THE culinary minds behind a host of top Essex restaurants have come together to celebrate its homegrown ingredients and talent.

Essex Feast: One County, Twenty Chefs – A Cookbook and Food Lovers’ Guide is the third title in the regional One County, Twenty Chefs series from East Anglian cookbook publisher, Feast Publishing.
recently launched, it follows previous success with Suffolk Feast and Norfolk Table.

Top chefs from restaurants across Essex have put forward their favourite recipes for the book which showcases them and their dedication to serving up good quality ingredients fresh to the table.
The book was launched with a special event at the Boathouse in Dedham, hosted by owners Cameron and Claire Marshall who also features in the glossy manual.

Produced by Feast Publishing, the cookbook follows on from similar titles which have focused on produce and food from Suffolk, published two years ago, and last year's Norfolk Table.
Partner at Feast Glyn Williams says the idea is to showcase the quality and diversity of Essex food and drink through its chefs, farmers and food producers.

The Sun Inn, Dedham, the Bull and Willow Room in Great Totham, the Magic Mushroom in Billericay, the Pig & Whistle in Chignal Smealey, the Creek in Great Bentley, Grain in Colchester and the Hoop, Stock, all feature in the book.

Food writer Stephanie Mackentyre has edited the book.
She says : "Essex is a cook's paradise. It is blessed with incredible produce, packed with field to fork deliciousness and freshness and countless farm shops, farmers markets, delis and independent food shops."

Each chef is showcased in the new book with an in-depth look at their favourite ingredients, working practices and of course a series of their favourite recipes.

Sherri Singleton, who owns and runs the Mistley Thorn in North Essex, discusses her love of foraging wild garlic in the woods near where she lives and about how she came to move from her native California almost twenty years ago.

She also shares her recipes, with ingredients including that wild garlic, which include an easy chocolate cake.

She says her husband persuaded her to move to England to open a reestaurant on the proviso they find a Georgian house, it be no more than an hour from London and near the water.

They achieved all three and she has not looked back - quickly establishing herself as a go to venue for food lovers.

Her appearance in the book also shines a light on Great Oakley-based Brook Farm, owned by Pete Thompson and launched by his grandfather back in 1948.

Sherri explains much of the salad leaves and fresh produce come via Pete who also runs Clearwater Farm - which grows herbs on water in special poly tunnels.

He also supplies fruit juices from his orchards and along with Sherri forages for wild garlic and nettles in Wrabness Wood.

Not surprisingly due to its proximity to the water, seafood is also a speciality in the restaurant.

Sherri explains: "Mersea Oysters are available year round and we will have Colchester Natives when they are in season and plenty of locally landed fish and shellfish."

The book also focuses on the oysters found on Essex waters and features Richard Haward, seventh generation Oysterman and owner of the renowned Oyster Shed on Mersea Island.

In Billericay owner and head chef at the Magic Mushroom restaurant Darren Bennett explains he was delighted to be asked to be included in the book.

"We were given a free reign on what recipes we wanted to choose and since we pride ourselves on the meat we serve here that was my starting point really.

"We use local suppliers and that is really important. I don't think people realise the difference in quality you get by getting it fresh from farms nearby," says Darren who opened the Magic Mushroom in 1996.

"We make everything ourselves fresh and I think that does make the difference. Everything is the best quality it can be.

"Even today some ladies came and they ordered the chicken and they said it was the best they had ever had.

"It was a simple dish but it was the best it could be, the chicken is cornfed and looked after and the ingredients served with it are fresh."
Dishes homecooks could re-create thanks to the book run the gamut from fish, shellfish, steak, and even nettle topped pizza while desserts include a Hendricks Gin and Mint Pannacotta courtesy of Ewan Naylon, chef at Church Street Tavern in Colchester alongside Sherri's Dead Easy Chocolate Cake.

  • Copies of Essex Feast Cookbook are now on sale at £24.50, from all of the restaurants featured, Red Lion Books in Colchester and online.

Have a go at home with this recipe and extract from the book.
Here Sherri Singleton shows you how to make her Wood-grilled fish fillets with wild spring greens, Jerusalem artichokes and tomato, orange & basil butter sauce.

30g shallots, very finely chopped
30ml white wine vinegar
45ml dry white wine
1 tbsp double cream
120g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
Zest and juice of an orange
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
Small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and shredded
500g Jerusalem artichokes, skin-on, scrubbed and peeled (optionally)l if very knobbly
8 skin-on white fish fillets, around 125g, scaled and pin-boned
600g wild greens such as wild garlic and nettle tops 
(or grown alternatives such as asparagus tips or water spinach)
2 tbsp local rapeseed oil
Local rapeseed oil


  •  Place the shallots, vinegar, white wine and 30ml cold water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, bring to a boil and reduce until just over a quarter of the liquid remains. 
  •  Whisk in the cream and simmer again for one minute. 
  • Add the butter, one cube at a time, whisking continuously until each piece has melted before adding the next. Do not allow to boil. The sauce should be shiny and thickened. 
  • Season to taste with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne. Stir in the zest and 1tbsp of orange juice, followed by the tomatoes and basil. Keep warm in a hot vacuum flask.
  • Before grilling the fish, slice the artichokes into medium-sized chunks or slices and lightly oil. 
  • Season generously with salt and pepper. Place on the hot grill and cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning as needed until the artichokes are well marked and caramelised. They are ready to serve when they are easily pierced.
  • Pre-heat your chosen grill until very hot. If using a wood oven or barbecue, add a handful of water-soaked hickory chips for flavouring the smoke. 
  • Lightly season the fish and place on the grill skin-side down. 
  • Leave the fish to cook for several minutes without moving, otherwise the skin may tear. Once you see a caramelised edge, carefully flip the fillets over, using a large spatula or fish slice.
  • Cook for a further 1-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. To test the fish, carefully give it a gentle press with your finger; it should still be a bit springy in the middle. 
  • Remove the fish to a warmed plate and allow to rest somewhere hot whilst you prepare the greens.
  • Heat a deep sauté pan or wok over a high heat. Pour in the oil, add the greens, stir well and pour in 3tbsp of water. 
  • Stir-fry with tongs until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and season to taste.
  •  To serve, divide the wilted greens and grilled artichokes between hot plates, top with the fish fillets and spoon over the butter sauce.