But before the book there was Leon, a chain of fast food restaurants, founded on the twin principles that food can both Taste Good and Do You Good. The first one opened in Carnaby Street back in July 2004 and was named the Best New Restaurant in Great Britain at the Observer Food Monthly Awards. There are now 9 restaurants in and around London, serving over 50,000 people a week! The book 'Leon: Naturally Fast Food' hopes to bring some of their 'food heaven' to us at home, and many of the recipes do just that.
A peek into the book
Split into two parts, the first section of the book is called Fast Food and contains recipes for dishes that can be conjured up in 20 minutes or less. I was a little confused about this though, because many of the recipes in that section (apart from a few at the beginning) have timings that indicate more than 20 minutes if you include the preparation and the cook times. Having said that, the recipes come with tips, alternative ingredients and interesting little notes, plus there is a key with recipe icons to tell you if the recipe is gluten free or vegetarian for example.
The second section is titled Slow Fast Food, and has recipes for dishes that can be prepared in advance and then quickly reheated when you need them. You will also find a bonus feature towards the end of the book, which includes a little from behind the scenes at Leon and some recipes from the Leon managers.
Leon: Naturally Fast Food is not your usual glossy, glamorous cookbook, but it is extremely colourful and lovingly written. Quirky features include a stickers page, hilarious photos and the recipe for 'upside-down apple & cardamom tart' is actually printed upside down - I thought I had a dodgy copy at first! Leon is a book which is meant to be read, thumbed through and explored. It is a book with easy, happy, fun recipes, and there are many ideas on a theme with plenty of variations to the recipes.
Other recipes I have bookmarked to try include the mini knickerbocker glory (page 36), Saturday pancakes (page 46), Burmese spicy cabbage (page 54) and Dalston sweet potato curry (page 99).
Anyway, back to the Welsh cakes. These are sometimes known as griddle scones and are traditionally cooked on a hot baking stone, I used a cast iron frying pan and that worked perfectly. They are flavoured with sultanas, raisins or currants and can include spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. They are circular and may be served hot or cold, with butter or jam.
Cutting out the Welsh cakes to cook them
Hannah's Welsh Cakes
Adapted from Leon
Note: This recipe didn't mention to use any milk along with the egg, I found that the egg alone didn't quite make a dough and I used a large egg, maybe my butter wasn't soft enough. If you have the same problem, I suggest to add some milk a little at a time until the mixture binds together to make a soft dough.
Makes about 16, depending on the size of your cutter
230g self-raising flour
55g sultanas, currants or raisins
A little milk if you need it
Sieve the flour into a large bowl and rub the butter in with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can use a food processor for this if you like.
Add the sugar and dried fruit and mix well. Beat the egg and add to the bowl mixing well until a dough ball forms. You may need to add a little milk, see above note.
Knead for a minute and then roll the dough onto a floured work surface. The dough should be just under 1cm thick. Cut out circular shapes with a 7cm (2¾") biscuit cutter.
Heat up a lightly greased non-stick or griddle pan and gently fry the cakes on both sides for 6-8 minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
Serve warm with butter, or dredge them in caster sugar.
The book can be bought directly from Octopus Books or from Amazon. There is also another Leon book called Leon: Ingredients and Recipes.
Leon Book 2: Naturally Fast Food
£20.00 / Hardback, 308 pages
Publisher: Conran Octopus Ltd
With thanks to Fiona at Octopus Books
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