Adam Byatt – How to eat in

Published on Foodepedia on 9th November 2010:

The first thing you should know about Adam Byatt’s ‘How to eat in’ is that the recipes are not as hard as they look.

The basis of this rather hefty book are recipes to elevate simple home cooked meals to family favourites and recipes to serve as dinner party pièce de résistance. By simply flicking through the book and looking at the photographs though, it’s difficult not to imagine the amount of work it would take to recreate some of the dishes. The introduction for beetroot-cured salmon gravadlax even states that it’s a four-day process – not a job to be taken on unless you are a seriously keen cook.

As this is his first cookbook, chef and patron of Trinity in Clapham Adam Byatt has done very well. The dishes are not only beautifully presented but some are also highly unusual like the maple-glazed belly of pork with saffron and cockles. This makes a refreshing change to the cookbooks full of staples.He has divided up his book like a menu. There are the breads, the starters, the mains, the desserts and the sauces to complement. And given the selection of recipes and a special section on outdoor food, this book is something which can be used all year round.

Having previously dined at Trinity, I instinctively looked for the food served there. The recipes revealed all the hard work that went into those delicious meals and gave me a real appreciation of the flavours. They were also a little daunting because having already spotted the salmon gravadlax recipe, I thought that all the recipes were going to be quite complex and time consuming.

Take the pig’s trotters on toasted sourdough with crackling for example, it’s a staple on the Trinity menu. The recipe itself spreads over two pages. One page is solely dedicated to the list of ingredients and instructions for preparation, some of which must be done the day before. The second page is the actual method. If there wasn’t a deliciously tempting photograph intercepting the two pages, I would surely be going crossed-eyed at the amount of work. But then after actually reading through the recipe, there wasn’t anything particularly hard. Cooking the dish still takes a lot of time and effort but at least the result is rewarding.

There is a fair selection of easy but equally delicious recipes too like pot roast loin of old spot pork with kumquats or the 10-minute banana and maple ice cream.

Perhaps what has been most daunting all along has been Byatt’s chef-approach to his recipes. That is, every recipe comes with a comprehensive preparation guide so when you come to the method section, it’s literally a matter of cooking. For the trained chef, this comes as second nature. For the average Joe, though, it seems like a lot of work.

Overall, ‘how to eat in’ has been very inspiring. It serves as more of a guide to cooking restaurant quality food at home than a day-to-day cook book. But if you love to cook and you love good food, this book would be perfect.

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Trinity, Clapham

Published on Foodepedia on 21st September 2010:

4 The Polygon, Clapham, London, SW4 0JG

Trinity is the second Clapham restaurant of chef patron Adam Byatt, with the first being the now defunct Thyme, and it works very hard to amalgamate fine dining with its friendly neighbourhood restaurant ethos. From the outset, there’s the unassuming entrance. Soft lighting gently framed the windows with only a small discreet plaque revealing the restaurant within, Trinity. Facing a disused building, it manages to be in the centre of Clapham Common and yet at the same time sneakily tucked away, giving diners accessibility and an incredible sense of privacy.

Mondays are traditionally very quiet for restaurants. For Trinity, this meant a merry-go-round of taxis stopping to set down groups of eager diners. Their a la carte, tasting and prix fixe menus offer extensive choice without pricing out the average visitor.

Pigs trotters made an interesting starter for me and my companion had the poached Loch Duart salmon. Trotters may be unusual but getting the entire dish served on a block of wood was definitely unexpected. Finely diced meat from the trotters were served on a slice of toasted sourdough with a single stick of crackling balanced delicately on top. Sauce Gribiche decorated the base and three perfectly fried quail’s eggs, centre still runny, framed the block. It seemed like a lot for a starter but somehow managed to remain light enough to make a pleasing appetiser. Suffice to say that it tasted as good as it was scrupulously presented.

A fillet of slow cooked Dexter beef served with artichokes, triple cooked chips and steak tartar made a deliciously filling main, the kind that makes it hard not to quip about a match made in meat heaven. Aside from being a demonstration of the skill and effort required to produce the dish, the taste and texture also perfectly reflected the quality of the ingredients used. For my companion, there was a slight quibble about the bones in his lemon sole and seeds in his Muscat grapes. It seems that having to work hard for the pleasure of tasting something wonderful was just a bit too vexing.

There was a good selection of desserts to round off the meal as well as the option for a cheese course. All the courses were accompanied by beautifully matched wines, a highly recommended and thoroughly pleasurable addition to the meal. My companion raved so much about his dessert wine I’m not even sure he finished his dessert, although I’m quite certain it tasted divine if my raspberry ripple souffle was anything to go by.

Overall the food was excellent, as expected, and meticulously prepared. The restaurant was run with military efficiency and impeccable attention to detail in every step from taking of the coats to seating at the table to a refreshing Bellini and welcoming flat bread. The staff were friendly, helpful and unobtrusive; effortlessly creating the relaxed atmosphere. And let’s not forget the fragrant loose tea and freshly brewed coffee at the end of the meal, served with a cookie jar.

And as an endearing extra, we were each furnished with a bag of hand-made mini meringues before we left. There has never been a local eatery so hospitable.