Cookbooks - the flavour of Otago

Two cookbooks by Otago chefs are out in time for Christmas.

ODT readers will be familiar with Bevan Smith's "Chef's Garden" column which features simple, seasonal recipes in these pages. Most are based on produce from the extensive garden and orchard at the award-winning Riverstone Kitchen restaurant he and his wife Monique own near Oamaru. His second cookbook, Simple (HarperCollins), is published on Friday, following last year's Riverstone Kitchen.

His food is simple, elegant and authentic, without the fussy twists some chefs seem to need to pursue in the attempt to create a signature.

Instead his recipes inspire and entice the cook to make the most of fresh food and perhaps take things a little further.

This book ranges from breakfast to sweets, starting with things such as wild mushrooms on sourdough, fresh crumpets, and continuing through classics such as pumpkin, feta and sage on crostini, lambs fry with bacon, garlic mash and onion gravy, hearty dishes such as slow-cooked lamb with potato gnocchi and parsley oil, unusual ones such as edible flower salad, and deep-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese, bright vegetable dishes such as green beans with romesco sauce, or shaved cabbage salad with roast hazelnuts, Parmesan and balsamic, and some mouth-watering desserts. At the back are several basic recipes such as sourdough bread, hummus, pasta, chutneys, smoked salmon, ice creams and wild elderberry jelly.

It's a very usable book for any home or, for that matter, restaurant cook.


Pete Gawron's The Taste of Central Otago: More recipes from Arrowtown's Saffron (Godwit) is more of a coffee-table book with its beautiful production, pages of stunning photographs separated from the accompanying text, and cheffy recipes. Gawron, who with his wife Mel established Saffron, the Blue Door bar and Pesto pizza restaurant in Arrowtown, nearly 13 years ago, says he's seen many changes in the town with an explosion of visitors over that time.

His recipes blend contemporary and sometimes contrasting trends in food: the move to eating local, seasonal and sometimes wild food (rowan berries, japonica); the search for exotic flavours from his annual trips overseas; and molecular cookery using technical products such as calcic powder, lecite powder and liquid nitrogen to form balls of liquid or foams.

His presentation, too, is contemporary, rather like still-life paintings, often with just a few carefully placed ingredients, spheres, leaves, drops of oil or smears of sauce or coulis on a white plate, but there are a few surprisingly simple dishes such as the Indian sweet gulab jamun, his mother-in-law's oatmeal cracker recipe, or clam spaghetti from Pesto.

Fascinating browsing and drooling.


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