If you are not from London then perhaps you might not know about the Eagle Cookbook. No, dear reader, it’s not a right-wing American recipe book subtitled Tasty Meals from Our National Emblem. This is the book of the first Gastropub. That’s a pub that serves (or is supposed to) great food along with your pint.
A few years ago British pub food was nothing to write home about. Or perhaps it was too frequently written home about: “Dear Abner, Martha will soon be out of plaster after the accident with the Scottish egg.” Toasted sandwiches were a main-stay and you would never be far from a pork scratching (pork rind).There has been a general trend towards better food in many pubs but a Gastropub has food at the centre of the enterprise.
The Eagle was an unprepossessing hostelry (OK, so it was a dump) till two enterprising chaps (David Eyre and Mike Belben) took charge. They transformed it into a pub with tempting and inspiring grub. I shrink from saying “Fine” because that conjures images of crisp table cloths, crisp waiters and an embarrassing array of cutlery and glasses.
The Eagle is an old-fashioned pub and is the venue for comforting and hearty fare. The Eagle Cookbook not only reflects the pub’s menu but also the way we eat in Britain today. There is, instead of bangers and mash, Grilled Fennel Sausages, Lentils and Green Sauce. If you want some mash then consider Smoked Haddock with Horseradish Mash and Poached Egg (one of the best dishes in this book.) Banished are the luminous, breadcrumbed nuggets of scampi, to be replaced by Grilled Squid Piri-Piri.
All the recipes have the feel of home cooking. Some of those homes might be a long way from British shores but they all have that real food quality about them. There is nothing here that is fiddled with. It’s all straightforward and flavourful, and accessible to the home cook.
Octopus Stew with Spices from Goa, from chef Tom Norrington-Davies, is outstanding. The amazing flavour comes from a spice paste that’s easy to make with ingredients that you’ll doubtless already have in your larder. It’s a vindaloo-esque paste that is also good with pan-fried squid and will be a good base for any quick spicy stir-fry.
Another favourite is Jensson’s Temptation, a side dish and a Swedish classic. This version is from chef/author Trish Hilferty. It’s a delicious concoction of potatoes, onions, garlic and, most importantly, anchovies. Also try Peas with Chorizo and Poached Egg, from David Eyre. This is a Portuguese recipe for a dish that makes a perfect light winter lunch or late supper. It has sweetness from the vegetables, heat from the sausage, and creamy comfort from the egg yolk.
The Eagle Cookbook is full of food that I like to eat. The recipes have broad appeal and they are simple to make. It’s Gastropub cooking at its best but also proper home cooking. This is bound to be a best seller.
The Eagle Cookbook
Author: David Eyre and The Eagle chefs
Published by: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018