River Café remix: A glorious new cookbook marks 30 years at the top

An iconic restaurant. A wealth of memories. A glorious new cookbook marks 30 years at the top. By Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli. 

Ricotta al forno
Ricotta al forno

Famous food: the restaurant that Rose and Ruth built

 

It has been 30 years since The River Cafe first opened its doors overlooking the Thames near Hammersmith and 22 years since Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray published their striking River Cafe Cookbook, the ground-breaking, global bestseller.

 

Ruth is the American-born wife of architect Richard Rogers. Rose ran the kitchen at Nell’s Club in New York before joining Ruth to launch The River Cafe in 1987. By the time of Rose’s death in 2010, she and Ruth had made The River Cafe one of the most respected and influential restaurants in the world and, under their exacting guidance, trained many of the new generation of star chefs.

 

River Cafe 30, written with Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli, is a celebration of this iconic restaurant on its 30th anniversary. Bold and beautiful in design, it includes favourites from the first cookbook updated for home cooks today, as well as brand new recipes from the restaurant’s menus.

 

Pumpkin soup

 

 

SERVES 6

 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the crostini and for serving

50g unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

a small bunch of fresh marjoram leaves

1.5kg pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced

200g new potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 dried red chillies, crumbled

1 litre best quality chicken stock (for homemade see the book)

 

FOR THE CROSTINI

 

6 slices ciabatta bread

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved

freshly grated Parmesan

 

– Heat the extra virgin olive oil and butter in a saucepan and gently fry the chopped garlic with the marjoram leaves until soft. Add the pumpkin and potatoes, and continue to cook for a minute. Add the chillies and season well with sea salt and black pepper. Pour in enough stock just to cover the pumpkin. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, adding more stock if necessary to keep the pumpkin covered.

 

– Strain about a third of the stock from the pumpkin and set aside. Pour the contents of the pan into a food processor and pulse: the mixture should be very thick. Return to the saucepan and add the strained-off stock plus any remaining stock. Check for seasoning. The soup will be very thick. Reheat gently for serving.

 

– For the crostini, toast the slices of ciabatta, then rub with the garlic halves and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil.

– Serve the soup with Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil and the crostini.

 

Zucchini trifolati

In The River Cafe kitchen, we all have our way of cooking this – some like the zucchini (small courgettes) with more colour, others paler – but we all agree that the most important thing is that all the water is absorbed into the zucchini.

SERVES 6

 

12 small zucchini, trimmed

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

125ml boiling water

a handful of fresh mint or basil leaves, roughly chopped

 

– Cut each zucchini at an angle into 3-4 slices.

 

– Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and then the zucchini, and cook slowly for 15-20 minutes. When brown on all sides, add the boiling water and stir, scraping up the mixture that will have formed on the bottom of the pan.

 

– Cook until all the water has been absorbed and the zucchini are soft.

 

– Add the mint or basil, season with sea salt and black pepper, and serve with prosciutto di Parma or mozzarella.

 

Scallops with sage and capers

 

SERVES 6

 

1 tablespoon salted capers

olive oil

24 medium scallops, trimmed

a bunch of fresh sage leaves

juice of 1 lemon

 

– Put the capers in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Leave to soak in cold water for 40 minutes, then rinse again.

 

– Coat a frying pan with a little olive oil to prevent the scallops from sticking, and place over a high heat. When smoking, add the scallops, season with a little sea salt and black pepper, and cook for 2 minutes on one side.

 

– Turn the scallops over and immediately add the capers and sage leaves to the pan, plus a little extra olive oil so that the sage leaves fry. Cook for a further 2 minutes, shaking the pan constantly. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and serve.

 

Bruschetta with mozzarella and spinach

 

In our private dining room at The River Cafe, we put antipasti on large plates to pass around the table: the bruschetta on one plate, with others for spinach, tomatoes and mozzarella, or other seasonal vegetables.

SERVES 2

 

200g washed spinach leaves

1 large ball mozzarella, about 250g

2 slices sourdough

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 ripe tomatoes, cut in half

200ml extra virgin olive oil

25g picked mixed fresh summer herb leaves, to include marjoram and basil

1-2 olives, optional

 

– Blanch the spinach in a pan of boiling water for about 1 minute or until wilted. Drain well, pressing out excess water.

 

– Tear the mozzarella on to two plates.

 

– Grill the bread over charcoal or on a chargrill/griddle pan until nicely browned on both sides. Remove from the grill and rub generously with the garlic clove.

 

– Squash the tomatoes on to the bruschetta (discard the tomato skin), then season well with sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Put the bruschetta on the plates.

 

– In a bowl, season the drained spinach. Toss with 50ml-100ml extra virgin olive oil. Arrange the spinach on the plates alongside the mozzarella and bruschetta.

 

– Drizzle over any remaining olive oil and add the herbs – plus an olive or two if you have them.

 

Quick sweet tomato sauce & Slow-cooked tomato sauce

 

Quick sweet tomato sauce

SERVES 6-8

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers

2 x 1kg jars or cans peeled plum tomatoes, drained of their juices

a handful of fresh basil or oregano leaves

cooked pasta to serve

 

– Heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan and fry the garlic until it is soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes with some sea salt and black pepper and cook fiercely, stirring constantly to prevent the tomatoes from sticking as they break up. As they cook, the tomatoes will release their juices. When this liquid has evaporated, add the remaining olive oil, the basil or oregano, and more seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with your chosen pasta.

 

Slow-cooked tomato sauce 

 

SERVES 6-8

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium red onions, peeled and

sliced as thinly as possible into rounds

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers

2 x 1kg jars peeled plum tomatoes, drained of their juices

 

– Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or frying pan, add the onions and cook over a low heat until they are very soft. This will take at least 40 minutes – the onions must eventually disappear into the tomato sauce. Some 5 minutes before the end of cooking, add the garlic.

 

– Now add the tomatoes and stir to break them up. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for at least 1½ hours. When the sauce is ready, it will be dark red and extremely thick, with no juice at all, and the oil will have come to the surface. Serve hot.

 

Ricotta al forno

 

This is one of our favourite recipes. A flourless Italian soufflé (or savoury torta) – when it is ready the top should still wobble.

SERVES 6

 

unsalted butter and grated Parmesan for the dish

2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves

a handful of fresh mint leaves

a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

500g bufala ricotta

120ml double cream

2 eggs

150g Parmesan, freshly grated

12 black olives, stoned and chopped

 

– Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5.

 

– Using a little butter and some grated Parmesan, coat the bottom and sides of a 30cm round springform tin. Shake out any excess cheese.

 

– Put the herbs into the bowl of a food processor and put half the ricotta and cream on the top. Blend until bright green. Add the remainder of the ricotta and cream and turn on the machine again. While blending, add the eggs, one by one. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Finally, fold in the Parmesan.

 

– Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread the olives over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. The torta should rise and have a brown crust, but still be soft in the centre. Serve after 5 minutes.

 

Spaghetti with lemon

 

Lemons, olive oil, basil…the only other ingredient needed is sun.

SERVES 6

 

250g spaghetti

juice of 3-4 lemons, preferably Amalfi lemons if available

150ml olive oil

150g Parmesan, freshly grated

2 handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and finely chopped

finely grated lemon zest (optional)

 

– Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan.

 

– Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, then stir in the Parmesan; it will melt into the mixture, making it thick and creamy. Season with sea salt and black pepper and add more lemon juice to taste.

 

– Add the sauce to the spaghetti and shake the pan so that each strand of pasta is coated with the cheese. Finally, stir in the chopped basil and, ideally, some grated lemon zest.

 

Polenta, almond and lemon cake

In Italy we sometimes have this for breakfast with a cappuccino. For dessert, you could try it with a slug of grappa poured over the top.

SERVES 10

 

unsalted butter for the tin

450g unsalted butter, softened

450g caster sugar

450g ground almonds

2 teaspoons good vanilla extract

6 eggs

finely grated zest of 4 lemons

juice of 1 lemon

225g polenta

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

 

– Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 3. Butter and line a 30cm round and 7.5cm deep cake tin with greaseproof paper.

 

– Beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until pale and light.

 

– Stir in the ground almonds and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the lemon zest and juice, the polenta, baking powder and salt. Spoon into the prepared tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake is set and deep brown on top. Cool in the tin.

– We serve this cake with caramelised blood oranges and crème fraîche in winter.

 

Hazelnut and ricotta cake

SERVES 10

 

unsalted butter for the tin

250g shelled hazelnuts

225g unsalted butter, softened

250g caster sugar

8 eggs, separated

250g ricotta

finely grated zest of 5 lemons

65g plain flour

150g best-quality dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), grated

 

– Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Butter a 30cm round cake tin that is 5cm deep, and line the base with greaseproof paper.

 

– Spread the hazelnuts in a small baking tin and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until their skins are loosened. Tip the hot nuts into a tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Coarsely chop the nuts in a food processor.

 

– Beat the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until pale and light. Add the egg yolks, one by one, beating well.

 

– In a separate large bowl, beat the ricotta lightly with a fork. Add the lemon zest and chopped nuts.

 

– In a third large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

 

– Fold the egg yolk and butter mixture into the ricotta. Sift in the flour and fold it in.

 

– Finally, fold in the whisked egg whites. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35 minutes or until set.

 

– Remove the cake from the tin to a plate and leave for 5 minutes then, while it is still warm, cover with the grated chocolate, which will immediately melt.

 


 

 Buy River Café 30 with a 25 per cent discount

 

River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli will be published by Ebury Press on 5 October, price £28. 

 

As well as Ruth’s personal introduction and memories of Rose, chapters include Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni and Dolci. To pre-order a copy for £21 until 8 October, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.