Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement! Perhaps the phrase might more aptly be “A year in the kitchen with some of Britain’s best chefs” but if that’s the only criticism of this cookbook then the editor need not feel too aggrieved. And, yes, that is my only complaint of Cook – A year in the kitchen.
Cook – A year in the kitchen is a whopping and worthy tome showcasing the recipes of noted chefs and a few that deserve to be more celebrated than they are. This book of seasonal cooking guides you through the changing fresh produce, offers tricks of the trade and presents mouth-watering recipes. It’s the Observer Food Monthly encapsulated in hard cover, and will encourage the grinding of teeth from many who have painstakingly snipped recipes from those pages. Put away the scissors and buy this book.
I have enjoyed a day of sheer culinary and literary indulgence. I have leafed through the pages of Cook – A year in the kitchen, and found some of my own personal favourite chefs. Vivek Singh of Cinnamon Club with his Gajjar Mutter Tamatar ki Subzi – winter vegetable curry with carrots, peas and tomatoes. This is Indian home cooking at its best. A simple dish but sure to appeal to anyone loving comfort food. To accompany the quintessentially English Sunday roast one would choose Rowley Leigh’s Perfect Roast Potatoes. Another easy dish but a decent roast spud can be the making of your special weekend meal. Not surprisingly Rowley has Le Café Anglais in Bayswater, London.
Another winning recipe is that for Creamy Spiced Mussel Soup from Chris Galvin who runs various eponymous restaurants. The spice in question is supplied by a pinch or so of curry powder and a thread or two of saffron. The resulting soup takes one back to evenings in Belgium (where such soups have a cult following). Serve crusty bread alongside; a smart dish that’s ready in just a few minutes.
Tom Oldroyd is head chef at London’s Polpo. His Risi e Bisi – Venetian rice and peas – is the sort of dish that we crave when we visit Italy. It’s a rustic dish that we seek on Italian menus. It’s a plateful of creamy deliciousness that we can create at home. It’s finished in less than half an hour. Add a glass of something red and perhaps a bit more of the aforementioned bread.
The most striking recipe must be that for Whole Roast Suckling Pig. This comes courtesy of Sam and Eddie Hart who own and run Fino, Barrafina and Quo Vadis in London and they are the authors of Modern Spanish Cooking. The prospect of roasting a whole pig might be daunting but remember that it’s a little piggy and not a fully-grown adult. You’ll manage the exercise with no problem. If a regular domestic oven is what’s gracing your kitchen then you can always cut the carcass in half and use two trays. This porker could be a regular guest at any major celebration. A dish requiring little preparation but the finished result will be memorable.
Thomasina Miers has several recipes here that are noteworthy but I have chosen her Mexican BBQ Ribs as my pick of the best from this book. This lady should know a thing or two about Mexican food. A former Masterchef winner, she spent a year working in Mexico before opening her restaurant Wahaca in London’s Charing Cross. There are now several branches. This is not a meal to eat wearing your best silk shirt. Get stuck in and savour – it’s casual food at its best. Perhaps casual food is always best. Thomasina has penned several books, with her latest being Mexican Food Made Simple.
There are lots of multi-chef books around but this one is a class act. It brings together some of the best talent and offers recipes that any home cook would be able to make. Nothing too cheffy or outrageous here. This would be welcome gift for any food lover or enthusiastic restaurant goer.
Cook – A year in the kitchen with Britain’s best chefs
Published by: Random House
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018