The Eagle is the pub that spawned a thousand imitations. Often credited as the original gastropub the simple but gutsy flavours on offer at The Eagle were so popular that a cookbook was created. The original book, Big Flavours and Rough Edges, was published in 2001 and if you are lucky you can pick a copy up from a secondhand book store. Dan from Essex Eating scored a copy of the original and constantly cooks the most delicious sounding meals using it so when I heard that a redesigned and updated edition was being launched, I jumped at the chance to get a copy from the publisher.
The book, which is simply entitled The Eagle Cookbook includes recipes from a range of chefs that have manned the stoves at The Eagle including Sam and Sam Clark now of Moro fame. The recipes are unpretentious and hearty and even include a whole chapter devoted to “meals on toast”, now that’s my kind of cookbook. A certain authoritative tone is used throughout the book, for example when eggs are listed in a recipe it is specified that “very fresh ‘real’ (ie organic) eggs” are used. The photography is simple and quite rustic, although sometimes there is annoyingly no photo of the dish and instead just a picture of chairs stacked on tables or cutlery. Still, Dan assures me this is a big improvement from the original book which only included drawings of the dishes.
Pictures or no pictures, my verdict is that this is a cookbook that is worth buying because it captures a key moment in London’s food scene and because the recipes are perfect for winter.
I have tested two recipes from the book, the most recent being pasta with Cornish sardines. I am a recent convert to fresh sardines after discovering in Italy how entirely different the taste is to the canned variety. A further revelation for me has been buying sardines, £2.50 for eight super fresh Cornish sardines – this is true credit crunch food and as sustainable as you can get in the seafood world. The Eagle’s recipe for wholewheat spaghetti with sardines is fairly straightforward especially if you get your fishmonger to do the gutting for you. It’s an easy and filling weeknight dinner.
8 fresh sardines
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 fennel bulb finely choped
400g wholewheat spaghetti
2-3 tbsp flat leaf parsley chopped
Pepper to season
1. Make sure your sardines are cleaned and gutted then run your finger down the back to loosen the flesh and then slice open the fish from the heat to the end of the tail.
2. Lift the spine away and break it off at the tail so that you can “buttefly” the fish. Wash the fillets, pat them dry and salt both sides lightly.
3. Heat half the oil in a pan and fry half the garlic and fennel for 30 seconds or until an aroma arises.
4. Slip half the sardine fillets into the pan skin side down and then flit them over after a minute. Fry for another minute or so until they are just cooked.
5. Transfer the fillets to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic, fennel and sardines.
6. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water until al dente then drain it and add a splash of oil.
7. Add the parsley and pasta to to the sardine pan and toss to coat with the oil. Serve with the sardines on top of the pasta and season with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Gourmet Chick received a complimentary copy of The Eagle to review.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in the other recipe I have posted on from The Eagle Cookbook, whole roasted sea bass. If you are looking for a great gastropub in London inspired by The Eagle, try the Bull and Last in Kentish town.