the london cookbook

The London Cookbook by Aleksandra Crapanzano

Though I'm always innately attracted to London and England centered things, particularly if it's also food related, I try not to burden my already heavy to-read and to-cook piles with too much; especially because, to be honest, I'd judge that the majority of them I've explored aren't always as great as they're presented.

But I'd just returned from London myself earlier this year when I saw Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House offer an advanced copy and right there, in the synopsis, was the Sage and Cardamom Gin Cocktail I'd just experienced and loved at Ottolenghi's Nopi. If for nothing else, I thought, I could make that cocktail, see how it stacks up. 

Crapanzano didn't just go around to top restaurants in London, asking them to give her their preferred recipes. She asked friends in London about their favourite places and dishes, resulting in a more intimate and cultivated collection. Because they are from restaurants in London, you do get a mixed bag of recipes that look approachable and others that look less friendly (but still delicious). Tucked in between the the recipes throughout the book are particular histories behind different, selected restaurants and also the (more recent) culinary history of London in general. Sometimes you just want a cookbook to have lots of delicious recipes without being too bogged down with text but there's a good balance here - never tipping over into too much, never more than I wanted to learn about a place.

I actually made a recipe, though I'm not posting a photograph due to the horrific lighting conditions and late hour. I made the Chicken Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Marsala which, in itself was a shocking choice. Chicken has never been my favourite meat (and is, in fact, typically my least favourite), I don't particularly like frying things on the stovetop, and I've never cooked with marsala - only briefly tasted it from some else's appetizer at a restaurant once. But the recipe looked imminently approachable, simple, and tasty. 

And it was! The directions are brief but nothing more is needed. Only eight ingredients and that's even counting seasoning and a bit of parsley added at the end. I pulled it off rather well and the great dinner and leftovers instilled some trust for the recipes in the book. 

A few other examples that I'm interested in trying: 

Horseradish Cream

Grilled Leeks, Chévre, Brown Butter, and Smoked Almonds

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Olive Oil Mash 

Deconstructed Cheesecake with Lemon Curd

Ginger Spiced Steamed Puddings with Run Syrup

Lemon Thyme Cocktail

And the Nopi cocktail I mentioned? That, I'm relieved that I wasn't too emotionally invested in. It's here, but it's definitely one of those recipes you must invest some time in (anyone who has made even a simple Ottolenghi recipe will not be surprised at this) and, in fact, it asks you to invest an entire 24-ounce bottle of gin to the endeavor. I'm not saying I won't try it one day, as the one I had in the basement of Nopi was fantastic, but it is a recipe that falls into that maybe-one-day category. 

Fortunately, there are other recipes in The London Cookbook (released in the States on October 11th) that are more amenable to both the grocery and time budgets.