood roasted peaches by Tomos Parry of Brat, London

Buy this book
Today’s Special: 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs
£39.95, Phaidon

Read the review
Today’s Special edited by Emily Takoudes

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

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Restore by Gizzi Erskine
£26, HQ

Read the review

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

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Restore by Gizzi Erskine
£26, HQ

Read the review

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)