Magazine article The Spectator

A Choice of Cookery Books

Magazine article The Spectator

A Choice of Cookery Books

Article excerpt

The people behind the people are the ones to watch for, and we have all been waiting for a book by Anna Jones. Who? Well, if you are a fan of Jamie Oliver, you will have read a lot of Jones. For seven years she worked as his 'stylist, writer and food creative,' which means, we guess, that she was behind the curtain busily pulling levers for the great wizard. He has written the foreword to his protégée's first book, and says he's is 'super proud'. But so he should be, for A Modern Way to Eat (Fourth Estate £25, Spectator Bookshop, £20) is a beautiful and inspiring one, and thankfully devoid of Jamie-speak -- that is, nothing is described as 'smashing.'.

It is a book of vegetarian recipes, but carnivores, do not be put off. Let's say it is a book of deliciously invigorating dishes that happen not to contain any flesh. Among the recipes I shall be cooking from it are the restorative coconut broth with lemongrass, lime and greens (Jones is very strong on soup); also the lemon ricotta cloud pancakes and the dosa potato cakes.

Then I shall have some meat, probably choosing a recipe from Tom Parker Bowles' s Let's Eat Meat (Pavilion £25, Spectator Bookshop, £20) which is a manifesto for eating better meat less often, but essentially a world tour of what you could call flesh pots from Cajun jambalaya to bun cha from Vietnam. Parker Bowles is a great traveller, and at his best unearths authentic global recipes.

The London restaurant Dabbous (in Whitfield Street) apparently stunned critics and diners when it opened in 2012. I cannot say why from personal experience, because the current waiting list for a table is four months. Presumably one purpose of publishing a book about a restaurant few can go to is to enable readers to cook the chef Ollie Dabbous's food at home. Hesitate before doing so, however, because this is very much modern gastronomy; game-changing, esoteric, brave and bloody difficult.

The central claim is that Dabbous does it better, from recognisable mash and gravy to a mysterious nugget of 'iced sorrel'. I believe it, not just because there are combinations I would try in simpler form (such as scallop tartare with eucalyptus), but because of Barnyard -- Ollie Dabbous's Charlotte Street diner, where you can get in, if you queue -- which serves the best comfort food I have ever eaten. The price of Dabbous (Bloomsbury, £50, Spectator Bookshop, £40) is inflated by some very expensive and unnecessary photos of the restaurant's interior fittings, lightbulbs, electric sockets etc. But for many, it is the closest we'll ever get.

In polar contrast, Michel Roux senior, brother of course of Albert and father of Michel Roux junior, gives us The Essence of French Cooking (Quadrille £30, Spectator Bookshop, £24) a homage to the impressive dishes of his native country. This is the most sumptuous of France's grand classic food; the sauces, soufflés, terrines, tartes and charlottes. How wonderful to have a tutor of this calibre to guide the way to perfect coq au vin -- the young cock extravagantly simmered in fine-quality Côtes des Nuits, finished with a dash of Marc de Bourgogne.

In 1975 Giana Ferguson, a dairy farmer in Co. Cork, decided to try and make cheese from some surplus milk. It was the era of Dairylea, with barely any farm-made cheese in the British Isles. The Ferguson family's deliciously smelly washed-rind cheese, Gubbeen, started a revolution, inspiring a new generation of modern Irish and British artisan cheeses. …

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