Created in order to raise funds for the Manchester-based social enterprise cookery school Bounceback Food, Secret Dishes From Around The World 2 (£17.50) is a compilation of 20 of the best recipes taught in the school’s classes. As well as helping to support the social enterprise’s buy-one-give-one system, the book also celebrates 20 Mancunian artists whose illustrations fill the pages. Founder Duncan Swainsbury and chef Josh Rea hoped to showcase the diversity of culinary traditions in the North West, and their cookbook does just that.
The challenge for Bounceback Food’s resident chef, Josh Rea, was to create recipes to entice paying customers to the social enterprise’s cooking classes, while making them accessible enough for the inexperienced cook and vulnerable members of the community who benefit from the sessions. This collection is testament to his success: a no-fuss, round-the-world tour of dishes with a wide appeal, simple ingredients, and quick cooking times, often with vegetarian or vegan alternatives in the margins that can be made by anyone with ease. From the off, the book seems ideal for first-time cooks or those lacking confidence who want to broaden their culinary horizons.
In keeping with the book’s global outlook I chose to test recipes from countries not often widely represented in cookery books: Tunisian shakshouka, a vegetarian peanut stew from Mali, and a Peruvian stir fry.
A popular tomato and egg dish in many a brunch spot, I was keen to try this at home. This recipe pares down the frills and keeps spices to a triumvirate of paprika, chilli powder, and cumin. The taste was as good as any I’ve had in a restaurant and the instructions were simple enough that I can see myself trying it again in the future.
This West African sweet potato stew is traditionally made with ground peanuts, but here we’re asked to use 300g of peanut butter for ease. The taste doesn’t turn out too nutty, and despite the fresh chilli, cumin and cayenne added to the dish the heat is softened by the sweet potatoes. Good for veggies, but I’d make it again with added chicken or beef.
Peruvian lomo saltado
Strips of beef are stir-fried with garlic, pepper and red onion in this foolproof dish (normally eaten with French fries). Although the book advises to leave the steak in its marinade of cumin, oregano and soy sauce for two hours, I left it overnight, which gave it even more of a flavour boost.
This book felt tailor-made for me. The lack of pretension in the writing and the fact that amateur cooks are well catered for with clearly explained methods makes it especially reassuring in the kitchen. The scope of the cuisines covered means there’s plenty still to explore in order to expand my repertoire. All the dishes were new to me and I had a blast not only making them but eating them, too.