Pitt Cue Co
By Tom Adams, Simon Anderson, Jamie Berger and Richard H Turner
The Pitt Cue Co story is pretty well documented but for those of you who don’t know, the American barbecue concept started life in 2011 as a street van under a very leaky Hungerford Bridge – I know, I got wet there on many a rainy summer’s day.
Savvy social media skills, coupled with a killer menu of the most satisfyingly slow-roasted meats, meant it soon gathered a dedicated following and a permanent home in London’s West End followed quickly after.
The Ethicurean Cookbook
By Jack Adair-Bevan, Paûla Zarate, and Matthew & Iain Pennington
Ebury Press, £25
This a cookery book for those who dream of the good life, a rural idyll of walled gardens, edible flowers, medlars and quince, not an evocation of cutting edge food on the mean streets of London or Birmingham. It’s a delight to read, with photos that mostly bring up visions of a childhood in the country that I for one certainly never had, but wouldn’t have minded.
Quite a bit of what we present in restaurants is only tangentially connected to the food on the plate. We offer a touch of something notionally more exciting, or at least we try to. A trip to the tastes of the Far East, the lifestyle of the aristocracy here or in France in the Edwardian era, the smart lifestyle of downtown New York or San Francisco. This book conjures up an English countryside where cider, cheese and beer are made locally, game roams the nearby woods and, most importantly, the garden provides all the inspiration needed for delightful and nourishing meals. Not real life for me, but a very tempting daydream.
Elizabeth David on Vegetables
By Elizabeth David (introduction by Jill Norman)
Elizabeth David may have died more than 20 years ago in 1992, but her recipes are as fresh and relevant today as they were when they were first written.
The recipes in Elizabeth David on Vegetables would not be out of place in one of the vibrant new brasseries which understand the importance of working with seasonal produce that has been either freshly picked or gathered from market not long before service.
The 100 or so recipes in the book have been pulled together by Jill Norman, the editor who worked with David over many years and went on to become the literary trustee of her estate. All are written in David’s distinctive style, and come from a selection of her books, including the renowned Mediterranean Food (1950), French Provincial Cookery (1960) and Italian Food (1954).
Salt Yard: Food & Wine from Spain & Italy
By Sanja Morris, Ben Tish and Simon Mullins
Piquillo Publishing, £30
Ben Tish, executive chef at the Salt Yard Group, is a friend and former colleague from Coast in London, where we both worked, way back in the late 1990s.
It gives me great pleasure to review a book that he has written, along with Sanja Morris and Simon Mullins, the founders of the Salt Yard restaurant in Goodge Street in 2005.
Inspired by their experiences of eating out in Spain and Italy, Sanja and Simon created a restaurant that reflected the small dishes, charcuterie and cheeses they ate on their travels. In an inspired move, they appointed Ben as head chef the following year and swiftly promoted him to executive chef of the group. The three of them have since gone on to open Dehesa in Soho (2008) and Opera Tavern in Covent Garden (2011).
Discovering the Great British Truffle
By Marion Dean and Marion Pennington
Marion Dean, £24.99
When asked to review this book, I jumped at the chance. For years my wife, Caroline, and I have been foraging for all kinds of foods, but our greatest love is edible fungi. So a book entitled Discovering the Great British Truffle sounded like it should be the perfect read. I was not disappointed.
Marion Dean recalls her journey from being a failed gardener to having a dream of growing an orchard of trees with the roots impregnated with truffles. She went on to open a school that trains truffle hounds, with the aim of searching out the great British truffle. The book travels through the history of the truffle in Britain, as well as looking at truffles from around the world including black Perigord and white Piedmont varieties.
Atul’s Curries of the World
By Atul Kochhar
Absolute Press, £20
As one of the UK’s most celebrated Indian chefs, Atul Kochhar is well known for the subtlety of his spicing and the delicacy with which he creates authentic dishes.
In Atul’s Curries of the World he explores the culinary history of curry, following the progress of spice trading around the world, having been employed differently in each destination. He points out that curry has been part of Indian cuisine for more than 5,000 years, but that cultural exchanges mean that “the modern day curry is thus a global term to describe the culmination of this past and now includes manifold varieties across the world”.
Sicily – Silver Spoon Collective
By Phaidon editors
Sicily has a fascinating food history. The first famous food writer of the Mediterranean was a Greek-speaking Sicilian, Archestratus, in the fifth century BC. He advocated simplicity in cooking style and warned his readers against Italian cooks who might put cheese sauces and pickle on their fish. Romans would hire a Sicilian chef in the same way that the aristocracy of our Edwardian era might have boasted a Frenchman in the kitchen.
There is even a connection with William the Conqueror and his invading hordes, for the Normans controlled Sicily at the time they overran Harold at Hastings. And this meant that they were familiar with and had easy access to the spices and exotic ingredients of the country. So there you have it: an island celebrated for its eclectic influences, rich aristocrats and exciting cuisine, not just Don Corleone.
The Breakfast Bible
By Seb Emina & Malcolm Eggs
I love breakfast, but so often when eating it in a hotel, I am disappointed by what is offered. Usually, it is the quality of the key ingredients or lack of imagination for the periphery elements that let it down. It is such a missed opportunity, as the food you encounter first thing in the morning will impact your lasting impression of a property.
Hence, my belief that The Breakfast Bible should be purchased by every operator – hotel, restaurant, greasy spoon café – which takes seriously its role in cooking and serving the first, and some may say most important, meal of the day.
The first half of the book focuses on what we all know as the iconic full English breakfast, made up, according to the author, of nine key ingredients: eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, black-or-white pudding, toast, potatoes and beans.
Recipes from the Sea
Chef Books, £25
When you live on an island like Jersey, which is surrounded by seas rich in marine life, it’s hard to avoid fish, as Andrew Baird, Longueville Manor’s executive chef, can testify. Sheffield-born Baird has lived and worked in Jersey for more than two decades and in that time he’s built up strong relationships with the local fishermen and acquired his own depth of knowledge about fish. And in this, his first book, he’s sharing that knowledge with the wider world.
Ostensibly, the book is aimed at enthusiastic home cooks but because the recipes are based on Baird’s Longueville dishes – tweaked and simplified by Baird himself when he cooks for his family in his downtime – there is plenty in the book for kitchen pros to get inspiration from.
Absolute Press, £30
I have known David almost as long as I have been in England, probably dating back to the very early days of Le Champignon Sauvage, which opened in 1987. I first went there when I was about 21. I was working at La Tante Claire and chef [Pierre Koffmann] had been down to eat at David’s and spoke highly of it.
My then wife planned a gastronomic weekend for me – at Redmond’s in Cheltenham, Le Champignon Sauvage and L’Ortolan (with John Burton-Race) – and I remember having an amazing experience at David’s. I’d come from London to the countryside and at David’s had something as good as anything we were doing at Tante Claire.