Review – Food For Friends iBook
Food For Friends is a well loved Brighton establishment providing tasty vegetarian food, which you can enjoy in your own home thanks to their recipe book and the newly released digital version, ‘Food For Friends: Modern Vegetarian Cooking At Home’.
My usual approach to cooking is more of the ‘Ready Steady Cook’ variety; essentially, seeing what’s in the cupboard and working out how to shove it together. I flick through the 100 or so recipes in iBook, looking for something easy and that won’t require doing too much extra shopping for finickity ingredients.
The choices range from basic pestos and sauces to full meals constructed of several elements or mouth watering desserts. As I stand in the supermarket gazing upon my long list of ingredients I imagine that this is a book for those who love the whole ritual of cooking, including foraging shopping trips for sometimes unusual ingredients. I’m trying what is a different style of cooking for me here and picking up some new bits and pieces along the way.
For the main meal I chose to cook sweet potato and carrot rosti with mushroom duxelles, poached egg, creamed peas and toasted pine nuts on a bed of fresh spinach. Seems straightforward. The recipe serves 6 and most of it can be cooked in advance and reheated before serving, making it a good option for occasions where you’d rather be with spending time with your guests than that the cooker.
To save time I make the mushroom duxelles and creamed peas the night before. I cover the kitchen in green gunk (with hindsight it would have been a good idea to put the peas in a high sided container before buzzing them with the hand blender) and lazily cheat at the mushrooms by only using chesnut instead of including the oyster and enocchi varieties. But recipes are there for inspiration rather than rigidly following all the rules, right?
The next day I feel like I am grating vegetables for hours. When it comes to the pile of par boiled potatoes I end up smooshing them violently into the grater. This seems to work though and I don’t need to peel them as the skins fall off. I end up with 6 gigantic rostis. The recipe could probably make about 10 dainty, good-looking rostis (as they appear in the book). “How will they stick together? Don’t you need eggs?” asks my dinner guest/victim. “It will probably be ok,” I say. “Probably.”
Toasted my pine nuts? Check. Warmed up my peas and mushrooms? Check. After setting in the fridge for 30 minutes I fry the rostis either side for a few minutes and pop them in the oven. Now for my nemesis, the poached egg.
Usually when I make a poached egg it looks somewhat sad. Flat and slimy and stringy and no amount of vinegar seems to help. Thanks to the power of the internet I am determined to pick up some magic tips. I’ve tried creating a whirlpool in the pan before, stirring avidly with a spoon, but the secret is to whisk the water into a whirl. This creates the best poached egg I’ve ever made and I’ve finally cracked it! (Excuse the pun)
The rostis take much longer to cook than the recipe suggests, probably because they are so big. When I get bored of waiting it is just a case of assembling the dish. It doesn’t look quite like the artistic stack in the book, with my peas sliding off the rosti and my mushrooms spooned all over the place but the tastes complement one another really well and I’m pleased with the end result.
Now for dessert. The raspberry, Greek yoghurt and honey millefeuille looks impressive but is super easy to make. Once the puff pastry is cooked (kept flat with the aid of 2 baking trays) I make stacks with the yoghurt and raspberries and drizzle runny honey over it. Looks pretty good, eh?
Hmm, but is it swanky enough? What could I use to push the swank factor up a notch?
I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing this book and I will be dipping in to try some more recipes. I have already cooked this meal again for a group of dinner guests since. If you have any leftovers, I recommend smashing up a rosti, frying it in a pan and reheating any leftover mushrooms, then pop another poached egg on top and it makes a fantastic breakfast.
The book was voted one of the top ten vegetarian cookbooks by The Independent, although there are a few issues that I would like to see fixed before the next online edition. There was a typo in one of the ingredient lists which caused me some confusion and it was annoying to sometimes have ingredients listed on one page with the directions on the next page, causing a lot of switching back and forth. At times a little more detail would have been useful, e.g. when I cook the peas in cream am I keeping them under the boil?
However, these are small issues that with feedback can be corrected in future. The book itself contains tasty recipes with the right balance of easy enough to do but advanced enough to push you to try something new. The imagery is gorgeous and in the digital version there are multiple photos in some places that you can flick through to see a process in more detail.
Later in the week I visit Food For Friends to see how it’s meant to be done. Sadly, they didn’t have the dish I’d created at home but the tapas selection was a great second choice.
Food for Friends: Modern Vegetarian Cooking at Home is now available for download from iTunes for £7.99
Laura received a complimentary copy of the iBook to review.