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Book review: Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry

08 January 2016

Hartwood By Eric Werner and Mya Henry
Artisan, £27.99

René Redzepi from Noma is a fan and he has written a glowing endorsement by way of the foreword. There is little in common with the climate between Mexico and Copenhagen, but both restaurants share the same core ethos: gathering local produce, persuading farmers to rear the animals you want, and buying fish you understand from the fishing fleet.

Werner and Henry are a couple from New York who became besotted with the area and used every penny to set up this restaurant. This was a big risk and a fascinating part of the book is how they went about it and why.

Many ingredients in this book, especially the fish, will be problematic to source. Our own Thomasina Miers has done wonders for top-class Mexican food in the UK and has had to use what is obtainable in Britain. There are no such compromises here, but it's a great insight into an exciting cuisine in its authentic form.

The recipes are grouped into traditional chapter headings: el Almacen - the larder - el Mercado - the market - followed by dishes from the sea and land and finally desserts. Typical dishes are chile pequin - a type of chilli - lamb with tomatillo mint sauce; Maya prawns with chipotle mescal sauce; a chilled watermelon and habanero soup with mango and coriander salad; and a really gorgeous-sounding banana, vanilla and honey dish called Yucatan platano pudding. This last one has the advantage of no chillies being involved at any point.

As useful as the recipes are, the small essays on cooking, alongside knowledgeable hints on making ceviche, seasoning saucepans and grilling meat, provide the fascinating elements. This knowledge will be handy, even if you are not planning a Mexican menu.

By Shaun Hill, chef-proprietor, the Walnut Tree Inn, Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

If you like this, you may enjoy these

70 Classic Mexican Dishes Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz

Mexican Food Made Simple Thomasina Miers

New American Classics Jeremiah Tower


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