It’s that time of the year again, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks, pre-Christmas publications, all shiny and glossy and very tempting.
First out of the traps in early September was Jamie Oliver’s Veg. I’m a big fan of Jamie’s and felt a deep sympathy as he faced a whole slew of challenges earlier in the year. He has bounced back in a variety of ways – look out for his YouTube cooking slots and this new book is another must have.
Another of my food heroes, is the indomitable Fergus Henderson. The Book of St John written with his long time business partner Trevor Gulliver celebrates 25 years of the iconic ‘meaty‘ restaurant that pioneered ‘nose to tail’ eating and happily coincides with the Year of the Pig. Pitty, witty, and structured to mirror the practises and rythyms of St John Kitchen, from butchery to stocks, braise and brine, but St John’s on St John’s Street in London is not just about meat, there’s also an extensive repertoire of fruit and vegetable recipes, all new and a whole chapter on puddings. Lick your lips – steamed syrup pudding, sherry trifle and lots of treats for the eleven o clock biscuit tin, as well as a seed cake and a glass of madeira (Fergus’s favourite tipple), and finally a whole chapter dedicated to feasting….An irresistible publication with gold edged pages – a very special present.
In the midst of the pile, are two shiny hardbacks written by two Ballymaloe Cookery School Alumni. James Ramsden, food writer, podcaster, chef, owner of three restaurants including Michelin starred Pidgin in Hackney. James’ 4th book, Lets Do Dinner is jam packed with tasty tried and tested recipes. Nothing chefy here, just lots of yummy dishes to enjoy that can be prepared ahead for family and friends, so you don’t find yourself racing against the clock at the last moment – lots of really tempting super cool recipes to enjoy with pals around the kitchen table.
The second book, a first for Rachel Goenka from India who did the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2011 before returning to her native Mumbai where she opened her restaurant The Sassy Spoon. This debut book, Adventures with Mithai is already a best seller in India and reflects her love of baking. Here again, there are many stunning photos of creations you’ll really want to bake.
Finally for this column, the Cordon Bleu Chocolate Bible – a culinary guide to all things chocolate. With 180 recipes, so difficult to pick a favourite recipe….This may we’ll become the quintessential chocolate book…
A Cookbook makes a brilliant present that keeps on giving – so lots to choose from.
Braised Lamb, Peas, Crème Fraîche and Mint
To serve 6 happily
Sea salt and black pepper
1 lamb shoulder on the bone
A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
20 shallots, peeled and left whole
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
A bouquet garni (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay etc)
½ bottle of white wine
A ready supply of chicken stock
2 healthy tablespoons of Dijon mustard
4 healthy tablespoons of crème fraîche
A few handfuls of fresh or frozen peas
2 bundles of mint, leaves picked and
stalks retained for the bundle of joy
It is important to stress the wonder of slippery pea: olive oil, crème fraîche and chicken stock, the three lubrications combine to create that glorious slipperiness.
Don’t be afraid of a frozen pea. A chef who shall remain unnamed
once told Fergus, ‘Wait until peas are in season, then use frozen.’ A
comfort for the home cook.
Season the shoulder well, then heat a large frying pan over a
medium heat with a splash of olive oil and brown the lamb all over.
Place it in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray large and deep
enough to accommodate the joint with a little space. Gently sweat
the shallots and garlic in the lamby frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes,
without colouring them, and nestle these around the shoulder with
the bundle of joy.
Place the roasting tray over a medium heat and pour in the white
wine. Reduce by half, then add the chicken stock and an extra glug
of olive oil administered like squirts of factor 50 at the beach: a
generous coating. While the liquid returns to a simmer, take a
small bowl and whisk together the mustard and crème fraîche,
loosening the mixture with a couple of spoonsful of the simmering
stock. Pour the resulting sauce into the tray. The liquid does not
have to cover everything – remember that you are looking for the
Place in a barely medium oven for at least 3 hours, the crème
fraîche and meat juices unify while it blips away. Check the shoulder
with a skewer and, when the meat is tender and yielding, add
the peas and return to simmer in the oven for a few minutes longer.
Reinforce the seasoning if needed, discipline your mint leaves and
fold through to finish.
The leftover braising juices and slippery peas make an excellent
sauce for farfalle – a favourite for staff dinners.
Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press. Photography by Jason Lowe
WARM BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD WITH LABNEH AND CHILLI
Labneh is yogurt that has been strained of all its whey, leaving the thick, almost cheesy, curd behind. It needs a day or two to reach its peak, so if you’re making this at more of a run, just use a really thick, Greek-style yogurt.
500g/1lb 2oz/2 cups natural yogurt
salt and pepper
1 small butternut squash or pumpkin
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
For the dressing
a big bunch of parsley, leaves only
½ tsp ground coriander
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a paste
juice of ½ lemon
100ml/3½ fl oz/7 tbsp olive oil
1–2 DAYS AHEAD:
Line a bowl with a clean tea towel. Tip the yogurt in, add a pinch of salt, then tie the towel up with string and hang from a cupboard handle over the bowl.
UP TO A DAY AHEAD:
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Wash the squash but don’t peel it (the skin is delicious) and cut it into rounds, discarding the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, and roast for 45 minutes. Leave to cool; chill overnight if necessary.
UP TO AN HOUR AHEAD:
Make the dressing: finely chop the parsley and mix with the ground coriander, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, or whiz in a blender.
30 MINUTES AHEAD:
If necessary, warm the squash in a medium oven (180°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4). If the oven’s already on for something else, do it at that temperature, keeping an eye on it if it’s particularly hot.
Place the chunks of squash on a plate and top with a dollop of labneh. Scatter with chopped chilli and a generous dressing of parsley oil, then serve.
TWEAK: Use goat’s milk yogurt instead, to produce lovely goat’s curd. Also delicious just spread on toast.
Extracted from Let’s Do Dinner by James Ramsden, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Yuki Sugiura.
Wonderful Veg Tagine
1 pinch of saffron
4 cloves of garlic
4cm piece of ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ras el hanout
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste
2.5Kg mixed veg, such as aubergines, courgettes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, red onion, butternut squash, mixed-coloured peppers.
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
100g dried apricots
1 preserved lemon
½ bunch of mixed fresh herbs such as dill, mint, flat leaf parsley (15g)
20g flaked almonds
Put the saffron into a jug, cover with 500ml of boiling water and leave to infuse. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic and ginger, then place in a large casserole pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, the cumin, cinnamon and ras el hanout. Add the tomato paste, fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then pour over the saffron water. Trim and prep the veg, as necessary, then chop into large chunks, adding them to the pan as you go. Top in the chickpeas (juices and all), roughly chop and add the apricots and preserved lemon, discarding any pips, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to love, and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
When the veg are almost tender, just cover the couscous with boiling water, season with salt and pepper and pop a plate on top. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff and fork up. Pick the herb leaves and toast the almonds. Serve the tagine and couscous sprinkled with almonds and herbs.
Delicious served with harissa rippled yoghurt.
Extracted from Veg by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd (2019 Veg) Food photography: David Loftus
Brown Butter, Rose and Chai Cake
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon rose water
2 ½ tablespoons black tea leaves
For the Glaze
60g unsalted butter
180g icing sugar
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
2ml rose essence
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease a 8.5×4.5 loaf tin.
Brew the tea with 165mls of milk first. Bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and keep it covered for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the tea to steep. Strain with a fine mesh sieve and bring the milk tea to room temperature before using. You need around 2/3 cup of tea.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom powder together and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yoghurt and sugar for a few minutes. Add the oil and rose water and whisk for another few minutes until the mixture is creamy.
Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk tea to the batter. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula. Pour into the greased loaf tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Shift the icing sugar and cardamom powder together and set aside.
Cook the butter in a saucepan over a low flame for 5 to 8 minutes till the butter browns. Be careful not to burn the butter. Strain the browned butter to remove any impurities.
Add the icing sugar, a little at a time, and whisk to combine. Add a few teaspoons of milk and rose essence to thin the glaze, so it’s a pourable consistency.
Remove the tea cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen before unmoulding.
Once the cake is completely cooled, drizzle the glaze on top.
Extracted from Adventures with Mithai by Rachel Goenka, published by Harper Collins.
50g mixed glacé fruit
50g candied orange peel
35g glacé cherries
100g flaked almonds
25g flour sifted
100ml whipped cream
85g caster sugar
30g mild honey
300g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Butter a baking tray.
Finely chop the mixed glacé fruit, orange peel and cherries and place in a bowl; add the almonds. Tip the flour into the bowl and stir carefully by hand to separate the pieces of fruit.
Heat the cream, sugar and honey until simmering; stir over low heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Using a wooden spoon, carefully blend the hot cream mixture into the glacé fruit and flour. (If desired, the Florentine mixture could be kept refrigerated for 2 days).
Using a spoon, put small mounds of the mixture on the baking tray placing them well apart. Flatten with the back of the spoon into 3cm discs. Transfer to the oven and when the discs start to bubble, remove and cool for about 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C (325°F) and bake the discs for another 10 minutes. Cool and transfer to a wire rack.
Temper the chocolate: Coarsely chop the chocolate. Place 2/3 (200g) of the chopped chocolate in a bowl; melt over a bain-maire until the chocolate reaches 45°C on a digital thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until the temperature drops to 27°C. Return the bowl to the bain-maire, stir gently and reheat the chocolate to 32°C.
Using a pastry brush, apply a layer of tempered chocolate to the flat side of each Florentine; tap each on the work surface to release any air bubbles in the chocolate. Spread with a second layer, using a spatula to remove any excess chocolate. Harden the Florentines at room temperature.
Chef’s Tip: Make sure that you spread the dough out thinly on the baking tray otherwise the Florentines will not be easy to eat when cooked.
Extracted from Le Cordon Blue Chocolate Bible, from the famous French culinary school. Published by Grub Street.