When chefs write cookery books my heart often sinks. You know you’re going to find at least three ingredients that need recipes all to themselves: slow cooked tomatoes, homemade basil oil or a quart of veal stock. Not with Angela Hartnett. Her latest book A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes is as simple and down home as you could wish.
Not that Hartnett can’t do cheffy. She’s served time with both Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing, was head chef at Petrus, launched Gordon Ramsay’s Dubai restaurant, opened Menu and the Grill Room at the Connaught and now has her own Michelin-starred Murano in Queen Street and managed to bag herself an MBE as well.
I like Hartnett. From the telly she seems like a good sort, hard-working but up for a laugh, which I can confirm from a lunch earlier this summer at the Three Chimneys, a lovely restaurant as remote as it gets in the far top left hand corner of the Isle of Skye. Gales of laughter from her big table wafted through to where we were, by coincidence, also lunching.
But I have to admit to not being much inspired by Hartnett’s weekly Guardian column. Is it the pictures – we’ve got so used to fabulous food photography – that look plain? The dishes just don’t thrill me either. They look like the kind of thing I throw together on a Monday night from fridge leftovers when what I’m looking for is inspiration. But then it is called Midweek Suppers I suppose.
A Taste of Home, sub-titled ‘200 Quick and Easy Recipes’, is that inspiration. Nicely photographed, here are tempting dishes of ribollita, clams with chorizo and rocket, salmon tartare, lemon risotto with brown shrimp – she does good pasta and risotto – beef cheeks and polenta, rack of lamb with a pistachio crust, sticky lemon drizzle and poppy seed cake. There’s plenty here to get your teeth into with ingredients you will have in the cupboard or are easy to find.
I made the ribollita. The secret here is in the ground fennel seed, a flavour I love. There’s a good kick too from the pinch of chilli. I didn’t have cavolo nero to hand, so substituted a handful of kale. Quick and easy, yes. Delicious, yes again.