Paul Food is an eclectic and visually striking cookbook by a chef who’s a household name – Paul Cunningham. Never heard of him? Well, that just says that your household isn’t located in Copenhagen but I am sure he will find fame in the land of his birth, England. It’s that old story of passion: yes, evidently for food but also for a Danish girl and it’s that romance which prompted Paul to move to Copenhagen in 1994.
Until 2011 Paul ran his own Michelin-starred restaurant, The Paul, which he insisted was not named for himself but rather the architect. The restaurant closed not because it had fallen from epicurean grace but, rather, it was a victim of the uncertain economic times. His culinary career has taken another turn and he is now at Henne Kirkby Kro. It is outside Copenhagen, but it’s said to be well worth the trip. The cuisine here is considered one of the best in Denmark.
Paul Food is about Paul’s food rather than his former restaurant. It’s a thoroughly eclectic array of recipes from across the globe. Paul Cunningham is obviously still excited by food – its flavours and textures and diversity. It’s a volume of recipes for real food, that is to say, for dishes that one truly might want to cook and eat. The recipes are short and simple. Your meal will garner compliments because it tastes great, rather than admiration for the 3 days needed to make it or for the 6 pages that the recipe covered in some other cheffy cookbook. Some recipes here are hardly recipes at all but more like anecdotes with a casual method and a couple of ingredients. Paul is conversational rather than dictatorial.
So he is a transplanted Brit in Denmark, but this is a culinary travelogue of cities across the globe that made some kind of impression on Paul. There are fusion elements, but more recipes that we might consider as classic. Paul’s trip to Scotland offered a good deal of whisky sampling (must be a professional interest) and some hearty fare like Scotch broth and venison with blackberries and chocolate – dishes that showcase the best of the region; and they are comforting.
Hong Kong in November found Paul rain-soaked and starving and sitting down to a Kowloon hotpot. This is one of those meals you won’t have to cook, or more accurately, your guests will be doing their own cooking. It’s an Asian fondue with a base of flavourful stock and garnishes to poach. It’s a flexible dish that can be tailored for vegetarians or meat-eaters.
Then Paul spends time in one of my favourite cities, New York. He offers Elvis’s last sandwich (not sure that should be considered a recommendation) of fried brioche with peanut butter. Truly delicious but this is definitely not to be considered part of your 5-a-day diet, even if it does contain a few raspberries. My vote for unmissable decadence in the Big Apple goes to Mikkel’s Scharffen Berger chocolate-honey-toffee. Just three ingredients and no talent needed to create a sweet delight that is unique and dangerously moreish.
Paul Cunningham presents delicious food from a year’s travel through mainland Europe, Britain, New York and Hong Kong. His recipes tempt us into the kitchen and his travel tales tempt us into the airport. This is an exciting book in every regard. It is certainly a departure from those books that I have come to expect from one of my favourite cookbook publishers, Grub Street. They are celebrated for their classic cookbooks but Paul Food and a few other recent volumes have shown a vibrant and contemporary element. Well done Paul, and well done Grub Street.
Author: Paul Cunningham
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £ 25.00
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018