A Weekend Cooking with Anna – Book Review of Anna Haugh’s debut cookbook by Women in the Food Industry Ambassador Antonia Lloyd

Cooking with Anna’ is, believe it or not, the debut offering from modern Irish chef Anna Haugh. A familiar face on BBC, born and bred Dubliner Anna has appeared as guest judge on BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals, and is a regular on Saturday Kitchen and Morning Live – her naturalness on screen is echoed in this opening cookbook which offers up delicious, easy to prepare dishes that don’t either have to cost the earth or use every pot and pan in the house. Raised on her mum’s Irish cooking, Anna cooks from the heart while bringing the skill and finesse of her restaurant background – a winning combination. Ambassador of Women In the Food Industry and Writer, Antonia Lloyd, spends a weekend cooking from her book.

All photography in Anna’s book is by Laura Edwards & used with the permission of Bloomsbury

Having spent the weekend ‘cooking with Anna’ to treat my family (one daughter revising for GCSES and the other recovering from a two-day D of E hike), I can vouch for her recipes being disarmingly simple yet tasty and packed with helpful tricks of the trade. We warmed up with one of Anna’s brunch dishes: smoked salmon crêpes combining thin pancakes, yoghurt flavoured with lemon and dill, and slithers of smoked salmon. So simple we wondered why we had not made them before – and that’s Anna’s exceptional talent.

For dinner we ramped up the stakes to one of her ‘Weekend Projects’: Roasted Juniper-Marinated Duck and Potato Waffle. This was remarkably easy to pull off, not as time-consuming as you might think, and the extra effort elicited restaurant level plaudits from the family. A win in my book. There was a quick rub of juniper and rosemary on the duck before it was cooked in a cold pan and finished in the oven; a mushroom sauce that just involved sautéing off chestnut mushrooms, adding stock, cream, and blitzing; and some Maris Piper mash that we combined with egg yolk, cornflour and seasoning before daughter no: 2 took charge of the waffle making.

The result was divine – crisp potato waffles, a rich chestnut mushroom sauce, and well-seasoned duck with a hint of juniper. This recipe achieved celebration meal status without any heartache.

Lemon, Lemongrass and Cardamom Posset - Anna Haugh

Photography by Jodi Hinds

To finish, we tested out Anna’s lemon posset that was interesting for its addition of cardamom and lemongrass, and served with her homemade Irish oatcakes – oaty, gingery, and moreish, they are still tempting us in the tin and sensational paired with cheese.

Anna is clearly a consummate professional who has trained at top Michelin starred restaurants and is respected by the best – Gordon Ramsay calls her ‘one of the most talented chefs to come out of Ireland.’ Her tricks of the trade are practical and insightful: cooked potatoes should be mashed straight away when the potato starch is at its prime and ready to absorb the maximum butter and milk; if your curry is too hot, just add some sugar and a dash of cream; and the skewer test for meat and fish which teaches you to place the skewer on your wrist and instinctively learn when your protein is cooked to perfection.

Anna draws you in with ’20 Minute Dinners’ that are healthy and original: ‘Coconut Cod Curry’ with a delicate coconut milk sauce flavoured with curry powder, lime and chilli; super speedy ‘Pasta Ferrari’ that involves simple staples like tomato, chilli flakes, and garlic; and ‘Monday night’ salmon oven-roasted and served with crushed lemon chickpea and watercress salad.  There are new ways to approach old favourites – soda bread is baked in an old baked bean can creating a wonderful shape and crisp exterior, hake is crusted with oats and sesame seeds and served with a smoked mackerel sauce, and fish goujons are served with spicy sweet potato chips.

The dishes that tap into Anna’s modern Irish sensibility are hearty, wholesome fare: ‘Dad’s fish pie from Howth’ with a sauce enriched from mussel cooking liquor; marinated fish cakes which are made extra special by marinating the fish first and flavouring the mash with smoked mackerel; and Mammy’s shepherd’s pie which is topped with forked spuds for a speedy yet delicious finish.  These are unpretentious flavourful recipes that achieve family cooking with an extra chef’s touch.

For anyone with a sweet tooth, there are exciting times ahead: the ‘Va-Va-Voom Chocolate Biscuit Cake’ is an unreasonably guilty pleasure involving layered up chocolate bars with nougat, caramel, and honeycomb that nestle within the chocolate biscuit deliciousness – a slice is a chocolatier’s dream of a Jurassic coastline. Modern Irish classics are also well represented from Guinness cake to scones with gooseberry jam, buttermilk pannacotta with poached strawberries and a chocolate and lime tart.

Anna has created a wonderful debut cookbook that will expand any family cook’s repertoire with a light touch. Frankly, I can’t wait for another weekend cooking with Anna!

Cooking with Anna: Modern Home Cooking with Irish Heart by Anna Haugh is published by Bloomsbury

You may also like to read Antonia’s review of Easy Wins by Anna Jones, and her review of Plant Feasts by Frankie Paz, our review of Recipes for a Better Menopause by Jane Baxter & Dr Federica Amati and our book review of Modern South Asian Kitchen by Sabrina Gidda

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