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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 Britain’s top chefs.
James Tanner might not be a household name, but this fresh-faced, spiky-haired Kentish chef has pretty impressive culinary credentials. He was headhunted by the Roux brothers and invited to work in the US, then returned to the UK and opened his own restaurant in Plymouth at the age of 23, and subsequently landed TV spots on Ready Steady Cook and ITV’s Lorraine. Now he has added a new cookbook to that list. Classic comfort dishes are jazzed up with cross-cultural flourishes, such as barbecue baked bean and chicken cassoulet – a French dish given the Tex-Mex treatment. This slow-cooked show-stopper was as rich and comforting as a cassoulet should be, with smoky hits from the sausage and bacon to give it real cowboy soul. Throw in extra thyme or chilli to combat the heavier flavours.
The boys from Pitt Cue Co have finally unveiled the secrets behind their American-style ribs, and they make a two-hour wait outside the popular no-bookings restaurant seem suddenly sane. Fourteen-hour cooking times crop up regularly, and for those with the patience, dishes such as smoked brisket and pulled pork shoulder will be a mouth-watering prospect. Happily, side dishes and cocktails are more straightforward. I tried the restaurant’s signature dessert: sticky toffee pudding with bourbon-laced chocolate sauce. The huge quantities involved meant it was messy to make but stickily satisfying to eat once I’d heaved this gargantuan pud out of the oven. I’m not sure this recipe was sized down for home cooks, but it tasted fabulous.
Cementing his position as one of London’s favourite imports, the new book by Bruno Loubet combines his French heritage with a lighter and more health-conscious approach picked up during his eight years in Australia. The gooey baked Brie with potatoes and ham I made was Gallic all the way, but dishes such as beetroot ravioli, or cabbage, cashew and duck salad, are perfect for summer.
The second book from Tim Wilson, owner of meat mecca The Ginger Pig, and food writer Fran Warde, is perfect for city dwellers who yearn for a farmhouse kitchen. Traditional country cooking techniques are covered, but there’s more than Escape to the Country nostalgia, with hearty recipes that deliver on flavour and offer plenty of cheffy know-how. Instructions are easy to follow and results are foolproof, as my creamy beef and mushroom stroganoff proved.
The first book from Polpetto head chef Florence Knight, One is divided into ingredient-titled chapters, such as olive oil, mustard and honey. Italian food dominates, but Knight’s childhood of family meals round the dinner table comes through in desserts such as jam roly-poly and steamed apple and treacle pudding. I tried the recipe for marmalade roasted chicken legs with butternut squash, which proved a sticky, savoury delight.
Peruvian cuisine has a fine ambassador in Martin Morales, owner of Soho’s Ceviche restaurant. His absorbing book covers everything from Andean village specialities to street food, as well as the signature dishes from the restaurant. Along the way, you receive a real insight into Peruvian culture and cuisine. Some ingredients may be tricky to source, but the recipes are appetising enough to compel anyone to attempt them. My version of causa Santa Rosa (coriander potato cake with beetroot and avocado) didn’t quite resemble the elegant photo on the page, but was delicious nonetheless.
This feature was published in the summer 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.