Gary Rhodes at the Table

Rhodes at the table

At the Table was the spiky-haired one’s seventh major cook book in about as many years and followed hot on the heels of the mammoth New British Classics. How on earth did he do it?

No doubt that sustaining a career like Rhodes’s is a team effort, and the many acknowledgements in the front of the book support that theory. However, all the food for the book was prepared by the chef himself, and his style is firmly imprinted in both the prose and recipes.

As always with Rhodes’s dishes, quotation marks abound in titles to indicate not all is as it seems, eg Pigeon and Red Onion “Pasty” turns out to be a pithivier. There are many more examples. It’s an annoying affectation and is indicative of Rhodes slightly overwrought approach.

However, the book design is excellent, with good use of colour. The photography is superb, and there are some real gems amongst the recipes, including a terrific crab salad, duck with spicy plums and a fantastic pear parfait.

Rhodes is a highly skilled and talented chef, and his food can be demanding of the home cook. Using this book may require a little more forethought and preparation, and you may need to adapt the recipes to your own abilities, but the results will be worth it.

Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

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Gary Rhodes at the Table
Gary Rhodes
£0.01 BBC Books

Cooking At The Merchant House by Shaun Hill

Merchant House

There had been a ten year gap between The Shaun Hill Cookery Book (also known as The Gidliegh Park Cookbook) and Cooking At The Merchant House when it finally arrived in 2000. In between, Hill had knocked out a vegetable cook booklet for the BBC, contributed recipes to “A Spoon At Every Course by Mirabel Osler, and apparently spent the advance for a book called Masterclass which eventually surfaced as How to Cook Better.

Of course, he was also busy doing other things, such as running a restaurant, consulting for BA and Tescos and the odd bit of broadcasting on Radio 4. But I’m extremely glad he took the time to record the recipes that formed the menus at his wonderful and late lamented Ludlow restaurant.

Dishes such as Warm Artichoke Heart with Peas and Mint Hollandaise; Fresh Goats Cheese Gnocchi and Lobster with Chickpea, Corinander and Olive Oil Sauce bring back fond memories of numerous meals eaten at The Merchant House.

In addition to the excellent recipes, Cooking At The Merchant House goes some way to telling the story of the life of the restaurant.  Hill is a gifted writer of prose and it’s a great shame that there is not more of it. I am told by ‘sources close to the author’ that a great deal more was written and submitted, but was sacrificed to photos and general design considerations. Nevertheless Cooking From the Merchant House remains an essential purchase for any serious cook, professional or amateur.

Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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Cooking at the Merchant House
Shaun Hill
£0.01 Conran Octopus

No Place Like Home by Rowley Leigh

No place like home

Rowley Leigh is the grand old man of the new wave of British cooking that sprang up in London in the late 80’s. Along with Alastair Little and Simon Hopkinson, Leigh dragged the capital’s restaurant world kicking and screaming into the modern age.

Although some very familiar recipes feature, such as Piedmontese Peppers or Nicoise Salad, Leigh brings a great deal of originality and excitement to the table in this, his first book and, as you might guess from the title, focuses on what works best at home, rather than fancy restaurant food. Roasts pepped up with some interesting side dishes, barbecues or a satisfying tart are the mainstay of the recipes you will find here.

If all that sounds a little dull, fear not. How about a Red Mullet, Aubergine and Potato Sandwich, Breast Of Veal with Pork, Spinach and Garlic Stuffing, or a sigature dish of Scallops with Minted Pea Puree?

The book is organised around seasonal, themed meals such as an autumnal “club dinner for the rich uncle” which includes oysters and grouse. The lovely line drawings of Lucinda Rogers make this a beautiful and original book but on that you will certainly want to cook from as well as look at.

Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars

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No Place Like Home: Seasonal English Cooking (The Food Lovers’ Library)
Rowley Leigh
£9.99 Clearview