What’s the USP? A collection of modern, inventive vegetable-forward, often vegan recipes that also includes seafood and meat dishes.
Who’s the author? Rob Howell is the head chef of Root, the Bristol restaurant that’s set in a converted shipping container on the city’s Wapping Wharf.
Is it good bedtime reading? Aside from a brief introductory section that includes a forward from Root’s co-founder Josh Eggleton, an introducton from Howell himself and notes on seasonality, produce and seasoning, the bulk of the reading material lies in the short but informative recipe introductions. So one more for the kitchen than the nightstand.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Salsify is still one vegetable that’s still a little tricky to get hold of, at least in the UK, so crispy frying it and serving it with roasted garlic mayo might take a little bit of effort, similarly kolrhabi for a slaw to accompany grilled flatbreads with babganoush. You’ll need a good cheesemonger for ewe’s curd to add to turnip and apple-filled chicory leaves and a decent deli for smoked rapeseed oil to add to yoghurt to serve with salt-baked beetroot. You’ll hopefully have a good butcher who will get you ox heart to grill and serve with pickled red cabbage and sweetbreads to glaze with Marmite and maple syrup (God, that sounds good), plus a reliable fishmonger for pretty much everything in the fish chapter. That aside, the recipes include many accessible ingredients.
What’s the faff factor? This is a book by a chef based on recipes from a small plates restaurant so you won’t be surprised that many dishes require several elements to be prepared and then brought together; easier to do in a professional kitchen compared to a domestic one. Often, you’ll need to put quite a bit of effort into something that will only be big enough to form one course of a meal. Therefore recipes such as oysters two ways (fresh with chilli ginger and gherkin and crispy with tartare sauce) or grilled red mullet with a sauce made from the bones will remain dinner party fodder. However, there are plenty of dishes like chilli and ginger Sharpham Park spelt with chestnut mushrooms or courgette ragu baked in a marrow that are straightforward and satisfying enough to make a delicious mid-week meal.
How often will I cook from the book? Although the book probably sits in the hobby/weekend-cooking category, there are dozens of delicious sauces, dressings, dips, relishes, pickles and savoury jams that you’ll want to add to your regular repertoire, as well as simple salads and vegetable courses that could be adapted as side dishes, making it a book that you’ll want to refer to often.
Killer recipes? Roasted squash with kale pesto, squash barigoule prune puree and Old Winchester; buttermilk-fried celeriac with Korean-style sauce; crispy potato and cheese terrine; hassleback parsnips with honey-mustard mayonnaise; heritage tomatoes with grilled focaccia, aubergine puree and tomato jam; baked seaweed hake with tikka masala-style sauce and bok choi; chicken schnitzel with garlic, parmesan and fresh anchovies; carrot jam-filled doughnuts with mascarpone vanilla cream.
What will I love? The ‘larder’ chapter will help modernise your cooking with recipes for trendy items like seaweed vinegar, burnt onion puree, kale pesto and pickled wild garlic capers.
Should I buy it? Root is bursting with exciting and inspirational ideas that any keen cook will delight in. The accent on vegetables is bang on trend and will help those of us in search of help in cutting down our meat intake. One of 2021’s essential purchases.
Suitable for: confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Root: Small vegetable plates, a little meat on the side
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute