Move over Nigella, Nigel and Nadiya

The cookbook of the year was written by an elderly rogue and self-published

Artillery Row Books

Red-Eye Coq and 77 Other Delicious Things by Miles Morland

In our kitchen we have a whole shelf of cookbooks. They’re often gorgeous objects with thick paper and artsy photographs, but there are many we’ve never cooked from. This might be because the recipes are over-complicated or require special ingredients, or just missing that certain special something.

He’s a businessman, a friend and a keen amateur cook

It delighted me to buy a cookbook recently where every page has something that I want to eat. It has the rather unprepossessing name of Red Eye Coq and 77 Other Delicious Things, which makes sense when you read the recipe. I won’t spoil the surprise. The writing has a Keith Floyd-esque exuberance about it, but the author Miles Morland isn’t a TV chef or a famous restaurateur he’s a businessman and (I have to admit) a friend, who is also a keen amateur cook.

Red-Eye Coq and 77 Other Delicious Things, Miles Morland, self-published (£24)

He describes it as “a book for people who love to eat”. All the recipes are “twists on familiar food”, but don’t let that put you off. So far I’ve cooked his Goa-Norfolk Fish Soup (Indian flavours with English seafood); Geraldine’s Buggered Lamb (again it makes sense when you read the recipe it’s slow-cooked lamb with Madeira, molasses and juniper berries); Poulet au Muscat; finally and most magnificently, the baked ham glazed with molasses, honey and Madeira.

Most of the recipes rely on good quality ingredients and can be made with what most cooks have in the house. This is not exact cooking. I’ve been using the recipes as guidelines and adapting based on what’s in the cupboard (though I do recommend you stock up on Madeira and molasses).

Morland’s book is heavy on meat, shellfish and big flavours

I’ve been pondering why Morland’s book is so much better than most modern cookbooks. It does tick certain boxes for me personally it’s heavy on meat, shellfish and big flavours. In fact, it’s so uncannily up my alley that at times it felt like he could read my mind. But there’s something else: unlike many big name books, it’s not written by a team up against a deadline. Instead Morland has distilled a lifetime’s feasting, drinking and entertaining in one book. It’s all killer and no filler.

Red Eye Coq isn’t just a recipe book. There are useful chapters on wine and spirits, and Morland is something of an experimental barman. His “Gay Piranha”, named from a mispronunciation of Caiprinha, deserves to be a classic. The whole book is imbued with Morland’s mischievous humour, zest for life and at times even wisdom.

You can tell he’s had an interesting life. A child of the late British empire, Morland was born in India and raised in Tehran. He worked in finance for many years in London and New York before giving up his lucrative career to walk across France. He wrote a bestselling book called The Man Who Broke Out of The Bank and Went for a Walk on the subject, and a sequel a few years ago about his peculiar boyhood called Cobra in the Bath.

Some enterprising editor ought to snap up Morland on Women

He’s still working, running an investment firm that concentrates on developing markets. Earlier this year, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award  from the Royal Africa Society. It praised him for his “for his entrepreneurial example as a long-term investor in Africa, and for ploughing back much of the profit into the encouragement of African culture and literature through his generous support to young African writers”.

Over lunch a few years ago, I tried to persuade Miles to make his next book about doing business in Africa as an antidote to all the misery one normally gets from the continent.

He waved away the suggestion, saying he had two ideas a cookbook, and a guide to women; did I think any publishers would be interested? I said there was absolutely no way. In the end, Miles self-published Red Eye Coq. It’s so good that I can’t help thinking that some enterprising editor ought to snap up Morland on Women.

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