I hold my hands up – there’s no way this review is going to be objective. I’ve been desperate to get my hands on this book since I heard about it months ago. I adore Tom Kerridge. He’s my kind of chef, he picked a wonderful concept – pub food – and turned it into something marvellous. My visit to the Hand and Flowers is a very strong contender for the best meal I’ve ever eaten. The staff, the menu, the atmosphere, the food – it was all perfect. It’s now a life ambition to give him a hug.
Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food is his first foray into books. He wrote every word of it himself and it shows – his passion for quality and simplicity shines through. Normally when I review books I read them cover to cover, mark a couple of recipes I like and cook them up. This was far harder, I got about half-way through and realised i’d marked almost every single page. He just makes food you want to eat.
The book is split into several categories – breakfasts, soups and salads, starters and snacks, fish, meat and puddings. There’s also helpful sections on equipment and basics. The ingredients are straight forward and sensibly measured while the descriptions are very easy to follow. The recipes are cleverly picked to cover a really broad range – from the wonderfully simple to the slightly daunting, though there’s nothing that should be out of the reach of the keen home cook. I decided to take on some of the more ambitious dishes and really enjoyed the challenge.
Curried parsnip soup with pickled apples
This is just wonderful – it showcases wonderful British produce while giving a nod to our obsession with the curry. You make a curry powder using a range of traditional spices (I used my home-made garam masala as well) which goes into the soup directly, as well into a flavoured oil. The apple is lightly pickled – I was a bit sceptical of this step but it really really works. The acidity is wonderful.
Plaice poached in red wine with slow cooked onion and salt baked carrots
I’m a huge fan of fish in red wine – I normally do turbot, but plaice is much better value! With this recipe you cook the onions for around eight hours to bring out the sweetness and the result is a really intense, slightly smokey onion hit. Back it all up with a lovely balsamic and red wine sauce (with some cheeky marmite thrown in) and you’ve got something really special. I added some mashed potato, but it really didn’t need it. Though they’re not shown, I did make the onion ring garnish too – they add some great textural contrast.
Rum and date cake with caramelised bananas
This is the perfect dinner party dessert – I mixed up the cake and had it ready to bake in the moulds – then it’s just a case of popping them in the oven and sorting the bananas. Using the melted sugar to glue the slices together is really cunning. The end result is fab – light, gooey cake with a delicate rum hit and tonnes of toffee and date. The perfect pud for a rainy day.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of this book – expect to see several more recipes turning up over the next few weeks! It’s a wonderful addition to any collection and perfect for people who want to put a special spin on some great british classics. Tom’s passion is evident on every page – it’s the kind of cookbook that puts a smile on your face and a hunger in your belly. Top stuff.
Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food, by Tom Kerridge, RRP £20, is published by Absolute Press and available now. A BBC2 television series will follow shortly.