If you are regular reader, as I am sure you are, then you will know that my book reviews usually start with a review of, well, the book; but on this occasion I feel I should mention the publisher right up front.
Face Publications publish On The Menu. It’s a small company that specialises in chef cookbooks. This is the third of theirs I have reviewed and they are attractive and imaginative books that would do any author proud. They present books that are tactile, attractive and definitely gift quality. They have recently achieved the following successes:
Winner, ‘Best UK Chef Book’, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, Paris;
Silver Medal, World’s Best Chef Book’, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, Paris;
Winner, ‘Book Design’, D&AD, London;
Merit ‘Book and Editorial Design’, The Art Directors Club, New York;
Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards, Adelaide.
Now that’s not too shabby!
On the Menu is a stylish black-covered volume of 74 recipes with step-by-step instructions. It’s a chef-penned book and that author is Michelin-starred James Mackenzie, the proprietor and head chef of the Pipe and Glass Inn near Beverley, Yorkshire, which he and his wife Kate have owned since 2006.
James and Kate have transformed the 17th century inn into a destination restaurant. In their first year the Pipe and Glass Inn won the Yorkshire Life “Dining Pub of the Year” Award and in 2007 won the same publication’s “Restaurant Of The Year” title. Further recognition came for the Mackenzies in 2008, being named as the “Best Newcomer” in The Northern Hospitality Awards. In January 2010 the Pipe and Glass Inn was awarded a Michelin Star. It is one of only ten pubs in the UK ever to achieve such a respected and internationally recognised status.
So the chef seems a good sort and the cover is impressive, but what of the inside of the book? The photography by Jason Lowe maintains the quality. The choice of text style, hand script and graphics makes a bold statement. But it’s the recipes that will keep you returning to this book – a sumptuous collection of real British fare that reminds us that we have so much of which to be proud in the culinary arena.
My advice is to find yourself a good butcher. James uses flavourful cuts of meat to make some of his most memorable dishes. The Beef with Suet Pudding is rustic and hearty as well as economic. I love suet pastry and puddings: these will be a revelation to a younger generation, who might well be strangers to this traditional food.
Beer-braised Oxtails with Deep-fried Oyster Fritters is old fashioned food using the classic combination of beef and oysters. In Victorian times the shellfish was the cheap and cheerful filler in beef pies, the meat being the costly element. Oxtails offer the very essence of bovine flavour and they have a melting and silky texture when well cooked.
Smoked Haddock Risotto is delicious and takes advantage of both the regular Arborio rice as well as the robust pearl barley. The fish and grains are topped with a poached duck egg, that will break to bathe the dish in yolky richness. This would make a delightful starter or main meal.
James has some marvellous desserts in On The Menu, but to continue the British theme and to showcase Yorkshire in particular, the Rhubarb Trifle is the one to choose. Rhubarb from the north of England is famous and there were once even rhubarb trains that transported the fresh sticks to London and other cities.
Rhubarb is enjoying a well-deserved revival and this recipe presents it at its blushing best. The garnish of Parkin crumbs adds another Yorkshire twist. This is a traditional dark spice cake that is even better to eat the day after its baked. James gives the recipe and you could of course make just the Parkin as a moreish family cake when rhubarb isn’t in season.
On The Menu is outstanding. The recipes are sensible and you will indeed be driven to make them. That surely should be the test of a good cookbook. It will likely spend its life on the kitchen table. Your kids will leaf through this just as James turned the pages of his mum’s cookbooks. Your family and friends will love these dishes that are unfussy but have that ooohh-aaahh factor that is so often missing in chef-authored books. This is sure to become a prizewinner.
On The Menu
Author: James Mackenzie
Published by: Face Publications
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018