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Book review: The London Cookbook by Aleksandra Crapanzano

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Book review: The London Cookbook by Aleksandra Crapanzano

The London Cookbook by Aleksandra Crapanzano (Sphere, £20)

This is not a recipe book to challenge professional chefs. From the outset, author Aleksandra Crapanzano makes it clear that nothing in this book is fussy or over-complicated – just simple recipes that represent the city.

The London Cookbook is a collection of the favourite dishes of those who work in the capital’s best restaurants, cafés and pâtisseries, the iconic dishes they serve that you still crave years later. It’s more of a to-do list of gastronomic experiences, a source of inspiration and a celebration of a golden age of London cooking. As Yotam Ottolenghi puts it: it’s “as much about the vibrancy of eating in London as it is a working cookbook”.

Food writer Crapanzano, although not a native (she lives in New York) spent a lot of her childhood living in London and says that, as a frequent visitor, she has been able to observe the city’s culinary rise from the outside but with the perspective of an insider.

The book is arranged by meat, seafood, vegetarian, pasta, rice and grains. The recipes include some star dishes, such as Dan Doherty’s duck confit congee, Wahaca’s chicken tacos with charred spring onion mayonnaise and Theo Randall’s risotto di peperoni – but it’s the desserts section that gets me excited.

As well as the classics – an orange and lemon posset from Bread Ahead’s Justin Gellatly, a bavarois framboise from Brasserie Zédel – there’s a marsala raisin ice-cream from Trullo and Little Social’s muscovado custard. In Jason Atherton’s Mayfair restaurant this custard, served by head chef Cary Docherty, comes as a tart filling paired with black sesame crumble and crème fraîche sorbet, but Crapanzano has (apologetically) removed the extraneous elements to create the ultimate comfort dish – a simple, gorgeously thick, almost caramel-like bowl of custard.

Each recipe has a story as a result of Crapanzano’s research, during which she spent hours with some of London’s most prolific chefs, making this book a delightful read as much as a source of kitchen inspiration.

If you like this, you might enjoy these

  • London: The Cookbook by Cara Frost-Sharratt
  • Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
  • River Café 30 by Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray

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