Review: Eat London² and Hazan Family Favorites

Eggs On The Roof Reviews

                     

 Eat London² By Peter Prescott & Terence Conran     

                     Published by Conran Octopus

April 2012 – Price £20.00 

The difficulty all restaurant guidebooks wrestle with is how to stay current and authoritative when the food industry is so mercurial. Eat London² hits that problem with its very first entry. Petersham Nurseries Cafe and Teahouse may have been run by the chef Sky Gyngell, ‘one of the top food personalities in London’, but, much to the disappointment of her fans and, presumably, the authors of this book, she’s now left. But this is where Eat London² plays such a clever, smart game. Published to coincide with the London Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, Eat London² shrewdly offers so much more than a guide to the capital’s great restaurants. Terence Conran and Peter Prescott recommend cafes, bakeries, fishmongers, butchers, food markets and – new to the guidebook game – pop-ups.

Atmospheric photographs by Lisa Linder and inventive recipes from the chefs of the restaurants featured, make this a good buy as a cookery book as well as a beautifully produced guidebook. As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth getting for Rowley Leigh’s recipe for Parmesan Custard and Anchovy Toast alone. Having eaten his exquisite signature concoction at Le Cafe Anglais I’ve puzzled ever since exactly how to replicate it.

Terence Conran and Peter Prescott proudly admit this isn’t an ‘objective’ book. It’s their idiosyncratic view of what makes a great restaurant – ‘quirkiness, wonderful personalities, service, ambience, design, location…’  With recommendations from Twickenham to Brick Lane and Stoke Newington to Southwark, as well as fold-out maps for new visitors to London, it’s a perfect example of what a guidebook should be: beautiful in its own right and full of insights, personality and insider knowledge.

            

Hazan Family Favorites By Giuliano Hazan, Foreword by Marcella Hazan

Published by Stewart Tabori & Chang

May 2012 Price £19.99

Last night my teenage daughter embarked on a complicated dough recipe without checking how long the various stages would take to complete. With school the next morning, she was in bed and fast asleep hours before the dough was finally ready. I promised to finish the baking for her, but at 1 am, still applying the glaze to the admittedly beautiful buns, I was wondering why she couldn’t have opted for a plain old Victoria sponge instead.

Getting your timings wrong isn’t a mistake Giuliano Hazan would let you make. Each of his recipes starts with a brisk ‘time from start to finish’ guide and the instructions are both simple and concise. It’s a book that is characterised by the calm, capable charm that must make him such a reassuring tutor at the cooking school in Verona that he runs with his wife, Lael.

Hazan Family Favorites is as much a tribute to family as it is to food, filled as it is with photographs of Giuliano as a boy, his mother Marcella, his daughters and his wife. Each recipe is accompanied by Giuliano’s memories of eating it as a child, or watching one of his grandmothers cook it. He has a heritage that’s rich in food influences. His paternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews who settled in Italy and then fled to the United States. His maternal grandparents brought the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna to the table, along with Arab-influenced dishes from his grandmother’s time living in Egypt. The result is a style of cooking that is traditional and yet with a light, modern touch.

A test of any cookery book is do you want to head for the kitchen? I have an overwhelming desire to make Swiss Chard Tortelloni with Tomato sauce immediately. This is a book that I would give to someone who loves to cook, but who wants to become more confident and knowledgeable. At breakfast this morning, I presented my daughter with a plate of her time-consuming buns that I finally completed at 1.30 this morning, along with a copy of Hazan Family Favorites on the side. ‘Can you try cooking from this one next time?’ I asked.

Foraging for Wild Garlic

I was brought up by the sea. I’m a comical swimmer and a bemused sailor, but give me a shoreline to walk along and I’m content. It’s the best of both worlds – feet on solid ground and eyes on the waves.

Foraging for wild ingredients turns a coastal walk into a glorious expedition. Depending on the season there’ll be handfuls of plumply purple blackberries, some salty samphire and, if you’re lucky, wild garlic leaves and flowers. Take your children, ask a friend, and between you, you’ll bring home a feast.

This weekend a great friend and I took a walk along a wooded coastal path and gathered enough garlic leaves and wild sea spinach to make soup and frittata, with more left over for risotto, garlic flower tempura and garlic leaf pesto.

Wild garlic flourishes in the shady woodland that hugs our wilder coastline. Unlike wild mushrooms which have a sinister way of pretending to be friendly when they’re psychotic murderers, wild garlic leaves are cheerily, perkily, reliably delicious. The plant may resemble poisonous lily of the valley, but you need only bury your nose in it to be enveloped in clouds of reassuringly pungent garlicky fragrance.

Sea beet is another reliable friend that bursts in florid clumps from the most inhospitable-looking pebbly beaches. It resembles wild green facial hair erupting from a stubbly chin and tastes very like spinach, but it has more sweetness and less sulky muddiness.

Sea beet and garlic leaves combine to make the most delicious and nourishing frittata, while a combination of wild garlic and watercress makes the kind of soup that would fortify the weariest traveller.

 WILD GARLIC AND WATERCRESS SOUP

Serves 4

  • 200g wild garlic leaves
  • 100g watercress
  • 2 medium floury potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 litre vegetable stock

Sweat the onion in the olive oil until it’s soft, but not brown. Add the potato, season and stir briefly before adding the stock. Cook for around fifteen minutes until the potato is soft. Add the garlic leaves and watercress and simmer for no more than five minutes. You want to preserve the startling green colour without trespassing into the khaki zone.

Tip the soup into a food processor and whizz until smooth. Check the seasoning and serve with garlic flowers which are delicious in flavour.

WILD GARLIC AND SEA BEET FRITTATA WITH MUSHROOMS AND RICOTTA

 

Serves 6

  • 1 large handful each of wild garlic leaves and sea beet
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 125g ricotta
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • 8 eggs

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Blanch the garlic and sea beet leaves in boiling water for a generous minute until wilted and bright green. Plunge the leaves into cold water to stop cooking. Once cold, wring them out as though you were drying a towel and slice coarsely.

Using a large, non-stick frying pan that you can put in the oven later, saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once they’re soft and starting to turn golden add the mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms are brown and soft. Take the pan off the heat.

Beat the eggs with a fork, add 50g of the parmesan and all of the ricotta and mix well. Season.

Drape the blanched, chopped leaves over the mushrooms and onions in the pan. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the top, making sure that the leaves are submerged. Place the frying pan in the oven for 15 minutes until the top of the frittata is nicely brown. Allow to cool a little and then tip the frittata out onto a plate. Grate the remaining 50g of parmesan over the top and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Serve with a green salad and some new potatoes.

I love everything about the seaside – from the wild shorelines of Orkney to the brash oddities of Bournemouth. Just don’t ask me to swim in it, sail on it or surf through it. I will though, at a pinch, paddle in it.

Grey Days and Double Crumpets

On grey days I like carbohydrates and a good laugh. This weekend I’ve savoured spring bulbs, a new pair of hole-free wellies, an old-fashioned joke and a plate of home-made crumpets.

Crumpets and I have a long history. I wrote recently about childhood memories of my Great Auntie Susie’s plain, honest Lancashire hotpot. My great auntie cooked suppers of hotpot, ham salad and stew, with the occasional outburst of potato fritters or cherry pie. But my mum, who worked long hours, always made supper on Mondays. The food was exotic, glamorous and occasionally downright revolutionary (I’m thinking particularly of rhubarb soup, tried once and never repeated). Instead of  hotpot, she made risotto, chicken with white wine and asparagus, ginger cake with coffee cream filling.

There was no connection between the food we loved on Mondays and the recipes we enjoyed the rest of the week. The only overlap – food that appeared in both repertoires – was pickled beetroot, fish and chips… and crumpets.  There were sausages too, I suppose, but one version was charred to blackness, the other barely glanced the side of the pan.

Crumpets – my childhood crossover food – are perfect for grey days. They’re drilled with holes; deep canyons down which melted butter can dive. They’re very British – if you’ve never tried them, you really must. If you’ve tried them but never cooked them… you really, really must.

CRUMPETS

Makes around 10

You will need a non-stick frying pan with a lid and four non-stick 8cm cooking rings

  • 225g plain flour
  • 300ml warm water
  • 150ml warm, semi skimmed milk
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 1tablespoon caster sugar
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the yeast to the warm water in a separate bowl and stir.

Add the milk and sugar to the yeast mixture and stir once again. Pour the mixed liquid into the centre of the flour and, with a whisk, gently combine the ingredients until you’re left with a smooth, runny batter. Allow the batter to rest for ten minutes and then add the salt and bicarbonate of soda. Stir them in and let your batter rest for a further ten minutes.

Place the non-stick pan on a moderate heat. Once it’s hot, place the  rings in the pan and ladle enough mixture in to reach the half-way mark.

Bubbles will form after about a minute. Put the lid over the pan and allow the crumpets to cook for around five minutes. By this time, the mixture will be just about set. Using a plastic spatula, flip the rings over. Push the crumpets down so that the tops of them are now touching the surface of the pan. Allow them to cook for a further minute, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove them from the pan and release them from the rings. Repeat the process until you’ve finished the batter. Either eat the crumpets straightaway with butter or save them for later, toasting them in the toaster to warm them through.

There was a daft phase in commercial bread-making, when a large manufacturer attempted to sell oblong-shaped crumpets. Anyone who’s been brought up on crumpets could have told them it was a terrible idea. I think of myself as someone who was brought up on crumpets not once but twice – on Mondays and every other day of the week too. If the bread factory had only asked me about rectangular crumpets, I could have saved them an awful lot of trouble.