Let's Eat: Recipes from My Kitchen Notebook

Let's Eat: Recipes from My Kitchen Notebook

by Tom Parker Bowles

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The first cookbook from English foodie and author of The Year Of Eating Dangerously-comfort food from the country that invented it

Award-winning food writer Tom Parker Bowles is one of the world's most enthusiastic eaters. He's as over the moon for simple food-a perfectly melting bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, or a rich tomato soup-as he is for the

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The first cookbook from English foodie and author of The Year Of Eating Dangerously-comfort food from the country that invented it

Award-winning food writer Tom Parker Bowles is one of the world's most enthusiastic eaters. He's as over the moon for simple food-a perfectly melting bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, or a rich tomato soup-as he is for the exotic, the fiery hot, and the elegant. Like many everyday gourmands, he never wastes a meal. The dinners he puts together for his young family at home are as carefully thought-out and executed as anything he makes for company. His easy culinary style and winning writing will delight fans of his fellow Englishman Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories. The 140 recipes in Let's Eat are divided into extremely useful chapters, such as "Comfort Food", "Quick Fixes," and "Slow&Low" and include:
- scrambled eggs
- roast lamb
- his Mum's heavenly roast chicken
- Asian noodle soup
- meatballs
- sticky toffee pudding

Rounded out with a weekday cook's shortcuts and basics, such as how to make stock and how to transform leftovers into entirely new meals, Let's Eat is one of the best curl-up-and-read-it-tonight cookbooks of the season.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bowles (The Year of Eating Dangerously) offers up some of his most-loved dishes to whip up at home in this engaging collection. A likeable writer who easily conveys his passion for fat, eggs, cocktails, and chilis, Bowles eagerly guides readers through 140 of his "best" recipes. Though the book has a decidedly (and understandably) British feel with dishes like roast woodcock, mushrooms on toast, and treacle tart, his take on smoked ribs with homemade barbecue sauce and pulled pork are classic American-he even includes a recipe for East Carolina Vinegar Sauce for pork. Mexico (ceviches and mole), India (Rogan Josh, yellow dhal) and the Philippines (Filipino pork) are also included, making for a rather eclectic collection. Measurements have been converted to the imperial system for ease of use, but no effort is made to bring Yanks up to speed on ingredients like tomato passata or suggestions on stand-ins for particular ingredients like undyed smoked haddock, Thai shallots, or red currant jelly. Still, it's an engaging and eclectic approach to comfort food for cooks of all skill levels and tastes. Agent: Grainne Fox, Fletcher & Co.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
When he's not busy attracting attention as the son of Camilla Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, and the stepson of Prince Charles, Parker Bowles is an award-winning British foodie. Having gone all exotic with The Year of Eating Dangerously, he goes all homey here, offering 140 recipes for simple fare he likes to prepare for his family.

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Let's Eat

Recipes From My Kitchen Notebook

By Tom Parker Bowles

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2012 Tom Parker Bowles
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-2802-5


{Comfort food}

"Landlord, bring us beans and bacon, and a bottle of your finest Burgundy."

G. K. Chesterton

If beans, bacon, and Burgundy don't ooze comfort, then God only knows what does. Comfort food is familiar, without fuss, drama, or pomp. Straightforward, reliable, and ever welcome, this is the Ronseal of recipe types: "Does exactly what it says on the tin." It's all about easy pleasure and solid flavours, an edible balm that tastes exactly as it should.

It is, though, the most subjective of culinary categories, as the choice of dish is defined entirely by one's gastronomic past. A childhood spent tugging the apron strings of a great English cook will produce markedly different dishes to a youth passed alongside wok and cleaver. Yet anyone with a heartbeat and opposable thumb will have at least one dish — be it hot buttered toast, red lentil dhal, or peppered tripe soup — that coddles, comforts, and soothes.

The majority of dishes here are European in genesis, as comfort food is particularly well suited to temperate climes; a later chapter deals with food from far-off lands, too. There's a good sprinkling of British food. These are the staple dishes of my youth, adolescence, and adult life. A week will rarely pass when I don't cook at least one of these recipes. Bonhomie for the belly and succor for the soul.

{Cooking at home}

"Heat is just another form of seasoning," I was once told by that Celtic force of nature, chef Richard Corrigan. This is a man whose intelligence is matched only by his generosity and, as ever, he's spot on. The flavour and texture of a piece of meat is affected by the amount of heat used, from quick sear to slow simmer. Yet too often the amateur cook fears real heat. We soften our onions on a piddling flame, and complain that it takes thirty minutes, not ten. We're afraid of burning our meat, rather than browning it. And we struggle with gas that seems to have only two settings: nothing and too hot.

Experience is everything, and the more that I cook and learn, the easier things become. I still panic at the thought of hollandaise sauce, for example, yet soufflés hold no fear. It doesn't help when chefs tell us how easy everything is, forgetting that they can bone chickens in their sleep, whereas I'd rather braise my own nose than attempt it again.

Professional chefs do have many advantages: when they dry-fry chillies, they have extractor fans that are so powerful they rip the words straight from their lips. No question of gassing out the house as it does at home. Nor do they have to contend with the smell of burnt dripping hanging around the sitting room for weeks after cooking huge portions of boeuf Bourguignon. Or the stench of french fry fat clinging tenaciously to every fiber. They can blacken steaks to their hearts' content, flambé duck without fear of ruining the ceiling, and fling the fat with reckless abandon. That is the point of a professional kitchen.

At home, things must be a little more subdued, but it's never quite as calm as the blessed Delia Smith might suggest. She makes it look easy, as she's been doing what she does, beautifully, for many years. All I'm saying is that cooking is often messy, smelly, noisy, and painful. That a pan full of hot fat will always spit like a cobra when introduced to a handful of raw meat. And sharp knives continue to slice open even the most lauded of hands. Don't fear the heat, and cooking suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.


Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, we worshipped fat. Fat was health, wealth, and happiness. "The fat of the land" was something to be coveted rather than disdained. We hankered after great wobbling dollops of marrow, gleaned from the bone with a specially shaped scoop. Fought over the last scrap of chicken skin. And lusted after lard, dripping, suet, schmaltz, and butter. Fat carries flavour and aroma, provides the sexiest of textures, allows us to relish in our meat and delight in our food. Without fat, life would be one long lunch with Hare Krishnas.

Fat is also utterly essential to human life: our brains wouldn't function without the stuff, our cells would cease to survive. Hormones would wither and die, immune systems would buckle.

If the body were allowed to choose its fuel, it would go for fat, no question. Fat provides double the energy of similar amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Yet fifty years back, saturated fat suffered a spectacular fall from grace: from hero to zero in a matter of months. Scientists noted that coronary heart disease had suddenly become the biggest killer of all. At the same time, after the bleak paucity of the rationing years, there was an increased consumption of animal fats. No surprises there. Fourteen years of mock goose and Woolton pie will do that to an appetite. Scientists put two and two together and came up with four and a half. More animal fats, more heart disease, ergo animal fat is a gimlet-eyed, stone-cold killer. Animal fats became Public Enemy Number One. Despite the fact that there has been no conclusive proof linking saturated fat with heart disease, fat's image was changed for ever.

That's not to say that one could survive solely on a diet of butter, bone marrow, lard, and milkshakes. Too much of anything, from rice cakes to lardy cakes, is never a good thing. The palate would start to tire and the body bloat. A healthy diet means a balanced diet, lots of green stuff, nuts, pulses, fish, and the rest. Fat doesn't kill; rather, too much of the wrong kind can. Allied with sitting on your vast, wobbling butt all day, munching chips by the ton and slurping entire reservoirs of Cherry 7-Up. So in short, embrace animal fats, revel in them, but don't exist solely upon them. And buy the very best you can afford. Fat you can see, wrapped around kidneys or hugging a leg of lamb, is not the stuff to worry about. It's those hidden buggers, creeping around all those processed foods, that are the truly dangerous foe.

Spaghetti with meatballs


1/ pounds ground pork
½ pound ground steak or beef
1 whole egg and 1 yolk
¾ cup breadcrumbs, soaked in ½ cup full-fat milk for 10 minutes, then squeezed out
2–5 dried chillies, crumbled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound dried spaghetti
grated Parmesan, to serve

For the sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ onions, finely chopped
1-3 fresh Thai or finger chillies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
8 basil leaves, torn

Italian-American food at its best, star of more mob movies than you can shake a cannoli at. Purists may argue that Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese's red-sauce-splashed classic, was the meatball's greatest ever cinematic moment. "Veal, beef, pork ..." mumbles Vinnie, cooking up his prison feast. "You gotta have the pork. That's the flavour." As well as cutting the garlic with a razor blade. But it's actually in Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow's brilliant surf, screw, run, and rob film, where the meatball reaches its peak. So fine is the sandwich that it actually causes the cops, who are on stakeout, to miss the bank being robbed. When done well, meatballs have that sort of effect.

* * *

To make the meatballs, mix the pork, beef, egg, egg yolk, breadcrumbs, and chillies together with a good pinch of salt and lots of pepper, then cover and chill for 30 minutes (the mixture, not you).

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, chillies, and garlic and cook gently until soft. Add the tomatoes, season, and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Add the basil at the end of cooking time.

Roll the meat mixture into small, 1½-inch balls. Heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat in a frying pan and fry the meatballs for 2–3 minutes, leaving the inside a little underdone.

Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling lightly salted water, following the timing on the pack. Five minutes before the spaghetti is ready, add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes, until cooked. Drain the pasta and serve with the meatballs, sprinkled with Parmesan.

Chilli cottage pie


2 tablespoons olive oil
½–2 Scotch bonnet chillies, finely chopped
4 red onions, finely chopped
2 ¼ pounds ground beef (freshly ground if possible)
2 tablespoons tomato purée
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
Tabasco sauce
2¼ cups fresh beef stock (you can use cubes at a push)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mash
8 large Idaho potatoes, about 3 pounds total weight, scrubbed
6 tablespoons full-fat milk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons to dot on top

Too often, the cottage pie (and its bleating cousin, the shepherd's pie) is a mean sort of lunch, made with small, rubbery pellets of cheap mince (ground meat), a splash of ketchup, and lumpy mashed potato. Even worse, people insist on using the leftovers from Sunday's roast. I'm all for using up chicken bones and the like, but to chop up yesterday's beef for a pie not only gives an inferior filling — it robs me of roast beef sandwiches, too. My great- grandfather, food writer and polemicist P. Morton Shand, blamed the decline of British food on our culture of leftovers, where " ... the joint lingered from Sabbath to Sabbath, suffering diverse strange transformations in its progress from Sunday's midday dinner to Saturday's supper: hot, cold; cold, hashed; cold, minced; cold, rissoles; cold, shepherd's pie; cold, Kromensky; and cold, stewed. It is the very diagnosis of dyspepsia." I agree. This recipe uses fresh beef mince. If you can get the decent stuff from your butcher, freshly minced, it does make all the difference. This is a cheap dish, but shouldn't be a mean one. Avoid "lean" mince at all costs.

As to chillies, I like a good kick of warmth, not so much that it sends diners fleeing from the table, their tongues sizzling in bowls of yogurt. I use one or two Scotch bonnets, but adapt as needed. They're pretty fiery, but have a lusciously fruity tang. If you do have to use those generic Holland bell chillies, good luck. They have all the kick of a limbless ass.

For the mash, I don't bother peeling the potatoes before cooking. Boil them in their skins, leave to cool, then peel by hand. Much quicker and easier.

* * *

Gently heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and soften the chillies in it (do open a window, as these chillies can create a gas that tends to get children crying and wives ticked off), then add the onions and soften for about 10 minutes.

Add the beef, turn the heat to high, and brown it. Add the tomato purée and cook for 2 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, a few dashes of Tabasco, and the stock; taste, then season. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Meanwhile, make the mash. Put the potatoes in a big pan of lightly salted water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20–25 minutes until a knife goes through with ease. Tip into a colander, let them cool a little, then peel. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter melts, then mash the potatoes with the mixture. Season.

Take a rectangular pie or baking dish and pile in the hot meat. Top with the mash. Fork the top of the mash so it looks like a choppy sea. Dot with a little extra butter and bake for 20–30 minutes, until the top is golden and the meat bubbling fiercely below. Serve with boiled peas.

Beef Stroganoff


1 1/3 pounds filet steak or tenderloin, cut into 2-inch-long strips
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot paprika
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 ounces small mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
Scant 1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
boiled long-grain rice and green salad, to serve

There are endless arguments as to the origins of beef Stroganoff — whether it was a Hungarian dish, a classic Russian one, or a French one, inspired by Russia. The Stroganovs were a rich and wealthy family of merchants, traders with a long geographical reach. And one of the clan was said to have employed a French chef who is reputed to have created the dish. Other experts disagree, citing the etymology as derived from strogat, meaning in Russian to "cut into pieces." The truth is long lost. What remains, though, is a dish that uses sour cream and paprika. Well, sometimes. In other recipes, it uses cream instead. Some marinate the meat, others don't. There is no real "authentic recipe" and this one most certainly isn't. But it's broadly recognizable and tastes damned good, too.

* * *

Toss the strips of steak in salt, pepper, and paprika, cover, and put in the fridge for 2 hours.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stir in the flour, and cook for 2–3 minutes to make a golden brown roux. Gradually blend in the stock, tomato purée, and mustard, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5–10 minutes until thickened. Set aside.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook the mushrooms for a few minutes. Scoop them out of the pan onto a plate and set aside. Cook the onion in the same pan, adding more butter, if needed, then add to the plate of mushrooms. Cook the steak in the remaining butter until browned on all sides, 3–4 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine.

Return the mushrooms and onions to the pan, along with the sauce and sour cream. Mix well, then cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Reheat, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve with rice and a green salad.

The perfect burger


sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ¼ pounds ground beef, with at least 20 percent fat
8 slices Cheddar or Swiss cheese
16 rashers smoked streaky bacon
8 soft white buns, split
2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
1 iceberg lettuce
4 large sweet pickles, halved
mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard, to serve

There's a lot of guff talked about hamburgers: adding eggs or onions to the mix and topping them with pineapple, sliced beet, foie gras, and God knows what else. I've travelled across America in search of burger perfection and found that one rule applies — the simpler the burger, the better. You still need good meat, minced rump or sirloin with about 20 percent fat, preferably from a butcher. And a small, soft bun that can be held in one hand. Lettuce, tomato, cheese, and bacon are all acceptable, even desirable, additions, not forgetting proper pickles, too. One of the best I've ever eaten was at the In-N-Out burger chain in California. Simple, succulent, and perfect. Byron's is Britain's best chain; for now, anyway. But don't mess about. No monster-size patties or wacky embellishments; just something to be wolfed in about four or five bites, the juices dribbling down your chin.

* * *

Add a good pinch of salt to the beef, and lots of pepper. Mix, cover, and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Shape the mixture into 8 patties. Heat a heavy-based pan or barbecue to high, then cook the burgers for about 3 minutes on each side for rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 6 for well done. A minute before they're ready, top them with cheese so it melts slightly.

Fry the bacon until crisp, and toast the buns on the cut sides for 30 seconds.

Now the build. Bottom bun, then burger and cheese, then 2 rashers of bacon, a slice of tomato, a couple of lettuce leaves, and a pickle half. Leave it to personal taste when it comes to the mayo, ketchup, and mustard. Then top bun.

Toad in the hole


¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 medium eggs, beaten
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup full-fat milk
3 tablespoons lard or olive oil
1 pound good pork sausages

One of the very few school dishes, along with the ersatz ribs and chips on a Sunday, that I actually found edible. A thrifty lunch, sure, but make sure you get the best sausages you can find (I like chipolatas for this) and it becomes a very decent feast. This is my late stepmother Rose's recipe. She specifies lard, quite rightly, as it adds to the flavour. But olive oil will do fine.

* * *

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Sift the flour into a bowl, mix in the eggs, and season. Whisk in the milk to make a smooth batter.

Put 2 tablespoons of the lard or olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat, then cook the sausages until you have a good colour.

Put the remaining lard or olive oil into a 7 x 11-inch baking or roasting pan and put into the oven for a few minutes, until smoking. Pour one-third of the batter into the pan. When it starts to rise and set in the hot oil, arrange the sausages in it and pour over the rest of the batter. Bake for 25–30 minutes until the batter is browned and billowing.


Excerpted from Let's Eat by Tom Parker Bowles. Copyright © 2012 Tom Parker Bowles. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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