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Food books and me

Food books and me

KitchenConfidential I don’t always find cook books or food books as accessible as I’m sure the authors intended. I waded through Anton Mosimann’s “Fish Cuisine” and was left with nothing except a dubious opinion of Anton Mosimann. He was trying too hard. Except for his fish and chip recipe next to a photo of Anton looking enthusiastic with his matchingly dressed boys in blue shirts and white pants, the recipes are inaccessible.

I have Penelope Casas’ book “Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain” and they wash right over me. I trawl through all 200 odd pages looking for a stand-out food idea and almost nothing shouts “cook me”. How sad! I love Spanish food and Spain’s’ tapas are very special, but sorry Penelope, your book and I are not a match.

Elizabeth David told me how to cook an omelette for which I and a large number of guests over the years are eternally grateful. It wasn’t hard. She wrote “An omelette and a glass of wine” and I helped myself liberally to both.

Sonia Allison taught me how and why I should make a chasseur sauce, but mostly she gave me a blender avocado mayonnaise that never fails to delight.

The foodie I really like is Anthony Bourdain. Before he became famous he wrote “Kitchen Confidential” where he gave away a bunch of secrets. I made them my own immediately.

Get a decent chef’s knife. Give them to close friends for gifts. If you have one knife, make it one of these. If you can run to a filleting or boning knife, so much the better, but otherwise the chef’s knife will do most things for you.

Avoid thin pans of any description. Buy heavy-bottomed pots and pans. Your food will thank you. Don’t get carried away with detergent or scrubbers. Wipe them and put them away.

Shallots are an essential ingredient for almost everything. Buy them, keep them, use them, love them.

Butter is New Zealand’s secret ingredient. Hey, at one time margarine was illegal. Butter makes almost everything taste good.

Garlic is not for keeping away vampires. Think of raw garlic for bite, roasted for background. Don’t buy Chinese garlic or crushed stuff in a jar. Buy New Zealand garlic and treat your food with it.

Go on, make a decent stock. Find a good recipe and focus on the stock. Life’s short. Eat well. Make great stock. It will make a difference. Professional chefs make great stock. That’s why their food tastes so good.

Think of demi-glace. It will make your meals into unforgettable moments. Use fresh herbs like chervil, basil tops, chive sticks and mint tops. They’ll turn the average into the extra-ordinary.

Thanks Tony. None of that was difficult and it all works.

by Mike Johnson

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