Following on from their best-selling cookbook Leon: Ingredients and Recipes, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent have recently published their latest offering– Leon: Naturally Fast Food.
Leon (Carnaby Street) opened in 2004 by Dimbleby, Vincent and Allegra McEvedy had within 6 months been named the Best New Restaurant in Great Britain at the Observer Food Monthly awards. With a prestigious judging panel containing names such as Gordon Ramsey, Rick Stein, Nigel Slater and Jay Rayner it was bound to go far and far it has gone – with 9 restaurants and counting! Leon's ethos is based on the twin principles that food can both taste good and do you good and the offerings in this cookbook certainly respect the founding aims. But far from being boringly healthy, this book exudes fun, quirkiness and above all is a very useful tool in any cooks kitchen.
The book is split into two halves. The first half contains fast food recipes, recipes for all types of occasion that take less than 20 minutes to prepare. Some on my must try list include Bacon and Root Veg Soup (page 79), Keralan Fish Curry (page 101), Greekish Butter Beans (page 125), Henry's Quick Chocolate Cake (page 186) and most definitely the Upside-Down Apple and Cardamom Tart (page 193) – which is actually printed upside down! (I thought this was a printing error when I first opened the book).
The second half of the book is focused on Slow Fast Food – things that can be made in advance when you have the time and cooked up quickly when you don’t. A few of the recipes that caught my eye were Bruno’s Osso Bucco (page 227) - one of the many recipes donated by friends and family, Pork Belly with Turnips and Prunes (page 235) and Leon’s Chilli Con Carne (page 219) -I’m always on the lookout for new chilli recipes.
The book keeps the reader glued with every page turn with tips, ideas, anecdotes, photo’s and random quirky features such as the stickers page (yes you read that right – it certainly pleased the three year old!), extracts from Leon's (Ludgate Circus) drawer of wishes and my favourite, the ‘Dressing up shop bought ice cream’ pull-out located right in the middle – the photo’s alone make the book worth buying.
Despite all this praise a review wouldn’t be good and proper without testing one of the recipes. I decided to make the Cheese and Ham Muffins on page 172 (see below) and they turned out just perfect, especially served with my Pumpkin and Apple Soup. All in all this really is a cookery book to be treasured, well thumbed and entertained by all at the same time.
Cheese and Ham Muffins
Ingredients: to make 12
6 slices of ham, chopped
190g cheddar, grated
75g butter, cut into pieces
300g self raising flour
1/2 TSP paprika
pinch of sea salt
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 190c and line a muffin tin
Step 2: Beat the egg in a bowl with the milk.
Step 3: Sieve the flour, paprika and salt into a large bowl and run in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs
Step 4: Add the ham and cheese and pour in the eggy milk - mix thoroughly
Step 5: Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes.