Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Books’

Darina Allen takes food from seed to plate

Darina Allen Talk about good timing. When it gets cold and snowy here in New England, we pull out the seed catalogs and start planning our summer garden. Right on cue, GROW COOK NOURISH (Kyle Books, $45) by Darina Allen arrived in the mail. It’s the 16th book for the Irish chef and co-founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School (Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, +353 21 464 6785, In a bit of understatement, Allen terms the thick volume a “kitchen garden companion.” It’s truly a guide to growing, preparing, and sometimes preserving vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers. She covers pretty much every fruit and vegetable we’ve ever heard of and many that we haven’t. We were so impressed that we arranged to speak with her by phone.

When we reached her in Ireland, Allen agreed that “it’s the time of year to curl up in front of the fire with seed catalogs and have a lovely planning session, a dreamy sort of fantasy for next year.” Allen’s cooking school sits on a 100-acre organic farm garden with an acre of greenhouses. That means she can dream big and grow things that her Zone 9 climate might not otherwise allow. But Allen is convinced that anyone can—and should—grow at least some of their food.

“The whole message behind this book is that it doesn’t matter where you are,” she says. “As long as you have light, a container, seeds, and water, you can grow something, even if you are in a high-rise in Manhattan or Shanghai.”

Capitalizing on the tastes of travel

Farmers market Portland, MaineAlong with detailed advice on growing, harvesting, and storing everything from cardoons to salsify, Allen has included about 500 recipes in the book. She travels frequently and we were impressed with her intuitive embrace of global flavors and cooking traditions. Like us, she loves to visit farmers’ markets. “You really do get a true picture of what local people are eating and what is in season at that time,” she says.

When she encounters a dish that she particularly likes on her travels she might jot down a few notes and even take a photo on her iPhone. “But,” she says, “the most important thing is your taste memory. If I fancy a dish, I try to recreate it as soon as possible when I come home while the memory of the taste is still very vibrant. I test and taste, test, taste. You can often get it fairly close. Other times, you might do a variation.”

Another thing we love about the book is that the recipes tend to be quite straightforward, even when the ingredients list is long. Allen kindly agreed to let us publish her recipe for Thai Chicken, Galangal & Cilantro Soup (below). The commentary is all hers. The photo of the soup is by Clare Winfield.

As for our garden, we are going to plant some annual marjoram. “It’s my favorite herb of all time,” Allen told us. “If I could only choose one, that would have to be it.”

Darina Allen's Thai Chicken Soup


A particularly delicious example of how fast and easy a Thai soup can be. We serve it in blue and white Chinese porcelain bowls. The kaffir lime leaves and galangal are served, but not eaten. The chile may, of course, be nibbled. Shrimp can be substituted for chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results. We usually use one red Thai chile, but the number depends on your taste and how hot the chiles are. Fresh lime leaves are not available in every store so buy them any time you spot them and pop them into a bag in your freezer. Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are also delicious added to this soup—hey presto, you have a main course. Serve in wide pasta bowls with lots of fresh cilantro scattered over the top.
—Darina Allen

Serves 8


3 3/4 cups homemade chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves
2-inch piece of galangal, peeled and sliced (if using fresh ginger, use a third less)
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces free-range, organic chicken breast, very finely sliced
1 cup coconut milk
1 to 3 Thai red chiles
approximately 5 tablespoons cilantro leaves


Put the chicken stock, lime leaves, galangal or ginger, fish sauce, and lemon juice into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time, then add the chicken and coconut milk. Continue to cook over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until the chicken is just cooked. Crush the chiles with a knife or Chinese chopper and add to the soup with the cilantro and cook for just a few seconds. Ladle into hot bowls and serve immediately.


01 2018

Even Japanese cooks love asparagus

Pan-fried asparagus with soy and sesame
In Cook Japanese at Home, author Kimiko Barber demystifies Japanese cuisine for western cooks. But she never dumbs it down. The new cookbook, available this month in the U.S. from Kyle Books, provides 200 recipes that most cooks could replicate without any special equipment—or terribly exotic ingredients. Emma Lee’s photographs show how classy the dishes can appear.

Barber observes that western appreciation of Japanese cooking has made a quantum leap since she first moved to London in the 1970s. She does a marvelous job of summarizing Japanese culinary history and the influence of Zen aesthetics on the preparation and presentation of meals.

But as true as she is to the spirit of Japanese cuisine, she does not shy away from fusion dishes. Her Japanese-style beef bourguignon, for example, uses sake, red and white miso, hot pepper, and ginger along with the traditional cubes of beef and slices of bacon. It also uses smoky dried shiitake mushrooms in place of French champignons. It’s a very successful meeting of two great culinary traditions.

She notes that Japanese kitchens have also warmed to certain western ingredients, including our beloved asparagus. Here’s the recipe for Emma Lee’s photo at the head of this post.


Asparagus, although a relative newcomer to Japanese cuisine, is loved for its taste, and prized for its tantalizingly short season.

serves 4

12 to 16 asparagus spears
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sake
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Asparagus has a natural breaking point below which it is stringy and inedible—hold a spear between your hands, then bend until it breaks, and discard the lower part. Cut each trimmed spear into 1 and 1/2-inch lengths.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the thicker, lower part pieces of asparagus first, followed by the rest, shaking the pan to toss, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sake and soy sauce, and continue to cook while still shaking the pan, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Turn off the heat, then sprinkle the sesame seeds over and serve.


05 2017