Monday, 2 February 2015

8 - Coco, Phaidon - Cooking the Books

Starter:     Roasted Garlic Zeppole

Main:        Beef Tenderloin, Horseradish & Watercress Roll

Dessert:    Eccles Cakes


This was one of the books I haven’t been looking forward to, although it’s a great food-porn book! It’s published by Phaidon and is a collection of recipes from 100 contemporary chefs who have been hand selected by 10 ‘world leading masters’. My first challenge was to ensure i chose recipes where I actually knew that the ingredients and techniques were and could easily get hold of them: this discounted many of the recipes therein. Discarded ingredients included: lemon verbena leaves, cachaca, dende oil, cupuacu pulp, liquid nitrogen, goose barnacles… you get the idea! Techniques discarded included: putting ingredients into a Thermomix and processing for 10 mins at 160 degrees (what the hell’s a Thermomix?!) ; apply ultrasound for 25 mins at 75%, cycle 7 ( I decided not to bother hiring one from the hospital) ; twist the middle segment of the tail and pull carefully to remove the intestinal tract (been there, done that!)

The starter and main courses are from two chefs both chosen by Mario Batali (no, not Mario Balotelli), mainly based in the USA.The starter from Mario Carbone, head chef at Aeronuova, USA, and the main’s from April Bloomfield, who worked with Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray at River Cafe before moving across the sea to open The Spotted Pig and The John Dory in New York.

All the recipes require a pre-knowledge of cooking – they are not for the first timers, but the recipes I’ve chosen are easy and simple and I’ll let you know where I fell down so, hopefully, you won’t do the same! 

Starter: Roasted Garlic Zeppole

Easiness: 4/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: Rapeseed Oil in stead of Olive

Begin by confit-ing the 2 whole heads of garlic … pop them into a small casserole, top up with oil and a few sprigs of thyme and bake for 45 minutes. Now, about half way through I thought the recipe through…how on earth was I going to get the garlic itself out. since I hadn’t peeled the heads or cloves before immersing in oil. This led to a mad Google of ‘how to confit garlic’ and, luckily, I decided I didn’t need to peel them first. It does mean though, that once cooked, you have a very messy, sticky job to remove the squishy garlic from the papery skins, albeit easy as they slide out nicely.


Next make the choux-type pastry. This is something I’ve rarely done so followed the instructions to the max. Boil 225ml water with 85g butter and 2 tsp salt. Add 175g plain flour and whisk in. Remove from the heat and, one by one, tip and combine 4 eggs and 2 egg whites. Finish by adding 60g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, and the confit garlic. Mix thoroughly together and place into a plastic freezer bag. Snip the corner off and pip little shapes onto a baking sheet before baking for 25 mins (mine needed about 30) at just 140° C. Brush with some of the garlic oil and sprinkle with large flakes of Maldon Sea-Salt. Serve warm with drinks.


These were good, and are perfect for a canapé or pre-dinner appetizer. Rather a lot of phaff though, just for nibbles for two!

Main: Tenderloin of Beef, Horseradish & Watercress Rolls

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: none


Apart from searing the beef, this is really just assemblage. Oil the fillet of beef and rub in chopped thyme leaves. Sear on a high heat for a couple of minutes only. Pour some lemon juice and balsamic vinegar over the top. Chill – the beef, not you. Make the horseradish cream, by grating fresh root, mixing with lemon juice and crème fraiche. Add salt and pepper to taste. Wash the watercress and group it into little bunches. Slice the beef thinly, paint the with horseradish cream and wrap around the watercress. For a main course, serve two or three with some mash or roasted potatoes and use the horseradish as a sauce. Served alone, these are perfect as a starter.


Would I make them again…probably not. If I’m searing such a nice cut of beef, I’d like to slice it thickly and eat with rare with some chips!

Dessert: Eccles Cakes

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: Used glacé cherries and stem ginger instead of mixed peel

I’ve never made Eccles Cakes before, so these, hot from the oven, I’m hoping are going to be delicious.

I had most of the ingredients for these except the mixed peel, so chose to substitute chopped glacé cherries and stem ginger instead. A for ease, there's nothing to it but to mix everything. The recipe states simply to combine all ingredients, but if I did it again, I'd batter the butter and sugar first, then add the fruit.


Mix together 40g soft butter with 100g sugar. Add 200g currants, 50 g mixed peel, a pinch of ground ginger and nutmeg. Roll out your shop bought puff pastry, or cheat like me and buy ready rolled, and cut into circles of about 10cm diameter. If you have some left over, rather than roll together and re-roll, take care just to place the remnants on top of each other, don't squish up, then roll again: this way you'll preserve the layers. Spoon the butter fruit mix into the middle of each circle and pinch up all sides. Turn the cake over and flatten slightly. Use a sharp knife to stab a little air hole in the top of each, sprinkle with water and sugar and bake for 20 mins on 220° C until golden.


Mine ‘bled’ a little whilst cooking so lost much of their moisture, so I’d ensure you seal them well. And whilst being fairly tasty and very easy, I’m not sure they’re my favourite cake.




  1. I adore cookbooks but this sort of cheffy one is rarely the kind I gravitate towards. I think you are brilliant to have cooked from it. I notice Shannon Bennett listed on the cover - I've eaten his wonderful food.... but definitely not something to try replicating at home.

  2. I know what you mean Sally, I had to 'gird my loins', so to speak, to attempt it! And I avoided Heston altogether! The next few weeks hold far more home-friendly chefs.


Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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