Leon restaurant was founded by Henry Dimbleby, John Vincent and the celebrated cook Ellegra McEvedy. They wanted to open a fast-food restaurant that you would find in heaven. I would expect that to carry cream cakes, chocolate bars and deep-fried cheese sandwiches, and all calorie-free, but these three wise foodies elected to take the noble route. The food at the restaurant is chosen both to taste good and to do you good. This book reflects that ethos.
I say noble but perhaps that conjures visions of bland and beige food served by a waiter wearing vegetarian sandals and a tie-dye apron. The reality is a lot more enticing. Healthy food will only do you good if you enjoy eating it. Leon – Naturally Fast Food offers dishes that will tempt, with no need for countless hours of preparation.
This volume will appeal to any food lover who misses those old-fashioned Christmas Annuals. It gives a pleasantly organic impression with muted earth tones, cartoons, photos and a deal of good humour. It’s a book to browse through tucked up on a long winter night, but it’s equally and more importantly a book to cook from on long days of any season.
The book is divided into two sections: Fast Food, well, no surprise there, but then it’s onto Slow Fast Food, which was a bit more taxing on the imagination. These are quite simply slow-cooked dishes that are fast to reheat when one is in a hurry. A good example of this and a crowd-pleaser if ever there was one is Leon Chilli Con Carne. Easy to prepare in advance and the recipe is for six to eight servings so there should be plenty left over to put in the freezer.
The Spanish Pot Roast is perfect for a family meal or dinner for friends. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare and then it lingers in the oven for a couple of hours. You don’t have to keep it company, as it cooks very well without an audience. This recipe is vibrant with paprika and the tang of sherry vinegar. The Tips section suggests the addition of chunks of chorizo, which would enhance the nuance of an Iberian flair to an extravaganza. Delicious.
One of the Fast dishes offers an exotic taste of Kerala. It’s South Indian Pepper Chicken. We all have black pepper in our kitchens and this showcases that undervalued spice to great advantage. The key to the distinct taste is to grind even more black pepper than you think is reasonable. This dish has pepper as flavouring rather than as a seasoning. Be bold.
Sweet Potatoes are now available everywhere. They are simple to cook and kids love them. Leon – Naturally Fast Food has three options, but the one the majority of readers will try first is bound to be that for Andi’s Sweet Potato Fries. Sweet potatoes never seem to make such crispy fries as regular potatoes. The secret of success here is thin chips and exceptionally hot oil. These might not sound like a healthy option but food cooked at high temperature will absorb less oil than at lower temperatures.
Leon – Naturally Fast Food is going to appeal to the novice cook as the recipes are broad-based and simple. The more practised home chef will enjoy some of the unique recipes. A great tapestry of flavour and imagination.
Cookbook review: Leon – Naturally Fast Food
Authors: Henry Dimbleby, John Vincent
Published by: Octopus Publishing
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018