Larder - cover.jpg

by Robin Gill, Absolute Press, £26

“Does the world need a new cookbook?” That’s what Rowley Leigh said to me when I asked him if he was working on one. And it’s a good question. The world certainly doesn’t need most of the cookbooks now appearing. Many of them are dull, derivative ego trips and some of them are certainly not compiled by the famous name on the cover. There’s a whole cottage industry of highly skilled cooks dreaming up recipes for people who are paid infinitely more just for the use of their name.

Robin Gill’s Larder is one serious exception. This is the Irish chef who has made such a splash in London with The Dairy, Sorella (formerly The Manor) and Counter Culture all in or around Clapham, and the now closed Paradise Garage.

Despite the very flat sub-title (the word “delicious” has had its P45 ages ago), this is a book that I found myself using virtually from the day it arrived in the post. As a hesitant fermenter I immediately took to the substantial section that deals with a diverse range of items from fermented cavolo nero stalks (which I had always put in the compost) to preserved Amalfi lemons.

There’s lots of advice on preserving, smoking and salting, all delivered in simple, unwordy terms, to the extent that I’m now tempted to try making my own coppa. I never thought I’d see the day.

These are recipes that are grounded in working experience, in sharply honed judgement, recipes that appear to form the backbone of much of what Robin Gill does in his restaurants.

I must confess I would never have thought of artichoke piccalilli, but now its own my to-do list. Sichuan mayonnaise has been a blast and I’m determined to try pea gin. I think you may detect a theme emerging here? Yes, there’s so much of the unexpected, the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that, the independent thinking of someone who understands food from its core.

There’s a demanding but very clear recipe for brawn (deconstructed pig’s head), instructions for how to make beef tartare with sour onion, nasturtium capers and rock oyster (such a clever, minerally combination), a recipe for smoked beetroot tartare and one for suckling pig belly with kimchi. Smoked bone marrow agnolotti with wild mushrooms is a dish that has me yearning for Autumn as Summer has barely arrived. I love the simple title Milk, Honey, Blueberries, Bread, Crisps and all the thought that has gone into it.

I could go on, but you don’t want a list of recipes. Suffice it to say that this is a book for serious cooks, certainly adventurous ones in that it doesn’t compromise. If you want food at this level, deceptively simple as it is, there are no shortcuts and, naturally, some recipes have a whiff of the well-staffed restaurant kitchen.

Anyway, this volume is not going into the cookbook archive that occupies almost a whole room in our house. It’s going to the kitchen – after I’ve finished reading it a bedtime.