Matthew Fort: Read all about it

I fall upon new cookery books with the undiminished appetite of the addict. I've dozens of them already - dozens upon dozens, in fact - books with pictures, books without, easy books, basic books, clever books, fancy books, inspiring books, depressing books, evocative books. You never know from which inspiration will come.

So do I need any more? Oh, come on. You can't have too many cookbooks, any more than you can have too many knives, pans or culinary gadgets. No, cookbooks are the life blood of the home cook. They drive us on to new horizons, to greater heights, to ... well, you get the picture.

We all like cookbooks in different styles, for different reasons and, frequently, for different purposes. We all have those writers whom we trust, to whose books we return time and again. You may fancy none of the books from which I have culled this week's recipes, but they all appealed to me and are now comfortably ensconced on my shelves, waiting to gather the marks of good service - drips of oil, fat and juices.

The first course is from Hugh's Who: The Name-Dropper's Cook Book, by Hugh Millais (Park Press, £25), which is the most idiosyncratic cookbook I have come across for many a long year. It's a kind of culinary biography in which each recipe is linked to an episode in what appears to have been a cheerfully rackety life spent gallivanting around the world in the company of famous people. The main course is from Matching Food & Wine, by Michel Roux Jnr (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £20), the chef at one of my favourite restaurants, Le Gavroche - though the recipes are, for the most part, splendidly uncheffy and accessible. The bread comes from Tom Jaine's Making Bread At Home (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £9.99), which is actually a reprint and none the worse for that - Jaine's delightful little book has tempted me to break out of my bread laager to explore the wider baking world. Finally, pudding is from The New English Kitchen, by Rose Prince (Fourth Estate, £18.99), a stonkingly interesting and useful cookbook, written with passion, elegance and practical assurance.


A delicious Venezuelan dip to serve as an hors d'oeuvre with corn chips, warm bread or crudités. Serves eight.

225g chopped onions
60g chopped green peppers
60g chopped red peppers
1 tbsp chopped mint
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
114ml olive oil
2 tbsp wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp soft brown sugar
¼ tsp freshly milled black pepper
340g mashed avocado
340g chopped avocado
Salt to taste

Combine everything except the avocado and salt. Stir in first the mashed avocado, then the chopped, and season with salt.

Chicken and cashew nut curry

The only trouble with this recipe is that Roux recommends pairing it with Château-Châlon 1955 from Jean Bourdy, which I can't find at my local Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons ... or, indeed, anywhere other than in the cellars of Le Gavroche. Serves four.

30g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 green chillies
2 heaped tsp turmeric
180g unsalted cashew nuts
3 tbsp ghee (or clarified butter or vegetable oil)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 clove

Black peppercorns

1 corn-fed chicken, about 1.6kg
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
125g natural yogurt
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper

Place the ginger and garlic in a blender with 125ml water, one green chilli, the turmeric and 80g of the cashew nuts. In a small pan with just a drizzle of ghee, fry the coriander seeds, clove and a few black peppercorns until they start to pop. Add the seeds to the blender and blitz everything until smooth. Set aside.

Cut the chicken into eight and fry in a little ghee until golden all over. Remove and drain. Fry the onions in the same pan until lightly coloured. Put back the chicken, season with salt, then pour in the spice mix. Add 225ml of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover with greaseproof paper and cook for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Just before serving, pour in the yogurt and simmer for a further two to three minutes.

Slice the second chilli and gently roast the remaining nuts. Sprinkle the chilli, nuts and coriander over the chicken, check the seasoning and serve at once.

West Indian roti

Makes four breads.

225g unbleached plain white flour or fine chapati flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
40g butter
120-160ml water
120g clarified butter, melted

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add 120ml of water. Mix to a dough - it should be firm, but none too stiff, so add more water if necessary. Turn out on to a floured worksurface and knead for about four minutes, until it is smooth. Leave in a covered bowl for 30 minutes, then turn out and knead again.

Divide into four, mould each piece into a ball and roll with a rolling pin into 30cm discs. Brush the surface with melted clarified butter. Fold in half and then half again. Cover and leave for 20 minutes.

Shape the layered quarter-circles into approximate rounds and roll out again to 30cm discs. Heat a griddle or heavy, cast-iron frying pan over a medium heat. Cook each roti in turn. Cook on one side for one minute, then flip over to cook the other side. Brush with clarified butter. Let it cook as it is for two minutes, then brush the top again. Cook for another minute. Turn over for the last time to finish off the topside until it browns.

The last thing is to break up the surface of the roti so it looks more like a paratha. Place on a chopping board and hit with a rolling pin until the outside flakes. Store wrapped in a tea towel until ready to eat.

Pan-cooked rice pudding with caramel, fig and pistachios

Serves four.

60g pudding rice
600ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half
1 pinch grated nutmeg
2 tbsp double cream
120g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sweetening the rice
4 dried figs, soaked in warm Earl Grey tea until softened
2 tbsp unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped

Put the rice in a pan with the milk, vanilla pod and nutmeg. Place over a low heat, bring slowly up to the boil, then turn down and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked to the bite (depending on the rice, this can take up to 50 minutes). Remove from the heat and immediately add the cream to stop any further cooking. Add sugar to taste - it should be only faintly sweet. Transfer the rice mix to a shallow dish. Squeeze the liquid from the figs, slice them and submerge them in the rice.

Put 120g of sugar into a small, heavy-based saucepan, cover with just enough water to soak it and bring slowly to the boil. Raise the heat and allow to boil fast, until it changes to the colour of maple syrup. Remove from the heat and pour the caramel over the rice. Throw over the pistachios, leave to cool to room temperature, then serve.

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