I bought this book after hearing its author, Allegra McEvedy, talking about her restaurant chain, Leon, on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London. The first Leon restaurant was in Carnaby Street, and they now have branches in Spitafields, Bankside, Regent Street and Ludgate Circus- serving gutsy, healthy, organic fast-food.
We put the book to the test; over the last week, I've made their Chilli Con Carne, Mima's Risi e Bisi, and John and Katie's (not too) Spicy Chicken Cous-Cous. Incidentally, the Leon cookbook is a wonderfully quirky exercise in retro graphics, and is beautifully designed; with the first half of the book concentrating on ingredients and technique, and the second half on the recipes themselves.
I've noticed that the Leon recipes often seem to include a twist: their Chilli Con Carne for example, includes sliced carrots- not exactly a requisite of the classic version, but I found it worked incredibly well with the aromatic cumin and coriander seeds used in the recipe. Mima's Risi e Bisi was a straightforward chicken, pea and bacon risotto, except- and it's a big except- the dish uses brown basmati rice, instead of the more usual Arborio or Carnaroli rice. The Spicy Chicken Cous-Cous was an exercise in pine nuts, mint, lemon juice, chili flakes, cous-cous, and chicken- and would be the perfect dish to rustle up after a hard day's work.
This sort of cooking is not rocket science: it's simple, healthy, comfort food at its best, and the recipes are well thought out, and easy to make. I'm impressed: Leon is going to be The Greasy Spoon's next official Book of the Month.