The cookbook review no one asked me to write

Once, many many moons ago, I decided it would be a good idea to dye my hair red. I was always envious of dark-haired people because they could do all sorts of cool, subtle things with their hair colour. Auburn sheen, raven black… Not so if you’re a (natural!) blonde, because a) you are naturally pale, and b) blond eyebrows! Anyway, I took the plunge, and for a few days quite enjoyed looking like a freak. Besides, my flaming hair was altogether less weird than my dear nephew’s predilection for getting liquorice sprinkles on his soft-ice (pictured here, eating just that, next to his weird aunt).

Don’t get me wrong – I love liquorice. And being a Dane (when it so pleases me), I indeed have a healthy superiority complex when it comes to liquorice. Us Vikings, you see, like it strong and eye-puckeringly salty. Far from this sweet, cloying substance that goes by the name most other places. And neither of those have any rightful place near ice cream.

Well, things change. My hair is fortunately back to its natural pallor. I do enjoy Liquorice Allsorts (I will eat ALL the coconutty wheels), and I will gladly concoct almost any flavour of wacky ice cream. So when I recently borrowed a copy of Marcus Wareing’s Nutmeg and Custard, the very first recipe that caught my eye was for Liquorice Allsorts ice-cream. How delightfully tacky, from ‘Britain’s finest chef’, as the book’s cover declares.

(click on here if you dare try this at home)

And then there was of course the pork belly, looking all crispy and crunchy and meltingly tender:

So, last night, a little Wareing feast. Verdict? The belly was good, but it wasn’t “my” best. Partly because the crackling on ours got burnt to a crisp, which I’m sure I can’t blame Mr. Wareing for. But this recipe did allow me to try the low-and-slow-then-blast-the-crackling method, which is what they must do in restaurants – without blasting the crackling to carcinogenic levels of course. So if you want to cook your pig in advance, go for it. If not, then I’d still recommend Mr. Ottolenghi’s delicious blast-the-crackling-then-low-and-slow method, which always yields fantastic crackle. But the flavours here were properly righteous: think chilli, maple syrup, soya sauce, sticky sweet and sour.

The ice cream was… interesting. OK, so I tweaked it by blasting some nutella and maple syrup in the microwave for a hot fudgy sauce to go on top, and added a liberal splosh of Pernod to the mix (original recipe calls for Sambuca: same same). It was delicious, but in a decidedly weird way. In fact I’ve got no idea what the Philosophe thought of it; he didn’t say a word. But he did finish his bowl.

Still, I’ve decided that I like Marcus Wareing. Come on: tiramisu doughnuts, turkish delight cheesecake, cola jelly with vanilla ice cream… and a whole section on POPCORN, including parmesan and black pepper popcorn with prosciutto, sesame toffee popcorn bars… and a lot of one of my favourite things in the word: monkfish with chorizo crust, sweetcorn veloute with chorizo foam (!!), chorizo stuffed french toast with manchego…

Dear Santa,

You know what to do.

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