Tag Archive for: Cookbook

It all sounds a mite deja vu Noma announcing 20 years on from its foundation it will soon be abandoning the formal restaurant concept that finally won it a third Michelin star in 2021. Adding to its cluster of World’s No.1 restaurant awards that focused the world’s eyes on the culinary wizard of Copenhagen, René Redzepi.

Didn’t that previous groundbreaker, El Bulli in Catalonia close its doors to customers a decade ago to mutate into a culinary research laboratory? The critical Sabatier knives were out then for the perceived pretension. Not everyone had bought into the refined spheres of ‘molecular gastronomy’ and the heavy-handed satire of recent movie The Menu is witness to continuing hostility to a fine dining world few of us can afford – or, when it comes to epic tasting menus, tolerate.

As with El Bulli the broadsheets were quick to react to the Noma ‘bombshell’ with ‘Is This There End for Fine Dining?’ headlines, Observer critic Jay Rayner wading in with ‘Twenty Six courses. £400 bills, artichoke creme brulee… I won’t miss super-luxe restaurants’.

He has got form for whacking bloated, exorbitant establishments, but Noma is a different beast despite its exclusivity. I remember a leaner Rayner lauding Redzepi in the same pages back in 2009 when he was viewed as a natural successor to super chefs Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal. Since when the Dane’s templates of foraging and fermentation have filtered down to absorb a whole generation of chefs.

It’s not even clear what form Noma 3.0 will take when it emerges at the end of 2024, the statement hinting “serving guests will still be a part” of a “Noma Projects’ experience that will not be a conventional restaurant. What is certain is that the team will decamp to Kyoto in Japan between March and May 2023. So Japanese influence looks certain. A previous sabbatical foray to the Yucatan in 2017, while the Copenhagen base relocated to include an urban farm, resulted in the swerve in direction that became Noma 2.0.

Simon Martin was along for that Mexican ride and the success of his Michelin-starred Mana in Manchester is proof the expensive tasting menu experience is not dead. I‘m a fan and last year I endorsed the multi-course extravaganza offered by Gareth Ward’s mighty Yynyshir. At both these places the waiting list stretches into the distance. Expect Noma now to be even harder to get into despite a dinner menu for its recent ‘game & forest season’ that cost £415 a head with an additional £214 for wine pairings or £154 for juice pairings. 

Or you could just buy the book, Noma 2.0: Vegetable, Forest, Ocean

Quite a stocking filler. 2.5kg is a lot of cookbook. Particularly for one without printed recipes. And ingredients you are unlikely to pick up at your local Waitrose. So what makes this magnum opus (Artisan, £60) my Food Book of 2022? Pipping very different, pleasurable tomes from Jeremy Lee and Debora Robertson, it is the polar opposite of their domestic charm. Lord Sauron to their Hobbit. Except, tenuously extending the Lord of The Rings conceit, it ultimately casts a near Elvish spell.

Beyond its extreme pictorial beauty there’s nothing approachable and immediately useful about this latest edict from the realm of Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant and its shape-shifting magus, Rene Redzepi. That may represent its true magic.

Regular readers of this blog will recall my (rewarding) travails tackling 2018’s Noma Guide to Fermentation. The new book is more a follow-up to Rene’s original mission statement, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (2010), tracing the literal journey that took Noma from derided obscurity to world’s best restaurant. Noma 2.0 records the leap forward, via a sabbatical that involved ‘cuckoo nesting ‘in Mexico, to a new custom-built site in the Danish capital with that radical fermentation lab to the fore, providing all the menu’s building blocks. Noma is relocating to Kyoto, Japan in spring 2023 and friends close to the operation tell me that might mark a radically different stage 3 in its restless evolution.

The story so far is captured by the remarkable photography of New York-based Ditte Isager, who is on back on board for the new book, more brilliant than ever. Her startling image of Blue Mussel and Quail Egg (above) represents an element in one of the three seasonal sections. Ocean reflects the menu for January to April. The others are Vegetable (May through August) and Forest (September through December) – teasing us with 200 dishes in all.

Let Rene and his co-authors explain: “This book is a cookbook, but it is not necessarily meant to be cooked from. At Noma we constantly return to nature as a primary source of creative inspiration, however, creativity is a unique process for each individual. This book is meant to help catalyse that unique creative spark for each reader. If you do wish to recreate any of the dishes, there is a QR code in the book which will bring you to every detailed recipe exactly as they are used in the kitchen at Noma.

“It is about composing a plate that delights the eye as much as the palate, whether through the trompe l’oeil of a “flowerpot” chocolate cake or a dazzling mandala of flowers and berries. It is about pushing the boundaries of what we think we want to eat—a baby pinecone, a pudding made of reindeer brain—to open our palates with startling confidence.”

Let me quote one daunting dish description. It’s my promise to myself next year, aided by what lies through the QR portal to recreate Noma’s Wild Boar and Nasturtium. That’s ‘Forest’,  I’ll have hang fire until Fall. The journey starts when “nasturtium leaves are compressed with parsley oil, then folded over dots of gooseberry-coriander paste and smoked egg yolk paste to form nasturtium ravioli. 

“Chestnuts are cooked in smoked butter until crisp and caramelised, glazed in roasted kelp salt, peaso reduction and smoked seaweed shoyu, and then diced. Fermented wild boar belly is fried to brown its surface and then sliced. Smoked egg yolk paste is piped onto the boar slices, which are then topped with the diced roasted chestnuts and folded to enclose the fillings.

“Three fermented wild boar belly wraps are brushed with chestnut smoked butter and briefly grilled over charcoal. The belly wraps and one nasturtium raviolo are skewered with a blackcurrant wood skewer. The belly wraps are brushed with cep tamari and seasoned with ancho chilli paste, quince vinegar, salt and black pepper. The skewer is served on a hay plate with a wedge of Japanese quince.” 

Or maybe I’ll divert to the more straightforward Sikha Roast, one of many deer recipes, including Reindeer Brain Jelly or Reindeer Marrow Fudge or, gulp, Reindeer Penis Salad. Off-puttingly exotic? Definitely, but what shines through is the determination to make the most of whatever is local and seasonal and sensual. Here not just empty nods to fashion. And if it’s not our ‘local’ who cares? That’s no excuse not to buy an exquisitely beautiful volume for the foodie in your life.

I’m on a puff pastry roll at the moment. So to speak. No sooner had I hymned the praises of the vol au vent than I was grappling with another traditional French pie. Thanks to the arrival of a remarkable debut cookbook called simply Butter (Headline, £26). Spread the word (sic). Its author Olivia  Potts, The Spectator magazine’s ‘Vintage Chef’ and ‘Table Talk’ podcaster, is a bright new star in the cookery writer firmament. Already I’ve followed her book’ advice to make my own cultured butter, recycling the buttermilk created into a soda bread loaf; funkier till, twice I’ve filled hasselback potatoes with her signature kimchi and blue cheese butter.

With a glut of mushrooms on my hand what better next than her fungi-filled pithivier recipe? A big welcome to Wild Mushroom, Tarragon and Crème Fraîche Pithivier, which ticks so many of my boxes.

Originating in the eponymous town south of Paris that is twinned with Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the pithivier can accommodate savoury or sweet fillings under its distinctive fluted pastry dome. My own rather tasty effort (main picture) didn’t quite attain the classic round shape (see Olivia’s version below) thanks to my clumsy cutting of bought-in puff pastry. Olivia, though, is no stickler over the necessity to make your own. 

Indeed she offers a cautionary tale in the book. Volunteering to work in a Crisis at Christmas kitchen, she arrived to realise that she was in charge and no ready-made puff was in the walk-in fridge for the pies she had promised – just the separate ingredients. For a former criminal barrister this was judgement day! She rose to the occasion, making 6kg of pastry by hand, but admits: “I just about had RSI by the end but have rarely been prouder.”

If you must follow her lead, albeit on a smaller scale, Butter offers various versions, from decidedly flaky ‘rough’ to the smoothly laminated classic recipe and, finally ‘inverse’, which swaps the method. Rather than the base dough being wrapped around  butter block, and then folded to distribute even layers of the butter, the butter is wrapped around a dough block and then folded similarly.

As I said, I bought in mine, pure butter, of course, but with the proviso from an organic supplier, dorset pastry, which has no truck with the controversial and possibly harmful commercial additive, L-Cysteine (E920) (a dough relaxant derived from animal hair and feathers), which legally need not be disclosed on a pastry or bread label. It’s commonly used in the Chorleywood bread-making process. Think white pap. Say no more.

For something genuinely worth eating let’s visit Olivia’s recipe for Wild Mushroom, Tarragon and Crème Fraîche Pithivier (serves four) …

“Pithiviers are round puff pastry pies, with filling sandwiched between them. I think the word ‘pie’ in any context immediately summons up the idea of something heavy, something sturdy.While sturdiness is no bad thing, that is not what we’re dealing with here: pithiviers are the spiderwebs of pies, light, fragile, a feat of architecture. Pithiviers tend to be intricately decorated with knife marks, radiating or zig-zagging out from the centre, like fractals.

“As a pie, you can fill it with anything that takes your fancy… but for the best results, I use a filling that you can chill firm, so that when you shape the pastry round it and bake it, it will retain its beautiful domed shape. I use inverse puff pastry here, because the pithivier is such a handsome, proud dish that it makes the most of my hard laminating work, but you can use any puff you have – shop-bought is, of course, completely fine.”


20g dried porcini mushrooms; 150g oyster mushrooms; 250g chestnut mushrooms; 15g butter; 1tbsp cider or white wine vinegar; 3tbsp crème fraiche; 1 tbsp shredded fresh tarragon; ½tsp fine salt; freshly ground black pepper; 300g puff or inverse puff pastry; 1 egg yolk, beaten, to glaze.


1. First, cover the dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water, and leave to soak while you cook the other mushrooms.

2. While the porcini are soaking, halve the oyster mushrooms and slice them, and slice the chestnut mushrooms. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat and melt the butter in it. Sauté the oyster mushrooms until golden-brown, add the vinegar, let it cook off, then set the mushrooms to one side. Cook the chestnut mushrooms in the same pan until they have given up their water and begun to sizzle.

3. Drain and roughly chop the rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Combine the porcini, oyster, and chestnut mushrooms, along with the crème fraîche and the tarragon, and season generously with the salt and some pepper. Line a bowl approximately 15cm across with clingfilm, spoon the creamy mushroom mixture into it, pack it down into an even layer (don’t worry, it won’t fill the bowl) and freeze for an hour until firm.

4. Meanwhile, roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Later, you’re going to need to cut one 20cm and one 23cm disc from the pastry, so check that your rolled pastry is big enough to accommodate this. Divide the pastry in half, then transfer the two sheets of pastry on to a chopping board or tray with a sheet of baking paper between them. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

5. Cut out two discs, one 23cm, one 20cm, from the chilled pastry. Place the smaller disc on a baking paper-lined baking tray.Turn the chilled mushroom mixture out on to the centre of the pastry, removing the clingfilm from it, and dab a border of water around the edge of the pastry. Lay the second, larger disc on top. Smooth the top layer of pastry down over the mixture, to reduce air bubbles, and press the edges down with the tines of a fork to seal. Paint all over with egg yolk, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Paint the pastry with another coat of egg yolk and then, using the back of a small knife, make swooping marks from the centre of the pastry down towards the edge. Prick a hole in the centre, to act as a vent. Bake for 15 minutes, then drop the temperature to 170°C and bake for another 45 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve hot.

Ominous warning for the recipe I was about to challenge myself with. Spicy Mutton and Tomato Biang Biang noodles. What could possibly go wrong? Not the roasted tomato and mutton broth constituents of this adaptation by Pippa Middlehurst of a classic dish from Xi’an, eastern hub of the Silk Road.

No, it was the handling of the biang biang that was likely to shoot me in the foot. Basically you’ve got one chance to stretch the noodle dough to the right silky, elasticity. BIang Biang is the onomatopoeic sound the dough makes when you slap it on the worktop. Pippa says it takes practice to perfect; after much trepidation and the required minimal contact I landed lucky with my metre lengths of noodle. Comparatively. The final dish, laced with coriander, cumin and star anise, was gorgeous.

It’s from Bowls and Broths (Quadrille £16.99), sophomore cookbook by the cancer research scientist turned supper club maestro, aka @pippyeats, after the huge success of her debut, Dumplings and Noodles

The new book will be published on September 2, ahead of the launch of her food school and fully-equipped community cookery space for hire, Noodlehaus in Ancoats later in the year. It might well fit the bill for any further educational initiation of mine into the noodlesphere. So far £43,775 has been pledged in a Kickstarter Campaign.

This base in an old mill is the obvious next step for Pippa, winner of the BBC’s Britain’s Best Home Cook in 2018. She quit the lab that year to run cookery workshops and supper clubs around Manchester under the Instagram soubriquet @pippyeats. Result of travels around Taiwan, China and Japan, including noodle school in Lanzhou, was Dumplings and Noodles.

Her latest local al fresco expedition was setting up stall last weekend at Platt Fields Market Garden, providing high class ballast for their Deya Brewing and Friends event. Yet another sign of a new wave city food culture that transcends traditional restaurants and bars.

As for her own project, she told my colleagues at Manchester Confidential ahead of her Kickstarter launch: “I am so excited to be able to create my dream cookery school in the heart of Manchester. The building is in an old mill and has the most incredible natural light,  which will be amazing for the photography workshops I will be hosting. The space will be open to all and I am looking forward to working with the community to provide a space that people can come and learn about cooking as well as share my love of cooking.”

That love of cooking bubbles over (like my biang biang noodle pot) in the new tome, which lives up to its manifesto: ‘Build a bowl of flavour from scratch with dumplings, noodles and more’. 

Broth is the key. So my next dip into Pippa’s bowl-centric universe is a ramen, a dish I love but – guess what? – have never quite got right. She proposes a Tonkotsu Tsukemen. Just need now to source the requisite amount of pork bones and chicken feet.

It’s a culinary keepsake from her time in Japan and bears the inevitable proviso: “The noodles were thick and bouncy with a perfect amount of resistance and chew.” For someone whose ‘al dente’ pasta has been dubbed by my nearest and dearest as ‘al dentist’ it’s yet another challenge.

Noodlehaus, 37-49 Devonshire Street North, Manchester, M12 6JR. pippyeats.com