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.