The Vegetarian Silver Spoon

Vegetarian Silver Spoon

Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise in the UK. According to the shopping comparison website, finder.com, 12 million people claim they will be vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian by 2021. The Vegan Society say that the number of vegans quadrupled between 2014 and 2019 with 1.16% of the population (about 600,000) now living a vegan lifestyle. That’s a lot of home cooks and chefs on the look-out for something delicious and a bit more inventive than the ubiquitous mushroom risotto. With 200 Italian vegetarian recipes, many of them dairy free, gluten free or vegan (symbols identify which category or categories each recipe fits into, and there are lists for each category in the back of the book, making them quick and easy to find), The Vegetarian Silver Spoon is a godsend for anyone looking to expand their plant-based repertoire.

The book draws on the archives of The Silver Spoon, Italy’s bestselling cookbook first published in 1950, and also includes 150 new recipes developed by The Silver Spoon kitchen team. Divided into eight chapters, the book is a comprehensive survey of traditional and contemporary Italian vegetarian and vegan cooking covering snacks and small plates; breads and pizzas; salads and sides soups and stews;  pasta, dumplings and crepes; vegetable tarts and pastries;  grains, gratins and stuffed vegetables, and desserts.

There’s a homely feel to many of the recipes such as chard and chickpea soup with tofu; buckwheat lasagne with broccoli and eggplant-tomato strudel. Lesser known ingredients such as black chickpeas (used in a salad with apple and Jerusalem artichoke); millet (paired with beets and Romanesco), and Kamut flour (derived from Iranian red Khorasan wheat that’s high in protein, vitamins and minerals and used to make calzone with asparagus and egg) will invigorate any cook’s interest in meat and fish-free cooking, making The Vegetarian Silver Spoon a valuable addition to their cookbook collection.

This review was originally published in The Caterer magazine.

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
The Vegetarian Silver Spoon: Classic and Contemporary Italian Recipes (FOOD COOK)
£35, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Rye Crostata with Peas and Asparagus

 

Palestine on a Plate by Joudie Kalla

Palastine on a plate

What’s the USP? Authentic Palestinian home cooking using ingredients and methods handed down from the author’s mother and grandmother.

Who’s the author?  Joudie Kalla is a London-based supper club cook and former owner of Baity Kitchen restaurant in Chelsea.

Is it good bedtime reading? A fairly meaty introduction covers some biographical ground as well as some of the basics of middle Eastern flavours and specifically the food and ingredients of Palestine.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Thanks to Ottolenghi, Middle Eastern cooking is now almost as familiar to British home cooks as Indian, Chinese and Thai so you should have few problems finding all you need between the supermarket and your local deli. if you don’t live in an area with a Middle Eastern store nearby, you may have to head online for the likes of sujuk (a spicy Middle Eastern sausage) and Kalla’s favoured Palestinian olive oil (there’s a very handy list of stockists, many of them online,  at the back of the book).

What’s the faff factor? The subtitle of the book is ‘Memories from my mother’s kitchen, so the recipes are very much from the domestic realm rather than being adapted from restaurant dishes. Think simple and straightforward rather than complex and fiddly.

Killer recipes: Middle Eastern courgettes stuffed with lamb; Palestinian pearl cous cous tabbouleh; freekeh salad with marinated chicken and pomegranate salad;  Palestinian sesame handbag bread; fried red mullet with preserved lemon and lentil salad.

What will I love? This is a vibrant, colourful and often healthy style of cooking that’s very approachable and will add variety and flavour to your weekly menu.

Should I buy it? Kalla has entered a crowded market that’s been pretty much cornered by the aforementioned Ottolenghi and his collaborators (the newly published Falastin by his co-author’s Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley which is also about Palestine is already a number one best selling book – the books of Greg and Lucy Malouf are also excellent). Nevertheless, there are enough delicious recipes in Palestine on a Plate to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Cuisine: Palestinian
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen

Coddle by Jp McMahon

Phaidon Irish Food Bible

CODDLE

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour
Serves: 8

Coddle, or Dublin coddle to be more precise, is a dish made up of leftover sausages and bacon. Traditionally, the sausages and bacon were cut up and combined with onions and potatoes and left to stew in a light broth. Though often unappetizing to look at, the dish was made famous by several Irish writers, from Jonathan Swift to James Joyce and Sean O’Casey. Modern versions include barley and carrots. It is essentially a dish that grew out of poverty and famine and then migrated into the working-­class areas of Dublin at the beginning of the twentieth century to become a dish of central importance to the people who lived there. Often it contained a drop of Guinness (or it was eaten with plenty of pints and soda bread). It is said that the housewives would prepare the coddle during the day and it would sit on the stove until the men returned home from the pub. The word itself is derived from the verb ‘to coddle’ or ‘to cook’ (from French caulder). With its associations of poverty, it is surprising to find ‘authentic’ recipes, especially given the status of the dish as being made with whatever leftovers were to hand (as in pig’s trotters/feet, pork ribs, etc.). Some associate it with the Catholic Church’s insistence of abstaining from meat on a Friday. Coddle was a way of using up the bacon and sausages on a Thursday. In this recipe, I fry the ingredients before covering them with the stock, but traditionally they were just layered and simmered until cooked.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed (canola) oil, plus extra if needed
  • 500 g sausages, cut into pieces if preferred
  • 500 g streaky (regular) bacon, cut into pieces
  • 500 g onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 kg (9 medium) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper

 
METHOD:

Warm the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the sausages and bacon and fry for about 10 minutes until they have a nice colour. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a little more oil if necessary. Reduce the heat and fry for about 10 minutes so that the onions caramelize slowly.

When the onions have a nice colour, return the sausages and bacon to the pan and add the thyme and bay leaves. Cover with the chicken stock (broth) and return to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the potatoes. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Add the chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper and serve.

Read the review 

Buy this book
The Irish Cookbook (Food Cook)
Phaidon, £35

The Irish Cookbook by Jp McMahon

The Irish Cookbook

What’s the USP? The Irish Cookbook arrives with impeccable timing, following the country’s Michelin success last October. It now boasts three, two-star restaurants and 18 one-star establishments across the Republic and Northern Ireland. It’s an indication of how far the country’s food scene has evolved; a decade ago there were just seven starred restaurants in total.

Who’s the author? Jp McMahon is a Michelin-starred chef and culinary director of the EATGalway restaurant group that includes the one star Aniar. He is also the founder of the annual Food on the Edge culinary congress.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s more than just recipes in this 400-plus page book with a scope that goes far beyond modern restaurant food, delving back to pre-Neolithic times in a scholarly introduction titled ‘A Little History of Food in Ireland’ that forms part of the book’s attempt to answer the question ‘What is Irish food?’.

Killer recipes? Organised into 15 chapters, McMahon comprehensively covers Ireland’s rich and diverse natural larder from the superlative shellfish (oyster pie; sea urchins with buttermilk and tarragon) to the plentiful wild game (grouse and poteen; venison and barley stew), freshwater fish (pike with gooseberries and sherry; perch baked in milk) and much else besides.

McMahon is keen to point out that it is more than the dishes that ‘emerged in the space created after the (potato) famine’ such as boxty potato pancake and traditional Irish stew, although both are included among the book’s 500 recipes, the former in its most austerely authentic form made with just lamb neck, onions, potatoes, thyme and parsley. The 80s are represented by crab with curry mayonnaise and pineapple while the contemporary Irish repertoire includes smoked eel porridge.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? A good fishmonger will be required for the likes of sea urchins, razor clams, wild salmon and smoked eel, and you’ll probably need to get your rod out and go and catch pike, perch and carp yourself.  You might need an online supplier for seaweed and be up for a spot of foraging for things like nettles, wild garlic.  There are however many recipes that won’t cause you any shopping bother at all.

What’s the faff factor? This is mostly home cooking rather than complex cheffy stuff and many of the recipes are short and to the point.

How often will I cook from the book? There’s a really good variety of dishes and lots that would work when you’re time poor mid-week.

What will I love? McMahon has included an index of Ireland’s wild plants, seaweed and fungi eaten by the country’s first settlers and which he sees as the future of Irish food. Nettles are rolled around cream cheese, made into a puree and soup and transformed into wine, while steamed asparagus is wrapped in sea lettuce and deep-fried rabbit legs are served with wild garlic mayonnaise.

Should I buy it? McMahon makes the sensible caveat that ‘no book is definitive’ and it is questionable how uniquely Irish some of the recipes such as steak and kidney pie and lamb hotpot actually are, but The Irish Cookbook is nevertheless an impressive achievement and one that will shed new light on a hitherto undervalued cuisine.

Cuisine: Irish 
Suitable for:
Confident home cooks/Professional chefs/
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
The Irish Cookbook (Food Cook)
Phaidon, £35

The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland

The Whole Fish Josh Niland

What’s the USP?  How to utilise every inch of a fish from top lip to anal fin, with recipes.

Josh who? Only one of the most talked-about, influential chefs on the planet. OK, unless you live in Sydney, you may not have heard of his restaurant Saint Peter, but his revolutionary, sustainable, zero-waste approach to fish cookery has caught the eye of everyone from Nigella Lawson to Rick Stein.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a lot of text in the book besides the recipes including a foreword from Australian food writer Pat Nourse, Niland’s own introduction, and articles covering topics such as the reasons why we don’t currently cook more fish at home, sourcing fish, storing and dry-ageing fish, fish butchery and treating fish in the same way as meat (the heart of Niland’s fish philosophy), curing fish, using fish offal and ‘fishues’ i.e. issues with fish.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The short answer is yes. Unless you live in Australia or elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, getting hold of the varieties of fish specified in some of the recipe titles such as blue mackerel and wild kingfish will be impossible. Niland does, however, provide plenty of alternatives (john dory in the case of the kingfish) but you will definitely need an excellent fishmonger if you are going to cook from the book, supermarket quality fish just isn’t going to cut it.

What’s the faff factor?  This is restaurant-style cooking with few concessions made for the home cook. There are 20 ingredients in the base of the bouillabaisse-style Saint Peter’s Fish Soup recipe including 15kg of various seafood, plus about another 2kg of seafood for the ‘finishing garnishes’ (it feeds just six people). There are some more simple dishes such as fried whitebait, crumbled sardine sandwich and fish and chips (although you’ll need to start making the recipe 4 days ahead of when you want to serve it because of the processes required for the triple cooked chips).

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you fancy a fish fat chocolate caramel slice? For many home cooks, much of the book will be of curiosity value only and time, effort and energy will be required to tackle things like fish black pudding or milt mortadella. Professional chefs will doubtlessly find this book invaluable. Niland’s approach dramatically increases the potential yield per fish from 45 per cent (the fillets) to potentially over 90 per cent which can be converted into revenue, making the extra effort worth their while.

Killer recipes? Swordfish bacon and egg English muffin; smoked eel and beetroot jam doughnut; BBQ red mullet, corn and kelp butter; BBQ glazed cod ribs; Yellowfin tuna cheeseburger with salt and vinegar onion rings; grilled (fish) sausage, celeriac, peas and onion sauce; fish sausage roll; fish wellington. 

What will I love? This is an original and unusual approach to a well-worn subject. You won’t have a book on your shelf quite like it. It’s a reflection of a well-thought-through and fully rounded culinary philosophy that gives a new perspective on preparing and cooking seafood.

Should I buy it? If you’re a professional chef, then you really need to add this book to your collection. Even if you don’t plan to dry-age your own fish or start serving fish eye chips (no, really; you blend the eyes, mix them with tapioca flour to make a batter which is then steamed, dried and finally deep-fried), you will gain new knowledge that could help your business. For passionate home cooks that love seafood, this will be at the very least a real eye-opener and will provide some absorbing and challenging weekend culinary projects.

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for:
Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
The Whole Fish Cookbook: New ways to cook, eat and think

Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing

Marcus Everyday

 

What’s the USP? Approachable, achievable family recipes from a Michelin starred TV chef.

Who are the authors? Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs with three restaurants: Marcus, The Gilbert Scott and Tredwells and as a stern taskmaster on Masterchef: The Professionals. He rose to fame in the 90’s as Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man, heading up a number of restaurants including the original Petrus in St James’s Street. His falling out with Ramsay is well documented.

Wareing’s co-author for the sixth time is Chantelle Nicholson (their previous books include The Gilbert Scott Book of British Food; New Classics and Marcus at Home among others). A New Zealand-born lawyer turned chef whose CV includes The Savoy Grill and Petrus, she opened The Gilbert Scott as general manager and is currently back in the kitchen as head chef of Tredwells in Coven Garden and is the author of Planted her debut solo cookbook outing.

Is it good bedtime reading? Only if you fall asleep really, really quickly. A three-page introduction plus brief chapter and recipe introductions and that’s your lot.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Apart from lavender flowers, whole smoked ham hock, fresh bergamot and ripe pears (who has ever found a ripe pear?) you should have no problem tracking down 99 per cent of the ingredients in this book. Even things like fresh turmeric, Gordal olives and white miso should be available in your local Waitrose.

What’s the faff factor?  The book’s raison d’etre is to fling out the faff, so you can mostly expect short ingredient lists and straightforward methods. That’s not always the case however and the prep and cooking times that are provided for all the recipes range from 5 minutes prep and under 10 minutes cooking time for a caramelised banana split up to 1 3/4 hours prep and 3 3/4 hours cooking time for confit of duck ravioli with cucumber and a peanut, sesame and chilli dressing. But at least you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

How often will I cook from the book? No one actually cooks from one book every day, do they? It’s a bit of a self-defeating title really. If people did buy the book and cook from it every day then that’s HarperCollinsPublishers out of business pretty sharpish, or at least Marcus Wareing’s career as a cookbook writer cut mercilessly short. But there is certainly a wide enough range and variety of recipes to keep us cuisine-hopping Brits satisfied for quite some time with everything from celeriac, ham hock and barley hot pot to Thai chicken salad  and prawn tomato and chilli linguine in between. There’s also guidance on fermenting, pickling, jam and chutney making for when you’re in the mood for a bit of a project, so there’s little chance of this turning into Marcus Collecting Dust Everyday.

Killer recipes? Recipes that may well become regular standbys include hassleback potatoes with red wine and pork ragu; haddock with lentils, basil and mascarpone; beef and garden herb meatballs with roasted tomato sauce; barbecued lamb ribs with chimichurri sauce and chocolate and peanut caramel tray bake. 

What will I love? This is a kinder, gentler Marcus; the family man at home in his East Sussex hideaway Melfort House, gardening and cooking with his kids and grinning for the camera in his casual blue denim shirt. It’s the sort of aspiration lifestyle stuff you’d associate with the likes of Bill Granger or Donna Hay, but Wareing pulls it off. The recipes are very much ‘home cookery’ as Wareing likes to call it with not a hint of Michelin-starred hubris.

Should I buy it? There are many books already on the market aimed at this style of cooking (not least the excellent Bill Granger Every Day) but Marcus Everyday ticks enough modern trend and trope boxes including vegan, vegetarian, healthy eating, low waste cooking, preserving and barbecuing to make it a useful addition to any collection. It will be of particular interest to newbie cooks or those in need of updating and broadening their style and repertoire.

Cuisine: International  
Suitable for: 
For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Marcus Everyday: Easy Family Food for Every Kind of Day
Harper Collins Publishers, £20

 

 

The Incredible Lemon Pie from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

279 Tarte Citron.jpg

Lemon meringue tart (pie)

Per 6 amici

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Chilling time: overnight
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredienti
For the pastry (pie dough)
90 g/3 and 1/4 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
20 g/ 3/4 oz (scant 3 and 1/2 tablespoons) ground almonds (almond meal)
50 g/1 and 3/4 oz (generous 1/3 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
2 large (US extra large) eggs
150 g/5 oz (1 and 1/4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the lemon custard
1 leaf (sheet) gelatine
3 unwaxed lemons
3 eggs
70 g/2 and 1/2 oz (1/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
140 g/5 oz (1 and 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
For the Italian meringue
230 g/8 oz (scant 1 and 1/4 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons water
juice of 1 lemon
4 egg whites

Come fare

Make the pastry. In a bowl, soften the butter with a spatula. In a mixer with a paddle (flat beater) attachment, beat the softened butter, ground almonds (almond meal) and icing (confectioners’) sugar until smooth. Then add the eggs, one at a time, while beating. Incorporate the flour and salt. Mix the pastry dough until crumbly. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Make the lemon custard. Soften the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Zest two of the lemons and squeeze all three. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Combine the lemon juice, sugar and butter in a pan and bring to the boil. Gradually add the eggs, incorporating with a whisk. Cook over a low heat until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.

Pour the mixture into a bowl. Squeeze the gelatine and incorporate. Add the lemon zest. Use an immersion blender to mix well. Put into an airtight container and rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4). Roll out the pastry dough into a 6-mm/1/4-inch-thick disc. Grease a tart pan with butter and line with the pastry. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Make the Italian meringue. Dissolve the sugar into 2 tablespoons of water and the lemon juice in a pan over a low heat. Bring to the boil and cook until the mixture reads 120°C/250°F on a cooking thermometer. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, put a little of the syrup in a spoon and let one drop fall into a glass of cold water. If it forms a small, soft ball, the syrup is ready. In a grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Pour the syrup in a thin stream into the meringue while whisking until the mixture cools.

Fill the pastry case (shell) with the lemon custard. Use a plastic spatula to cover the tart with meringue, creating a dome in the centre. Caramelize with a chef’s blowtorch. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

Cool to know
‘If it’s not big, it’s not big enough’ is one of our mottos, so now you know why our meringue stands 20 cm/8 inches high…

Cook more from this book 
La Gran Carbonara
Green Pizz’

Read the review 

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95