South by Sean Brock

South Sean Brock

What’s the USP? A collection of Southern American recipes from one of the foremost modern exponents of the cuisine.

Who is the author? Chef Sean Brock is the founder of the awarding winning Husk restaurant group with branches in Charleston, Nashville, Greenville and Savannah. Since stepping down from his role as culinary advisor to The Neighborhood Dining Group’ that included Husk as well as McCrady’s, Tavern, and Minero, Brock has announced four new projects in Nashville: Joyland Audrey Red Bird and an unnamed project at the Grand Hyatt. Profiled in an episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table and featured in a season of the PBS series Mind of a Chef, Brock has established himself as the leading proponent of the culture, traditions and heritage ingredients of Southern cuisine.

Is it good bedtime reading? A 12 page introduction provides some background to Brock’s career and why he is so passionate about Southern cuisine; the ‘microregions’ of the American South (which, Brock says ‘has as many cuisines and comprises a region nearly the same size as Continental Europe’) and how key dishes such as shrimp and grits and cornbread vary from microregion to microregion. Additionally, there are articles on fireplace cookery; smoking; grilling; how to take care of cast iron pans; how to cook a pot of greens and fresh field peas or butter beans; an introduction to cornbread; how to make butter; preserving and canning, and how to make vinegar. So go ahead, take Brock to bed.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in America, you’ll be able to take advantage of the two page list of resources at the back of the book to track down the likes of Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice, Rosebank Gold Grits and Hominy Corn; Kenny’s Farmhouse Dry Fork Reserve Asiago cheese; sorghum syrup, seed and flour; Lindera Farms honey vinegar and Bob Wood’s country ham. If you’re outside of America, then you’ll need to do a little research to identify the best substitutions, but on the whole you should be able to cook the majority of the recipes in the book albeit not to Brock’s high level of authenticity.

What’s the faff factor? Recipes vary from a relatively straightforward chicken breast with black pepper and peanut butter gravy, or pork shoulder steak with grilled mushrooms, to shrimp and grits that requires the preparation of four other linked recipes: oven roasted tomatoes; braised fennel; pressure cooker grits and crispy pigs ears. You’ll also need to make your own crab roe bottarga if you want to make Brock’s recipe for grilled oysters with green garlic butter (although he does say you can substitute a good ready made mullet bottarga).

How often will I cook from the book? Once you’ve sorted out what ingredients you might need to either omit or find alternatives for, you’re sure to find yourself returning to the book often. There’s a fantastic recipe for fried chicken, a great cheeseburger, some amazing looking biscuits (the savory scones, not the one’s you’d dunk in your PG Tips) and lots of delicious salads like grilled asparagus and cracklin’ salad and sides such as charred corn or grilled carrots that will brighten up any meal. There’s also enough weekend projects including condiments, pickles and preserves to keep you going for months.

Killer recipes? See above, but also pork prime rib with mustard onions; pit cooked chicken sandwiches; bacon jam; pea and hominy succotash; blackberry cobbler, and buttermilk pie.

What will I love? The food, as photographed by Peter Frank Edwards, looks fantastic. At 376 pages, the book covers a lot of ground and is a great introduction to South American cuisine.

Should I buy it? Unless you already own Heritage, Brock’s first book, you probably won’t have a book quite like South in your collection. Although some of the recipes might seem to be covering familar ground, you’ll want to have Brock’s version of grilled chicken wings with a West African style BBQ sauce as well as to experiment with some of the more recherché dishes such as Lowcountry fish-head stew.

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

Buy this book
South
Artisan, £30

Take One Tin by Lola Milne

Take one tin

What’s the USP? Practical storecupboard meals, with recipes that stray a little from the drab usual suspects.

Who’s the author? Lola Milne isn’t necessarily the most obvious author for a cookbook – her work in the food industry has mostly been behind the camera, as an in-demand photographer and food stylist. This does pay dividends in the book though, with vibrant and beautifully shot dishes livening up what could have easily been a fairly unexciting premise.

What’s great about it? Milne’s focus on long-life products and storecupboard staples feels decidedly modern, and will appeal to people of all ages – perfect for knocking together something for the family when you’ve not had a chance to get to the shops. By focusing on tinned foods as a starting point, Milne has found it easy to put together a collection of recipes that are entirely without meat. Vegetarians will delight, and a wealth of pescatarian dishes ensures plenty of variety throughout the book.

You can’t help but feel that the timing of Take One Tin’s publication will prove a little fortuitous for Milne, too. As much of the world contemplates societal lockdowns and potentially long isolation in the wake of Covid-19, this cookbook will prove an increasingly useful addition to many homes.

Is it good bedtime reading? Not at all. A two-page introduction and two short sentences at the beginning of each recipe. Three, if you’re lucky.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? The very nature of Take One Tin ensures that there are no real surprises on the ingredient lists. Whether or not you have trouble securing what you need will come down solely to how well your local supermarket is dealing with any panic buying that might be going on.

What’s the faff factor? What faff factor? Milne’s recipes are all remarkably simple affairs. A bit of pan-frying, maybe. Mix a few items together and chuck them in the oven for a bit. Whilst Milne’s food-styling skills ensure dishes look very impressive, the actual work necessary to pull them off won’t faze the average home cook in the slightest.

How often will I cook from the book? In normal day-to-day life? Maybe once every couple of weeks. These are easy and practical recipes that many people will happily call on when they don’t want to work too hard for their dinner. In a global pandemic? Take One Tin might just prove invaluable.

Killer recipes? Jackfruit & kidney bean chilli, crab thoran, Sri Lankan mackerel curry, banoffee pie with hazelnut cream.

Should I buy it? There are a few storecupboard-centric cookbooks out there, and whilst others might cover more ground (Claire Thomson’s excellent The Art of the Larder being one), Take One Tin is a great deal more accessible, and balances the genre’s practical aspects with genuinely exciting and contemporary ideas.

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

Buy this book 
Take One Tin: 80 delicious meals from the storecupboard

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas who is a Brighton-based writer, and is exactly the sort of person who posts his dinner on Instagram. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.

Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs with Sesame Bread by Lee Tiernan

069 Vietnamese eggs

This is a dish we used to serve as staff meal at St. JOHN Bread and Wine from time to time. I’m not sure why we called it Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs, but it’s basically scrambled eggs with Asian flavours, and it’s fucking tasty. If you can’t be bothered to make the Sesame Bread by all means use whatever bread you have at home, but preferably something with a bit of texture, like sourdough. Sweet coffee goes well with this. Or even a White Russian.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT non-stick frying pan (skillet) rubber spatula

SERVES 4

3–4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
2 red chillies, finely chopped
3 spring onions (scallions), whites thinly sliced, greens reserved
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), stems sliced, leaves left whole and reserved
25 g (1 oz/2 tablespoons) butter
8 eggs, beaten
fish sauce, to taste
salt

FOR THE SALAD
400 g/14 oz bean sprouts
reserved greens of the spring onions (see above), finely sliced
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Chillies (page 201)
2 tablespoons Pickled Red Onions (page 200)
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1⁄2-1 lime
reserved coriander leaves (see above)

TO SERVE
4 BAM Flatbreads (pages 56–63), topped with sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil after cooking
8 rashers BAM Bacon, or shop bought, grilled (page 50; optional)
dried baby shrimp (optional)
2 tablespoons shop-bought crispy fried onions

In a non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a low heat, soften the garlic and ginger in a little oil for 2 minutes. Add the chillies with a pinch of salt and cook for a further minute. Add the whites of the spring onions (scallions) and the coriander (cilantro) stalks and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Don’t cook the latter for too long as they will lose their vibrant green colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next, toss all the salad ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined, and set aside.

Wipe the non-stick frying pan clean, and then get the pan hot over a high heat. Melt the butter in the pan and add the garlic, ginger and chilli mix. When it starts to sizzle, add the eggs and stir with a rubber spatula. Turn the heat down to low. Keep stirring and turning the eggs, then add a good splash of fish sauce, bearing in mind that this is all the seasoning the eggs are going to get. I like to go pretty heavy with it – at least 1⁄2 tablespoon – but really it depends how salty and funky you want it. I’d recommend tasting a little of the egg once it’s mixed in to check. Continue to cook the eggs for around 2 minutes – you want them just cooked and super silky, as opposed to dried out and rubbery.

Place the breads on plates. Distribute the scrambled eggs onto each bread and top with the salad. Add the bacon and dried baby shrimp (if using) and the crispy fried onions. Serve with steak knives for ease of eating

PICKLED RED CHILLIES

These pickled chillies cut through fatty meat and add the welcome hit of spice I’m always craving. We use them a lot at BAM. Reserve the vinegar to use in a salad dressing after you’ve used all the actual chilli.

MAKES ABOUT 800 G/13⁄4 LB

250 g/9 oz red chillies
350 ml (12 fl oz/11⁄2 cups) red wine vinegar 175 g (6 oz/3⁄4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar

In a small bowl, whisk the sugar into the vinegar until it has dissolved.

Blister the chillies under a hot grill, over the coals of a barbecue or with a blow torch, then cut into 5 mm (1⁄4 inch) chunks. Combine the chillies and vinegar in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

PICKLED RED ONIONS

MAKES 800 G (13⁄4 LB/3 CUPS)

1 tablespoon salt
4–6 red onions, thinly sliced
125 g (41⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) red wine vinegar

In a colander or sieve set over a sink, dis- tribute the salt over the sliced onions and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the onions are salting, dissolve the sugar into the vinegar in a saucepan over a low heat. When the liquid has cooled, add the onions. Tip into an air- tight container.

These can be used after a few hours, but will be better after a few days in the refrigerator.

Cook more from this book
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Read the review

Sticky Toffee Pudding by Francis Coulson

096 sticky toffee pudding

Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel United Kingdom 1970s

50g (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to butter the dish
175g (6 oz) dates, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs
175g (6 oz) self-raising flour (all-purpose flour plus 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
vanilla ice cream, to serve

For the sauce

300ml (1⁄2 pint) double (heavy) cream
50g (2 oz) demerara sugar
1 dessertspoon black treacle (molasses)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Butter a baking tin about 20 cm x 13 cm (8 x 5 inches).

Boil the dates in 300ml (1⁄2 pint) water until soft (some dates are softer than others, so will need more cooking), then remove the pan from the heat and drain any liquid. Add the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat well. Mix in the flour, date mixture and vanilla extract and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until just firm to the touch. To make the sauce, boil the cream, sugar and treacle (molasses) together. Pour over the top of the sponge until it is covered (there will be some left over), then place under a hot grill (broiler) until it begins to bubble. Remove, cut into squares, and serve with the remaining sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Cook more from this book
Stuffed Pg’s Trotters with Morels
The crunchy part of the lasagne

Read the review

Buy the book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Signature Dishes That Matter by Christine Muhlke et al

Sig dishes

Modern gastronomy is often about looking forward; to the next Instagrammable dish, the next fashionable cuisine, the next tasting menu to tempt the jaded palettes of jet setting foodies. It’s timely then, that Bon Appetit magazine editor at large and food writer Christine Muhlke, along with a panel of six other experts (including London-based Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg) have curated a collection of 240 restaurant dishes that span six centuries and illustrate how a good idea can, or have the potential to endure.

From the first ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018, this is an idiosyncratic collection that will raise an eyebrow or two (Big Mac anyone?) and spark debate, rather than stand as ‘the definitive canon of cuisine’ as claimed in the introduction.

But it is a fascinating read, with Muhlke’s concise, well written and researched narratives (all illustrated with hand painted watercolours by artist and trained chef Adriano Rampazzo) providing descriptions and histories of the dishes that are full of fascinating detail. Did you know for example that Baked Alaska was first served at Delmonico’s in New York in 1867 in honour of the treaty with Russia that signed Alaska over to the US?

The book falls down slightly when it comes to recipes, with rather too many listed as unavailable. Josef Kelle’s 1915 recipe for Black Forest Cake may be ‘a closely guarded secret’ but an alternative if less authentic version would have been better than the rough description provided.

Signature Dishes That Matter is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine and is perfect for bedtime reading and could also provide inspiration for a retro-themed dinner party.

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

Buy this book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Cook from this book
The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne
Stuffed Pig’s Trotters with Morels
Sticky Toffee Pudding

This review was originally published by The Caterer 

Black Axe Mangal by Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

It’s tempting to pigeon-hole Lee Tiernan, chef and proprietor of cult north London restaurant Black Axe Mangal as some sort of ‘rock ‘n’ roll chef’. His pizza oven is emblazoned with the faces of the rock group Kiss, he blasts a soundtrack of heavy metal into Black Axe Mangal’s intimate dining room (a converted kebab shop) and the flavours of dishes like the signature squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are turned up to 11.

But behind all the raucousness there is a considered, thoughtful and meticulous cook.  On the subject of bread, which he says is the ‘anchor’ of his cuisine, he quotes food writer Richard Olney and calls it a ‘symbol of sustenance’ and explains that his seven-page recipe for flatbread was perfected with the help of Chad Robertson of Tartine bakery in San Francisco.

Another influence on Tiernan’s cooking is Fergus Henderson for whom Tiernan worked for over a decade, including a stint as head chef of St John Bread and Wine. Dishes such as shrimp-encrusted pig’s tails with pickled chicory; braised hare, chocolate and pig’s blood with mash; and oxtail, bone marrow and anchovy wouldn’t look out of place on a St John menu (Tiernan has also included the famous St John rarebit recipe in the book). But Tiernan unquestionably has his own distinctive style. As Henderson notes in his introduction, ‘Lee has borrowed my bone marrow, my cod’s roe, my pig’s blood, but they are not what shape him’.

The autobiographical introduction is full of stories and anecdotes from Tiernan’s colourful past. As a child, he took fussy eating to such extremes (including hiding unwanted meals under a loose floorboard in the family home) that his mother consulted a doctor about his lack of appetite. Black Axe Mangal’s origins as a pop up in ‘a grimy, graffiti-smeared Copenhagen night club’ where Tiernan cooked thousands of kebabs in a ‘ramshackle shed’ makes for entertaining reading.

The liberal seasoning of salty language and peppering of softcore glamour shots (older readers may be reminded of the Rude Food books from the late 70’) may be off-putting to some, but the step by step instructions on the key skills of grilling, smoking and baking that help define Tiernan’s food, along with the story behind his success, provide an insight into one of the UK’s most exciting and original chefs and make Black Axe Mangal an essential purchase.

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

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Cook from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

This review was originally published by The Caterer 

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Food of Sichuan

What’s the USP? The Food of Sichuan is a revised and updated edition of Sichuan Cookery, originally published in 2001. It’s an authoritative and comprehensive investigation of the styles, techniques and ingredients of a lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine with over 100 recipes, 50 of them new to the revised edition.

Who is the author? Fuchsia Dunlop is recognised worldwide as a leading authority on Chinese cuisine and is the first westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu. She is the author of four other books, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China; Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking and Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China. 

What does it look like? In a word, appetising. The food, often simply presented in a bowl, is photographed with the minimum of fuss and styling so that you can easily and clearly see how your fish stew with pickled mustard greens should look. The photographs of rural Sichuan village life are breathtaking.

Is it good bedtime reading? A 50-page introductory section covers the story of Sichuanese cuisine and its kitchen, larder and table, there are lengthy introductions to each of the 14 recipe chapters (which includes everything from cold dishes to hotpot and preserved foods) and each recipe has its own substantial introduction so there is plenty to read and enjoy when you are not tackling the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There is no question that you will need access to a good Asian supermarket or specialist supplier if you want to cook extensively from this book. However, Dunlop reassures her readers that a dozen basics, many available at the supermarket including soy sauce, fermented black beans and Shaoxing wine ‘will set you up for making most dishes’.

What’s the faff factor? Bearing in mind that The Food of Sichuan is nearly 500 pages long and includes a chapter describing ‘The 56 Cooking Methods of Sichuan’, that is not a straightforward question to answer. For example, barring the 30-minute marinating time, spiced cucumber salad from the Cold Dishes chapter will take just moments to prepare whereas duck braised with Konnyaku ‘tofu’ is a more intricate and time-consuming dish.

Although Dunlop describes numbing-and-hot hotpot as ‘a wonderfully easy and delightful way to entertain’ the recipe does cover four pages of text and includes recipes for the stock and soup base that forms the centre of the dish, along with suggestions for ingredients to dip (she suggests at least 8-12 different ones such as thinly sliced chicken, pigs kidneys, lotus root and a variety of mushrooms) as well as seasoning dips.

Broadly speaking though, ingredients lists are usually quite short and methods that include techniques such as stir-frying and deep-frying will be familiar and easily achieved.

How often will I cook from the book? That may partly depend on how much you enjoy the famously numbing sensation of Sichuan pepper, which a good proportion of the recipes include. However, as Dunlop points out, ‘the most salient characteristic of Sichuanese cookery is its audacious combinations of different flavours…such as sweet and sour ‘lychee flavour’, delicate ‘fragrant-boozy flavour’ and fresh, light ‘ginger juice flavour’ which are not hot and spicy and so ‘those who do pa la -‘fear chillies’ – will still find plenty to entice them within the pages of this book’.

Killer recipes? Bowl steamed belly pork with preserved vegetables; fragrant and crispy duck; boiled fish in a seething sea of chillies; pot sticker dumplings with chicken stock; Mr Xie’s dandan noodles; silver ear fungus and rock sugar soup. 

What will I love? The quality of the writing, the depth and breadth of the research and the sheer reassuring heft of the thing that tells you this is the only book on Sichuan cooking you’ll ever need.

What won’t I like? There are some aspects of Sichuan cuisine that western palettes may find challenging, such as ‘liangfen’, jellies made from pea, mungbean, rice and sweet potato starches and served cold, or a spicy stew thickened with jellied pig’s or duck’s blood.

Should I buy it? If you love Chinese food (and spice) and want to learn more about what Dunlop claims is ‘one of the great cuisines of the world’ then you can’t go wrong.

Cuisine: Chinese
Suitable for:
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating:
Five stars

Buy this book
The Food of Sichuan
£30, Bloomsbury

Cook from this book

Coming soon

Saffron in the Souks by John Gregory-Smith

saffron in the souks 2

What’s the USP? An accessible introduction to Lebanese cuisine with an element of travelogue thrown in for good measure.

Who is the author? John Gregory-Smith is a chef, presenter and author specialising in Middle Eastern and North African food. He has written four other cookbooks: Orange Blossom and Honey, Turkish Delights, Mighty Spice Express and Mighty Spice Cookbook.
His food and travel journalism has appeared in numerous publications including Condé Nast Traveller and the Evening Standard.

What does it look like? The book is full of vibrant, colourful dishes and peppered with some gorgeous images of the coasts, mountains and valleys that make up the Lebanese landscape.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a four page introduction and well written and interesting recipe introductions, but this is however primarily a recipe book, and none the worse for it.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You may not be able to get the odd thing like Aleppo pepper, Arabic cucumber, brined vine leaves or moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous) from the supermarket, but a swift google will sort you out.

What’s the faff factor? Some of the recipes require forward planning to prepare marinades and there are a few with long ingredients lists, but mostly the dishes are straightforward and relatively simple to cook.

How often will I cook from the book? Once you’re stocked up on baharat, za’atar, sumac and pomegranate molasses, the recipes are straightforward, varied and delicious enough that Saffron in the Souks could easily become a go-to book for when you want a mid-week meal with a bit of zing or when you’ve got a crowd to feed.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? ‘Handfuls’ and ‘bunches’ of herbs abound, but that’s partly down to the style of the cuisine. Aside from that, you should have no worries.

Killer recipes? Garlic chicken wings with coriander and pistachio pesto; sticky pomegranate sujuk; crispy za’atar calamari; roasted carrots with tahini and black sesame seeds; mighty medina falafel sandwich; kebab king chicken shawarma.

What will I love? The recipe introductions are much more than just serving suggestions and offer insights into Lebanese cuisine and anecdotes from Gregory-Smith’s travels.

What won’t I like? The okra recipes. No one likes okra do they? (You’re quite safe, there’s only two of them).

Should I buy it? Gregory-Smith has got some strong competition in the Middle Eastern recipe book market, going head to head with Ottolenghi, but if you are a fan of the cuisine and looking for new ideas or a novice in need of a guiding hand, then this is worth purchasing.

Cuisine: Lebanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant recipes from the heart of Lebanon
£25, Kyle Books

Mirazur by Mauro Colagreco

Mirazur

What’s the USP? A premium coffee table book celebrating chef Mauro Colagreco’s three Michelin star Mirazur restaurant in Menton in the Côte d’Azur, currently rated number three on the World’s 50 Best restaurant list.  Colagreco’s unique ingredients-led style is informed by restaurant’s location close to the boarder of France and Italy.

Who’s the author? Mauro Colagreo is an Argentinian-born chef of Italian and Spanish descent and a protégé of legendary French chefs Alain Passard and the late Bernard Loiseau. He opened Mirazur in 2006 and was named ‘revelation of the year’ by the Gault & Millau guide that same year. He won his first star in 2007 with the second star following in 2012.

What does it look like? In a word, incredible. Colagreco’s eye for presentation is unsurpassed and Eduardo Torres’s photographs make each of the 65 dishes included in the book look like Renaissance masterpieces. The Côte d’Azur landscape has never looked more magnificent and the shots of Nice, Menton and Ventimiglia markets that supply many of Colagreco’s ingredients will make you want to move to the south of France, or at least book a trip there.

 Is it good bedtime reading? An overall introduction, introductions to each of the book’s three chapters Méditerranée, Jardins and Montagne, supplier profiles (including an illustrated guide to mushrooms) and a laudatory preface by Massimo Bottura means there’s plenty to pour over to help you wind down after a hectic day.

 Killer recipes? Tortellini, almonds, smoked broth; baby squids, beans, pork consommé; goose barnacles, green beans, sea lettuce; squab, spelt, wild strawberries. 

 How annoyingly vague are the recipes? There are accurate measurements for virtually every ingredient in the book and methods are detailed enough to be followed by chefs familiar with how to use equipment such as a Thermomix and dehydrator.

What will I love?  At 372 pages and standing a foot tall, Mirazur is a big impressive book that does full justice to its subject matter. There are little surprises dotted throughout including Pablo Neruda’s poem Ode to Bread printed on transparent paper that overlays a shot of Colagreco’s signature pleated bread rolls, and a fold out illustrated guide to herbs printed on matt paper that contrasts with the high-quality glossy stock used for the main body of the book. The idea that Colgreco’s cooking is borderless (the book quotes Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl who said, ‘Borders? I’ve never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people) is a particularly attractive one in the current political climate of rampant nationalism.

What won’t I like? Apart from two double page black and white portraits, Colagreco is almost entirely absent from his own book, represented only by his dishes and recipes. The text is written by his wife Laura (who, at times, wanders perilously close to poetic pretention; about the Côte d’Azur, she says ‘Many describe the environment like a body transported by the surprise of two feelings in front of the marvels of nature and their singular disposition’), and the food was prepared by two members of the Mirazur brigade, Antonio Buono and Paulo Corsi. While it’s refreshing to read a cookbook that gives so much credit to a chef’s suppliers and the terroir he works within, it would have been nice to hear Colagreco’s own voice, either in the form of an interview or in recipe introductions which are sadly lacking.  In addition, there are no pictures of the restaurant itself which seems a bizarre omission.

Should I buy it? At £70 (although you can find the book heavily discounted online), Mirazur is quite the investment, but real effort has been made to elevate it above the level of souvenir. Colagreco is one of the most individual chefs working in the modern progressive genre and anyone who aspires to join him in the rarefied heights of gastronomy would be rewarded by reading this book.

Cuisine: French/progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
Mirazur (English)
Catapulta, £70

Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish

Tom Kitchin

What’s the USP? A celebration of the fruits of the sea by one of Scotland and the UK’s best-known chefs and restaurateurs.

Who’s the author? Tom Kitchin worked for the very best in the business including Alain Ducasse and Pierre Koffman before opening The Kitchin in Leith in 2006 with wife Michaela. He quickly notched up a Michelin star and went on to open the highly rated Castle Terrace and Scran and Scallie gastropub, both in Edinburgh. Later this year he launches the Bonnie Badger pub with room in the village of Gullane on the East Lothian coast as well as Southside Scran gastrpub in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh. Kitchin’s cherubic features and curl mop of hair can regularly be seen on the BBC in shows such as Saturday Kitchen, Masterchef the Professionals and The Chef’s Protege.

What does it look like? This is Tom Kitchin, Michelin-star chef creating recipes for the home cook so expect slightly more relaxed food presentation than you might find at his signature restaurant. Each recipe is headed with a hand drawn illustration of the main seafood element by Nathan Shellard which is a very nice touch and there are a few photographic portraits of Kitchin, en famille doing various seaside related activities.

Is it great bedtime reading? It’s not exactly a gastronomic War and Peace, but the brief introduction is bolstered by a useful chapter on seafood cooking techniques and each of the 100 recipes has a breezy, upbeat introductory paragraph, many of which contain tasty nuggets of culinary wisdom.

Killer recipes?  Octopus, mixed bean and black olive salad; squid and prawn stuffed courgette flowers; monkfish, salmon and scallop kebabs; roasted cod head with citrus dressing; smoked haddock and Mull cheddar souffles; clam and miso broth.

What will I love?  Kitchin covers his subject well with a good range of fish and shellfish with chapters on crustaceans, molluscs, cephalopods, flat fish, white fish, oily fish and mixed seafood dishes. Although this is aimed primarily at the home cook, there are plenty of ‘cheffy’ dishes like scallop and chicory with Spiced Sauternes sauce to interest Kitchin’s fellow professionals.

What won’t I like? There could be more guidance on how to make sure you’re cooking with sustainable seafood and Kitchin tends to stick with the more mainstream varieties and swerves things like black bream, grey mullet and gurnard, all wonderful fish that any decent fishmonger should be able to sell you.

Should I buy it? Kitchin has entered a crowded market and set himself up against some big names, not least of which is Rick Stein who published his own book called Fish and Shellfish in 2014; Tom Aiken’s excellent Fish, and the lesser known but still wonderful Feast of Fish by Ian McAndrew. But as a fresh take on the subject for 2019, Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish is well worth investigating.

Cuisine: Scottish/seafood
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Tom Kitchin’s Fish and Shellfish
£26 , Absolute Press