The latest in my cookbook collection is ‘How to Cook the Perfect…’ by Marcus Wareing, Chef Patron of two London hotel restaurants; The Savoy Grill at the Savoy Hotel on the Strand and Pétrus at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge.
With a title such as ‘How to Cook the Perfect…’ and written by a chef of Marcus’s calibre, you may be forgiven for expecting a little pretension and complex dishes from this book. But this is far from the case. Marcus offers his professional expertise in a very down-to-earth, easy to follow way and the book is packed full of classics you would want to cook at home and want tips for perfection on. In fact, the more I flicked through the book, the more pleasantly surprised I was to see homely, rather than restaurant style, dishes; fish pie; roast chicken; apple pie; fish cakes and even ‘Mum’s Pork Chops’. Marcus was inspired by his mother’s home cooking and is father to two young sons, so home cooking is clearly important to him. He’s successfully combined this with his professional skills in this book.
Of course, as fabulous as it is to sit back and read a new cookbook, the true test of a good cookbook is in the cooking. So into the kitchen I went with the book opened at ‘Roast Belly of Pork with Crackling’. Now, I consider myself able to cook good belly of pork with crispy crackling; it’s one of Rob and my favourites and we cook it a lot so I’ve had a lot of practice. I therefore wasn’t really expecting to learn anything new, but I was once again surprised. Marcus uses two textures of sea salt to create a crispy crackling; fine salt to get right into the scored skin, and coarser salt to create a crust. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, but thankfully the thinking has been done for you here. The recipe was easy to follow and the end result absolutely delicious. The roasted onion and apple infuse each other with their taste and the pork also; its juices dripping into the fruit and vegetables and their juices in turn flavouring the pork. The crackling, as promised, was fantastically crispy and the meat underneath was tender and moist with no trace of fattiness.
Watch Marcus making the perfect custard tart here