Book review: Essential

By Stefan Chomka contact

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Hide Mayfair chef Ollie Dabbous new cookbook Essential

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Ollie Dabbous' new book demonstrates the Hide chef's sophisticated yet restrained cooking style.

Chef Ollie Dabbous has carved out a niche for himself on these shores for his Scandi-esque approach to cooking that brings a touch a restraint to fine dining and this is continued in his new book Essential.

As with much of Dabbous’ food there’s something very calming about Essential; from the softly beige-coloured cover and pages to the predominantly soft brown and yellow hued dishes therein, his recipes feel both familiar and autumnal but also intriguing, whether that be through his considered use of ingredients or subtle spin on classic preparations.

The Hide chef describes the recipes in Essential as ‘economical’, with restraint in the kitchen leading to a more sophisticated result. Despite this overarching less is more ethos this doesn’t mean recipes use only a minimal amount of ingredients – in fact the opposite is true of many of them with much consideration needed for seemingly simple creations. This isn’t to say the recipes are tricky or convoluted but rather that they just highlight Dabbous’ skill in combining ingredients that complement rather than compete.

Essential is divided into 10 chapters that include grains (the first section); leaves; dairy & eggs; fruit & berries; and sugar & honey among the more traditional ones of meat, fish and vegetables. As a result, the book breaks with convention with both sweet and savoury dishes featuring in the opening pages – an Einkorn wheat pilaf made with garlic and chicken stock is preceded by a brown rice pudding with honey, dried fruit and cinnamon – and salads appearing 80 pages in.

In total Essential contains 100 recipes, many of which fall into the comfort food category, such as pork ribs, cauliflower cheese, mince and dumplings, smoked haddock bubble & squeak, toad in the hole, but all with that Dabbous spark that makes his new book essential reading.

Author: ​Ollie Dabbous
Number of pages: ​320
Must try dish: ​White miso treacle tart with fennel seed creme fraiche
Publisher and price: ​Bloomsbury, £30

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