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Loved the restaurant? Now you can give the recipes a whirl. The Square Meal team road-test the best new cookery books from London’s top chefs.
If the picture of Ramsay in sports vest and shorts in the introduction doesn’t put you off, Healthy Appetite is worth sticking with for anyone who wants a healthy diet, without dieting. The appealingly simple recipes cover breakfast, lunch and dinner plus barbecues and kids’ food, all interspersed with practical tips. Many dishes display an Italian or Asian slant; the stir-fried duck with noodles I made was quick, easy and a nice spin on the usual chicken version. Ramsay also has a winning way of livening up protein with engaging side orders – guinea fowl with pea and lettuce fricassée, say.
I have to admit: my heart sank when I flicked through this book and saw references to spice-paste preparations and acquired-taste cuts such as lamb’s testicles. However, a proper perusal revealed a well-researched, beautifully shot collection of short, simple recipes, all prefaced with insightful asides from the Benares chef.
Kochhar has taken a global approach to what is considered India’s national dish, putting curry recipes from South-East Asia and his native India alongside others from Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Most are made from easy-to-source ingredients, although more adventurous cooks can try recipes using offal, goose and even goat. The Cambodian aubergine-and-bean curry I cooked was mouthwateringly tasty, delicately balanced and ready in no more than 30 minutes – including the spice paste. That will teach cynical know-it-alls like me.
Fitzrovia’s Salt Yard serves up a winning mix of Spanish and Italian tapas, so it’s not surprising that the opening chapter of its first cookbook is devoted to ‘nibbles’ such as empanadas, courgette fries and smoked-eel brandade. Move on and you’ll find more ambitious stuff, like how to make charcuterie dishes such as pancetta and bresaola from scratch. It also highlights the importance of using top-notch ingredients – a flag to anyone attempting meat dishes such as the pork tartare. The char-grilled lamb chops I cooked at home were simply matched with peas, broad beans and asparagus, but the mint aïoli lifted the whole dish beautifully. The wine recommendations are a further plus.
Alexis Gauthier’s inspiring selection of vegetable and fruit recipes is brightly illustrated and colour-coded by difficulty. Instructions are easy to follow, but can lack detail; my carrot and honey tart took much longer to cook than stated, with no clue as to what size dish to use. But the clever combination of sweet and savoury flavours perfectly sums up this book’s imagination, sense of fun and quirky appeal.
This book is a tribute to an evening at Cinnamon Kitchen itself. Relatively accessible recipes range from simple bar snacks, exotic cocktails and grills to three-course dinners, lovingly packaged with photos, notes, step-by-steps and chef’s tips. In the cauliflower and broccoli stir-fry I made, the fiery red chilli-topped florets were punchy and crisp, with zesty hits of lemon to keep it all at a delicious climax.
Great for anyone like me who’s short on time and money, these four mini-books master the art of using simple ingredients to create healthy, flavourful dishes without being too hard on the pocket. The Breakfast & Brunch volume includes banana split, mango lassi and an energy-packed bar of good things. All the recipes are easy to follow; my pancakes weren’t exactly picturesque but their taste more than made up for the lack of presentation.