Posts Tagged ‘Cookbooks’

Cookbooks | Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark

20 September 2021

For many years I bought cookbooks compulsively. Then, for a while, I stopped buying them almost entirely. Recently I have been tempted again and have a growing pile, still embarrassingly untouched, sitting, a bit reproachingly, on the bookshelf.

This book, though, was a birthday gift, and I recently managed to spend an afternoon in its company.

Over the summer, I spent a few weeks in Brittany. It was lovely of course, changing horizon and seeing family and friends again, but this time I did miss the heat. So, after the relentless spring downpours in London, and coming home now from a warm-ish, never-far-from-an-extra-layer August, I still yearned for sunshine. I decided it could best — or only (!) — be conjured through the plate. So I pulled out this book; I spent a couple of hours leafing through it, basking in the warmth, marking recipes.

Bitter Honey | Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia is written by Letitia Clark, who has worked in such London restaurants as Spring, The Dock Kitchen, Morito, Moro (…) until she moved to Sardinia in 2017. The book at once captures Clark’s discovery and soon intimate acquaintance with the island, and of course her love of its food. Leafing through the recipes and thematic spreads — ‘foraging,’ ‘pasta,’ ‘the art of frying’ … — it instantly transposes to the arid heat of the Mediterranean, the intensifying song of cicadas.

I sometimes think that one very good recipe can be enough to justify buying a cookbook; this one has at the very least two: pork cooked in milk and bottarga pâté (recipe below).

Taking advantage of the more ephemeral summer crops, I’ve also tried the aubergine and ricotta salata antipasto and the figs, ricotta, thyme, and honey crostini, and have flagged quite a few more that promise to remain excellent company as the season shifts, notably the malloreddus (pasta) with sausage ragù.

This book is more than vicarious travel, it is dotted with recipes that are destined to become firmly ensconced in our kitchen.

Bottarga pâté from Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark

If (unlike me) you’re not that excited by this recipe, I can assure you it is incredible, and a unanimous hit. Preferably served with an apéro, perhaps some vin d’orange or Seville-orange—infused gin tonic!

80g bottarga, whole or grated
80g tinned tuna, drained
8 anchovy fillets
200g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
Pinch of cayenne or chili powder
Squeeze of lemon juice
Toasted bread to serve

In a mixer, blend the bottarga, tuna, and achovies until completely smooth (this will take a few minutes). Add the butter and continue blending until achieving a smooth creamy pâté. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and take out a little before serving so the pâté has had time to soften again slightly.

Serve alongside warm toasts with a pinch of cayenne pepper (or chili) and squeeze of lemon juice.

Cookbooks | The River Café Cook Books

10 March 2011

It wasn’t exactly fair that my first mention of the River Café Cook Books was about one recipe – the only recipe from these books until now – that didn’t turn out to be at least as good as I had anticipated. The truth is that these cookbooks have, more than anything else, inspired the way I cook.

The River Café in question is the London restaurant created by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers in 1987 as the employee cafeteria for Richard Roger’s architectural practice, which became a culinary phenomenon with far-reaching repercussions as its young chefs (Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Sam and Sam Clark, April Bloomfield, etc) created ripples of their own (and yes I do own cookbooks by all of them, well, except April Bloomfield who is currently working on hers).

I acquired the Yellow River Café Cook Book in 1998, and the others since, and I have cooked many recipes from each of them, some of which many times.

The biggest impact has possibly come from the chapter on wood-roasted vegetables (Riv Caf Yellow pp146-179). It includes a slew of recipes for carrots, beets, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, red onions, etc., which are tossed in a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs before being roasted in the oven. Frankly, I didn’t use to like cooked vegetables that much (salad is another story). But prepared this way, they become mouth-wateringly vibrant, exciting, completely delicious, and I seem to have lost the ability to make vegetables any other way – it may be time to revisit my repertory.

The other big revelation was the Café cookbooks’ cakes, which are usually high in eggs and butter, gently sweet, and incredibly moist. I have yet to find one that I wouldn’t want to make again, and again, and again. In fact I feel bad for the dessert sections of my other cookbooks. For just a taste – and really I should include photos and descriptive notes – consider these: polenta, almond, and lemon cake (Blue p288); bitter chocolate toasted hazelnut torte (Yellow p322); pear, honey, and polenta cake (Green p356); the completely addictive pistachio and almond cake with lemon sugar syrup (Easy p240).

But there are other recipes I cannot repeat often enough. The zucchini and prosciutto bruschetta with herbs and lemon zest (Green p270); a fig, buffalo mozzarella, and basil salad (Green p332); sea bass slashed and stuffed with herbs (Yellow p232); guinea fowl pan-roasted with milk and marjoram (Yellow p258); or the insanely time-intensive but completely-worth-it ribollita (Blue p36).

And the wonderful thing is, there are plenty of recipes I still haven’t tried.

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