Thursday, 13 November 2014

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini

Page of Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini
- Broccoli Cake

Not to have recommended Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini, first published in 2006 by Phaidon, until now is a serious omission.  In truth I bought two copies, the first before I started writing this blog and a second copy from one of its several re-prints.  Why two?  Water damage.  A neighbour.  Don't ask...  It was only when I bought Rose Carrarini's second book, How to Boil an Egg, published in 2013, that I remembered I had to catch up on my favourite book reviews.  So, anxious as I am to tell you about the second, I need to get my books in order.

A little about the author.  In 1988 the Anglo-French team of Jean Charles and Rose Carrarini set up one of the most influential food shops cum café/restaurants in London.  With their treasure of an epicerie fine, Villandry (not to be confused with the present Villandry nearby), they drew people from all over the capital to their little space. It was one of the few jewels in what was then a rather jaded (imagine that) Marylebone High Street.  Jean Charles and Rose Carrarini were pioneers and everyone in London who aspired to open their own deli checked out Villandry first.  I've written about the Carrarinis before so click on here if you want to read more about their time in London and Rose Bakery which they opened in Paris in 2002.  

Rose Carrarini is not a trained chef and this book is not simply a list of recipes but an expression of her learning and instincts; a philosophy if you like.  As with Sally Clarke who opened her inspirational restaurant in Kensington Church Street 30 years ago, Rose cites Alice Waters as a strong influence.  Richard Olney and Elizabeth David informed her thinking, too, as she evolved her own pursuit of simplicity, seasonality and intensity of flavour. Breakfast, Lunch, Tea is based on the seasonal food prepared every day at the tiny one-time chartil which is Rose Bakery.  The book conveys a deep love of good ingredients and Rose's passionate belief that "life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone".

Not many cookbooks stress the importance of feeling "free to add different ingredients or change things as you go along" to suit your own tastes, because "That is what cooking is all about".  But it's important to remember, "the secret to getting a wonderful result lies ultimately in the ingredients.  So choose them well."  The Breakfast section of the book includes recipes for Fruit Taboulé, a delicious alternative to a bowl of muesli; pancakes from classic to gluten-free and vegan; Maple Syrup Scones; no-nonsense Perfect Scrambled Eggs; as well as juices, smoothies and cereals.  The chapter on Lunch keeps things 'light' to suit both the way Rose Bakery customers want to eat in or take-away.  Soups include Spiced chickpea and lemon soup and Cold Beetroot soup with a hot potato; Salads such as Carrot and seed and Quinoa and pepper are packed with flavour; the Pastry section includes recipes for Rose Bakery's singular square vegetable tarts like Artichoke and pea tart and Ricotta, tomato and thyme tart and a take on Pissaladière; Rice features, including a new combination to me Tomato, Aubergine and mint risotto.  I love the idea of a main course dish of Cod in tomato water (alternative white fish are suggested and sustainability emphasised).  This takes us through to Tea, and a much longer recipe list including Chocolate, orange and ricotta tart; Pistachio cake; Brocolli cake; Almond, cinnamon and meringue biscuits; Jam sandwich vegan cookies; coconut custard slices; and puddings including classics like Apple Brown Betty and Summer Pudding; and finishing off with a Japanese influenced Red Bean sorbet.

This is a very freeing recipe book.  It's not prescriptive and hand-holding to the point where you feel you must follow the recipes slavishly.  Rather, it encourages you to follow your instincts.  It's my kind of cookery book.  The photography is by Toby Glanville.  From a flour-strewn pastry table to a portrait of 'Jacob, our kitchen assistant', he captures the mood of Rose Bakery perfectly.

Check back in a couple of days for a favourite recipe from the book.

Coming soon, book two, How to Boil and Egg.