Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating was published 20 years ago and remains - will always remain - one of my absolute essential and fiercely beloved cookbooks. The Book of St John is his follow up, and all I can say is it’s been worth the wait. Quite apart from the smile-making genius of the title, this book is to be savoured for its celebration of the wonders as well as the down-to-earth pleasures of the table. I gave a quote - gladly - for the book, and if you’ll forgive me, I am just going to copy it out here, for it says, in a few words, what I feel about this glorious book: “The Book of St John is too witty to be a manifesto, but it is a sturdy invocation of the need for comfort, generosity and ritual at the table. And it is a gurglingly delightful compendium of - quite simply - delicious ideas and stories.”
For that is how the recipes come across. And what recipes! I long for the burger of crispy lamb brains, the braised lamb with peas, crème fraîche and mint, ox cheek and pickled walnut pie, beef tartare on dripping toast with bone marrow, and so on. I shouldn’t forgo mentioning some of the puddings, either: think steamed syrup sponge and custard, pear and sherry trifle, brown bread and marmalade parfait. The recipe I’m happy to be sharing with you now is simple (and nothing wrong with that!) but is one I associate so strongly with eating at St John, the rich and luscious Welsh Rarebit.
Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28 hbk)
Photography by Jason Lowe