Cooking in Marfa by Virginia Lebermann and Rocky Barnette

Cooking in Marfa

Set in the Chihuahuan Desert, the Texan town of Marfa boasts a population of two thousand and occupies just over one and half square miles. Despite being 200 miles from the nearest commercial airport, its premier restaurant, the Capri has been featured in Vogue, the New York Times and Conde Nast Traveller magazine, which included the converted army airfield hangar in a list of the 34 most beautiful restaurants in the world.

Marfa was first put on the map by its thriving arts scene and Capri co-owner Virginia Lebermann initially intended it to be a cultural arts project, launching in 2007 with a gig by Sonic Youth. However, the arrival in Marfa of Inn at Little Washington-trained chef Rocky Barnette in 2008 led to the Capri’s rebirth as a restaurant focusing on the region’s distinctive natural larder.

Barnette’s cooking is the ultimate expression of contemporary Tex-Mex (a style that Lebermann says was created in Marfa in 1887 when Tula Borunda Gutierrez opened a restaurant using Mexican ingredients and ‘added to them to suit the taste of ranchers’) incorporating ingredients grown or cultivated in the local region including cacti, mesquite beans and dessert flowers as well as Mexican produce such as dried grasshoppers (chapulines) from Oaxaca and huitlacoche, a black fungus that grows on corn.

Although many of the 80 recipes in the book reflect the site-specific nature of the Capri’s menu, it doesn’t mean they are unachievable for UK-based cooks. You may have trouble finding fresh yucca blossoms to tempura, but online resources such as coolchile.co.uk means you should find nearly everything you need for dishes such as masa pasta ravioli with cured egg yolks and bottarga or tostados al carbon, made with activated charcoal and served with razor clams and chorizo.

The story of the Capri and the people behind it (who are as extraordinary as the restaurant itself) makes for fascinating and inspiring reading. In his introduction, three Michelin starred chef Daniel Humm of New York’s Eleven Madison Park calls the book, ‘a window into [Rocky and Virginia’s] creativity and passion’; it’s one that every curious cook will want to look through.

This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine

Cuisine: Mexican
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four Stars

Buy the book
Cooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You (FOOD COOK)
Phaidon, £35

No Sushi by Andrew Kojima

No Sushi

What’s the USP? Japanese food that goes beyond raw fish and rice, inspired by authentic recipes and experiences in Japan as interpreted by a UK chef and restaurateur. There are recipes for bao buns, udon noodles and karaage, but none of course for sushi.

Who is the author? Andrew Kojima is the chef and owner of Koj restaurant in Cheltenham. He was a finalist in the 2012 series of Masterchef and runs cookery classes. No Sushi is his first outing in print.

Is it good bedtime reading? It’s a genuinely entertaining and informative read. The first half of the book is dedicated to Kojima’s own story, from childhood to opening the restaurant, as well as some general background on Japanese cuisine and the chef’s own cooking style and culinary philosophy.  Recipe introductions are substantial and contain a lot of additional information and personal anecdotes. 

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? You might need to go online or a specialist shop for a few things such as karashi (Japanese mustard), yuzu juice and bonito flakes but many supermarkets stock a decent range of the Japanese ingredients used in the book such as miso, mirin, bao buns and panko breadcrumbs.

What’s the faff factor? There is some fine slicing and shredding required but for the most part the recipes are short and enticingly simple.

How often will I cook from the book? Although this is a restaurant cookbook, the recipes are very achieveable and many of the recipe would be ideal for a mid-week meal or weekend snacks and treats.

Killer recipes:  Tamari almonds; panko cauliflower, yuzu pickled red onion, curry mayo; Koj Fried Chicken; miso marinated cod, bok choi, radish; chicken curry udon; ox heart meat balls, crispy leeks.

What will I love? Let’s face it, there are more than enough cookbooks on the planet already so if you’re going to write one, the only way to make it stand out from the crowd is to inject your personality into it. No Sushi has that in spades. From the utterly charming picture of the author as a baby with his late father to the anecdote about the day he proposed to his wife, Kojima lets the reader into his world. Once you learn that his mission to dispel the myth that there’s nothing more to Japanese food than sushi was inspired by his final conversation with his father, you are with him all the way, eager to try out the recipes and spread the word. The book looks great with plenty of images of the restaurant as well as some snapshots from Kojima’s family album. Very simply shot, the food is allowed to speak for itself, and it says, ‘I am delicious, eat me.’

What won’t I like so much? The book contains just 34 recipes (including 5 variations on bao buns although no full recipe for the actual bun is included) plus 9 cocktail recipes which is a fair few short of enough, especially for the £30 price tag. It’s frustrating, as the recipes that are included are terrific and another 50 or 60 of them would have been very welcome indeed. As a former Masterchef semi-finalist myself, I would have loved to have learned more about Kojima’s experiences on the show which is dealt with in a couple of paragraphs. 

Should I buy it? If you’re a regular at the restaurant, you’ll want to own a copy. If you’ve ever dreamed of opening your own restaurant, Kojima’s story will be inspiring. If you’re new to Japanese food, this is a great introduction. It’s just a shame there’s not more of it. 

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

Buy the book
No Sushi by Andrew Kojima
awaywithmedia, £30

Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans by Rukmini Iyer

Slow roasted peppers with chilli, lemon & garlic beans

My favourite dish when working in a restaurant kitchen was peperonata – red and yellow peppers softened down slowly in a frying pan along with oil, garlic and onions until they almost melted. It was, as many good things are, time-consuming to make, so I wondered if one might achieve a similar result with oven cooking – and the answer is yes. With garlicky beans, this dish is perfect piled on to rounds of thickly sliced toasted bread.

Serves: 4
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour

5 vine tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

BEANS

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 clove of garlic, finely grated
1⁄2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1⁄2 lemon, zest only

TO SERVE

Rounds of thickly sliced,toasted bread

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas 6.

Tip the tomatoes, peppers, oil, herbs, salt and pepper into a roasting tin large enough to hold everything in one layer, mix well, then transfer to the oven and roast for 50 minutes. If after half an hour it looks as though the peppers are catching a bit too quickly, turn the heat down a fraction. Meanwhile, stir the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, salt, cannellini beans and lemon zest together in a bowl and set aside.

Once the peppers have had 50 minutes, stir through the beans, then turn the oven down to 160°C fan/180°C/gas 4 and cook for a further 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed, adding a little more olive oil if you wish, then remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs and serve piled on to toasted bread. This tastes even better the next day, so it’s well worth making in advance and reheating.

Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) 14th May, £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus. Follow Rukmini on instagram @missminifer

Cook more from this book
Peach and Dulce De Leche Cake With Meringues and Cream
Slow-Cooked Pork Pibil With Pink Pickled Onions

Read the review

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

Slow-cooked pork pibil with pink pickled onions by Rukmini Iyer

Pork Pibil

SLOW-COOKED PORK PIBIL WITH PINK PICKLED ONIONS

You may have had pork pibil at your favourite Mexican restaurant: it’s a classic Yucatán dish of pork, slow-cooked in achiote, a paste made from annatto seeds, from which the dish gets its lovely colour. Achiote paste is easily available online, and once you have it, this dish will be a staple in your repertoire – it’s so easy to put together.

Serves: 4
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours

1 onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano (Mexican if you have it)
8 cloves
250ml orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed)
2 limes, juice only
50g achiote paste
2 teaspoons sea salt
800g free-range pork shoulder, diced

PICKLED ONIONS
1⁄2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 lime, juice only

TO SERVE
Chopped fresh coriander
Tortillas and sour cream

Preheat the oven to 140°C fan/160°C/gas 2.
Tip the onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, cloves, citrus juice, achiote paste and salt into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.
In a small deep roasting tin or lidded casserole dish, mix the pork shoulder with the spice paste. Cover tightly with foil or the lid, then transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours.
Meanwhile, mix the very thinly sliced red onion with the lime juice and set aside for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. (The acid in the lime juice will turn the onions a beautiful bright pink by the time the pork is ready.)
Once cooked, remove the foil or lid and shred the pork while hot. Serve with the pink pickled onions, chopped coriander, warm tortillas and sour cream.
Note: This dish isn’t at all spicy, so it’s a good one for kids, and can be easily made ahead, frozen and defrosted in portions.

Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) 14th May, £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus. Follow Rukmini on instagram @missminifer

Cook more from this book
Peach & Dulce De Leche Cake With Meringues and Cream
Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans

Read the review

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

Peach and Dulce De Leche Cake with Meringues & Cream by Rukmini Iyer

Dulche-de-Leche-Cake

In Uruguay, the original version of this cake is known as chajá – layers of light, fluffy sponge soaked in peach syrup, whipped cream, dulce de leche, peach slices and crumbled meringue. My version incorporates the dulce de leche and fresh peaches into an olive oil cake – serve it warm out of the oven, with crème fraiche or lightly whipped cream alongside.

Serves: 8
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

225g olive oil
225g dulce de leche (you can use tinned Nestlé caramel, sold next to the condensed milk)
50g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 under- to just-ripe peaches, thinly sliced
TO SERVE
175g dulce de leche (this is the remaining caramel in the tin)
A handful of crushed shop-bought meringues
Crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/gas 4.
In a food processor or by hand, mix the olive oil and dulce de leche together with the sugar until well combined, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and baking powder, then pour into a 26cm by 20cm roasting tin or cake dish.
Arrange the sliced peaches over the batter, then transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
Melt the remaining dulce de leche in a pan until smooth and pourable, then drizzle this over the warm cake. Scatter with a handful of crushed meringues, then serve with crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream alongside.
Notes: As this cake contains fresh fruit, if you are not eating it on the day you make it, store it in the fridge. I like to warm it up slice by slice in the microwave – 30 seconds on high.

Extracted from: The Roasting Tin Around the World Global One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer (Square Peg) 14th May, £16.99 HBK Photography by David Loftus. Follow Rukmini on instagram @missminifer

Cook more from this book
Slow-Cooked Pork Pibil with Pink Pickled Onions
Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans

Read the review

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

The Roasting Tin Around The World by Rukmini Iyer

Roasting Tin

What’s the USP? Globally-inspired dishes that can be put together within the happy confines of a roasting pan – ideal for the sort of person who would rather spend their Sunday afternoon planning their next holiday (whenever that might turn out to be) than up to their elbows in dirty dishes.

There have been a lot of these roasting tin books recently, haven’t there? Absolutely – and most of them have been by Rukmini Iyer. This is the fourth in her Roasting Tin series, which has had annual installments since debuting in 2017, selling over half a million copies in the process.

As well as Iyer’s books, the lure of the one-pan dinner has inspired several other cookbooks over the past few years, from Sue Quinn’s excellent Roasting Tray Magic to a forthcoming National Trust title. Even the Hairy Bikers have been drawn in, with last year’s One Pot Wonders.

So what makes this one stand out from the pack? Roasting Tin Around the World is a decidedly international take on the genre – though it’s fair to say the dishes are generally inspired by specific cuisines, rather than an authentic attempt to recreate the local dishes. Brazil, for instance, is represented by black beans and rice (spot on) with added avocado and radish, neither of which are common plate-fellows in the country. Not to start a riot, but the baked paella recipe absolutely features chorizo.

Iyer is pretty open about the dishes being her take on what is often little more than a loose idea of each nation’s favourite dishes. Like a supermarket ready meal, or Heinz’s frequent attempts to cash in on Britain’s burgeoning taste for international flavours, dishes are listed as ‘Cuban-style’ rather than ‘Cuban’. These dishes have been designed for accessibility, and Iyer seems to have that in mind on every page.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Not at all – the major benefit of the book’s loose approach to each cuisine. The international flavours of each dish are generally summoned by the vegetables and protein rather than niche local ingredients. In fact, across the entire book there are, by my count, only half a dozen ingredients that you’d struggle to find in a big Asda. Given the range of nations and flavours on offer here, that’s something of an achievement.

What’s the faff factor? Unsurprisingly, it’s all tremendously easy. Iyer’s writing is unpretentious (ingredients lists might call for ‘pointy peppers’), and the joy of a roasting tin dish is, of course, the sheer ease of chucking everything in one place and watching it come together.

Will it make good bedtime reading? This is the one big failing of the book – besides a relatively unexciting introduction, there’s not much to sit down and read here. Recipe intros are short and practical – though bonus points for the repeated championing of Niki Segnit’s incredible Flavour Thesaurus.

Should I buy it? This all depends on what you’re looking for from your cookbooks. This is a fantastically practical entry point to international cooking – if you’re looking to expand your cooking repertoire on a weekday night, and have potentially fussy family members to worry about, this is the book for you.

If, however, you’ve already got a few international cookbooks on the shelf, some of these recipes might feel like a step backwards. Though the roasting tin angle does afford some functionality to the recipes, the truth is a basic understanding of cooking combined with any of the specialised ingredients you’ve picked up for other cookbooks, and you’ll like be able to knock up something equally delicious and potentially a little more authentic.

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Beginners
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
The Roasting Tin Around the World: Global One Dish Dinners
£16.99, Square Peg

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

Cook from this book

Slow Roasted Peppers With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans by Rukmini Iyer
Slow-cooked pork pibil with pink pickled onions by Rukmini Iyer
Peach and Dulce De Leche Cake with Meringues & Cream by Rukmini Iyer

Arzak + Arzak by Gabriella Ranelli, Xabier Gutiérrez and Igor Zalakain

Arzak

Few chefs have had such an influence on modern cuisine as San Sebastian-based Juan Mari Arzak. As Anthony Bourdin noted, ‘Ferran and Albert Adrià, Martin Berasetgui, Andoni Aduriz: these are just a few of the chefs who looked to Arzak as an example of the new possibilities’. Those ‘new possibilities’ crystallised into molecular gastronomy, but they had their roots in the 1970’s movement of ‘New Basque Cuisine’ the Spanish response to French nouvelle cuisine that was headed up by Arzak. So, no Arzak, no el Bulli, Fat Duck or Alinea.

Arzak + Arzak, originally published in Spanish in 2018 and now reissued in an English language edition, tells Juan Mari’s story, including his ongoing, decade-long creative collaboration with his daughter Elena, the fourth generation of the family to work in Arzak restaurant since it first opened as a tavern in 1897. With extensive narrative text and some stunning black and white portraiture, the introductory chapters provide background on the day to day running of the restaurant and kitchen, as well as the ongoing creative processes of Arzak’s ‘laboratory’ where chefs Xabier Gutiérrez and Igor Zalakain collaborate with the Arzaks to create 50 new dishes a year.

However, the lack of introductions to the often avant garde recipes is frustrating. Dishes such as Symbolic Squab (pigeon decorated with variously shaped red cabbage and purple potato tuiles); Flaming Chickpea Stew (a frozen dessert of coffee-flavoured bavarois set in a chickpea-shaped mould and served with cardamom, cocoa and gellan gum ‘rusty nails’), and the frankly bizarre Another Brick in the Chocolate and Mustard Wall are baffling when presented without context or explanation.

There are some more mainstream dishes in the book such as sea bream with nasturtium leaves and crispy crepe lobster, but make no mistake, this is a Spanish modernist cookbook. The majority of the recipes would only be attempted by a professional chef or a very serious hobbyist home cook but would make a nice souvenier for those that have eaten at the restaurant. Elena Arzak is quoted in the book saying that, ‘My biggest challenge is foreseeing the unpredictable taste of people and staying ahead of them’.  Despite such forward looking ambition, Arzak + Arzak feels trapped in molecular gastronomy’s past.

A version of this review was first published in The Caterer

Cuisine: Spanish/Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Three Stars

Buy the book
Arzak + Arzak
£30, Grub Street