The best new cookbooks

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Hungry for food books? Time Out rounds up the best of the bunch.

Odette's

The grand dame of Primrose Hill sits comfortably on her laurels, having long been considered one of the capital's most romantic restaurants. It has also been a showcase for TV chef Bryn Williams, whose Great British Menu-winning dish of turbot and oxtail has become a menu staple.

Read the review of Odette's

Bryn's Kitchen

Bryn Williams

Kyle Cathie, £25

Bryn Williams, chef and owner of Odette’s restaurant in Primrose Hill, honed his culinary skills in prestigious London kitchens under Marco Pierre White, Michel Roux Jr and Chris Galvin. In this, his first cookery book, he goes back to his Welsh heritage, focusing on a selection of the home-grown ingredients that initially lured him into the kitchen.

Jonathan Gregson’s elegant and artful photography sets the tone. Scrubbed wooden boards and worn worktops provide backdrops for glistening food, either in kitchen pans or carefully plated.

His family kitchen staples are a mainstay of the book, but more complex, cheffy dishes also feature. (A detailed multi-stage recipe is given for the braised oxtail and turbot dish that won him the BBC’s Great British Menus competition in 2006, and was served for the Queen’s birthday.)

Singling out 20 of his favourite ingredients or foodstuffs – scallops, salmon, pork, apples, baking, etc – Williams gives five recipes for each. They are graded by difficulty – easy, medium or complex – though most are on the simpler side (a recipe for a bacon and tomato sandwich, for instance). Many have helpful tips at the bottom of the page.

We tested ‘Nairn’s Bara Brith’, a sweet currant bread made with yeast that came out of the oven looking beautiful. A lemony salad of slivered radish and fennel with chives also lived up to its picture and, more importantly, complemented the sweetness of the raw scallops it was served with.

Shoulder of lamb – a fatty joint of meat rendered into soft strands over a five-hour cooking time – was kept moist on a rack above layered potatoes and onion, which gently simmered in lamb stock. We found the top slices of potato became inedibly tough though, while the bottom layers were still somewhat soupy.

Apple flapjacks tasted great, with tart fruit cutting through the cake and preventing it from becoming cloying, but the cooking time (at a low temperature, 160C, for ten to 15 minutes) was unrealistically short and the end result crumbly. (Lemon posset was beautifully simple, set and satisfying, though we passed on the out-of-season strawberry and basil accompaniment.)

These are recipes created by a chef – someone who knows his ingredients intimately and uses recipes as ‘blueprints to inspire’ and extrapolate from. If you tend to use recipes as a starting point and won’t get too jealous reading repeated details of Bryn’s childhood, which was seemingly spent in an idyllic-sounding Welsh larder, you’ll enjoy this book.

Zoe Kamen, Time Out London issue 2116: March 10-16 2011

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