10 December 2019

London Review of Cooks 2019

Posted by Gayle Lazda

My list is short this year, and I’m going to admit I’ve done significantly more reading of cookery books than actually cooking from them, which is very much reflected in my choices. You can take as read that the new Nigels (plural!), the new Roasting Tin, the new Kate Young are firm favourites – they literally always are, there’s no need to go into details. There are also new favourites in the form of the first cookbook from Dishoom, and Priya Basil’s reflections on food, community and the dinner table in Be My Guest. But onwards, to my Book of the Year.

If I had a greater deal more money than I do, I would eat every meal in one St. John establishment or another: breakfast in Bread and Wine, lunch from the Bakery, dinner in the original. There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be than at a St. John table, eating bone marrow and parsley salad, falling deeply in love with whoever happens to be serving me the bone marrow and parsley salad (it’s impossible not to). The original St. John Street restaurant turned 25 this year, and to celebrate they published The Book of St. John. It’s big and beautiful; it has gilded page edges; it has sections on ‘Preparing Brains’ and short essays on the glamour of fat. It reveals the fact that the restaurant kitchen version of their custard recipe reads ‘YIELD: ONE MEDIUM BUCKET’. It’s pure bliss.

I'm really stuck on the theme, so this year’s Honourable Mention is also St. John-adjacent. If you, like me, thought the real hero of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox was not that smug prick Mr Fox, but Farmer Bunce, the genius who thought to make goose-liver-paté-stuffed doughnuts, then get yourself a copy of Black Axe Mangal: St John alumnus Lee Tiernan goes full Bunce on p. 99, with a recipe for foie gras and blackberry doughnuts.