Roots: An Exclusive Recipe and Cookbook Recommendations from Tommy Banks
Ahead of the publication of his sumptuous new recipe book, Roots on 5 April 2018, Michelin star-winning chef Tommy Banks shares an exclusive recipe and recommends some of his favourite cookbooks.
Ox Tongue and Watercress salad
1 brined ox tongue (butchers generally sell them ready brined)
2 celery sticks
1 large onion
5 garlic cloves
1 small bunch thyme
8 black peppercorns
For the watercress purée:
1 large red rooster potato
120g picked and washed watercress
400g white chicken stock
2 pickled onions
4 soft-boiled eggs, peeled
A few small watercress sprigs
First, prepare the ox tongue. Rinse the tongue briefly in cold water and place it in a deep saucepan or stockpot. Peel and roughly chop the celery, onion and garlic and add to the pan along with the peppercorns and cloves. Pour in enough water to cover the tongue well and bring the pan to the boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface of the water, turn the heat down to a medium simmer and place a plate or small frying pan on top of the tongue to keep it weighted down. Allow the tongue to simmer like this for 4–5 hours until it is very tender, topping up the water if it gets too low to cover the tongue. When it is cooked, allow the tongue to cool in the cooking liquid. Peel off the outer skin and slice away the very tip of the tongue and any frayed meat from the underside, leaving you with a smooth block of meat. Slice into 1cm cubes and keep in the fridge until needed.
To make the purée, dice the potato, wash in several changes of cold water to remove excess starch and set in a colander to drain. Roughly dice the shallot. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the diced potato and shallot, and season well with salt and pepper. Sweat the mixture over a low heat for 5–10 minutes until the potato starts to soften and break down, add the chicken stock and bring the pan to the boil. Allow the stock to all but boil away, stirring the pan frequently, leaving you with a fairly thick and starchy mixture. Add the watercress, cook for one more minute, and then transfer the entire mixture to a jug blender. Blend on full speed for at least 5 minutes until you have a very smooth, bright green purée.To serve, cut the pickled onions into quarters, completely blacken the cut sides in a pan over a high heat and pull the quarters apart into petals. Heat a drop of oil in a heavy frying pan and add about half of the diced ox tongue. Fry the tongue until you start to see a few brown edges, then add the butter and allow it to foam. Let the tongue cook in the foaming butter for a minute or two then remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Warm four bowls and add a good pool of watercress purée to the bottom of each. Quarter the eggs, season them with salt and pepper, and divide them between the bowls. Add the charred pickled onion petals and ox tongue to each, and garnish with the fresh watercress. Serve immediately.
When I was 18 I became seriously ill with ulcerative colitis and had to endure several major operations, long spells in hospital and months confined to my room at home. It was an incredibly difficult time for me but looking back now it was also a time of transformation. It was from my sick bed that my passion for food began as I read cookbook after cookbook, losing myself in the words, images and the different concepts each offered and educating myself on food and flavour. After 18 months I returned to work with a new outlook on life and went back into the kitchen with ideas, ambition and determination.
I’ve chosen the 8 of my favourite cookbooks here – some that sparked inspiration during that time and others I have discovered in the years since:
Leith’s Cookery Bible by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave
Prue Leith’s cookery bible was my first ever cook book so it is a huge honour to have a quote from Prue on the front of Roots. It’s a great book, with a solid recipe for anything you would want to cook and I return to its pages time and time again.
White Heat by Marco Pierre White
Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White
White Heat made cheffing look cool – the pictures are amazing. The front cover, with im standing in his chef whites, holding a meat cleaver is awesome. Marco’s words in his autobiography – about the importance of making your restaurant so damned good people would come for miles – really resonated with me, given the location of The Black Swan in rural Yorkshire, and helped inspire me to make our restaurant a destination.
Rel: A Book of Ideas by Christian F. Puglisi
Christian is probably my favourite chef and I love this book more for his thoughts on ingredients and techniques than the dishes themselves. Some ideas I found eye opening and others I didn’t particularly agree with but I always enjoyed the writing and the debate that ensued in my own mind.
Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian by Sat Bains
With this book, two Michelin-Starred chef Sat Bains has inspired a new generation of British cooks. It is beautiful and clinical but down to earth and honest at the same time, truly a masterpiece.
The Square: Savoury & The Square: Sweet by Phil Howard
Utterly beautiful food. Two books of gloriously refined recipes that work really well. Both the savoury and sweet books are brilliant and are essential for any foodie book shelf.
This final choice is not a cookbook at all, in fact I don’t think there is a single culinary reference inside. But I have found this book so inspirational. It has taught me not just to learn from mistakes but to scrutinise everything and look to make tiny improvements everywhere.
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