Terre á Terre is an incredibly successful restaurant in Brighton. It's a restaurant that in many ways has elevated vegetarian food, making it well, sexier. No hemp, no hippies, no sticky tablecloths, no iffy music. It's amazing that there aren't more veggie restaurants like this one, because the concept is simple; to treat food like any other top quality restaurant, sans meat. No apologies and no substitutes. Just well presented and with original thought that keeps people going back again and again.
So I was interested to hear they had released a cookbook as I think they may well be one of the first Brighton restaurants to do so. Cracking it open, I couldn't remember being so excited about cooking from a book. The photography is truly a feast for the eyes. I mean, for one, the food has all been styled vertical, standing proud as punch on the plate. Perspex sheets give the food a glossy, sexy edge, a contrast to the typical styling for this genre where natural, homely and rustic is the norm.
The instructions at first glance will really put the willies up you, especially as most recipes span over two pages, but on closer inspection you will see that the recipes are all broken down into separate elements that you can include or exclude. If you go through it all you'll see that the components themselves are generally not that difficult either, just be careful as some parts will need making ahead and refrigerating, setting or cooling etc.
This is not really my sort of everyday food (or I doubt many peoples) but it really inspires you to hone down your cooking techniques. I see it as an achievable challenge as it is approachable and not some uber-chefs' ridiculous egotistical instructions including lots of equipment that most restaurants even will not own. The copy is warm, friendly and encouraging.
I really wanted to cook the Elephant and Rocket Oil Twice Baked Soufflé which is a twice baked Jerusalem artichoke soufflé, wrapped in hazelnut and rosemary parchment pastry with elephant garlic velouté and rocket oil. I mean look at it:
Unfortunately, and after a bit of advice from the restaurant direct on Twitter, I was unable to get some of the ingredients. But I will conquer this bad boy one day when I can get the garlic in season.
So what to cook? In true end of the pier Brightonian humour, I went for the Bum. A sweet sheep's milk cheesecake, with sambuca-soaked sultanas, served with lemon rosemary syrup and warm walnut biscotti. I chose this as like some of the other recipes, it champions local produce, in this case the amazing Sussex Slipcote cheese. This is in some ways my perfect "Happy Ever Afters" as I'm often torn between a cheese board or something sweet. This combines the two successfully, packing in a hell of a lot of flavours and textures. I'll also be making the biscotti again on their own, just to have around the house for coffee dunking.
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
½ teaspoon ground star anise
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 2 limes
2 eggs and 2 yolks, beaten
150g walnuts, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
Place the flour, sugar, star anise, baking powder, citrus zests and fennel seeds in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the beaten egg mix and work together to form a sticky dough. Mix in the walnuts and turn out on to a floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough, for ease of handling, and roll the mix into a sausage shape about 30cm long.
Place gently on a lined baking sheet, but do not worry if it breaks as it is easy to stick back together. Bake at 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and set. The mix will spread and rise as it cooks. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 15 minutes then place on a chopping board and gently cut with a serrated knife into 2cm slices. (There should be about 16 in all.)
Put the slices back on to a baking tray and dry out in the oven at 130ºC/Gas Mark ½ for about 20 minutes. Cool down and store in an airtight container. The biscuits will keep for a couple of weeks.
Sweet sheep’s milk cheesecakes
400g soft sheep’s milk cheese (Sussex Slipcote is ideal)
1 egg and 3 yolks, beaten
50g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of ½ lemon
400ml double cream
6 rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons olive oil
for the sambuca sultanas
about 45ml sambuca
First prepare the sambuca sultanas. Pour sambuca over the sultanas to cover, and leave to marinate at room temperature for 24 hours.
You can make individual cheesecakes or one large round: choose 6 deep rings 7.5 x 5cm, or 1 deep spring-form tin 25 x 5cm. Crumble the cheese into a bowl and add the egg mix, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice. Mix with a spatula to form a smooth paste, then add the cream in 2 batches until combined. Stir in the soaked sultanas and mix well.
Now line your rings (this sounds more complicated than it is). For the small rings cut a 15cm square of greaseproof paper and gently mould it into the rings, taking care not to tear it and leaving a slight overhang. (Use the same principle for the large ring mould.) Carefully fill the moulds with the cheese mix. Coat the rosemary sprigs in olive oil and push a sprig into the centre of each mould (or press all the sprigs into the large single mould). The rosemary will infuse into the cheese mix as it cooks.
Place the rings in a deep sided roasting tray and pour in hot water to come three quarters of the way up the sides of the rings. Bake at 160ºC/Gas Mark 3 for 20 minutes. Once set, remove the rings from the bain-marie on to a flat tray and leave to cool. Refrigerate until needed.
200g caster sugar
2 rosemary sprigs
zest of ½ lemon, cut into strips
juice of ½ lemon
Bring the sugar and water to the boil, then and add the rosemary and lemon zest. Simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain. Finally, mix in the lemon juice. Refrigerate until needed.
Remove the rings from the cheesecakes and carefully peel off the greaseproof paper, then place on serving plates. Serve each cheesecake with a couple of warm biscotti (they can be heated gently at 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 for just a few minutes) and some rosemary syrup drizzled over the top. A large, single cheesecake can be cut and served in a similar way.
This book has really reignited my passion for the restaurant, and I really think will be a book to benchmark vegetarian cooking (hence the italic The in the title). A perfect gift and reading for both vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Terre á Terre, The Vegetarian Cookbook is published by Absolute Press and costs £20.00.
With thanks to Absolute Press for this review copy and all the dreadful Bum puns.