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Book review: Food Artisans of Japan

17 January 2020 by

  • Food Artisans of Japan
  • By Nancy Singleton Hachisu
  • Hardie Grant, £25

Anyone not put off by Joycelyn Neve's experience of traditional Japanese kaiseki in last week's issue (The Caterer, 10 January) might wish to investigate the recipes detailed in Food Artisans of Japan. It's the latest book on the country's cuisine from Californian Nancy Singleton Hachisu and has been inspired by her research for her previous book, Japan: The Cookbook.

Thanks to the reams of material she collected from the artisans of Japan, Singleton Hachisu has been able to create a whole new collection of recipes, based in collaborations with the chefs.

The collaborations mean that the recipes are, in the main, more accessible than they might be – though there is no doubt that some ingredients will be tough to track down. They come from chefs with whom Singleton Hachisu has made a particular connection, providing her with the inspiration to get to the heart of their cuisine.

Split into regions, Food Artisans of Japan includes anything between seven to 45 recipes from each chef, ranging from traditional Japanese to French- and Italian-influenced dishes created from regional ingredients. Singleton Hachisu's determination to accurately represent each chef means that the recipes are meticulously comprehensive, down to great detail on how best to include the five essential elements of Japanese cuisine sa-shi-su-se-so (sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce and miso) in any dish.

Though there are a number of recipes for sashimi, ramen and sushi, the most interesting recipes could almost be considered fusion, including the likes of Jerusalem artichoke soup with grilled mackerel (detailed in these pages); soy milk gratin two ways; and snapper with yuzu beurre blanc. There is also plenty of inspiration for those looking for different preparations of vegetables, too, including four-hour caramelised turnips with parsley sauce; gelee salad with broccoli and cauliflower; and chilled butternut squash soup with Gorgonzola mousse.

At its heart this is a love letter to the dedication of Japan's artisans and diversity of its rich food landscape told through a series of recipes that are unique enough to inspire any chef.

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