Two cookbooks to add flavour to your winter kitchen

My Kind of Cooking
Mark Sargeant
Published by Quercus

Odd bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal
Jennifer McLagan
Published by Jacqui Small

Mark Sargeant was a Gordon Ramsay protégé and Head Chef at Claridges formerly unnoticed in the shadow of his boss. Now, he’s done it on his own – opening his restaurant Rocksalt in Folkestone and penning his first book. His solo effort is unpretentious and unrevolutionary. It’s colloquial, personal and useful – as though a mate is passing on stellar cooking advice and shortcuts collected over the years.

A recipe calls for British snails with pearl barley, but surely snails are not the easiest thing to find? Sargeant affably tells us where to pick up the best in the ingredients list: from Helen Howard in Kent, of course.

King prawn and chorizo in tomato garlic sauce is an easy and fulfilling supper to whip up, and I can vouch for the satisfaction it yields after a gruelling day at work. Sargeant is not rewriting the book on classic recipes, as you might expect from a high-end chef. He’s sharing dishes he probably eats on his nights off at home. There’s nothing overly complicated here, except the brains and brawn, which requires the determination to dismantle a pigs head.

Sargeant opens his “cheap cuts” chapter with the following proclamation: “one day I hope to devote a whole book to cheap cuts,” which is exactly what Jennifer McLagan’s book, Odd Bits does. McLagan’s last book, Fat, was a superb celebration of the often (incorrectly) vilified substance.

And with Odd Bits, she extends the courtesy to forlorn forgotten cuts: the tongue we never think of, the sweetbreads we only choose in restaurants. There are gizzards, coxcombs and hocks; the ingredients that look more at home in Shakespeare’s pentameter than a 21st century cookbook. But there are also recipes with the more familiar pork belly and oxtail.

Odd Bits is studded with enriching literature, and written with care and knowledge. It’s an important and much-needed book that helps us understand why and how we should eat the whole animal. This is not a book to dip into just for recipes but one that should be devoured whole, literature and all.