We read it for you: six books you need on your shelves

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

We read it for you: six books you need on your shelves

Related tags: Book review

Restaurant's bookish run-down of the latest publications looks at the offerings from Tommy Banks, James Whetlor, Fredrik Berselius, Matt Abergel, the Gunpowder team, and Robin Gill.

Roots
Tommy Banks

Tommy Banks is becoming a celebrity with a growing number of TV appearances under his belt, including the BBC’s The Big Family Cooking Showdown, so the launch of this book is timely. 

In Roots, Banks addresses seasonality and tackles what he calls the three main seasons for home-grown produce, in chapters entitled ‘the hunger gap’, ‘time of abundance’ and ‘the preserving season’. He knows his stuff, too, with his restaurant The Black Swan, Oldstead, North Yorkhire, growing and storing much of the fruit and vegetables it uses for its menus. 

The first, which covers January to May, is described as the most challenging of the seasons, with ingredients such as onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and rhubarb the main protagonists. Time of abundance ( June to September), meanwhile, deals with elderflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and summer berries while the preserving season (October to December) majors on brassicas, celery, celeriac and root veg. 

Fans of The Black Swan will be pleased to know the book contains recipes for many of its dishes, but some might be too labour intensive or use ingredients that are too hard to come by . But this is certainly a cookbook Banks intends to be used, with each recipe given a one, two, or three rating based on difficulty. 

Banks’ debut book is free of ego and has a pleasing homespun feel to it. He’s on hand to explain the ingredients and share tips as a kind of literary reassuring pat on the shoulder. Roots is an uplifting read from a flourishing chef.

Usefulness: +++++
Self indulgence: +++
Must try recipe: Jerusalem artichoke fudge
Publisher and price: Orion, £25

Goat: Cooking and Eating
James Whetlor

“James knows an awful lot about goats,” writesHugh Fearnley Whittingstall in the foreword , and that’s no word of an exaggeration. James Whetlor, a former chef at Whittingstall’s River Cottage, is the founder of goat meat supplier Cabrito, founded in 2012 to tackle the wholesale slaughter of male offspring of dairy goats soon after birth.

With his book, Whetlor is attempting to further instil goat meat into the psyche of UK meat eaters. Whetlor has done much of the legwork himself, with the book’s 90 dishes in chapters
such as ‘slow’, ‘over fire’, ‘roast’ and ‘quick cooks’, but he’s called upon a few friends for help with Goat featuring recipes from numerous well-known chefs . These include recipes for goat tacos by Neil Rankin, Romy Gill’s goat keema, Kricket’s kid goat raan, Jeremy Lee’s kid pie, Yotam Ottolenghi’s goat shawarma, and Elizabeth Haigh’s goat ragu wontons. Even HFW has offered his kid, lentil and labneh salad.

Whetlor is keen to get people to understand more about the goat as an animal rather than just as a source of protein . It’s worth knowing more, such as why goats were considered so valuable at one point in history and how they haven’t evolved for the British climate.

With the type of meat people are consuming coming under greater scrutiny, Goat is an invaluable reference for anyone looking to celebrate a valuable, but still undervalued, source of protein.

Usefulness: +++++
Self indulgence: ++
Must try recipe: Kid liver with cumin and chilli
Publisher and price: Quadrille, £20

Aska
Fredrik Berselius

Fredrik Berselius is not a household name here, but, with a restaurant with two Michelin stars to its name and a debut book, this could well change.

The Swedish chef has spent most of his career in New York, opening Nordic restaurant Aska, Swedish for ‘ashes’, in 2012 and winning a Michelin star. In 2014, he moved to a bigger
location in Williamsburg, which reopened in 2016 and was awarded two stars within six months.

In his book, Berselius charts the reopening in its new digs and details the process behind its design, from furniture to tableware, but it is Aska’s beautiful dishes that are the show stoppers. His plating is sparse and presented on all manner of different crockery and while there’s something Noma-esque about a few of the dishes, there’s plenty of originality .

Recipes are brought to life by descriptions that explain their genesis or contextualise them. In the recipe for the restaurant’s deer snack served on the bone Berselius recalls his first game
hunting trip with Lyle’s James Lowe in the Scottish countryside while the blood pancake, rose and rosehip dish is accompanied by his memories of the football field at school and getting his arms and legs scratched from rose bush thorns.

Aska isn’t a book to cook from, as tiny yet involved dishes such a squab heart and beechnut that list beech leaf oil and vinegar among the ingredients neatly demonstrate, but as a source of inspiration and a masterclass in plating, there’s plenty of reasons to add it to the book collection.

Usefulness: +++
Self indulgence: ++++
Must try recipe: Peas and razor clams
Publisher and price: Phaidon, £39.95

Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong
Matt Abergel

Cult Hong Kong restaurant Yardbird takes chicken yakitori to impressive levels and in chef and co-founder Matt Abergel’s first cookbook, his deep understanding of the preparation is
laid bare for all to see.

For the uninitiated, chicken yakitori is little more than chicken grilled on a skewer but, as Abergel expertly points out, there’s more than meets the eye to this diverse dish. Those in any
doubt need only turn to the butchery chapter where he demonstrates the 29 different cuts required for various yakitori recipes.

The book also gives an in-depth guide on how each skewer should be grilled over charcoal – Yardbird’s standard practice is to spray each skewer with sake; it delivers umami and its sugar content aids caramelisation – and then season generously using moshio, a type of Japanese salt that is boiled with kelp from Awaji Island.

It’s not all yakitori; a chapter is given over to smaller dishes such as various salads and soups, another for bigger preparations, including Korean fried cauliflower, duck fried rice and scotch egg with cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, and another for dressings and marinades.

Rarely does a cookbook cover a single area of cooking so thoroughly, and Abergel’s attempt can’t fail to impress .

Usefulness: +++++
Self indulgence: ++++
Must try recipe: Ventricle yakitori (because why not?)
Publisher and price: Phaidon, £24.95

Gunpowder
Harneet Baweja, Devina Seth and Nirmal Save

The debut cookbook from the smash-hit new-wave Indian restaurant of the same name, Gunpowder is packed with suitably explosive subcontinental dishes. Though pitched at home cooks, recipes aren’t dumbed down, but some obscure spices and herbs found at the restaurant have been avoided. The book has been penned by owners Harneet and Devina Baweja and their chef Nirmal Save, who founded the Spitalfields restaurant in 2014 .

Gunpowder is a clean, unpretentious affair with a little info on the back story of the restaurant and a small intro for each recipe that details its origin and – on occasion – provides welcome procurement and cooking tips.

Obvious recipes you would find in most contemporary Indian cookery books are interspersed with the more unusual, including a pickle made with mutton; lamb kidney and chicken livers on toast flavoured with garam masala and cloves (among other spices); south Indian-style curd rice; and a pulao made with jackfruit, dried mushrooms and saffron (see p72-73 for one of Save’s recipes).

The book is divided into small plates, larger dishes, sides and spice mixes and finally sweets and drinks (there’s a killer recipe for spiced lassi). A useful glossary of less obvious spices and info on where they can be found rounds off a useful package.

Usefulness: +++++
Self indulgence: +
Must try recipe: Nagaland house baby pork ribs
Publisher and price: Kyle Books, £25

Larder
Robin Gill

Larder is Robin Gill’s first cookbook, which is surprising given the Clapham-based chef’s high-profile status. As the title of the book suggests, Gill’s debut is about his larder and how
it feeds into the creative dishes at The Dairy and his more recently launched Italian restaurant Sorella. Such a tack makes the book far more useful to chefs than most consumer-orientated cookbooks, and particularly for those looking to discover the wonders of preservation.

The opening chapter is dedicated to the preserving of products . There are recipes for fermented vegetables and herbs; kimchi; pickled vegetables and fruits; butter; jams and marmalades; and for meat and fish-based preserved products including fennel salami, goose ham, coppa and also a home-made nduja.

More cheffy still are the sections for dairy, butter and oils and powders, salts and crisps, the first providing recipes for a range of butters (bonito, cultured, nori, smoked bone marrow,
whiskey) as well as fresh curd and beeswax cream (to accompany hibiscus doughnuts) and various oils (herb, garlic, sichuan, lobster, kombu, ember), while the latter explains how to make things such as blackberry leaf powder, puffed barley and seaweed crackers.

There are, of course, dish recipes within the book as well, divided into sections on snacks, garden, sea, land and sweet, many of which rely on the early recipes and demonstrating the
hidden complexity behind Gill’s seemingly effortless approach to cooking.

Usefulness: +++++
Self indulgence: ++
Must try recipe: Old-fashioned ice cream sandwiches
Publisher and price: Absolute, £26

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