Sally Butcher – of Persepolis deli and the book Veggiestan has now followed up with Snackistan, a delightful place (even if imaginary) of meze, nibbles, bites, mouthfuls, and snacks. It’s a wide ranging book, with one hundred and thirty seven recipes split into nine chapters: nuts and nibbles, fishy things, meat on sticks, meat not on sticks, hot vegetarian meze, salads and cold meze, mostly carbs, halwah: sweet treats, and something to wash it down. I particularly like the look of warm barberry and posh prawns with lentils, spring chicken marinated with lemon and saffron kebabs, aubergine wrapped chicken, mother-in-law’s gas kebab, mashed lamb with stock, caul wrapped meatballs, lamb stuffed prunes, fried watermelon with halloumi, date and fig bread, Turkish coffee and yoghurt cake, and quince crisps. Inspiration comes from across the whole of the middle east; there’s something here for everyone with even a passing acquaintance with spicing. The only downside I can see is that there’s a fair amount of work involved with each recipe, compared to the mouthful or two that is the result of many of the recipes. This makes the book perfect for party planning, but perhaps less useful on a day to day basis.
Fuss Free Rating
Snackistan by Sally Butcher: ****
Snackistan is published by Pavilion Books, cover price £20
The Great Cornish Food Book
We like Cornwall; OK, we’re not quite one hundred percent, dyed in the wool, every year without fail aficionados, but we’ve been often enough to make us a bit more than occasional visitors. H – who’s a quarter Cornish – has noted the changes from her childhood holidays, with restaurants and hotels now making great use of first class ingredients, to the level that there are now three Michelin starred restaurants in the county.
Cornwall Food and Drink promotes food producers, restaurants, hotels and other food businesses in the county, and they have produced The Great Cornish Food Book to highlight the range of food and ingredients now available. The book has six chapters; on sea and shore (seafood), go wild in the country (foraging), farming (farmed produce), cheers (drinks), the Cornish way (traditional foods), and pride of Cornwall (directory). Wild strawberry and elderflower frozen nougat, gorse flower fudge, garden frittata, blush cider & raspberry jelly and saffron cake were all recipes that caught my eye, but real strength of the book are the hints and tips sprinkled throughout: from how to shuck an oyster and pick a spider crab, to tips on foraging and the helpful final chapter giving details of food and drink producers to be found throughout the county.
This is unashamedly a book with a plan, that of promoting the best of Cornwall. But as a source of information as well as recipes, it’s one to slot into the car door before heading down the A30.
Fuss Free Rating
The Great Cornish Food Book Edited by Ruth Huxley: ***
The Great Cornish Food Book is published by Cornwall Food & Drunk, cover price £17.99
Pulse – Jenny Chandler
We can’t live without a pulse – in the Casualty sense – and Jenny Chandler’s latest book, Pulse, is a push towards making us think that we need pulses in the legume sense just as much. For those of us who haven’t ventured much beyond a baked bean, this book encourages us to dip our toes into the water, and covers everything from adzuki beans to pigeon peas.
The first chapter is an introduction to the world of pulses, giving details on buying soaking and cooking, and a couple of thoughts about the consequent effects on the digestive system. Then it’s into the recipes, divided into chapters on: nibbles, dips and purees, fritters, pancakes and patties, soups, stylish starters, salads, sides, vegetarian mains, the full monty (dishes combining pulses and meat), sweet bits, sauces, salsas and seasonings, and basics. Puy lentil and smoked aubergine puree, chickpea flatbread, Indian stuffed pancakes, pumpkin, coconut and lentil soup, french wild mushroom and lentil soup, pan seared scallops with chorizo and pea puree, sun-dried tomato, butterbean and pistachio pate, lentil, goats’ cheese, roasted squash and courgette salad, roasted roots with chickpeas, fresh pea and broad bean risotto, smoked haddock, spinach and curried lentils, pot roast pheasant with prunes and lentils, and last – but absolutely not least – cassoulet were all recipes that caught my eye.
Measuring 25.4 by 19.8cm, and with 271 pages, it’s a good sized book. Photography and styling is good, clearly showing how those dishes that have been pictured can look. However, not every dish is accompanied by a photo. Ingredients lists and serving sizes are given for each recipe, but no guidance as to preparation or cooking time is shown. The main role for recipe books nowadays is as a source of inspiration: This book certainly fulfils this need, by showing that there is a generous space in our diet for beans and pulses.
Fuss Free Rating
Pulse by Jenny Chandler: ****
Pulse is published by Pavilion, cover price £25
Franco Manca: Artisan Pizza to Make Perfectly at Home
Pizza is handy. I, strongly believe that it’s one of those foods that should never find itself anywhere near a knife and fork – a slice is the perfect thing to hold in one hand; and a good neighbourhood pizza delivery service is a lifesaver when abject tiredness, apathy and a lack of time venn diagram together into overwhelming desire not to have to venture into the kitchen and pick up a knife. But it has sadly become a bastardised form of it’s true self. One restaurant firing up the wood-fired oven of truth and rightfulness in terms of pizza is London’s Franco Manca, which has now expanded from their Brixton origins to five locations around the city. But for those who aren’t within easy distance of a branch, they have now published this recipe book on how to make artisan pizza perfectly at home.
Pizza is one of those simple things where getting the basics right is important. The first chapter, therefore talks about the building blocks: equipment, dough, cheese, tomato and oil and fats, and this is really where the strength of the book lies. As we found, the dough recipe – we made the sourdough choice – makes for a thin and crispy base. I believe that there has to be a typo in the yeasted dough recipe, which calls for 0.2 grams of yeast. I think that this must be more?
What is very interesting is that the preferred cooking method of starting the pizza in a frying pan on the hob before transferring to the oven to finish gets round the fact that most domestic ovens aren’t really hot enough compared to a true pizza or wood fired oven. From then on, it’s a question of what goes on top. The range of suggestions is varied, there’s something for everyone but with an emphasis on plenty of fresh vegetables. I like the idea of pancetta and aubergine, sausage with field mushrooms and pecorino, spinach, caramelised onion, goat’s cheese & stilton, pancetta, caramelised onion and blue cheese, and asparagus and buffalo mozzarella.
I am less sure about the ideas about home curing meat and making your own salami, cured beef and cured lard. In a small London flat, it’s a bit too close to the food poisoning edge. But overall, the dough recipes are very good, but I’m not sure if the full recipes for each pizza are needed, as the title of each one gives the game away. We’ll certainly be aiming never to order a delivery pizza again.
Fuss Free Rating
Franco Manca: Artisan Pizza to Make at Home: ****
Franco Manca is published by Kyle Books, cover price £12.99