If you are short of inspiration there are a ton of cook books out there bursting with new and edgy ideas, comforting food and advice on how to use some of the newer ingredients coming our way.
Here is my list of the some of the top food books of 2013, I’ve already mentioned Master It – How to Cook Today by Rory O’Connell in a recent column.
The Modern Peasant by Jojo Tulloh published by Chatto and Windus. Jojo writes for The Week and lives in inner city London, yearning for a peasant like self-sufficiency. She is not alone. Beneath railway arches, on inner city rooftops, and on borrowed land, a new breed of food producers are baking bread, making cheese, keeping bees and growing vegetables. Inspired by their success, Jojo watched and learned.
Ethicurean Cookbook published by Ebury Press. An inspirational cookbook from the brilliant young team behind the Ethicurian Restaurant and walled garden in Bristol. Fresh, seasonal ethical food — delicious unexpected cameos.
From Lynda’s Table by Lynda Booth. A beautifully produced self-published book from a past student of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Lynda Booth, now owner of the prestigious Dublin Cookery School.
Snackistan – Street Food, Comfort Food, Meze, published by Anova Books Group (Sally Butcher) is another gem.
The Paris Gourmet by Trish Deseine, published by Flammarion. This is the dream book for those who would love a couple of days in Paris but don’t have time to do the research.
No Time to Cook by Donna Hay, published by Harper Collins. The perfect book for the working mum, trying as Donna is, to keep all the balls in the air — cheat’s notes, short cuts and hints on food styling, from one of the world’s chicest cookbook writers.
Cooked by Michael Pollan, published by Penguin UK. It comes as a surprise to learn that America’s most influential didn’t really cook at all. In his inimitable way, he apprenticed himself to a succession of culinary masters to learn how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. A fascinating insight into a culinary journey.
The Pitt Cue Co. Cookbook, published by Mitchel Beasley is your guide to enjoying the best hot, smoky, sticky, spicy grub all year round with Tom Adams , Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard H. Turner.
Simon Hopkinson Cooks, published by Ebury Press is a much anticipated new cookbook from many peoples’ favourite and most trusted cookbook author.
A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, published by Clarkson Potter. Definitely one of my personal favourites of the year. David was head chef at Chez Panisse for many years and now divides his time between New York and Paris. This book is based on the menus he cooks for small groups of friends of which I am fortunate to be one and I remember every delicious morsel. This book is full of recipes for simple, delicious food that you’ll love to cook.
Food DIY by Tim Hayward published by Penguin Fig Tree shows how to make your own everything, sausages to smoked salmon, sourdough to sloe gin.
You may not have a brigade of chefs to help with your mis-en-place, but these books give a glimpse of beautiful contemporary food and current trends.
Chapter One – An Irish Food Story by Ross Lewis, published by Gill and Macmillan. A beautiful production from one of Ireland’s most highly respected and best loved chefs. Shortlisted for the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year Award 2013.
Rediscover Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala published by Phaidon. This chef is definitely one to watch, I first saw him at the MAD Food Symposium in Copenhagen. A former punk DJ who was classically trained as a chef in Europe, Atala refuses to import ingredients such as caviar, truffles and fois gras, staples in many high-end restaurant kitchens, into Brazil and instead scours the Amazon for indigenous produce to fuse with classical techniques in his cooking. He then works with the Amazon’s native communities and small-scale producers to extend the availability of these native products around Brazil.
A Work in Progress: Journal, Recipes and Snapshots, by Rene Redzepi published by Phaidon. René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen committed to writing a journal for an entire year to reflect on this and the result is reflective, insightful and compelling. Rene will be one of the guest chefs at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine May 16 – 18 2014 (book early).
Proper Pub Food by Tom Kerridge, published by Absolute Press is a no nonsense collection of comforting old fashioned favourites from the down-to-earth new super chef on the block. Put his restaurant The Hand and Flowers on your London list.
If several of these appeal to you, gather up those gift tokens and head for the local book shops — some may have to be ordered.
Serves 2 comfortably
100g dark chocolate with 70 – 73 per cent cocoa solids, grated, plus a little extra
1 teaspoon ground ginger
20g dark muscavado sugar
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons fennel
100ml double cream
Gently heat half the milk in a pan and add the grated chocolate, ginger muscavado sugar, salt and most of the fennel sugar (save a pinch for sprinkling). Stir until the chocolate has melted into the milk, then whisk in the remaining milk and cream. Do not allow the mixture to boil but bring it to a comfortable drinking temperature. If you have a hand blender, substitute this for a whisk; either way, for a frothy head a good amount of whisking is needed. Serve sprinkled with the remaining fennel sugar and a few shards of chocolate.
75g roasted coffee beans
500g whole milk
6 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
300g double cream
Crush up some of your coffee beans in a pestle and mortar or with the end of a rolling pin. Put them in a pan with the milk, raise the temperature to just short of boiling, then cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. This will extract all the smooth, aromatic elements of the coffee without any of the bitterness.
Strain the milk through a sieve lined with a clean piece of J-cloth or muslin. Make a double boiler with a mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water and in it whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thickened. Now pour in the infused milk and keep whisking until you have a custard thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pass the custard through a sieve, mix well with the cream, then chill well. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until set.
This a quite a grown-up ice cream, low on sugar and high in coffee flavours. It works well in small servings.
The chicken in this recipe is stuffed with chorizo and as the chicken roasts the meaty orange drips form the perfect basting liquid.
1 free-range chicken (approx.. 2 – 2.5kg)
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Sea salt and black pepper
Small bunch of herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay and parsley)
1 cooking chorizo (75g – 100g) sliced
500g waxy potatoes cut into chunks
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Rub the chicken with the sherry inside and out and season with salt and pepper. Place the bundle of herbs inside the chicken along with the chorizo.
Place the chicken on a roasting tray surrounded by the diced potatoes. Roast for 2 hours, basting frequently with the red juices from the chorizo. When you remove the chicken to baste it, turn the potatoes so that they crisp up well. Serve with wilted greens.
Serves 6 as a starter
1 butternut squash, olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only plus 2.5cm of the green, finely chopped
1.3 litres chicken stock or vegetable stock
400g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
120ml dry white wine pinch of saffron threads
50–60g Parmesan cheese, grated, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan, 400°F, Gas 6. Remove the skin from the butternut squash. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres with a teaspoon. Cut the flesh into large cubes and place in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat and season with sea salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes, turning over once or twice during the cooking. Purée in a food processor until smooth, adding a little stock or water if required.
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion, season with salt and cook with a lid on over a low heat until completely softened. Add the chopped leek to the pot and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Meanwhile, heat the stock in a separate saucepan and keep this just below simmering point on the cooker.
Add the rice to the onion and leek and stir for a couple of minutes so that the grains of rice become coated with the butter. The risotto will take about 20 minutes to cook from this point onwards. Add the white wine and simmer, stirring, until the wine has evaporated. Add a ladleful of broth and simmer again until the stock has been absorbed, stirring regularly. Add in the saffron threads. Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, for the duration of the cooking, allowing each batch of stock to be absorbed by the rice before adding another. Stir regularly. Taste the rice towards the end of the cooking. At the end, the rice should be tender but still retain a slight bite.
Stir in the puréed butternut squash. Mix well and add more stock if the risotto isn’t loose enough. Finally, add the Parmesan and butter. Mix well and season to taste. If the risotto needs more flavour, add extra Parmesan. The final flavouring of the risotto can only be done to taste. Add a little more stock or boiling water, if necessary, to achieve a soft and slightly runny consistency. Serve immediately.