From Alsace to Yorkshire – The Making of a Passion
by Lionel Strub
Hard cover: 184 pages
Publisher: Fisher King Publishing (15 Jun 2012)
About the Author:
Classically trained chef Lionel Strub graduated from Ecole Hoteliere de Strasbourg in 1982. From the age of six Lionel worked in his Grandfather’s bakery. It was there that Lionel drew inspiration and belief in simplicity and quality of ingredients. After graduating, Lionel spent three years at Le Restaurant des Vannes in Liverdun, an acclaimed two Michelin star restaurant with head chef Jean Pierre Cotard. After a year in Germany during his national service, Lionel worked in restaurants across Europe and the U.K. After 25 years in England, Lionel is now an award winning chef and restaurateur running Mirabelle Restaurant in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Lionel has developed an unusual and creative combination of modern French and British cookery.
Sometimes you come across a cookbook that is an undiscovered gem – a book that is not in the main stream media of TV and Celebrity Chefs, that isn’t plastered all over the internet or advertised in national papers or in their uber trendy supplements……a book that is packed with seasonal, innovative and tasty fare, that is written with passion as well as culinary intelligence. Such is this book, From Alsace to Yorkshire (The Making of a Passion) by Lionel Strub, a transplanted French chef now living in Yorkshire; the book is a personal journey of one shy boy, from a troubled family background, and culminates in the glory of him being crowned Chef of the Year, as well as opening his own restaurant. It’s a cookbook like no other that I have read, and by the time I had read Lionel’s own introduction, The Making of a Passion, I was intrigued to discover the rest of the book, to see if his dogged determination, obvious talent and love of food were reflected in the recipes that followed. I was not disappointed, and neither was Elaine Lemm (Food Journalist and Author) who writes a glowing and poignant foreword to the book, and echoes my own thoughts about celebrity chefs and the so-called glamorous lifestyle they appear to lead.
The book’s foundations are built on hard work, deprivation and sadness; but, the book is NOT sad in any way, it is a beacon to hope, and you only have to see the recipes to know it’s a story of a family, albeit not perfect, that triumphs over sorrow. So, when you make your way through the chapters, such as Jams and Chutneys, you will see simple sub-headings saying “My Mum’s Jams!” The “Alsace-Lorraine” chapter is preceded by the Lionel’s words “The following are some favourite recipes from my beloved Lorraine” with a charming photo of some half-timbered houses from the region. The book is rich with images of all the recipes, as well as some family “snaps” from Lionel’s childhood. Is there a recipe for Quiche Lorraine? Of course there is, and Lionel reminds us of its simplicity and the fact that it is “sans fromage”.
The chapters comprise:
Foreword – By Elaine Lemm
The Making of a Passion – Personal Introduction by Lionel Strub
A Big Thanks
A Trip to Alsace-Lorraine – Recipes from the region
Jams and Chutneys
Meat and Poultry
Fish and Seafood
Game and Wild Birds
Weights and Measures
The recipes are a mixture of classic, regional French, Yorkshire and Lionel’s own recipes which, without using that awful word so often used in cooking, “fusion”, are a blend of French and English, with Alsace and Yorkshire taking the lead roles. His Jams and Chutneys chapter is amazing, with recipes for Fig Jam, Peach and Passionfruit Jam, Quince Jelly, Spicy Pear Chutney and Cranberry Chutney to name but a few. As always, when I review a cookbook, I always make at least one recipe, and I made Lionel’s Quince Jelly, which turned out just beautifully, and I still have pots of this glowing preserve sitting on my pantry shelves ready for midwinter feasting.
In his Bread chapter, one is seduced into making Walnut and Beetroot Loaf, Polenta, Parmesan and Red Pepper Bread, Walnut Cob or Hazelnut and Raisin Loaf. There is a handy section at the beginning of the chapter where simple bread making rules explained, such as types of yeast, adding fat, kneading the dough, proving, baking and testing the bread. The Brioche recipe is on my list to make very soon, and Lionel’s method looks very simple to follow.
I was particularly taken with Lionel’s Posh Pie and Peas with Port Sauce (Pate en Croute a l’Anglaise) in the Starters (Nos Entrees) chapter. Again, the Yorkshire influence is very much in evidence with recipes such as Tian of Mrs Bell’s Olde Yorke with Crab Apple, Rhubarb wrapped with Oak Smoked Venison with Organic Walnut Toast (Timbale de fromage a la rubarbe, gelee de pommes pain aux noix), as well as the delicious sounding Whitby Crab Rillette, Avocado Salad and Toasted Rye Bread (Rillette de crab, salad d’avocat, pain de seigle). Lionel’s My Moules Mariniere (Moules Marinieres ma facon) was the second recipe I made, and I served them with frites of course, bien sur!
In the Meat and Poultry chapter, there are recipes for hearty, classic French fare, such as Cassoulet of Duck (Cassoulet de canard) as well as Twice Cooked Fruity Moroccan Lamb with Olive Oil Couscous (Agneau a la Marocaine cuit deux fois) and the delectable sounding (and intricate) Duck Breast, Pineapple Tart Tatin with Pink Grapefruit and Black Cherry Sauce (Magret de canards tarte tatin d’ananas, sauce aux cerises et pamplemousse rose). The chapter is a mix of simple and easy to prepare meals, as well as more challenging recipes, all clearly explained with precise instructions.
Being a lover of all things Piscine, I was delighted to see an extensive Fish and Seafood chapter, and once again Lionel shares some very useful tips at the beginning of the chapter, such as how to recognise and buy fresh fish, the cuts and names and how to cook fish, with helpful timings. There are a plethora of fishy recipes, as well as some stunning shellfish ones, such as Scallop Ravioli (Ravioli de Coquilles St Jacques), Pan-fried Scallops with Cox’s apple and parsnip puree (Coquilles St Jacques aux pommes douce) and Oven Steamed Wild Caught Turbot with Lobster Risotto (Turbot vapeur, risotto de homard). I was also very taken with Sole Fillets filled with Whitby Crab over Wilted Spinach (Filet de sole au crab, epinard et beurre blanc) and this recipe has also made it to my “must make soon” list.
There is invaluable advice at the beginning of the Game and Wild Birds chapter, such as choosing and cooking with game, and how to prepare it. I was pleased to see Lionel had included a wild boar recipe; I first tried wild boar in France, and it is one of my favourite game meats. He also shares recipes for venison, pheasant and Guinea fowl, another favourite of mine. Again, his recipes are innovative and creative, showcasing his obvious passion for seasonal ingredients. I loved his recipe for Ragout of Pheasant with Walnuts and Wild Mushrooms, (Ragout de faisants aux noix et champignons sauvage) all the ingredients are so autumnal, perfect for brace of pheasants.
The final chapter is Desserts, and there are some stunning desserts on show here. Two recipes for Choux Pastry and Pate Sucree lead us into a den of delectable dainties! There are tarts, cheesecakes and pastries, and my personal favourites are the recipes for Toblerone Cheesecake (Cheesecake au Toblerone) and Caramelised Pineapple Tart Tatin with Coconut Ice Cream (Ananas tarte tatin, glace a la noix de coco). If you are after some classics, there are recipes for Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart) and Tarts aux Pommes (Apple Tart) featured in this chapter.
The book ends with a useful Weights and Measures section, but, sadly no index……this is a little awkward, but by the time I had looked through the book, I was so engaged in the tale as well as being captivated by the recipes, as well as bookmarking them as I went along, that it didn’t bother me, but I can see how it might be a nuisance if you wanted to search for a recipe by ingredients or type.
I am giving this book a very well-earned 5 stars, despite the lack of index; it’s so refreshing to read about the real “behind the scenes” tales of a chef and restaurateur, and Lionel’s journey, his making of a passion, is compulsive reading……after that, the recipes become a delightful culinary bonus! The two recipes I made were easy to follow and the results were excellent. I would recommend this book to anyone who is keen to discover new talent with original and exciting recipes; who are a little tired of all the celebrity chefs that we are constantly spoon fed by the national media. The book is perfect for experienced and amateur cooks alike. The seasonal and regional aspect of the book is charming, and there are a diverse selection of recipes listed, from both Alsace-Lorraine and Yorkshire. For anyone living in Yorkshire, Lionel has a wonderful restaurant in Harrogate, called Mirabelle; His restaurant was the winner of the Olive Magazine’s Lunch Bargain of the Year. You can visit the website, and view his current events and menus here: Mirabelle Restaurant