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To order a copy of Small Adventures in Cooking <click here>


Small Adventures in CookingHave cooking books gone full circle with ordinary everyday people writing them?

To qualify that, by ordinary I mean as opposed to the famous celebrity chefs. Of course, you are not ordinary if you are capable of writing your own cooking book to such a standard that a publisher wants to take the risk of publishing it. Quite the contrary, you need to have a gift and that gift is to be able to communicate on a level where we all feel we are sharing something with the writer, the writer is not talking down to us and most importantly the writer gets us wanting to cook.

And who is James Ramsden? No big TV show to make him famous overnight. In his Blog he describes himself as “a London-based Yorkshireman. He runs the Secret Larder supper club and has written about food and cookery for The Times, The Guardian, Sainsbury's Magazine, and lovefood.com, among others ”. That about sums it up.

I am not sure what came first but in May 2010 James was selected by The Times as one of the 40 bloggers everyone is talking about. He was also hailed as one of the best new food writers by Rose Prince in the Daily Telegraph.

There have been so many awesome books, with awesome recipes, published by celebrity chefs that the very word awesome applied to cooking or food makes us cringe! This is just a very nice book, with very nice recipes written in a very different style which makes you want to read the book.

Blog: www.jamesramsden.com

The Secret Larder: www.jamesramsden.com/the-secret-larder

Photography: Steven Joyce - www.stevenjoyce.com

A beautifully written and exciting cookbook.” ~ Rachel Allen

“If you haven't heard of him yet, you soon will. I've tasted James' food and it's bloody good.” ~ Stefan Gates

“James Ramsden is one of the best young food writers around.” ~ Giles Coren

  • My wife loves this book - Ian (Amazon review)

    It is the most entertaining read she has had for some time from a cookbook. Partly because there are some great new recipes in there that are out of the ordinary and that she had not comes across before, but also because he shares tips and thoughts in a most anmusing style. This is not your dry-as-dust recipe book from 1940.

Small Adventures in Cooking

  • Great addition to my cook book collection - K Cross (Amazon review)

    This cook book is excellently laid out - printed on white paper using clear, readable print, with, except in a few cases, a recipe per page. It's quite informally written, but not in an irritating Jamie Oliver kind of way (sorry Jamie, I do like you really, but find you a little irksome at times!). His instructions are easy to follow and the methods very simple. I love his Tarts and Tweaks, little ideas for making the dish different or more special, or substituting one hard-to-get ingredient for a more easily accessible one. There are beautiful full colour photographs of the finished dishes, or an ingredient, or a particular method. James has written a few introductory paragraphs at the start of each section, and a brief paragraph under each recipe heading giving an amusing introduction to every dish.

Small Adventures in Cooking

  • Useful and Inspiring - Scheherazade (Amazon review)

    James Ramsden's Small Adventures in Cooking is one of those cook books which is instantly inspiring - the kind that makes you want to try out some of the recipies immediately.

Small Adventures in Cooking

  • A Different Flavour For The Kitchen - P Stokes (Amazon review)

    I have to admit to reading cookery books as some might read the latest thriller, sometimes I don't try the recipes instead savouring the descriptions instead. With this book I just had to try some out.

    If you are looking for some new ideas, easily done so it doesn't frighten the horses, then this is a good way to branch out without making huge expensive purchases. Consider this stress free adventure cooking!

    I do like the introductions, very personable, I tried the 5-minute sponge after reading about where he found the recipe. Adding little nuggets of information like that encourages the home cook to try things out. There is nothing here that will concern the reader, no lengthy list of odd ingredients, no weird ingredients as such - you will find everything in your local food shop/supermarket.

    The author writes with an interest and a passion about food that is very contagious. The outlay of the book is retro, very now but I would imagine will be a welcome accompaniment to any cookery book collection. However handsome books do not necessarily translate within the pages - here it does. Anyone who wants to adapt their basic cooking skills, impress friends over for dinner, find new favourites with unfamiliar ingredients will enjoy trying out these recipes.



Duck RillettesRillettes is basically a rough pâté. The meat is cooked in a low oven, basting itself in its own fat, before being pulled apart, seasoned and set.


salt and pepper
4 x 200g duck legs
a bay leaf, torn to pieces
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
200g duck or goose fat
100ml brandy

How to make

Sprinkle a good handful of salt over a roasting tray and lay the duck legs on top. Put another handful of salt on top, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3. Scrape off and discard any excess salt from the duck. Place the legs in an ovenproof dish with the bay leaf and thyme leaves. Melt the duck or goose fat with the brandy and pour over the duck. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the fat. When cool enough to handle, tug the meat from the bones with your hands, discarding the skin, bones and any gristle. With a pair of forks, pull the meat apart until it resembles a coarse pâté.

Season with pepper and add enough of the fat to coat the meat well. Pat, but don’t press, into individual ramekins and cover with a little of the remaining fat. Serve at room temperature with toast and cornichons, or pickled radishes.

Tart – You can play around with the seasonings here, adding a teaspoon of allspice at the end, or some crushed juniper berries to the melted fat.

Tweak – Follow the above recipe using chunks of pork belly instead of duck to make pork rillettes.

Tomorrow – Any leftover rendered duck fat will keep for months covered in the fridge, and is perfect for roasting potatoes in.

Serves 4 as a starter



Beef carpaccio with horseradish remouladeThe story goes that in 1950 an Italian countess, who I imagine must have been fat as a barrel, waddled into Harry’s Bar in Venice and declared that her doctor had told her that she could only eat raw meat. The chef produced very thin slices of raw beef with a little dressing, and the dish was named after the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio. Serving such an Italian dish with a very French salad like remoulade might therefore seem perverse, but food is about flavour, not diplomacy, and beef, celeriac and horseradish are natural bedfellows.


300g beef fillet
1 small celeriac
8 tbsp mayonnaise (home-made p.164 or decent bought mayo)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp grated horseradish
a small bunch of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
2 tbsp capers
olive oil

How to make

Thinly slice the fillet. Taking a slice at a time, lay the meat under a sheet of cling film, bash with a rolling pin until paper-thin and lay on a plate. Repeat with the remaining slices, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed, removing an hour before serving.

Peel the celeriac and discard the peelings. Grate into a bowl and mix with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, horseradish and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, arrange the carpaccio on one large or six separate plates. Pile the remoulade over the centre of the beef slices, scatter over the capers and drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

Tart – Finely chop some hazelnuts and scatter with the capers.

Tweak – Swap the horseradish for grainy mustard in the celeriac remoulade.

Tomorrow – Any leftover remoulade is delicious on toast.

Serves 6



Drop any preconceptions that I have completely lost the plot here and please have a go at this tart. It will knock your socks off, and your guests will think you’re a total wizard.


1 x basic shortcrust pastry or 300g ready-made shortcrust pastry
3 eggs, 1 beaten
250ml double cream
125ml whole milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
100g milk chocolate
10 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
200ml single cream

How to make

Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry. Line a 25cm tart tin with the pastry and prick all over with a fork. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (or the freezer for 10). Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Line the pastry shell with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Discard the baking paper and beans and brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and turn down to 160°C/Gas 2.

Meanwhile, put the cream, milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and whisk over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to just below boiling point and remove from the heat. Break the chocolate into pieces and stir it into the hot cream, leaving to melt completely. Lightly crush the cardamom pods and remove the little black seeds. Crush these in a pestle and mortar and add to the mix along with the chilli powder and a pinch of salt. Finally, beat the remaining eggs and stir into the mix until glossy. Tip this into the tart shell and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until set.

Remove and leave to cool completely before serving with the single cream.

Serves 8

To order a copy of Small Adventures in Cooking <click here>

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Published 3 August 2011

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