Celebrity chef cookbooks

Time Out reviews the best celebrity recipe books to give you culinary inspiration

Full of Flavour

Maria Elia, Kyle Books, £19.99

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Maria Elia was the former chef of the Delfina restaurant, then the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room – and is currently executive chef of Joe's Restaurant in South Kensington. Elia is known for use of herbs, spices and flavourings – and her fearlessness for putting them together in unusual ways.

The subtitle to her latest book is ‘How to think like a chef’. In the introduction, she tells us how she comes up with an idea for a new recipe by considering the main ingredient, complementary flavours and contrasting textures.

Some recipes are straightforward – such as meatballs with peas and tomato sauce or Greek beans on toast with feta and tomatoes – while others clearly show Elia’s skill at rethinking traditional recipes.

One example is carrot, dill, almond and feta baklava – a savoury/sweet reinvention of this sticky Greek sweet. At first, the recipe didn’t inspire confidence: the headnote said the carrots are ‘roasted’ (but in the recipe they’re not), and the ‘90g whole almonds, blanched and blitzed to a breadcrumb consistency’ stumped us. Were we to blanch our almonds in boiling water before blitzing them; or use ready-blanched almonds and blitz them? We used ordinary unblanched ones in the end and didn’t blanch them. The crunchy, sweet and spicy creation was a triumph, but the recipe-editing is not of a great standard.

Photography by Jonathan Gregson does the lovely dishes justice and gives cooks a clear idea what to aim for. It’s not a beginners’ book, but for confident cooks with an adventurous streak, Elia’s latest is a great sourcebook.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2156: December 15-21 2011

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