The River Cottage Australia Cookbook reflects the TV cooking program it is based on. It’s about producing delicious and healthy food, while getting back-to-basics. This means being mindful of sustainability and environmental issues, focusing on seasonality and the provenance of produce. In short, it’s a beautiful cookbook that should form a part of every kitchen.
River Cottage Australia was created after a small farm was found between Mount Gulaga and the Sapphire Coast. Like its English equivalent, this is the brain child of chef and restaurant critic, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who offers the preface and some of the recipes in the book. The Australian show has been running for three series and is hosted by chef-turned-farmer, Paul West.
It is West who has devised the bulk of these 120 recipes (many of which have already appeared on the TV show). The dishes cover everything from classics like: fish and chips, mud cake, jam drops, roast chicken and focaccia to staples like butter, vanilla custard and gravy, as well as various stocks, sauces and dips. West also nods at bush tucker and offers some modern twists to recipes like eggplant gnocchi with sage & burnt butter (it’s yummy but is not for purists), South Coast paella (with rabbit, bacon, mussels, octopus and flathead) and sea urchin on toast, to name a few. The recipes look at simpler things, fewer ingredients that are high quality (and often homemade with recipes for different breads and cheeses also included here) and these often make the meals truly sing.
Most of the recipes are accompanied by stunning colour photographs by Mark Chew and good illustrations by Kat Chadwick. The book itself is divided into six sections: vegetables and salads, fish, meat, bread, dairy and desserts and each of these topics features an introduction from West. These additions include handy tips like sterilising jars, growing your own vegetables and making your own homemade things. There is an emphasis on good health and pleasure and by reading this you will appreciate how much time and effort goes into producing our food (from growing herbs and vegetables to rearing animals). This latter aspect will help readers understand the top-to-tail approach that is reflected in some of the recipes. For more courageous chefs there are also recipes like: edible weeds, nettle bubble & squeak, roast pig’s head and wild rabbit braised and fried.
The River Cottage Cookbook is an inspiring read and a celebration and appreciation of food that should be in any self-respecting foodie’s kitchen. This follow-up to the original, UK edition is useful as it focuses on local ingredients and things that can be done in Australia. Ultimately this is a rewarding, insightful and interesting cookbook that is filled with vibrant recipes and even brighter ideas where the results are soul food that is utterly mouth-watering.
Photograph by Mark Chew
Originally published on 13 May 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/lifestyle/features/cookbook-review-paul-wests-the-river-cottage-australia-cookbook-2015
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