Sun and Rain by Ana Roš

9780714879307

Self-taught Slovenian chef Ana Roš highly unusual path to the professional kitchen is set out in the biographical section of this fascinating and visually stunning book. She trained as a professional dancer and was a member of the Yugoslav national ski team before going on to study international science and diplomacy. Her plans for a career in international diplomacy changed when she met her future husband and natural wine expert Valter Kramar. The couple decided to work in Kramar’s family countryside restaurant Hiša Franko in the remote Soča Valley where Roš eventually took over the running of the kitchen. International acclaim followed with Roš taking part in culinary events like Cook IT Raw and being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table documentary series.

Roš‘s lack of any formal culinary training has led to a highly individual style based on the abundant natural larder of the extreme north-west of Slovenia. A community of local foragers, shepherds, cheese makers, hunters and fishermen (some of which are profiled in the book) supply Roš with trout, deer, goats, dairy produce and fruits which she transforms into eye-catchingly plated dishes such as marble trout roe with rosa di Gorizia chicory and yeast; veal consommé, celeriac and young linden leaves, and beeswax peaches and elderflower.

The majestic natural glory of the Soča Valley is well represented in the photography of Suzan Gabrijan who has also captured the rugged elegance of Roš’s food. Even by publisher Phaidon’s consistently high standards, this is an exceptionally beautiful book. Disappointingly, however, apart from two photographs taken in the kitchen, there are no shots of the restaurant interior or exterior which is a puzzling and frustrating omission.  The recipes are hived off into a separate chapter at the end of the book so that it’s necessary to flick back and forth to the images of the finished dishes if you want to understand exactly what you are looking at.  These minor niggles criticisms aside, Sun and Rain is a comprehensive look at the life, culinary philosophy, and cooking of a remarkable figure in the modern culinary scene that will inspire any progressive thinking chef or very keen home cook.

Cuisine: Slovenian/Progressive
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

This review was first published in The Caterer

Buy the book
Ana Ros: Sun and Rain (Food Cook)
£39.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
Summer Pear by Ana Roš
Bread by Ana Roš
Goat cottage cheese ravioli by Ana Roš

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

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

John Burton-Race: The Authorised Biography with Michael Cowton

John Burton Race

Where to start with this odd and badly written biography of the former Michelin-starred chef, minor TV personality and tabloid headline-hogger? Well, how about the time Burton-Race returned drunk from a night out with his then wife Kim to find his stepdaughters Olivia and Eve and Eve’s boyfriend with what Burton-Race thought was drugs on the kitchen table. His response? To go to the utility room and unlock the gun cabinet where he kept ‘a Beretta and a special edition Browning worth £7,500’ and return to the kitchen wielding a shotgun. During a struggle, he knocked Olivia to the floor and hit both her and his wife in the face with the butt of the gun.

That may well be all you need to know about Burton-Race, who you may remember from his 2007 appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, but if for some reason you are still considering parting with £20 for this shoddy, thrown-together book then read on. Cowton has based the above anecdote on an interview given by Kim Burton-Race to the Evening Standard in 2007. Cowton writes that Burton-Race himself, ‘was reluctant to talk about it in any great detail’ and that Cowton feels that ‘the incident does not sit well with John. It is something he would sooner forget.’ That Cowton has allowed him to do so gets to the heart of the book’s problem. You will learn as much, if not more about Burton-Race from Googling a few interviews and articles (this one by Jay Rayner from 2008 is particularly good) as you will from reading this biography.

In the second chapter, Cowton describes his first meeting with the chef which partly helps explain why the book is such a mess. ‘Without any prompting, he launches into a stream of anecdotes with no prior considered response to my first question…I suggest it might be appropriate to begin noting our conversation and he agrees. However, trying to get John Burton-Race to rewind when he is in fast forward is an entirely different matter.’ Cowton goes on to claim that ‘As I grow to know John Burton-Race better, and on a more personal level, I begin to slowly unravel the complexities of the man’. If that’s true, he has failed to document his findings. Instead, the impression Cowton gives is that he has been bamboozled by the mercurial chef and has struggled to make anything substantial from that ‘stream of anecdotes’ which are often banal and lacking in any real detail.

At 264 pages, it’s a relatively short book yet Cowton has still found it necessary to bulk it out by taking some utterly bat-shit tangents including a page on the sexism of 1960s-80s era Savoy hotel head chef Silvetto Trompetto and the subsequent achievements of women in the hospitality industry. It should be noted that Bruton-Race never worked for Trompetto or with any of the women listed by Cowton which include Prue Leith and Eugénie Brazier. And then there are the disproportionately lengthy biographies of chefs Burton-Race has actually either worked for or with including Raymond Blanc, Gary Jones (executive chef of Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons), Martin Blunos and Nigel Marriage which all include details that have no bearing on Burton-Race’s story whatsoever.

However, important incidents go unexplored. Marriage had an unwanted 15 minutes of fame in the mid-90s when he was secretly filmed physically and verbally bullying a junior chef in the kitchens of Burton-Race’s two Michelin starred restaurant L’Ortolan in Berkshire (now under different ownership). The footage featured in an episode of ITVs The Big Story documentary series exposing abuse within the restaurant industry. It was a major scandal at the time which ruined Marriage’s reputation and did no favours at all for Burton-Race who was also filmed verbally abusing the young chef. Cowton offers no new insight from Burton-Race into the incident, quoting only from reports from the time, again failing to add to the sum of biographical knowledge about the chef.

Cowton’s own deathless comment is that, ‘The situation was not helped when the film crew shot John as this opulent bloke driving in his Porsche, so everybody who didn’t have the money for a bicycle suddenly hated him. All the upper-crusties who thought John Burton-Race was politically correct, brilliantly talented and fun to be with suddenly didn’t like him anymore because they felt he had let them down.’ One suspects that those words were actually spoken by Burton-Race himself, as much of the text which is not in quotation marks reads like transcribed interview re-written in the third person. That maybe a valid approach for a biography, but only when properly considered and edited and with sufficient mediated storytelling from the biographer. Unfortunately, time and again, John Burton-Race: The Authorised Biography reads as if it has been banged out in a hurry with the minimum of care and attention.

Given the number of factual errors and spelling mistakes, it’s surprising to discover via Cowton’s acknowledgements that the book actually had an editor. It’s worth noting at this point that Cowton’s other works include books about Level 42, The Pet Shop Boys and a trilogy on Murders That Shocked the World and that, despite claiming to have a ‘passion for gastronomy’ in his Twitter handle, his unfamiliarity with his subject matter is painfully obvious. Chef Gary Hollihead is referred to as Paul Hollihead on two separate occasions, chef Aldo Zilli is called Aldo Zilley and Gidleigh Park hotel becomes Gidley Park.

Every restaurant in New York visited by Burton Race on a trip in 1994 is misnamed. Daniel is Daniels, Le Cirque is La Cirque and, for some reason, Cowton hasn’t even bothered to Google the name of ‘Robert De Niro’s place in the docks’ (it’s Tribeca Bar and Grill, and it’s not in the docks). In one of the worst sentences ever written in the English language, Peter Luger Steakhouse gets rechristened: ‘Mesmerised by the host of influential quarters, he found himself at the hub of a cosmopolitan gem and visited a steakhouse in Brooklyn called Lugeros.’ I’m sorry, he was mesmerised by what, where?

The book is full of puzzling moments. In a bizarre and difficult to follow anecdote that goes precisely nowhere, Cowton confuses rillette (potted pork), with andouillette, a famously pungent sausage made with chitterlings. On page 143 we learn that ‘John met his second wife Kim in 1996 on a Caribbean island’. On page 144, THE VERY NEXT PAGE, Cowton writes, ‘As John was collecting his Catey Award in 1995, the year also saw him betrothed to Kim’. That’s one year before they met in case you’re having trouble keeping up. More troubling is the head scratching revelation that Burton-Race’s mother and father-in-law abandoned him and his younger sister at some point in his childhood (there is no strict chronology in the early part of the book), leaving them alone in a house in Sarisbury Green in Hampshire and moved to Indonesia with ‘no explanation to the children, no heartfelt goodbyes, nothing – just gone, the taxi’s rear lights flickering and gradually fading into the distance’.

According to Cowton, the children were discovered by chance by ‘an uncle’ and then ‘placed with neighbours’. But then, sometime later (weeks, months, years – it’s impossible to tell), Burton-Race’s mother and father-in-law returned to the UK, took up residence for a brief spell and then returned to Indonesia, this time taking Burton-Race and his sister with them. Given that Cowton says that Burton-Race’s ‘earliest childhood memories are a pile of mismatched fragments’, it’s surprising that Cowton appears not to have tried to verify the exact circumstances surrounding what is obviously an important incident in his subject’s life and which he says ‘had devastating results’ and ‘left both children mentally scarred’. Why would the parents not have been arrested for child abandonment on their return to the UK? Why would they have been allowed to take them out of the country after behaving in such an astonishingly irresponsible manner. Why were the children not taken in by relatives and who were those amazingly generous-hearted neighbours?

A little bit of legwork with public records and the local paper’s archive might have provided some answers, but Cowton seems satisfied to leave his readers with more questions about his subject’s life than when they started reading the book. Much easier to devote pages documenting forgettable TV appearances on programmes like Kitchen Criminals and Great British Menu, which can be called up on YouTube, or interviewing easily accessible chefs such as Michel Roux Junior who has never even worked with Burton-Race but has ‘bumped into him several times at events’ and was willing to contribute a quote or two to fill up a bit of space.

It’s also easier to cram the book full of clichés: at various points in the book Burton Race is ‘never lots for words’, has had a ‘long and distinguished career’ is on ‘a single minded mission’ and ‘a relentless search for perfection’ or has ‘ had to manage the cards he’s been dealt’. There’s plenty of meaningless hyperbole too, culminating with the laughably unsupportable assertion that ‘without question [Burton-Race] has worked monumentally hard to achieve and maintain a level of creative genius unparalleled in his time’ (no one mention Ferran Adria or Rene Redzepi or Daniel Humm or…well, you get the picture).

There’s no question that Burton-Race is a complex figure who has led an interesting life and achieved notable success in his chosen field. In more skilled hands, his story could have made for a rattling yarn (albeit with some unsavoury aspects), instead John Burton-Race: The Authorised Biography makes for a deeply unsatisfactory read. If you want to find out about the life of a flawed British Michelin-starred chef then you’d be much better off with Marco Pierre White’s oddly titled but very readable autobiography White Slave.

Due to a litany of bad business moves and ill health (all documented in the book), Burton-Race’s career is currently at something of a low-ebb with his most recent venture in Torquay, that included John Burton Race hotel and Restaurant, folding within less than two years. From his website it appears that he is currently concentrating on consultancy. If this book is an attempt to get him back into the limelight, he may be in for a disappointment as big as anyone foolish enough to buy a copy.

Cookbook Review Rating: One star

Buy the book
John Burton-Race 2020: The Man, The Magic & The Mayhem
£20, Banovallum Books

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

Green Pizz’ from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

121 Green Pizz.jpg

Rapini (broccoli rabe) cream, finocchiona, mozzarella and pecorino pizza

Per 1 pizza

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredienti

2 bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) or Tenderstem broccoli (broccolini)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1/2 quantity (250 g/9 oz) Pizza Dough (see below)
5 thin slices of finocchiona or salami
90 g/3 and ¼ oz fior di latte (or mozzarella di bufala), roughly cut
70 g/2 and ½ oz (3/4 cup) grated pecorino, plus a few shavings to garnish
Salt

Come fare

Chop half the rapini (broccoli rabe) stalks (stems) and remove the leaves. Cook the rapini for 2 minutes in a large pan of salted boiling water. Drain, then immerse them in a large container of ice water to stop further cooking. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Make the rapini cream. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a high heat. Chop the remaining rapini stalks and fry with the anchovies for 15 minutes over a medium heat. Process everything in a food processor until you have a smooth cream.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9. Cover a baking sheet with baking (parchment) paper. On a floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a circle about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter and about 2 cm/ 3/4 inch thick.

Place the pizza base (crust) on the baking paper. Cover it with the rapini cream and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the chopped rapini, finocchiona slices and mozzarella. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated and shaved pecorino. Don’t wait, serve and enjoy immediately!

Cool to know
Finocchiona is a type of traditional Italian salami from Tuscany. Its name comes from ‘finocchio’ – meaning ‘fennel’ in Italian – which, along with pepper, gives this salami its distinctive flavour.

Neapolitan Pizza Dough
A tip from Giuseppe Cutraro

Per 2 pizze

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Rising time: 8 hours

5 g/1/8 oz (13/4 teaspoons) fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon fast-action dried (active dry) yeast
300 g/11 oz (2½ cups) soft (pastry) flour, such as Italian type ’00’
1 generous tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fine salt

Come fare

Dissolve the yeast in 200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) of lukewarm water. Sift the flour and add half to the water. Work by hand for 10 minutes, without leaving any lumps, gently mixing the liquid with the flour and kneading the resulting dough well. Incorporate the remaining flour,olive oil and salt.

Continue to knead by hand for 15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and comes off the work surface very easily.

Put into a bowl, cover with a wet cloth and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm room (about 24°C/75°F).

Dust a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the dough into two and put the dough balls onto the baking sheet. Cover with a cloth or lid without touching the dough and leave to rise in a warm room for 6 hours. The pizza dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.

How to stretch pizza dough

Neapolitan pizza-making is an art form (now recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO). Giuseppe Cutraro, our chief pizzaiolo, ‘made in Napoli’, explains how to stretch the dough. Professional tips below…

You begin by dusting your work surface (preferably marble to keep the temperature at about 20°C/70°F) with flour.

Put the dough on the work surface and start by stretching it with your hands to form a circle about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter. And here’s where things get a little tough: twirling the pizza with your hands. Unlike what you might think, you don’t toss the dough high into the air, even though it looks like a really cool thing to do. This can even be done on the work surface: make the dough into a circle by rotating it, or by repeatedly lifting it with the left hand while holding it with the right. These actions allow the dough to be stretched uniformly.

Then lay the dough on the work surface and start pushing it from the centre towards the edges with your finger, which pushes the air to the edges and creates a raised lip that is light and puffed when cooked. We pizzaioli call it a cornicione (‘cornice’). It’s the hallmark of genuine Neapolitan pizza – generous edges, about 2 cm/¾ inch, which puff up at 430°C/800°F in the wood-fired pizza oven.

Giuseppe started learning the trade at the age of 15, at the historic Starita a Materdei pizzeria in Naples. We will probably never equal his pizza-making skills, but we can at least pretend.

Cook more from this book 
La Gran Carbonara
The Incredible Lemon Pie

Read the review 

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

La Gran Carbonara from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

191 La Gran Carbonara.jpg

Spaghetti carbonara

Per 4 amici

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
30 minutes or less, 5 ingredients or less

Ingredienti

3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks
90 g/3 oz (1 cup) grated pecorino cheese
90 g/3 oz (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon pepper
400 g/14 oz spaghetti
8 slices of guanciale (cured pork cheek/jowl), finely sliced

Come fare

In a bowl, mix the whole eggs and egg yolks with the pecorino, Parmesan and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain, reserving the cooking water.

In the meantime, add the guanciale slices to a dry frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and sear for 5 minutes, or until crispy. Add 1 tablespoon of the pasta cooking water, followed by the spaghetti.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the egg mixture and mix briskly. The eggs should not cook too much and the consistency of the sauce should be creamy.

Transfer to a large serving dish and serve immediately.

Cool to know
You heard right: real Italian carbonara sauce is made without cream. Our chef Filippo La Gattuta makes a spectacle of serving it straight out of a big pecorino wheel at our London trattoria Gloria.

Cook more from this book
Green Pizz’
The Incredible Lemon Pie

Read the review 

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

Big Momma Cucina Popolare by Big Momma

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

What’s the USP? The surprisingly ‘serious’ cookbook from the bat shit crazy French-owned Big Momma Group of Italian restaurants that operates a total of 10 venues in France and the UK with Gloria and Circolo Popolare in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia respectively. In her review for the Times, Marina O’Loughlin said about Gloria that ‘the interior is over-upholstered, overdecorated, over the top, a shrieking hen-party antithesis to contemporary style. Food arrives in lurid ceramics’. She loved it.

What does it look like? O’Loughlin’s description holds true for the book, from the red cartoon cockerels strutting across the cover to the big brash food styling featuring the aforementioned ‘lurid ceramics’, heaped with colourful food, shot against clashing floral backgrounds and with ridiculous punning titles like ‘Egg Sheeran’ and ‘Eat Me Baba One More Time’.

Is it good bedtime reading? Only if you like reading recipes at bedtime. Besides, the garish visuals will give you nightmares.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? A few bits and pieces like cuttlefish, whole octopus and guanciale may take a bit of effort, but you should have no problems for 90 per cent of the dishes with the remainder requiring a decent fishmonger or deli.

What’s the faff factor? The Big Momma Groupo might be young, dumb and full of rum (there are eight recipes in the book that call for the spirit) but this is restaurant food so you’ll need to be prepared on occasion to put your back into cooking some of the dishes, making and stuffing your own pasta and pizza dough and preparing ingredients like confit tomatoes.

Killer recipes?  Zuppa di pomodoro; pizz’n’roll (rolled pizza with fontina cheese); melanzane in carrozza (aubergine fritters with provolone cheese and tomato confit); carpaccio Sorrentino (beef carpaccio with courgettes and almonds); pasta e ceci con gamberi (pasta with chickpeas and prawns); big lasagna; the incredible lemon pie. 

What will I love? This is an exuberant and fun book, but it’s also packed with tips from the Big Mamma Group chefs on things like how to make pizza dough and pasta, how to make the perfect risotto and how to choose truffles and fresh fish.

What won’t I like? This is an in-yer-face book and you are either going to love the blousy visual style or hate it. Same goes for those groan-inducing dad-joke dish titles like Poulpilove, Elton Mess, Purple Rice and Dipsy Winky.

Should I buy it? If by some miracle you haven’t really cooked Italian food at home, this is a colourful, vibrant way to get started. It would also make the perfect present for someone who is a fan of the restaurants.

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

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

Cook from this book
La Gran Carbonara
Green Pizz’
The Incredible Lemon Pie

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