Book Review: Rosemary Shrager’s School for Cooks

Rosemary Shrager’s new book – a tie-in to her ITV series – is designed for the home cook who wants to add a layer of cheffiness to their food. There is an emphasis on presentation as well as tips on mastering some of the basic skills, and the recipes are a mixture of classics with more modern dishes, with some innovations from the author herself.

For me there is too much of a ‘dinner party’ sense to many of the recipes. Dishes such as ‘Herb-crusted Rack of Lamb with Spinach Mousse, Pea Pancake and Flaegeolet Beans’ are rarely likely to grab me as a good idea for an everyday tea, although if I was making dinner for the Bank Manager I might re-consider.

That said, there is a good section on vegetables with plenty of simple and versatile ideas for accompaniments.

As someone with an extensive collection of food books I will probably find it useful for variations on classic recipes, and ideas when I am lacking inspiration. I would recommend School for Cooks for those seeking a collection of dinner party recipes to show off their culinary skills.


A Magical Bread Recipe for Novices That Works Every Time

white bread

It’s so satisfying. It’s just a plain white loaf, made by hand. But it works every time and it’s ridiculously simple. If you think you can’t do bread, you can. This will work I PROMISE.

500g white strong bread flour.
7g dried yeast sachet.
1tsp salt
300ml water
3tbsp olive oil. Plus a bit extra.

The Cooking

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the water and the olive oil. Mix with wooden spoon until it’s together enough to take out of the bowl.

Kneed on a floury surface until the dough feels elastic and silky smooth the the touch, and bounces back slightly when prodded. This should take about ten minutes.

Place in a warmish area and leave to rise until doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

Knock back the dough and kneed for a minute or so. Dough will be elastic and bouncy when prodded. Mould the dough into a round-ish shape or put it in a loaf tin. Slather the surface with olive oil (this will give a soft, chewy crust).

Leave to rise for another hour or so on the tray or in the loaf tin which you are going to put it into the oven.

Pre-heat oven to 220/200 fan/gas mark 7. Bake dough for 25 – 30 minutes until a nice golden colour.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Ta dah! Seriously, try this recipe. Your friends will be astonished at your baking prowess.

Roast Squirrel

roast squirrel

Let’s not be squeamish about this – I cooked a squirrel. I didn’t shoot it myself, I bought it at the farmer’s market. And why not? It’s meat, just like rabbit and lamb and chicken is meat. It’s not a LOT of meat, squirrels being quite small, but it is surprisingly tasty. And not like you’d expect – I expected it to taste gamey or like rabbit but it actually tastes like a cross between turkey and lamb.

As it’s quite lean, I wrapped it in bacon and roasted it for half an hour. Because it was an experiment I didn’t make a big meal out of it, just cooked it on its own. It would probably have been nicer in a casserole slow-cooked for a couple of hours. However, like I say, it was tasty and I would eat it again. Certainly if we plunge into a hideous depression and can’t afford more usual meats, squirrel could earn a place at the table. If you do happen to see one for sale, pick it up and have a go.

Allrecipes Competition

Here’s a chance to win £100 worth of John Lewis vouchers:

Calling all Cookery Masterminds!

To celebrate the launch of Allrecipes in the UK, we (101 Things Every Cook Should Cook) and our friends at Waitrose are offering you the chance to win £100 worth of grocery vouchers by proving you know your basil from your bay leafs!

To prove yourself as the UK’s Cookery Mastermind you will need to do the following:

1. Find the answers to the five questions listed below

2. Take the first letter of each answer to make a secret code

3. If your guess is correct you could stand a chance of winning a bumper weeks grocery shopping

1. What type of cheese is needed to make Nanmurat’s legendary salad? Hint: Click here –

2. What dish is commonly associated with Burns Night? Hint: Click here –

3. The Cobb Salad was invented in which country? Hint: Click here –

4. What type of bean does Sarah Howard describe as optional within her Homemade Baked Beans? Hint: Click here –

5. Polly Welby’s heavenly chocolate moouse does not include which poultry product? Hint: Click here –

Got your code? Click here – to enter

Good luck and happy cooking!

Delizia by John Dickie

There have been quite a few “understanding a country through its food” books around in the past few years, but by the far the best I have read is the recently-published Delizia! by John Dickie. It stands out because it is genuinely readable, and presented in a clear and interesting way. Dickie explains how much of the history of Italian food is the history of its cities and guides the reader from pasta being imported to Palermo by the Arabs (contradicting many popular myths about Marco Polo and noodles from China), through the “disembowling” of Naples and on to the surprisingly recent explosion in popularity of Italian food after the fall of Fascism.

From descriptions of banquets by the 16th century “Pope’s cook” Scappi, where absolutely everything seems to have been covered in cinnamon and sugar (including all the meat) to recipes from cookbooks written by Italian POWs in WW1, it’s surprising and informative in equal measure. I enjoyed reading it. Strongly recommended.

Last Night’s Dinner

It turns out a wok full of fried rice and veg is heavy. Lulz.

We went out for curry instead.

Creamed Leeks

This is an extremely simple side dish which is a bit more interesting than the usual peas/carrots/potato combo we always seem to end up with in our house. You can even do it low-fat by using spray olive oil instead of butter and low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream. I prefer crème fraiche anyway, it’s more tangy.

Serves 3 or 4

1 leek.
3 tablespoons double cream/crème fraiche (low-fat if you like, it works just as well)
A knob of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

The Cooking

Slice the leek fairly finely (ie, not great big chunks). Someone asked me recently whether it’s okay to eat the green bits on leeks and I reckon they’re fine to eat right up into it separates into leaves. Wash the leek carefully because there’s often mud inside them.

Melt the knob of butter in a small frying pan (or a couple of sprays of olive oil if you’re being low-fat) on a medium heat. When it’s melted, chuck in the leaks and soften for about three minutes. Now add the cream/crème fraiche and let it bubble for a couple of minutes until it’s thickened a bit. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as you think it needs it. That’s it! Serve it up. Well easy!