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Aussie Chefs' Cookbooks

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Of late, Australian chefs have been producing some excellent cookbooks. Not sure if all of the below are available internationally but, even if they aren't, they're worth tracking down.

A few of my favourite Australian cookbooks:

Tetsuya

by Tetsuya Wakada

The most beautiful cookbook I've ever seen, by one of Australia's greatest - and most modest - chefs. He reveals the recipes for his famous signature dishes.

Tetsuya's Japanese influences mean the recipes are relatively simple, so the book isn't purely gastro porn. You look at some of the recipes and think - "Wow! I could do that."

The dishes are mostly light, with an emphasis on seafood, so the book is a real find for health-conscious food enthusiasts.

Noodle

by Terry Durack

If you cook Asian-style noodles at home, you need this book.

It has two sections: "Noodle iD" and recipes. In the  noodle identification section, each of about 20 different varieties of Asian noodle, gets a double page spread. Big photo, and information about origin, cooking method, appropriate uses.

The recipe section is divided by cuisine. There are terrific, authentic recipes from Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand and other south-east Asian nations.

Author Terry Durack, an Aussie now living in London, is a tremendously entertaining writer. The guy can get a lengthy laugh-aloud column out of the "death" of his beloved kitchen timer.

Sydney Food

by Bill Granger

The man behind Sydney cafes bills and bills 2 shares the simple but inspired recipes that have made him the city's breakfast king. While bills and bills 2 are most famous for their breakfasts, the book's lunch and dinner recipes are fabulous, too.

Breakfast recipes include ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter; pan-toasted sanwiches with tomato and fontina; fresh bircher muesli with stone fruit; coconut bread; french toast stuffed with peaches; potato and feta pancakes; lemon souffle cakes; crumpets with blackberry butter; roast mushrooms with thyme and taleggio; and toasted coconut waffles with fresh mango and palm syrup.

Lunch recipes include spring onion pancake with gravlax; spaghettini with crab, lime and chilli; chicken noodle soup with lemon; ricotto and tomato tart; Puy lentil soup with Parmesan toasts; smoked trout and potato salad; coconut and passionfruit slice; and ANZAC biscuits.

Dinner recipes include skewered swordfish with crispy coleslaw; barbequed whole fish with fresh herb relish; prawn and chilli linguine; baked snapper with lemon roasted potatoes and chilli relish; poached salmon with green-bean salad and tomato and anchovy dressing; individual blackberry crumbles; Pavlova; and coconut rice pudding with papaya and lime.

Most of the recipes are dead simple. Many are quite light and healthy, even if they do sound decadent and indulgent. I recently saw the author on TV, and he said that he'd tried to create a cookbook people could use every day. He succeeded. Sydney Food is as practical as it is exceptional.

Another Aussie cookbook to look out for:

A massive 700-page reference book by Stephanie Alexander, titled The Cook's Companion here (but perhaps something else internationally). It's the new Aussie classic. Chapters devoted to all manner of ingredients and how to prepare them. It's not the kind of book that you flick though and think - "Mmmm, I absolutely must make that for dinner." But when you're knocking about the kitchen and think "I rather fancy some (insert just about any dish here)", you'll find the recipe - or one for a similar dish - in Stephanie's book. The answer to just about any culinary question you may have is in there.

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Ooh, let me second the rec of Noodle.  I think Durack is a restaurant critic and travel writer rather than a chef per se, and that helps to keep the book practical, at least if you live near an Asian market.

When I was last in London I was looking at another Durack book called Yum, kind of a gastrotourist journal that looked entertaining.  Of course it's unavailable in the US.  Sigh.

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If you're looking for books from Australia, Dymocks bookstore here appear to do international delivery.

Their website: http://www.dymocks.com.au

Yum is available, as is Sydney Food, and Tetsuya's and Stephanie Alexander's books.

Of course the added advantage for those from the USA is the exchange rate, which is pretty pitiful from our perspective at the moment...

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What I'm looking for in an Australian cookbook is something more like the American Joy of Cooking or James Beard's American Cookery--the kind of everyday food people cooked for their meals (and sometimes still do) without the restaurant touch of a star chef. Something that has all the basic recipes.

What sort of cookbooks did your mothers use?

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Most Aussie families in the 70s - when we were growing up - had a CWA cookbook (CWA as in Country Women's Association) and a thick Women's Weekly cookbook (Women's Weekly being Australia's most popular women's magazine).

Women's Weekly no longer does its thick "everything" book, instead publishing less weighty titles devoted to specific subjects - Italian, Cooking Class, Simply Lite.

Neither of the above are comparable to "Joy" or "James Beard", but the new Aussie classic may be. It's called "The Cook's Companion" by Stephanie Alexander. It's a massive 700-800 page bible on how to cook just about anything. Phenomenally popular here now, and the cookbook most likely to be given as a wedding present.

Stephanie is a trained chef, used to operate a fine restaurant. But the recipes aren't the least bit "cheffy". Lots of classics, Aussie and international.

The book - a massive orange brick - is available overseas, but is published under a different title. A search for "Stephanie Alexander" at Amazon should yield results.

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Could I put a word in about "Paramount Desserts" by Christine Manfield?  I found it a few years ago browsing in Kitchen Arts & Letters, a bookstore for foodie and "food pro" on New York's upper east side that has always imported and stocked new Australian chef's cookbooks.

I was immediately taken by the book's curved edge and found the recipes and writing to be similarly interesting and accessible.  I especially admired her attempts to provide some culinary history and context to her creations--and though I might quibble with some of them--that's not the point.  The photography and plating are excellent and this book still has value for home cooks and pastry pros alike.

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I second Steve's recommendation of Paramount Desserts. If you like to cook sweet things, it is an excellent book. As spectacularly as the desserts are presented, one doesn't need to be a chef to use the book.

I'm not big on tricky, elaborate dishes. And, for health reasons, my home cooking is mostly "lite". So, to date, I haven't made a Paramount dessert in its entirety. But I still refer to the book constantly.

The "frozen" section is my bible for fruity sorbets. From the other sections, I get ideas. Something may be too rich, or too tricky, but based on the inspired way in which the author combines flavours, I can come up with something more in line with my tastes and abilities.

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Rockpool, Banc, Est Est Est & BLT have made it to the UK.  Of those I think that only Rockpool & BLT are worth a look.  Tetsuya has also made it but I haven't managed to buy/borrow a copy yet.

Bill's is also well know but it was one of the most dissapointing visits I made that I won't talk of it further.

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A question for the real live Aussies here: What do you thing of Vogue E & T? I subscribe (in New York City) and enjoy reading it. But how real is it? Can I trust what they say about restaurants and wines?

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I'm in New York City, and I've subscribed to Australian Vogue Entertainment & Travel for 4 years. I love reading it. But can I trust it the information on wines and restaurants? (Not so concerned with the "authenticity" of the recipes)

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Yeah, I think you can trust it.

They pretty much know what they're talking about.

But, they do have favourite chefs and places, and they're pretty Sydney-centric, so what you're getting is the trendy, stylish persons view of dining.

Won't get much mention of the cheaper interesting, funky places.

That said, I always read it.

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Vogue E & T frequently features worthwhile restaurants. Although, as Polly says, the powers that be do have their favourites. Also, so as its content is super-fresh and visually appealing, Vogue E & T often goes with that kind of very new restaurant that is a victory of style and hype over substance. You know, a place that looks terrific in photos, has name-value chef/backers that writer can ooh-and-ahh about, is momentarily restaurant of choice for "it" people, thanks to well-connected publicist. By the time issue comes out, place has often been re-staffed or made-over because previous (featured in magazine) incarnation "wasn't working".

So, international Vogue E & T readers using the magazine to plan Aussie culinary adventures are advised to do a little research (the easy way: post here on eGullet's Down Under board) on places that Vogue E & T champions. And to be sure not to overlook some terrific Australian restaurants that have been doing great things for long enough that their excellence is old news, and therefore rarely covered in sexy foodie mags.

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Hello Suzanne

Vogue E+T is a beautiful magazine to look at - and it does write lovely reviews of restaurants etc - but I have to confess that I prefer a magazine called Delicious. It is produced by our national govt TV station (the ABC) and has a much higher usability rating, and lower glossy ad rating. I am pretty sure that you can get it overseas. Try here:

http://shop.abc.net.au/browse/product.asp?...roductid=602160

Hope this helps!

Maliaty

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For those in the U.S. interested in Australian cooking: there is a possiblity that the company which puts out Women's Weekly might be "translating" some of their list of cookbooks into American. I'm not sure which books, but as I find out more I'll post.

And thanks for the link, Maliaty. I will definitely check it out.

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Suzanne F,

Can I second Maliaty's suggestion to check out Delicious - it is far more "useful" than the Gourmet F & T when it comes to actual recommendations and finding food sources, restaurants etc that never seem to appear in Gourmet.

Also the recipes actually work!!

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How about "Great Australian Chefs" by Mietta O'Donnell & Tony Knox (Bookman Press, 1999).

Covers a wide range of Chefs from Jacques Reymond to Tim Pak Poy, Cheong Liew to Serge Dansereau.

A nice overview of the talent found in Australia's professionnal kitchens...


Edited by chopper (log)

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Oh - also forgot to say that both the Banc and Bel Mondo cookbooks are beautiful creations. There is a great recipe for really intense corn soup in the Banc book.. shame about the restaurant closing. It also had a breakdown of how they prepared for service etc - typical day in the life (with glossy pics)...

Cheers

Maliaty

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I've been subscribing to AGT for a few yrs (a gift from an Aussie friend) ... now finally heading to Australia and wondering what you all think of this mag's restaurant recommendations. I'm very distrustful of recs from glossy mags bec quite often the focus seems to be more on "what's hot" or "what's trendy" than on what is really good food (and sometimes reviews read more like advertising promo), so I'm not sure whether to seriously consult my AGTs or not. I'm not really into flash or scenester-type restaurants, though I'll gladly pay $$ for a really fine meal.

So, what do Australian food-lovers really think about AGT?

And an aside --- best cookware store(s) in Sydney? Best source for cookbooks?

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Personally I think it is a pretty reasonable guide. I really think the AGT guide is just limited by its size in terms of the fairly small number of restaurants that are in the guide. I think you can comfortably consult your AGTs in conjuction with other sources. FYI, The Sydney Morning Herald publishes two guides - The Good Food Guide and Sydney Eats (more focused on 'Cheap Eats').

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While I used to love the AGT reviews, when I shelled out for that mag, I find the SMH good food guide more useful for getting the feel of a place.

Cookware stores in Sydney - if you have the money, The Essential Ingredient in Camperdown is a great collection (and has a good collection of cookbooks). There is also a kitchen supply warehouse just a bit further down Parramatta Road into Annandale which is v reliable. In the CBD, Victoria's Basement (or Victoria's Kitchen or something like that - not Victoria's Secret - ha ha) is down the bottom of the Queen Victoria Building and has a reasonable range. Peter's of Kensington, in Kensington, is well stocked with plates, crockery etc but can be very crowded, because they always seem to have a sale on. The major bookstores in the city (Dymocks, Angus & Robertson, Borders) usually have a good selection of cookbooks, if not quite as comprehensive as The Essential Ingredient, and are always keen to order in books ( I think for free, from memory), as are most bookstores in Australia. And of course, there is always the department store option - David Jones and Grace Bros (soon to be called Myers to fit in with Victoria). I think (and please Melbournians correct me if I am wrong) that there is a bookstore in Melbourne that sells nothing but new & 2nd hand cookbooks...but have not myself visited (www.booksforcooks.com.au).

Hope this helps, ecr!

Maliaty

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I don't use it as a restaurant guide - not sure why. Just seems to be so much information from elsewhere.

It's great for sourcing cookware and ingredients - and most of the articles and recipes are quite an inspiration. They must have a good test kitchen also, because all of the recipes that I've tried actually work out really well.

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(www.booksforcooks.com.au).

DANGEROUS place this. For my wallet that is. Two large rooms floor to ceiling full of cookbooks from old to new. They are the only ones stocking the El Bulli latest offering. They have a large collection of the classic Time Life books and keep a look out for particular ones if you like.

In the winter they light the fire and provide comfortable armchairs which have that sinking stay-there-forever air about them.

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I was drooling over Bill Granger's books while in London recently. Refused to purchase them there due to rotten $ to £ exchange rate. But wanted to ask those in the know which of his three books I should buy. Well, which I should buy FIRST.

Also was wondering about Donna Hay, having just bought a copy of her magazine. How do her recipes rate and what is her reputation?

They both have fabulous photographers!

Thanks!

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A followup to my last post (November 11, 2003): ACP is definitely coming out with a book of 500 low-carb recipes from the Women's Weekly books sometime in the near future. The recipes are quite good, for the most part, with lots of fresh, flavorful ingredients, lots of grilling. And all in American English (that's where I came in :wink:).

Kitwilliams: I have Donna Hay's Off the Shelf, and it is everything Semi-Homemade Cooking should be but isn't: very tempting recipes making judicious use of pantry items.

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